Regular readers of this blog will be more than familiar with its bullishness for social network groups.
These special interest communities are being unleashed onto the various social networks in their droves, spawning a cheap, convenient and easy-to-use means of engaging with others that share your passion.
There are social networking groups dealing with all manner of special interest – from needlework to the needy, from football to footwear. All free and all at your fingertips.
And small business is well represented in these groups too.
Friends in Business
A quick search among groups for ‘small business’ in Facebook yielded hundreds of results. That’s hundreds of forums where small business operators virtually hang out.
For anyone in the business of connecting with others – which theoretically should be every small business owner or operator, that’s a lot of new business prospects.
This opportunity has not been lost on aggressive salespeople and multi-level marketers, who can often threaten the integrity of well meaning groups.
Just a few of the search results for the term ‘small business’ in Facebook Groups.
At first glance these groups look like free promotional opportunities. But that’s not what the vast majority of Groups are for. They are communities of people who want to discuss their passion. And like other form of spam, blatant advertising is usually frowned upon and can get you ejected.
Luckily not all groups are mindless advertising channels. As is often touched on here, some are genuine communities who openly discuss all kinds of issues concerning small business, including calls for recommendations of suppliers.
Just yesterday for example, there was a call for a local plumber in one popular small business group.
A hot and qualified lead
Whenever I see a call for a product/service that I know a good provider of, I will usually either ‘tag’ (mention them in my response, which also appears in their notification alert) them, or post a link to either their website or Facebook page.
Like any business lead, we need to act quickly to make contact with the prospect to pitch our various attributes so as to maximise the chance of securing the new business at stake.
The longer the call is not responded to, the greater the chance of losing the opportunity to a competitor.
What’s more, if a tag or referral like this is not responded to, it doesn’t make for a good look for the recommended business operator.
I mean what business operator worth their salt would not respond to this qualified lead and free promotion?
So, I duly recommended and tagged the supplier I knew and linked to their website in response to the call.
Why didn’t you call?
Whilst it’s impossible to monitor every single group for call-outs of this nature, regular use of, in this case Facebook, will mean that you will be notified of anyone tagging you in this way, so that you can respond quickly and maximise your chances of getting the business.
Unfortunately for my plumbing friend, by earlier today they still hadn’t responded to my recommendation.
So, potentially going beyond the call of the friendship (even if only of the Facebook variety), I emailed the business operator to alert them to the opportunity.
By this evening, still no response. And even less chance of securing the business.
‘But why don’t you call them?’ I hear many of you chorus.
Well given the hour I write my blog, I won’t disturb them. However, if they haven’t responded to my email by tomorrow, I will certainly do so.
But this approach also misses the point.
What does your customer prefer to use?
In this scenario, the customer is clearly a regular Facebook user, and Facebook is their choice of communications medium when seeking a supplier.
Any supplier not using Facebook, or at least have good friends that do, is simply not going to be able to identify and respond to this qualified lead.
And so they miss out on this free and convenient sales opportunity.
The moral of this story is crystal clear.
Groups yield gold
The more groups that are populated by your customers that you can reasonably monitor, the greater the chance of encountering calls for the type of product or service you provide.
This is something you don’t even need to do yourself. An assistant or outsourced service is likely to be able to do it for you pretty cheaply.
But this kind of ‘medium myopia’ is not restricted to social media. There are plenty of business operators that simply refuse to embrace and adopt the communications media customers prefer to use.
A blinding example is ecommerce. If your website doesn’t promote and sell a given product, the sale will simply go to a competitor.
Continuing to ignore the favourite channels of your customers only provides a free and easy lead for their competitors.
Make sure you don’t fall into this trap.
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. www.theeteam.com.au