Small Business

The Case for Using Social Media


Consultant Greg Verdino says businesses can use social media to shift from targeting everyone to cultivating only customers they want

Entrepreneurs have been aiming for a select group of customers for years. What's new here?

The playing field has flip-flopped. Social media and the Web gave small business owners ways to compete more effectively against big businesses. But a lot of companies are struggling with the shift to a universe where everyone can be a mini media mogul.

Isn't it hard to tell if social media campaigns are working?

I don't believe it's more difficult to measure the impact. Think of any form of traditional advertising; there is no reliable way to say exactly what you got in many cases. Some of the social-media campaigns may be less predictable and harder to wrap your head around, because they involve more than just creating one ad and running it anyplace that will take your money. But social media is no less measurable. Ford, for example, knows the 10million-plus impressions it got from its social-media campaign for the Ford Fiesta launch was far greater than it would have seen in a traditional campaign. The company got nearly 100,000 people to say they wanted to test-drive the car. And it had 60percent brand awareness for a vehicle that wasn't even on the market—roughly equivalent to the awareness of a car that's been on the market for two to three years. That's a very tangible outcome for a far lower cost.

How do you persuade time-strapped managers to use social media?

I would challenge small business owners to identify one thing that's not working in their marketing. If they're investing time and energy in sales activities that aren't resulting in an acceptable close rate, they should reinvest that time in new approaches. A little less cold calling and a little more sharing thought leadership on a blog might have more people picking up the phone. The old ways of marketing aren't working as well as they once did. That doesn't mean I'm advocating a full 180. The two can work in tandem. Over time, many of these new approaches can come to overtake the old ways and be more effective for less money—even if in the interim it costs you a little bit of time.

Is this just for companies that sell to consumers?

Oftentimes, business-to-business gets short shrift when it comes to social media. But the very notion of "micromarketing"—using these tools and tactics to appeal directly and deeply to the few right people—is at least as well suited to business-to-business marketers. Most of these companies are, by definition, micromarketers. They appeal to a tightly focused, highly targeted community rather than the masses.

Leiber is the Small Business Channel Editor at BusinessWeek.com.

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