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Jumping Into the Social Media Bandwagon

My observations of small business owners in New Zealand and Australia over these years are:

1. Many SMEs are concerned about going online or participating in social media because they are not familiar with the common apps used on mobile these days.
2. Some business owners make a swift decision to go online and rely on bits and pieces of comments from people they know who operate in the field.
3. Some business owners believe that completely outsourcing social media to an agency will bring sustainable revenue.

The first is motivated by fear, which can be solved by knowledge. The second is a case of *knowing a bit of everything can be a dangerous thing*. The third is basically outsourcing responsibility. For 2 and 3, the solution is taking responsibility to learn more of the online market and aligning the implications to the business.

Social media is a communications channel where businesses can extend their marketing efforts through to the online world. Social media is not *the strategy*, it's a channel to implement a strategy - carefully examined and deliberated. An entire review of the business process, sales cycle, customer behaviour online and onsite (to name a few) needs to be done and documented to have great clarity of the processes that need to be implemented before and during an online launch. Knowledge of the online industry is important.  I encourage business owners to invest in learning about e-commerce:

1. To be able to ask the right questions when talking to agencies.
2. To be able to critically assess the suggested platforms, web apps, website features, technologies, etc.
3. To be able to understand the work that needs to be done and the time it would take to do it.
4. To be able to engage effectively with their contractor/employee/agency partner when things go wrong because there could be things that may go wrong along the process.
5. To be able to embrace the process of trial and error, experimentation and constant improvement in the online marketing efforts.

Social media or having a website is not a guaranteed success story. Online marketing is a high-execution, highly coordinated activity that relies on many factors. A few key factors are:

1. Knowledgeable staff/contractors/agencies
2. *Involved* business owner
3. Sharing of knowledge and information all throughout the process

The most successful businesses I worked with all involved highly engaged business owners - taking the lead in strategy formulation and initiating discussions and sharing knowledge and information with their partner agencies.

Going online is a potential opportunity to expand. However, careful analysis needs to be done before one jumps into the social media and online marketing bandwagon.

By LVD, Marketing Director, Web Marketing NZ/AU

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