Why Social Media Challenges Small Business Owners and Consultants

In this four-part series, Social Media Consultant Alison Cummings and Marketing Technology Consultant Phil Gerbyshak talk about social media opportunities for small businesses.

Part 1: “Must-have” Qualities to Look for When Hiring a Social Media Consultant
Part 2: Why Social Media Challenges Small Business Owners and Consultants
Part 3: Why Twitter Works for Small Businesses 
Part 4: How to Partner Social Media With Offline Marketing Strategy

Costs of Not Using Social Media

Alison Cummings: What do you see as your biggest challenges starting out as a full-time consultant?

Phil Gerbyshak: Well, adoption of social media is still small. About 7% of the population is only using Twitter. There are still a lot of companies who don’t even understand what a blog is. Or they get that they need Facebook, but they don’t really know why, so they might have set it up as a person. So, overcoming some of those misconceptions.

And then the other issue for small business owners:  Explaining what their business is, takes time. And that’s time that they’re not working on growing the business directly. So a lot of times, small business owners don’t have the dedicated time that it takes to even explain to someone like me exactly what their business is all about. Or to tell their stories. Those are two of  the biggest hurdles I’ve seen.

Alison: Their time is money. And you have to do an elevator speech to get them hooked, to give you the time to actually go a little bit deeper. But in terms of showing them the ROI,  do you have a method that you use. One thing I’ve thought of is, how do you show them the cost of not doing it? Maybe that’s one approach. I’m just interested to know how you overcome that challenge of getting in the door.

Phil: Yes, good question. The cost of not doing it is absolutely something that does scare people. They’re like, “Whoa! Really? People are already talking about us online and I haven’t responded?”  Or worse, “Nobody’s talking about me online, and I thought that I would rank for my name.” And unless you have YourBusinessName.com  – which we’d like to hope that you do, but many businesses don’t – you won’t even rank for your own name.

So showing that, okay, you think you’re a prominent lawyer in town or prominent physician in town or prominent dentist office or prominent chiropractic. But unless you own your city name-lawyer, your city name-chiropractic, YourCityNameDentist.com, you’re not going to rank for that, because you probably don’t have much content on there. Nobody’s ever linked to you. Nobody’s talking about you on Twitter. You probably don’t have any way to know if your customers are even interested in you.

Showing how other small businesses are successfully using social media is one very effective way to get a business owner’s attention. – Phil Gerbyshak

AJ Bombers Web site screen capture

AJ Bombers has found many creative – and highly effective – ways to use social media to connect with customers.

So setting up something that’s easier to share is often the way. And bringing in some case studies. Showing small business owners a restaurant like an AJ Bombers, showing them other businesses that have been successful, certainly is one path. And then showing the pure numbers of how many people are actually using the service in your area, in your target market.

You can do a fake Facebook ad. Go to Facebook.com/ads. And I don’t mean you actually post the ad, but that you actually see – as you enter interests, as you enter zip codes, or you enter cities – how many people are really there. Those are the people that constantly you could reach – if you got into Facebook, if you actually leveraged it.

Another way is to show small businesses that their competitors are active social media. Now, if none of them are, that’s an extremely hard sale. But I can tell you, most small business owners have a group – either it’s the area chamber of commerce, a small business group or an industry event they go to every year. And people are talking about social media. People are buzzing about social media. But they don’t really give them enough meat to really implement anything worthwhile.

So playing off that, asking those questions, and pointing out “You wouldn’t ignore your customers if they were walking into your store. If they’re checking in on Foursquare and Gowalla and they’re tweeting about you – even though you don’t have a Twitter handle or even though you haven’t owned your Foursquare or Gowalla page – simply they are talking about you. They’d like to interact.” And by doing just a little bit more, just a little bit more. Now a lot more.

We’re not talking about a $50,000 engagement here, but from just a little bit more, a small business owner often can see some great results. So showing that, and then just doing some searches to show that, “Yes, people are in fact talking about whatever it is that your business does in your local area,” is really helpful, too.

Alison: You’re absolutely right about people getting scared off. One of the things I’m wondering about on that front is, from what I’ve read, the next opportunity in the social media arena is providing content.

I don’t mean the content farms where people are rehashing what other people wrote, but entrepreneurs like you or I, providing original content. Helping the clients – other entreneurs and small business owners – by either researching content opportunities or maybe doing “a guest post,” or even helping them do some tweets or retweeting what they do.

Is there a line between what the client should be doing versus what they should be hiring out to have done for them?

The key for small business owners is finding the voice, finding the right person, and then making sure that those interactions are done by someone who’s invested in your company. – Phil Gerbyshak

Phil: Definitely. In a real customer interaction: “Hi, I came to your business. I had great service.” Or “I had terrible service.” Or “Your product was exactly what I needed.”

Those are things that small business owners should take the time to reply to. Or at least acknowledge that they’re there and see that. And to make sure that feedback gets taken care of. I would say it’s best that the owner or someone in the company responds. As far as content though, if you bring someone in, and they talk about your company and your story as though they were an employee, I think that’s perfectly fine.

I think that companies will need more content marketing, and they desperately will need someone on staff. And by on staff, it could be augmented with a consultant like me to actually tell the story in the right way. It might be following someone in the kitchen at a restaurant to learn why they do things a certain way. Or to profile some customers or do some testimonial gathering from existing customers.

I think that companies will need more content marketing, and they desperately will need someone on staff. And by on staff, it could be augmented with a consultant like me to actually tell the story in the right way. – Phil Gerbyshak

Testimonial gathering can be done both ways. Coming from a third party: “Hey, you had experience at such and such restaurant last week. Would you like to talk about it?” “Do you have just a few minutes you could talk about your favorite and least favorite things?” Or “You worked with some business and I understand that you had a really positive experience. Can you tell us about that?”

I certainly think that small businesses can outsource social media content marketing, and the content posted to Twitter and Facebook.

The posting itself doesn’t necessarily need to be done by an employee, but certainly when you think about the interactions, the interactions that you have with your customers, would you give that up to someone who is not invested in your company? I don’t think you would. I don’t think that you would let your greeter be some arbitrary third party that you hired that maybe doesn’t share your values.

Now, could you find a good person that could write in the right way, having never been to your company, having never utilized your services? It’s possible, I suppose. But it’s very difficult. And those people are probably going to be a lot more expensive if they’re really good, because they’re probably doing a lot of that research on their own.

And you might say, “I only want to pay $50 an article.” Well, you pay $50 an article and now you have someone who spends three hours on it and never come to visit your business or try your service. That’s a lot more expensive. And they’re not going to only charge you $50 an hour; they’re probably going to charge you a lot more.

So I would say there absolutely is a fine line. The key for small business owners is finding the voice, finding the right person, and then making sure that those interactions are done by someone who’s invested in your company.

Next in the Social Media for Small Businesses Series: Part 3

Phil Gerbyshak  explains Why Twitter Works for Small Businesses. Plus, more on  AJ Bombers, a winning social media case study.

About Alison Cummings

Business Writing, Copywriting, Content Marketing.
Communications + Marketing + Technical Expertise.