Should small businesses invest time in using social media?

While listening to an interview of BJ Mendelson by Mitch Joel about his new book Social Media is Bullshit this weekend, I started thinking about how people and businesses perceive what social media can do for them.

  • Do they believe it is a magic solution to gaining new customers?  
  • Do marketers over promise the success of using social media?
  • Do business users understand how key social is in social media?

Here are reasons I think you should use social media for your business and reasons you shouldn’t.

Good reasons to use social media for your business

  • You’re interested in building relationships with your customers (actual and potential);
  • You want to be a part of the conversation;
  • You want to listen to your customers;
  • You want to be available to your customers in the places they hang out and provide them information in the way they like to receive it.

Bad reasons to use social media for your business

  • You think it is the magic answer to your ultimate success;
  • You think everything you say will spread far and wide as soon as you start writing it;
  • You think it will make you rich and famous;
  • You think it can stand alone.

I have a background in Public Relations and Communications.  When I meet with clients to discuss social media, I don’t just think about social media.  I think about media relations, I think about community relations, I think about networking and I think about web content.  Why? Because social media is only one piece of your communications puzzle.

The only reason that we pull it out and separate it here is because social media (right now) requires more than just an action plan, it requires education.  People are scared and overwhelmed by social media and we want to walk them through it all.  The ultimate goal however is for social to simply be a part of overall communications for any business.

So, does it work?

Yes, and here’s proof:

One of my favourite local businesses here in Ottawa is an online company called Blend Creations. They have dropped all traditional print advertising and only use social media to market their products. 

Little Lotus Yoga credits social media not only for increased business but also for the amazing relationships and partnerships she’s been able to form.

Sara McConnell Photography gets almost 75% of her business from social media - primarily from current clients sharing the photos she takes of them with their friends via Facebook or sharing her blog.

If you’re a small business, have you seen success using social media?