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Why Some Small Business Owners Fear Social Media

I locked myself out of my house. Okay, in my defense the kids locked me out. Regardless, it was frustrating. It was a day when I appreciated my smartphone that much more. I sat in my van, whipped open my Yelp app and sought help from a locksmith. Only a couple of options popped up. One locksmith had a single 5 star review. That’s still pretty common. Too few small businesses use social media, or even claim their location in online directories and “geo-location” websites. So that one review won my business.

While my knight in shining armor was unlocking my door, I got to talking about his business – I love meeting new people and am naturally curious about how they came to do what they do. Eventually he asked me how I found him. I told him. As I did, his body tensed and his eyes took on a more slightly stunned expression. This man was clearly not certain about social media. He was comfortable with the printed yellow pages to gain customers, and handing out branded key chains and magnets to garner loyalty.

I confess my first inclination was to feel sorry for him. Yes, that was a judgmental response. I’m not proud of it. There are plenty of reasons why businessFear of the unknown owners decide not to participate in social media. Their reasons are often sound, and who am I to presume otherwise! I’d like to think in this case, my response was because I could see that this well-established small business owner hadn’t made a reasoned business decision to stay out of social media, he was simply uncomfortable with it. Here was the most successful social media marketing locksmith in town and he couldn’t run with it, because he was afraid to pick it up.

Of course, I consult with business owners regularly about whether or not they should or shouldn’t participate in social media.  This time however, I found myself asking “what makes social media so scary to business owners?” Here are some of the reasons I came up with:

1.       People can say bad things about their business

2.       It’s not secure, so people can hack into their accounts

3.       What if they make a mistake?

4.       Competitors will find out their secrets.

Yes, people can say negative things about your business. But they will say things regardless of whether or not you’re there. Wouldn’t you rather know about any negative comments so you can address them like a pro? Rather than deny there’s always room for improvement, invite customers to tell you how you could improve!

Biggest MistakeYes, there are situations where social media accounts have been hijacked. I can’t imagine how frustrating and stressful a situation like that must be. However, a smart business person can recognize that this is not a rational reason not to get involved in social media. Just as you don’t share your pin number with people, you don’t share passwords. In addition to that, there are tricks to come up with both secure and memorable passwords.

I can certainly understand the fear of making a mistake. We all make them. Public mistakes are harder to swallow. Herein lies the importance of having social media policies and guidelines in place for everyone in the business to be aware of.  Make the policies simple and clear, and go through them with everyone in your company regardless of how directly they are involved with your social media marketing. A well-trained and informed staff will make fewer mistakes. Along with the policies, you should have a response plan in place to help diffuse the mistakes quickly, with integrity.

I don’t believe the social media catch phrase “being transparent” comes close to meaning you have to divulge your business secrets. Coca-Cola participates in social media marketing and they have yet to give us the recipe! As for your competitors, they are tracking your actions in a variety of ways whether online or offline. Social media is not going to change this.

I don’t deny there are questions every business should consider before adding social media to their marketing efforts. However, fear based concerns should be considered and talked about. At least once your fears are set aside, you can make a rational and strategic decision about whether social media marketing is right for your business.