Way back when, before I was born, the phone became a necessity for every business.  Along with it, a handy tool called the "phone book" helped the common consumer connect with the producer or service provider. 

Fast forward a few decades, and we hit the internet era.  People have ditched the phone book for a direct connection at their own convenience, on their own time, and by the way they please.

Hopefully, if you are a business owner, you have brought your company up to speed with the internet.  Unfortunately, most small business owners have no idea how to use the internet to their advantage in terms of PR, marketing, and customer service.

Five years ago, a listed email address, a phone number, and a contact form were all you needed on your website if you were a business owner.  These connection points gave customers at the time the ability to contact the company primarily through email services or through phone call.  Connections through these tools were typically used for customer service help and complaints.  The advent of social media, and more importantly its wide-spread adoption, have brought up a new question all together; Can businesses survive with only an email address and a phone number listed on their website?

These days, there are new forms of contact.  We often use Twitter, Facebook, and blogs to connect with companies.  That is not to say that a phone number and an email address are not still very important, but there are new ways to connect with clients that cannot be ignored.  Social media has opened up the doors for PR and digital marketing to enter into a more proactive arena in their markets.  Not only can it be used as a customer service tool, but companies can now actively interact with their markets, target key advocates, and promote their product at any place and any time in the world.  Now, companies can have their eyes, ears, and mouth in the area that their customers are gathering, and sharing.  Why wouldn't you want to be there?

Many companies, especially small business owners, are afraid of opening these channels up to the internet world.  They are worried about what customers might say about them.  What they don't understand is that their customers are already talking about them.  Giving your customers a controlled access point to which they can communicate and interact with your company offers you, as a business owner, the upper hand.  These channels also offer you the opportunity to join in the conversation with your customers.  This is  much more proactive approach to marketing, customer service, and PR for your business.

The story for social media and small business owners is that they have had a hard time maintaining these channels for their business.  More often than not, when small business attempts to harness these channels, they have failed by their lack of maintaining their presence.  They are often discouraged because they have been promised overnight, magical results.  The truth is that building your social media channels, organically, may take some  time and patience.  Your day to day business often takes precedence over your online presence.  Since you can no longer ignore these social channels, you may want to look into outsourcing your online presence.

How much will outsourcing your online presence cost you?  You can typically expect to spend $350 to $2000 a month for outsourcing your online presence.  The prices do no necessarily infer quality, so it is important to shop around and consider your annual budget.  Whether you are looking for a community manager, an SEO specialist, or a web operative, it is important to investigate an internet outsourcing business very well.  Here are a few things to consider when shopping around for an outsourcing business:

  • Are they affordable?  Check your numbers versus what they're charging.
  • What is included?  Will they handle your SEO, you community management, and your digital marketing?
  • Are you able to speak to current customers?  Ask the current clients if they could imagine life before having their online presence under control with the outsourcing business.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think that a business must invest time and money into social media?  Leave a comment!