What Big Brands Can Learn about Social Media from Small Business

We're all in the same club: #MsTech on Facebook, a small group of women technology enthusiasts in Chicago. While we help each other out every day, it's not often that we get to hear each other speak.

Thanks to Hope Bertram, Social Media Masters Summit organizer, I got to hear three of our members, all small business owners, talk about what big brands can learn about social media from small business. Disclosure: Because I participated in the summit's seven day video challenge [more on that in another post], my admission ticket was complimentary.

Here are my notes with apologies in advance to the speakers for any inaccuracies.  

Small business, Small budget, BIG results

Gabrielle Tompkins of  Crain’s Chicago Business did an excellent job as panel moderator. Here's a quick retake on what each panelist had to say.

Katy Lynch, Owner, Social Katy

Everyone loves Katy’s charming Scottish accent. The first time I met Katy was on a Chicago River cruise. As we glided past the city's glittering sights, Katy told me about what it was like to manage a community of 8 million people.

Katy comes across as being bubbly and friendly – and she really is. What we found out is how organized, efficient and productive her business is. She said she makes time every day to make a few sales calls and checks in with clients to give them ideas. And, she loves numbers.

Social Katy is a pure play firm – they just do one thing and do it well. They stay on that road and don’t do anything else. Katy suggests being flexible and pivot when necessary. So when things change, it’s not the end of the world. You just tweak a few things.

How can your business focus more on doing one thing really, really well?

Mari Luangrath, Owner Foiled Cupcakes

I remember when I met Mari. She was delivering cupcakes. My first thought was: Wow –that’s a lot of work. Cupcakes, for most moms, start out as a plastic bag inside a big cardboard box.

Every one of Mari’s cupcakes came in its own cardboard gift box. And, they were all wearing tags. Lucky for me I grabbed a few extra boxes. My kids were soooo happy to see me when I got home that night.

Mari says consumers get bored of doing the same thing over and over.  She suggests thinking this question: how can your business more exciting?

Try on shocking, sexy, cute or cats. Take inspiration from popular culture, bring it down to your level and convert it.

One idea that Mari tried at a Bright Pink event: take a poster along. Have people sign it. Invite them to tag themselves in the picture of the poster on Facebook.

Mari shared this advice she got from Genevieve Thiers CEO of Sittercity : "Pay more attention to sales than marketing." 

How about you - when do you give in to being distracted by marketing so you don't have to make sales? 

Shannon says business is about accessibility. To do that, make yourself more human. She says, “What attracts people to me is that they know when they reach out to me I’ll be there.”

She also likes to create opportunities for people to meet each other, “It’s nice to see people get together and make things happen.”

What one tool should a small business invest in? You may be surprised by this answer to that question from the audience: an accountant. Because whatever you don’t like to do, you don’t do.

Maybe the shortest, but most profound, message for businesses of all sizes comes in the way of a sign that hangs in Shannon's office:  "Evolve or die."

How is your business staying alive and evolving?

Image: Katy Lynch, Shannon Downey and Mari Luangrath by Barbara Rozgonyi for thesociallens.com

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