Full disclosure: I own a small business, which happens to be a hotel (B&B), and I use social media.
(Editor’s note: Big thanks to the ever-intelligent Chris Brogan for helping to spawn this post with his offering yesterday, Ideas for Hotels and Hospitality. Also, hat-tip to Jade Craven (@cravenjade), who was discussing on Twitter how she would like to help small businesses with social media, but was not quite sure where to start.)
The Customer Cult
When I lived on the Pacific Island of Papua New Guinea I was fascinated with the Cargo Cult religious movement that some of the villagers (that I knew quite well) believed in.
Members of the Cargo Cult have the basic conviction that manufactured goods (cargo) such as radios, televisions, cars, and refrigerators will fall from the sky (or somehow magically appear) if they just believe and pray hard enough.
Many small business owners, who are new to the medium of social media as a method of promotion for their venture, have a sort of an analogous “Customer Cult” mentality.
Meaning, these particular business owners have the misconception that as soon as they sign up with various social media sites, customers are going to fall from the sky in droves and they’ll immediately be inundated with more business than they can handle.
Social Media and Small Business
Presently, within the social media and small business communities, we find ourselves facing an interesting dichotomy.
There are many small business owners who would like to use social media to help with online promotion, but they aren’t necessarily familiar with the tools and how to use them effectively.
Likewise, there are many well qualified social media professionals who have never owned a small business, and as such, they are not necessarily aware of the every day struggles that small business owner’s face.
How SM Professionals Can Help Small Businesses
I FULLY realize that many social media professionals are already doing some of the things that I’ve listed below.
However, when I was getting started and struggling with promoting my business online a couple of years ago, the following items are what I would have wanted in a social media marketing professional if I could have afforded one:
Help us to define realistic goals.
When we as business owners are — new to social media, worrying about covering our business mortgage, and trying to find customers – it would be of great benefit if you let us know what social media can and cannot do effectively. Once you have schooled us, please help us to define goals and set sensible benchmarks.
Provide constructive input on our websites and then give us a well-structured plan for improvement.
For any small business that wants to have a comprehensive online strategy, it all starts with the website. With all of the CMS options these days, I am sure it seems crazy to those of you who spend a good portion of your day online, but there are many small business owners who don’t get beyond a website that looks as though it was developed in the 90’s. A clear and concise explanation of SEO is always appreciated too.
Ask us how we became small business owners and then assist us with tweaking out and developing our story.
Many small business owners have struggled to get funding and have a real passion for what they are doing. The story of any small business is important to tell and we need some professional input in order to get it right.
We need customers to survive (and to keep hiring you), work with us in defining and identifying our online customer base.
Having the wrong clientele or customers patronize your establishment or procuring your services can be a disaster. Not only does it make the life of a small business owner difficult, it can lead to disgruntled customers, constant negative feedback, and eventual loss of revenue.
We’ve heard all about these crazy powerful tools, now give us a clear description of just what the heck they are.
Most small biz folks have limited time because they are not only trying to run a business, but are also doing all of the administrative and day-to-day management tasks as well. A simple description and walk through of the potential usefulness of various social media forms – blogging, relevant forums, Flickr, Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter would be extremely helpful.
How do we use the tools to build a distributed social media footprint?
In conjunction with a description of the tools, work with us to devise a plan for how to go about creating a social media footprint. If it’s not going go happen overnight, be honest and let us know about the fact that it can take quite a bit of time and effort.
What are the social media innuendos, lingo, and social norms that we should know about so we don’t look like wankers?
Before you send us off into the world of social media, inform us of the social norms that most sites like FaceBook and Twitter (e.g. RT’s, DM’s, etc) have.
Naturally we want more customers, but how do we engage, interact, and provide value.
Some of this is common sense, but as a social media professional, what are the best methods for posting and interacting without being spammy?
Provide us with tips and guidelines and mentor us on how we can use social media ourselves every day.
We are very happy to have your services, but small business owners are self starters and risk takers, teach us how to effectively use this stuff and measure ROI ourselves through technology transfer and education.
Constantly remind us that social media is not only about promotion!
With the current economic situation and the fierce competition to bring in customers, we need to be reminded that successful social media starts and ends with connecting, learning, engaging, and listening.
As a final thought, I know this sounds counter intuitive to the social media experts who are trying to earn a living, but if you can figure out how to successfully teach small biz owners effective social media strategy to promote their business, I am certain you will gain a customer for life and you’ll have successfully added another person as you head on your way to 1000 true fans.
What do you think? Feel free to let me know below or on Twitter @mark_hayward.Share this post: