The intimacy of a small event is said to be ideal for networking among speakers & participants. This was most certainly the case yesterday, when I attended the conference “Small businesses and Social Media: how to get the most out of it?”. The conference was organized by Maurilia Knowledge, a very nice consultancy & headhunting company, based in Barcelona.
The conference tried to answer the question “What’s the point of using Social Media when you’re just a small company ?”. Speakers were Xavier Barbellido (@xbarbellido), Sales Manager at Telefónica & Blogger at Diary of a Newbie in Social Media, and Xavier Vidal (@vier3110), Social Media Consultant at Explica’t & Director of the online opinion journal 50×7.com.
“The big majority of small companies still thinks of communication in traditional terms”, says Xavier Barbellido. “They don’t even consider doing marketing. In their minds, communication equals mass media advertising with large budgets they cannot afford.”
To change this mentality, consultants have to start an exercise of ‘evangelization’. They have to explain how social media works and what benefits small businesses can get out of online marketing. The conference was part of this exercise.
“The digital communication of most small companies is limited to their webpage and a newsletter that contains information about their products”, says Xavier Vidal. “It’s the digital version of those advertising folders people hate so much. Totally useless.”
Indeed, small businesses need to understand that today they have no ‘customers’. What counts today are ‘users’. The users of social media and smart phones.
“Important to understand is that markets are conversations”, says Xavier Barbellido. “With Social Media, companies can get into a dialogue with their potential customers. It’s not about selling anymore, it’s about gaining trust. Broadcasting the ‘buy from me’ message does not work on Social Media. It’s totally not done.”
Change your mentality
Time for the audience to intervene: “Okay, but what should small companies talk about? The only content we have is our product catalogue. We have nothing else to say!”
That’s exactly what the whole point is about. Small companies have a lot to say! They live in the same ecosystem as their users. They know more about the world around their products than anybody else. They know who their customers are and why they buy their products. They know the world of their providers, of their competitors. Lots of stories, lots of conversations can come out of this privileged knowledge!
“It’s all about a change of mentality” says Xavier Vidal. “We have to change the way we think about doing business. The customers of our products do other things beside consuming our products! The path towards successful Social Media marketing is finding out about their interests, activities, preferences, tastes, lifestyle, etc”.
An example? “Take a producer of plastic cups. What kind of customers buy those cups? Probably somebody that organizes parties at home. Maybe a birthday party for their kids. So: you might know somebody that acts as a clown on birthday parties. Why not tell his story on your Facebook Page?”
Another example? “I know about a logistics company that tells its employees to make a video-recording each time they open a package, so people can see how they decide to handle each product, based on its fragility” says @toni_moreno from the audience.
What about the ROI?
Still, convincing small businesses to invest in Social Media marketing is a tough task, as they want to see Return On Investment (ROI). “Am I going to sell more?” is a question consultants like me will have to answer when selling Social Media services to small businesses.
An exchange of opinions among the audience shed some light on this issue: “It’s not true that small companies do not largely invest in commercial activities. They spend a lot in terms of sales people. The ROI of their salesmen isn’t always that clear either”. And: “If small businesses invest in marketing, they indeed do it through traditional advertisement. But the marketing agencies can’t prove either the ROI of using those traditional channels”.
What seems clear is consultants have a huge task to convince small businesses that Social Media will work. To make them believe in it, just like they ‘believe’ in newspaper announcements. Evangelization is indeed the path to walk. And small businesses willing to change their vision, of course.