Social networking turns SMEs into broadcasters
Licenses, expensive technical operations and highly paid staff meant that it was a game only the likes of the Murdochs and Packers could seriously entertain playing in.
Even if you wanted a bit part to promote your business, you could still be expected to pay a pretty penny for anything resembling prime time promotion – not to mention the cost of creating a half decent advertisement.
So it might come as something of a pleasant surprise to learn that smaller business operators can now own a piece of the broadcast pie for as little as a few hours instruction and an hour or two a week.
But we aren't talking commercial television or even public radio.
Social networking: the new way to broadcast
Social networking is the exciting new means to give yourself a low cost and – if you play your cards right – willing audience that can multiply quicker than pretty much anything else before it.
Now fast moving smaller businesses are tapping into this phenomenon to build themselves an audience that costs nothing but time to feed and grow.
The result is what can be a quite impressive 'follower' base that indeed can rival that of a smaller broadcaster.
Like many smaller business operators, I don't have a great deal of time to feed this hungry digital beast, but if you tally up all the people I have access to via the various social networks, we are talking numbers regional broadcasters would be proud of.
Connections on tap
A quick check of all of my connections reveals the following numbers:
- Email list - approx 1,000
- Facebook friends – 145
- LinkedIn connections – 222
- Twitter followers – 260
So a 'following' of around 1,600 without a great deal of effort over less than five years.
Not at all huge numbers compared to our household name broadcasters. In fact these numbers are pretty modest compared to many social networking devotees. But this is just those I have immediate access to – just the tip of my connection iceberg.
Now add the readerships of those eZines and other websites who regularly post my blogs and articles and you can immediately add around 100,000 people internationally.
Then, if I was to tally the numbers of LinkedIn Groups that I have joined, you could add a further 150,000 odd people to that number.
Remember you can broadcast your messages to these Groups with a few lines of material and a few minutes arranging your 'discussion posts'.
Add these up and you are talking more than a quarter of a million people worldwide – each of whom – if I was to time that message correctly – I can send a single message to within around 20 minutes.
These numbers don't include those casual 'readers', those who stumble across an article or post in their travels but don't 'subscribe' to become part of my network which would amount to many, many more again.
What about ROI?
Now while that might sound like a reasonable number of connections to achieve by simply feeding my connection pool on a regular basis, the more switched on of you will be asking a very salient question.
"That's all well and good, but what is your Return On Investment?"
And an entirely valid question that is.
One for which the answer isn't immediately obvious. Because like most businesses, social networking is one small but important part of my 'promotional mix' which also includes events, sponsorship and local marketing activities.
And as one marketing manager once famously said – "Around half of our advertising budget is wasted. We just don't know which half".
But what I can tell you is that there have been times that my chosen mix of the various social networking activities have yielded up to 80% of my new business at any one time.
You read correctly – 80%.
Growing your digital veggie patch
Sure I am a reasonably prolific writer and not everyone can attract the likes of SmartCompany to publish their blogs.
But if you can grasp how social networking works, and feed your connection network with credible, valuable information, you too can end up with these sorts of numbers and more literally at your fingertips.
When I say 'valuable information', I mean something that will appeal to your specific customers, be that advice, insights or something more overtly promotional like an offer or discount.
What is also instrumental in communicating with this connection base is the valuable keywords you are casting out into the cybersphere. Because every time your message or article are re-published or shared, your keywords are multiplied over and over, attracting the ubiquitous tentacles of search engines which – if managed correctly, link straight back to your website, giving it greater prominence on Google et al.
But don't expect all of this to happen overnight.
Attracting these kind of numbers is like growing your own veggie patch. With lots of TLC, water and a bit of digital elbow grease you will soon have a garden of connections you can be proud of.
Have you grown a respectable follower base? Tell us how you did it by commenting below...
In addition to being a leading eBusiness educator to the smaller business sector, Craig Reardon is the founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which was established to address the special website and web marketing needs of SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.