THE POWER OF SOCIAL??
I have long maintained that social media engagement is a great idea for anyone. Imagine the possibilities that can open up for a small business when you open up the door, the proverbial flood gates even, to millions of customers across the globe....
It's all nonsense really because as most small business owners know, when you're running a tight ship where your day to day routine involves wearing a whole number of different hats, for a whole number of different reasons, keeping on top of the full time job that is running a "social media campaign", takes you away from actually running your business. The implications of this is that you end up risking not putting food on the table for the sake of increasing your following...
This post is really a reply to a lovely piece written by, Louise Golden, Social Media Director at Blonde called "Small businesses are wasting their time on social media". She makes some really valid points about why small businesses get it wrong some of the time. Read the original at Blonde.net.
I'm writing this post because both those pieces have one fundamental flaw in their reasoning...
The power of social does not really lie in the device on your hand, but rather, on the off the cuff "did you see that thing on Facebook" conversations that happen in lunchrooms across the world daily!
Although Louise touched on this slightly, my take is profoundly different and has to do with scope.
"Scope is a two way street..."
I think that most of us, myself being as guilty as any, basically buy into the mantras, media-hacks, quick fire solutions, and general marketing spiel of companies and marketers alike, and end up believing that if we follow enough "influencers" and if we buy enough "twitter cards" or if we "harness the right channels" we'll some how make a million quid.
This may be true but, if first and foremost you're not very good at making furniture, fixing broken sinks and cutting hair (or whatever it is that you do), then your chances of succeeding will be probably geometrically diminished. Not to mention the torrent of abuse you're likely to get on Facebook from disgruntled customers...
Realistically when I mention scope therefore, what I actually mean is that there is only two ways of doing social media, as a small business owner and still maintain a grip of your day to day work. You either
- Devote a bit of scheduled time each week to a few selected followers, or
- You cast a very wide net and "friend" everyone
Both approaches have positives and negatives however, the goal of your efforts should be to take the interactions away from the screen and into the real world.
As Louise says "a fundamental problem for many businesses is that...they don't have a social media strategy". What is probably not so clear is that "a proper strategy" needs time and resources and expertise and trial and error. If you've got purchase ordering and accounting and doing a wee job at the other end of the county etc. you simply don't have the time for that. Now if you also don't have the money to get someone else to do it for you, I'll let you in on a little secret.
Actually, it doesn't matter at all, unless you fancy being a multinational.
Marketing on a shoestring budget may not bring you hundreds of customers through the door, but maybe the goal you should be aiming at, can be to simply maintain a presence that makes sense to you.
"Say something interesting, if you want to hear interesting things back..."
If you have just a couple of hundred followers, don't fret about "geo-targeting" and "market-segments" and" how do I turn my engagement from 1.07% to 1.2%". The statistical sample there is so small as to be insignificant... It certainly won't make you rich.. But see, if you feed your 200 followers interesting stuff consistently week in and week out, that's a fair chance to have those 200 canteen conversations.
And what if that stuff is fluffy kittens, so what? Make yourself known for fluffy kittens, there is nothing wrong about that. Because when people talk about one another it is seldom about just one thing alone... I feel that, against the grain marketing may be both beneficial when used sparingly and a strategy all on its own.
THE OTHER PROBLEM WITH SCOPE
...is that when most of the articles, and "try A/B testing" type efforts (which are really selling strategies in disguise) talk about scope, they also miss out a crucial reality about small business. The fact that it's small...
"the scope of any strategy really does depend on the size of the battlefield..."
I know of a good few folks who rely on a handful of customers to keep them going. If your customer base is say in the low hundreds, instead of the low hundreds of thousands, how likely do you think it is that a viral video will change your life forever???
Fame aside, most small businesses I know are simply could not cope with a sudden dramatic increase of customers orders. They survive and prosper good and well, but aren't even geared up to absorb an influx in telephone enquiries let alone sales...
How likely is it that you will meaningfully master the "social media strategy" and everything it will bring in an area like Dumfries and Galloway, where the population density sometimes literally means a 2 hour return journey to see another person, let alone do your shopping? That is even if, you understand and increase your audience and engage with the right influencers etc.
It seems to me that sometimes the people we follow, and whose advice about social media we treasure and write blog posts about, literally forget that the scope of any strategy really does depend on the size of the battlefield...
A lot of the time, and particularly in the national press, the term "small business" really doesn't even fleetingly consider the "one-man bands" or the 'social plumbers" or even the "singing driving instructor" who actually do most of their business on Facebook. Although the things I read about social media and how to best use it to help your business contains some pretty great advice, it often feels like the people writing it have a very specific model in mind (when describing businesses) which simply does not account for the "little guy".
For that reason I feel that no small business should ever quit social media, or even get frustrated about returns. I also think every business should be on social media, even the ones that unwittingly mix personal and business use.
If you don't have, or don't have time for, a strategy of any size it doesn't really matter because we all get it wrong from time to time... The important thing though is that any kind of engagement is better than no engagement, remember "advertising is the lifeblood of capitalism".
"when the time comes to go global, you'll know..."
By engaging you can at least learn from your mistakes or, if you're lucky enough, you might even set a new paradigm, but that is a different story...