Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be Small, Act Big

One of the hardest things about owning a small business is constantly hustling to find new business.  For instance, I'm good at public relations and social media.  As a salesman, I'm like Jack Lemon in GlenGarry GlenRoss, I sweat a lot and I stutter and I lament that I'll be eating dog food if I can't make the next sale.

Okay, I exaggerate.  But I could certainly use some salesmanship courses.  The point is, part of going out and pitching new customers means always staying on top of new developments, new industry trends, facts, figures, etc.  As it happens, in the course of sending out a pitch to a potential client today, I was doing some research and stumbled on some fascinating and, honestly, mind-boggling statistics I thought I'd pass along to you all.

Some Stunning Numbers:

For all of you small businesses and non-profits out there, here are some numbers that hold some very real relevance to your bottom line: (NOTE - All of these figures come from the sites themselves, courtesy of the website, Econsultancy.  Click the link to see the entire post)

•  Facebook has over 300 million registered users.  Over half of those users log in at least once every 
   24 hours.

•  Twitter has 75 million registered users

•  LinkedIn has over 50 million registered members worldwide.  That's a 40% increase in less than 
   half a year

• Wikipedia has over 14 million articles published

•  Flickr has more than four BILLION images

• Facebook claims that more than 65 million users access the site through mobile devices.  That's over 
   a 100-percent increase in six months.

• As of January, 2010, Twitter says the average number of tweets per day was over 27 million

• More than 700,000 local businesses have active pages on Facebook

Take a look at that last number.  almost three-quarters of a million businesses have a Facebook page and are actively using it.  Are you among that number?  If not, you should be.

Perception IS Reality:

One of the biggest concerns I hear from clients is that there are so many businesses online that they feel they get lost in the shuffle.  This is a valid concern.  At least it would be if you didn't have exactly the same opportunities that everyone else does in terms of being active and generating buzz for your organization.  This is because the internet, social media, is a great equalizer.

In fact, you have the exact same opportunities that large companies like Coca Cola, Budweiser and Chase Bank have when it comes to utilizing your social media and raising your profile.  Yes, you probably don't have the kind of money they do to put together a major national advertising campaign, but very few organizations do. 

I can speak from experience when I say that you probably have an advantage over these organizations in terms of mobility, flexibility and opportunity.  Your size, as small as it may be, can work in your favor when it comes to social media, and here's how:

When I was working with Shell Oil, Kroeger's/King Soopers and Chase, one of the biggest obstacles to creating and implementing our public relations and crisis communications plans was their size and their red tape.  For instance, whenever we would want to implement a specific element of our PR push, we would have to submit our idea and plan, in writing to a local representative who then sent it to a regional representative for approval.  After that it would go to the national offices where it would be reviewed, edited and then would work its way down the ladder back to us in Denver. 

This was particularly annoying when dealing with Chase since the headquarters were overseas. Trying to implement a plan, or even make changes to plan was like moving an iceberg; slow and frustrating. 

You, on the other hand can make decisions quickly, implement plans almost immediately, make changes on the fly that will benefit your bottom line without having to spend weeks to get approval from every member of your organization. 

Online, Image Is Everything:

Now let's take a look at your online image:  When it comes to the large corporations, everyone is well aware of the size of those behemoths.  But when it comes to you, the average viewer isn't familiar with you or your organization.  And yet, people online have the potential of seeing your organization on Twitter, on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on Digg and Reddit and in any number of various groups they may belong to.

Suddenly it doesn't matter that you might only employ five staffers.  What they see is  your presence all over the internet.  They'll be running into your fingerprints on the sites they use regularly.  Now your organization looks bigger than it really is.

You're not lying to anyone, you're not telling the world that you have a staff of hundreds.  What you ARE telling potential customers is that your organization is active and smart and aggressive.  This creates not only a big social media footprint for your organization, but also creates a big image.

Let's take a look at one final example of this in action.  The individual I wrote about yesterday, Andrew Hudson and his Jobs List is actually a fairly small organization.  But Andrew has a massive network and is active on various platforms, giving him and his list a very large footprint.

If one were to only look at Andrews social media activities, they might think that he's a large organization given the fact that his list has jobs from around the country, friends and followers located all over the U.S. and is active on many different platforms and groups. 

And yet, when it comes to implementing a plan, posting content and making decisions, Andrew is able to do all of these things quickly and with a single plan in mind.

Lean and Mean:

You are the face and the voice of your organization.  You know your business or non-profit better than anyone else.  This is your advantage over the "big boys".  Use your size to your advantage.  Be the single voice in the room that makes your social media and PR choices.  This isn't to say that you shouldn't solicit advice and insight from "experts" or friends.  But in the end, the final decision is yours, as it should be.

So be small.  Revel in it.  Rejoice in your small stature.  Because ulitmately, you DO have an advantage over the major corporations and your success, or failure will fall only on your shoulders, not the shoulders of a board or series of middle managers.  You're already thinking big by running your own business, why not act big as well.

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