I’m an open-minded skeptic. As such, I’ve been flooded with ideas for advancing Exhibit 5, but hesitant to commit to anything in particular, specifically with regard to social media. I suppose my hesitation is rooted in the question of whether businesses actually engage with their social media or if having a Facebook or Twitter page has simply become a useless, but obligatory token of the internet age. As a small business owner with limited resources, determining whether or not an investment in social media will provide any substantial return is vital. Thus far, our attempts at engaging our desired audience, specifically other businesses, via social media have produced mixed results, furthering my skepticism regarding its effectiveness as a marketing tool.
In spite of my doubts, I’m not prepared to give up on social media as a business tool quite yet. To be fair, I’m no expert on any one particular social media platform. Managing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and a blog all while running a small business is a lot to take on. And so that got me thinking, perhaps it is not that social media is an ineffective means through which to generate business, but rather, it could be that we have not been using these mediums to their full potential. In order to test this theory, Erin and I decided to take advantage of some of the programs offered as part of Crain’s Small Business Week, many of which involved the use of social media in business, to learn how to utilize these platforms more effectively.
Having used social media in a personal capacity for many years, I doubted that I would learn anything substantial from their experts. I’m happy to report, however, that I did come away with more than anticipated. While I don’t believe social media can ever act as a substitute for personal interaction, it does appear that active and consistent social media participation can be a useful component in any small business’s marketing strategy. Not only can social media act as a bridge for introductions to potential clients, but often more importantly, social media allows us to form strategic partnerships with individuals whose networks inevitably expand our potential client base. Thus far, we’ve found that active engagement with our connections, on LinkedIn in particular, has afforded us many great opportunities to introduce ourselves to potential clients and to tell them a little bit more about Exhibit 5 via wall posts and private messaging. We’ve already had some success in turning such connections into promising business relationships.
The key to success with regard to social media’s effectiveness as a marketing tool, however, does appear to be a commodity in short supply for most small business owners: time. As we continue to make efforts to increase the time we spend engaging with social media, we’d like to pose the following questions to our readers in hopes that we can all learn a little bit from each other’s experiences: Is your business active in social media? What sort of time and resources do you allocate to your social media efforts? And finally, have you seen any noteworthy returns on your investments in social media?