The Case for Social Media: Small Business Edition

In order to appreciate this article; please allow me to give a little background about myself. Upon graduating from college I moved to Chicago, IL, a big transition from Olean, NY. One of the things that I quickly noticed in Chicago was that competition in every industry was stiff it didn’t matter if the service was dry cleaning  or dog walking, if one company did it odds are so did five others in a ten block radius. As such businesses in Chicago had to adapt to the stiff competition by constantly trying new marketing techniques. People held signs, passed out fliers, or simply yelled at you to entice you to come in, and at least once I week I almost tripped on some new menu that had been slipped under my apartment door. Certainly, these businesses were no strangers to online marketing. Every bar, restaurant, and clothing store were on facebook, and many of them were starting to join twitter as well. When I moved back to Pittsburgh I was startled that while many of my favorite places had facebook pages (though many were neglected) the onerous was on me to find them. In Chicago facebook pages, twitter handles, and QR codes were plastered over everything menus, fliers, posters etc. Yet, this trend hasn’t begun to hit smaller markets but, once it does it will be a powerful force.

The question small business owners constantly ask is, “why is social media important?” Well someone who works for facebook might say that there are over 500 million reasons to use facebook (the number of people with accounts). To put that in perspective if you walked into a room of 13 random people odds are at least one of them has a facebook. That’s great you say but, what does that mean to me as a small business owner? Facebook and twitter are platforms, platforms to share ideas with hundreds even thousands of people reading them. Let’s take a micro example; I trust my friend Harry, everyone knows that Harry likes to go out to eat, and generally he gives good recommendations. So when Harry “likes” a new restaurant on facebook I am inclined to trust his opinion.

Twitter on the other hand adds a new and interesting dynamic to any recommendation. Twitter boasts 175 million members, with the average person having 126 “followers.” But, what is truly interesting about twitter is only 20% of its members access the site online. That means 80% of the people using the site are on their mobile phones, and let me emphasize the important word is mobile. Let’s go back to our example Harry is now on twitter letting his followers know about his new favorite drinking establishment. I check my phone see that Harry is having a good time and invite myself to join. And that is the true power of Social Media!