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Small business says to social media and publishers: Get me a result, or go away!

June 20, 2011


I wrote the post below for the Community Engine blog (my employers) last week. Even though this site are all my own views – it just so happens that every now and then they are one and the same.

It’s very easy sometimes for technologists, media publishers, and social media types to get so caught up in trying to create advertising and communication products for small to medium businesses that a very simple premise is missed:

Business owners simply want their phone to ring, or for someone to walk through their door.

And yes, it’s true – as eCommerce and transactional business becomes more prevalent in this country there will be more and more small businesses and community groups that can measure success simply via online revenues and transactions – but the simple fact of the mater is that this simple measurement of ROI is too often missed.

How many times have you seen or heard various media publishers talking about their readership, circulation, click-through reports, page impressions, search results and such? How many times have you spoken to social media types who simply say that ‘all you’re doing is joining the conversation that’s already happening.’?

We’ve all been guilty of it, myself included. Google’s innovation 10+ years ago was quite simply giving advertisers the ability to pay only when someone actually engaged with their advertisement and went to their website – a technology marvel that to this day still has their share price at more than US$515 on NASDAQ.

But even that is not enough when it comes to small business. We’re talking about people who pay for every resource – their time, their advertising, their staff – often out of their own back pocket. They often carry the greatest risk, and by necessity keep everything simple – their business model, their operations, their staffing, and the performance metrics.

From experience and research  in talking with and listening to hundreds and hundreds of SMEs in Australia, the average business owner only wants to know from any communication activity (advertising, PR, social media, so on and so forth) they conduct that one of the following happens:

  1. my phone rings
  2. a customer walks through my door
  3. there is money in the till.

I remember back in my newspaper days listening to a call from a customer who had paid to list his car for sale in the classifieds. He had overpriced the car, which wasn’t that great, and hadn’t been able to sell it from the two ads he placed. He then spent 20 minutes arguing with the call centre operator that he shouldn’t have to pay for the ad if he hadn’t sold his car.

While that customer had to pay for his ad – because that was how things were done back then, I could also understand his point of view. Why should I pay for something if I don’t get the result? The benefit of advertising or promoting my business should not be about exposure, or ‘being seen’, or any of those things that ad reps and social media consultants may tell us – it should be about getting a result.

Future publishers that will be most successful will be those that only succeed when their customers succeed. Similar to Google, but taking the metric far beyond a click-through to an actual social or commercial transaction (ie kudos shared publicly within a network, or an actual purchase).

So the simple message and timely reminder for all of us seeking to help, publish, advise or work with any small to medium business out there is this: find a way to deliver a direct bottom line result, or perish.

Deliriant Isti Romani (These Romans are Crazy!)

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