Like so many other small business entrepreneurs, you’ve probably pinned Facebook and Twitter logos on your website. You’ve managed to accumulate a handful of friends and followers. And you update your social media accounts, at least once in a while.
You know social media can do wonders. You’ve read and heard numerous social media success stories of businesses garnering attention, winning new customers, and doubling or tripling revenues.
But your own results don’t impress you. And now you’re left wondering and asking: Is this really for every business?
We won’t add to the great debate that wages. Most marketing folks believe it’s the future—all businesses must get with it now, or be left behind. On the other end, some are happy to stick to and promote good old fashioned business practices; it’s got them this far, so why change?
Instead of choosing a side, it would be more productive to ask yourself these three questions.
1) What were my expectations?
M.P. Mueller, in her NY Times blog post, debunks myths that have misled many small businesses owners as they got into social media. She points out that social media should not be regarded as the holy grail—people won’t automatically like you just because you’re on Facebook.
If your expectations were a bit unrealistic, it’s not to late to become grounded and re-approach social media in a pragmatic, business-like manner.
2) Can social media help my business?
To answer this question you first need to determine who your target audience is, and whether they participate in social media.
Natascha Thomson, a social media professional at SAP, writes that “for every target audience you define, you need to do research where they lurk (= read) or engage (= comment, ask questions etc.). Your audience might frequent existing communities like IT Toolbox or read blogs on CIO.com. Wherever they are, that’s where you want to be.”
Remember that social media is a broad term that includes more than just Facebook and Twitter. It encompasses blogs, forums, media sharing communities (like YouTube and Flickr), location-based social networks (like Foursqure), user review sites (like Yelp), and many other places where users come together online.
If enough of your target audience actively participates in particular social websites, you’ve got a solid case for investing in social media.
3) Do I have the time and resources to invest in social media?
An unmaintained social media presence doesn’t do much for a company’s image. If you can’t give social media the attention or resources it needs, it is probably better to not do it all.
Mueller writes, “There is a widely held perception that social media is free. But to do it right requires good strategy and an investment of staff time and giveaways and advertising to build and keep a following. . . . Most small companies have limited budgets and should evaluate social media with the same rigor they would other marketing tools. Tending the social media garden takes lots of time. And, time is money, whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it.”
(Photo credit – gottahaveme927)
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