I have a friend who runs a nationwide "traditional" business, and business is down, like it has been for most people. I suggested that he add some social network marketing initiatives, and his answer was he is "too busy." According to this study from last year, over 65% of existing small businesses still ignore social media for marketing, so he is still the rule rather than the exception.
What's the problem? It seems to me that there is abundant proof in the marketplace of the financial returns to both large and small businesses, the low cost of entry, and the ubiquity of social networks. Dell announced over a year ago that it had earned $3 million in revenue from using Twitter, and other businesses report daily on increases in web traffic up to 800%.
I suspect that a good part of the problem is that startup and small business owners still don't know where or how to start.Â They don't know if they should move to social networks for lead generation, branding, customer loyalty, or for direct marketing and e-commerce. My advice is to pick one, start slow, and spread out as you learn. Here are some specifics:
- Create a business profile on Twitter and Facebook. A business profile starts with a business account using your company logo as your picture (avatar), rather than your photo or a picture of your cat. If you are in consulting, you are the business, so use a professional headshot. Don't mix your personal and business profiles and messages.
- Develop a marketing strategy specific to this media. Don't use the same message on Twitter you developed for email blasts and postcard blitzes.Â Social media demands two-way communication, rather than outbound only. Read everything you can about viral marketing. It's not free, so budget appropriately, but not excessively.
- Start social networking with peers. Pick a base, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, to be your community, and work the territory, much like you may have learned to work a room of peers at a tradeshow or convention, or local business organization.Â Find out what other people are doing, and what works for them.Â People love to share what they know.
- Experiment with social media tools. The basic tools are the platforms like Twitter and Facebook. But don't stop there. There is TweetDeck to help you use Twitter, and YouTube for video sharing. A most valuable tool is WordPress or TypePad for blogging. You need these to add the human element to your business or service.
- Proactively learn from the experts. Maybe it's time to sign up for a few free Webinars, or even invest in an expert consultant in this area. Successful people don't wait for their kids to teach them about new technologies, or wait to be the last one on the block to try new things. It's all available for "free" on the Internet, but your time is a valuable resource.
- Define relevant metrics and measure. That means first take some baseline measurements of, for example, lead arrival rate today, and costs associated with your current media marketing.Â If you don't have this baseline, you will never know if you are making progress. Then continue to measure and learn what works, at what cost.
If used correctly, I guarantee you that social media marketing can improve your business with new leads, by bringing traffic to your website, creating a buzz around your product or brand, creating inbound links to increase your search engine ranking, and improving loyalty and trust with your customers.Â How could you be too busy to work on these things?
Of course, if you found this blog though your own initiative, I have to give you credit for being ahead of the pack. So print it off and deliver it to a friend who is not so high-tech. My challenge to you, then, is to kick it up a notch!Â When is the last time you produced a video for your business, or a podcast, or sponsored a contest with free gifts? Or are you too busy?
Martin Zwilling is the founder and chief executive officer of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to start-up founders and small business owners. Read more about Marty here.