All Tweet and No Cattle

CattleToday I’m going to take on a topic that may not be altogether popular in some social media circles, but it’s a message that small business owners need to wrestle with.

Like me, you are probably sick of hearing about twitter like it’s the next coming of Sidd Finch. Social media experts will have you believe that if your business is not on twitter for hours each day, then you don’t exist.

Here’s my take, I use twitter to meet a handful of objectives, I try to write about it in practical ways, I enjoy some of the interaction, get some nice insights, get decent return on the time I spend, but it’s not for everyone, not right now at least, and here’s why.

While the odd restaurant or coffee shop may be grabbing some headlines because of their tweeting strategy, most small businesses have far greater pressing foundational needs when it comes to the limited time and resources they can allocate to marketing.

    Do not bother with twitter or Facebook or any other social networking tools right now unless:

  • You have perfected a simple point of differentiation that a narrow market truly values and gets
  • You have a killer white paper that clearly demonstrates your 7 steps to blah, blah, blah expertise
  • You have built relationships with 5 journalists that routinely call you for quotes and tips
  • You are presenting workshops, seminars and web conferences based on white paper above
  • You have a roster of strategic partners that you automatically refer and who refer you
  • Your web site/blog is chock full of education based content, articles and tutorials
  • You have a fully scripted/automated lead conversion process that you can measure
  • You have a marketing action plan and action step calendar that is focused on marketing objectives

I know the fun is in the new thing of the moment, but spending your precious time on something like twitter is likely a giant waste of time for your business if you have not build the foundation that can tap social networks as outposts for your marketing hub.

Now, to some this message may actually be refreshing, so let me throw a little cold water. I am not saying that social networks are on their own waste of time as an essential marketing activity, far from it. My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.

This message gets confused when people see social media gurus, some with thousands of followers and nothing but time on their hands to tweet all day, stand up and condemn those not yet in the twitter fold as somehow strangely out of touch. Here’s your test – follow the tweets and see if you find any cattle before you succumb to this line of thinking. Some of the largest advocates of social media have no real foundation, no return on their tweets, and little business, other than the occasional speaking gig at a social media lovefest – and that should be your warning to keep your eye on the real prize – your business objectives.

Photo credit

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Tags

Facebook, Sidd Finch, Social network, twitter


You may also like

  A weekly round-up straight to your inbox

Join the thousands of business owners, marketers, and consultants who have benefitted from this weekly email for over 20 years!

  1. You many times have great content, but this time I think you are missing the real value of social networks to business owners in your post above.

    The real initial value of social media is networking. For instance, I’ve found the journalists – through Twitter (many of the top TV personalities in my market are just an @ away).

    And when you do have a marketing-type message, if you don’t already have a network, you’re going to be sharing that message to an empty room, or you’re being “that guy” doing the virtual equivalent of shoving business cards in people’s hands and walking away.

    And as anyone who owns a small business knows, it’s not always what you know but who you know – social media gives you the ability to expand the contact network you have.

    I can’t tell you how many vendors and jobs I’ve found for myself and others through the reciprocity that is social media done well with respect.

    Just like in the offline world, you need to build your contact list or network before you need them. If you’re not at least participating, you’re starting cold when you do jump in and at a serious disadvantage.

  2. @Jeremiah – I think you’re missing my point – I agree with your statements and have experienced the same, but too many small businesses still have no real message of difference, no marketing strategy, so no amount of time on twitter is going to help the cause.

    What I am professing is to build a marketing strategy and then you can fully realize the time spent on social networks – without it, too much time is simply wasted.

  3. I agree with you, John. It reminds me of a time when all small businesses were told that it they did not have a web presence they would be left behind. This, however, is not the case – there are many businesses that do not necessarily profit from spending money on a website.

    A website for a website’s sake is not a valuable strategy – I can see how this now extends to social media (in particular Twitter).

  4. If you do what you say John, you would never get to social media and I would not be commenting?

    I agree with your list but it insinuates that all these things need to be done first. To accelerate marketing we need to do things concurrently, so if a basic strategy is laid out, I think we have to venture forward and put our toe in the water. But limit ourselves while working on the above things as an objective.

    I guess having my strategy in place and budgeting(time) is the key to me.

  5. Essentially, John is saying “Don’t waste time erecting a broadcast tower if you don’t have anything effective to say.”

    (my version also fits in a Tweet.)

  6. Exactly John.

    If a business can’t clearly articulate what they do, who they do it for, how marvellous life will be for the customer when no longer suffering pain, and why they are uniquely placed to help the customer – then they need to work on that first and foremost.

    Then they can build a comprehensive Marketing Strategy that allows the customers multiple ways to move in simple steps from being unaware of their existence, all the way to being such loyal customers that they can’t help being enthusiastic evangelists.

    Then they can create an Action Plan which may or may not include implementing websites and tweeting on Twitter and the rest.

    Then, and only then, are they justified in spending time making the plan happen and the results arrive!

    Hope this helps.

    David

  7. AT LAST. I seemed to be a lone voice when I explained in a blog post last December why I thought that Twitter is not for UK accountants http://bit.ly/Rf774

    Whilst my reasoning appears slightly different to yours John the underlying rationale is the same.

  8. Great post, John. Too many small businesses forget about the basics you outline and spend too much time worrying about the latest technology or having a punchy slogan. I’ve seen people spend weeks on their logo without defining why anyone should do business with them. Social media tools are fantastic but we should remember to get the blocking and tackling executed first.

  9. John, you nailed it. I grow weary of reading why all CEOs and business owners need to get on Twitter right now. And its even more troublesome when it comes from someone who just found social media and wants to jump on an already crowded and sycophantic bandwagon.

    Social media can be an important facet of a company’s communication and customer engagement strategy but its not the starting point. It needs to be integrated into a thoughtful plan that actually makes sense to the business objectives. Social media is not a magic hat.

  10. Honestly, I think if you are only using Twitter for marketing purposes alone, Twitter is not a very effective tool for small business owners. In our case, Twitter has completely expanded our network like no other. We also get decent traffic to our site from Twitter, not to mention, the customers we have gained and now know from Twitter. We certainly aren’t going anywhere, even though we don’t fit all of your listed criteria.

    If a small business is in any way reticent about getting on Twitter, then they just shouldn’t do it. The relationship aspect of Twitter, and any other social media, does take time. This is time that may be considered a waste for many small businesses, but that certainly hasn’t been our experience.

  11. I’m not sure that your post has had the desired effect in some cases, John!

    I think you are doing two things here: 1 – emphasising that Social Media works best when it’s part of a structured marketing process and 2 – letting small business owners who aren’t on Twitter but think they should be know that it’s ok to not be on there yet.

    But the important word there is ‘yet’; as you say social media for small businesses is growing in importance. It’s not as simple as saying don’t worry you don’t ever need to know anything about it; it’s more that there are other things that they need to be doing first.

    And FWIW I disagree with the comment about small businesses not needing a website; with the current local search statistics as they are I believe small local businesses without a website (or at the very least a Google Maps entry) are leaving money on the table.

    Thanks for opening up the debate.

  12. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s the idea that you could systemize and should, and if you don’t you’re doomed. It’s absurd. Every small business should know, any expert who claims absolutes and systems, is one to question. The social web is simply too dynamic and powerful to box it up in a nicely priced package.

    Great insight John.

  13. While I don’t think it’s necessary to have all the things on your list checked off before a small business dives into the Twittersphere, I do agree with your overall point, and I’ve flat out told people in my chamber of commerce that. They see/hear about Twitter as something they think they “should” be doing, but while it’s fun and a great networking tool, if your target market isn’t even on Twitter then why waste your time?

    I don’t know why people don’t realize that they need to go where their audience is. If you’re in a small town and the majority of your customers not only aren’t on Twitter but haven’t even heard of it, what are you trying to accomplish? I like to say, “If your audience is at the bowling alley, don’t go marketing yourself at the roller rink.”

  14. @Joe – you’re right it is something that you need to do all at once perhaps, so I guess I was being a bit overdramatic in trying to make a point – on one hand I want to help people relax about some of the SM hype, but kick in the butt to say you need to get in this stuff, but do it the right way,

  15. @Stacy – this is the point of course – “I like to say, If your audience is at the bowling alley, don’t go marketing yourself at the roller rink.”

  16. @Jo – I do think you caught me – I was trying to say about 3 things actually and that’s a recipe for confusion.

    1 – emphasising that Social Media works best when it’s part of a structured marketing process and

    2 – letting small business owners who aren’t on Twitter but think they should be know that it’s ok to not be on there yet.

    3 – I was also trying to subtly suggest I’m getting a little tired of the SM preachers who not only suggest that you must be on twitter, but that you must be on twitter as they say – perhaps that would be left for another post.

  17. My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.

    I understand your intent, as you followed up nicely with comments explaining your opinion better. I really have to agree if it is used improperly, can be a waste of time, but to say that in order to see a benefit, you have to be an established expert, is not accurate. I personally have seen a great benefit and an excellent return and do not consider myself an Icon.
    I do get your point, John that ” we shouldn’t lose focus of diversifying our strategy and tactics” to market ourselves.

    A social media fan base can be achieved with great results, like everything else….time and effort

  18. Thanks for the clarifications John, and Tim you did a nice job also. Like everyone said above, you have to be where your customers are. But you also have to be a step ahead to provide leadership, and I guess that is where I was headed.

    I just think that a strategy to dabble is ok. As Covey would say, “Sharpen the Saw.” You have to learn.

    Thanks John for another good post.

  19. This is more solid material on the lines of your twitter background graphic – social media isn’t a religion – and you were speaking to the zealots: point taken.

    Other than that though there are plenty of strategies to utilize social media to help grow your business, primarily to meet B2B partners, clients, peers and prospects. Also I think it is a great learning tool! I have learned a great deal in the last few weeks just being a follower!

    As a follower it’s a matter of working strategy and the thing I have seen champions for in the last few days is for search.twitter.com – and that is how I found you. With a powerful search, outbound marketing, self introductions etc can still be a decent while more work intensive approach to utilizing social media.

    As for being a leader, I am with you on building the marketing base – your niche(s), your reputation, and your website and then bringing that with you to social media to attract attention to what you do – being the duct tape if you will, or magnet I think of it as. I also call it leveraging your reputation. The longer you have been in an industry, the more you know and the more people you know and know you – invite them to join you on social media! This I look at as a leading strategy…

    With a properly designed website, designed to inform potentially but more so to close business and generate leads, social media can be used as an inbound marketing tool (as Hubspot’s @mvolpe calls it) whose primary function is to send traffic to your business/revenue producing funnel of a website. Ping.FM is a great tool for broadcasting your newest additions to your website to bring people back…

    Back to improving my funnel… 🙂

  20. I think that social media stratagies need to be streamlined; one can do a lot on social media and not reap much but… it is nevertheless a very good option.
    We at DeskAway are active on twitter and other online media.

  21. I totally agree. Social Media marketing is like a luxury good to some. Its the time resource that it takes to carry it out that makes it so expensive. It is not a necessity or a priority and therefore should indeed only be done once the brand has met the above mentioned 8 criteria.

    On the other hand social media is generally free (for the moment) so probably has the potential to provide the cheapest PR for smaller businesses?

  22. I disagree with you because I find the real value of Social Media hasn’t been as a broadcasting platform. Social Media is a wonderful way to stay in touch with your customers, clients, competitors, and industry news — the trick is knowing who to be listening to.

    The only time social media isn’t right for a small business is if they people they need to listen to aren’t using social media.

  23. I don’t think you need to have all of those things. I think you need

    1. Great content and lots of it.
    2. A plan or agenda for these sites.

    For example knowing 5 journalists. I didn’t know any when I started, I now know at least 10 due to twitter.

  24. Hi John,

    I didn’t have one single thing on your list in place before I started using Twitter and it’s been very successful for me so far. 😉 And that’s a complete anomaly!

    That said, I am not like most small businesses and I will admit, I have put a TON of time and effort into my social media efforts and relationship building and recognize that most small businesses would not do the same (or have the time to do so).

    My advice to them…follow your very smart advice first. And then when they are ready, only fish where the fish are (Twitter might not be the right pond) and don’t let shiny objects lure you in (i.e. the next greatest tool or app)…be the shiny object instead (i.e. offer value to your network/community).

    And you’re right…there are a lot of social media charlatans (my word, not yours!) out there who push these tools on everyone. Mainly it’s because they don’t understand basic marketing fundamentals. And as shocking as it might be, some companies just don’t need to implement social media into their overall marketing plan.

    Great post! Wish I had seen it before my speaking engagement with small businesses today (this same topic). Lesson learned!! 😉

  25. A voice of reason swimming against the tide.
    I agree, I spend a bit of time twittering but have other needs that take priority.
    Did go to tweet-up last might, mostly web developers and real estate agents.

  26. @Beth – thanks – I certainly wasn’t saying don’t do these things, obviously anyone that reads this blog with any regularity knows I’m always talking about social media, and certainly there are people who can do what you’ve done, people are doing what you’ve done, but it’s not the norm and probably not the best path for most.

    The one point that readers have shared more than any, and I agree, is that it’s never quite as linear as I’ve proposed, in some cases you have all of what I’ve proposed 1/2 done while your signing up and building profiles, and that’s ok too.

  27. Nicely said. I wrote a post http://bit.ly/mqTMl a couple of weeks ago on the “social media gurus” who seem to think that it’s all about accumulating Twitter followers, and I think this really takes it to the next level.

    One thing I would say is that there may be some special cases out there where a business can use Twitter in a unique way, and not have to launch into the whole “Twitter lifestyle.” For example, a restaurant letting customers know (via their website, table cards, etc.) that they’ll tweet their daily specials every day.

    Like any tactic, I think it comes down to understanding why you are doing it, and weighing the potential benefits against what you could achieve by using that time for another activity. Using that as a guide, investing a little bit of time in Twitter (in a very focused way), might be worthwhile even if you don’t have everything else up and running.

  28. John, It is great advice and for some a splash of cold water in the face. I read this info three-four times and it is better and better each time. Great advice.

  29. Good post in theory… but the 5 journalists is a little extreme, how many cleaners have 5 journalists who regularly contact them for quotes?

    And workshops would only be appropriate for certain industries and companies.

    I agree that everyone rushes to social media, but they arent sure why or what to say, and even with people who have accomplished everything on that list it is often still just bunch of people talking (or spewing) and not a lot of listening and communicating.

  30. it seems that many bloggers write on twitter from the perspective of larger corporations. the steps above line out a fantastic marketing strategy for all businesses. but some of the points are not extremely relevant for some small businesses.

    but twitter still serves a purpose for the small business. we’re not at the point of acquiring many new customers from twitter, but it is one of our primary professional marketing tools. many of the connections we have with other photographers either started through twitter or have grown there. and in our industry, referral is a huge factor. so, in some small businesses, twitter = professional networking = referrals.

  31. John, I agree with you totally, I’m now on twitter for about 2 months over 100 entries and haven’t picked up any business. I understand that should not be my motive. but that’s the bottom line. Yes you need to have a marketing strategy even for twitter, right-on John

  32. John,

    I agree that Twitter can be a waste of time when you don’t see the value in it initially. I think for small businesses that don’t have a solid marketing strategy in place, they can use it for other things. Things like seeing what people are saying about their products, their services, or their competitors products and services, etc. Small business need to be on Twitter in some capacity to hear the conversations that might effect them. I personally feel you don’t need Twitter to be social. It can be your R & D tool. You can easily find what your niche is looking for by polling, asking questions, etc. So I think it has many uses other than driving traffic to a site, converting traffic to sales, or networking. What are your thoughts?

  33. John, one chapter in my new book deals with precisely what you said. Before diving off into social media initiatives, get the basics down first. Of course, my focus is online but the same applies in a general sense. Thanks for being the “voice crying in the wilderness.” It may not be popular advice, but it is sound advice.

  34. Good article and points. Twitter is starting to make some sense for me, but I have a full marketing strategy and an education print marketing blog that I tweet about. With all that I only spend about 20 minutes a day with Twitter and just see it as a small piece in the overall marketing puzzle. I do get some good links from people I follow that are helpful and I try to do the same, but I do see the people that all they are doing with marketing is messing around with Twitter or other Social online services with no substance backing it up.

    Good blog post…it got me thinking about my own strategy and how I’m using the social sites.

  35. I understand what you are saying, but I would say it comes down more to time management and truly understanding the tools that can be used for Twitter. Used correctly, Twitter is a powerful tool for online and offline businesses. With the different tools that are available now, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on Twitter at all. With Twitter you can connect with like-minded people that you would have never connected with any other way, you can get JV partners, find out about events and some pretty cool marketing strategies.

    If you don’t know how to use Twitter though, it will be a waste of time.

  36. Bottom Line John …

    It never hurts to build a list.

    BUT…

    To capitalize on it immediately you are absolutely correct why a person shouldn’t bother with FB or Twitter!

  37. This is a great post and very much on mark with a blog post I wrote last month on social networking, which you can review at: http://getincomeblog.com/facebook-myspace-linkedin-twitter-or-youtube/

    There is a place in business for social networking and there are some networks that are of higher quality than others. Anyone on the internet today knows this.

    while I don’t completly agree that all the items on your list are necessary prior to social networkin, I firmly agree that you need to know what part of your overall marketing strategy these venues fill.

    There is a crucial component missing from most internet marketers’ toolkits and that is a written plan of action that is tied to some sort of accountability statistic. Socializing and building relationships on the internet is fun but focus is necessary, especially if one is self-employed.

    Marj Wyatt aka Virtually Marj

  38. A refreshing change in direction. Everywhere I turn these days, the pressure to participate in social media is growing. Your point about being ready for it and ensuring that social media is part of, or will further, your business objectives is right on target.
    Thanks.

  39. While I do not agree that all eight of your bullet points need to be in place before jumping into any social/new media, I do appreciate the underlying sentiment of the post and the comments.

    On my blog I am educating my audience on the benefits of simply Listening – my audience works in a highly regulated industry that prevents Talking and Collaborating.

    As Charles M suggests above, there is an entirely new dimension of insights to be gained by adding search.twitter.com to your base of education re prospects, clients, industry, competition, etc.

  40. You are absolutely correct and there is one very good reason so many businesses still do not do what you and so many others have recommended:

    1) Many don’t understand how to do it
    2) Others do not know how to do it themselves
    3) Those who might be willing to hire someone to assist have no idea who they can trust
    4) Most have difficulty staying focused on so many different tasks at once and do not know how to prioritize them.

    All we can do is keep encouraging them to select one missing element and work on it until they get it done.

    We can also recommend those who deserve to be recommended and assist those who can become deserving enough to make them valuable assets instead of knowing just enough to be dangerous.

  41. “My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.”

    How would you define a strong marketing foundation for a small business with limited resources without the utilization of free resources on the internet?

    I agree with you that for some small businesses, trying to figure out the right things to market through FB, Twitter and the like can be time consuming, however- it is not wasteful. Marketing on social networking sites is about trial and error (and I’m not the only one who believes this: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/09/if-tv-ads-were-free.html). There are no manuals, and no marketers who know the wiser- one of the most brilliant developments of marketing with these sites is how easy it is to be niche- which means that marketing is as unique as it can get. A mass marketer’s worst nightmare, but a small business owner’s dream. Why not invest the time?

  42. “My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.”

    How would you define a strong marketing foundation for a small business with limited resources without the utilization of free resources on the internet?

    I agree with you that for some small businesses, trying to figure out the right things to market through FB, Twitter and the like can be time consuming, however- it is not wasteful. Marketing on social networking sites is about trial and error (and I'm not the only one who believes this: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/09…). There are no manuals, and no marketers who know the wiser- one of the most brilliant developments of marketing with these sites is how easy it is to be niche- which means that marketing is as unique as it can get. A mass marketer's worst nightmare, but a small business owner's dream. Why not invest the time?

  43. “My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.”

    How would you define a strong marketing foundation for a small business with limited resources without the utilization of free resources on the internet?

    I agree with you that for some small businesses, trying to figure out the right things to market through FB, Twitter and the like can be time consuming, however- it is not wasteful. Marketing on social networking sites is about trial and error (and I'm not the only one who believes this: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2009/09…). There are no manuals, and no marketers who know the wiser- one of the most brilliant developments of marketing with these sites is how easy it is to be niche- which means that marketing is as unique as it can get. A mass marketer's worst nightmare, but a small business owner's dream. Why not invest the time?

Comments are closed.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}