Social media gets a lot of attention these days. And it should — because it is a potentially important aspect of many businesses. Notice I didn’t say every business. As with many things in the business world, if you are talking about how a practice or discipline relates to the SMB, you have to treat it differently. This is not because the typical SMB doesn’t have the ability. In fact, in many cases the opposite is true. What keeps the SMB out of some of these areas is bandwidth. Not enough time, capital, or other resources often prevent the SMB from getting in the game. Social media is one area where it is critical that the SMB make the right decision for their business.
With all of the publicity around social media like Twitter and Facebook, it’s hard to imagine anyone not wanting to be in it. The small and medium business is no different. Before there is involvement, however, the SMB has to look long and hard at what will be required of them and if the investment will yield a return that makes sense.
Big businesses often have the luxury of re-purposing existing staff to do things. Social media is creating a lot of that activity in that arena these days. What about the SMB though? What if there isn’t anyone to “re-purpose”? Can they get in the game? What questions need to be asked before real consideration can be given to social media by the SMB? Here are a few to get you going.
- Are your competitors using social media? This is a double-edged sword for sure. If your competition is involved in social media, you may have no choice but to get involved. If your competition is not involved, you can then either say that since no one is doing it you won’t either OR you can possibly get first-mover advantage by jumping in.
- Do you have the time? Social media takes time. One of the recommendations I have heard is to put the equivalent of 2.5 employees on social media efforts in order to do it effectively. That’s 100 hours per week! I don’t know many SMBs that have that luxury. I DO know that if you do want to get involved in social media, you have to commit at least 10-20 hours per week to be able to know what is being done in your industry and make a dent in the space.
- Do you have the patience? Social media is a long-term play that requires consistency. Many businesses get going then let their social media efforts die on the vine. Social media is like home maintenance. If you let your home fall into disrepair, you look bad in your neighborhood. If you have half-baked social media efforts, you will look the same in your industry.
- Do you have an audience? There are some businesses that are so local and so out of the mainstream (really rural areas for instance) that social media may not make sense. The thing to consider here is that if you want to build a following, then you can make it work anywhere. It’s not about numbers; it’s about results. You may not need thousands of people involved. You may just need 50 who really matter to your business and can benefit. Don’t think “how many” when it comes to social media. Think about bottom-line impact rather than the empty victory of involvement of large numbers of people who can’t help you.
- Do you have the knowledge? Social media requires a certain level of knowledge and definitely requires study to stay on top of what is being used effectively. You may need to buy knowledge by hiring a consultant to get you underway. As much as you like the concept of social media, you should not go in blindly and expect any result other than frustration.
So are you ready for social media? SMBs always require a unique perspective on what they do or do not get involved in. The restrictions of resources can be frustrating, but answering these questions honestly will give you a good indication as to whether social media is a good place for you to be or not.