Is Bigger Better? Not on Social Media

Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Social Media [ 0 Comments ]

size doesn't matter in socialIt’s easy to feel like a small fish in the social media landscape. Large, national corporations routinely attract tens of thousands of fans and followers. Small businesses might reasonably conclude, “There is no way I can compete.”

Do not sell yourself short, small businesses. Here’s some good news: in the social media space, bigger is not necessarily better. While it’s true that national corporations have economies of scale on their side, being a small fish in social media carries a number of distinct advantages that enterprising businesses can leverage.

Related: How to Add Social Share Buttons to Your Site

The Small Business Advantage on Social Media

  1. Small businesses can differentiate themselves in social media by being unique, interesting, and fun. They can take risks that corporations could never do. They can be human and authentic, which is more difficult for cookie-cutter corporations. Large corporations are not set up for true two-way engagement and storytelling,
  2. Large companies move slowly and must navigate bureaucracies. On social media, small businesses have the advantage. Their ability to respond quickly and to provide customized service via social media is a competitive strength.
  3. Small businesses know their local market. They say, all politics is local. Now, with social media, the same is true of business. Small business owners who know the ins and outs of the local market can grow deeper relationships with their social media fans and followers.

Real-world examples of winners and losers in the social media space abound; the case study of JC Pennys is instructive. After launching its Facebook store to great fanfare, the department store shut it down after just a few months due to sluggish sales.

The takeaway: JC Pennys had a corporate mindset, shaped by traditional, mass-market media and promotional advertising. Their Facebook store failed to cut through the clutter and connect emotionally.

By contrast, there is little known Mandie Miller, an air traffic controller with a taste for sweets who gave it all up to launch Got What It Cakes. Think Miller was discouraged by her size? Instead, it worked to her advantage.

Related: The Pros and Cons of Google+ for Small Businesses

It might seem counter-intuitive, but Miller found more success moving product over social media than larger corporations.

The 5 As of Social Media Success

What are the lessons for small businesses? Know your strengths and know your weaknesses. You may never get 200,000 followers, and that’s okay. Instead, we recommend small businesses focus on the 5 As that are key to social-media success:

  • Agility. Move fast and within reason, take risks.
  • Authority. Use content to build your credibility. Have a compelling product or service that cannot be easily replicated.
  • Authenticity. Be real. Seek conversation and connection. The sales will come.
  • Accessibility. Be available and responsive on social media.
  • Adaptability. The advantage of being smaller is that you can be flexible and adaptable. As your customers’ needs change, so should you.

Got What It Cakes is only one example. There are countless businesses moving serious product via social media, size be damned.

Related: 4 Twitter Strategies Every Small Business Owner Needs to Succeed

And yet, according to one study, under one-third of small business owners use Facebook for business and just 18 percent use Linked-In. At seven percent, Twitter is barely on the radar screen. And, those that do invest in social media often leave it to an intern. This is the other side of the coin, and it’s a missed opportunity.

If done properly, social media engages customers and drives sales in ways that bigger fish are not equipped to do. Small businesses without the in-house capability ought to consider hiring a social-media consultant to provide that expertise.

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