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It’s not the social media – it’s the message

01 Jun 2010

The problem with most small business owners in New Zealand is that they’re too busy running their business. They’re  equally frantic doing what they do technically; little time is left for growing their business. So, what do you do to increase income? You can throw more money at advertising to get more customers. You can wake up even earlier and go to bed later, so you have more time to look for and develop new business. It’s a pity that so few have simply taken the time to better understand and then use the everyday business tools available – those that are free and easy: ‘freasy’. The best way to boost income is to get more from the people who are already your clients, or to turn prospects into clients. The way to do this, in my book, is to build a database of your clients; your prospects; of people you’ve met while networking; people who find you from the internet. This becomes your ‘permission marketing database’. Your database is your goldmine. What is secondary is the medium you use to carry the message: email, letters, SMS, phone calls. To make your database work, it’s about you, as a small business owner, starting up a relationship and a conversation. Here are some basic rules:•    You should figure out a communication strategy;•    You should have business goals in mind;•    You have to add value;•    You have to target;•    You want to get it viral;•    You have to make it interesting.So here we are in 2010. There are new channels you’re being told should be mixed into your marketing equation: YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.  It’s new; it’s scary; it’s interactive. It could take a lot of time. Will it be worth it?  The real point that everyone is missing about what social media should be, could be to small businesses is this: View social media as your relationship marketing databases that are simply held online instead of in your computer.Doing so puts social media in a new light. Email marketing, though still marvelous, doesn’t hold the same effectiveness in 2010. Everyone is hassled and overloaded, and spam filters chew up most marketing emails. Many people use their smartphones to read email. It’s very difficult to naturally grow email lists. So what is an additional or alternative vehicle?Yep – the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter. By using these platforms well, you develop long online lists of fans, friends, connections, followers and subscribers. You can get hundreds, thousands of them. Another phenomenally important aspect of social media that is almost universally ignored, is the ability for businesses, small and large, to use the ‘freasy’ technology to their advantage cleverly. Let’s look at them one by one.YouTube: How delicious to have a place to put videos – for private and public viewing – and not incur one penny of cost for hosting or viewer bandwidth usage. We know the public use of YouTube, but how many are using it for hosting private internal training videos, for example?Facebook: Forget about the personal profile pages; Facebook also has business fan pages and group pages. The legions of small businesses that have ignored creating a website can do so for free, as a starting-point website and a place to host pictures of products. No hosting, no domain, no bandwidth fees. Groups can be open or private. Who has thought of using the private group as an internal intranet, or forum for an association, franchise, national or international company? Of course you don’t own it and Facebook can take it down – but why not use it anyway in the short term?Twitter: Started as a place to send txt-type messages, but it has also evolved as a recommendation engine. You follow people you trust and take note of whatever they say or advocate: movies, products, services; interesting news and web links. Some sites, especially blogs, are finding the ‘referrals’ from Twitter links are now becoming bigger than ‘referrals’ from Google. LinkedIn: As useful as your online CV; people whom you connect with, have access to all your connections, and vice versa. Thus you build up large networks of people you can theoretically contact if you need to get to large numbers of business people, for example: recruitment.In conclusion, the value of social media is twofold: first as the new ‘freasy’ (free and easy) communication channel to strike up and maintain referrals and relationships with past, present and future clients/customers. Second as ‘freasy’ technology to grab and use cleverly to save your business costs while improving internal and external communications.