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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Social Media is Changing the Game for Small Business

Contributed by Tom Bennett

Small businesses often need to focus marketing that creates immediately measurable results, usually focused at having people take action (buy or sign up, or call). Historically this has created a very tactical approach to marketing. It’s about spending dollars to make things happen. Now with the rise of Social Media, there is a new opportunity to use low-cost tools to engage in more sophisticated activities like customer engagement and brand development.

You might be hearing a lot about Facebook and Twitter, and all might seem a bit silly. How can a small company take advantage in this space when it’s all grannies and frat boys? Why would a company want to “invest” time and effort? How does this help my small business?

Social Media is especially good for small business

Think of it this way: If there was a town square, where everyone went to have a huge party, share ideas, ask for referrals, and talk about their favorite solutions for things, wouldn’t you want to be part of that conversation? If you didn’t go, and you later heard that people were actually talking about your business anyway, and it wasn’t very flattering, is that worth your time to correct? People are out there talking about everything you can imagine. They are talking about you. No one can speak better about your company or brand than you can, so participate.

When someone goes to a social network like Facebook asks their friends for a referral for a good plumber, (and this happens, believe it.) they’re essentially looking for an easy way to know and trust a partner. They don’t want to spend time calling around for a plumber, hoping that the first guy that shows up knows how to wear a belt. They want a shortcut to a good relationship with a pro. Consumers are 78% more willing to believe recommendations from friends, or even from other consumers before they will believe advertising. Small businesses that can recognize this need and make it easy will win.

So how do you get started? Starting with an email address, it’s free to setup a Facebook account. Get on there and look around, and try it for yourself.  Be a consumer, and ask friends for information. See how they react and share. If you want to get started with marketing, there are lots of resources on Facebook itself, or ask us we can give you pointers.

The important thing is to start. It costs nothing, and you’ll learn a lot quickly.  It is about sharing and contribution, being present in the networks, and fostering a relationship with customers and prospects before they need to call you. That kind of work can build brand equity for your business: and that’s worth real money.

About Tom
Tom is a Marketing Strategist at The New Group in Portland, Oregon, where he guides online marketing for major brands in B2B and B2C. Besides pursuing the latest in communication and marketing technologies, he is a big fan of how Social Media will bring changes in how we communicate and collaborate. 

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