Helping SMBs Understand the Importance of Social Marketing

One of the main themes of Street Fight Summit West last week was the complex state of social media marketing for small businesses. It’s telling that about half the people who spoke at SFSW are working on solutions to make it easier for SMBs to adopt social marketing.

Two hurdles stand in the way: 1.) Most small businesses are still stuck in the Golden Age of Advertising, and don’t understand the concepts behind this marketing sea change. They see a brand new industry full of hundreds of startup companies babbling about seemingly identical solutions to a marketing methodology they can’t quite grasp.

This well-pinned chart explaining the social marketing landscape will make any small business owner cringe:

social-marketing-chartGroupon was an easy sell to local retail because discount coupons have been a loss leader paradigm since the birth of marketing. Business owners can’t even embrace turnkey social marketing solutions until they fully understand the impact that social media has on their business.

Evolution of the SMB Marketing Ecosystem 

Here are three simple concepts SMBs need to understand about social marketing:

1) They need an online destination — website, blog, or even a Facebook page — where long-form content can fully describe their product, service and value proposition. Simply put, this is where the customer learns about and transacts with the business.

2) Ignore all other social networks for now. Twitter and Facebook have matured to become the two dominant consumer-oriented networks with well-defined but different roles. SMBs must realize that the key to social marketing is to avoid overt salesmanship; the conversation leads to the sale. Twitter broadcasts conversations around their brand, while Facebook connects with their customers on a more intimate level.

3) YelpFoursquare, and the next generation of mobile apps will be how customers find businesses on the street. SMBs need to claim their businesses on these top mobile apps to understand the power of reviews and check-ins that drastically affect their reputation.

To hasten social marketing adoption, big players like Twitter and Facebook need to get small businesses to become baby-step comfortable with their platforms. The industry should make a concerted effort to educate small businesses and chambers of commerce on how it all works. Once this happens, vendors focusing on one part of the ecosystem can more readily connect with an enlightened SMB client base who can see the forest for the trees.

Patrick Kitano is founding Principal of Brand into Media, a strategy group for social brand management solutions, and administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of Media Transparent, and contributor to Social Media Today, Daily Deal Media, and The Customer Collective. He is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email pkitano@gmail.com.