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Challenges Small Businesses Face With Social Media

by Khadim Batti on November 22, 2012

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Building an online community with social media is anything but easy, and sometimes the ROI isn’t necessarily obvious or easily identified. This is why many small businesses avoid it altogether, and to their detriment. Social media’s true benefit comes from reputation and customer retention, not from immediate sales. This is a far more important thing to invest in long term.

Here are some of the challenges you need to overcome in order to make it work:

1. Time

Building an online community can seem like a daunting task, especially when there are so many networks to choose from and it’s not entirely clear which ones you should invest most of your time in. Finding time to build relationships on social networks can be difficult. When done improperly, it can also become a waste of time.

To get things rolling smoothly, consistently, and without wasting time, you’ll need to develop a social media schedule. It should meet these requirements:

  • A way to find funny, surprising, or otherwise shareable pieces of content quickly
  • A set time to post this content to Facebook each day or every other day
  • Two or three times each day to check Facebook for comments or questions and to respond to them quickly and personally
  • Two or three times to check Twitter for questions related to your business and respond to them
  • One time each day to email a prominent blogger, tweeter, or Facebook page owner

Pinterest timingMake sure your social media time is spent on times when people are active on these networks so that the effort doesn’t go to waste. As reported by Mashable,  bit.ly has released some data on the best and worst times to share links on popular social networks, from Facebook and Twitter to blogging site Tumblr. If you are using or thinking of using Pinterest, make use of this Pinterest cheat sheet to give you more help. Tweriod.com is also a great tool that analyses your data and provides you with the ideal times to Tweet.

Anyway, if you are doing this properly, you shouldn’t be devoting more than one hour to social media each day (two hours if you are heavily involved). If more time is invested in social media, there is a good chance you need to streamline your process or hire somebody as a full time social media personality.

2. Connecting

Many businesses fail to see growth in their social following, and this is often because they fail to connect with their audience. The problem is that social media is a platform for two-way communication, not for broadcasting. Business owners have become so accustomed to advertising as their primary mode of communication that they have trouble connecting with people as people.

One of the biggest changes you can make to resolve this problem is to focus specifically on questions. At least half of your interactions should be about either asking or answering questions. Generally, you will start by answering questions and gradually move toward asking them as your audience grows. Use questions as a way to build credibility and trust, not as an opportunity to make a sale.

Be sure to respond to comments so that people know you are listening.

Finally, build some solid give and take relationships with influential people. It is not as difficult as you might think to build a casual relationship with a blogger or a widely followed tweeter. All it takes is a willingness to help them and talk to them like human beings, as well as an acknowledgment that some people will respond and others won’t.

3. Content

Producing content is probably one of the most difficult aspects of social media campaigning, to the point that many businesses skip out on this part altogether. This isn’t always a problem. It is possible to build a strong community by asking and answering questions, working with influencers, and sharing the viral content of others.

If you don’t have time to produce your own content, it’s not necessarily a death sentence for your social media profile.

However, it’s worth recognizing that a small business doesn’t necessarily have to produce magazine or newspaper quality content to give people a reason to subscribe. For example:

  • A few short and thoughtful paragraphs each day can be a very successful strategy. Just look at Seth Godin.
  • Memes such as those that propagate through Reddit and Imgur don’t take a lot of time to make. They just need to be funny and relevant.
  • Every email you send or receive can be mined for insights that can go into a piece of content.
  • Conversations that you have with your followers and influencers can be inspiration for content, or transformed directly into content.
  • Content that involves contributions from other people can improve your quality and your exposure
  • Photos are another good source of content

If you want to take things to the next level, you can start mining tough data sources like peer reviewed literature, industry insiders, books, and government and educational websites for raw data. This level of dedication is impossible for your daily content, but can be used to produce highly original and useful content on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Another very powerful source of content is your own business’s operations. Much of the data that you feel should be kept proprietary may actually be more useful as marketing material. Insider data is often heavily shared and linked to by influencers. Obviously, you need to weigh the pros and cons of this.

It’s not necessarily easy to conquer time, connections, and content, but when you do, the results are phenomenal. The long term value is far higher than most channels for the amount of time and money spent, provided that your process is streamlined. Focus on building a simple and repeatable schedule and communicating to people like a human being.

See also: Free Social Media Guides

Can you think of other challenges small businesses face with social media?

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Article by

Khadim is the co-founder of SearchEnabler - On-demand SEO platform for start-ups, small businesses and marketers. He is an alumni of IIIT-B after a Bachelors of Engineering from Mumbai University with experience of over 12 years in the industry. He was heading the Business Intelligence department at Huawei Technologies. You can follow him on twitter @khadimbatti

Khadim has written 1 articles at iBlogzone.com

1 Ranjan November 22, 2012 at 11:03 am

Hi Khadim, nice post
Really picture are great source for content, actually i am using info-graphics for my website (which is also a small scale) and this provide me an awesome results especially when I users go through Pinterest.
Thanks for sharing great Information.

2 Aditi November 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Hi Khadim,
I like the concept that you have highlighted. Social Media do play an important role and specially for small business, it can prove to be an outstanding one if utilized properly. Social media can be the best way to interact with your visitors. Thanks for the share!!

3 Khadim November 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Thanks Aditi,
Yes, SocialMedia does prove handy for small businesses.
Great you liked it.

4 Andrew November 22, 2012 at 8:01 pm

The importance of social media for small businesses simply can’t be stressed enough!

Social Media is what gives small businesses the exposure big brands have.

In the past, you had to be big to have big exposure. You had to advertise on things like banners (and I don’t mean the online ones) and if you wanted exposure, you had to have as many working points and things like business cars so that your brand’s name would constantly stay in your clients’ head.

Now, things change radically. Through social media, small businesses have the same exposure as big ones do – but the big businesses have a lot higher maintenance costs!
Well, that is if we’re talking about small businesses that are flexible enough and open minded enough to adapt to the big market changes that are coming :)

5 Khadim December 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Rightly said Andrew.
If small business get flexible there is enough opportunity to leverage social media.

6 Akram Ali November 23, 2012 at 4:48 am

Hey Khadim
I never knew about those timings you have mentioned about posting on Pinterest I would like to thank you for that, from now on I’ll follow them. Secondly if I am not wrong I have learned to convert conversations into a powerful content which can bring users in. Informative post btw keep helping us… tks again

7 Khadim December 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Great Akram you liked it.
Let us know, how it worked for you.

8 Clarkmartin November 23, 2012 at 5:32 am

Excellent and very important post. Small businesses are not very practiced in patience. They want, and usually NEED, results, and results fast. I have to continually reexplain the concept of SEO to new clients before their rankings kick in. It can be unpleasant, but hey, that’s the job.

9 Khadim December 3, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Yes Clarkmartin, Its often required to create awareness and educate new clients.

10 Aasma November 23, 2012 at 6:27 am

Hi Khadim,

Really useful article, I’m also managing a small business but find it really hard to focus on social networking sites, as I don’t have good content to share. I’ll follow your tips and see if it’s going to make any change for me. thanks for sharing such useful article. :)

11 Khadim December 3, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Thanks Aaasma you liked it & planning to try it out. Do let us know, how effective results were.

12 Ray November 23, 2012 at 7:19 am

Time is often a problem for me. It seems like there are never enough hours in a day to get everything done. Sometimes I forget to visit social networks for several days. It’s almost like I get board with them after a while. Then, one day I tell myself I haven’t used them in a while get busy. The Mashable times were pretty much as I suspected earlier in the day seems better. Evenings and weekends not as ideal.

13 Danny November 23, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Well written post, Khadim.

I would imagine those people who have invested heavily in various social media outlets, would have a task on their hands, as far as time management is concerned…

Then the question of “Do the benefits outweigh the costs-time, etc) if they are simply spending way too much time engaged in this, and their site(Brand) may not be showing sufficient desired results….

Some sites are now finding this out(over did social –with only small gains)

I think having a balanced attitude between onsite focus, and social interaction, would be better…

14 Steve Noriega November 24, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Very useful article. I think ‘time’ continues to be the biggest obstacle for most, so it’s good to see that at the top. Thanks!

15 jeniffer December 2, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Hi,
I agree your post. Marketing is the best way to increasing traffic your site.Social media is the biggest network to helpful for your business.
Thanks for the sharing.

16 Nisha@Pre Marriage Counseling Topics December 14, 2012 at 7:15 am

Great post. SEO and other online marketing techniques like mass email and campaigns can start working for your company immediately. Other marketing tools like mailers, ads, and commercials simply aren’t as effective.

17 Jamy Hoster February 9, 2013 at 10:39 am

Content make your social media so strong as the social network use like social life make a relation with them and stay goofy and also you need to share every knowledge you have.

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