I want to start by thanking Frank J. Kenny for his brief article entitled “Use Story to Break Through the Social Media Marketing Clutter”. It’s a simple article that has inspired me to clarify and share with you what my business goal in life truly is.
I don’t write articles, post comments, interact and share tweets to impress those businesses and organizations who are already working with someone and clearly have their act together. Sure, I may occasionally see flaws or shortcomings where some of their strategies are concerned. But they’re working with someone… and they’ll figure it out… and if they have questions or want my input… they’ll ask.
No… I write articles, post comments, interact and share tweets to appeal to those small businesses and organizations who have taken it upon themselves to try and figure all this out. They hear the buzz words. They know they should be using these tools… Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn, foursquare, YouTube. They don’t know which ones are best for their business… or how everything should be linked together in a manner that is most effective for them. They’ve been burned by friends and family members who, with good intentions, have “helped” because they can put a “Facebook Business Page” online and open a Twitter account… connect the two… and then they leave that person with the ill-fated “it’s there… now they will come” line of thinking. Quickly frustration sets in… and then those business owners start thinking “I’m too small. This doesn’t work for me. It’s only for the large companies”. This couldn’t be further from the truth!
It pains me to receive a “Friend Request” via Facebook from a business owner who has set up a new page and wants me to help promote his/her business. Of course I’ve written an article about this problem. Sure… it was originally aimed at Chambers… but it’s absolutely applicable to all businesses! I’m Sorry… I Can NOT be your “Friend” on your “Chamber of Commerce” Facebook Page.
Everything that I’ve done in life has led me to this point. No… that’s certainly not a profound statement. Everyone can say that. You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t see their life that way. However, I do… which is why I know that my story… my path… is your path to success.
My path started with six years in “Corporate America” in my early 20’s working for a sister company of IBM. This taught me structure, communication, problem solving, and how to deal with people at various levels of corporate management. This was followed by a few years serving as VP for a small business with nearly 60 offices scattered throughout the state of Florida. I was responsible for and ran one of the offices. This taught me leadership, discipline, introduced me to “accountability”, trained me in marketing, and helped me learn how to deal with people OUTSIDE of “Corporate America”. By then, the Internet was starting to get noticed by the general public and in the early ’90’s, I like to say “I saw the wave and swam out to it”.
I started teaching myself all things Internet. The combination of leadership, structure, discipline, problem solving, marketing, and dealing with people at a variety of levels allowed me to “have what it takes” to start a business. In 1993 I developed my first website for my first real paying client. It happened to be a RE/MAX real estate team outside Denver. Remax.com wasn’t even born yet. We’d never met face to face… and never would. The Internet was revolutionizing how business was going to be done. There were approximately 2000 to 3000 actual websites in existence. No Ebay, Amazon, Realtor.com, Google. There were no schools for this back then. There were no real “online tutorials”. It was like the wild west. A free-for-all. This stuff was being made up along the way. During the next 18 years I immersed myself in and taught myself all things Internet while learning a great deal about small businesses… their wants… their needs.
I spent nine of those years working directly with a local county Chamber of Commerce. I happily dedicated hundreds of hours of my time. I, without regret, provided them with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of my services and my software. I knew what they needed online. I knew what their members wanted and expected. They didn’t have the monitory resources to reach the point where they needed to be… and that just didn’t seem fair. So I helped by redesigning their website. I understood the ever changing “Search Engine Game”. They soon went from averaging five to six visitors a day to their website to well over 500 visitors per day. They had top rankings, most often number one spots, in Google, Yahoo, Ask, and others when performing any variety of searches for information regarding that region.
Then the economy tanked. Small businesses crashed and burned. I lost nearly 50% of my client base as they decided to “cut costs” and try to ride the storm out. At the same time, the Chamber found itself without a CEO. The county I lived in had an 18.9% unemployment rate. I tossed my hat in the ring along with countless others who were unemployed and looking for work. The Board went through the normal ritual of screenings and interviews. and ultimately offered me the job. I accepted… and, for the next two years, led that Chamber through what’s now considered by many as the worst economic time since the “Great Depression”.
During that time I introduced the Chamber to “Social Networking” and integrated it into our plan to help promote area businesses and organizations. It was a new way to help focus on “member retention” and it provided us with a new set of tools to help obtain new members.
What I learned during those years while working with the Chamber and its members is so much more than I have the time to go into here. I’ll do that another time. However, the experience DID help me decide what my main business goal is: “To educate Chambers and small businesses in the area of Social Networking by familiarizing them with the tools and helping them select, integrate, and use a combination of these tools that is best for the success of their particular business or organization.”
One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make is thinking that “just because I can set these up… it MUST mean I know how to use them!” I’ve said it before… sure, I might be able to sell my own house but that doesn’t make me a REALTOR®. I can change the oil in my Yukon… but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. If you have enough time on your hands that you can try to figure all this out on your own… then you’re not doing enough business to stay afloat.
Another big mistake is trying to copy someone else’s strategy. Just because something seems to be working for someone you know doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you! In fact… odds are it won’t!