Small is Beautiful

Big businesses usually have an edge. They have more manpower to drive campaigns, more brain juice to think up clever marketing ideas, and a larger war chest to boot. Also, they probably have implemented a search engine optimization strategy and have tons of contracts for digital banner ads.

It seems like the big guys always win. But I daresay that small businesses have the edge in a couple of ways.

Firstly, the voice of small businesses come across as more real and personal. Despite the branding, we know that a physical, breathing individual is creating those blog posts, tweets and Facebook updates, not a disinterested individual trapped in the corporate wheel, who is more concerned about getting a large bonus.

Small businesses also have a more loyal and genuine fanbase. When people declare their love for a particular cafe's mushroom soup, on Facebook for example, they do so because they want to. Not because they were given freebies or special treatment. This is a breath of fresh air in today's oversold culture. And yes, many companies approach bloggers with a wide reader base and respected forum participants to help promote their products.

Small businesses are more focused. Due to their size, most small businesses have 1-2 core competencies. Bigger companies tend to have more areas, product types and product lines. When there is too much to talk about, the message tends to be diluted. With their narrower focus, small companies can be more assured that they are producing meaningful content – stuff that hits the sweet spot for the people who matter.

At the end of the day, social media is about people – not companies. A humble company's online reputation will grow because it realizes that its consumers are the heart of its existence. A good social media strategy is permission marketing at its best.

How then can small businesses engage in social media?

Think about your end-goal.

How will your social media campaign fit in with your overall objectives and strategy? Are there marketing and branding "blind spots" that you have missed in the hurry to get on the social media wagon?

You do not have to develop a social media strategy now just because twice as many US small businesses are adopting social media, or because your competitors are all doing so.

Keep up! Creating a social media account is just the first step.

Good content needs to keep on being developed, and you need to ensure consistency (tone, content, culture) is maintained across all the social media tools used. A good experience will keep people coming back. (Note: No excuse for not being a good writer. Hire someone.)

Let go. Social media is "honest".

Getting involved in social media means that others have a say in your brand. If they like your brand, they will say so. And if they are unhappy, they will express it. You have to be prepared for your detractors to surface.

Decide how you want to measure the results.

So you have launched your social media strategy. How do you know if it is working? Do you count it by page views? Conversions to actual sales? Which method is the most effective? Once you have decided, review the strategy, refine it, and relaunch it if necessary.

Small businesses should not shun social media. They already have some natural advantages over the big businesses, and just need to think of creative ways to use these tools to market themselves. Small is beautiful.

About the author:
Michele loves to observe people at work and play, and wondering what drives people to behave the way they do. She has worked in a social media analytics firm, and is exploring ways to marry her interest in communications and finance. She believes that social media is the new frontier, but is convinced that it is not the be-all and end-all of new marketing – there are more important things.

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