Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Small Biz Find Social Media to be the Great Equalizer

As business and trade media transition their reports from “what social media is” to here is how companies are effectively using it, an inaccurate picture of the state of adoption has emerged.

The casual reader might conclude it is primarily global organizations with its deep pockets and gang of marketers that derive measurable ROI from social media. Consider Adweek’s recent article, “Does Social Sell?” that dives into campaigns from industry titans Pepsi, Dell and H&R Block.

Even Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) is guilty of big brand-itis when it comes to promotion of its social media marketing competencies and track record. Our case studies tout work for Microsoft, Monster, British Telecom (BT) and Sun Microsystems with nary a whisper about our equally successful efforts for more growth-oriented clients like BroadSoft, Epok and Senforce Technologies.

It’s understandable as more broadly recognized brands turn heads, command attention from influencers and, ultimately, confer tremendous credibility on the practice of social media as a proven marketing discipline.

Yet, our fetish and fascination with big company adoption of social media might be scaring off more modest-sized organizations. A recent survey presents a cloudy view.

The optimist perceives the doubling of social media use by small businesses from 12 to 24 percent as a sign of frothy growth. The pessimist argues that it’s only 1 in 4 companies that are tapping into this channel. What about the other 75 percent?

Anecdotally, I have spoken with a number of C-level executives at companies well qualified to engage strategically in social media who have put it off due to their “limited resources.” To this, I’ve attempted to point out that mega-business is no more sophisticated or destined for success in social networks.

Here’s why:

1. Social media is a great equalizer. Years ago I visited with an ad sales representative from the Wall Street Journal who explained their clients advertise in the newspaper because they can. Of course, what this implied was that they can afford to, which communicated leadership and financial strength.

Participation in social networks and online communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Govloop and Twitter is open to all. Success is a function of strategy, thought leadership and time investment, rather than a hearty financial outlay.

2. The financial burden of experimentation and failure is modest. I broached this idea last September in a blog post that explored how Strategic has transitioned through multiple lead generation tactics in a single social media campaign.

3. Business outcome is predicated on a one-to-one relationship. Set aside issues related to branding, perception, credibility and confidence, and, inherently, a transaction comes down to two people reaching mutual accord.

The cultivation of personal relationships in an online environment is at the core of social media marketing. And, in many instances, a small and still emerging venture is just as likely to establish a relationship with the buyer as a global organization.


Davina K. Brewer said...

"Success is a function of strategy" YES. It starts with the Business Strategy, then Communications and Marketing plans. Jumping on Twitter and FB are tactics; increasing SEO is a goal; they are not strategy.

Now the catch is the "time investment vs a hearty financial outlay." Time is money, talent is money. For a SM campaign to be successful, you need talented people to invest the time to do it well.

Point #3 is spot on: big or small, it will be the relationships and connections between people that matter. FWIW.

SunSwept said...

I agree that social media can be a huge equalizer, however the roadblock I hear most frequently is time. Small businesses are lean by nature, and to some extent the learning curve and ongoing commitment to a social media program is an investment in time.
Too many times, I've seen small businesses who jump into a Twitter account or a Facebook page because they've heard that it's the thing to do. Without a strategy, a tweet is just a tweet. First and foremost, there should be a plan - who is the customer? where is the customer? how do we reach the customer? and once we've reached the customer, how do we entice the with what we offer?

Marc Hausman said...

@SunSwept - agree with you 100 percent on the importance of establishing a well defined strategy and performance benchmarks prior to launching a social media marketing effort. Otherwise, all you have is a "bag of tactics."

Good comment...thanks!

Laura Fanelli said...

Thanks for starting this conversation Marc. I absolutely think it is an equalizer--which in our current global economic state is a terrific advantage. Someone who may be looking to change careers, may be out of work or looking to explore their entrepreneurial side doesn't have alot of start up cash and what's the first thing biz owners need to do? Get the word out and network. Social media is free and if understood and used properly is a great way to kick off a new business or expand a small business's client base. I work part time for my parents' real estate and insurance biz and I'm working hard at dragging them into the 21st century of Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, interactive websites, etc. I'll get them there if it kills me! :)