Ask the consultant: How can businesses avoid social media mistakes?

  • Updated: September 16, 2012 - 9:00 AM

Question

What is the biggest mistake you have seen made when it comes to small businesses using social media sites? Wine Wherever is a branch of our parent company and we are trying very hard to utilize social media. We have Facebook and Twitter followers, but we're having a hard time reaching out to, and bringing in, new customers.

Dahlynn McKowen, CEO and publisher, Publishing Syndicate LLC

Answer

One critical mistake many small business owners make online is not genuinely acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, just because you can create your own website and write the copy doesn't mean you should, unless you really have the expertise. A home page represents the digital face of your business, and you will have mere seconds to make a first impression.

Unfortunately, I knew immediately that your site was "homespun," which if I was looking for a phone app would be off-putting immediately. If this represents your technical expertise, what might the app do for my phone?

Then it took me some time to grasp exactly what your product does. After visiting the whole site, I learned part of the problem. You and your husband are clearly accomplished writers and editors -- an excellent skill. However, the kind of writing necessary to market a product or service requires some specialization. You would say something similar to me if I tried to write "Chicken Soup for the Marketing Soul." (Which would be ironic, since some people view us academics as soulless.)

Seriously consider purchasing advice from a marketing writer, or take some courses on marketing writing. Plus, it would be well worth the cost to hire someone to design and build your site on WordPress, in a more navigable format, and learn to upload changes yourself.

These changes alone may prove that you have been successful in driving traffic to your site, but just didn't have a way to deliver traction. So, meanwhile, stay active on Facebook and Twitter, but put the emphasis on delivering that content in the voice you have had success with for so many years. That will create a following of its own, which will make a good foundation for guiding people to your products.

Michael C. Porter is director, Master of Business Communication Program, University of St. Thomas.

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