I think one of the things that small business marketers struggle with around the entire topic of social marketing is trying to jump into the new thing without enough analysis of what they should focus on. I happen to think this is an important, evolving and essential area of marketing for small businesses, but there’s a hierarchy to it. In other words, there is a logical progression of utilization that comes about much like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Nature.
As Maslow theorized, the ultimate potential of your marketing or human self-actualization couldn’t be achieved until the most basic human psychological needs – breathing, eating, sleeping, sex were first met. (Yes, I’m about ready to compare blogging to sex.) In fact safety, love, and esteem all come before transcendence. Now, before I edge too close to the deep end here, I’m simply comparing what I think is a bit like progressing up the social marketing hierarchy.
Most small business owners should look at the following progression or hierarchy as they move deeper into social marketing tactics. So, jump in, but do it in this order and don’t move on until you have the basics of each stage down and working for you.
Social Search – this is often ignored in this discussion but I think it’s become very important for small business owners. Directories that publish reviews from customers – good and bad. You can participate and should stimulate and manage your reputation here. Insider Pages, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, Local.com, Judy’s Book, Yelp
Social Bookmarking – tagging content to and participating in social bookmarking communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business as well as generate extra search traffic, but it takes work – del.icio.us, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Mixx, Small Business Brief
Social Networking – branching out to take advantage of the numbers of potential prospects that you might find in sites like Facebook or MySpace will frustrate at least as a business tool if you don’t have many of the above needs met. These networks take time to understand and thrive on ideas and content. You’ve got to have much to share if you wish to build a business case. The good news is that industry and idea specific sites for everything from book lovers to green living are springing up every day. Here’s an enormous list of social networking sites from Mashable
Micro – I’ve lumped some of the more experimental social tools into the edge trend of micro, social, real-time communication that will likely only confuse most small business owners. The confusion is not because they can’t figure out how to make them work, it’s just not obvious why they would spend the time. I think Maslow suggested the self-actualization was a place that most might never reach and in social marketing terms Twitter, Thwirl, Plurk and FriendFeed might be some sort of sick transcendence.
All the evidence that we have indicates that it is reasonable to assume in practically every human being, and certainly in almost every newborn baby, that there is an active will toward health, an impulse towards growth, or towards the actualization.