Editor’s Corner: ‘Social: The Now Media’ Social Media Summit for Small Business

Nov 23, 2011

Social media feels like this big, imposing, time-consuming thing. Are you on the right social media site? Do you have enough followers? Are you interacting with them enough? Not wanting to fight these issues out, some shops have chosen to ignore social media all together, either sticking to their websites or staying off the Internet completely.

I hate to break it to you, but in today’s ultra-connected world, staying off the web and social media isn’t a viable option for small businesses, hard truths that were cemented for me last week at “Social: The Now Media” a social media summit for small business presented by CBSRadio at the Hollywood Palladium.

“It’s like an address, a phone number,” Ava DuVernay, an independent film director, marketer and publicist who was a panelist at the event, said of social media. “You’re going to have to do it.” The summit offered small business owners advice on just how to do it, featuring speakers and panelists discussing lead generation, content development and reputation management.

Hooman Radfar, co-founder of Clearspring, the company that developed the AddThis app, shared some very important advice during his talk on “How People Are Finding Your Business,” telling the small business owners in the audience that they just need to relax when it comes to social media.

“Remember, at the end of the day you’re running a business,” he said. “If social media isn’t driving your business, think of other channels.”

Radfar suggested small business owners use various online tools such as Google Analytics and Bitly to manage their social media accounts and collect data to see how successful their efforts are: Are people being directed to your website from your social media pages? How are people talking about your shop online? What are the best times of day to post to Facebook or Twitter to get the most response from your audience?

Tools like HootSuite can also save you time. Radfar shared the example of a lawyer who uses HootSuite each Sunday to schedule Tweets for the entire week, helping him stay engaged with his followers while taking one task off his to-do list. Several panelists and speakers talked about the type of content you should be sharing in social media.

Kara Nortman, senior vice president of publishing at CityGrid Media, operator of local search sites including Citysearch, shared a statistic that the No.1 reason customers want to follow a business on sites like Facebook and Twitter is for deals. Beyond offering your followers coupons and discounts, panelists recommended using social media to engage with followers in an authentic way.

“Share your story, what makes you unique,” suggested Mike Prasad, founder of community-driven media network Bit Love Media.

DuVernay suggesting using social media to be a curator, sharing articles, websites, videos and more that would be of interest to your followers. In the hot rod and restoration industry, that could be how-to videos, photo galleries, event listings or legislative updates.

“[You want to] look like the authority on what’s important to your business,” said Rachel McCallister, chairman of media and communications firm MPRM Communications.

Doing this will help you build relationships with your followers, perhaps even turning them into advocates for your shop eager to share your message with their own followers, or to even come to your defense if you get a bad review online.

“Fans will come to the rescue if something negative is written about you,” said Neal Shaffer, author of “Maximizing LinkedIn for Sales and Social Media Marketing.

“Accurate content will squash anything negative out there,” said Teri Thompson, author of “The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing.” CBSRadio is hosting a free follow-up webinar featuring Teri Thompson on Friday, Dec. 2. Click here for more information on the webinar or to register.