Posted April 28, 2011 7:19 am by with 9 comments

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It comes as little surprise that among the SMB crowd, social media is gaining more and more traction. For many of the common reasons that SMB’s can be slower to adopt certain manners and methods of anything (lack of time, lack of resources etc) the adoption rate of social media offerings has been slow to get going but it’s going. A recent report from the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor (as reported by eMarketer) shows that the shift continues toward social media being an increasingly important part of the SMB marketing repertoire over the past 4 years.

As for which social media outlets are being used? The bulk of the concentration is on Facebook while LinkedIn and Twitter are the other major players. One statistic I find a little disappointing is the relatively low use of blogs by the SMB space. I am not a full believer that a blog necessarily wins customers but the SEO benefits of a blog combined with the ability to truly engage a very real part of any customer base seems to elude most SMB’s. Many are just afraid to commit to writing anything which is a strategic error that many, many SMB’s make.

While an SMB saying that they use social media is nice, the other side of this coin is the one that really needs to be looked at in greater detail. That area is the effective use of social media and other online marketing tools. Many SMB’s answer the question of “Do you have a Facebook page / Twitter accountfor your business” with “Sure, I have one!” The real important question, however, is “Are you maximizing your social media presence?” Other questions that often baffle the SMB are “Are you effectively monitoring and measuring the effectiveness of your Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn presence?” as well as “What is the true benefit to your business of having a social media presence?”

This lack of nuance exists because many SMB’s just settle for being there with regard to social media. In other words, they don’t understand how to manage social media in a way that they can truly get business value from it. Many jump in without any planning or forethought only to abandon their efforts after very short periods of time due to a perceived lack of response both from their staff and their customers.

Of the 35% of SMB’s from the OPEN survey who say they are using social media, I would bet that at the very least, half of them have not paid any real attention to that presence or have given up on their efforts prematurely. Most SMB’s don’t understand the amount of effort that goes into making these communication channels work. As a result, they will turn to the wonderful social media expert / guru / ninja crowd who has hung out a shingle proclaiming their vast knowledge of the space only because they themselves have lost a job or have been forced to find other ways to generate income. All in all, it’s a very rough scene for the SMB in the social media space due to sheer ignorance. That’s a shame but it happens more often than not.

So what would be a great next step is moving beyond the simple “Are you involved in _______?” questions and get to the meat of the situation? Questions need to be asked and answered like “How often are you updating your social media efforts?” or “How are these social media efforts used to support and enhance other marketing efforts?” or “How are measuring the effectiveness of your social media campaigns?” or “Do you even have a strategy or are you just winging it?” These questions will help the SMB to move from simply playing along to gaining true business value from the activities that all the cool kids say they should be doing.

What is your experience in working with or for an SMB when it comes to social media? What percentage of those you talk to ‘get it’? How willing are they to invest their resources into really working the social media space to their business advantage? It’s questions like these that will help the SMB grow in this space and get beyond the idea that just being there is enough.

Because let’s face it, just being there isn’t even half the battle. It’s just the start of it.

  • Great article. I think much of this also applies to businesses of all types, especially the part about not understanding social media and giving up when they don’t get immediate results. Too many businesses are approaching social media from an advertising or pr perspective and aren’t harnessing the power of social media to connect with customers.

    I agree that blogs should be an important part of a social media strategy. I think most SMEs don’t use them because they don’t know how — certainly blogging is the most technologically challenging element of a social media strategy. I’m attempting to help by creating a site where I provide step-by-step demonstrations and guidance on creating a blog to help your business. I also highlight tips and tools I’ve found work well in creating and managing your blog.

    Angela Hausman, PhD
    Howard University

    • @Angela – It’s really all about education but SMB’s don’t have time or resources for it in many cases. Internet marketing for many is a colossal Catch 22 because they desperately want to do ti correctly but they aren’t informed well enough to do it correctly. As a result, there is plenty of frustration to go around.

      Another interesting piece of this puzzle is that the younger the business or discipline (let’s say marketing) owner is the more likely they are to get it and adapt but they often don’t have the business acumen or savvy to accurately apply SM and the Internet to real world business issues. On the other end is the experienced owner with a mature business and money but is caught in the ‘old way’ of doing things.

      Getting past this all will take time and patience from both SMB’s and providers of services (lol- providing those providers even know what the heck they are doing!).

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • Frank, you’re right. Having time is a serious issue for most SMEs and learning how to do social media right is time consuming. Its made more difficult by the numerous service providers who don’t know what they’re doing and are wasting the time and money of hardworking business owners. I read Problogger every day to get great advice. There are also a few others I trust.

        Despite these constraints, SMEs are very interested in creating a web presence and using social media to interact with their customers/ prospects. I was at a Google event hosted by Howard University a few weeks ago where a packed audience listened to a panel discuss ways they could get their feet wet. I’m proud to be out there (along with you and others) to make that easier.

        • Couldn’t agree more about the need to blog, however, I find it very difficult to get SMB to integrate into their daily activity… and I don’ think it is necessarily the lack of knowledge being the issue… we live in an instant gratification society…. and blogging and other similar activities that can help expand and grow a business are a lot of times ignored because they require a strong commitment, daily work, and results may not take effect for quite a while… yes, you can sometimes hit a home-run when a blog entry gets reposted/picked up and distributed, but for the most part, you are slowly building your consumer base and keeping your brand in the minds of your consumers. Decision Makers in SMBs, especially in today’s economy, are focused on instant results as more of a way to both keep their company going and justify their position within their company.

  • Great article! I think it is important that businesses carry out their own social media campaigns as much as possible. I don’t think that it is always a good idea to get a 3rd party to do it for you.

    It is all about learning which elements are important to your own circumstance. I personally find that Twitter works well for my business so I tend to focus my efforts that way, not to say that I forget the rest.

    Social Media does allow you to interact with your audience by supplying quality content and ideas but I do feel more businesses would benefit from a basic level of training.

  • It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

    A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

    This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

    I hope my can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

    CEO & Founder

  • Frank,
    I agree with everything you said. There is an element of “My 15 year old nephew can make me a Facebook page” and then “now what?” follows pretty quickly. Planning is key. However, I also believe that there are some other things in play here:

    – There is a lot of “lurking” going on. Just like to going to a cocktail party and not knowing anyone, there’s a lot of listening and watching. With that kind of observation also comes some really inspiring innovation and ideas. Late last summer, I encouraged a new client to set up his own twitter account to “lurk” and he discovered It’s really rather amazing what people who are completely “new” to social media discover… just because they are NEW and the platforms are evolving so quickly.

    – I agree that a having a strategy is key to the success. But, it’s hard to develop a strategy or tactical plan if you don’t first have a halfway decent understanding of the tools you have at your disposal and what their capabilities are. SMB’s need to jump in the Social Media waters to understand the currents. Only then can they develop a “plan” The sheer pace of change in the environment means that there aren’t really any “experts” because what you knew yesterday, or even an hour ago, could have changed.

    – SMB are much more nimble than big companies and an therefore can embrace Social Media platforms faster and respond more quickly than large corporations. I was recently reading a forum posting on LinkedIn about how a major corporation provided a ‘canned’ response to a specific question. Because of the sheer size of BIG companies there’s a hierarchy that has to approve the “brand message” which may include legal, PR, and marketing. Sometimes these questions are answered every day by customer service or sales, but social platforms have now added another level of required knowledge to marketing departments who are the front line ‘engagement’ team. SMB’s have one or two decision makers who wear ALL of those hats so decision making can be faster and more responsive.

  • “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Mark Twain

    Thank God for eMarketer or else we’d have a Terrabite less of blog posts a day. It began with “if Facebook were a country…” What a bunch of garbage. Don’t believe me? Run target ads for geographies in Facebook and refine them to see large is the “target audience” on Facebook. Then as Frank aptly points out, how many are active?

    Elias you say “social media is here to stay for good” Not quite sure about that one. I’m not saying it won’t I’m saying I’m not as convinced as you are. Between the echo chamber, the ability to jack the system around and the true transparency of the amount of business it can generate, I will submit that social media has not passed the “is it a fad” test. I say this both an early adopter and a power provider and consumer of social information. Example, we are still in a medium where case studies are necessary to establish credibility.

    SMB by definition means fewer people doing more. There is not a lot of “fat” sitting around in SMB asking to do something. Which Frank again points out that there are not as many blogging. Right, they are throwing out some special, some discount, some news release headline, yada yada yada. This stuff takes time, thought, and yes, friends/network/audience/fans who are willing to click, comment, upload, ask… Oy! it’s rewarding if you believe in being social, it’s less so if you have to make a quarterly quota.

    Thanks for contributing.
    Another story is being a socially active company but not being social – AMEX is run by credit report numbers period, it’s not about personal payment history, if credit card companies were social, you would need to call to see if you qualify for a lower rate, they would just give it to you. But that’s another topic.

    All the best, Frank

  • Well, I am here to voice my humble opinion on the problem. The problem with the existing popular social media that SMBs are harping on.. were created for individuals or people to connect and collaborate. However, LinkedIn, FB, twitter are slowly maturing to accommodate the needs of businesses especially B2C and not yet for B2B.

    Before I continue further, I would ask why LinkedIn Ads for SMBs are comparatively successful than FB Ads or Twitter promote? This is because, an SMB can target specific industry professional, with specific designations etc on LinkedIn so that the ads are shown only to the right audience with right analytics.

    However, the need of an SMB to socially become active does not end there. An SMB hopes to maximize its social presence like
    1. Increase marketing & sales effectiveness (including overcome issue of email marketing & phone marketing becoming less productive; unable to reach & engage multiple stakeholders who are involved in a sale; lack of understanding on buyer’s position in the buying cycle)
    2. Improve customer experience & retention (Unable to actively engage the customers who are becoming vocal by the day by taking to blogs, forums etc)

    So, what could be the ideal solution to this? Just like how we individuals are having a social media, companies as entities need to have a social media for businesses. Say, just like how our friends, relatives etc can be found and engaged on the existing social media, there must be a b2b platform where SMBs can find & engage with its prospects, customers, etc.

    For this to fructify, each company needs to be hooked onto the b2b platform for their external collaboration needs (interaction with prospects, customers, vendors, suppliers etc) and internal collaboration needs (with employees, business applications etc). This way, while you as an employee say a HR exe., marketing exe., customer support exe., etc of an SMB working on your day to day activity with the necessary business apps will be able to connect & collaborate with other companies who are also active in the b2b platform in their activities…just like you.

    So a combination of a enterprise wide social media with collaborative capabilities to network with other companies of the world is the SOLUTION to the problems (1&2) cited by me.

    B2B platform for SMEs (Active business community + Secure Intranet + Business Apps)