Small companies have unique benefits that help them in social media.

They can be more personal, more intimate, move faster, and be more flexible.

Big businesses have problems due to their size, organization and bureaucracies. But they also shine in some areas that small companies fall short.

Here are 5 social media lessons that small businesses can learn from big businesses.

 

Social Media Cartoon Comic - Going Viral
Image courtesy of seanrnicholson

 

1. Begin with the End in Mind

If business goals aren't dictating your social media activities, then you're wasting your time, effort and money.

Because your goals dictate how you organize your daily activities or short-term tactics. So it doesn't matter how many times you update Twitter, or what hashtags you use if you don't understand why you're using Twitter in the first place.

There are only three ways social media can help your business:

  1. Increase brand awareness by growing your reach
  2. Build customer loyalty by engaging more and providing support
  3. Increase sales by getting more people to purchase, more frequently

Now pick one goal, and prioritize your tactics to solve that piece. American Express first started by addressing one social media goal: customer service.

American Express first made its appearance on Twitter (in 2009) with the @AskAmex handle, focused on servicing Cardmember and merchant questions and needs. Since the beginning, American Express has built its social strategy on service, and it continues to improve its implementation by taking in user feedback.

From day one, they were intent on using social media for customer service. And by organizing their internet marketing tactics behind one goal, they are able to out-execute their competitors and achieve the maximum ROI on their effort.

 

2. Be a Publisher First

Online marketing can't exist without content.

No SEO. No email marketing. No social media.

That means you're in the media business. So you better start learning how to create valuable content. Mashable recently highlighted some hot media trends, with "brands building publications and entertainment channels" coming in at number 6.

Red Bull’s homepage, for example, looks like an action-sports news site. The company pumps out professional-grade news articles, feature stories and videos each day, pushing them to social marketing channels such as Facebook and Twitter. This fuels the company’s social media accounts with content and points followers back to Red Bull’s site, rather than elsewhere on the Internet.

You're creating content every time you publish a social media update, email newsletter, presentation and blog post.

So if you want to succeed in online marketing, then you need to be publisher first. All of the traffic-generating tactics like SEO and social media only fuel and optimize that content.

 

3. Understand What Motivates Your Audience

People always tell me that their industry is "boring". They can't create content because no one will read it.

But in reality, their industry isn't boring - they are.

Nobody cares about your business (or mine!). People only care about themselves (including you and me!).

It's not our fault. We're too busy, too stressed, and have too much going on. So the only way to focus is to worry about what's most important - ourselves!

Don't create content around you, your product, company or industry.

How many people could care less about paint, power tools and dishwashers? But look at what Lowe's does. They focus on what people are trying to do with their products.

The way you come up with blog content ideas is to understand your audience, and the benefit your products or services give them.

 

4. Don't Overemphasize Tactics

David Meerman Scott has written extensively about the importance of real-time marketing. But one of his biggest takeaway's is that, "Social media are tools. Real time is a mindset.”

Oprah understands this perfectly:

For example, Oprah encourages viewers at home and in the audience to live tweet responses to the topics mentioned on the show and then discusses them in real-time with her guests.

Social media provides people (and businesses) a new way to connect and talk to people. Nothing more, and nothing less.

Oprah isn't good at social media because she's a Twitter guru or Pinterest expert.

She understands (1) what her audience wants, and (2) uses these new tools to create a repoire to get them to trust her more and stick around longer.

This all goes back to number 1 - your business goal. Once you've identified the goal you're trying to reach, then you need to create marketing objectives and a strategy that will deliver on these promises.

Tactics help you accomplish a strategy. But they can't increase revenue or decrease costs on their own.

 

5. Enable Other People to Share Your Story

Finally, you need to let go of the message.

Some (not all) large companies are great at creating stories, movements and campaigns that people can rally behind first, while also serving their brand second. By enabling other people to carry your story, you're opening up all types of possibilities.

For example, get bloggers on your side. You have to get them to care about you, and willing to recommend or share you with their audience. These people can generate web traffic through referrals and links that you'd never be able to get on your own. Again, Oprah is the best at relationships.

Although Oprah’s Lifeclass doesn’t have too much formal marketing, it relies mostly on word-of-mouth marketing. It invites a traveling blogger corp. to its live shows to tweet during each episode and feature behind-the-scenes commentary.

Most people think blogger outreach is spamming the same cold-email pitch to 100 bloggers, asking for a link or trying to get them to pitch your terrible product.

It's not.

You just need to give people what they want. Give them (1) money, (2) exposure, or (3) access. And make them feel appreciated above all else.

However, there's always a catch.

If you're afraid of what people are going to say, then maybe you should focus on straightening that out first. Because social media can't save your brand. 

Marketing fuels demand. It can get traffic to your website and build trust.

But it can't cover-up flaws or convince people to buy. Only your product or service can do that.