Social Media for Small Business: 52 Points Toward An Informed Decision

Information overload emerged as a public health concern in the mid-nineties. An increasing volume of e-mail, voice mail, and faxes were competing with other media for people's attention more than ever before. Psychologists were speaking of Information Fatigue, a new syndrome with symptoms plaguing a growing number as communication escalated in the information age.

Since then, things have changed and stayed the same. The fax has become uncommon. The 24-hour work day has become a passé concept. Companies still need to get their messages through effectively to develop and maintain business relationships, to protect and increase market share, and to get attention when they have something to say.

This article enables comparison of four media now in widespread use by small businesses: Twitter, Facebook, blogging, and newsletters. As means for small companies to achieve marketing and public-relations objectives, these four media deserve attention. Here are 13 basic points about each to support decision-making about effective business communications now and in the near future.


1. Each tweet is a text post of up to 140 characters.

2. Twitter is the most-used medium for microblogging.

3. A Tweet Deck is like a Facebook profile page with news feed.

4. A company using Twitter can direct-message only its followers.

5. Any user can start or stop following another user anonymously.

6. Companies must tweet often and respond promptly to seem in-the-game.

7. A company can attract followers by using the right key words and phrases.

8. Good tweets get re-tweeted and re-tweets help to increase the number of followers.

9. Many users find Twitter addictive and develop an insatiable appetite for good tweets.

10. Businesses often use Twitter to redirect people to their blogs or websites for more information.

11. The service is free of financial cost, though potentially quite costly in time, attention, and creativity.

12. Frequent tweeting that demonstrates relevance and engages followers must be sustained over time.

13. Many pithy, poignant, popular tweets are important in this high-volume, short-attention-span medium.


1. Facebook (FB) offers accounts specifically for businesses.

2. The rules for FB accounts are enforced and must be obeyed.

3. Status updates can be longer than tweets and may include external links.

4. Account settings allow the account user to control information shared and received.

5. Your company's FB friends can refer others to you and you can contact their FB friends.

6. You can also buy Facebook advertising targeted to attract new customers and FB friends.

7. When users "like" your company, this appears in their news feed and is posted in their profile.

8. Anything your company posts becomes available for FB friends to share among their FB friends.

9. Your company can share photos, notes longer than status updates, videos, and audio recordings.

10. The service is free of financial cost, though potentially quite costly in time, attention, and creativity.

11. Your company's FB friends can visit your profile and re-access material you have shared in the past.

12. The main object is to get a large number of users to "like" your company, then to keep them engaged.

13. When companies do not actively engage their FB friends, this can lead to disconnection from their brand.


1. As with posts to FB, the blogger can be notified whenever a visitor posts a comment.

2. Your business can set up a blog for free or pay for a blog that has more features.

3. Daily blog posts are regarded as high volume. Weekly to monthly is a normal frequency.

4. A blog intended for a target market could still be accessible to others, such as competitors.

5. Unlike with Twitter, high frequency and brevity of posts are not expected by most blog visitors.

6. Like FB status updates and Twitter tweets, blog entries can also provide the news of the moment.

7. Blog posts can be edited after they are initially posted, including photos or videos changed or added.

8. Blogging is generally less interactive, with less-spontaneous content and less expectation of dialogue.

9. Some business blogs comprise mostly articles while others are mostly videos or photos with captions.

10. Blog visitors are less likely to watch your posts on an on-going basis, but more to periodically check in.

11. A blog can be used for monologue, or mediated or unmediated dialogue in connection with each post.

12. A blog is a good place to post articles relating to your products, services, business values, activities, etc.

13. Blog readers typically expect good, credible topical reading and images - not curt, off-the-cuff smalltalk.


1. Noticeably inauthentic or generic content can make a newsletter detrimental PR.

2. Custom design, original content, custom layout, and original imagery can be costly.

3. In these times, hard-copy newsletters are more often received as something special.

4. For an e-newsletter to pass spam filters, the distro list must be 100% by permission.

5. Even with a permission-based distro list, an e-newsletter must include an opt-out option.

6. To compete with other communications, a newsletter must always demonstrate relevance.

7. Good writing and good design and layout are essential to newsletter acceptance and success.

8. With free templates and free content easy to get, an e-newsletter on a minimal budget is possible.

9. E-newsletters are easily deleted or ignored, particularly before the recipient finds out what's inside.

10. Good hard-copy newsletters are more often read in their entirety, shared, and passed on to others.

11. Issuing too frequently cheapens the reader experience. A good frequency for e-newsletters is monthly.

12. Hard-copy newsletters that seem like flyers are typically treated as junk mail, notably when unaddressed.

13. Printing and mailing a newsletter can be costly. Yet, good original content can make it profitable anyway.

In consideration of the 52 points above, it is wise not to commit to using Twitter, Facebook, a blog, or a newsletter until after the company has clarified with some certainty its objectives regarding these five matters:
* client relations (loyalty, retention, referral generation, depth of relationship).

* public relations (e.g. openness regarding issues and incidents in the news).

* market outreach (sales, marketing, advertising).

* budget in financial cost and expectations of ROI.

* budget in human (time, energy, creativity) and technological resources.

The 52 points above ought to help any small business to make informed choices about how to communicate with its market in alignment with awareness of the tools available and the commitments necessary to use those tools effectively.

- Glenn R Harrington
Articulate Consultants Inc.

About the author

Glenn R Harrington began in-person networking and print advertising in 1986. He has made a living as a professional marketing consultant and wordsmith with Articulate Consultants since 1996.


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