Helping Small Businesses Find Their Groove on Social Marketing

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As Small Business Saturday looms on Nov. 26 — the second annual American Express campaign, promoted heavily on Facebook — it turns out that not all small businesses are confident in building their own brand awareness on Facebook or other platforms.

According to Steve Ennen, President and CIO of Social Strategy1, the ‘push’ marketing strategies of yore must be replaced by listening and mining digital and social media, as the power has shifted from business to the consumer.

“A core function of social media is listening to the voice of the customer, be it global or local. There’s a need to hear and understand the lexicon, protocol and etiquette being used,” Ennen told brandchannel. “There’s an inherent, dynamic difference in social media that’s not just about pushing harder and louder as channels increase. It’s about rethinking all the approaches and not defaulting to 1999 or even 2004.”[more]

As a social media intelligence service with a specialization in small businesses, so Ennen and his colleagues see the fears keeping smaller brands “stuck in neutral” on social.

While the majority of small business owners use social media personally and know it affects their business, they don’t know how to use those new networks to build their companies, as found in research by Social Strategy1 and OfficeArrow, a network of 350,000 small and mid-sized businesses. 

Nearly three quarters (73%) of small business owners said they access social networks on smartphones or other mobile devices, yet 67% are holding back investing in social media because they don’t know where to begin. What’s holding them back is a sense of overload, in particular fear of the resources required to meet the expectations of social media users. 

Finding the right channels to track is crucial. While Facebook and Twitter have scale, communities of interest in smaller eco-systems centered on content and passion are flourishing in verticals such as fashion, parenting and sports, with ongoing conversations in like-minded communities that organically spark shifts and movement in brand perception.

“The technology itself isn’t that important. It doesn’t matter if people are talking on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, or any other site. What’s important is that they’re talking about brands, products, and competition. It isn’t about the light bulb. It is about the illumination,” Ennen says.

“Social media monitoring settles in marketing departments and technology dashboards where the data is undervalued and constrained rather than optimized. Social media needs to live in the C-Suite, where executives (can) look it at as an everyday metric of their company’s health.”  

The three challenges and actions Ennen says small businesses must make time for if they are to not only survive, but thrive, in this social era: 1. Find your customers online; 2. Take time to listen and engage; and 3. Emphasize customer service. 

“Small businesses need a playbook to proceed in social media. Entrepreneurs are the heart and soul of the American economy. Preparing them to capitalize on the business opportunities social media can create should be a top priority,” Ennen said.

To that end, Social Strategy1 will be releasing a tool kit for small business in 2012 geared to helping them navigate social media.

“It usually takes a crisis (think JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, BofA) to spark a C-Suite epiphany, but we evangelize avoid the crisis, look at your organizational structure and seize the market opportunities that social media as an economic indicator offers,” says Ennen, adding that “one satisfied customer reaches millions.”

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