Bill Pryor, a colleague of mine, posted a great comment to my post on the ground level view of social media the other day. Somehow, the comment disappeared. Bill gives a very detailed look at just how social media has helped his businessDan, as an SMB owner myself, I own several fitness studios in the Boston area, I can speak in specifics to some of the ideas you outlined here. The business is 5 years old but we (I personally) have deployed a blog, FB and Twitter account just in the last 6 months, spending roughly 3 to 4 hours per week (many of those hours in front of the TV at nightnot my normal working hours)..for many of the reasons you mention above, yes I unfortunately cant measure quantitatively with precision. However, the anecdotal evidence is frankly, overwhelming.
One example: one of our customers, a heavy social media typeasked to use our facility to run a charity fundraiser and could we mention it in our Facebook fan page (not even our newsletter). When I agreed, she posted a compelling video on You Tube that ended up on our Facebook page and got a number of other customers heavily involved. Further the local cable channel saw the post, as did the local paper and both want to do stories. The thing is still spiraling in various ways as others pick it up and my Google alert for our business name has popped up a number of times in the past few days.
A few observations. First, all this is still exploratory and the best practices are far from well defined but it doesnt take much time (or money) to explore and there is more than enough anecdotal stuff happening to make me feel it is worth it. Second not ALL my customers are into this stuffnot even MOST of my customers and prospects are into it. But a small, passionate and fast growing group ARE into this. And those people are disproportionately important because they are those key connectors or engagers or whatever it was that Malcom Gladwell called them in Tipping Point. The ones who ARE into social media often can turn into obsessive evangelists for your busines. Evangelists armed with amazing networking tools.
Bills got 200+ followers on his Facebook fan page for Spynergy, 33 Twitter followers and the blog gets updated with new content a few times a month. Hes deployed a basic digital footprint, has recruited engagement among his Community of Interest, and is making the studio come to life with photos, posts and conversation.
Too frequently, businesses get engaged in social media and start looking for a big footprint with a big bang. Bills experience shows how sustained effort build momentum that ultimately pays of with higher visibility and more activity.