Small Business in the Age of Social Media
Building a Small Business
Starting a small business is hard. But, making it profitable in the long run is doubly difficult. That is why it is not really surprising to see a lot of local small businesses folding up after a few years of operation. They just couldn’t keep up with much bigger competitors.
And there is still another challenge now: the age of social media. Almost every type of businesses are now competing for attention in several social media channels. Some of those with huge marketing budget often get the biggest social share due to their savvy and well-funded advertising campaigns.
Again, we ask the question: how about our lowly local small business? Can they keep up? Can they leverage the power of social media to boost the profitability of their business?
Traditional vs Tech: Perspective on Local Small Business
Some years ago, I started a small mom-and-pop bakeshop at a corner lot in our community. We offered freshly baked breads early in the morning and sweet pastries in the afternoon. All I have to do was to put a sign that the bakery was open for business.
People came to buy our breads. They want it hot and they want it fresh. They came not in droves but in trickles. Some were curious to see our products while others heard about our business from their friends, so they came.
The business was a hit and miss. Some days we reached our production and sales quota and on other days we totally busted, with little sales to speak of. For months our small local corner bakeshop was at a break-even level. The scary thing is that I really had a small margin and it is not enough to build buffer capital for expansion or advertising.
So, for some merry months more, we just existed. We had a few loyal repeat customers and lots more chance buyers who wanted to eat breads or pastries.
Then Tech happened. The food on demand business model started. People just ordered food, breads included, through their smartphones. They use an app to buy whatever they want to eat and the food will be delivered to them.
We tried to keep up with technology by opening a social media account and started promoting our small business. But the likes and shares were few at best and dismal at its worst. We leveraged our own circle of friends and family to help the business gain exposure. But the competition was just too much. We were simply drowned out.
And so, after three years and half in the business, our small mom-and-pop bakeshop folded up. I decided that it is better to shut down the business while we’re not yet totally bankrupt.
Lessons for Small Business Owners
What’s the takeaway from this experience? Definitely, I cannot blame technology. In fact, tech is a good thing. It propels society forward. It is a very useful tool for anyone who wants to make life easier.
The fault lies clearly in me. I was not able to keep up with the competition. And I never foresaw the huge impact of technology on the way businesses will be conducted in the future. It is this lack of foresight that caused the demise of my business.
Small business owners today can learn a thing or two from this experience. For starters, never underestimate the power of Internet technology. I still see some business owners making light of online and social media promotions. They often see little value in these channels. And I say, that is a grave mistake.
Even in small communities, social media has become an all-encompassing presence. Small business owners can take advantage of this situation to gain wide exposure. It can amplify your business by a hundred fold at a minimal cost.
Another important lesson is that don’t be a latecomer in this highly social world. It is always much better to start your social media presence even before you open your business. You have to build an audience early on. You need to build anticipation for your products. And most importantly, don’t disappoint.
When you promise something for your customers through social media promotions, never shortchange them. The backlash would be unimaginable. Your small business may never recover from the negative publicity.
Key Takeaways for Small Business
First, starting a local small business is not a lost cause. These business models remain viable. In fact, there is now a phenomenon called “hyper-local” where businesses target specific communities to capture the market. Unlike me, don’t give up. If ever you have a business idea, hold it and make it a reality.
Second, always leverage the power of social media. Learn it. Master it. Take advantage of its many tools and resources. Use social media before you even formally start your business. Build an audience and gain wide following. You will be in a better position once your business takes a foothold in major social media channels.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to test new methods of doing business. Build an app for your business. Make it available to your target market. Try to make the life of your customers as easy as possible. Bring the product to them with just a few taps on their gadgets.
You never know. You may be the next business mogul.
Be a Darling, Help a Small Business Now
Right now, I'm helping a local small business in the Philippines. It is an agriculture-based food company that offers healthy products like Stevia Sweeteners, Blueternatea flowers, Tarragon, and adlai pastries.
You can help them by visiting their site, trying their products, or recommending them to your friends. Thanks for taking the time to read.