Should Your Small Business Bother With Social Media?

Sure, you’ve missed out on some stuff, but it’s still early days.

With social media, the pace of change has been breathtaking. But with the increasing adoption of mobile, devices, and smartphones; virtual reality; augmented reality; artificial intelligence; tectonic shifts in social norms around things like the sharing economy and creative class; Millennials displacing Boomers in the workforce…

Goodness gracious! We’re only at the beginning of this ride, kids.

You are not the only social media holdout.

Still feeling kinda meh about social media for businesses? You are not alone.

Even in 2015, I regularly encounter small business people, consultants, and independent service providers who are new to and inexperienced with social media. Most of whom would prefer to stay that way, too, and I don’t blame them.

They’ve been told over and over again by well-meaning friends, clients, and vendors that they should “do” social media. They’ve fought the good fight, swam upstream, and resisted peer pressure like the good little critical thinkers that they are. They’re tired–they’ve got social media fatigue like the rest of us, and they’re not even on it yet!

How do I know? You tell me.

As a content marketing professional with clients all over the country, I get to work from all my favorite local coffee shops and anywhere with free wifi. As my fellow coffeeshoppers and I get to know each other, we play the “So, what do you do?” game. It’s not just coffee shops. It’s backyard BBQs, family get-togethers, game nights, cocktail parties.

I have come to expect a certain line of follow-up questions when I divulge that I get paid to do social media. Even my dentist wants a quick audit on his online presence. To wit, he waits until his knuckles are out of my mouth before he asks.

“Do I have to do social media?”

Five years ago, that’s the question I heard most. It was voiced with the same tone as a five year old who doesn’t want to go to bed. “Do I haaaaave to?”

Nowadays, the question has morphed into grudging acceptance with a strong reluctance to expand. “Okay, fine. But do I have to do social-media-channel-du-juor?”

  • Instagram?
  • Snapchat?
  • Pinterest?

If I don’t interrupt quickly, a palpable sense of rising panic takes hold and they start dropping OMG-bombs.

“Does my business have to have a LinkedIn Page?”
A Facebook Page?
A Facebook Group?
A Google Hangout?

OMG.

Well, it depends.

My answers haven’t changed over the years. They’ve crystallized, like a college professor who’s given the same lecture to many successive freshman classes. I have to take care not to put my mouth on autopilot.

Five years ago, I had a firmer answer, “No, you don’t have to do social media. It’s not yet a cost of doing business, like having a business card or letterhead or an ad in the phonebook. It will be. But, not yet.”

Now, I equivocate. It all depends.

If and how your small business should “do” social media depends on…

  • What does your business or consultancy do?
  • What services and products do you sell?
  • Which suite of services might you emphasize first to subsidize your new social media expenses?
  • Who are your clients and prospects? What demographic to do you serve or aim to serve? How do they prefer to be in communication?
  • What are your goals and objectives for being on social media? What do you hope to achieve?
    • Do you want to drive referrals and walk ins?
    • Do you want to educate your consumers?
    • Do you want to serve and upsell existing clients?
    • Do you want to establish your voice as a trusted authority in your field?
    • Do you want to give your users a community where they can support each other & reinforce your brand?
    • Do you want to develop a crowd-sourced knowledge base about your product or service?
    • Do you want to develop an interconnected network to whom you can market your digital downloads and other passive income stream items?
    • Are you just trying to get your neighbor off your back about being on social?

Just because everybody else is doing it doesn’t mean that you should, too. Some fine day we’ll have a Nancy Reagan-esque PSA with frying pans and eggs. This is your brain. This is your brain on social media. Completely scrambled. We’re rewiring our brains, our dopamine systems, our attention spans, our productivity, our sleep, dreams, body clock, and memory. We’re possibly improving our capacity for empathy. But that’s a different blog post or a dozen.

I say that because I want you to know–I get it.

Social media marketing is not for everybody.

I get that you’re pretty meh about social media. Believe me, I do it for a living and I’m regularly more than meh about it.

I’m not here to change your mind. I’m not one of those breathless chest-pounding social media gurus selling so much snake oil.

Social media won’t grow your business overnight. Social media will not give your mouth sex appeal. Social media will not get rid of the nubs. Social media will not make you look five pounds thinner. Like the man said, the revolution will not be televised.

Social media has been a revolution, for sure.

Let’s clarify terms–we mean business. We mean marketing.

In terms of “doing” social media for your small business, we’re talking about social media marketing.

You’ll hear related terms bandied about as if they’re interchangeable. They’re not though they do overlap. But only real geeks, like myself, care to delineate the many differences between:

Let’s use digital marketing as the umbrella term for anything that doesn’t get printed on paper or vinyl, that doesn’t get written in the sky, spelled out on a cake, or mown into a crop circle. Deal?

Digital marketing is a fractal and it’s expanding into local.

A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Like the coastline of Britain, the shape of a fern, or the Mandlebrot set. (Sadly, I can’t defend the fractal imagery any deeper than that…)

Fractal: Mandlebrot Set

A Mandlebrot Set is an example of a fractal

The barriers for Mom and Pops to enter the social media landscape and set up shop are low. Social media is not free, certainly, and it takes time and skilled effort. But that’s not changed. What’s driving this deeper penetration into the “Local” market is two-fold–increasing user adoption of social media in general and Google pushing their Local product. That is, your business can have a Google Local Page (or whatever they’re calling it today) and that page can show your storefront and/or available product listings. Google Local Marketing is a thing.

And, as we know from our friends the lemmings, as more people do it, more people are gonna do it. You don’t have to, but the voices saying that you should aren’t going away. And, you’ll have more and more valid reasons why you should as it continues to become common business practice.

Sorry.

To close, lemme let some of you off the hook. Instead of listing the myriad ways that different small businesses and service providers succeed with social media, here are those few who may still remain exempt, if they choose.

Which businesses and professions still don’t need social media?

  • Long haul truck drivers.
  • EMS dispatchers.
  • Longshoremen and port workers.
  • Pest control techs.
  • Ultrasound techs.
  • Plumbers.
  • Construction workers.
  • Assembly line workers.
  • Arborists.
  • Nannies.
  • Nurses.
  • Schoolteachers.
  • Nail salons.
  • Your favorite non-chain BBQ joint.
  • Down-home cafe.

Don’t get me wrong. A gregarious person in any of these fields who digs social sharing has the green-field advantage, like a cornerback with no defenders between him and the goal. The first mover advantage has some hiccups, especially in coalescing an audience. But if they build it and keep building it, they will generate more referrals and more business from their social media presence.

I’ve seen booming social accounts for businesses and private practitioners from:

  • motivational speakers to morticians,
  • independent electricians to electrical contractors,
  • dive bars to dermatologists,
  • tax attorneys to taxidermists.

But, for them, it’s not yet necessary.

The rest of us get to turn our meh into eh.

 


Feature image credit: Flickr user MKHmarketing, License: CC BY (commercial reuse with modification)

Mandlebrot Set Fractal image credit: Wikipedia, License: CC BY (commercial reuse with modification)