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5 Things That Small Businesses Want To Hear About Social Media (#5)

by James Ball on January 11, 2010

I’ve enjoyed looking into the 5 questions this past week, but alas, the series comes to an end today with this post. Today, the last of these:

“Can I get by without social media?”

“Is it really as easy as I’ve been led to believe?”

“Can it save my business?”

“Is it too late for my business to get involved?”

“Can’t someone else just do this for me?”

I hope that I’ve shed some insight to the questions I’ve addressed. Today I’m looking at the last question, and although it’s not the one I hear the most out of the 5, it is the one that I deal with the most.

“Can’t someone else just do this for me?”

Why is this question so popular? It’s not that people are lazy, or don’t have a desire to take a more pro-active role in the marketing of their business. No, I believe that it’s largely due to a few main concerns that small businesses are right to express.

Some that are familiar to me would be – “Wouldn’t I be better off hiring a professional to handle this for my company? I don’t have any earthly idea about any of this stuff. I mean, I hear about it, and I believe that we need to be involved; I just don’t know where to begin.” This is pretty close to – “I’ve actually looked into it and we’ve experimented some, it just seems like the learning curve is a considerable one. Can’t we just pay someone to get us set up and then take over from there?”

I also hear, and rightly so – “I run my own business, and we are a small company, we simply don’t have the human resources or time to invest in this, though I need and want to.” Does any of this resonate with you? Social media requires real time and real effort. It’s necessary to designate real resources and assign a real importance to the topic. It’s evident that this is not going away, and that all of us will be affected by social media, whether we decide to participate or not, it’s changing the way business and marketing are being done.

I think that companies and individuals would be best suited by being deeply involved from the beginning.  There is absolutely no one outside of yourself that share in your passion, understanding, and care for your business. Certainly no one cares for your current and future clients the way you do.  Who can engage and inform these any better? Who knows your history any better?  For this reason and if at all possible, getting involved yourself is best. This is one of those things that you’ll find is better handled by you and not another.

Depending upon the size and structure of your company, it may or may not be possible to identify internal personnel and resources that can be turned towards implementing a social media strategy. Consider those that would do well by wearing your company’s social media seal of approval.

All by yourself and/or in-house may not be an option at all. Perhaps you’ve been approached by a familiar PR Company or marketing resource that you’ve dealt with in the past. These can certainly be a good fit provided they are equipped, experienced, and can deliver the results that you desire.

As I finish this series on this particular question, a blessing and incredible resource has fallen from the interwebs this very day. It comes as a “Social Media Request for Proposal Template” from Social Media Group. 

“Social Media Group ( has developed this Social Media Request for Proposal (SMRFP) template to assist organizations in selecting a provider of social media professional services. This document is freely available for modifying or adapting for any purpose. The questions listed below should apply to a wide variety of organizations including business-to-consumer, business-to-business, government and non-profit.” – Social Media Group

Some of the questions and qualifications that the template asks:

  • Please outline your social media strategy process.
  •  Which stakeholder groups do you typically include in a strategy engagement?
  • Describe the final deliverable of a strategy engagement
  • What is your approach to risk management in social media?
  • How do you incorporate existing applications?
  • What is your brand/reputation monitoring process (i.e. proprietary tools used, methodology, etc)?
  • What is your opinion on automated sentiment analysis?
  • What technology do you use to assist in online monitoring?
  • How long (on average) between a potential issue being posted online and being flagged to the client?
  • What volume of mentions has your organization handled in the past (e.g. 2,500 mentions per week)?
  • What methodology do you use for measuring the success of your social media programs for clients? Please provide specific examples based on past work
  • Have you developed any proprietary metrics? How have you applied these for clients?
  • How have you defined R.O.I. from a social media perspective in the past?
  • How do you take data points generated from various social media channels and measurement tools and combine to give an objective/comprehensive view?
  • What is your approach to server analytics and community analytics for program measurement?

This document (.pdf file) can be downloaded HERE, and modified to fit your needs. If you are searching for someone to partner with your company and help you to engage in social media practices, this timely document can help guide you. It may save you some time and money as well.

If you are already involved with social media as yourself, of if you’ve hired someone to help and you have a story, please tell me about it in the comments. I value your input.

Heather January 11, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Lawd, you are totally the guru of this stuff.

That, or you've had nothing better to do in all the snow? 😉

proud…very proud.

James Ball January 11, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Ha, can’t be a guru… don’t have the handbook! I’m simply putting out the best stuff I can write, find, or elaborate on Heather. Lots of people in my neighborhood seem to want to know more about it all from a “local”. See a need – fill a need…right? Thank you for commenting, I appreciate your support and readership Heather.

@WholeMind January 11, 2010 at 10:27 pm

In my opinion, it is best for companies to have someone that is deeply involved with the business (not necessarily the business owner or a current employee) to handle the social media marketing efforts. The person needs to be someone that loves to (or would love to) work for the company. If the person does not believe in the company and doesn't want to engage with people both online and off, it will show.

There is only one reason a person wants to follow a company online, to benefit themselves in some way. You can develop your network by engaging with people, connecting with them, and fostering reciprocity. Or you can build that network by offering free stuff, discounts, boring updates people will ignore, and aggressively following people. Which one sounds better for your company?

Personally, I have only worked with a handful of companies on their social media marketing. I offer simple advice to most anyone willing to listen but to get me to actually role up my sleeves and help with strategy, implementation, risk management, monitoring, measurement and metrics you better have a product/service/company that I absolutely love.

James Ball January 11, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Great input! I love that you point out "fostering reciprocity", this is something that I know you to champion personally, and it’s an excellent tactic. This is not to cheapen it or to say it’s an easy thing to do…far from it. To master the art (if I may call it so) of fostering reciprocity would be a worthy study for anyone interested in social media engagement. Thank you for stopping in and commenting Mike.

James Ball January 12, 2010 at 1:14 am

Very good advice Todd. It's great to have you stop in and leave a comment!

@Brandon101 January 12, 2010 at 4:05 am

This gets to the heart of the matter for me James. I'm a big believer in business becoming more social overall, not just in Marketing. This is probably hardest to navigate in small businesses that have been established for many years and are resistant to change, but the concept of someone else 'doing it' only goes so far in my opinion. Ultimately, the stakeholders in the business need to dial in and pay attention to what's going on in the space and engage with the people that pay to keep the lights on. This is not to say that people can't be hired or contracted to be effective brand ambassadors, but it's not as easy as just throwing an intern into the role or farming everything out to an agency.

I do believe that agencies and consultants can provide tremendous value to businesses by being strategic guides and monitors of the brand online. Particularly in smaller businesses, very few people have the time or bandwidth to stay on top of the various opportunities that are emerging. Having a guiding hand along the journey is extremely important, and I believe is most effective when paired with some form of internal engagement.

Thanks for sharing the RFP – those are some excellent questions on the list!

James Ball January 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

One of the things that stand out for me in the RFP document that I link to is the section titled “REPUTATION MANAGEMENT / SOCIAL MEDIA MONITORING”. This whole section, along with much of the overall language in the document forces those who are seeking outside help to look at the reality of the “relationship” aspect of social media. As with any relationship, the chances that crisis and disagreement will arise is almost a given. Companies need to understand that the social media “staff”, internal or otherwise, will be the face and voice of the business across many channels and touch points. It needs to be understood that the sailing is not always smooth, and the forecast is not always sunny.
I’m agreeing with you that using outside help to guide and monitor can be a very good thing. I’m just especially pleased with the language of this document that brings out the depth and importance of the role that is to be assigned. I also agree that having a well “plugged in” resource either inside or outside the company is crucial to staying informed about current trends and opportunities.
I always like your comments Brandon. It always pleases me to have your input here!

Todd Schnick January 12, 2010 at 12:22 am

If you are going to hire an outside vendor to "execute" on social media, you better set clear definitions of what that really means. If that simply entails sending out a few one-way tweets here and there, then it won't work for you. It really is about building long-term relationships.

Your vendor needs to invest deeply into the organization to know it well, be committed to engaging with real people, and most importantly teach and encourage those within the organization about the process so they can contribute and learn.

Kathy Drewien January 12, 2010 at 4:48 am

Small business owners I represent quickly understand a social business strategy requires resources; often resources of time and/or money they don't have at their disposal. One of my goals when designing a strategy is to analyze which existing tasks and responsibilities can be outsourced or delegated; thus freeing time for building and engaging a community.

Developing online relationships is not "ghost writing." If the company holds to that belief, then I've not done my job and a social business campaign is doomed from the outset.

James Ball January 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I like the way you work Kathy. Identifying potential internal resources and deciding what can and cannot be handled in-house is a good first step. If certain tasks and responsibilities are to be out-sourced, keeping as much of the actual community building and engaging close to home is a sound tactic…I appreciate how you described this.

“Developing online relationships is not "ghost writing.” – Couldn’t have said it better myself! Thank you for taking the time to comment today!

Maria Ogneva January 24, 2010 at 11:22 pm

Great post, James! It's music to my ears when people talk about importance of measurement and ROI. Until these metrics and a roadmap to where you are trying to get as a result of social media activity, are developed, SM efforts will remain tentative at best. Have you tried many monitoring and engagement systems? Ping me if you want to try Biz360's Community Insights.

Maria Ogneva
@themaria @biz360

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