Have you seen this? Social media marketing for small business

Written on 22 July, 2009 by Jonathan Crossfield
Categories Social MediaTags online marketingsmall businesssocial media

Kat Thomas guest-posted over at Mumbrella yesterday to reveal the thinking behind the new Levi’s social media advertising campaign. It is illuminating reading and an exceptional case study of how to engage an audience with humour and creativity. Kat understands how social media can tap into word of mouth influence and how powerful that can be for the brand.

‘Have you seen this?’ are the four most important words a consumer could utter.

Now that’s a line that should be tattooed inside the eyelids of every CEO, marketing manager and small business owner. It succinctly demonstrates how easily customers – and even non-customers exposed to the campaign – can become advocates for the brand.

Social media marketing is the shiny new toy in the digital world. The buzz around Twitter as a marketing tool is relentless. New blogs are popping up every day. Social media advocates start saying “I told you so” when reports come out showing how Starbucks and other active brands saw sales increase 18% due to participation in these online networks. Everyone gets excited when they see that Dell has reported a $3 million ROI on their Twitter strategy and dreams of easy riches in 140 characters.

But it is one thing to be Dell or Starbucks or Levi’s and it is entirely another to be a small business with limited resources and smaller budget. What relevance do these case studies – as exciting as they sound – have to you?

I’ve raised the issue before of how most social media marketing discussion fails to make the connection with small business. It is very easy to present a broad case for social media marketing but it is much harder to provide genuine advice that motivates business owners to walk out of a meeting or seminar with a clear understanding of what steps to take. The “what’s in it for me?” question is so often left unanswered. Too often, the excitement at the potential of social media isn’t matched by relevance to small business reality.

Earlier this month, I participated in a webinar on Twitter for Business. It was a record-breaking audience that demonstrated the huge interest Twitter has for businesses in Australia. Businesses large and small from all possible industries logged in, all wanting to learn the silver bullet answer to making Twitter work for their business. There may not be a silver bullet, one-size-fits-all strategy that can turn small businesses into online powerhouses, but there does need to be a lot more dedicated thinking aimed at this end of the scale.

Instead of pointing at Dell or Zappos or Bigpond when someone asks why they should use social media, we should be creating and measuring new small business case studies. Instead of using big business ideas as a template for small business strategy, we should be talking to you – the business owners at the proverbial sharp end – about the specific barriers you face and the potentially different goals you need to achieve. We need to be pointing at articles, analysing the brilliant email newsletter and Twitter strategy of a Toowoomba coffee shop.

What products or services would small business need to tap into this potentially lucrative marketing vein? Social media monitoring tools? Essential if your a big and established brand, but pretty useless when there aren’t any online conversations about your brand – yet. Blog installation? Possibly, but installing a blog is the easy part. Blogs wither and fade every day through lack of strategy or a genuine understanding of how to use them for a business. Maybe social media training or manuals are what is required. After all, low budgets and resources will necessitate most small businesses being able to create and run campaigns themselves rather than hiring an expensive agency or employing additional, skilled staff.

If there is a way for Netregistry to provide a truly helpful product or service that works in creating successful small business social media marketing, then we need to start by talking to you – the small business owners. We need to collaborate with you to create something of genuine value. No one understands your needs, barriers and goals better than you. No one knows your skill levels, motivations and confusions better than you. No one can help design a social media service for you better than you.

Let me know your feelings about social media marketing. Share with me what has worked for you and what hasn’t – nothing informs strategy better than mistakes! Let’s collaborate on defining ‘best practice’ and maybe, together, we can start creating case studies and strategies relevant to small business and not just for international corporations.

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