By Rob Zimmerman – President of 3Up Golf
Are you a small business owner? If the answer is “yes” then you’re also a brand owner. What does it mean to have a brand?
Consumers have options. What makes you different from your competitors? What is your value-add? Perhaps you differ on price, the uniqueness of your product offering, or the actual buying experience. Conveying that message, along with what your company stands for and who makes your company special, is your brand. Building your brand is an important step to attracting customers in the age of e-commerce and social media.
Over the last 3 years we’ve been working diligently to build the 3 Up Golf brand. We operate on a shoe-string budget and rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals. All of that comes at a cost: hard work. Building a grass-roots brand involves spending a lot of time talking with our players. That may sound daunting but if you take it for what is is, talking about golf with fellow golf nuts, it’s actually quite enjoyable. Social media has been at the center of our road map when it comes to marketing 3 Up Golf.
Social media is your ocean of opportunity. It gives you a mouthpiece by which to communicate with the masses. Some companies like to treat the social media mouthpiece as a megaphone; a one way device by which to scream to the world how great their product is. More savvy businesses use the social media mouthpiece as a telephone and treat it as an opportunity to open up a dialog with relevant communities. I’m sure you’ve seen the type of Twitter accounts who are egregious offenders; constantly talking about new sales, updated product offerings and generally treating your feed as though it’s supposed to be a rolling advertisement billboard. Don’t be that company.
Another big mistake I’ve seen a lot of small businesses make is employing poor visual assets. Social media is an inherently visual medium. It’s almost a prerequisite on Twitter and Facebook to employ images and obviously with Instagram, it IS a requirement. I can sympathize with fellow small businesses who are operating on a tight budget who are tempted to “do it yourself” when it comes to creating promotional images. Unless sitting down in front of Photoshop is actually a fun activity for you – don’t do it. 3 Up Golf is unique in that I have prior experience doing some basic graphics design work and can make do. Even with that background I still look to others, like Herb McNally, for projects that may be out of my reach.
Part of growing your brand on social media involves participating in relevant groups on each venue. You should strive to post a variety of content, share other companies content, and (most importantly) engage with other community members. Being a small business, it can be challenging to allocate enough time to this task. For 3 Up Golf we’ve made a conscious effort to focus mostly on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for our primary channels. If your time is very limited I would suggest getting started on one channel and building an audience there before moving on to others. Of course, there’s always an option to outsource the management of your social media channels to a marketing agency. As a small business, this may not be a viable option due to the cost. The agencies I’ve talked with start in the thousands of dollars per month range.
Chances are, you aren’t a big mega-corporation (yet!). Don’t try and pretend to be. You’re a small business. The majority of consumers will greatly enjoy working with you and your company simply because you’re a small business. It’s OK to tweet or post in the first person. Show pictures of the “behind the scenes” at your company, talk about funny things that happen at the office, and above all – don’t take yourself too seriously. That all being said – double check for typo’s before you hit the “post” button. I can’t tell you how embarrassing grammatical or spelling mistakes are!
Being a small business owner, you’re used to wearing multiple hats and being a jack-of-all-trades. Social media marketing is yet another feather to put in your hat. Don’t let it daunt you though. Social media is a tool, just like any other communication medium. Use it wisely and your brand will blossom.
great advice. Social media is one of the few places the little guy has a chance at the same eyeballs as the big guys.