We've been around a lot of small business owners in the past year and we had some experience in how small-business owners see social media and how they perceive what those platforms can or cannot do for their companies. One thing is certain as a result, a phrase to summarize how those business owners, see those social media platforms.
"Sure, we need those"
Most business owners immediately comprehend that social media are a "must" to their company. There are a few reasons why they think that. First, because all others are present there. Most of their competitors are there and so, if their business is not, then social users will never know about them but all the others.
Another reason is because they understand that social media can give them "access" to a lot of people in a more direct way than tv or radio. Even if those small businesses are not financialy strong enough for tv or radio ads, then social media can still work for them. There are more than a few here that choose to go with social for a reason which is by default wrong. That is when business owners believe that this vast audience of people present and active in social media, can be immediatelly and directly approached. This is wrong, basically because no one can promise optimal engagement and exposure for every business and every business type. Brands need to work their way into the social network and keep true to some basic rules, in order to optimize this engagement.
"Sure, I will go with all platforms"
Back in the day when printed flyers did the job of promotion, the more the places your flyers were distributed at, the better. This idea is passed on to how owners see the way to enter social media. The more social media I am present in, the better, they say, but this is quite wrong. Actually, such an approach can work the other way around. Doing it right in social media needs a lot of components, on of which i.e. is strategy and another, loyalty. Imagine having to manage and please pay attention to the word "manage", facebook, twitter, youtube, instagram, pinterest, your blog and more social media every day. Not a full 8-hour clock would be enough to optimally manage all those platforms. Basically, managers think that one person can do all of those within a day and also attend to other business tasks in a daily basis, which is, pardon me, an illusion at least.
"Ok, I will hire someone part-time"
Going with the option of hiring a social sitter is the way to go. Surely one person dedicated to the brand's social presense can do the trick very well. But that someone, cannot be just anybody. Social sitters need to have a special set of skills to be able to cope with a strategic social campaign. Such skills should be i.e. the ability to find info, the ability to talk to people, be social, know the platforms' technical structure and also be able to comprehend the way social networks work. Not everyone has this set of skills.
"I will assign social media to my secretary"
This is another way things can go utterly wrong. A secretary ( or a warehouse manager, or the accountant e.t.c. ) has things to worry about in his/her every-day task list for the company. Social media management most times, cannot fit in there. A social sitter for a company has to have a clear mind to attend to the social media traffic and engagement with potential or current customers, without disturbances from outside sources like for instance, having to answer the phone. So no, in general, a "secretary" or an "accountant" cannot take over the social campaigns of the brand. There are a few times this can work, but this is not the norm.
"Too expensive for doing some facebook posts"
There are a lot of business owners that perceive social media management and social sitting as an every-day project of posting 1-2 posts in facebook and then copying those to twitter and LinkedIn and that's it. Sure, this is an every-day work to do but it cannot be called social strategy. You see social media strategy is not about posting and keeping things fresh only. Its about having goals, understanding your audience and your customers, making people talk about you, spreading the word, keeping people close and much much more. In the context of devising such a strategy, maybe this price which the business owner sees as an unwanted cost is not too expensive.
"When will I see customers in my store?"
Actually no one can tell. Really, there is no one to come up with numbers on how your sales will increase by the time you get into the social media. Also, there is no one to say when its going to happen. Its not that grim either. Going into social media and doing it right ( based on those rules that are required ) has shown ( http://socialmediatoday.com/pamdyer/1777136/10-examples-social-media-roi-infographic ) it can increase ROI and sales but this cannot be presented in raw numbers. The general idea is that the better you get into social media the more your customers and potential customers will "feel" better to come to your store. About 75% of those following a brand in social media, tend to buy from that brand. That's because they trusted the via social media, they liked them via what they said and how they behaved via social media, they liked how the brand worked with the customer, in social media this is publicly available. So yes, you are about to increase your sales at some point, but more importantly, you are about to increase your brand awareness and customer engagement... if you play the game right.
"I think I'll pass, I don't believe in those things, too expensive, too time-consuming, maybe later"
That is called "avoiding the innevitable" and its a game loser. Social media user base is increasing rapidly all around the world every day. People, as time passes by, spend more and more time on those social media and not just on i.e. facebook. Young audiences now (18-35) present extreme penetration rates to social media which can come up to 90+% in some areas of the world and also older audiences feel so interested in those platforms they open up profiles there too. There's also the mobile social media usage which is increasing also very rapidly and means that people now, take social media with them too. So people are coming in, they are there, ready to be approached by brands and see interesting stuff, ideas, promotions, sales and discounts, call-to-action interesting incentives and much much more. Staying away will zero-out your possibilities of getting some piece of the pie and also will give a great advantage to each of your competitors that is there insted of you. What is more, there are younger customers that if they don't see a brand in i.e. facebook, they will never see it, they will never think it even exists. So maybe staying away is no option.
"I feel hopeless... now what?"
Don't feel bad about social media. Put down the costs and numbers and see if your business can sustain them, choose the right person to do it right and you will see that there is more to gain than lose or spend. Again, no one can promise you everything so I will close this by saying that you will need to start playing the social media game and see what it can bring back to you.