How much have small and midsize businesses embraced social media? Judging from the show of hands during a morning panel at the National Small Business Week conference, a huge gap exists between the haves and the have nots.If you're among the have nots, now's the time to face the fear, find the time, and master the learning curve, which isn't as steep as some SMBs believe. "The world of marketing has changed forever," said John Jantsch, who wrote "Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide," during an engaging forum about how social media can transform the way small businesses do business. "There's no more hunting for customers. It's about putting informational content out there to be found, and to engage in meaningful ways."
No surprise, by social networking the panel meant the Big Three: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But it also includes other Web 2.0 tools, including blogging and YouTube. In fact, the very first question moderator Brian Moran, founder and president of Moran Media Group, posed to the group was about how a small business can experience the viral video phenomenon a la Susan Boyle, Britain's overnight singing sensation. The answer: Be careful what you wish for.
"If your video goes viral, it can hurt you if you're not prepared to meet demand," said Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company, and former editorial director of Entrepreneur Magazine. "If you can't, you've blown it."
Instead, a manageable 100 customers with whom you're actively engaged will take your business farther than the millions of followers Boyle amassed in that "extreme" example of social media's potential, said Alex Craddock, head of commercial marketing at Visa, which has a community of 75,000-plus SMBs on Facebook. But it's the savvy small business that will capitalize on such a spike in traffic and turn it to its advantage; a music store, for example, would have been wise to buy some Google Adwords related to Boyle searches, added Peter Greenberger, team manager of elections and issue advocacy at Google.
|(l. to r.) Duct Tape Marketing's John Jansch, GrowBiz Media's Rieva Lesonksy, Visa's Alex Craddock, Google's Peter Greenberger, and Facebook's Adam Conner.|
Some other useful tips from the panel about reigning in and playing nicely with that big, hairy beast known as social media: