For many reading this, there is bad news coming. But before I deliver it, I want to start by saying that I applaud all the local businesses that have dipped a toe into the sea of social media. Your reasons for doing so are myriad, but from what I’ve learned, many of you have done it for one or more of these reasons:
- Social media is free, so why not?
- You have a personal Facebook page and noticed that some businesses use Facebook, so why not yours?
- The effectiveness of your Yellow Pages ad and your mass mailings has fallen off sharply, so you thought you’d try the digital route.
All of these reasons are valid. However, based on what I see from local businesses using digital, it’s apparent those reasons aren’t compelling enough to get them past the first couple steps of the process.
Many have gotten as far as setting up accounts on one or two digital channels. Some have spent time and maybe even a little money making their social pages look good; perhaps have gone as far as posting to their newsfeed.
What I notice most often, though, is a lack of engagement, which says to me that the early efforts were pretty much a waste. I am certain that those businesses are disappointed too. That would explain why there are so many abandoned business social sites.
I’m in the business of building Digital Neighborhoods™. As such, part of my job is to help businesses that have “tried and died” in the social media struggle, get back on the horse. This time, though, I ask them to recognize their misconceptions and establish realistic expectations for social media.
The cold, hard truth
Here’s the bad news: Just because social media is free, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Starting with the fundamentals, I reveal a few truths:
- Your mere presence on a digital channel does not qualify as online marketing.
- The use of modern marketing technology must be accompanied by a modern marketing mindset. (Toss the marketing manual on outbound techniques from the ‘90s.)
- Neither an intern (nor your nephew) is qualified to “do” your social media for you – at least not to start.
- If you’re not using social media as a consumer yourself, you are at a huge disadvantage for using it for your business.
- Social media on its own will not drive business to your door.
This may be more bad news that you don’t want to hear, but here it is: The Internet and social media are not going way.
You may have abandoned your efforts to be online, or maybe you’re one of those businesses that hasn’t even tried and continues to resist. Either way, the longer you wait to get acclimated to this digital age, the more difficult it will be to make an entrance.
There’s light at the end of that tunnel
On the bright side, the choice is yours – to start building an effective and attractive digital presence . . . or not. No one is forcing you.
I have some good news for those who are already using social media for your local business (even if you’re not elated with the results) and for those who are ready to start or to get back into it.
As a builder of Digital Neighborhoods, I have developed an approach for identifying and connecting with people who can appreciate you as a local business. This approach addresses some of the greatest challenges that local businesses encounter when trying to establish an effective digital presence.
Applying the approach requires a commitment on your part to:
- Be familiar with the social channels you plan to use for your business (I recommend limiting yourself to one or two, at first.)
- Be prepared to dedicate a set number of hours per week, consistently, to your online image.
- Be cognizant of the fact that social media is good for building relationships, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
If those requirements are within your capability, then your social marketing strategy can benefit greatly from a customized digital neighborhood. Subscribe to my blog where I write about characteristics of digital neighborhoods, and how they reduce the ramp-up time and effort for local businesses establishing their digital presence.
If you have specific questions about what steps you can take to start building your digital neighborhood, please leave a comment, below.