Digital Marketing Book, Social Media

Why small businesses shouldn’t use too many social media platforms

Why small businesses shouldnt use too many social media platforms

We’ve covered four platforms so far in my blog posts. I would encourage every independent retailer to use at least one of the platforms. There are others that may be valuable for you depending on your industry and experience.

For instance, those in the building materials industry may want to consider Houzz. This platform is popular for showcasing building and remodeling projects. Snapchat and LinkedIn are popular social media platforms too.

Don’t stretch yourself too thin

However, beware of stretching your resources too thin. Many retailers aren’t covering the BASE strategy on the social platforms they’re already using. It is better to do one platform well. Most businesses would be better served executing the BASE strategy on Facebook alone. It is not good to spread your resources across 4 different platforms and not execute BASE on any of them.

Social media marketing and the law of diminishing returns for small businesses

This brings me to the law of diminishing returns. When it comes to your social media presence this is an important law to remember. In fact, we will return to this law at the end of the book as we check your entire online presence. The law of diminishing returns refers to the point at which you have spread yourself too thin. Thus, the extra effort isn’t bringing in enough return to justify the extra work.

Some stores dedicate too many resources to their social media presence. Let’s take an extreme example.

A quick anecdote

I met a store owner in the home and garden industry. Let’s call them Don’s Home & Garden. The owner and his wife, Don and Betty, were nice, hard working people. However, they’d fallen into the trap of social media networks. This small store in a rural town was way overwhelmed. It was after a seminar that they came up to talk to me.

“We listened to your seminar and we know how important social media is, thanks for sharing some tips,” Betty said. 

“Thanks Betty, I appreciate you attending. What questions can I answer?”

“Well,” Betty began, “I noticed that you didn’t talk about Facebook Live. I’ve been hearing a lot about Facebook Live and thinking that I need to do it. Do you have any ideas or tips?”

“Betty that is great if you’re that advanced with Facebook to be thinking about Facebook Live. I can share some input. But are you sure that’s the direction you want to go. It can be a lot of work.”

“Well, I do the social media full time. And we have a girl in the store that helps us too.”

“Do you mind if I ask how many hours she spends on social media?”

“About half her time.”

“And what platforms are you using?” I replied.

“Oh we’re using a bunch. Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Houzz. We just really need to drive customers, it’s just the four of us who work in the store.”

“Okay, come see me at our trade show booth tomorrow and let’s take a look at what you’re doing and talk more in depth.”

Why less is more for small businesses with too many social platforms

I wanted Betty to do less on social media, not more. 

I was almost stunned that she wanted to take on Facebook Live. As a digital marketing consultant, I see the value of social media. But only to a certain point. Betty and her employee were stretching themselves too thin. And when I looked later, they weren’t executing very well across the platforms. Because it was impossible to keep up! Worst of all, their website needed serious revamping. Even if they caught attention on social media their website would turn customers off.

Betty and Don had two main problems. 

As a small business owner, you can only do so much

First, they stretched themselves too thin. I have rarely seen an independent retail store do a good job on more than 2-3 platform. It is too much work. Unless you hire an agency or in-house professional marketer you won’t have time. A social media manager needs to write posts, talk to customers, gather reviews, provide customer service and advertise. They need to do this for every platform! Focus on quality, not quantity. 

The more platforms Betty and her employee worked on also provided diminishing returns for their business. Each platform involved extra effort and fewer new customers in return. Should Betty do Facebook Live? If Facebook was one of only two platforms she was using then, yes, give it a go. But, she spread herself too thin to do a good job with Facebook live. At the same time, each new platform was not bringing a commensurate amount of new business to match the amount of work. 

Pay attention to your resource allocation

Second, they had over dedicated resources to social media. Social media is valuable but it won’t save your business. Like any business decision, please consider the trade offs. If the business owner is working on this then they can’t work on that. If an employee is working on that then they cannot work on this. For Don’s Home and Garden they had too many resources dedicated to social tasks. There was an opportunity cost for their business. 

There are a lot of important tasks required to run a store. When Betty and the store employees were working on social media they couldn’t do other things. They couldn’t clean the storefront, reset the end caps, make cold calls. In front of a computer they couldn’t interact with customers who were already in the store. Posting on Google Plus was never going to be as valuable as some of the activities mentioned. Let’s assume Betty worked 40 hours per week and the employee worked 20 hours per week on social media. Out of four employees they were dedicating 37.5% of their available labor to social media. For a retail store, the return won’t exist. 

Now, I don’t mean to pick on Betty and Don. Their case illustrates the importance of weighing what you’re doing on social media against your goals for your entire store. Social media decisions don’t happen in isolation. When making decisions, look at the impact on the operations of your entire store. 

My (realistic) advice for most small business owners

My advice is to pick two social platforms for your business. Pick the ones that fit the type of content you can create and the resources you have to manage them. Do them well. That will provide fruitful gains without wasting effort with diminishing returns.

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