Small Guys, Big Voices

I spent part of the weekend getting caught up on everything going on across the various social networks to which I belong.

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It’s an impossible task, by the way.  It’s really the epitome of living in the moment because one can’t ever really get “caught up” – a post from a week ago is so…last week, I guess.  In any event, it got me thinking about how social media keeps changing and how what I tell clients about optimizing their use of that channel needs to change as well.

Sometimes I think the Internet should be called “The Great Equalizer,” since it puts the small guys on an even footing with the big guys.  It may seem to you as if every company/brand/retailer you know is on Facebook and you’re right: 92% of them use it.  The majority of them are on YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and publish some sort of blog.  Unlike regular advertising, a bigger budget doesn’t assure you of bigger visibility.  If as a smaller business you’re going to be good at social media and conduct what some term “social commerce” it’s pretty obvious that you can’t outspend the big guys in your category.  You need to outsmart them with great content, and make wise choices about where to devote resources, both human and financial.

I’ll admit to have hardly ever clicked on an ad on a social site.  I do, however, read posts from brands all the time and once in a while I’ll click-through those to find something that’s piqued my interest.  I’ve even bought something as a result.  I’m not alone.  According to Internet Retailer 2014 Social Media 500, which ranks online merchants on the percentage of site traffic they receive from social networks:

  • Monthly referral traffic to e-commerce sites from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube increased 42% in 2013 to 51.5 million monthly unique visitors from 36.3 million.
  • Social commerce sales retailers raked in, that is, revenue derived from those visitors, jumped nearly 63% to $2.69 billion from $1.65 billion.
  • Spending on social ads by 40 retailers that supplied data increased 400% from 2012 to 2013.

It’s the small guys driving those numbers.  The challenge for them – and maybe for you – is to overcome the clutter in every user’s social landscape. That clutter in not the only issue. The fact that only a tiny fraction of what you post appears in your fans’ news feeds means that you must get the user to seek you out and to do so often enough that the algorithms see you as a close enough “friend” to put your news in those “top news” feeds.  You up to the task?

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