does social media work for small business

Think Social Media Doesn’t Work? You Just May Be Right

Do you feel that social media doesn’t work in your small business?

Is social media working in any small business?

Here’s how we used to “use social media” to make friends:

does social media work in small business










Social media is 10 years old.

Some small business owners say it’s been awesome for their business; some small business owners say it’s a waste of time, effort and money.

What’s the disparity? Why does it work so well for some small business owners but not others?

First, you need to understand that social media is a BEHAVIOR, not a platform or a channel. Facebook is a platform – a channel to reach people (although for small businesses that’s getting tougher and tougher to do organically). Social media is a behavior in that it’s how people have come to depend on it for their day-to-day lives.

Small business owners recognized that more and more people were on social media, so they “assumed” it was the next great marketing channel.

They’d post a picture here, throw out a tweet there, shout to the world how awesome their business is, and wonder why no one cared and engaged.

If you want to take advantage of the awesome potential of social media you, have to do some work (or get social media help to get it done).

Here are 5 tips to maximize your social media results that I’ve found to be really helpful in my coffee and smoothie business:


There was a time when one of the primary goals of social media participation seemed to be growing large followings. Did you ever buy  likes (how did that turn out) or try to trick Twitter to get more followers? It’s like we were competing to add people who had no interest in our products and services to fan, follow and circle us.

This seemed logical at the time, right? Everyone would tell you “you need a big email list”, so  why not a big Twitter following? In fact, services like Klout attempted to use follower metrics to measure influence and thereby create scorecards for people building and seeking influencer status.

When it comes to social media use for most small businesses the goal is to embrace and nurture a small group of true fans – people who will scream your praises from the (social media) mountaintop. So whether it’s 1,000 or 100 – the number doesn’t matter. What matters is having a small tribe of true fans.

social media for small businessIn my coffee and smoothie business, I only have 250 likes on Facebook. That’s totally OK. I’m a very local-oriented business so I wouldn’t have a big following anyways. But the people who do like and follow me are super-passionate, super engaged. They post pictures, they tag us, they write amazing reviews on the page. I feel like I know each and every one of them – and I do. It’s “social”.

Stop following and start listening, sorting, engaging and conversing. Focus on the social streams of your customers and hottest prospects. Eliminate the noise from social media and get your streams to a place where they can be useful.

Here’s a useful post on 20 tools to help eliminate social media noise.

Find your 1000 true fans and try to ignore the rest.  Your time spent via social media will pay off.

Small Business Marketing Campaign


Stories have always been an important form of communication, but never more than now.

Stories help make the complex understandable, and they help people connect with emotion– the essential ingredient for attraction, loyalty, and referrals.

But, in the current state of social media clutter stories also help you stand out. They help people get what they turn to social media for most– to fight boredom, to be entertained, and, what the heck, be social.

Here’s the thing about stories– they don’t have to relate to your product or service, they don’t even have to be about you– good stories simply have to help people enjoy or understand some aspect of who they are or aspire to be.

An example I love is for Dove. Dove sells soap, that stuff we use every day and that arguably has absolutely no story behind it whatsoever. Seriously. Soap?

A couple of years ago, the company decided to include men in it’s frankly quite awesome storytelling approach to marketing. For years now Dove has focused on real people and their stories, specifically women who are ‘real’, as in not supermodels. This focus has meant that women have identified with, liked and followed the company all over the Web. They feel cared for by Dove, and recognized as being worthy of feeling beautiful. This has all been done by telling stories about beauty, whether it’s the beauty of a mother and daughter relationship or the beauty of a face and body that is generally viewed as being ‘average’.

All of this has been freed up by a focus on real people. This campaign went even further, and told a real, compelling story about a father simply wishing to see his child. It works because we have a story here, a video that tells us about something that stirs up emotions. And it links those emotions to the healing, reuniting power of soap.

Dove sells soap that it feels takes care of the people who use it. It is simple soap that helps you look after your skin. Link that idea to a dad coming home from service to see his child, and you have a compelling story.

The storytelling palette in a focused social media initiative can include your ads as well as your posts and updates– in fact, it should.

The bloggers over at Social Media Examiner shared 5 Ways to Use Storytelling in Your Social Media. There are some great ideas in this post for any business wishing to embrace storytelling in social media.


Social media has become increasingly visual.

The most engaging posts and updates today come with stunning visual content. Visual platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat continue to grow at a stunning pace. (As of this writing more images are shared on Snapchat than any other platform including Facebook.).

With the introduction of live streaming video platforms such as Periscope and Blab and the rollout of live video on Facebook, there’s never been a better time for people to meet and see the real you.

I know a lot of social media folks are jumping on these visual platforms as a way to create more buzz and more following as early adopters and thought leaders and that’s okay– but for the typical small business with a focused following, there’s still a great opportunity here.

Use the more visual platform to let people see behind the curtain, let them see you at play, let them see how the product is made, let them see a day in the life.

Understand this isn’t “look at me, look how cool I am” content, this is perhaps just the opposite if it is to connect. This is “look at me, look how much I care, look how regular I am, look at why I might be the perfect person to guide you to the result you are seeking.


This one might be the hardest of them all because now I am going to suggest that you put in the time and actually care about what you are doing. Yikes, I know, tall order.

Once you have your 1,000 true fans, it’s time to start having meaningful conversations with them about what they want, what they don’t have, what they fear, what brings them joy. (Of course, you can do this via email and at the next networking event as well).

Here’s the trick though– a real conversation happens naturally– it doesn’t flow like a qualifying script.

Even if you only have ten minutes a day to dedicate to this activity start asking individuals– not followers– about things. Get very, very curious about helping people and, here’s one you might not have thought of, about how other people can help you.

Give people more reasons to talk to you, ask for feedback at every touchpoint, and don’t shy away from conversations that start on negative terms– those are how you learn, how you get better– and those are the only conversations you can’t fake.

There’s a great book called– Hug Your Haters— go read it now.


My last point has to do with money– or perhaps more accurately– revenue.

When you follow points one through four, you start to realize that all this focus, storytelling, personality sharing, and conversing turns into something meaningful– a relationship or two.

And out of these relationships built on paying attention and being genuine, you can start to recognize ways that you can make a significant impact on someone’s life or business.

You’ll identify mutually beneficial opportunities that lead to customers and sales and if you keep at it, repeat sales and referrals.

Yes, I’m on record here to tell you that you can sell through social media if you take the time to help people.

So you see, social media isn’t dead, and it’s no different than any other sales channel– those who care, those who educate, those who provide utility– win.

About Stacey Riska

Stacey Riska, aka “Small Business Stacey” is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners #CrushIt by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients, MORE sales, and MORE money. Stacey is the founder of Small Biz Marketing Specialist, THE go-to place for marketing tips, techniques and strategies that get results. Stacey is also the creator of the Daily Deals for Massive Profits Training Program, an online video training program that teaches small and local business owners how to use daily deal sites like Groupon to skyrocket their business growth and get massive profits. In this program she teaches from experience, as it was the key strategy that transformed her coffee and smoothie business from being $500K in debt to a 7-figure profitable business. When not saving the small business world, she enjoys sipping red wine, eating chocolate (who doesn’t!) and spending time with her amazing husband.


About the Author smallbizmarketing

Stacey Riska, aka “Small Business Stacey” is a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about saving small business and rebuilding Main Street. She helps small and local business owners become a #SmallBizMarketingWiz by teaching them marketing strategies that get MORE: MORE leads, MORE customers/clients, MORE sales, and MORE money.

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