Jason Falls is a social media expert, founder of the consultancy Social Media Explorer, and co-author of No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. By offering straightforward explanations of how social media can accomplish what businesses want — growth and more money — Falls has carved out a niche in the social media industry. He (@JasonFalls) now has more than 42,000 Twitter followers.
We asked Falls for his take on social media and small business.
ISBB: Is there any kind of business that may not benefit from social media?
Falls: Absolutely. The business that can bring in more customers for less cost through other means doesn’t really need social media. I would always say that having a social media channel — maybe just a Facebook page or Twitter feed — where you can answer questions and perform cursory customer service is a good idea. But there are many businesses that will find that some other mechanism of attracting customers is more efficient.
For example, a friend who runs a lawn-care service gets customers more often by just cutting lawns; neighbors stop and ask him to cut theirs, too. I suggested that instead of building a blog or Facebook page, he just pick a new neighborhood each week and go cut a lawn for free. However, social media could provide him with an easy method for keeping customers informed: When weather or other circumstances offset his schedule by a day, he could post that on a Facebook page to keep people in the loop.
Social media is a wonderful supplement to good business, not a requirement to stay competitive. However, if your competition is locked and loaded online (and knows what it’s doing), you will fall behind fast by ignoring social channels.
Let’s talk about the small-business owner who uses social media but doesn’t see any indication that it’s making an impact. When is it time to “look under the hood”?
In the situation you’ve described, the problem is not that social media isn’t working — it’s that the business owner isn’t making it work. Engaging in conversations is critical, but so is presenting clear calls to action, such as asking your newfound “friends” to convert to customers. It’s time to look under the hood if you don’t have goals, don’t present clear calls to action to customers, and thus aren’t measuring success.
Keep in mind that it’s not always money (or ROI) you’re measuring. Most of our book focuses on teaching people which business drivers social media can affect. Five of the seven we present are not directly measured in dollars and cents.
If you do one thing in regard to social media, it should be what?
Listen to your customers (or the marketplace) and their needs.
When should an entrepreneur hire a consultant or employee who is responsible solely for social media?
You’re going to need a consultant if you find yourself stuck or don’t know what to do to make your social media efforts worthwhile. Our book helps you move along that path. The biggest hurdle most businesses face with social media marketing is the same one they face with advertising and public relations: They need fresh eyes and brains on the brand to come up with creative ideas.