Practical Ecommerce

Social Media: Frequently Asked Questions from Small Business Owners

I recently toured our state (Michigan) with members of my staff. We met with small business owners to offer them actionable marketing and sales advice that they could take back to the office that day. Much of that advice revolved around social media marketing.

While no two businesses were the same, we did find ourselves discussing a few of the same topics quite often. So I’d like to share those with you, along with the best practices that we suggested. Perhaps you, as a small business owner or manager, have many of the same issues.

I have a small marketing budget. What can I do?

This was a question that many small business owners had for us. They knew they needed to get involved with online marketing, but were afraid their budgets were holding them back. However, there are low or no cost social media tactics that a company can get started with, as long as they do their research and know where to ask for advice. Normally we don’t recommend doing this on your own, but instead seeking the help of a professional to identify which social outlets are the best for you and to develop a thorough marketing strategy. We emphasized that while it may seem easy to set up a Facebook or Twitter profile, it’s important to first understand the differences between these social networks and their users.

I have a small staff. How do I find the resources to keep up-to-date with content on social networks?

When businesses came to us with this concern, it showed us that they were really thinking through social media marketing. We often say that the worst thing to do is to join the conversation and then abandon it because you didn’t have the time or resources properly allotted. Our advice for this concern was to carefully consider each of the different social channels. Take a look at its user demographics. Which seems to be most in line with your target audience? Then, take a look at the kind of resources you do have available. Do you have promotional videos? YouTube might be the best spot for you. Do you have a good writer on your staff? Maybe the best thing for you would be to setup a blog. Choose one social-media-marketing channel that fits your company best, and make sure you are consistently updating your content and taking part in the conversation.

How do I reach only those customers in my current city or to the narrow niche that my product or service applies to?

Several business owners recognized the geographical capabilities of online marketing, but weren’t looking to take their business to a national level. Others had a product or service that was so targeted; it didn’t make sense to advertise to everyone. And that’s where online marketing is great. All you have to do is find your niche, whether it’s mothers with children in kindergarten in your hometown or large corporations and universities with a large number of bicycle riders, and then target them using online marketing. Speak to them with targeted search engine optimization keywords, set up highly targeted paid search ads and seek them out on different social networks. The key here is to spend some time finding your specific market, and then really tailor your marketing campaign to them.

Lisa Wehr

Lisa Wehr

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Comments ( 4 )

  1. Susan Hamilton September 8, 2009 Reply

    This is exactly what we’re seeing. It is encouraging to witness small businesses, whether brick and mortar, home based, or service company, start to get involved online. There are so many questions, and you pared them down nicely with helpful advice.

  2. Julie Carr September 10, 2009 Reply

    While I know that social media is so important, I can’t help but feel that I am ‘wasting’ my time while researching different blogs and surfing the web looking for my target audience. I like the idea of focusing on one type of social media at a time.

  3. Lisa Wehr September 10, 2009 Reply

    Susan – It’s good to see small businesses really starting to get involved with online marketing. Now is the time. More than 31 billion searches are conducted on Google every month. It’s clear that customers are looking online for information, and large or small, companies need to be there.

    Julie – Social media can seem easy and relatively low-cost to set up, but I think you hit the nail on the head. There’s a lot out there, and can take up quite a bit of time – not only identifying different outlets, but actively participating in them. We recently published a free guide to help businesses get involved in the social space. You can download it here: http://www.oneupweb.com/landing/prettygood_socialsurvival_guide/

  4. Lisa Wehr September 16, 2009 Reply

    Oops! The url goblins got to that one. Here’s a link that provides access not only to our social media survival guide, but a collection of free white papers and other resources.

    http://www.oneupweb.com/news-stuff/whitepapers/