Your customers are not using Social Media-Case Study

I was talking to an SMB owner the other day who is doing everything that he is supposed to do in regards to social media usage for his company, and doing it seemingly correctly. By correctly I mean he has a Facebook fan page and a Twitter account which he updates semi-regularly. He is transparent, authentic, and he shares content and advice liberally when he can. He reads and comments on other blogs when he has time and he is thinking of starting  his own blog. He loves what social media can do and is a champion of it. There’s one problem tho.

His customers are not on Twitter and Facebook.

Or are they? The back story: It has not been a year of engagement for either platform that he’s on and thus the growth of fans and followers has not been consistent or completely measureable. He still loves it, but his perception that social media could be a game changer for his business is waning.

My thought? He may be echoing a larger sentiment of SMB’s far and wide. More and more businesses are walking away from social media because they are not seeing “the immediate results”.  Perhaps the first mistake is coupling the term “immediate results” with social media-Social is not a quick fix.

If we look under the hood of  the SMB owner, we would see that though he is on multiple platforms, there is minimal engagement. His usage of both is scattershot and not very consistent. The effort that he puts into both is casual at best and he measures nothing. If we add a dose of unrealistic expectations coupled with zero strategy, then he is ripe to walk away and say that social media did not work for his business.

So are his customers using social media or not? He doesn’t think so. What do you think?

7 use cases for social media? or not.


Is social media right for everyone?

According to Wikipedia (which is a site created by “the people”) Social media is content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content…

So that’s cool. I get that.  But as I was sitting here thinking about how “social” my middle class Naples, Florida neighborhood was, I had trouble envisioning some of them using any social tools. If I were to take a random sampling of the people in the neighborhood,  of how social media might be construed or used, the results might surprise you. But lets look at as well, how social media might be utilized to make their businesses better. I’m not sure this is a cautionary tale or if this bodes well or what. What it does tell me is that we need to start thinking a bit more about B2B applications of social media on a lower or more SMB type of level, instead of writing about all of the enterprise and corporate examples, so lets get to it.

The Landscaper

Scott the landscaper spends the majority of his time outside, though he runs his business. He’s a hands on type of guy and thus the extent of his computer usage consists of probably printing invoices, maybe the occasional email, possibly ordering supplies, but not much more. So how could he use social media? What tools make sense? What is going to make Scott do what he does better, drive business and create relationships? What specific tools? Does Scott have time to be “social”? Does he even care about social media and what it might be able to “do” for his business?

The Insurance Guy

Bill, the insurance guy is a partner in an insurance agency. They do “risk management”. I’m not completely familiar with that but the bottom line is that Bill spends the majority of his time using the tools that an office environment provides. i.e., phone, fax, email, copier, etc. His job requires an inordinate amount of communicating. He also is always on the lookout for new business. Be it referral or otherwise. Bill and his business, would seem to be an ideal candidate for social media and the tools that go with it. But does Bill use it for lead sourcing? Customer service? Both? What might work best for Bill? Insurance is boring right? Social media and insurance? Strange bedfellows?

The Gift Store Owner

Roberta has a local gift store, she sells knick-knacks and the typical gift store “stuff”. She caters to the tourist business in South West Florida to a certain degree. She is the classic retail store owner. The SMB scratching and clawing to keep her business going in a space that can easily get swallowed up by online competition. Her business is all about traffic into the store. She relies on word of mouth, and typical “old-school” methods. What can she do? She has to run her business, stock the shelves, order product, balance the books, hire and train employees. There is a lot on her plate. When would she have time to be “social” and have it pay off for her?  In what form would social media be most effective for her small business? We say all the time, that social media does not happen over night and that you have to be patient and persistent. Does Roberta have that luxury?

The Real Estate Agent

Naples real estate agents are like actors in Hollywood. Everyone sells real estate in Naples, even if they have a real job.  Ann, sells real estate. She is really good, really smart, savvy, and personable. So she would appear to be, on the surface, a really good candidate for using social media effectively because of the nature of her job. She can find houses, find buyers and find sellers online. 3 channels that can be, and are augmented by the very nature of what makes the interwebs valuable-Speed. The ability to communicate on a massive scale and the chance to reach a lot of people at once are what give real estate agents a fighting chance in a very crowded Naples space. They use the power of the web to list homes, email buyers and sellers, and look for leads. So does social media make sense? At it’s core and by definition yes. However, real estate agents at their core and by their nature, are very pushy, aggressive and demonstrative. How does that play in social media circles? Does the old school, push mentality of marketing and selling work for most real estate agents? Would it work for them in social media? What tools should Ann use and how should she use them?

The Manager of a Cadillac Dealership

Mark has a tough road ahead of him and has had a tough road behind him. He’s tasked every day with selling cars and getting his sales people to sell cars. He sells a high end product and thus his demographic is also high end. For the car sales person they must utilize their network of old buyers or existing customers for referrals.  If they have been in the business for any amount of time that might work, if not they must resort to what? Buying lists of email addresses? Selling used cars, relying on the newspapers and their classified? banking on the up system? Car dealership people spend a ridiculous amount of time at the dealership. They must know their product inside and out, and the majority of their time is spent on their feet and “waiting”. Could Mark and his sales people benefit from using social media? Could they use it for lead generation? That would assume that their customers or prospects are using social media, right? The pressure right now in the car business is at an all time high and probably has never been more competitive. How could they use the power of conversations to drive sales? What tools or platform make the most sense? When could they use them? How do they fold that into the marketing mix?

The Medical Sales Guy

Steve spends the majority of his time in surgery. He sells spinal surgical devices and thus he spends a lot of time with doctors either in surgery or in face to face meetings. Steve utilizes all that technology can offer for his job. He has a laptop, a Blackberry, special software for tracking, for sales and for ordering. His company is cutting edge. He probably works close to 60 hours a week and could work more if he wanted. He could use an assistant and or his company could easily hire another sales rep. For Steve, social media would be more of a marketing assistant. or perhaps more of a conduit for sales support. Maybe it could be a way to stay in better contact with the Docs and or his company? But when does he do it? What might work best? More importantly, you can see how Steve might use it effectively, but there is the assumption that the Docs and or his clients are “already” using social media, and that might be overestimating things. If Steve uses it, and he wants his customers and Docs to use it, does he now have to sell the Docs on social media? Is that part of Steve’s  job description? Why does he have to? Would it lessen the hours that he already puts in?

The Builder

John is under the gun. Real estate in Naples sucks right now.  He is a great builder but he he has to worry not only about the typical things that a builder must worry about i.e., labor costs, labor, materials, material costs, but also whether someone is going to buy his houses once he’s done building them. John is a hands on guy too. He is on the job site from dawn until dusk. What social media tools might John use? Does it make sense?  How could they benefit him? Does social media even matter to him? John might use email, he might order products or materials online, but chances are he knows where to get his supplies and materials and chances are they have a physical location and there are existing relationships. That works just fine for him. Would social media make John’s life easier? Would he even care? Is there a place for social media in construction?


In these 7 real world examples I just provided, you now see the challenges and opportunities that social media can provide. In some cases it might make perfect sense to incorporate them and in others, the number one question would be, Why? But in each and every case, though there might be an argument as to why social media should be used, but there is also an argument of “What for”?

It’s not as easy a sale as you think. We talk all the time about how you “start” using social media, but for a lot of SMB’s that are stretched to the extremes as it is, maybe listening is enough.  So for the marketers, consultants, or companies that are praising its virtues, you need to take a step back and really look at it from the perspective of the SMB. From the eyes of someone fighting for every dollar, we have to have a better plan to fold it into the marketing mix without the time suck. Social media should be for everyone, but just saying you really need to be “doing social media”, just isn’t going to cut it.

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The only 2 questions an SMB will ask about Social Media

I had been throwing the following around in my head after meeting with a quite a few business owners and talking with some respected thought leaders in the social media marketing space and I want to know what you think.

As an SMB you need to ask two primary questions when pitched with incorporating some aspect of social media in to your business and they are:

#1  What is in it for me and my business?

#2  What’s in it for my customer?

Simple enough right?  But we’re forgetting someone. Someone as critical to the business as the customer is. Do you know who it is? One of the beauties of social media is that there are so many layers, aspects and dynamic components that allow it to address people it all levels of an organization. Including the sometimes forgotten and under appreciated employee.

So Mr. or Mrs. SMB, what we are really saying is that, if social media is pitched or considered then, the pitcher/social media practitioner, should be focusing on 3 aspects of the business:

  • The business owner
  • The customer
  • The employee

For the business owner you will want tangible hard core proof of “If I do this, this is what I can expect for my business and my employees and If I do this, this is what the customer can expect or will do, or this will be the customers reaction. It’s that simple.

If you are a social media marketing…person,  show the SMB what the expected results will be. Give them examples of either what you have done, or… if you are in the majority and are just starting out as a social media marketing N00b, utilize the many URL’s that are starting to crop up citing examples of other companies using social media components within their organizations.

Here is a list of links that SMB’s can utilize that may help them in at least understanding more of what is going on should they be approached by a “social media marketing consultant” or are thinking about doing it on their own. At the least, you will get a better understanding of what’s in it for you, and whats in it for your customer!

Why Executives Don’t “Get” Social Media This is a good article on executive level mindsets as they wrestle with including social media into their companies.

The Ultimate Small Business Twitter List This is not only a great list but it also includes a list of Orgs. and their employees or Reps. that serve the small business market.

Here is a great link on Facebook titled, Social Media for Small Business that some of you should check out.

Why Social Media Is Worth Small Business Owners’ Time Taking advantage of all the Web has to offer is like eating your vegetables or getting exercise — most of us don’t do enough, and even those that do could always do more.

My friend, Amber Naslund, who now works at Radian 6 has 2 posts that I think are worth reading. here is the first Getting a social media foothold and The social media starter kit. Self explanatory right?

Lastly we’re going to finish with some video. I encourage all of you SMB’s out there to watch it, as well as newcomers to social media marketing. It includes a number of my friends and colleagues and thus, I would put a lot of stock in what they are saying. They are the genuine real deal:  Brian Solis, Rohit Bhargava, Tim FerrisToby Bloomberg, David Alston, Liz Strauss, and Paul Chaney,

Lastly, let me say this. IF, you are a social media marketer, wannabe, or whatever… At the end of the day, you better do a pretty damn good job of stating your case. Because no one, and I mean no one can afford to screw up right now and the last thing an SMB wants is for them to be your test case!