Many small business owners have what we call “Squirrel Syndrome.” This means a pathological attraction to everything new that darts through your field of vision. While this far-reaching gaze can help build your business, it can also distract you from focusing and doggedly pursuing a single goal. We see this all the time in social media. In fact, a few years ago, we suggested business owners put their toe in every pond and have a social media presence on every network. Now we know better. Our guidance is to pick one network and really do it well and accept that you can’t manage all of them and run a business.
As we reviewed the data of our 2012 Small Business Social Media Survey, we saw that companies are definitely finding the benefit in focusing in their social media strategies.
Type of Industry and Primary Network
There were a few surprises in the data. We expected LinkedIn would dominate in business-to-business categories, but companies in the consumer-focused categories of retail, real estate and restaurants also gravitated toward LinkedIn.
45% of these strongly consumer-oriented businesses were not building their their social media strategy around more interactive and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, turning instead to LinkedIn as their primary business-building tool. I understand how this makes sense for real estate agents building a strong referral network to find their next great sale. But for retail and restaurants, where so much of the sale is based around the experience, I find it hard to imagine how the cold impersonal nature of LinkedIn will build a loyal customer base.
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Accounting/Financial Services surprised us as well. We assumed these types of companies, because of the highly regulated nature of their industries, would gravitate to LinkedIn. While the majority do, 29% of respondents in this category say that Facebook is their number one network. I think this can work, better then a retail store on LinkedIn if the accounting firm remembers the casual nature of Facebook, sharing stories about employees and company events with a bit of accounting sprinkled in.
So how do you decide where to spend your time? Which networks should be on your focus and which on your distraction lists? Certainly you should start by identifying your target audience and asking yourself where they are likely to hang out. B2C companies typically find Facebook is a good starting point while B2B companies usually feel most comfortable on LinkedIn. But there are more factors to consider. Are you trying to build loyalty, awareness, referrals or web traffic?
- Loyalty: If you have an established customer base and strong referral network, Facebook is a great place to start. Begin by sharing company news, contests and promotions. However, without a solid offline base it is hard to motivate people who don’t know you to action.
- Awareness: Twitter is a more active, noisy, public space. Given the way information moves, it is easy to grow a large following but you need to work harder to get your message heard. Be prepared to invest time, but in the long run it can be a strong business development tool.
- Referrals: At its core, LinkedIn is about introductions and referrals. If your business is built on reaching “the right people” in a specific company, LinkedIn is a great place to identify the people who can make the connections you need.
- Web Traffic: Will Google+ will ever be a true social network? The jury is still out, but regardless of how engaged you are with others, remember Google is indexing the links submitted to their site. You should take advantage of the opportunity to promote your content, just don’t expect a lot of interaction.
This information comes from the 2012 Small Business Social Media Survey. Interested in the complete report? You can download it here.