At the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference last Wednesday, I hosted a roundtable discussion on “High-impact Public Relations.” Conversations with the 20 or so small business owners who dropped by my table showed they were still trying to wrap their heads around social media.
They either didn’t use social media at all, or they had a bright-and-shiny young person on staff which they paid $45,000 a year to manage their company’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube accounts. The jury’s out on the ROI, although one business owner said she knew of a mid-sized, woman-owned company that had actually won a piece or two of business using social media.
Here’s the “$45,000 Question”: If you’re not a large consumer-oriented company or a high-profile celebrity, can social media really impact your bottom line? Is it really worth the time and financial investment?
Here is my best advice for (really small) businesses.
- Engage in social media without going overboard. If you’re a one or two-person business operating on a shoestring budget, you may not have the time but you still need a presence. Put those LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter badges on your website, but accept the fact that, at least for now, you’re not doing more than basic tweeting, posting and connecting.
Put most of your marketing time and dollars into traditional marketing. At the very least, that means getting your name in print. Depending on the nature of your business and your target market, you need to be featured in newspapers, magazines, blogs, television and radio. If you’re a b-to-b business, get quoted in trade publications, or offer to write bylined articles to demonstrate your expertise. Share the coverage through your social media channels and e-mail marketing.
Embrace e-mail marketing. Every organization needs some type of e-mail marketing program. It can be as simple as promotional fliers or a weekly e-newsletter to your target market. Sharing what you have to offer on a regular basis can work magic.
Be visible. Get active in professional and civic organizations, and attend charity and community functions. Add all those new contacts to your database, and find ways to stay in touch. Be helpful to them, and they may return the favor.
Finally, stop thinking you have to do it all. Do you know how many blogs were launched but are languishing due to neglect? The same with Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages. Marketing is as important as it always was, but the rules have changed. Venture forth, but know and accept your limitations.