I know everything is trending toward social media and I am certainly a supporter of focusing on that as part of a company’s marketing, but I am starting to notice a bit of delusion from small business owners who seem to feel that social media is the singular most important vehicle to increase business (i.e. sell their product).

My thought is that while social media works perfectly as a tactic for many outreach goals, it should not be considered as a primary “sales” tool. Although it can be implemented very strategically, for most, social media ranges from organic to random.

For the small/local business owner, there are other things that are simply more important than social media.

I mention this because I recently spoke to a business owner who is going to use social media exclusively to run his business. This person owns one location of a retail establishment. The owner had “tried” marketing and it “didn’t work,” and he “wasted his money,” so now, he is going to use “social marketing” exclusively, as he sees that as a zero expense formula for running his business.

Just think of the increased profit margins!

I was pretty sure I knew that when he said he “tried” marketing, that meant that he had placed a couple ads and then felt his efforts had failed because he had expected to generate a large number of sales from each add, but I asked several questions to ensure that I understood what he had done, and what he had expected would be accomplished.

It was basically just as I thought. He ran a couple of ill placed ads and no one showed up, so now he believes that marketing doesn’t work.

To ensure that he doesn’t lose any more money on marketing, the owner expects to create a Facebook page, start Tweeting, throw some videos up on You Tube, and then wait for his Google ranking to skyrocket to number one, as customers to line up at his door. My thought is that if it was really that easy, then we would not still be in such a massive economic slump. We would be living on Planet Social Media – an online utopia where all a business has to do was tweet and customers arrived to pay full retail price for products.

Ok, back to reality.

I continued discussing marketing with the business owner; and I listened – taking in a lot of information – but it all basically pointed to increasing sales. Bottom line: he needs to make more money. Gee, don’t we all?

Social media can help with sales in a direct way or in a round-about way, but for most companies, social media cannot BE your marketing team, or the sales force, or the business plan. As I thought about all the ways that social media does help companies, I also thought about all the ways traditional marketing is still important – especially for the small/local business.

Making contact and getting to know your customers works – on or off line. But, let’s say you sell something really common, like socks, from one location in your town. Your sock store carries a wide variety of socks, but nothing truly unique; meaning one could buy the same socks that you carry at Target in Miami or Nordstrom Scottsdale.

In this scenario, tweeting about your socks to locals would be an effective form of marketing, but tweeting about your socks to people half way around the world, is not (unless, maybe you find someone who has a sock fetish). There is no chance that a prospective customer is going to drive past 300 Targets or 300 Nordstroms to go to your sock store. For the local small business owner (which I just read is something like 88% of businesses in Idaho) social media may not be the way to go. Yes, include it as part of your marketing portfolio, but put more effort into a local program.

Being part of the community is important. Small business owners need to connect with their community in a targeted fashion. Yes, we live in a 24/7 online world, but for local brick and mortars, [I haven’t said that phrase for a decade!] focus on keeping it narrow. For example your sock store having hundreds of friends, followers, or fans online does not matter if they do not actually come to your store and buy socks. Creating a buzz is great, but most business owners sell a product and they want to see that product moving off the selves and into paying customers bags.

Although I fully support all companies implementing a social media program right this second, there are a few other things to remember about wooing customers.

First of all, face-to-face interaction with real customers is a key component to building a loyal following (in the traditional sense of the word.) Ways to connect in person are numerous, such as on-site events, educational seminars, sponsoring local events, giving site tours, and hosting special product demonstrations. Putting your efforts into real marketing, rather than social media, will result in more real customers in your store.

Even if you utilize social media to its full extent, you still need other forms of marketing and public relations. Frankly, even though I am about to post this on blog that will update my Twitter feed immediately; there are many marketing efforts that are more important than social media:

  1. A professionally designed website, with great content and with real email addresses and phone numbers is more important than social media.
  2. This may sound like a huge waste of paper, but if you do get real customers, they’re going to want a bag to carry their items out in. Professional marketing materials, such as signage, newsletters, business cards, flyers, bags with your logo, and packaging is more important than social media.
  3. Hire a professional to manage PR because the right people need to find out about your location and services/product and it’s not as easy as it looks [see previous blog post]. A strategic public awareness campaign is more important than social media.
  4. A feature in the local paper will garner more interest in your product than if the owner tweets 100 times per day about his dog and his coffee breaks and being stuck in traffic to a random group of strangers scattered around the world. The best way to create awareness is through a comprehensive, strategic public relations campaign, which is more important than social media.
  5. For local/small businesses, think: big fish, little pond. You need people in your store asking you questions about whether or not they want a bobby sock or a stocking. It is hard to get to that level with local customers via social media. Becoming a recognized authority or thought leader in your community is more important than social media.
  6. Just because you posted everything there is to know about socks on Facebook doesn’t mean your local paper or TV stations will see it and run it as a story. Take time away from Tweeting and use it to build media relations. Talking to your local media is more important than social media.
  7. In retail, operations that help grow your business, such as a relevant location, professional employees, and effective space design is more important than social media.
  8. For professional services firms, actually meeting real people in business appropriate situations who might really use your services is more important than social media.
  9. Managing your business – from finance, to sales, to business development, to human resources, to product development, to competitive analysis is more important than social media.

To the entrepreneurs and seasoned business people who are getting into the new and exciting world of social media, I applaud you. Just please remember that some of your effort (possibly a large portion of it) needs to continue supporting traditional marketing. As much as I love having cool acquaintances online from London, Sweden and Australia; if I am a local business owner, I really need to care about increasing my customer base within a certain radius of my location.

And for heaven’s sake, you can’t launch a zero expense business. Even if you open two Twitter accounts!

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I know everything is trending toward social media and I am certainly a supporter of focusing on that as part of a company’s marketing, but I am starting to notice a bit of delusion from small business owners who seem to feel that social media is the singular most important vehicle to increase business (i.e. sell their product).

My thought is that while social media works perfectly as a tactic for many outreach goals, it should not be considered as a primary “sales” tool. Although it can be implemented very strategically, for most, social media ranges from organic to random.

For the small/local business owner, there are other things that are simply more important than social media.

I mention this because I recently spoke to a business owner who is going to use social media exclusively to run his business. This person owns one location of a retail establishment. The owner had “tried” marketing and it “didn’t work,” and he “wasted his money,” so now, he is going to use “social marketing” exclusively, as he sees that as a zero expense formula for running his business.

Just think of the increased profit margins!

I was pretty sure I knew that when he said he “tried” marketing, that meant that he had placed a couple ads and then felt his efforts had failed because he had expected to generate a large number of sales from each add, but I asked several questions to ensure that I understood what he had done, and what he had expected would be accomplished.

It was basically just as I thought. He ran a couple of ill placed ads and no one showed up, so now he believes that marketing doesn’t work.

To ensure that he doesn’t lose any more money on marketing, the owner expects to create a Facebook page, start Tweeting, throw some videos up on You Tube, and then wait for his Google ranking to skyrocket to number one, as customers to line up at his door. My thought is that if it was really that easy, then we would not still be in such a massive economic slump. We would be living on Planet Social Media – an online utopia where all a business has to do was tweet and customers arrived to pay full retail price for products.

Ok, back to reality.

I continued discussing marketing with the business owner; and I listened – taking in a lot of information – but it all basically pointed to increasing sales. Bottom line: he needs to make more money. Gee, don’t we all?

Social media can help with sales in a direct way or in a round-about way, but for most companies, social media cannot BE your marketing team, or the sales force, or the business plan. As I thought about all the ways that social media does help companies, I also thought about all the ways traditional marketing is still important – especially for the small/local business.

Making contact and getting to know your customers works – on or off line. But, let’s say you sell something really common, like socks, from one location in your town. Your sock store carries a wide variety of socks, but nothing truly unique; meaning one could buy the same socks that you carry at Target in Miami or Nordstrom Scottsdale.

In this scenario, tweeting about your socks to locals would be an effective form of marketing, but tweeting about your socks to people half way around the world, is not (unless, maybe you find someone who has a sock fetish). There is no chance that a prospective customer is going to drive past 300 Targets or 300 Nordstroms to go to your sock store. For the local small business owner (which I just read is something like 88% of businesses in Idaho) social media may not be the way to go. Yes, include it as part of your marketing portfolio, but put more effort into a local program.

Being part of the community is important. Small business owners need to connect with their community in a targeted fashion. Yes, we live in a 24/7 online world, but for local brick and mortars, [I haven’t said that phrase for a decade!] focus on keeping it narrow. For example your sock store having hundreds of friends, followers, or fans online does not matter if they do not actually come to your store and buy socks. Creating a buzz is great, but most business owners sell a product and they want to see that product moving off the selves and into paying customers bags.

Although I fully support all companies implementing a social media program right this second, there are a few other things to remember about wooing customers.

First of all, face-to-face interaction with real customers is a key component to building a loyal following (in the traditional sense of the word.) Ways to connect in person are numerous, such as on-site events, educational seminars, sponsoring local events, giving site tours, and hosting special product demonstrations. Putting your efforts into real marketing, rather than social media, will result in more real customers in your store.

Even if you utilize social media to its full extent, you still need other forms of marketing and public relations. Frankly, even though I am about to post this on blog that will update my Twitter feed immediately; there are many marketing efforts that are more important than social media:

  1. A professionally designed website, with great content and with real email addresses and phone numbers is more important than social media.
  2. This may sound like a huge waste of paper, but if you do get real customers, they’re going to want a bag to carry their items out in. Professional marketing materials, such as signage, newsletters, business cards, flyers, bags with your logo, and packaging is more important than social media.
  3. Hire a professional to manage PR because the right people need to find out about your location and services/product and it’s not as easy as it looks [see previous blog post]. A strategic public awareness campaign is more important than social media.
  4. A feature in the local paper will garner more interest in your product than if the owner tweets 100 times per day about his dog and his coffee breaks and being stuck in traffic to a random group of strangers scattered around the world. The best way to create awareness is through a comprehensive, strategic public relations campaign, which is more important than social media.
  5. For local/small businesses, think: big fish, little pond. You need people in your store asking you questions about whether or not they want a bobby sock or a stocking. It is hard to get to that level with local customers via social media. Becoming a recognized authority or thought leader in your community is more important than social media.
  6. Just because you posted everything there is to know about socks on Facebook doesn’t mean your local paper or TV stations will see it and run it as a story. Take time away from Tweeting and use it to build media relations. Talking to your local media is more important than social media.
  7. In retail, operations that help grow your business, such as a relevant location, professional employees, and effective space design is more important than social media.
  8. For professional services firms, actually meeting real people in business appropriate situations who might really use your services is more important than social media.
  9. Managing your business – from finance, to sales, to business development, to human resources, to product development, to competitive analysis is more important than social media.

To the entrepreneurs and seasoned business people who are getting into the new and exciting world of social media, I applaud you. Just please remember that some of your effort (possibly a large portion of it) needs to continue supporting traditional marketing. As much as I love having cool acquaintances online from London, Sweden and Australia; if I am a local business owner, I really need to care about increasing my customer base within a certain radius of my location.

And for heaven’s sake, you can’t launch a zero expense business. Even if you open two Twitter accounts!

3 thoughts on “9 Things that are more important than Social Media

  1. This is a great piece on social media and its import for small businesses. In speaking with folks from the PR world, I’ve often lamented the ease with which one can become a social media expert; I thought it odd that there could be experts in a field still in its infancy. What you’ve noted here regarding an integrated marketing communications plan is key; unless companies are looking to expand the reach and scope of their businesses, traditional marketing, advertising and public relations require an integrated approach. Further, there’s the simple problem of dumping one’s eggs into a single proverbial basket. Research is key here. Business owners must remain cognizant of their audiences, those channels best suited to reaching those audiences and the effectiveness of the means deployed to reach those audiences. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned return on investment analyses?

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