Focus and Technology in the Realm of Small Businesses
During the past two decades, social media has become practically ubiquitous in American society. It is how millions of people consume their news, communicate, and voice their opinions on a myriad of topics. Consequently, brands big and small have been eager to capitalize on the nation’s digital absorption and thus have established Twitter and Instagram accounts of their own in order not only to better advertise their wares, but also to better connect with their respective customer bases. Often, corporations post in a way that utilizes the internet as a particularly far-reaching billboard. Their pictures, videos, and captions are manicured and without a hint of genuine authenticity. Increasingly, however, companies such as Wendy’s have attempted to directly engage with commenters on their posts using informal, noncorporate responses and slang. At their best, these attempts at relatability create viral moments that boost the company’s cultural cache and market shares. Conversely, at worst, their attempts fall flat or lack sensitivity, creating an equally if not more viral maelstrom of derision and outrage.
Small businesses, due to their limited reach and customer demographics, are less likely to suffer from any sort of intense financial and cultural setbacks precipitated by social media gaffes. Also, there are tangible benefits that social media has for any fledgling entity attempting to amplify its voice. Beyond naturally expanding brand awareness, a small business’s online profile frequently leads to an increase in traffic on the business’s website. This increase usually leads to an uptick in profits from the selling of goods and services. Additionally, it allows owners to at least partially bypass SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and a resultant reliance on Google searches to generate website traffic. These benefits all serve to prevent one’s business from becoming stagnant or worse, irrelevant. Flurries of likes and follows can greatly boost an owner’s confidence in their mission and inspire them to make further steps towards development and advancement. Each successful post becomes a further cornerstone in the creation of a company’s clientele and local presence.
Small business owners should remember, however, that they lack the deep roster of social media experts that corporations regularly employ. Posting on social media requires either the owner’s direct involvement or their outsourcing the work to a specialist, thereby necessitating the spending of money that might be better used for more tangible business expenses. Significantly, forty-three percent of small businesses spend around six hours per week on social media and a third of small business owners report wishing to spend less time online (Entrepreneur). These statistics indicate how overwhelming it frequently is to coordinate a full-time social media presence with the daily tasks of running a company.
Three types of focus are key to successfully running a small business. The first type involves focus as in a business’s speciality. For example, an owner must have a clear idea not just of what they are trying to market, but also to which demographics they are attempting to reach. If a business draws most of its customer base from the geriatric population, then spending hours developing an Instagram presence will likely be an exercise in futility. Instead, relying on supposedly more antiquated methods such as email lists might actually yield better profits while simultaneously occupying less of one’s time.
The second type of focus involves a business owner’s mindset. A common pitfall of social media use across age groups and professions is its insidious disruption of concentration. The apparatus of Twitter and Instagram is designed to distract us, to pull us in different directions. If social media is constantly enticing an owner to devise new strategies to connect with new demographics or to revamp their brand, it might very well be diluting the actual trajectory of the business. The saying “time is money,” although a cliche, nevertheless rings true in this instance. A wise strategy is to set a strict time limit for yourself if you wish to engage with social media. Few small business owners have the capital to be wasting the equivalent of a full work day on fruitless social media campaigns. Of course, this is not to say that most of these owners should be erasing their social media presence. Rather, they must use their discretion as to how much they post and who their audience truly is while remembering that ultimately, profits will alway surpass followers in significance.
Lastly, focus also applies to what an owner hopes to achieve with their social media use. If one simply wishes to gain greater exposure, then seeing a steady climb in likes, retweets, comments, etc. is probably enough to justify one’s commitment to establishing a social media presence. If an owner is hoping for online traction to spur a tangible increase in sales, however, then positive social media metrics grow hollow if that increase never arrives. Even when overseeing a highly concentrated social media campaign, most businesses don’t experience any payoff until around six months have passed (Social Media Today). Unless an owner always keeps their desired result in mind, they will most likely stumble upon a social media policy that is inefficient and disorganized.