For the past 15 years or so, I’ve been involved in the marketing and communications world, in both paid and ambassador work with sponsors. In this short time span, we’ve seen rapid changes in communications. From Facebook to Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn to just name a few. There is an ever increasing number of ways to ‘talk’ to the world or just your friends.

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Check-in, write a review, ‘like’ a business or tell your family where you are enjoying the best burrito in town. For some people, this is a common daily feedback loop. These folks are always adding their activities but also tracking their social circle whereabouts and favorites as well. And for others, it’s information overload.

But the truth is, it’s powerful information, especially if it is about your business. More and more business owners are aware of the power of social media. For example, let’s take Joe’s Coffee Bar. Joe, the owner, knows there are a few Yelp! reviews, some good and some not so good. But he doesn’t have the time or know-how to deal with them. Does he even know he can influence his social media presence?

Check out Yahoo!’s Small Business Advisor article about Why Social Media Spending is Too Low. I liked this article because it hits on a very bit topic: the Knowledge Gap.

Know-How. Young people who grew up with social media as a daily tool can be very well versed in how to use the applications. Our example coffee shop owner Joe, might think he can get a teenager to help him start a Facebook page in exchange for a free coffee every now and then. That’s a great start, but that’s only one market.

If Joe is a smart business owner, he’ll want to touch most, if not all, the online social scenes relevant to his business. Now moving from just setting up a Facebook page to creating profiles on two or more sites (maybe ten?), has grown the workload exponentially.  It is now a project that takes more than the free time the teen has. And Joe, well he has better things to do, like run his business.

Time. And then there is the time spent maintaining profiles and sites. Attracting new and old customers with deals, specials and events. Responding to comments via social media is a timely matter, too. This is important because letting your online presence get stagnant can hurt. Here’s a nice article about why from Examiner.com. It’s more than just having the pages set up on all the social media sites, it is the time spent updating them, adding new features and reasons to stay in front of potential customers and having these people do the marketing, in a sense, for you!

CC by teamstickergiant from Flickr

CC by teamstickergiant from Flickr

ROI.  Valuing ROI (return on investment) in social media is still a tough cookie. Do more ‘likes’ turn into more customers? For starters, it can’t hurt! I think the right mix of application know-how, marketing experience and dedicated time can turn in to what each business owner considers good ROI.

In all, I think we will start to see more small (and large) businesses taking social media, and its potential, seriously. A budget to maintain social presence is typically a fraction of a traditional marketing budget. Read this great article by Justin Yong about the benefits of social media marketing compared to traditional marketing.

Next time, I’ll touch on ways you can get involved with social media marketing.