Social Media: Time Waster or Essential Small Business Tool?

Polio outbreak campaign
Creative Commons License photo credit: coda

If someone threw a party for a big group of people who are interested in the products and services you offer, wouldn’t you want to be there?

Yeah, you would and social media can help you do just that.

Given that you’re reading this, I can’t help but assume that you know what social media is. Still, you may still wonder how it could possibly be of productive use for your business as opposed to another way to waste your staff’s time.

Note that last word in the phrase “Social Media”. Really, that’s all it is. A media.

What’s critical to understand is that it is a very different kind of media than businesses are used to dealing with.

It’s interactive and independent. It’s not controlled by a major media company, which likely keeps them up at night.

If you want to learn more about your favorite music, where do you go? If you want to hang out and discuss music with 100,000 fans of The Who, The Beatles or Miley Cyrus, you don’t go through a music industry gatekeeper to do so.

Social media enables you and those 100,000 other people to find each other. Easily.

I Leica cameras

Let’s say that I’m a big fan of Leica cameras, as Ed Dale is. (Sorry Ed, I’m a Canon guy).

If I want to have a conversation with someone about them or learn more about them here at home (remember, I’m in a fairly rural community), I’ve got a problem.

So how do I find others who are into Leica camera gear?

You can call a local camera store. You can visit your local photography club. If your community has a central web-based events calendar, you could check that out or subscribe to updates. You can visit a local photography exhibition and ask someone there. And of course, you could Google <your town> photography club.

Even after doing all that, you may find that there is a small number of people in your area who are interested in Leicas. On a photography social media site like Digital Photography School, it’s a different story.

Now imagine that your business specializes in Leicas in some way. Maybe you sell them, repair them or create accessories for them.

Wouldn’t you want to take part in the discussions that all these Leica enthusiasts have? Worst case, you’d want to listen in on them and get your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community of Leica fans.

If you’ve taken my advice to heart here at Business is Personal, I’m thinking you’d want to be right in the middle of all those conversations.

Join the Conversation

Even if you don’t participate in the conversations (though you should), there’s a huge amount of value there. Because of this, social media is a great research tool.

It provides an efficient way to keep an eye on what people are saying about your products, business, industry and competitors.

It allows you to easily reach out to your customers and prospects and improve your relationship with them. The more responsive you can be to your customers, the more likely you are to keep them.

Social media allows you one more way (and one more place) to demonstrate your expertise to people who need it. People want to do business with the expert.

Robert Collier said to join the conversation already going on in your prospect’s head. That’s exactly what social media allows you to do.

Rotary rings

Social media also provides you with the ability to connect with people you might NEVER have met any other way – someone who can make a substantial difference in your life or business (or vice versa).

I follow the Cary (Kildaire) North Carolina Rotary Club on Twitter.

Why? They’re a large, successful club in a high-tech town. I’m (currently) our club President in a small, new club in a small rural town. I can learn a lot from a large successful club.

I have a Rotary search setup in Tweetdeck so that I can find people who talk about Rotary. If they’re interesting and helpful comments, I eventually follow them. That’s how I found the Cary Rotary Club on Twitter.

One of their comments earlier in the week said someone from Rotarian magazine (the monthly magazine that Rotary International publishes for their members) was looking for a source to talk about social media and Rotary.

A perfect fit

Gee, is that a good fit for me and my business? Rotary members are mostly business owners. I’m a Rotarian and currently club president. Marketing is my business. It’s a *perfect* fit.

The Cary post on Twitter included the email address of the reporter, so I emailed her and soon enough we had an appointment to speak.

The next day, we had a 45 minute phone interview for a story that will appear in Rotarian magazine.

We talked about the interaction of social media with Rotary and Rotary’s 4 Way Test, as well as social media’s use in business for marketing and other purposes. We also talked about common mistakes that people new to social media might make and should avoid.

I have no idea what will come from that, but it’s exactly the kind of publicity I can use, to the perfect audience for my business. For free.

In addition, it’s a pretty cool thing to be a Rotary member who is interviewed in The Rotarian, so that’s a nice bonus (and yes, I will likely have to spin the wheel when the magazine comes out).

Back to you

Enough about me, even if it was a good example.

As you can see, there are a number of benefits to participating in social media.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about some of the pitfalls to avoid and some things to focus on.

As you might expect, it’s personal.

2 thoughts on “Social Media: Time Waster or Essential Small Business Tool?”

  1. Hey Mark,
    Guess what- I found you via a search setup on TweetDeck for the term ‘small business’ on Twitter. This is kinda strangely interesting.

    I liked the post’s simplicity and the way you you used the Leica example. I would want you to may be write different ways of leveraging that Social Media networking.

    Bless,

    Hersh Bhardwajs last blog post..Zen And The Art Of Business StartUp: Watering

Comments are closed.