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?

5 simple ways SMB’s can readily adopt social media and get rolling in one day

I recently spoke at a little breakfast meeting of a 100 people or so and I knew that the economy was  still being unkind to small business owners. I knew they were still trying to wrestle with the alternative options that social media might provide. But coupled with wrestling whether to make the leap or not,  was the notion that commitment to social media is labor intensive. They already wear a lot of hats and now they have to somehow integrate social media?

So I thought it might be prudent to provide 5 simple suggestions on what an SMB can do right now to become part of that conversation. Yes, there will always be a learning curve, but we have to start somewhere and then build from that.

1)  Get a Twitter account. Beyond just having a Twitter account that’s not doing much, learn how to use it to your advantage. Why? because you want to be able to monitor and listen to conversations about you, your product, your company, your industry, your customers and your competition.  You can listen for opportunity and you can use Twitter as an ad hoc arm of customer service and reputation management.

How do you do all that- You use a 3rd party application like Tweetdeck which allows you set up individual columns for each of the above mentioned. The good news? In theory if you don’t want to have conversations, that will not prevent you from mining valuable data. The other good news? You don’t have to sit there and wait for it to unfold. You can peel back the tweets to your hearts content! This might take less than an hour to set up. Even less if you already an account.

2) Create a Facebook page. I know, you’re probably thinking, “you’ve got to be kidding me”? Well you know what? I bet you already have a Facebook page anyway right? So what makes this any different? What…? That it’s for work?  Given that businesses can now create vanity URL’s on Facebook you have a great opportunity to grow your business using basic Facebook  features for as little as an hour a day. Most of you have a customer base and there is a good chance that some of them are loyal. Facebook allows for you to connect with your customers. At the least it allows you to promote offers, ask questions and engage your customers. Setup is minimal. About an hour.

3) Create a Linkedin profile. Again, you should have one of these anyway but there are some cool little features buried in Linkedin that can help you network with like minded professionals, look for new resources and partners, connect with current and past work colleagues and if need be, look for a new job. Pay particular attention though, to the Question/Answer section of Linkedin.  There is some gold in that thar section. Set up time 2 hours but once it’s done, you’re done.

4) Now link your Twitter account to Facebook and link you Twitter updates to LinkedIn so that all of your twitter updates, if you do them, will flow across all of your networks. If you ever feel so compelled to contribute, converse, share or become part of the conversation, you’ll only have to do it once and everyone in those 3 networks that are part of “your network” will see it. This might seem a but complicated, but it’s not, you just need to check out those links. Time it takes? An hour

5) Now go to your website and put these 3 links or icons to these social sites on your website. Make sure that they are prominent so that people that may be looking for you and what you may offer can find them. The point is we want to make sure that we are providing as many ways as we can for customers and prospects to talk to us. They are your lifeblood and THEY are using social networks with or without you. Get in the game. It may take you an hour.

Now here’s the last thing. Even if you are not an “A” personality and you’re somewhat passive. You still have relationships with your close friends and relatives, right? What do those conversations and relationships consist of? Are they about what you had for breakfast? Perhaps, but there is so much more to them. And the reason they are your friend in the first place, is because you are interesting and you have something in common with that person. You both are exchanging and sharing value. Guess what? the same holds true in social networks. Value begets value. Even if your not a content machine like a Chris Brogan, you can still carve out a niche for you and your company.

Now go get ’em.

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Opportunity Cost of Twitter


I can pick up the phone and make a cold call and talk to someone who I might be able to get business from; or I can create a Twitter account and follow people who I might be able to get business out of.

The next best thing that a person can engage in is referred to as the opportunity cost of doing the best thing (more desirable) and ignoring the next best thing to be done.

So which is the best thing? Which is more effective?

Opportunity cost is a key concept in economics because it implies the choice between desirable, yet mutually exclusive results. Which is desirable? Making a cold call or reaching out via Twitter to someone you might get business from? Which is a more effective use of your time? Are the results mutually exclusive? Maybe. But not immediate.

The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in ensuring that scarce resources are used efficiently. If I have 2 phones and 2 computers with 2 Twitter accounts-which will be more efficient in the long run? Or the short run for that matter.

You see, opportunity costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs:  it can be the real cost of  lost output or lost time. Twitter can be quite  inefficient when it comes to working it into the prospecting flow of your work day and treating it like you would your outbound marketing. You have to know how to use it correctly. It compliments, but it doesn’t replace.

Try selling that to an SMB

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 Customer Suffers


Beyond the obvious.  Small business owners closing up. Demand for products and services drying up. People losing their jobs left and right. There is an aspect of this that all of us have overlooked. The customer.

What does the customer do? Where does the customer go? What are their alternatives?

For the brands and the businesses that do survive, what are they doing to keep their existing customers? What tools are they using to keep and engage their current customers? What are they doing to get new customers?

Not that I’m keeping score, but who has the upper hand right now? and who can leverage that?

Where are you on the mountain?


This post is inspired my Mother who is in declining health. She told me she was asked by her doctor, Where are you on the mountain, if your life is the mountain? Was she going up? Was she at the top? Going down?  My Mom answered that she was on the backside of the mountain, but she had her heels dug in. Good answer Mom.

But this led me to a broader question about what we all do and how we do it, and it is this.

If you’re career is a mountain, where are you? On the way up? In a holding pattern? Trying to find an alternate route? Or have you given up and turned back, satisfied by how far you’ve gotten. Satisfied that you at least tried. Or are you going to recharge the batteries, reinvent, re-plan, and give it another go?

If you are a marketer, where do you guage your level of experience on the mountain? You are a social media marketer, how well do you know the space if your map is the mountain? Do you forge on? Do you try and follow the path? The road less taken? Do you do what the Sherpa tells you? Are you a team player? Or are you in it for yourself?How much do you help people tethered to you? Are you pulling them? Are they pulling you? Or are you pulling your own weight?

It’s funny but when you get to the top, you really can’t stay there too long. But some like going to the top so much, they do it over and over, and they are successful a majority of the time. However, sometimes, there are things that are out of their control that prevent them from reaching the summit. But it doesn’t stop them from trying again. Why is that? How does this reflect on you, and what you are doing now? Where are you on the mountain?