"Big" business usually dominates the social media headlines.

They have millions of Followers, run exciting national campaigns, and set the trends for everyone else to follow.  But despite the notoriety, a lot of them still get it wrong.

And they can even learn a few things from their small competitors.

Here are 3 social media tips "Big" business can learn from "small" business.


Social Media Comic: Why Don't Our Customers Like Our Facebook Page? Image courtesy of seanrnicholson


Lesson #1. Have a Voice

Every business needs a unique voice and personality to stand out today. This is especially true online.

People want to connect with other people, not nameless, faceless companies. And large companies still don't understand this.

I was at a conference recently, and a panelist was the head of PR for a large, national hospitality company. She explained how her Legal department has given her a list of acceptable “social media responses”.

She (the head of PR!) and her team aren't allowed to do anything different. If they want to respond to someone's specific question or concern, then they have to run it by the Legal department first.

This is the exact opposite of how social media works.

No potential (or current) customer will feel passionate about a brand that hides behind a list of standard, canned responses.

Instead, empower the people using these new tools to give real, authentic, human responses. People aren't looking for perfection. They're looking for interaction.


Lesson #2. Crown a Dictator

Most large companies move at glacial pace.

Bureaucracies and politics kill action. Even getting someone to make a decision can take weeks.

People in large companies need to have more opinions. And they need a leader who can make unpopular decisions.

No more consensus. Make a decision and take action.

But be careful who that leader is.

Most large companies suffer from HIPPO syndrome, where the highest paid person's opinion reigns supreme.

The trouble with this is that typically, the highest paid person in any organization or department doesn't know anything about social media (or inbound marketing for that matter).

Instead large companies need to find champions with a history of success, and who prefer data-driven decisions over political ones.


Lesson #3. Go Beyond Facebook and Twitter

Finally, large companies need to understand that social media isn't just Facebook and Twitter.

Because here's the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about...

Social media for large companies is easy. It's easy to build Twitter Followers and get people to engage with you when your company has been around for decades. And if they run out of ideas, then they can just hire an ad agency to help them run campaigns or execute new promotions.

Most "big" business marketers wouldn't know what to do in a small company with no staff, budget, mass-media advertising, or big brand name to save them.

It's easy to manage or grow social media accounts for large companies. But it's extremely difficult to transcend those networks and get the whole organization aligned with how your consumers shop today.

The best example is the Roger Smith Hotel in New York City. How does a small, family-run, independent hotel brand, compete and dominate one of the most competitive markets in the world? Here are a few ways (taken from different interviews):

  • They have an art gallery regularly feature work through-out their hotel.
  • They hold large events with the Social Media Breakfast, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mashable, LiveStrong. And they also hold small events for organizations like the "Girls in Tech Group".
  • They held a short film festival with six directors shooting films on hotel property.
  • They did a live cooking show in the gallery space with our chef.

These aren't "campaigns" or "promotions". This is their way of life.

The point is that social media success transcends your Facebook page or latest Twitter promotion. It's a new way of doing business and it starts with your DNA, your product or service, and your people.

So if you want to improve your social media presence, then start on the inside of your organization first.