Does Social Media Really Work in Generating Leads and Growing Your Business? What Every Small Business Needs to Know

Social media is the newest SEO monster. Many businesses are jumping on the bandwagon and rushing to get a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any of the other sharing websites.

While everyone else is rushing to establish a standout presence before the competition, others are asking, "Does social media really work in generating leads and growing your business?"

That's an excellent question. According to a report in Forbes magazine, the answer is a surprising yes and no. Forbes reported in their article titled, "Why Small Businesses Are Losing On Social Media" that 60% of small business owners reported no return on social media efforts. That's zero new leads through social media websites.

Through an interview with Ted Rubin, Forbes documented the unintentional misuse of social media by small businesses. Small business expectations, how they use social media websites and the reality of the technology are all wrong, according to Rubin.

The problem begins when a small business owner is sold on the strategy of social by certain "experts" who are only trying to make a sale. These salespeople set up the expectations of a small business the wrong way, and they set up the small business for disappointment.

If a web designer or freelancer tries to sell you on the idea that a social media presence will bring in droves of new leads, they're misrepresenting social media. This simply won't happen.

Instead, Rubin argues, social media needs to be considered as a listening tool. Pull in a low-level staffer (think very low, such as an intern or your teenage child – though there are online tools that can do this as well) to "listen" to the social media chatter. For example, if you offer plumbing supplies, monitor social media for people complaining about their current plumbing supplier. Those are the leads which need to be pursued.

Time is another major social media factor often overlooked by small businesses. Many small businesses spend an average of only three hours a week on social media platforms. The social media beast needs to be monitored more often than that, so the low-level staffer, or an online tool, seems like a better idea after considering the time necessary for social media monitoring. Though, even an online tool needs to be monitored for any actions that need to be taken.

Finally, a social media plan needs to be executed with patience. While forums work best when they are used to build relationships rather than rake in leads, other sites like Twitter or Facebook are better for responding to issues immediately which helps build customer trust in the brand. A dedicated social media staffer would take the time necessary to talk to customers and help build brand loyalty on each individual platform, but it will take time to see the reach and interactions grow.

In conclusion, social media will help generate leads. It will help grow a business, if there are dedicated resources allotted to the endeavor in addition to a plan and enough time to develop results. It will work as word of mouth when it is given enough time. In the end, like most things, social media will yield to the ratio of what it put into it. Decide what you want to see and develop a plan that includes the resources and time that will produce it for you.

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