Sometimes you have to put things in perspective.

Take Social Media for example. I’m sure if you mention this communications revolution to the average small business operator they will just shake their heads and mumble something about lost productivity, planted negative reviews and a human conversation thief – some of which is not undeserving.

Social media participation

But travel back a decade or so.

Imagine that you’d said to the small business operator of the time that they could create an list of people of unlimited size eager to receive unlimited promotional messages, that you could spend as little as $5 pushing out that message to several thousand more – who by the way could be targeted down to suburb, age and even behaviour and that you could do all this completely free of charge, you would need a battalion to stop them breaking down your doors.

Really, what isn’t to love about such a brilliant capability?

Yet here we sit more than a decade after Facebook hit our PCs with a force of a herd of rhinos with a reported 30% of small business operating a social media presence and of those, the majority doing little more than post comments on topics like the weather and the football results.

A generation gap

The truth is that most smaller business operators are yet to grasp the value of a free and effective promotional channel and if they do, have no idea how to harness it to promote their businesses.

In the meantime their much larger competitors are falling over themselves to achieve the holy grail of direct marketing – a ‘Like’ from a customer or prospect.

The reason for this gap in understanding is simply resources.

Larger businesses invest considerable resources in direct marketing, fully cognizant that it is the most cost effective form of promotion.

Direct marketing gold

What they understand is that by having a means of contacting a customer directly, they have two key advantages:

  • That customer has volunteered to receive their promotional message – saving them valuable resources in trying to reach them via expensive mass broadcast means
  • They know their name and other information so that their communications can be far more personalised and relevant than generic broadcast messages

But heres the real clincher.

For the first time in marketing history, it essentially costs organisations nothing to send a promotional message to their customers and prospects.

Just like email before it, the distribution cost of the message is essentially zero.

Unprecedented viral

But unlike email, social media posts can be re-posted into social media Groups of up to hundreds of thousands at a time, can be ‘boosted’ to targeted audiences and have viral factors that email just cant compete with – like Friends of the recipient being alerted to the fact that your customer ‘Likes’ your promotional message.

Direct marketers worth their salt should be still be doing cartwheels at the prospect of these capabilities.

While many SME operators are bound to be impressed by these capabilities, the fundamental issues are those of skill, resources and money.

The cost of a free medium

The reality is that while these capabilities are child’s play to Gen Ys and ‘millenials’, most small business operators are a decade or two older and are relatively new to social media.

So what might be a DIY marketing tactic to younger people becomes one that realistically needs to be outsourced for the older business operator.

Most simply don’t understand how to grow your social media audience and provide it with compelling content.

Whilst in the right hands, the results are likely to be profitable, its yet another business problem for the already time poor smaller business operator to get their heads around before parting with the hard earned dollars on a medium they still know very little about.