Friday, May 23, 2008

social media connects to small business

I read this on Chris Brogan's RSS Mailer, what a great way fro small businesses to connect to social media, worse case scenario any newbie to twitter can appreciate Twitter Packs.

Social Media Starter Moves for Small Town Small Businesses

By Becky McCray

Small town businesses have some fundamental differences from our big city counterparts. But our relative isolation doesn't mean we don't have a use for social media tools. To the contrary, small town professionals have the most to gain from making new connections. Liz Strauss was kind enough to let me tell some of the reasons why over at Successful Blog. To follow up, here are some starter moves to help you get connected to the larger world.

Twitter to make connections

Yes, I know you're heard that Twitter can be an enormous time sink. But only if you treat it that way. If you treat it as a way to meet people, to expand your horizons, to learn from others, and to feel connected, you can make it a useful tool for your business. I recommend you start by adding a handful of people, and let your network grow organically. Start with me; I'm @beckymccray, and I love to connect with other small town folks. Check Twitter Packs for more people in your industry or in your state. Share cool discoveries, information, and just connect on a human level. Twitter does not require (or deserve) constant attention. You can check in a few times a day, or monitor it more or less in the background while you work on something else. I've been known to let friends on Twitter keep me company while I'm doing my least-favorite bookkeeping chores. And yes, I've made and strengthened valuable business and personal connections at Twitter.

Blog to position yourself as an expert

Part of what makes a small town special is the sense of community, and that's what blogging does at its best. Find the blogs already talking about your field, and start reading and commenting. Then start your own blog, telling stories. While your small town business may not pick up paying clients from your blogging, you will be learning new skills, improving your writing, and making connections with people interested in your field. Read the Starter Moves for Freelancers to learn more about making your blog business-like.

Facebook to reach the community

Even in my home town of 5000 people, there is a healthy group of Facebook users. I just got an invitation to join the community summer band, via Facebook. I'm also seeing small town people using Facebook as a tool to remain connected even as they spread out around the country. By staying active yourself, you can make and keep connections based on this natural geographic affinity. Another option are the local community websites. In your town, you might find people online at the local newspaper site, an independent community forum, or even on a local business's website. The disadvantage? These are usually hotbeds of local politics. Use caution.

Experiment to learn

Use Flickr to connect with your local photo enthusiasts. Sign up with Utterz to give on-the-spot reports. (I would so love to see an ag commodity report on Utterz! "We're live at the Woodward Stockyards…" ) Use Operator11, Ustream or Blog TV to share meetings, trainings, or build a networking group across distance. Your goal is not to be on every single network out there. Your goal is to try the tools that could work for your business, or even for your clients, and learn them. Drop the ones that don't help you. And remember that it's not all about getting business, it's also about connection, learning and thinking.

Share your secrets

What tools are you finding the most useful for building connections? Share in the comments, and if you are from a small town, be sure to shout about it!

Tomorrow at Small Biz Survival, I'll have four examples of people who live in small towns and use social media to build their connections.

Written by Becky McCray

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