When talking to local businesses, I often encounter the same sentiments with regards to social media and online marketing in general. Though these people see the benefits of Internet marketing for national or international companies, they often feel that a local business like theirs would not benefit from these online strategies. Hearing this makes me cringe, as I immediately try to convey the benefits of online social marketing for their local business. Here's what I tell usually them.
First of all, the cost of a social marketing campaign is very low. In fact, if you do it yourself, the only cost is an investment of your time. Based on this information alone, I think social media is a no-brainer for any business. Still though, some people object because they feel they are too small-scale. An example of this thought process is, "Why would I advertise to people around the world if my customers are located in the Boston area?" Don't people in the Boston area have the Internet, too? If your efforts find potential customers, who cares if it finds people in other parts of the world. Maybe they will know someone in your area and will recommend you to them. Or maybe they'll completely ignore you. Either way, you've found a low-cost way to engage potential customers in your area. What more could you ask for?
So how do you get started? Sure, you can create a Facebook page and start a Twitter account. But where do you go from there? I think the most important thing to keep in mind is not to treat these pages like full page ads on the Web. Engage people. Encourage them to participate. Have naming contests, or conduct polls (free market research!). Give back by providing quality content people would actually want to read, and even seek out.