More and more companies are finding that online marketing is a cost-effective way to raise brand awareness. However, for those small businesses that haven't jumped on board the social media bandwagon, valid concerns still remain. A lack of familiarity with the medium and the risk of exposing one's brand to the less savory elements of the internet can scare a lot of would-be internet marketers away. Here are some of the most common fears small businesses have about social media, along with ways to address them.
The internet is often extolled as a true open forum. People use the world wide web as a megaphone for any opinion, right or wrong. Small business owners fear Facebook, Twitter and other sites that allow users to mouth off at will because bad publicity only requires one irate customer. Folks who either legitimately experienced poor service or perceived that they did can vent about it on message boards and comment threads, thereby damaging a company's image in the eyes of the online community. However, this problem can be mitigated and turned into an advantage. Actual responses to valid criticisms demonstrate that a company is willing to engage in dialogue and right a wrong. Thoughtful responses to misguided criticisms demonstrate to the community that the company's services aren't the real issue.
Just because social media campaigns are effective and low-cost doesn't mean that they're easy to pull off. The internet is a veritable visual medium, and companies are often afraid that they don't have the talent or resources to create a slick, professional image online. This is a valid concern, since a poorly-designed blog or web page can scuttle an online marketing venture before it even leaves the docks. However, one saving grace is the standardization of social media sites. Facebook and Twitter pages have default appearances, and many businesses owe much of their success to this sameness. For blogs and company websites, however, a bit more effort is required. The economy and the state of education today makes this effort simple: hire a person with graphic design experience and facility with the internet. Small businesses should consider that a yearly salary for a recent graduate is probably less than most small businesses spend on traditional marketing in a year. The
discerning eyes of someone who grew up with the medium will help to highlight design flaws and quickly fix visual mistakes.
Small business owners may come to terms with the fact that social media and online campaigns are effective choices. However, unfamiliarity with the internet might make it seem like an unintelligent financial risk. While this is debatable, there is always something to set company managers' minds at ease: hybrid campaigns. The beautiful thing about internet marketing is that it can be done in a piecemeal fashion. If hiring a young graphic designer isn't a good investment, companies should stick to Facebook and Myspace, which don't require much design talent. Using the funds saved on a traditional campaign, such as branded promotional products or print advertisements, will double the odds of success. Afterwards, companies can reassess the separate efforts and choose to focus more energy on one or the other.