So many small businesses try very hard to use social media as a megaphone, trying to shout their messages. I’ve tried hard to demonstrate that there are many other strategies you can try, rather than the commonly “holler in a hurricane” approach. One I like is treating your business as a social media company. Let me back up a bit.
My friend Tom Foremski, who stepped out of his job as Silicon Valley reporter for the venerable Financial Times to become a one-person publishing company, has succeeded in turning his sponsored-blog Silicon Valley Watcher into a don’t-miss source of news, opinion and analysis. He is now ranked among the 50 most influential people in Silicon Valley, higher than any traditional journalist and certainly higher than any member of the Times technology team. That influence garners him speaking and consulting gigs—always a nice supplement for a writer. I would argue that Tom’s business model is that he is a media company.
That may be well and good for a talented writer, but what makes it relevant to you? Foremski presented that answer in August 2009, when he wrote a guest post on ZDNet titled, “Why every company is a media company.” Every company?
Well, yes. Any modern company is online and posts text, audio or video content. A decade ago, companies need to present their ideas and content to other media companies, who have steadily been on the wane in terms of fellowship and influence. Now companies can talk directly to and with constituents. The costs are lower, the accuracy higher and the relationships with people who matter are much, much stronger.
Foremski got the idea from an interview with a Cisco executive. Both he and I have observed and participated in enterprise-as-media-company projects at IBM, Dell, Intel, the US Pentagon, Ford Motors and Coca-Cola. But, you might observe, none of those are what you would call small businesses. And, by contracting with ringers like Foremski and me, they are using the power of big company budgets.
Small businesses have been using the media company strategy, many of them without even realizing that is what they were doing. No professional journalist is required. All you need is to find and produce interesting and useful content for audiences relevant to you. Write about topics that show your expertise.
One company who has used this strategy is Syncapse, a Toronto-based social media management company serving enterprise clients. Michael Scissons, CEO, founded the company in 2007. It didn’t get into social media until 2010 but, when it did, it used Twitter, Facebook, a blog and YouTube with a media-company strategy in mind.
The idea first came when Scissons noticed that all of the company’s customers—Fortune 500 marketers—“shared a similar pain point—how to quantify the value of social media marketing, particularly to senior executives within their organization who tend to gravitate toward more traditional forms of marketing.
According to Meg Sinclair, Syncapse corporate communications manager, “We produce content that answers questions for potential customers. The easiest way is probably writing—a blog, story articles, white papers and the like. They will all rise to the top of search engines when customers are looking for answers to their problems.”
Their first piece, a blog called, “Value of a Facebook Fan” confirmed the power of the new strategy. As Scissons recalled, “It immediately improved our position as a thought leader in the enterprise social media management space. We realized that when research is relevant and helps our customer base solve a problem or answer a question, word will spread quickly. This has been the case for all of the content we have published in the last year.”
Since embarking on the media company strategy, Scissons says traditional publication editors phone frequently, looking for his for insights and observations. He gets invited to speak far more often at top-tier industry events such as SXSW.
Syncapse has since grown to over 150 employees. Business has never been better and he believes the media company strategy is an essential component of their success.
He encourages small companies trying to establish a bigger footprint to try the media company strategy, but cautions them to go for quality over quantity. He advises publishing less frequently, “with amazing content,” rather than the frequently used hit or miss blog approach.
“You build a loyal audience and generate new business leads by thinking about your customers first, and what expertise you can share that will help ease their pain points.”
Just make sure, he concluded, that what you publish is meaningful, relevant and unique.