Monday, June 24, 2013

Social media for small biz: a blessing and a burden?

Social media is a godsend for small businesses. It is has helped to level the playing field with the 'big guys' so to speak, at least when it comes to exposure in the marketplace. Social media has made it easier for small business owners to get out there and show their off stuff to the rest of the world. But one thing that perhaps is not as obvious when diving into the world of sharing, posting and Tweeting for the first time is the investment of time required to maintain a social media presence and the absolute necessity of having a strategy right from the start.

Choices, so many choices!

The abundance of social media channels and communities out there is astonishing and can be downright overwhelming. Even just considering the cream of the crop 'top tier' sites that are the equivalent of social media monarchy, it's easy to be confused by which to choose for your business, and unfortunately strategy becomes a game of eenie-meenie-miney-mo or the decision to just "do it all". But the process of deciding which social media platform to use need not be so anxiety-provoking.

Just because there are many choices out there doesn't mean your business has to do it all. Sure, social media can be a wonderful tool but it is not a 'set it and forget it' kind of deal that can be left alone after setting up an account. That is why I'm a strong proponent of a less-is-more philosophy especially for small businesses whose resources are at a premium. Rather than trying to have a Facebook page, Twitter account and Pinterest boards, for example, I prefer to guide businesses through the process of elimination to find out which 1 or 2 tools will work best for them based on their business goals and go from there. Choosing the best fit is paramount to the successful execution of a social media strategy that will lead to long-term success.

I know that this approach may inspire some initial feelings of apprehension that opportunities are being missed by choosing one platform over another and that the competition might get an edge by having a presence on multiple platforms, but in all my years of working in professional communications one of the consistent truths I have learned along the way is that ultimately, quality trumps quantity almost every time. Customers and clients will appreciate the more genuine sentiments conveyed through your messages and the consistent effort to stay in contact with them via a carefully selected social media channel than an inconsistent presence on several different sites because it is too difficult to manage them all. This is where the strategy comes in. It will guide what you post, what your measurements for success will be and most importantly, keep your efforts on track.

A manageable presence is the secret ingredient for success

After establishing a strategy, keeping your social media manageable is the next most important factor in the success of your social media efforts. This is why it is so important to scale the strategy to fit the size of your business. Much like the chance of sticking with an exercise program improves significantly when it fits your lifestyle, managing a social media strategy will only work if it is built around the resources and time you have to invest in maintaining it. Unlike other promotional tools, social media requires an ongoing commitment. While this may seem daunting, keeping it manageable makes it do-able and translates into something that can be sustained over the long term. Luckily there are many free tools to help with this such as Hootsuite, which offers an ever-expanding roster of services to help scheduling social media updates. Consistency and quality are key to making the most out of social media for small business.

Summary: Don't feel like your small business needs to be everywhere! Carefully selecting social media tools based on your business goals and then scaling the strategy to reflect the real-time commitment to maintain your presence is key to long-term success.

Interested in learning more about how to build a social media plan for your business? Email 

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