For small- or medium-sized business owners the use of social media, the answer is a solid maybe
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part one in a three-part series on social media and business.
As a small-business owner, I constantly ask myself, How can I improve my marketing and advertising? Of course, social media is a tempting alternative: It’s basically free, self-directed and, in the case of the holy trinity (Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter) easily accounts for almost 80 percent of the time people spend online.
At the same time, 25-plus years in corporate America trained me to be skeptical, question everything and apply a healthy dose of critical thinking before committing to a solution.
In thinking about social media, business and resources, I tend to shy away from articles that over-simplify things, so I wanted to go beyond the rules, deadly sins and commandments that pepper the Internet.
Finally, I wanted to extract myself from the hysterical voices that prescribe social media as the solution to everything and who rant and rave against anyone who doesnt agree 100 percent. Not everyone wears a blue shirt, 34 collar and 38 sleeves.
If you are a small- or medium-sized business owner, you have more than a few marketing alternatives available that can be effective, efficient and scalable. These include email, newsletters, blogs, Google, mobile, advertising in your community newspapers, joining networking groups and even advertising in some local radio stations, in addition to developing social media efforts.
When considering whether social media is right for your business, there are many questions to consider. Start by asking: How much will my business benefit from social media?
There are many implicit questions here:
- What are you selling?
- What is the decision-making process for your product?
- What action are you intending to drive through social media?
Decisions and Risk
Many years ago, at Foote, Cone and Belding Advertising, we used something called the FCB Grid to guide some of our strategic decisions. If you have never heard of it, I suggest you Google it. The FCB grid was developed by Richard Vaughn, a senior vice president, and has been featured in dozens of articles, white papers and books.
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The basis of the FCB Grid is a cross of how people make decisions and the risk of making that decision. Decisions can be made rationally (based on features) and emotionally (sensorial), but all decisions have a degree of risk, measured by what the financial impact can be for the wrong decision.
Different degrees of risk demand different communications. Involved decisions (those having the higher risks) will have both: the highest need for information and the longest, most convoluted decision-making processes.
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At the lower end, there are decisions that basically have no risk and tend to be impulse driven.
For example, an MBA degree is an expensive and important decision. Not only will you invest $40,000 to $100,000, but an MBA from the wrong school will be a huge mistake.