Can social media be dangerous to your small business?

Social media for individuals is as easy as falling off of a log. But for a business, could social media actually be dangerous? In my opinion, absolutely.

“Blasphemy!” you cry. “Heretic!” you say. Guilty as charged. Remember, Martin Luther was a heretic with a blasphemous message. But today’s heretic may be tomorrow’s prophet.

For a business like mine, which creates content for the consumption of an audience, social networking is pretty logical. But for a Main Street business, like a restaurant, dry cleaners, contractor, etc., these folks struggle to create an effective social media strategy, if they even try at all. And by effective, I mean one that brings in business without shifting too many resources – especially time – from classic strategies that have worked. And that’s where the problem arises.

Sometimes I fear that some business owners, especially start-ups, get caught up in the social media whirlwind and, since it’s all the rage, actually believe that spending time “connecting” will cause the sales dollars to roll in. Connecting is a good plan; connecting at the expense of executing tried-and-true marketing practices – not so much.

Even so, social media as we know it, with all the attendant sites and applications, may be a craze, but it’s not a fad. It is real, and it will last. And just like the evolution of websites, in time we will use social media less as entertainment and more as a tool. But for the time being, the social media phenomenon is pretty obnoxious and yet to be a universally beneficial tool for every small business.

So the rest of the answer to my blasphemous question is this: To prevent your social media marketing strategy from being dangerous – or almost as bad, not having one – practice the concept of both/and rather than either/or. This means that while you continue to develop and execute on your traditional marketing strategy, simultaneously get involved in and learn about life and business in the 21st century social media universe. Get a LinkedIn page and use it, but don’t live there. Acquire a Twitter address and do some following, but don’t get sucked into the time drain.

Nevertheless, to demonstrate that I am an equal opportunity heretic, consider this: With every year that goes by, social media will become a bigger part of the marketing strategy of your business, while traditional marketing strategies will become less.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with one of my favorite heretics, marketing expert, Ilise Benun, author of The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing. Ilise is even more skeptical of the immediate benefits of social media for Main Street small businesses than I am. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear a couple of heretics/prophets. And, of course, I would love for you to post your own blasphemy right next to mine.

4 Responses to “Can social media be dangerous to your small business?”

  1. 5
    Peter Levinson Says:

    Social media, because it can be a huge time-suck, can be an excuse to avoid actual person-to-person selling, such as in-person networking and cold calling. For a service business, I think prospects need to hear your voice and preferably meet you before they are open to becoming clients. For the most part, that means “traditional” channels need to be a big part of the mix — though I think web video is very intriguing.

  2. 4
    Design Insights » Twitter backlash already? Says:

    [...] “the dangers” of “rapid-fire” micro-blogging. One on CNN.com and one from a marketer’s perspective. I feel like it was just yesterday that the blog was declared dead and we would all be twittering [...]

  3. 3
    TurtleBlueBird Says:

    According to a very recent Wall Street Journal story, successful financial consultants Edward Jones still to this day send their people calling DOOR-TO-DOOR to drum up new business. And, apparently, it works!

    Should we all be doing that and twittering too?

  4. 2
    Deidre Rienzo Says:

    Wow, great post and interview. For me, Twitter is just too much information and it overloads my brain. I’m not able to take it all in and it makes me anxious. I’m convinced that the constant stimulation starts to become addictive, and like Ilise said, what is this short attention span actually doing to us? Everyone has a blackberry. People can’t go 3 minutes without checking their email or who’s tweeting what. Information overload! If there are people who can take in all this information, then more power to them. And yes, if there are people who can Twitter in moderation, and use it in a way that really works for them—then that’s great too. I use LinkedIn and Biznik, but my brain simply isn’t Twitter compatible. I agree that social marketing can be another excellent tool in the toolbox, and I can deal with using it that way. But for now, I choose not to participate in the Twitter takeover for the sake of my own sanity.

  5. 1
    Ian Hendry Says:

    Social media is something businesses don’t have a choice about. They can chose to ignore it of course, but while a business person’s head is stuck in the sand their company is being discussed on review sites, Twitter users, on Facebook and more. Not all mentions of their business will be good. Ignore what’s being said and your reputation could be shot to flames behind your back.

    Of course, it has always been the case that a bad experience with a business gets passed on many times more than a good one; but social media helps that happen faster and to many more people. The great part is, you can be part of the discussion from the start.

    Ian Hendry
    CEO, WeCanDo.BIZ
    http://www.wecando.biz

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