Social Media For Small Businesses

I just came across a very interesting question on Quora:

Q. Social media is quite popular. However can a small business really make good use of it with limited time and resources?

Michael answers:

Having done business online as my sole occupation for over twenty years, never with more than three employees, I can speak to this subject with the advantage of a long-term perspective. Also, since my previous career was ten years as a Senior Vice President of a multi-billion dollar, multi-national corporation, I have witnessed the marketing realm from the opposite extreme. With this as backdrop I can say, with some certainty, that social media is the most important and powerful innovation in online business history.

Here’s why:

  • The key to success online is the ability to be both effective and efficient. That is to get the right job done and the job done right. With social media it is possible to target your market with rifle-shot accuracy, engage with potential customers on a mass scale, provide workable solutions, and to perform these tasks without the huge capital outlay normally required.
  • Large companies are like Battleships on the open ocean. To make a change in strategy or tactics requires a long and cumbersome mid-course correction. Being small allows you to be nimble. Instead of mounting an expensive marketing campaign in a vacuum and waiting for long-term results, social media gives instantaneous feedback. An entire strategy can be reconfigured at a moments notice, and appropriate changes can be made with little delay and minor expense.
  • The technology tools are in constant transition. Today’s best solution (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) can and will change tomorrow. As a dedicated and small entrepreneur, it is possible to remain at the vanguard of technology from one day to the next, without a large employee base or stodgy corporate culture in your wake like an anchor.

Here’s how:

  • Engage, don’t sell. I won’t belabor this point, as it has been said by experts for a while now. Be creative and forget what you think you know about marketing. View your potential customer as a collaborator not a sales target. Follow the lead of thought-leaders like Scott Monty at Ford Motor Company and engage your customers from the beginning of the product-development cycle. Ask their opinions on how best to serve them, gain their trust and eventually the sales will occur naturally with little motivation from you.
  • Spend time improving your service and expertise, and while you are building a future receptive audience make your expertise available at no cost. Cultivate a long view of the process. Demonstrate leadership, not salesmanship.
  • Do something that matters. Care as much about the quality of the relationships, and your place as a member of the human family, as you do about your product and profits. Who you are is more important than what you sell.
  • Work hard. Be prepared for a period of sustained effort. Social media is simple, but it isn’t easy.

Follow these simple guidelines and success will catch up with your efforts before you know it. And once it overtakes you, it will be sustainable.

See the rest on Quora.

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