One thing we learned which is certainly NOT new is that small businesses are having a hard time getting onboard the social media train. When you are already trying to do so much with so few resources, shoe-horning in one more chore isn't easy. Some folks have a dedicated "social media manager" within the office while others hire an outside company to manage their social media. Freshly-minted entrepreneurs are doing their own Tweeting while business is still slow.
Most impressive was that all of the panel participants chose to include social media participation as just one part of an overall media plan and they invested some serious time into developing that plan.
"You need to establish yourself as unique," one panelist explained. She set goals for the growth of her business and planned marketing strategies that would help her meet those goals. Then she set goals for the marketing strategies as well so she could measure her performance.
A chiropractor on the panel enthusiastically agreed with the need for an overall marketing plan and said he invested up to two hours a day in his social media when he first opened his office. "You don't use yellow pages anymore," he said.
Instead, he spent time developing his profile on Yelp and similar online directories. Soon after his business launched, he got a new client who was comparing local chiropractors on Yelp. "It was between me and another office. We had one review and the other guy had none. The client chose us."
As important as Yelp, Twitter and Facebook are, they are considered additions rather the basis of a marketing plan, according to the social media manager of a law firm. "The website is what you invest your money in and social media drives people there."
While she is the manager of their social media, all of the lawyers in the firm participate in some way and are responsible for creating content since their niche is providing "information you can use." She uses the lawyers' content in articles, newsletters, Tweets and Facebook posts and monitors responses to engage followers.
"So what's the Return On Investment?" an audience member asked. For those businesses with branding goals, using analysis tools on Facebook and on their websites gave them insight into how well their efforts were paying off, and a restaurant owner on the panel said she's pleased with the uptick in redemptions of posted coupon discounts.
What impressed us most during the discussion was the methodical way each local business approached their marketing. They created a plan, they figured out how to implement it and they measured the results. Not every small business can dedicate an employee to social media or hire a social media firm, but every business owner can work out a marketing plan that fits them.
The owner of a one-woman business explained how she handles it: "Someone behind the scenes helped me get involved and now I like doing it myself."
If you're in the same situation, contact us to discuss how we can get you started. Social media and websites are natural partners and we're happy to help you meet your marketing goals.