Small Business Be SMART with Social Media

Social Media and Large Corporations
It’s 2016 and a simple google search for “social media corporate success” reveals ongoing lists of various articles showing how large corporations like Coca-Cola, McDonalds, IKEA and more are successfully using social media to creatively engage with their audiences and build their brands.  For example McDonalds designed a Twitter social media campaign for Super Bowl 2015 where they gave away free products like a Toyota Camry.  The campaign created a lot of buzz for McDonald’s and according to some Marketing Analysts actually created more buzz than all of the other Super Bowl advertisers (Martin, 2015).

But I’m not McDonalds and don’t have a McDonald’s budget! What can I as a small business owner do to make social media work for me?  What’s the current state of social media among small businesses?
Yes.  I hear you!  And these are great questions.  First, I want to reiterate how a large percentage of small business are still missing out on the advantages of social media.  This could largely be due to small business owners not having the time to use social media for themselves and so may be opting to not use it for their own businesses.  Other reasons could include business owners not really understanding what a social media conversation looks like and so may not be opting to take the time needed to see what online users may be saying about their business and or business industry.  Factors could also be that business owners are separating social media out of their traditional marketing practices. Regardless of the reasons, I think if you ask any small business owner about the importance of traditional word of mouth marketing for their business all would agree that word of mouth is critical for keeping their businesses successful.  What some small business owners may be missing is the understanding that social media is nothing more than an electronic version of traditional word of mouth advertising (Lentz, O’Leary & Sheehan, 2011).

Tools Small Businesses Should Use to Improve Their Social Media Presence
Second, set and review your business goals.  Decide whether you want to use social media as a platform for increasing your sales, increasing customer service and or increasing engagement with your target audience.  Choosing a goal will help determine which social media platform will be the best fit for you.  It will also help to identify what metrics will be the best for measuring social media success.  Ultimately goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed (Lentz, O’Leary & Sheehan, 2011):

  • For more information on how to apply the SMART method for business goals click here.
  • For examples on how to apply the SMART method to social media business goals click here.

Let’s say that one of your goals is to improve Customer Service given happy customers are eager to spread the word about your products and services.  We’ll use an example case study from Hootsuite for small business Herschel Supply Co. based in Vancouver, Canada.  This retail company specializes in back packs, bags, travel goods and accessories.  Their target market consists of global consumers which are tech savvy and fashion oriented.  One of their main goals was to improve Customer Service.  How would they do this? What social tools would be necessary to accomplish this goal?  Ultimately they decided on the social management tool Hootsuite which would allow them to monitor online conversations about their business (Cisnero, 2014).

Herschel Supply, Co. concluded that the best way to improve customer service would be to try and respond to all questions found online, including those that didn’t mention their business.  They accomplished this by setting up search streams in Hootsuite which would allow them to monitor online conversations through the hashtags of #Herschel and #HerschelSupply.  With a specific goal in mind and choosing the right tool to support that goal Herschel Supply Co. was able to improve customer satisfaction by 20% (Cisnero, 2014).

So remember start with SMART and apply that method to your Social Media plan.  Then do the research on what tools will support your goals.  By the way, Hootsuite is an excellent social media management tool.  Definitely check out their website for more information on their products and how to use them.  And definitely check out their blog.  It’s got great information on the best social media tools to use with your goals in mind (Cisnero, 2014)!  Click here for more info and let me know how it goes!

References
Cisnero, K. (2014, Jun 30). 3 small businesses that found social media success.  Hootsuite.  Retrieved from https://blog.hootsuite.com/small-business-social-media-success-stories/

Lentz, S., O’Leary, S., & Sheehan, K. (2011). Small Business Smarts : Building Buzz with Social Media. Westport, CT, USA: Praeger. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Martin, J.  (2015, Mar 25).  12 standout social media success stories.  CIO. Retrieved from http://www.cio.com/article/2901047/social-media/12-standout-social-media-success-stories.html

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6 thoughts on “Small Business Be SMART with Social Media

  1. Dean,

    Cool blog post. I’m not a small business owner, but I’ve now somewhat responsible for my church’s social media. Unfortunately, there are five other account holders. I don’t mean to sound stingy but I want to moderate the content. I think it will provide a great word of mouth the church needs. Also your thoughts on Hootsuite could really benefit my church’s page. After using it a bit, I am going to reccomend it to the other account holders. Best. -MB

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Using applications such as Hootsuite is definitely a time saves. As you stated, one of the reasons a small business owner may not be so active on social media is due to time. We hear it all the time especially for new businesses that business are fully committed to their business for at least the first 5 years or so. You live and breathe your business, so I understand that time is valuable and an owner may not want to spend their precious time on Twitter. Using a system that can automate things for you will certainly help. You can automate responding to messages, following others, posting status and etc but much of a time saver this is a business owner needs to be careful not to over do it. Sujan Patel states (2015) “don’t fall into the trap of thinking that because you have your systems and processes automated, you don’t have to actually authentically participate or engage with people in real-time anymore”, Basically that remember that we are all still human.

    Reference:
    Patel, S. (2015). How To Quickly Master Social Media Marketing For Small Business. In Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/sujanpatel/2015/07/09/how-to-quickly-master-social-media-marketing-for-small-business/#7c3cae562da1

    Like

  3. As a person looking to open a business in the future I really enjoyed your blog. And you are right that it seems to be essential to find a way to utilize social media in the modern market. Your mention of using Hootsuite is on point, while I as a future owner may not have the ability to post during peak hours if I use Hootsuite the program will post what I was able to write at another time when it will have the most impact for my business.
    The ability especially for local small businesses that are unlikely to have much business outside of their distinct communities to have access to a media outlet for advertising or marketing is incredibly important. And social media when it really comes down to it is a cost efficient and time efficient means of reaching customers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve outlined some really great ideas for small businesses to get involved in social media. I like how you point out that it is extremely important to understand your goals as a business and to then create a goal for the social media use. It is important to understand your goals for social media because this will definitely dictate the direction that your platform will take. As a small business, having a conversation with your customers can go a long we to ensuring a healthy and successful business. Thanks for the great ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mr. Blackwell,

    I enjoyed your article. I like how you focused on planning and relating the social media efforts to the business’s goals. Too often people focus on the tools, or message. Encouraging your readers to be SMART about the process (see what I did there!) is solid advice. I also love your advice about what social network to use, focusing on picking the tool that will reach your target audience. Seems like many small businesses spread themselves too thin trying to maintain too many social networks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dean,

    Great blog and going over Smart and utilizing tools like Social Media. Social Media helps cost for business and is effective for business on McDonalds budgets as well any budget. Below is a link of the 10 Commandments of Social Media, basically the dues and don’t while running a Social Media Platform.

    Fertik, M. (n.d.). The 10 Commandments of Smart Social Media. Retrieved April 21, 2016, from http://www.inc.com/michael-fertik/10-commandments-smart-social-media.html

    Liked by 1 person

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