Opportunities and Challenges Abound for Small Businesses

While big businesses grab most of the headlines, small businesses are the cornerstone of the American economy, comprising 99.7 percent of U.S. employers, according to the SBA.

Two events I’ve had the pleasure of participating in recently have brought home the power of small businesses.

A group of us from Castle attended the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year awards. I’ve been proud to serve on the selection committee for three years.

The diversity of nominee companies and their capacity to overcome setbacks – personal or global – never cease to amaze me. These entrepreneurs have consistently adapted under ever changing circumstances to lead their businesses to success.

One of the most notable ways in which thetwitter screen world has changed for small business owners has been navigating the new digital and social landscape as a critical part of marketing their businesses. We all know that small business owners wear multiple hats, often including serving as their company’s marketing and sales directors. I was pleased to be invited by Dex Media to present to their Boston Marketing Success Seminar attendees on how to approach social media for small businesses. Representatives from Dex, Google and Yahoo! offered compelling data on digital advertising and the importance of mobile.

Responses to a quick survey at the beginning of my presentation reflected the three most critical barriers for approaching social media:

  • Deciding on the right mix of channels
  • Finding/creating the right content
  • Possessing the technical skills needed to do it the right way

Given the resource restrictions faced by most small businesses, I encouraged the audience to take a commonsense approach:

Focus on the channel(s) that matter most. As a small business, you don’t have the capacity to be a social media pioneer. Pick the right channel and commit to it. Don’t squander your effort on setting up multiple channels then letting them go dormant because finding content is too overwhelming. If you don’t know the best channels for reaching your customers, ask a few valued customers about their social media habits to help guide you.

Get it together. Collect relevant content (photos, how-tos, videos, article links, etc.) in one place to make it easy to identify and share. You’ll save time later when you are hunting around for that photo for #TBT. Along the same lines, keep track of your social channel logins, especially important as employees managing the channels may come and go but the channels should stay with your business.

Seek and ye shall find. There are plenty of video tutorials or best practices articles online where others share their experiences with social media. Type your question into your favorite search engine and you’re likely to find plenty of content to help you out. If you’re concerned about keeping up with the changes on top social media channels, regularly visit the blogs for Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. They all post updates on their latest features and terms of use.

Finally, let go of your worries about the “right” number of followers/likes – instead focus on attracting and keeping the right people. If you have 250 loyal customers, those are the people you want to follow you on social media (while working to attract new customers through other avenues like ads and sponsored posts). Having 5,000 Facebook likes won’t benefit you if only 75 of those are (current or future) customers.

There are many other topics that can – and should be – addressed on social media programs, but considering these points can serve as the building blocks for a focused, effective social media effort for a small business.

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