For whatever reason, many of my neighbors have eschewed the corporate world and operate their own small businesses. Every so often a couple of my neighbors will stop by and inquire about the latest social media trend. How do I use FourSquare? Do I really need Twitter? Why do I care about Facebook? Does any of this really help?
Inevitably, the next time we talk they have the same excuses for why they haven't tried any of the approaches we've discussed. You work with big clients with lots of money. I don't have the resources to compete, so I figured I would focus elsewhere.
While it's true that big brands have bigger budgets, a larger staff and far greater assets at their disposal, small businesses are often far better suited for social engagement. To Cynthia Boris's point over at Marketing Pilgrim, small businesses have a number of unique advantages over major brands. Below please find the top ten reasons I have given my neighbors for how their position can be advantageous when approaching social marketing. Here's to hoping they don't read this blog and won't take offense to my sharing this post. You know I love you guys.
- Small Businesses have little formal bureaucracy to prevent social experimentation
- Small Businesses have far less formal departmental silos standing in the way of progress
- Small Businesses have no branding police holding up creative deployment
- Small Businesses know their customers personally, so it's far easier to have a more meaningful dialogue AND far easier to integrate online/offline conversations
- Small Businesses have a real face and personally behind their businesses, and their customers know and recognize this face. This makes it much easier to build meaningful relationships.
- Small Businesses don't have the challenges of scaling human interactions. At a large business, tracking who had what conversation with whom on which channel, as well as the outcome of these conversations can become an arduous, burdensome and at times costly process.
- Small Businesses have lower customer expectations when it comes to production quality (ex YouTube videos)
- Small Businesses have lower customer expectations of 24/7 customer service
- Small Businesses can get by using mostly free social tools. Whereas large businesses require scalable operational tools for tracking and managing interactions, small businesses rarely have the challenge of scale and can often get by using free tools built with the individual user in mind.
- Small Business interactions with customers are by and large far more human than large brand interactions. As a customer, I know Mario from Mario's Pizza. When I see their facebook update, I can smell the pizza and hear Mario singing in the background. I can't say the same for my favorite brand of soft drinks.
The #1 Mistake Small Businesses Make in Approaching Social
Small Businesses have a lot going for them in social media. The biggest mistake I've found small business owners make is that they tend to look at social as technology rather than as people. My advice would be to start with what you know, your business and your customers, and then learn how to use these tools and technologies to better what you already do best.
The key here is to NOT focus on the technology. Don't approach a consultation with the objective of "getting on Facebook." Find someone who knows the space well enough, present your business challenge and ask your social adviser what tools and approach will work best for you. This is about your business and your customers, not their technology. It's just like running into someone at your kid's little league game, just online. So don't worry about the dress code. Capice?