Small Businesses Have a Unique Opportunity in Social Media

By: Guest | August 28, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Tammy Kahn Fennell.

As a small business you have something the big guys can never have.

Total real-ness.

You understand your brand, your industry, and your customers.

You know more about selling your product or service than anyone else. And this kind of domain expertise translates incredibly well on social media.

According to a recent study by Blue, 50 percent of small businesses report they have developed new leads from social media.

So social is working for small businesses.  But what is it about small businesses that makes social such a natural fit, and their success something the big guys strive to emulate?

Trust Is Built through Interaction

As a small business, you don’t have automated phone systems with a menu of options, nor do you outsource any of your marketing to an individual or company that has never experienced your product/service/store.

Here’s where you dominate: Through meaningful, personal, and real interaction. You’re available to your customers and can serve them in a personal way big brands can’t. Social media is the perfect extension to what you’ve already been doing.

A Real-Life Example. Meet Dave.

Why should Joe the chef buy his panini grill from Dave at Bakertowne Supply, a small e-commerce outlet, rather than from a big-box nameless store? Ask Dave anything about his grills. He knows everything from the temperature for cooking the perfect Cuban panini, to why one brand is better than another. Heck, if you’re local, he’ll even deliver it right to your home or restaurant.

Dave has so much expertise to offer, but he’s not using it to its fullest potential. Customers find him through his eBay store, but they are not engaging with him because he’s not giving them the opportunity to do so. (Dave happens to be a friend and he is a personal mission of mine, so I hope to be able to update in a few months to show how his social media has grown and how it has affected his business. Feel free to help him out by liking his page!)

Here’s What Bakertowne Supply SHOULD be doing:

Personal Outreach

What Bakertowne Supply can easily do is create personal relationships with every sale they make. Dave ships most of his items himself. This means each customer could receive a note in their shipment. The note would ask the customer to like Dave’s Facebook page or follow him on Twitter and would include the benefits of connecting with him. If 51 percent of Facebook users and 64 percent of Twitter users are more likely to buy from the brands they follow, it’s a fair prediction Dave’s repeat business will increase.

Amplify: Get People Sharing

Anyone who tweets Dave or shares his page in a post to a friend should get a discount coupon, free shipping, or some other reward to thank them for spreading the word. (And this should be made clear in the note.)

Another Real Life Example. Meet Meesch.

MeeschNY is an up-and-coming greeting card design company. Where does Meesch get most of their business? Craft fairs. How do people know about these fairs? Michelle is doing a great job telling her growing following where she is going, and when. After each fair, she engages with her fan base and shares pictures. 

What Meesch Is Doing Well:

Local Outreach

Meesch knows their best customers regularly frequent craft and art fairs. She actively posts local happenings and encourages their fan base to share on their personal profiles.

Small businesses like Meesch and Bakertowne Supply have a unique opportunity to interact on a personal level with each and every sale. They are local; they participate in the community. Therefore, they can serve local leads better because they can connect with them in a way big brands can’t.

You wouldn’t see Hallmark sharing a story and a laugh with a customer about how it rained at the local craft fair and everyone had to huddle under the vendor tents to stay dry. And you’ll rarely see a customer replying to a big brand in a personal way.

Smaller Businesses Can Create a More Personal Experience

Smaller businesses have always relied on their personal networks and word-of-mouth; and social media is a natural extension to this strategy. Ning has found it only takes 20 people to create meaningful many-to-many interactions, bringing an online community to a significant level of activity. Almost any business can achieve that!

It’s you who has the advantage as the small business. You can create a more personal experience, and you can identify on a level your users crave, but rarely get from the larger brands. So get out there and start engaging!

Tammy Kahn Fennell has been putting her marketing expertise to work since 2003. Late 2009, after spotting trends and recognizing the future in social media, she co-founded MarketMeSuite’s Inbox For Social. The company now has a fast-growing global customer-base of businesses and consultants. She also runs the popular social media blog, You can follow her on Twitter at tammykfennell


According to the research of Jonah Berger, professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, who recently spoke at Google, only 7% of word of mouth is online. So the question is, how do you make your product or service part of the 93% of offline word of mouth?

I don't have research to back it up, but I'd bet people are more likely to share a great face-to-face experience than a great online one - and face-to-face is where small business can excel. Also, with only 7% of WOM happening online, there's a lot of room for growth!


I like the idea of a personal note in each shipment, and is a concept that bat around once in a while here. Would you recommend including more than one social network in a note like that, or have you found it best to keep it simple? (i.e. "Thanks" followed by an invitation to Facebook)

ginidietrich moderator

Tammy! I'm late to the party. I'm sorry. I always love seeing your smiling face in our guest blog lineup. 


I run a small business. Social media has allowed us to compete with the big boys. In fact, I overheard a conversation the other day between two big, global PR firms. One person asked the other who they considered their competition. They said us. LOL! As if. We're a flea on their dog, but the perception is we're creeping in on their territory...and it's all been possible because of social media.


Thanks for posting this!  I especially like the part where you say "Smaller Businesses Can Create a More Personal Experience".  That is dead on.  As a consumer I look for smaller businesses where I can have a personal relationship with them.


Thanks for sharing this Tammy. These current real-life examples are really valuable.


This has been at the core of what I've been telling my clients for years: small businesses are much better equipped for the social media world. They are closer to the customers, have no (or fewer) silos, and understand the mindset that is needed.


If you want another Dave who is doing a great job, I often point to Dave Warren of Dave's Ace Hardware in Wisconsin. Own's two stores and does an incredible job with his Facebook presence. I stumbled on him by accident and have been impressed with what he does, and he has become a friend.


 @ADemme Hi! I would put Follow us on Twitter @your handle and be sure to like our facebook page... link.  That usually isn't too much to ask. You can even say, if you comment or tweet me I'll message you with a discount for your next order :) (that gets people to actually take action)


 @ginidietrich Thanks Gini for working with Lisa to get this published. I have a lot to say about the SMB and social marketing so expect more soon. And, missy, I still need to pick your brain on your thoughts on -- we've come a long way :)


 @KenMueller Thanks Ken. My Dave is my own personal project so I hope that he is as good as your dave soon!


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