Social media for small businesses

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					Social media for small businesses

The terms 'social media' and its affiliates 'social network', 'social graph', etc have gone through a
transition; from being jargon to cliches. Also, social media marketing has shed its tag of being
'snake oil sales' to becoming an integral part of any organisation's marketing and customer
reach strategy.

Considering any small- or medium-sized enterprise would have limited marketing and PR
spends, it becomes imperative to define a strategy that allows you to leverage all of social media
at a minimal cost. To arrive at your social media campaign or activation you need to understand
what social media is and what each platform on this media can deliver. You also need to set your
goals with respect to each of these platforms, all of them aligning with your over-arching
marketing, PR and/or CRM strategy, of course.

While Facebook and Twitter are the more famous social networks around, you have to be sure
where and how and (and to shake things up here a bit) if at all, they fit into your activations.
More often than not you will find a fit for at least one of these networks.

Twitter makes for a great customer response platform and can also act as the main network
where you would build your community. Take the example of Gostana, a burger and salad cafe
located in Mumbai. They use Twitter as their primary network as well as branding platform.
Their Twitter handle, @Gostana, regularly tweets what is new on their menu, interesting food
and recipes and of any events happening at the cafe. They also accept orders via Twitter (which
of course have to be confirmed by phone). This high level of engagement has helped them build
a community that patronizes their cafe and has also helped create a brand exclusively through
what we will call Free and Earned Media.

Now, media per se can be broadly classified as Free media, Bought or Paid media and Earned
media aka 'word-of-mouth'. Free Media would mean PR releases, your Facebook page and
Twitter handle, presence on any other social network in any form, your website, blogs that your
organisation owns. However, we need to add a rider here. The term 'Free Media' may give an
impression that it is at no cost, which is a tad misleading. There is a content creation and
management cost involved.
Paid media is made up of advertisements, advertorials and so on, while Earned media is the
community's chatter about your brand. This would include mentions on social platforms about
your business or brand, articles in the press, traditional and otherwise, and any other content
created independently by your consumers with your brand as a peg, for example, a photo gallery
or video centered around your brand. Conventional wisdom suggests that Earned media would
be the most difficult to obtain and only large, iconic brands would have independent
communities formed around them. While the former is true the latter is not. Any
brand/business can have media created by their consumers. For example, if your company
manufactures electronic components, your community would be your buyers and suppliers.
Now, the media they create would be in the form of forum threads, independent product
validation, reviews on B2B product marketplace such as and so on. At this point,
you are thinking: Is that even social media?

The answer is yes. Any medium that allows for content to be propagated through a built-in
network is classified as being social in nature. Suddenly you see your landscape of social media
opening up. Your social media strategy must thus be comprehensive and it should define how
you leverage user reviews, threads from forums, comments and responses on your social
network, and posts and content by users in addition to the content you put out through official
channels like your Facebook page, company blog, Twitter handle etc.

It would be safe to say that there is not a standard templatized solution for your social media
marketing needs and this highly organic medium requires you to adopt a very nimble strategy.
So, put on your best dancing shoes and get set to jive with your customers in the social space.