Recently I attended a seminar / conference at Walsh College in Troy, Michigan on Social Networking for small business. It was created by Charlie Wollborg of Curve Detroit and Terry Bean of MotorCityConnect.com

The room was packed and their presentation was interesting: how small businesses can embrace social media and networks to generate new leads, gain exposure and improve on their network base. While there was a ton presented (and delivered with fun & enthusiasm).  I believe they missed on a few important pieces of information that are asked every day by people in their audience. (more to follow later on the importance of SEO and tracking sales with marketing)

Looking around the room people were eagerly paying attention, and at different points blurted out questions or raised their hands. Temporarily I was transformed to my past in 5th grade (waiting for the drinking fountain). Eventually Charlie informed the audience that there was a separate class people could take for $130 in groups of 20 when posed with the question, “How do we do all this social media stuff?”

So what did they cover?

What are the social media networks and different types. Who are the bloggers and what blogging actually is. What is Twitter, and why micro-blogging is all the rave and important for your business. What are Feeds, news feeds and RSS. Video blogging and the important networks. Vlogging (video blogging) and networks like Viemo and YouTube. Photo sharing on Flickr, Facebook and Picasa. Podcasting and the pro’s and con’s.

Social Bookmarking was big in regards to the different sites and what each function was in regards to business. At one point in their presentation there was a page filled with 1,000 logos of all the potential social networks there are to join. I liked this, it really delivered the point- it’s near impossible to join and be active on them all, so establish your goals and start with the major players like Facebook, del.icio.us, Digg, MySpace and Flickr.

Then Charlie and Terry moved on to main part of their presentation. I appreciated the delivery and simplicity of the nine steps. They spoke to the general “public user” and used metaphors so regular people could relate and understand what they were trying to get across. It was KISS.

One major component that I felt was missed, one very important aspect, that I get calls, web leads and referrals every day on is SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is the cornerstone on how websites get ranked in Google, Yahoo! and MSN and should be a major component involved at the start of every Social Media campaign.

Number two: there was never any mention that marketing people are really sales people. Their main goal is to get people to buy products and services. Yes, social media is a “new way of marketing your business” but there still is that marketing word that we need to understand.

Below are Curve Detroit’s nine steps of social media (and my comments on each).

1. Ready. Aim. Fire.
Social networks reward early adopters. The rabbit wins. Every time.

Great point and completely true. The first to the top of the mountain wins. This is why our agency focused on the internet, building web sites and executing online marketing programs back in the late 90’s. We realized back then that the “new media” (totally played-out phrase) is online marketing and SEO would always be a service that has a long term shelf life. SEO is always changing, more and more small businesses and traditional advertising agencies want SEO for their themselves and also want to resell to their customers. But it all needs a plan and tracking to work. SEO also is about metrics and sales. All marketing people have to remember that they are sales people with cool clothes and paint brushes.

2. Join all. Participate few.
Stake your claim on new networks where your prospects play.

Another great point, but I am half and half on this one. While it may be good to have an account everywhere in all the networks, it sometimes can sometimes have adverse effects. If prospective customers are searching for you, your company or for your services and one of the network profiles happen to appear in a search result what are the chances that the profile is stagnant or shows that you have not updated for months? Would that be the type of person that I would want to work on my business with? Could they potentially be super excited at the start then die off mid-project like they did online? Something to consider when your outlining your Social Media or SEO game plan.

3. PBO is the new SEO.
Ensure your Personal Brand is Optimized at every touchpoint.

Errr, no. PBO may be trendy and a cool new term, but until Google revises their algorithm and updates their patent to not rely so heavily on content, backlinks, anchor text, site structure, etc. then SEO will be the true king online. Each touch point needs to have SEO considerations with keywords at the forefront along with geo-specific locations and terms. People may connect to your through a secure social network, but your LinkedIn profile is crawled and indexed in Google’s search results. You want to make sure your profile is optimized for search and humans. PBO is great, but you must attach metrics to see if PBO is bringing in the sales in contrast to the time you’re spending on it. SEO can do this for sure and so can some social media, but it is not all trackable like organic traffic.,

4. Don’t be that guy.
Social media is a conversation, not a sales pitch.

I agree, but you still need to still focus on sales. You’re in business to make money correct? Marketing online in social media is about your conversations and content. Yes, they need to be genuine and have feeling. Focus on the relationship, the feeling you want to evoke. But remember that your time is valuable and all marketing is advertising, and the purpose of advertising is to create sales.

5. Feed your networks.
Your network needs fresh content to survive, thrive and drive business.

Yes, this is correct. Back to the SEO effect. Google hates duplicate content and has rules that you need to be aware of. Placing your blog posts in multiple networks to be viewed, crawled and indexed need to be considered in the beginning. If not, you could find your main corporate blog with little traffic and light rankings. You’ll wonder why and then come ask us to fix it.

6. It ROIs or it dies.
Build your network, your reputation and your bottom line.

So true. Plan, execute, analyze and repeat. If it is not working then stop and do something else (or hire someone else to do it the right way to achieve your desired outcome). More on this later.

7. Find your golden ratio.
Share the megaphone and increase your own amplification.

Agreed. Know how much participation you need to make in a social network in order for you to justify adding in in some self promotion. Find relevance in the conversations for your services, products or business ideas. Don’t just blurt it out. Also consider the keywords that you want to be relevant for in search back to you, your company and your website. Remember that many social network conversations are being crawled and indexed by Google so chances are they will be found in search results too. Those carefully placed keywords will help you in the long run.

8. Build it before you need it.
Plant, nurture and grow your networks before you expect to harvest.

Agreed, however you really need to determine if becoming a part of 15 Social Media networks is going to contribute to the overall goal (because you sat and defined all your goals, budget and a time line before you ever  started- right?).

9. Tools are not tactics.
A scalpel doesn’t make you a surgeon. Hire the experts.

Nail on the head. We are often approached as I am sure Curve is too, by clients who have attempted to take the “DIY” road with their business marketing. While this appears cost effective on the surface, in the long run they spend much more actual dollars in time and hard cash. If you are considering building a website and then want to take on SEO or social media as an afterthought – STOP. Search engine optimization along with your overall online and company goals need to be at the forefront of any online marketing plan. Social media components, online reputation, networking and how to be found online are very important at the beginning.

In Closing… it is all about real ROI.

My intention with this post was not to be critical of Curve’s program. I’m sure it will do well for them. I just wanted to further illustrate how social media needs to have other considerations before every business owner jumps in with both feet.

Most people’s views about ROI measurement seem to fall along a continuum.  On one end is the group that argues that measuring ROI might be hard, but it’s not impossible and given that the end goal of social media participation is to grow your business, social media marketers are either going to figure it out or they’re going to get the wrong end of the stick.  While engagement metrics are important,  you still need to figure out where engagement sits for the rest of the business, and how it’s integrated into other areas, like sales. If your social media campaigns are contributing to natural search results, for example, then without any measurement of other outcomes, the results are all attributed to SEO and gaining you a search engine rank, and engagement is disregarded. Make sense?

At the other end of the spectrum is a group that, at best, is ambivalent about the idea of trying to measure social media ROI in terms of financial metrics.  Some would say that social media engagement all about humanizing organizations. Businesses are made of human beings and most human beings I know are motivated by many things that are all measured, however profit is only one such motivator.

I truly believe that all marketing, being social media, print, radio or SEO is to sell stuff. Product, yourself and services. It may be an immediate buy or a 10 year sales cycle. Playing in social media now needs very special discretion as a marketing component. Make your focus the goals and tie metrics to them. Our job as marketers is sell something. Those who believe otherwise should probably become a receptionist if all you want to do is chat.  Yes, metrics that indicate the quality of conversations are important and, yes, people should get more out social media participation aside from financial gain.  However, in these tough economic times, if participation isn’t going to result in revenue for your business. The initiatives aren’t going to remain funded (by your time or hard dollars) and it’s all for nothing.

Traditional ad agencies can pitch social media as a new marketing outlet because it is fun, gets people excited and interested. This also helps these agencies replace lost revenue to online advertising and marketing. They may be able to get away with this for now but it won’t last long. Their customers are going to quickly move from exclusively measuring things that indicate level of social participation to measurements that tie to revenue.

My advice is to be smart with the time and money you spend with social networking. You really need to understand how B2B customers are using social media; so many marketers miss the point here and waste time on channels their customers aren’t going to see or use. Remember, its easy to tweet and play all day but sales are what brings the bacon home.

3 Responses to Michigan Small Business Social Media Networking

  1. This is great! Thanks so much. Hope it will continue.

    you can get interesting post about web usability and technology on my Web Usability Blog.

    Sam | February 22, 2009at 10:58 am

  2. I enjoyed reading your post; I am running a small website on video conferencing I am a beginner in this business. I don’t know much about it but I am searching around for material that can increase my knowledge

    video conferencing setup | March 20, 2009at 12:59 am

  3. What a refreshing post to read, thank you Dwight! And to think you wrote this 3 years ago. I can’t express eloquently enough how often I run into a businesses social media site only to find they have abandoned it. Makes me especially sad when I see spammers taking advantage of the abandoned site. Be picky about which SM sites your company uses, don’t create something for the world to engage with if you won’t be around to monitor it.

    Tanya | March 23, 2012at 12:05 pm

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