Dear business owner: Don't fear social media | Kelly Maloney

What are two things you are already tired of hearing about, but also can’t get enough of?

For me, it’s the economy (I’m tired of hearing about it, but want to keep abreast of what’s going on) and social media. Enough already! I get it. I use it. I tell my clients to use it. Can we move on?

Not yet. Because while it seems everyone is using it, that’s just an illusion. I run into businesses every day that aren’t utilizing or capitalizing on this interactive social nirvana. Many are afraid, others don’t see how it would fit into their business structure, and others don’t think they have the time for it.

I would say to those afraid: Try it. There’s no harm in that. Get someone you know (maybe a child) to show you the ropes. You’ll quite possibly be surprised at how simple it is. And the world of electronic media will open a new door for you.

To those who don’t see it fitting into their businesses, I say: Try it. Strategize with marketing experts, your executive team or, if you’re a small business, with trusted colleagues, on ways social media could benefit you. You may not see an immediate or even a direct relation to increased revenues, but if you do it right, you most likely will. At the very least, you’ll raise awareness of your brand.

And for those who think they don’t have the time, I say: You may not. For two reasons: 1) you simply aren’t interested so won’t make the time; 2) you really don’t have the time, in which case if you are truly interested in this being an aspect of your marketing, you can hire someone to do it for you.

As an example, I currently provide this service to clients at a nominal monthly charge depending on the level of service provided and the types of social networking used. These “packages” can be customized, and can include Twitters on specials or announcements; blogging specific to their industry and organization; overseeing their online accounts such as Facebook, Myspace or LinkedIn; and handling their YouTube uploads.

Now here’s an interesting story some readers are at least vaguely familiar with. Three Chicks Catering has been rocking the world of the catering industry in the Pacific Northwest for several years now. Their unique blend of culinary arts, along with savvy marketing and comedic entertainment, have given them an almost pop-icon status.

Things were good, real good. Then the economy had its way with the world, including catered events. What to do? What to do?

I can imagine Nems Scarim and Jayme Arries, co-owners and cousins, looking at each other over their computers and the light bulb going off: Try social media!

But I don’t think it happened quite that way. I suspect they had no idea the powerful vantage point they had when they forayed into it to increase their visibility and marketshare.

“We keep a constant presence on Facebook, utilizing it for letting the community know about any classes we are offering, events we are involved in, and any news or information we think might be useful to them,” Jayme said.

“We use Twitter to follow people we admire, media folks and anyone who might be interested in who we are and what we do, and anyone who offers quality information that we can use to better our own company. We try to interact with people as much as possible,” Nems said.

What started as a marketing vehicle has provided Three Chicks with an avenue to meet others. And, as catering gigs waver, they’ve begun contributing to the community by offering social media classes. “We have discovered a passion for social media. In this day and age, your working capital is your time! If you want to remain relevant in your industry, it will cost you time or money... we decided to invest time,” said Nems, referring to the classes. “We believe this effort breeds loyalty and builds our reputation in the community as a team player. We want to see our communities thrive in spite of the economic mess that surrounds us.”

These efforts have paid off immensely: “We have made amazing contacts, developed cooperative projects, and focused our marketing efforts and support in a way that is satisfying to us and inspiring to others,” Jayme said.

Success such as this for other industries is possible through social media marketing. The key is to start doing it, and then don’t stop.

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