Few things have had such a rapid and pervasive effect on small business marketing than social media. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other elements of this medium have added a new dimension to connecting and interacting with customers, colleagues and potential business partners.

The fact that small businesses have been early adopters of social media comes as no surprise to Jeanne Rossomme, founder and president of Washington, D.C.-based Roadmap Marketing. She notes that, “Small business owners were the first to see the potential and show real return on investment from social media. I am still impressed by how quickly small-business owners have seized on the medium and have obtained positive results.”

Central Maine SCORE mentor Jack Tetreault recommends every business owner should be using social networking sites as a listening device to understand how their marketplace is changing. “But like any other marketing tool, it is important to understand what social media is, how it works and how it fits into your overall strategy.”

Tetreault advises that any effective social media strategy must be tied to the customer buy cycle — where and when customers make decisions on purchasing products or services. Before incorporating social media into your business/marketing plan, he suggests addressing these critical considerations:

* Understand where social media fits in the promotional mix.

* Know in advance the medium’s demographic differences; young people use Facebook differently than their parents, for instance.

* Understand how social media affects other aspects of online marketing, particularly the growing connection between search engines and social media.

* Don’t limit your strategy to just Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, as there are social opportunities at other sites as well. If your customers are somewhere else, that’s where you need to be.

Similarly, current and aspiring small-business owner should also consider contacting SCORE, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs build solid, successful small businesses. SCORE can be found on the Internet at www.score.org, Central Maine SCORE at 782-3708 or by email at [email protected] In Oxford Hills call 743-0499; in Rumford-Mexico call 364-3123.

This column is provided by the Central Maine SCORE chapter.

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