Social Web Marketing Strategy for Small Business: the Digital Party

Just finished reading a good article by John Arnold, writing for Entrepreneur Magazine in his Marketing Tools & Technologies column. “4 innovative marketing solutions that are just around the corner for small businesses.”

I think that small businesses should certainly be able to find some to-do’s and take-aways for their own strategic marketing plan. I agree with the majority of his advice, but felt motivated to post a retort to his comments on the social media space.

But first, the good stuff.

Go mobile!

The last section of his article is very relevant, in which he speaks to the importance of the mobile web for small business brands. This importance cannot be emphasized enough.

The growing interest in utilizing mobile marketing strategies and tactics is the direct result of the rapid acceptance and integration of personal mobile devices into the lifestyle of the North American consumer.

The iPhone, iPad (coming to Toronto at the end of May!) Android and all similar devices have changed the way consumers shop, communicate, and interact in the digital space.

For your small business: Arnold has good advice for you.If you have a location-based business, start making your communications more mobile friendly so people can respond to your offers and information while they are on-the-go. Sending text-messages and e-mails with mobile coupons and snack-sized bites of product information are great places to start. Also, social media users are more likely to become mobile savvy than the average internet user, so make sure you have a presence on the most common social sites.”

Now, the not-so good stuff.

In the context of social media/the social web, Arnold comments: “The challenge for a small business is the same challenge facing any business: How do you get enough people to pay attention to your ads while they are busy uploading photos or conversing with friends?”

From my perspective, I think that the question raised above is slightly off the mark. As a small business owner or marketer, should it really be your primary objective to get people to pay attention to your ad on the social space? I don’t think that it is.

Why? I believe that it may be time for marketers to stop thinking of the social web as a media, in the same way we think of television, radio, out-of-home and print.

Now that the social web has shifted from early adopter niche acceptance to widespread, mainstream usage, it looks less and less like a “traditional” media.

That said, much like so-called traditional media, the social web has space for sale. From a measurement standpoint, your brand presence on the social web can be observed, monitored, recorded, and quantified at a very micro level, to the chagrin of marketing analysts everywhere.

The social web, like traditional media (and even similar to the overall digital space we call the internet,) can be treated very much like a traditional media and inserted into the strategic marketing plans and communication/tactical plans of many brands.

This is where Arnold, like many marketers and entrepreneurs, could benefit from taking a different perspective regarding how consumers interact with brands on the social web.

For any brand seeking to engage a target audience in the social-digital space, it’s important to shift your thinking away from the “interruption marketing” mindset of traditional media and move towards the “conversation” based approach of the social web.  Recommend Seth Godin’s blog for more on this approach.

My last post used a “party” analogy to portray the consumer expectations and behaviour on the social web.


As the host or hostess of a cocktail party, you would not put up a large poster in your living room expounding the benefits of Coca-Cola.

As a brand manager for Coke, you certainly would not expect your guests to begin interacting with the brand. They will see it – so your cost-per-impression metrics may be superb – but your consumer engagement will likely erode into the unprofitable wash of brand avoidance.

As a marketer, why do this on the social web?

My advice for small (and large) brands who want to use the social web to build genuine engagement:

Host a party. Use the social web to create a space for consumers to engage in your brand on their own terms.

Don’t put up posters: Consumers don’t want to be interrupted here. They want to mingle.

Don’t crash other peoples parties: It’s rude, and ineffective. Put out an olive branch and hope for an invite.

Say something interesting: Don’t stand in the back by the spinach dip. Just like a bricks-and mortar party, if you have nothing interesting to say, no one will want to speak to you. Be creative.

Ok, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading.


About cojent. marketing communications.

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2 Responses to Social Web Marketing Strategy for Small Business: the Digital Party

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