This question was posed on a LinkedIn group I participate in: “What would you tell a small business owner who says they don't have time for social media to market their business?” It's one of the most active discussions I've seen in a while, with over 145 comments, so it clearly hit a hot button.
The answered ranged from the trite "On the day you can't face your check book, come check your Facebook" to the profane (which I won’t repeat) to some solid advice like “Social media is changing the way all businesses can market their products and services. As part of the larger marketing campaign, social media can be a powerful way for business owners to connect with clients and prospective clients.“ A couple of people also suggested outsourcing/hiring an intern.
I looked at this question and a number of follow up ones popped into mind. Like: what kind of business; why don’t they have time; and how did the discussion around social media start in the first place?
Here’s my take on this question. Making the assumption that this is a small business owner who is being somewhat successful today, I would think they are either selling in a B2B environment or very specialty B2C one (and I put non-chain restaurants in that category). I don’t think there are too many other types of small businesses out there unless we are talking about gas stations, convenience stores, or franchises.
Social media (social marketing actually) is about taking steps to help prospective customers find you. The days of effective checkbook marketing where you pay to place an ad, or pay a telemarketing firm, or pay for a list and drop a direct mail piece, are rapidly waning. Media audience and attention is fractured. Direct mail is cluttered and telephone calls go unanswered.
You need to help people find you and to do that, you have to go where they are. They are online. On Facebook. Using search. Reading opinions and reviews.
One of my favorite words that I learned in high school is solipsism. In the literal, it means “The theory or view that the self is the only reality”. In a marketing world, it is the view that your reality is everyone else’s and it is a very dangerous way to do marketing because you do what you like and what you would respond to (and not necessarily what works for your prospective customers).
I think that is one of the challenges that small businesses and their owners have with social marketing. They don’t know the sites, the usage, the opportunity, because they often don’t have the time to use them or the inclination to learn them. I work with a lot of clients who sell to business owners age 40+. They comment that social media does them no good because those owners aren’t on Facebook or reading reviews, etc.. But when I point out to them that the owners may not be there, but the people the owners assign to do the research for a new solution to the problem are probably on the social sites, light bulbs get lit up.
Yes, it takes time – to write, to comment, to read, to strategize. But if you don’t make the time now, my thought is that you will have the time later (when business drops off).
As to the outsourcing answer – you can always outsource the technology part of social marketing to reduce your time investment, but the content needs to be real. It needs to have value. It needs to have passion. If you can outsource or assign that part, great. If not, put away the checkbook and start marketing with the passion that causes you to come to work everyday.
So what’s your answer? What would you say to someone who doesn’t have time to use social media in their marketing efforts?