The One Thing Small to Midsize Businesses Need to Understand About Social Media


This post originally from

Last week Christine and I co-taught a course for UNR’s Extended Studies program, titled Writing a Winning Blog and Social Media Strategy. In that course, we shared a lot of the strategies that work for Christine, Ink’s clients and friends—as well as some of the things we’ve observed out there in the world of social media. And guess what we found? Surprise—most small and midsize businesses have pretty similar challenges.

Let me guess: You want to do more on the social web, but you are limited by:

1.     Time
2.     Budget
3.     Skill

Still, you’re looking to get more business, and you know that the social web is where your customers are. So you set up a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, a Yelp listing, a Pinterest, a Google+…

…and there’s your first problem right there. How do you know which of those sites really suits your brand? Which of those sites is packed with target customers, and which gives you great SEO results? Did you do any of that research before you jumped in with both feet? For most, the answer is “no.” There just isn’t time—which is to say, you didn’t make time.

But let’s say, because it’s a pretty good guess for most business owners, that a big chunk of your target market is on the sites listed above. You sign in every morning and write a post about one of your products or services, and cross-post it to every network. It only takes five minutes a day, and now you just wait for the sales to roll in. Right?

Nope. Unfortunately (and it really is unfortunate for time-strapped business owners), five minutes a day is simply not enough to bring you fortune and fame. This shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but it is a disappointment. 

So far, you’ve learned that you can’t successfully run a social media campaign with limited time. You can’t create more hours in a day, so you decide it’s time to hire someone who can help share your message with your audience.

So you hire a social media intern: your neighbor’s 18-year-old daughter. For $50 a month ($2 per day), she promises to post every weekday on all your profiles. Two months later, you’ve got twenty new fans and a page riddled with spelling errors and oddball videos. Frustrated, you ask your intern if she knows anything about social marketing at all. She leaves in tears, because you’re right: She knows about socialmedia, but she doesn’t know marketing.

By now, you’ve tried skimping on time. You’ve tried skimping on budget. You’ve tried skimping on skill. And you’ve learned that all-important lesson for anybody trying to get started in the social sphere.

The One Thing: The ROI of zero is zero.

And the ROI of “cheap” is still “cheap.” Let’s say you want to do $1 million in sales this year. The vast majority of your potential customers (for just about any business you can think of) are on social media. Seems like you should invest in that market, doesn’t it?

In the ten years Christine and I have been working in social media, we have seen many brands dig into great strategies that boost their audience and boost their sales. But we have never seen a single brand achieve significant increases in sales or traffic with a tiny little halfhearted investment of time or money.

Sure, some people make it look so easy to Tweet twenty times a day, or rack up Facebook fans—but just because it looks easy for them, doesn’t mean it is. Behind the scenes, they either hired an awesome team with solid expertise, or they picked up the expertise to do it on their own. Either way, they have made an investment that is paying off. Their ROI, I assure you, makes it worth the investment.

All business owners have the same challenge when it comes to social marketing, but your challenge is not what you thought it was. You are not limited by time, budget, or skill. You are limited by your perception of what a great marketing strategy can do for your business. So instead of saving social media for a last thought, make it a priority. You’ll be much more pleased with the results.