Social Media Isn’t Rocket Science; It’s Social

By: Guest | September 11, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Leslie McLellan

It seems to happen every time you talk to small business people about social media, doesn’t it?

Eyes gloss over, hands start to flutter, attention wanes.

You hear “I know it’s important, but it’s so complicated.”

Since when is being social complicated? Social media is another form of simple conversation and if you’re in small business, you have to be involved in the conversation.

Nowhere is it more clearly stated than in the Social Media Revolution video – the ROI of social is that your business will still exist in five years.

I was responsible for marketing a small Southern California resort destination for two years, primarily using social media, not spending a dime on paid advertising. I can tell you it was successful, even though I’m not a numbers person.

We weren’t mired in analytics, we didn’t do fancy things….we were driven by being social, by the online conversation (primarily via Twitter), and we based our success on how many were talking about us as we tracked the conversation via TweetDeck and by how many were staying overnight in the area.

Now, there are plenty of businesses who live and die by their social media analytics, and I’m not disputing how they do things at all. I’m saying for our destination and for small business in general, being social and keeping things simple is critical.

What can be done to help small businesses, destinations, or anyone get over the fear of social media and see how easy it can really be?

I struggled with that question last year and decided to start a monthly social media “meetup” for our community. Anyone who was using, or wanted to start using, social media for business was welcome to attend.

At the first meeting, 35 people attend representing 28 businesses. They ran the gamut from businesses that were socially savvy to those that wanted to start using social media.

To be completely transparent, I had an ulterior motive for starting the meetup. Having had to market a destination for two years without any money and looking at a third year of having minimal dollars to spend, I needed help talking about the destination.

So I had three primary goals:

  1. Get more of our businesses talking about what was happening in the area.
  2. Help  owners promote their own businesses and each other.
  3. Provide a forum where our businesses could learn how easy social media is and to become more comfortable with it.

If these things could be accomplished, it would be a big win for everyone in the community.

To date, in addition to ongoing conversations and questions about Facebook and Twitter, we have covered things such as QR codes, how to set up LinkedIn and Google profiles, Quora, Foodspotting, Pinterest, and the list goes on.

Each month at least one person asks about something new they’ve heard about and we assign a person to check it out and report the following month. We spend a great deal of time with questions and answers. The best part of each meeting is that someone always says, “Oh, I never knew I could do that; it’s so easy.”

I’ve enjoyed watching the meetings evolve. About 20 businesses regularly attend, in addition to many sporadic visitors. Everyone is now engaged in the conversation and a lot of ground is covered in the 90-minute gatherings.

The first few months I provided a list of turnkey Facebook and Twitter posts that businesses could use to enhance and fill in their social media marketing. The posts focused on the destination, upcoming events, the weather – simple things people coming to the area wanted to know about. I don’t have to do that any more as everyone now “gets” it and can do that on their own.

Small businesses need to be shown how simple social media is. They know it’s vital; but so many are unaware of how easy it can be. Do you have a group in your area that helps small businesses make sense of social media? If not, please consider starting one and help others understand it’s not rocket science, it’s simply being social.

After 21 years as the director of marketing and tourism for Lake Arrowhead, Calif., Leslie McLellan is now part of the Tourism Currents team which provides in-person and online training for destination marketing organizations and their small business members. Tourism Currents believes in keeping social media simple. Connect with Leslie on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or via her blog.

  • I think the best part was your quote,  “Oh, I never knew I could do that; it’s so easy.” I’ve heard that from people, too.
    The other day, while at a gas station, I heard a woman, likely in her 70’s, ask the man she was talking with, “Are you on FB?”
    He said, “No,” with a look of fear, and maybe a little embarrassment.
    She said, “It was easy and I have 1000 friends.”
    It sort of made me smile.

    • LeslieMcLellan

       @ExtremelyAvg Love it!!  Thank you for sharing your story!!

  • I think that’s fantastic Leslie, in two ways.
    (1) A lot of people just aren’t going to make quick progress in social if the only support they get is online. Getting them over that initial hump in person was a great idea. 
    (2) Excellent strategy of creating your online community, by beginning offline. Brilliant win/win for your client and the local community.

    • LeslieMcLellan

       @barrettrossie You’re so right about offline, thank you for your comments! Our Social Media Meetup group meets tomorrow night so I’ll be sharing everyone’s comments with them.

  • rikerjoe

    @samtaracollier I dig the rocket science reference, of course.

  • So simple. Pretend the box on your screen is your mouth. Pretend the people who will se what’s in that box are in front of you. Measure the impact & adjust accordingly. The problem is that simple isn’t always easy.

    • LeslieMcLellan

       @Tinu Thank you so much for taking time to comment.  Love the “Pretend the box on your screen is your mouth!”

  • CityChic_inSF

    @DaniaEdibleHI thanks for the RT and the follow! 🙂

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  • Kudos, Leslie.
    Social Media Breakfast is such a model. Check out It was formed about five years ago by bryanperson and there are 50+ chapters across the country. I recently started one in the ether between Boston and the New Hampshire border. Every month, a who’s who list of regional practitioners and businessfolk gather over breakfast and talk the politics of the web.

    • LeslieMcLellan

       @Ari Herzog  bryanperson Very cool, can’t wait to check it out!  Thanks for letting me know!!

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  • ginidietrich

    @LeslieMcLellan There will be more conversation today. I saw some late comments last night. Very good post!

  • Hi Leslie, I’m only a day late to comment! 🙂 I think my favorite part of this is assigning someone to check out the new shiny penny. The more you can crowdsource the whole effort, the easier it is for SMBs who are already stretched so thin! 

    • LeslieMcLellan

       @Lisa Gerber Hey Lisa!  Thanks so much for this opportunity!!  The crowdsourcing really has been what  made the group work ~ so much sharing and then everyone realizes how easy things truly are.  

  • LeslieMcLellan

    Thank you so much @barrettrossie! Glad we’re now connected!!

  • LeslieMcLellan

    @SusanMcNaughton @TourismCurrents Thanks so much Susan! How are things going with you?

    • SusanMcNaughton

      @LeslieMcLellan good, thanks Leslie. Couple of events/ festivals I’m helping in full swing at the moment, so plenty to keep busy. You?

      • LeslieMcLellan

        Awesome @SusanMcNaughton! For me, Mexico City next week for @fitamx and quite a few @TourismCurrents projects going on. Busy fall…

        • SusanMcNaughton

          @LeslieMcLellan Mexico sounds good. Have only been to Cancun. Would love to return some day! Hope you enjoy.

  • oldfox004

    @lesliemclellan my pleasure! it was a good read:)

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  • ChadTxtbook

    Hi Leslie, this is an amazing article which helped me very much on a PR assignment for class. I completely agree that social media is nothing more than exactly how you put it “Being social”.

    • LeslieMcLellan

       @ChadTxtbook So glad the article helped!  It’s amazing how easy it can be isn’t it?  Thanks for commenting!!