Social Media at Work for a Small Business

palmento.jpgThere are so many different ways to use social media in this newly connected internet world, and as a social media agency it’s our job to make sure all of our clients understand how to best utilize the space.  Yesterday, I stumbled upon a fantastic guest post on Social Desire by Mark Hayward.  Mark and his wife Terrie own the Palmetto Guesthouse, a small bed and breakfast in Culebra, Puerto Rico.  His post-What the hell can social media do for me?-begins with a conversation he had with another small business owner.

The short story:  Mark asked this small business owner if he had a website and was shocked when the answer was “No”.  The small business owner explained that he had run a successful magazine for over 20 years and he didn’t see the point in changing anything now.

What’s the point of changing now?

Today, over 70% of the US population is online, and in 2006 a study on social media participation by Charlene Li of Forrester research found that nearly 50% of these internet users actively participate online.  This means they connect with each other, read or write blogs, create or watch online videos, listen to podcasts, and participate in social networks.

As the ability to express yourself over the internet becomes easier, businesses large and small are losing the power they once had to control brand messages online.  People are talking, and you can’t stop them:

From The Cluetrain Manifesto by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searles, and David Weinberger:

1. Markets are conversations…

6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media…

10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized…

17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves…

19. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity…

As you can see, in order to reach the millions that could be talking about your company online, you need to start talking to them.

Social Media marketing for a small business

In his post on Social Desire, Mark shared his social media success story:

“I assumed blogging and social media were for pimply-faced kids with too much time on their hands.  But I was desperate and decided to jump in and learn.”

In fact, Mark dove head first into the social media waters.  He created a website and promotional blog, became an active user of StumbleUpon, Twitter, and Plurk, and participated in online marketing forums.  Within a year, his efforts resulted in two magazine articles featuring the Palmetto Guesthouse, which he now equates to $50,000 worth of paid advertising.

Flamenco Beach–Puerto Rico

He then shared what he’s learned about social media marketing:

“For the short term thinker, I believe that the concept of social media, as it relates to small business success, can be a very difficult one to grasp.  I know from my own experience when I reached my seventh or eighth month of blogging I was frustrated by my perceived lack of progress.  I was ready to give up.”

“However, you must think long-term and be persistent, consistent, and proactive if you want your online efforts to help support your business”

I couldn’t have said that better myself!

Ignite Social Media