Navigating the world of social media can be tough, especially for small businesses whose time and resources are particularly finite. As the Internet ingrains itself even further into people’s lives and consumers check reviews, prices and sales online all before stepping foot out of the door, a strong Web presence can be the key to success – so long as business owners don’t get overwhelmed by the options, say social media and marketing specialists.
“The days of your community being in driving distance of you is over,” said Sharmin Attaran, assistant professor of marketing at Bryant University. “You can build a community online on one platform or multiple platforms.”
The idea of multiple platforms is what trips up many business owners who feel pressured to spread themselves too thin. While the large majority of businesses have some sort of Web presence, whether a website or a Facebook page, companies that try to grab a stake in every new social media site can find themselves wondering if its worth doing anything at all.
In early April, the online scrapbook Pinterest was named the third-most popular social media site in a report by digital-marketing firm Experian Marketing Services. Essentially an online scrapbook, Pinterest allows users to post pictures from around the Web to different “boards,” where other users can see, comment and – if they desire – re-pin to their own boards.
Businesses everywhere were urged to flock to the site; that without a Pinterest presence they were likely to be overlooked entirely. Facebook, Twitter, Groupon and even Google’s less-than-successful social media venture Google+ were also all hailed as the next big thing in marketing, leaving businesses grasping at straws to figure out where they should focus their attention.
“The idea is to get outside your head and think about how your audience is thinking about your product and your service,” said Suzanne McDonald, content and social strategist and founder of the Newport Interactive Marketers group.