What “Big” Social Media Means for Small Businesses

This is a guest post by Megan Totka, Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com.

twitter drawingIt’s been one week since Ellen Degeneres’ groundbreaking selfie and the Twitterverse is still buzzing.

And why not? Shattering the record for most retweets is nothing to scoff at. By using the Oscars as her platform and pure star power as a catalyst for buzz, the now-infamous photo boasts over three million retweets and, in addition to breaking a few records, the snapshot literally “broke” Twitter for a good while during the Oscars.

Social media and viral content working on such a large scale is always a marvel to behold; however, it does create a bit of a conundrum for small businesses.

That is, how can we possibly create our own buzz when it seems like there’s not enough to go around? Even our best attempts to keep up with trends and hop on the bandwagon feel hollow as every other marketer on the block seems to be doing the exact same thing. As social media marketing remains an enigma for many SMBs, large-scale success seems so far away. With so many marketers reaching for the same brass ring, how do we make our own mark?

So, Are We Just Chasing Trends? 

Hashtags. Trending topics. Newsjacking.

Oftentimes, our social efforts may seem futile as we’re constantly chasing. We’re glancing at trending topics on Twitter every once in a while, attempting to latch onto to what’s hot and avoiding what’s not. Unfortunately, such efforts often feel like putting a round peg in a square hole. The latest Miley Cyrus meltdown or Superbowl stunt may not exactly be the best fit for our businesses and brands, nor may such stories mesh with our marketing.

We may run into similar problems as we attempt to newsjack, that is, latch on to current events and apply on our own spin to stories in the news. It doesn’t help that it seems like every other business around us, competitor or otherwise, is trying to tackle the very same trends for their fifteen minutes of “fame.” And why not? That’s what we’ve been taught to do, hasn’t it?

The short answer is yes, we’re often on the chase. The more important question remains; is it worth it?

Why Size Does (and Doesn’t) Matter

Let’s first consider that social media “success” is not black and white. Regardless of your industry or strategy, “success” is relative. A campaign that Company A considers a slam dunk could be a stinker for Company B. While some of us are looking for leads and sales, others are looking for reactions and engagements. And although we often acknowledge that social success isn’t always about dollars, we can almost all agree that time is money. Therefore, it’s crucial that we make the most of our time and understand what we’re doing when we’re sailing the social channels.

The key to social is setting goals and starting small.

No, small businesses cannot compete with the Oscars. We cannot compete with the biggest celebrities and their hordes of followers (often in the millions). It’s a battle that we cannot and shouldn’t truly worry about winning.

What we can do, however, is appeal to our audiences and build from the ground up. Small business social media often benefits from a grassroots approach. That is, we must learn to appeal to our niches and branch out from there. While most SMBs can’t compete with their big box competitors in terms of scale, they have a distinct advantage when it comes to being the little guy. SMBs have the time and heart to reach out to their followers and address their concerns. Likewise, they can be personable and make connections that PR departments and company accounts simply cannot. Instead of focusing on what don’t have, focus on the benefits of being small.

Plus, You Can’t Fight The Organic 

Perhaps Ellen planned her selfie beforehand. Maybe she didn’t.

Regardless, it was a seemingly organic moment and she took the opportunity to make it work in a big way. In short, you can’t fight what’s organic, nor can you capture and bottle the magic behind such moments. Small businesses, however, can seize their moments and opportunities when it comes to social media. If a big client or potential customer is engaging you, it’s your responsibility to follow up.

Ellen saw that she had the grandest stage to make something happen. Maybe your stage doesn’t seem so grand; however, there’s no reason why you can’t apply the same mentality to your own marketing.

The Bottom Line

Small business social media is and continues to be the elephant in the room for many marketers. With limited budgets and resources, we often see our efforts as futile and marvel as what the “big guns” manage to spawn through the social channels. Regardless, small businesses should instead focus on their own definition of “success” and set their goals accordingly.

Just because you don’t have millions of followers or retweets doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. Small businesses must start small and grow from the ground up. It’s what we do with our opportunities that define our companies, not the size of the opportunities themselves.

Image via Flickr

Megan TotkaAbout the Author

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.