How small businesses can make the best of their social efforts in 2012.
The New Year will be here before we know it and its dawn looms just around the corner. Holiday-themed commercials are already in tow and it’s just a matter of time before we start hearing those countless commercials focused on New Year’s Eve resolutions for weight loss, self-improvement and new beginnings.
Consumers, however, aren’t the only ones looking forward to fresh starts. Businesses too, especially small businesses, are also glancing ahead and wondering what more they can to do in the coming weeks to maximize their efforts, stretch budgets further and improve their overall marketing just in time for 2012.
For many of these businesses, the one area most should resolve to improve as we proceed into the New Year is social media. The numbers of business proprietors, for example, that ‘dread using Twitter’ or don’t really know what they’re doing on Facebook are a lot bigger than most of us realize (did you know, for example, that in a recent study, 46% of small businesses with 25 employees or less actually hate Twitter?). Yet, as you may know, social is here to stay and consumers expect brands of all sizes to be present and active on social networks.
As a result, small businesses who admittedly have a habit of neglecting their social outposts should evaluate what their barriers are to social. Could it be lack of time, skill or resources?
Whatever the reasons may be, the suggested New Year’s social media resolutions below are meant to help the average small business better adapt and overcome challenges in keeping up with engagement efforts on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and beyond:
- Scale back and “sharpen your sword”
If you’re one of the small businesses who dove in head first and created multiple profiles on many different social media networks, now is the time to re-evaluate how well that mass-blanket coverage approach has worked … or not. If you have profiles or accounts where you seldom login or if you belong to online communities where you hardly participate, you have some thinking to do and decisions to make. Depending on your online marketing objectives, it may not be necessary to spread yourself out so thinly. For 2012, it might be better to scale back or even close out a handful of your profiles where you are not really heavily vested. Consider sharpening your focus on a tighter selection of relevant networks instead.
- Do more than “scrape the surface”
As a small business owner myself, I’m completely guilty of only “scraping the surface” of many of the social tools I use for outreach and engagement in the socialsphere. How often have I promised myself to take a few moments here and there to learn something new about, for example, HootSuite or TweetDeck? And how many times have I wished I would further my knowledge of Facebook Insights or WordPress plugins! For 2012, I personally resolve to take about 10-15 minutes a week, at minimum, to extend my foundation by learning one or two new things each month about the many social tools at my fingertips. Small businesses agreeing with me on this point should seek to find a quick YouTube video or SlideShare slide deck (for starters) about any social topic they wish to further immerse themselves in and become more knowledgeable about. As another option, small business owners may instead opt to reading the FAQ, ‘Help’ or tutorial features of a specific social tool or network to learn more about additional capabilities. If this effort is done once a month and, therefore, 12 times a year, think of how much smarter we’d be about the very tools we utilize for sharing and communication within our social graphs!
- Measure, measure, measure!
Another worthy social media resolution to consider for 2012 that would benefit many a small business is improved measurement. So often for many smaller businesses, the detail of measurement tends to be an afterthought versus forethought. For the following year, it would be a worthy resolution to seek out ways to implement, augment or extend measurement and tracking efforts via social media monitoring, analytics, microblogging and more. For those dubious small businesses who ponder ignoring this resolution, here’s one word of advice: don’t. As Altimeter Group’s Industry Analyst, Jeremiah Owang, indicates, proof over re-allocation in this relatively new medium is key. Unlike transactional advertising, social engagement is a very difficult medium to track. “It’s hard to tie to a point of sale or conversion,” says Owang. The goal, then, for small businesses in 2012 will be to establish better ways to collect the disparate data social tends to generate and make sense of it all.
While the ideas for social media resolutions in time for 2012 as shared above are not “immediate fixes” and do require some elbow grease over a period of time, the overall result will surely provide an incremental depth of knowledge, focus and understanding as to how a small business can make the best of their social efforts.
Mayra Ruiz-McPherson is the founder of Ruiz McPherson Communications, a marketing ingenuity and digital PR company based in Dulles, Virginia. You can follow her on Twitter at @mayraruiz, via her practice’s Twitter handle @ruizmcpherson or on Facebook at facebook.com/RuizMcPherson.