“Be social! Tell stories! Get more friends!”
Advice for a child’s slumber party — or serious content marketing strategy for modern businesses?
That depends on whom you ask. Luckily, there are still many traditional marketers or salespeople ready to give a dismissive view of content marketing. These folks preach that you skip content creation as a marketing tactic because it is “unproven” “kids’ stuff.” They prefer “proven” tactics such as buying ad space in major media.
Oh, I’m so happy these people still exist! They continue to make it easier for people like you and me to have successes with content marketing, particularly social media.
Let’s look at the advantages small businesses like yours and mine enjoy on social media. Remember, social media is just one aspect of content marketing. Let’s also review the areas where we should proceed with caution.
Advantage #1: You’re nimble and quick
Simply put, small means you can react quickly. This gives you an enormous advantage over the multi-level bureaucracy common to bigger businesses. Bigger businesses usually don’t put out a message without multiple levels of review. Solopreneurs can hustle.
“The right niche and the right approach enable a two-person company to outshine a retailing giant on Facebook.” Newt Barrett, co-author of Get Content, Get Customers, wrote that about my neighborhood grocery’s use of Facebook. He’s right. We are able to use social media to build a better, more intimate relationship with our customers than the giant grocery retailers.
Disadvantage #1: Easy to pull the trigger
Now, the flip side of quick reaction time is that you might pull the trigger on a message that isn’t on-brand or be tempted to jump into the fray in a heated online debate (which may or may not help your business and its reputation). Be aware of this tendency and use it to your advantage. Try to get into the habit of taking a few minutes before responding online and thinking through the potential repercussions. You’ll save yourself some potential pitfalls and will still likely react faster than the “big guys.”
Advantage #2: You’re you, lovable you
The secret is out: People want to have relationships with other people. Customers and clients aren’t interested in building real relationships with “corporate citizens.” This offers you a tremendous advantage when it comes to selling person-to-person. (Note: You can also sell one-to-many, of course, but the business is built as an extension of who you are. Your business more directly reflects your personality and values.)
However, putting yourself out there requires more than snazzy new business cards. Building a business relationship on a personal level means it can develop in a more informal and natural way. If cultivated and tended carefully, loyalty to another person and his or her products/services will outperform loyalty a faceless, big brand. Localism, and personal connection to a local business, is a growing trend. Social media is the start of building that personal connection.
Disadvantage #2: You’re not perfect
Increasingly, our society is demanding greater transparency and accountability of our businesses and the people behind them. This is tremendously good news in almost all aspects of our lives — except, of course, when we’re talking about ourselves! Each of us has flaws. If you’re not careful, social media can broadcast these flaws in great detail. The results can be devastating to your business.
For example, I witnessed a social media meltdown when a nearby business got into a nasty, one-sided fight online. The dispute was over taxes owed to our state’s alcoholic beverage control commission. The business owners decided to post nasty comments and doctored photos of the taxing agent online. They were angry and thought this would garner attention, sympathy, and support from customers about “unfair treatment.” It had the opposite effect: The business owners came across as immature, spoiled brats and lost the respect and support of most of their customers and peers.
Do not underestimate how much a tantrum online could influence business offline. Tread carefully because your brand is closely associated with you as a person, and your actions on social media can reverberate. Let’s just say, the next alcohol license review didn’t go so smoothly for these business owners…
Advantage #3: You can learn a lot more about customer behavior than ever before
Social media allows you to observe your target market closely, and in situations unrelated to your normal interaction. This is a huge business advantage if you take the time to observe and learn. This kind of behavioral and psychographic information is priceless. Use it to craft products, services, and messages to address the needs, wants, and desires of your customer base.
For example, by observing social media updates, we learned of a sudden pop of interest in gluten-free diets amongst core customers. We were able to act on this by providing an expanded array of ciders to our craft beer assortment. Our core customers were happy because we offered something they were seeking, and we were happy because we could satisfy their desire for a gluten-free option.
Disadvantage #3: You can spend too much time on social media
Perhaps the greatest disadvantage you have as a solopreneur or microbusiness owner is simply the time involved to start and maintain a successful content marketing campaign. You have tremendous advantages but only so many hours in a day. Work around the time-constraint disadvantage by focusing only on the social media channels that bring you the best results.
A presence on the others is great, but double down your time and effort on the places that yield the best response rate. Create an editorial calendar to consistency produce content. Finally, cap the amount of time each day you devote to social media so you don’t take away from the time necessary to do everything else.
Being a micro-business or solopreneur can be extremely advantageous in today’s market because, again, people prefer to do business with other people, not corporations. Play to your strengths. Pay careful attention to the social media behaviors of customers in your local market. You have more business advantages than ever before thanks to social media.
Photo Credit: Flickr/ShashiBellamkonda