How can Small to Medium Sized Businesses use social media effectively?
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How can Small to Medium Sized Businesses use social media effectively?

On February 17th, the American Marketing Association held a round table discussion on creating maximum social media impact for Small to Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs). I attended the lively discussion and took away a lot of insightful advice from the panelists. I’ve outlined some of the themes I think are important for SMBs to know.

Should I get on the ‘social media bandwagon’?

It’s important to have a better reason than “my competitors are on Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook.” Here’s a list of some good reasons to get your company involved in social media:

  • Improve customer service relations (see: Domino’s video apology)
  • Create strong organic search results for your other marketing activities
  • Empower your freelancers and employees
  • Leverage social media for HR/recruitment
  • Generate online testimonials and reviews
  • Organic search results
  • Awareness

How do I get started in social media?

An easy way to start a social media program is to listen to on-going conversations about your company and your product, and respond to them. This is an informal, even experimental, approach to social media.

You can also start by formally researching your audience and developing a strategy and plan.

Whether you choose to start experimentally or strategically will depend on the nature of your business, your organizational culture, your financial resources and your audience.

How should I measure effectiveness?

This is different for everyone and depends on the reason why you started a social media program.

If for example you started social media to improve your customer service, one of the panelists offered a number of measures such as: call volume, call time, and emails sent. Reducing any of these has a real impact on your operational costs.

What are some reasonable expectations I should have?

Do not compare your expectations with social media campaigns like Old Spice. Campaigns like Old Spice are out of reach for most SMBs because they are massively complicated, super expensive and also often supported by strong in-store discounts.

Expectations do vary by channel. For example, another panelist noted that Twitter has a terrible shelf life and poor click through rates, but it is valuable at building community. By building community you have access to what your customers think about you, and your community can even be a source of new product ideas and innovation. Meanwhile, videos are great for spreading messages, and blogs are great for organic search results.

Seems easy enough. Does social media take up a lot of time?

Social media will take up more time than you expect. This is because once you start, you need to keep it up. Writing a blog post every 2 months will not build community, organic search results, find product innovations and certainly not respond to customers concerns in a reasonable amount of time.

This creates the temptation to post a blog article just for the sake of having an up-to-date blog. You’re actually better off saying fewer quality things, than saying many…iffy things.

How much control should I give my employees?

Whether employees are on-brand and on-message is a result of whether you’ve hired the right people to begin with. If the brand strategy is correctly infused throughout your entire organization you should be able to trust your employees to respond appropriately. Expecting your employees to wait for 48 hours to get a tweet approved is not only ineffective, but also utterly ridiculous. Hire better people, hire dedicated social media people, or improve your work culture.

This doesn’t mean you abandon control; you should guide the tonality and direction your employees take through a coherent brand strategy and by always keeping your hands on the wheel. One of my favourite quotes was, “don’t let go unless you’re paying attention”