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Small business owners are inundated with advice about the benefits of social media marketing. The problem is, they don’t have the time. In fact, according to a survey by research firm Ad-ology, 50 percent of small business respondents said lead generation is social media’s biggest benefit. But 29 percent said they don’t have the resources available to do a good job with social network marketing.
Gail Martin, a marketing expert and owner of DreamSpinner Communications, has written a book designed specifically to overcome this challenge: 30 Days to Social Media Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn and Facebook. Here’s an excerpt from an exclusive interview with Martin about her book.
Q: You talk about the importance of small business owners telling their “real story.” How can social media help you do this versus a regular company website?
A: Most websites don’t change every day or several times a day, because that’s expensive to do. Social media makes it very easy and inexpensive. You can say a lot more on social media, and that conversation is important.
Each business owner has a different reason for going into the business that they are in. They each have a slightly different story about what made them passionate about being in that business. Most of the time it’s about solving a problem. We want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing besides the fact that you may have a mortgage to pay. Are you ethical? Do you share the same values? What makes you tick? Share that passion, because people love passionate people.
Q: What are some things a business owner should be aware of when it comes to professional marketing online versus their personal online presence?
A: It’s important to create a separate professional site on Facebook for your business. If you want to have a personal page, where you share pictures of your pets and kids with the grandparents, make sure you have the privacy settings set up so nobody can see it unless they really are your friends. What happens on Facebook doesn’t stay on Facebook. On your professional page, you need to remember, you are there to connect with people who may want to have what you offer. You have to make the information relevant — they probably don’t care what you had for lunch. They want to know how you can help them solve their problem and they want to get insight into your personality.
I caution business professionals, unless you’ve made a strategic business decision to do so, be careful not to delve too much into political and religious issues so as not to alienate people who might be potential customers. I’ve seen businesses lose prospects or customers because a business owner has gone on a rant about something.
Q: How can a business owner measure the return on their investment into social media? Are there certain metrics?
A: You have to make a distinction between measuring traffic and measuring results. Obviously people have to see what you’re putting out there in order to get results, but traffic doesn’t guarantee results. I jokingly tell a story: “A dentist wants to get more traffic and so sets up an office at a busy nightclub. You’d get traffic, but from people not looking to have their teeth done.” Traffic doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with generating business.
I would much rather see someone who has 500 Twitter followers who are actively taking part in the conversation, rather than someone with a “robo-friender” program. Those people are never going to be your customers. Don’t get caught up in it.
If you offer people free beer they will be at the store until the beer runs out. It’s better to reach the right people and you will start to connect and have conversations. You need to review whether you’re talking about things that other people care about. Are you reaching out to people who are truly interested in what you have to say? People don’t buy from us when we want them to buy. They buy when they need something. But we can educate them on what we provide and explain why it’s better than the competition.
Think how often, in real-life networking, you run into somebody two, three or 10 times before they actually refer you to someone else. Social media doesn’t change the way people think, but you meet people you might never have met and stay in touch with them in a different way.
Q: A lot of small business owners develop websites because they feel they can create a presence online that allows them to better compete with larger firms by appearing bigger than they actually are. Is it wise for small firms to look big using social media?
A: It’s OK to be small. It’s not OK to be unprofessional. Always make sure to represent yourself truthfully, but if you’re working out of your attic, you don’t have to announce that to the world. You don’t have to tell people on your homepage: “I’m a great artist and I work out of my attic.” However, if you make fine artisan soap, it might be beneficial to showcase that the soap is home-crafted and that you work in a studio on a farm. Suddenly, you’re not selling just a commodity, but something unique and artistic. It all depends on what the expectations are among your customers. For most small businesses that are service-based, such as coaching or consulting, it’s your expertise that matters. Whether you work on a train or from an office building, it doesn’t change what’s in your head. It’s your expertise that matters.
Gail Martin’s new book retails for $13.99 and is published by CareerPress. She is available online at GailMartinMarketing.com.
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