Social media doesn’t work for my business

I had a conversation yesterday with a new client that just sums up the relationship that small business owners have with social media. I was referred to these particular clients by my SEO partner, Rob Bertholf. While he is working on the SEO segment, they asked him if social media could enhance their SEO presence. Rob answered in the affirmative and referred them to me.

This particular business is a growing web-based business with the potential to have tens of millions of dollars in revenue, but for now, its two guys with guts running the show. Both are “all in” its what they do and from what I can see, they do a darn good job. But now what? They want to grow. They want to tackle their internet competitors. Their aspirations are admirable, but as any small business owner knows, growing a business takes complete focus and dedication, and sometimes, ironically, marketing falls to the wayside.

In the case of our friends, marketing hasn’t fallen by the wayside; actually, the opposite. They have some excellent tools already: a targeted Facebook page that funnels to their site, a web forum where they interact with customers and brand with some potential for “oomph”. For many social marketers, this would be a dream client. They have content, brand potential and a trackable web-based business. Secondarily, they have one store-front and plan on opening another in a particularly high traffic destination. They get all their retail traffic from foot traffic, but they’d like to increase it. Sounds like a geolocation marketing opportunity to me. We’ll start off simple with geolocation, getting them listed and doing offers on Yelp, Gowalla, 4square to start, as their retail location is a unique concept. Once we get a feel for the success, we’ll consider expanding.

Now we start discussing Twitter, it was another story. Right off the bat, I am told that “Twitter doesn’t work for our business. We just want to use Twitter for the SEO benefits (thank you, Google).” I am intrigued by this belief since a quick overview before our meeting showed that their product was being discussed on Twitter, but their BRAND wasn’t. I suggested that while they have a Twitter account, they engage with their customers a bit.  My potential customers said they did do that, and when it happened, they saw a 30% spike in traffic to their website, but it wasn’t new customers. WOW! 30%! If I was getting 30% every time I Twittered, I’d drop all other advertising and Twitter regularly. None the less, Twittering worked for existing customers almost exclusively. Why? They were reaching out to their customers in the medium they preferred: the internet. There are great ways to get new customers on Twitter too, but they haven’t found them with the use of bots which was the first attempt at building their followers.

I don’t believe in bots. I believe in genuine engagement. I believe in following people who are talking about your ideas, passions and products. Authentic=success in social media. Twitter needs to be approached with strategy. Twitter is deceptively simple looking, yet its a complex tool. Its a conversation starter – not a blow horn. I think you get the most out of Twitter with GENUINE discussions.  If you aren’t interested in having conversations with your customers try print advertising, its fast and easy..its also a sink hole for most small businesses (I can say that: I used to sell print advertising). Using bots on Twitter is like doing print advertising: you have 25,000 followers, who don’t really care about your product. Your just spewing 140 character advertisements at your followers and they are turning you out or unfollowing because THEY DON’T CARE. Plus, you aren’t engaging them because you have nothing in common. See where I am going with this?

Beginning engagements and discussions takes strategy and time. That’s why I have a job. I think about it. I analyze it. I work with my SEO partner in tandem to create an actual strategy.

THAT’S the nitty gritty isn’t it?  Time and strategy.

After further discussion it isn’t that my clients don’t believe in Twitter, they just don’t KNOW how they can use it. They’ve scratched the surface. They don’t understand how to use it-why would they? They are business owners, sales guys, not social media experts. If I were a business owner with employees and payroll, I would outsource this too. As it turns out, Twitter DOES work for their business, they just need to know how to really use it.

At the end of the discussion, we agreed to define a strategy for Twitter, using YouTube, their site’s forum and even a geolocation strategy. We’ll use it to build their brand, engage new and existing clients and drive traffic to their content-rich site. Then, we’ll track our analytics. We’ll tweek and refine. We’ll kill what doesn’t work and beef up what does. Social media marketing is dynamic, that’s the good news. The bad news is that you want to stay on top of it, otherwise you’ll lose opportunities because you aren’t responding to the dynamic elements.

Almost all small businesses think that social media is a waste of time. I contend they think so because they aren’t using it correctly. More businesses can benefit than they believe, they just need some assistance in doing so.