Chris Brogan is one of America’s most notable thinkers and consultants when it comes to social media. Widely known for his blog, tweets, and keynote speeches, Brogan focuses on how businesses — from mom-and-pop shops to Fortune 500 firms — can connect with customers online. The Massachusetts-based entrepreneur also serves as president of Human Business Works, a company that offers educational tools and courses to business owners and nonprofit organizations.
The Intuit Small Business Blog recently talked with Brogan about how and why small businesses should use social media, as well as how he’s achieved success by following his own tips.
ISBB: What would you advise a small-business owner who is trying to raise awareness of a company through a blog? What types of posts tend to resonate the most?
Brogan: The best way a small business can grow a blog is to write posts that are helpful to its prospective buyers. Rarely, if ever, should you write about you. If you sell juicers, then post recipes and ideas for easier cleaning. If you’re a lawyer, then post articles about how people can prepare and save themselves time and money and aggravation. Be helpful. It’s how I’ve made all my money.
How can a small-business owner use Twitter as an effective means of communicating with existing and potential customers?
Twitter is the same as blogging in some ways. Talk about them. Don’t use Twitter to push promotions and coupons. Use it to find and connect with your buyers. Do you sell to anyone on the web? Then find people talking about subjects related to what you sell. Sell locally? Find people talking about local matters, and talk to them about what they are talking about. They’ll come to you when the time is right. Let them get to know you before the sale.
Blogging and social media require a major time investment. Is it worthwhile for entrepreneurs in all industries, or are there some kinds of businesses that are still better served by more traditional marketing methods?
This all takes time. I think that business owners in most industries can benefit from getting into social media, because what are the alternatives? Circulation for print and radio and local TV placement has gone down. Direct mail rarely gets you more than a 1 percent response, if that. You’ve been trained to believe that word of mouth is the best advertising, and so, realize that social networks and social media are the new word of mouth. Not everyone is there, but plenty of people are. Facebook has more than 800 million users and growing: 750,000 new people join a day, most of them between 35 and 55 years of age. This stuff isn’t just for kids.
You offer a lot of free content, including webinars and e-books. How does this help your business, and what strategies can bricks-and-mortar operations use to take a similar approach?
If you’re selling a product or service, give away as much for free as you can to get people motivated to buy the end product. If you’re selling archery supplies, shoot video interviews with the manufacturers. If you’re selling accounting services, create interesting and small articles that offer money-saving tips and hints about how to save yourself time and hassle later. There’s a balance. Some people just want freebies. That’s OK. Just don’t devote much of your time to them. Focus on prospects and buyers, just like you already do.
You’ve built various connected businesses. What’s your approach to diversification, and how do you keep from becoming overwhelmed?
To be honest, I did this very badly between late 2010 and now. Next year, I’ll come out with a bit more solid of an experience that will tie what I’ve done for solo and small-business professionals into what I can do for larger companies. I’ve integrated a business that diversifies digital products, consulting, speaking, and other intellectual-property assets (like books and education courses) mixed with some traditional revenue sources for media (like advertising). In 2012, I’ll probably tighten up before I diversify more, but that’s because I will have diversified and better targeted my buyer.