3 signs your small business should forego social media, and what to do instead

Wait -- you thought every business needs a social media presence? Columnist Jordan Kasteler explains why being on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube may not be the right answer for a small business.

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If you’re a small business owner, the title of this article may not sit well with you. After all, there’s no shortage of online articles and blog posts insisting that it’s necessary for businesses of all sizes to maintain a social media presence.

Admittedly, having a professionally crafted social media presence does benefit many large companies worldwide. Social media, when done right, can give a brand or a public figure an effective “voice” and let their personality shine. (Even Bernie Sanders can attest to social media’s branding abilities.)

Effective social media practices also can make a company more visible, as well as build trust with its consumers.

However, all this being said, a huge problem exists for small businesses that spend time and effort on social media: The return on investment is often lacking.

Countless small businesses don’t have the ability to do social media right. Is yours one of them? Here are three signs that you need to be getting out of the social media arena:

1. Your business doesn’t have the money to do social media right

How much money does your small business have available for social media? A hundred dollars per month? $200 per month? $300 per month? If so, you’ll be disappointed to know that these budgets won’t make a dent in your return on investment.

To get the biggest social media ROI, you’ll need to spend more like $200 or $300 per day. Where does all that money go? A few expensive elements of a successful social media presence include:

• Content — Does your business create regular, visually appealing content (e.g., blogging, videos, pics, infographics and so on)? And if so, is it interesting, useful and beneficial to your audience?

If your answer is yes, then you’re probably spending good money for such content — paying either a social media agency or in-house writers and designers to create it.

• Monitoring tools — Without spending a lot of time and money on monitoring your followers’ conversations and engaging with them, your business isn’t being “social” with your media. Even if you do have time to engage with people online, is your small business prepared to invest in social media monitoring tools?

• Pay to play — Even if you do spend money on creating world-class videos, photography and engaging copy, your spending spree isn’t done yet. The undeniable truth is that without spending some money on advertising with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others, you are just not going to be effective on social media.

Visibility for your business won’t be there without paying for it. Organic reach no longer exists the way it once did.

As Hill Holliday’s Mike Proulx said in Advertising Age:

[blockquote] Remember when social media used to be called unpaid media? Those days are over. Marketing on social networks today requires a shift in mindset — one that considers social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, as any other ad-supported media properties. They have targetable mass audiences that you can reach if you’re willing to allocate a chunk of your media budget. Fact: You will need to spend more money in social media than you have in the past.[/blockquote]

2. Your business doesn’t have a social media strategy

For some reason, many small business owners are surprised to learn just how important a social media strategy is. It’s no less important than strategies have ever been throughout the history of marketing.

A social media strategy spells out the objectives for your social media, as well as the details of how those objectives will be reached.

Shockingly, there are even large companies out there that have not established clear objectives for their social media. And it’s no secret that without objectives, nothing gets measured.

A social media strategy hashes out which social platforms a business should attract people to, and even the right timing for attracting people to a social media account.

For example, should a particular business include social media buttons on the sales pages of its website? Or is it better not to direct prospects to a company Facebook page until after the prospect has subscribed to an email list or purchased a product?

3. Your business doesn’t have the staff needed to support social media

Small businesses are usually interested in landing new customers. Unfortunately, however, the norm is to ignore new (and even existing!) customers on social media.

The small business environment is full of companies that learn the hard way that you need employees dedicated to engaging new customers and prospects in social media conversations. When was the last time you tweeted or engaged with someone on your social media? Last week? Last month? Last year? Such negligence does more harm than good.

Properly maintaining a social media account is a full-time job. So before you set up an account, ask yourself if you have sufficient people power to support it.

You also need the right employees to support it. How many of your employees have the social savvy and tact needed to effectively use hashtags, understand consumer needs as they engage, know the art of diffusing angry interactions online and so on?

But without social media, can I still market my business?

Of course you can. Here are just a few ways small businesses find new clients and customers without breaking their banks and wasting their time on social media:

• Email marketing — Rather than shelling out ungodly amounts of money for social media likes, followers and fans, consider the value of collecting email addresses instead.

This way, you can maintain great relationships with your customers, email them discounts and coupons, send thank-you notes, offer them valuable information or helpful tips, and anything else that helps build loyalty and trust.

• Blogging — Find well-read blogs that your audience is likely to read — preferably, blogs that are related to your product, service or industry. Contact these blogs with a pitch and an introduction about yourself: You’re a business owner in their industry, and you have a lot of expertise you’d love to share with their readers.

Offer a valuable blog post or two that they’d like to feature on their blogs. Ask them if you can mention your business in the blog posts, as well as your product or services.

Some of these well-read blogs may even be willing to offer giveaway contests featuring one of your products. They’ll probably also be willing to include your bio, which can feature a link to your business’s website.

• Exhibiting at conferences and trade shows — Although there’s some cost involved, taking part in industry events is an excellent way to connect with others in your industry. Try to come as an exhibitor within the event.

But even if you cannot exhibit, you’ll still benefit greatly as an attendee. You’re sure to meet other business owners who inspire you to try new ideas for your own products and services.

You also may get some insight into the competition that you weren’t aware of before the trade show. But best of all, you’ll certainly get opportunities to meet new customers who didn’t previously know about your business.

• Offering free presentations — You are an expert in your field, your business and your industry. And most likely, it just so happens that there are many organizations who’d love to hear a presentation from you.

Approach chambers of commerce, local clubs, schools, colleges, businesses, churches/mosques/synagogues, or anywhere else that might offer you a captive audience. Talk about industry trends, new product technologies, or maybe even teach others how they can get into your industry.

And, of course, mention your own products and services, and what makes them special or unique. As you become more and more well-known within your community, you’ll be sure to gain new customers faster than your competitors.

Don’t be afraid to ditch social media!

Sure, there are certainly some small businesses in this world that do have effective social media strategies and that do benefit greatly from social media. Such businesses are usually fortunate enough to have deep pockets for social media budgets or employees with social media savvy.

But if your small business is not among them, why feel like you have to be on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube?

In the marketing world, few things are worse than an abandoned, ghost-town social media account. Facebook pages and Twitter accounts are easy to set up and get excited about, but they’re hard to maintain.

That’s why a lot of small business social media starts out strong for a week or two and then fizzles out. A lame Facebook page with just a handful of likes and barely any engagement or content is much worse than having no page at all.

Don’t be one of those businesses that insists on having a social media presence even though you aren’t prepared to do it right. Failing at social media equates to wasted time and money and an unimpressive brand.

So, for businesses that aren’t able to create an effective strategy, it’s best to stay off social media and find other ways to market your business instead.

Contributing authors are invited to create content for MarTech and are chosen for their expertise and contribution to the martech community. Our contributors work under the oversight of the editorial staff and contributions are checked for quality and relevance to our readers. The opinions they express are their own.

About the author

Jordan Kasteler
Jordan Kasteler is the SEO Director of Hennessey Consulting. His work experience ranges from co-founding BlueGlass Interactive, in-house SEO at Overstock.com, marketing strategy at PETA, and agency-level SEO & marketing. Jordan is also an international conference speaker, columnist, and book author of A to Z: Social Media Marketing.

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