If you look closely, nearly every social media property plays some form of follow the leader, or at the very least "follow the features." The latest installment of this game happened this week when it was announced that Twitter would be opening up it's advertising platform to small and medium sized merchants, allowing these groups to take advantage of opportunities that only Fortune 500 companies have had in the past year.
Let's not forget that Facebook launched something very similar in September of last year, again specifically targeting the small business market. The thinking behind this is simple: there are only so many companies around the world that can pay the tens of thousands of dollars that it usually costs to advertise effectively on Facebook and Twitter. Rather than limit themselves to a very narrow market of advertisers, both companies have scaled down their ad platforms and made them more user friendly, targeted and cheaper. This allows them to reach the tens of millions of small businesses that are looking for ways to drive customers to its site and its doors.
Small businesses will soon be able to use promoted tweets, or advertisements sourced directly into a potential customer's Twitter stream, to drive awareness and traffic to a certain site, page or offer. And like Facebook, Twitter uses a cost per click model that only charges when someone actually takes action on your ad, be it retweeting, responding, or clicking on the link. Twitter is also partnering with American Express, offering $100 in free advertising credits to the first 10,000 eligible businesses to sign up with an Amex account. How popular is Twitter you might ask? The site was set to surpass 500 million users as of today. That's a very large pool of potential customers, regardless of the business.
So what does this mean for small businesses? Basically, things just got a little bit more complicated for you as a small business owner. It's now possible to be hosting ads or spending money and time on a number of social platforms - including Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Groupon or any number of online review, group buying or location based social sites. The online advertising landscape has become a ferocious ocean that's difficult to navigate and even more difficult to fish successfully in. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and every other social platform are ultimately going to rely heavily on the millions of small businesses around the world for advertising dollars and traffic. While they may not spend tens of thousands of dollars on one campaign, as a group it far outnumbers the Fortune 500 that can. With enough volume, small business owners represent a huge opportunity for social networks to build their own businesses on.
Despite Twitter's emergence in the space, the important lessons for small businesses owners when it comes to advertising spend hasn't changed. Ultimately it's going to come down to how each one of these advertising options can potentially impact your specific business, drive revenue and customers online. If you find that any of these social ad platforms can't, won't, or aren't performing the way you had hoped, put those hard earned dollars into something that will. And as always focus is key. Putting your eggs into many different baskets without clear line of sight into what's coming in versus what's going out will never make for an effective marketing program. As more and more options pop up, don't feel like you have to use all of them, or even one of them. Do some homework and even dedicate a small spend to testing each out before making a big investment.
What do you think, is Twitter a platform you as a small business would use? Or is it just another social network that your customers aren't using yet, and isn't worth the advertising investment?
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Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.