Social Media and Small Business

Social Media is without question a massive force dominating the way businesses interact with their customers. It’s a tool that allows customers to deliver instant feedback and to receive the gratification of knowing that someone on the other end has a notification that they’ve been sent a message.

During my first consultations with potential clients, I make sure to set aside time to discuss social media and how they see it fitting with their business. Most of my clients will tell me they need “a Facebook.” That’s right, no typo there. Small business owners who aren’t well versed in social media but still have a basic understanding that Social Media can be beneficial to their business and that’s a great head start for people, like me, who don’t have to try too hard to convince clients to embrace technology. The trouble is explaining to the client how much time it takes to properly run a company’s social media presence. It’s common for a large company to use more than one full-time position to managing their social media game. I make sure to give a questionnaire to my clients to help them understand what is really necessary to be able to deliver the customer service they have become known for but in an online capacity.

Not that I try to scare off clients from Social Media, but I do highlight some of the more spectacular social media catastrophes (some of which I’ve watched unfold in real-time). Do you remember Kenneth Cole’s tweet exploiting a nation’s uprising to promote its spring collection? Or what about the tweet that brought infamy to CelebBoutique.com, a small English online dress shop? Or probably the most cringe worthy, after appearing on Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares (it’s also worth noting that this is the only restaurant in the show’s history where Gordon walked out), the social media accounts of Amy’s Baking Company were flooded with messages and the resulting meltdown was of epic proportions.

These cautionary tales are some of the best examples of how NOT to use social media. In my opinion, a cause of the situations mentioned above is time. Pure and simple. Time. Social media is awesome because it allows for essentially instant reactions to whatever is happening in the world (an awesome example is the tweet sent by Oreo during the 2013 Superbowl when the power went out). Sometimes fingers are faster than the brain and before you check to see why that hashtag is trending, like CelebBoutique.com, you quickly piggyback on the popular (sometimes tragic) topic to promote your own product. The internet doesn’t like that at all.

It all comes down to time. Dedicate time each day to post updates and interact. Dedicate the time to check out why a hashtag is trending before using it. Take the time to pre-plan some tweets for the next couple weeks, they can even be scheduled in programs like Hootsuite. So, here’s my biggest advice for mixing social media and small business: If you don’t have the time to keep up a social media account, don’t have one. 

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