Why Are We Failing To Help Small Business Understand Social Media?

cartoon by @gapingvoid

cartoon by @gapingvoid

Mashable just reported a statistic that blew my mind: 76% of small businesses still do NOT find social media useful in generating business.


I have to be honest, I just don’t understand it. I will further admit, I don’t know the details of the study, but I wonder how many of those small businesses haven’t tried social media versus having tried social media without success?

It is an important distinction.

But ignoring social media, or pretending it doesn’t exist is a one-way ticket to oblivion. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday soon.

For those of you still stuck in the first of these two scenarios, here are 4 things to think about:

  1. Marketing is changing. Deal with it. The longer you wait to start, the harder it will be to catch up with your competition.
  2. If you are still afraid of giving the world a chance to speak negatively about you or your service, deal with it. The ability to talk about a business online is only going to get more pervasive.
  3. The content problem. If you are afraid that you don’t have enough to say, then you just don’t understand how social media works. Content is easy. All you have to do is think. And, you know, talk to your customers once in a while.
  4. And if you think that you won’t have enough time, then you are doomed. Folks, this is where marketing is going. And if you don’t make time, you will ultimately fall way too far behind. That said, it doesn’t take as much time as you might think…


So, those are the four main reasons I hear every day about why most small business people don’t believe in social media. And while I want to fault them, I will not. Why?

Because it is my responsibility, and the that of every marketing influencer. We have so far failed to help these folks understand not only the power, but the necessity, of integrating social media into your small business marketing program.

But why are we failing? Are we not telling the story enough? Is it because we can’t easily explain the ROI of social media? Is it because we don’t want to let people in on the magic formula, and keep them at a competitive disadvantage? Who knows.

But I think the reason that 76% of small business people don’t believe is that they just don’t believe yet. Maybe they think that the new marketing requires more work than the old style of marketing, where you just paid money to advertise. The new way, you have to actually engage with people. And that’s not always easy.

So I think it is a combination of us marketing influencers doing a better job of articulating this new way, and in a way that is more easily understood and actionable. AND…I think small business folks need to – with this new understanding – take an educated leap of faith and learn this new way of marketing.

In the end, we will all win. We will be better connected, serving one another in a better way, and running stronger businesses.

What do you think?

Be Intrepid.

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  • http://donaldlafferty.com/ Don Lafferty

    I feel ya.

    Whether I’m doing a formal presentation to a chamber of commerce or having a beer with a buddy, I see all kinds of light bulbs blinking on when I talk about using social media tools to identify and engage community to drive business development.

    It’s when I leave the room that the progress seems to falter, that is, when it’s time to roll up their sleeves and do the work, they become a bit overwhelmed because, after all, we’re talking about small businesses here where time is their most presious commodity, even if it isn’t working capital.

    It’s easy for the overworked small business owner to put off this channel, or simply add it to their to-do list along with new carpets, fresh paint or any number of other capital improvements.

    I’m starting to have more success getting action when I’m able to do one of two things: show them how their competitors are using the tools, or show them the real data – an investment on my part – demonstrating in black and white the online behavior trends in their target demographics.

  • http://www.sagesmallbiz.com kisha solomon

    @ don: I wish I saw light bulbs blinking – mostly I’m met with some pretty heavy cynicism. I try to use a narrative of my own or another’s experience to provide an example of real-life benefits.

    Toddd – I think one additional reason might be the simple fact that not everyone is comfortable or skilled with either technology or writing. Social media requires a greater-than-average use of both.

    Also, I notice a tendency with new business owners to want to keep business and personal interactions in separate spaces. Social media usually blurs the line more than in-person networking, and that makes some people uncomfortable.

    Another great post!