Getting in the Social Media Management Game

Social media management for small businesses is a very hot area. A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about social media management solutions available to help small businesses manage their online and social presence more efficiently and effectively. While this is still a very nascent area in terms of customer adoption, there has been a bumper crop of vendors bringing these solutions to market over the past few months. We have been talking to many of them, and in the last couple of weeks, posted podcasts (Marchex, ZooLoo), videocasts (HubSpot) and briefing highlights (BatchBlue, ZooLoo) for several of them.

Why So Many Vendors are Bringing Social Media Management Solutions to Market

Several factors are compelling vendors to invest in this area. For starters, growing the business is the number one challenge most small businesses face. They’re always looking for leads–new ways to make the phone ring, and drive traffic to their Web sites and physical locations. In addition, at they become familiar with social media as consumers, they recognize how important it is to monitor and manage their brand in the digital world. Last but not least, individual social media tools are simple to use–it’s easy to jump in and start experimenting with things such as Twitter, Facebook etc.

However, many small businesses quickly start drowning in social media. They’re busy running the business day-to-day, and find it hard to keep up with the ever accelerating rate and pace of change and “new stuff” out there. They typically don’t have the time, money or expertise to decipher what all these things do, let alone how to effectively incorporate them into small business marketing. It can become very time consuming to tend to the care and feeding of social media—from creating content to keeping tabs on what people are saying about your business and responding. And, its difficult to figure out if their efforts are paying off. According to this Wall Street Journal article, “Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media,”although social media adoption by businesses with fewer than 100 employees doubled to 24% from 12%, only 22% believe that they made a profit last year from promoting their firms on social media.

Seizing the Social Media Marketing Management Opportunity

But as I said upfront, this area is in its infancy–and small business use of social media will continue to pick up speed. As they get more involved, small businesses will look for ways to move from a trial and error approach to a more systemized way to participate, manage and measure their social media engagement efforts. Right now, small businesses’ awareness of these solutions is low—and the education curve is steep—but this curve should flatten quickly because word about solutions that work can spread virally and rapidly. And, while new social media management solutions aimed at small businesses are proliferating like wildfire, consolidation is bound to start snowballing, with bigger vendors that have complementary online marketing solutions gobbling up the little guys. In fact, this has already begun, with ReachLocal acquiring SMBLive (aka CloudProfile).

The plethora of vendors in this space are coming at the social media management conundrum from different angles. Some are providing extensive inbound marketing platforms, with everything from domain name registration to social media management tools, while others are providing social CRM solutions. Some are providing tightly bundled solutions, others provide tools in an ala carte fashion.

More traditional vendors with other small business marketing solutions—from email marketing to web site hosting to CRM—need to have a strategy in place to determine what capabilities they’ll need to offer in this area–as small businesses will need to use these solutions in a more integrated fashion. If not already doing so, vendors need to thoroughly evaluate the landscape, and assess options to partner, build or acquire the capabilities they’ll need for an effective play in the social media marketing solutions game.

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