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When I speak at conferences catering to small businesses, I usually show up an hour before the conference starts. I check in, but don’t pick up my own badge. Instead, I scan the badges already spread out, and grab someone else’s – usually someone who runs a small business. I’ve been Jon Michelson, Tyrese McHale, and my personal favorite, Gordon Brown (not that one), all of whom own small businesses, and all of whom are looking for the magic bullet that will convince them that social media actually works for them – will actually make them money, will actually help them sell product, and isn’t the next BS thing they hear about every day on the radio, on TV, and through friends who haven’t a clue.
The fun part about grabbing someone else’s ID (other than the fact that I can ask them what they think of the keynote they’re about to hear and they don’t realize that they’re talking to him) is that I get to hear unfiltered information about what scares these people – what these small business owners think about social media – and more often than not, why they believe social media to be complete bullshit, and not worth their time.
Why is that important ? It’s important because I can tailor my speech to those specific people who don’t believe that they’re going to get anything out of what I’m saying. The ones who’ve gone to countless speeches like these in the past – Those radio-sponsored “business breakfasts” where they listen to some full-of-it “social media guru” talk about the coolness of social media and how it can save them.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. NO CEO THINKS THAT “COOL” TRUMPS “REVENUE,” AND YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER. The speakers who get on stage and tell you how “cool” social media is and how is good for only “your brand” are full of it. Below, I’m going to give you seven ways that your small business can use social media TO GENERATE REVENUE, TODAY. Retweet this. Repost this. Link to it. Feel free. Why? Because I’m simply sick to death of these snake oil salesmen posing as “social media gurus,” charging you thousands of dollars to listen to them tell you how they can save you. BULLSHIT.
Remember HARO? I started HARO. It was a social media company that generated over a million dollars a year in actual revenue, and when I sold it, I sold it on the merits of what it DID, not some “I make my money by talking about social media” crap.
TWEET THIS: The biggest problem with Social Media is that too many people talk about it and not enough people ACTUALLY USE IT TO GENERATE REVENUE.
So let’s use it. The following are tips for small to mid-size businesses – They’re the kind of stuff companies ask me for all the time. I charge for this stuff. But rather than do that today, I’m giving it away below. Enjoy it. Use it Call it your own if you want. I won’t know. (But Karma will.) The main reason I’m doing it is because I’m sick of these charlatans saying they have all the answers, and they’ve never done one bit of real social media in their lives. That goes for those heads of PR and marketing firms who’ve told their clients that they can handle their “social media for them” and don’t have the first clue as to how to do it.
Marketing in the form of social media, to drive sales and generate revenue, makes you skilled in social media. “Having a Facebook Account” does not. “Speaking about Twitter” does not. Saying you have “Influence” does not. Having “guru,” “expert” or “rock star” in your name, ID, or business card, most certainly does not. Stop believing the charlatans who show you 100 twitter followers and expect you to believe that they can cure cancer. They’re angering the universe. Trust me. The universe will kill them soon. Believe in what works, and nothing else.
IF YOU’RE A RESTAURANT: Get to know tools like Foursquare and Facebook Places. Teach each server who works for you to recognize the signs of someone who uses Foursquare, Places, or the like: They keep their device on the table, they talk about “checking in.” Have those servers ask their customers if they use those location based games. If they do, have the servers offer a free drink or appetizer. Explain what it means to be a “mayor,” and why that’s beneficial to your establishment. Explain to them why they should help your customers use these technologies. Most importantly, explain to your servers that THEY represent your establishment, and without them, your restaurant is history, as is their job. The goal is to get customers to come back, bring friends, and spend more money. IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, IT’S ABOUT GROWING YOUR RESTAURANT.
IF YOU’RE A LANDSCAPING BUSINESS: Photos and videos are your friends. Why do people hire you? They hire you because they have EGOS. Lets face it – EGOS SELL. If I want my property to look better than the Kleinman’s property, I hire the best landscaper. That’s YOU. Want to use social media to GET MORE CLIENTS and make more money? Go out and buy a good digital camera/video camera. Check out the Canon G11 – I use it and love it. Then learn to use it, and shoot what you’ve done! So many social media hucksters have NOTHING to back up what they’ve done – YOU DO! You have your clients and your work! Made an amazing lawn? Shoot it! Made some kind of waterfall, the type that I can only imagine because I live on the 30th floor of a high-rise in NYC? Video it! Post it on Vimeo.com, and let people see it! That’s REAL social media because you’ve done it and are sharing it! That’s truth. Go forth and spread it, most awesome landscaper! IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, IT’S ABOUT SHOWING THINGS YOU’VE DONE THAT WILL BRING NEW PAYING CLIENTS.
IF YOU’RE AN ACCOUNTANT/FINANCIAL PLANNER: OMG, how boring! Right? That’s what most people say when they hear that you work as an account or financial planner. OK, that may be true for some of you. But if you’re an accountant or financial planner who has the most basic knowledge of social media and how it relates to your industry, then not so much. How about starting a basic twitter feed that you populate every day with the top two stories about your industry? “What will this five minutes out of my day possibly do,” you ask! Well, if you’re an accountant/financial planner trying to grow your business and get new customers, check this out: You post one or two stories per day about your industry – perhaps they’re the stories you find interesting and think others might find interesting – you post them, and what happens – people find them, and retweet them – repost them on Facebook – All of sudden, you’re a CURATOR! You’re one of those people who knows about the trends before they become trends! What happens then? The media starts following you, and you get called on by them, get quoted in the paper, on TV, on the radio, and online on a regular basis, and how about that, new people start calling you out of the blue, asking if they can be your clients – Where do you think they came from? From the media! And where did the media come from? From your brilliant use of social media. To quote the chief of police from the movie Casablanca, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that there’s gambling going on in here!” Face it – This isn’t rocket science!! You’re simply employing common sense –something the charlatans won’t tell you actually works – because it takes away from their revenue. Screw them. Make their revenue yours. IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA: IT’S ABOUT USING THESE TOOLS TO PROVE YOU KNOW MORE THAN YOUR COMPETITORS AND ARE BETTER THAN THEM AND DESERVE NEW CLIENT BUSINESS.
IF YOU’RE A REALTOR: As someone who’s currently in contract for an apartment in New York City, this really hits close to home. If you’re a realtor, social media is SCREAMING for you to pay attention. What are you selling? Location, image, and the like. Come on! You should have a digital camera with video inserted under your skin! Your industry was BORN for social media! A new property comes on the market? Get video of the best parts of it – But not from the traditional boring “front of property,” “back of property,” kitchen view” way. Figure out cool ways to do it! Current family got a swingset in the back? Shoot video of the house from the swingset – It’s different, and anyone with kids will appreciate it. Selling mostly to families with school-age kids? Take the flipcam, duct-tape it to the grill of your car, and SHOW, IN REAL TIME, how close the best school in the district is to the house! Why? Because no one else is doing it, and that’s something different! And let’s face it, realtor – if you’re using social media, you’re doing it to make a good commission. So take these ideas and build on them. Why? Because they’ll sell properties. And in the end, those properties will make you a commission. And I gonna go old school here – What are you gonna do with your commission? “I was going to take my commission, and buy Ferris a car.” Use social media, do it in a new and exciting way, make a commission from it, and buy Ferris a car! IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, IT’S ABOUT SHOWING THROUGH THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY THAT YOU’RE GOING TO HELP SELL OR BUY A HOME FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS IT.
IF YOU’RE A MOVING COMPANY: If you’re a moving company, then welcome to social media. Last time I moved, I went online to ask for recommendations for good moving companies. You know what I got? Companies who didn’t screw my friends, and that was it. Forget about GOOD moving companies, I got moving companies similar to cell-phone companies – recommendations to the companies who sucked the LEAST. Really? Is that how you want to help grow your industry? By being thought of as the company that sucks the least? Please. How about this: You offer your next client 15% off the cost of their move if they allow you to film the entire move. How do you do that? You go to Amazon and buy three GoPro helmet cams, the same kind I use when I fall from perfectly good airplanes. Then you ask a few of your best movers to wear them the next move they do. They put them on their heads, and everything they do, the gopro films. Because you’re an awesome moving company, the gopro films your best movers being oh-so-careful with the client’s property. When the move is done, you’ve got what, two hours of video of stuff being moved. OK. Great. That’s boring as hell. BUT – What if you take that film, speed it up so that the entire video is sixty seconds in length, then you add a fun soundtrack to it (Think the Benny Hill TV Show theme) and that becomes the first thing people see when they hit your website? They get funny yet real video of a real person’s belongings being taken care of, and you get… wait for it…. Wait for it…. A new client. How about that? You’ve just used social media to land countless new clients. Cost: About $150 for the GoPro. (And you thought GoPros were just for skydivers and mountain bikers.) IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, IT’S ABOUT PROVING THAT WHEN A POTENTIAL CLIENT NEEDS YOU, YOU CAN BACK UP YOUR CLAIMS WITH REAL-WORLD EXAMPLES THAT WIL TURN POTENTIAL CLIENTS INTO REAL CLIENTS.
IF YOU’RE A SEAMSTRESS WHO WORKS WITH FABRIC: This one is awesome. So I get an email out of the blue, from someone who says “Hey, I’ve been following your blog because I get the HARO, and I’m a seamstress who has started an event company that makes events out of fabric – If a company wants to hold an event, we’ll produce it.” (Email me if you want their info.) I was like, “OK, that’s weird, but whatever,” until I noticed they had an attachment to the email. Normally, I hate attachments, but since it was a .jpeg, I was ok with it – I opened it – It was my logo, on a pair of running shorts. Think about this for a second: This company was smart enough to realize that I was an exercise geek, ran all the time, yet was still involved in social media. So they made me running shorts with my blog logo on them. What does that tell you? That this Seamstress/Fabric company went out of their way to identify not only me, but what I’d recognize – Why aren’t you doing this? Why isn’t your company assigning one person to say “hey, this is a way to get noticed and perhaps generate revenue? It is. I can attest to that. I’ve given this company business already. IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA, IT’S ABOUT TAKING THE MOST RANDOM, NON-SOCIAL-MEDIA THING (LIKE FABIRC) AND FIGURING OUT A WAY TO TIE IT IN, BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WORKS!)
IF YOU’RE A MARKETING/PR FIRM: OK, if you’re a marketing firm, do I really need to make this any clearer? If you’re a company that does any of what I’ve talked about in the past three pages, don’t you think you can figure something out that’s in some way related to what I’ve talked about, and figure out a way to connect what’s here to what you do? I’m sure you can. Because come on, if you can’t, do you really think it’s ok to call yourself a marketing firm? IT’S NOT ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA. IT’S ABOUT BEING SMARTER AND REALIZING THAT SOCIAL MEDIA IS SIMPLY ANOTHER MARKETING CHANNEL TO WHICH YOU SHOULD BE LEADING YOUR CLIENTS.
OK. There you go. Seven ways to grow your small business using social media. Didn’t cost you a penny, you didn’t have to go to some BS breakfast, and you didn’t have to waste your time. So the rest of it is up to you. Will you use what I gave you here, or will you just spend your money and hire someone with no reputation because “it’s easier?” It’s your call.
Thanks for reading.