Does a Small Business Need Social Media?

small business social

Even today, I regularly encounter small business people, consultants, and independent service providers who are new to and inexperienced with social media. Most of whom would prefer to stay that way, too, and I don’t blame them.

They’ve been told over and over again by well-meaning friends, clients, and vendors that they should “do” social media. They’ve fought the good fight, swam upstream, and resisted peer pressure like the good little critical thinkers that they are. They’re tired–they’ve got social media fatigue like the rest of us, and they’re not even on it yet!

As a content marketing professional with clients all over the country, I get to work from all my favorite local coffee shops and anywhere with free wifi. As my fellow coffeeshoppers and I get to know each other, we play the “So, what do you do?” game. It’s not just coffee shops. It’s backyard BBQs, family get-togethers, game nights, cocktail parties.

I have come to expect a certain line of follow-up questions when I divulge that I get paid to do social media. Even my dentist wants a quick audit on his online presence. To wit, he waits until his knuckles are out of my mouth before he asks.
“Do I have to do social media?”

Five years ago, that’s the question I heard most. It was voiced with the same tone as a five year old who doesn’t want to go to bed. “Do I haaaaave to?”

Nowadays, the question has morphed into grudging acceptance with a strong reluctance to expand. “Okay, fine. But do I have to do social-media-channel-du-juor?” Instagram? Snapchat? Pinterest? Facebook?

My answers haven’t changed over the years. They’ve crystallized, like a college professor who’s given the same lecture to many successive freshman classes. I have to take care not to put my mouth on autopilot.

Five years ago, I had a firmer answer, “No, you don’t have to do social media. It’s not yet a cost of doing business, like having a business card or letterhead or an ad in the phonebook. It will be. But, not yet.”

If and how your small business should “do” social media depends on a few factors. What does your business or consultancy do? What services and products do you sell? Which suite of services might you emphasize first to subsidize your new social media expenses? Who are your clients and prospects? What demographic to do you serve or aim to serve? How do they prefer to be in communication? See for more.

In terms of “doing” social media for your small business, we’re talking about social media marketing. Let’s use digital marketing as the umbrella term for anything that doesn’t get printed on paper or vinyl, that doesn’t get written in the sky, spelled out on a cake, or mown into a crop circle.

The barriers for Mom and Pops to enter the social media landscape and set up shop are low. Social media is not free, certainly, and it takes time and skilled effort. But that’s not changed. What’s driving this deeper penetration into the “Local” market is two-fold–increasing user adoption of social media in general and Google pushing their Local product. That is, your business can have a Google Local Page (or whatever they’re calling it today) and that page can show your storefront and/or available product listings. Google Local Marketing is a thing.

And, as we know from our friends the lemmings, as more people do it, more people are gonna do it. You don’t have to, but the voices saying that you should aren’t going away. And, you’ll have more and more valid reasons why you should as it continues to become common business practice.