#DMS2011: The Social-Driven SMB

This afternoon’s social media forum at DMS ’11 provided some important insights into how companies are empowering and enabling small businesses to take advantage of this increasingly popular space.

Rita Fabi, head of market solutions, global customer marketing and communications at Facebook, kicked off the forum by talking about the various ways local businesses can leverage the world’s largest social network to engage with new and existing customers.

Fabi, who is part of a three-person team at Facebook dedicated to small businesses education and outreach, said that she is focused on bringing the offline small business experience online in meaningful ways. She outlined the progression of small business’ marketing strategies: in the past, small businesses were set on generating positive word-of-mouth, and then worked to develop a website, improve their standing in search and eventually enhance their presence on local search sites.

Today, local businesses are increasingly working to build out their Facebook Pages, which Fabi said can serve as online communities for small businesses and their customers. She outlined Facebook’s advertising offerings – including Facebook ads, check-in deals and sponsored stories – which can be used to promote these pages among small business’ target demographics.

Fabi said that although a strong number of small businesses now have Facebook Pages, many are not active and “don’t know the power” of what can be gained through effective use of the site. She highlighted several meaningful examples of small businesses that have effectively leveraged their Facebook presence to build meaningful communities and generate significant revenue – making clear that opportunities do exist for those who do it right.

Another interesting session during forum included David Lifson, CEO, Postling and Mike Nabasny, regional sales manager, Wildfire, who discussed how their companies are making it easier for small businesses to create and manage their presence on social networks like Facebook.

Lifson outlined about how Postling, which he described as a “five minute daily social management solution,” allows users to easily control their presence on 16 individual sites ranging from Facebook to Twitter. He noted that Postling’s online dashboard has been complemented by an e-mail functionality that allows users to receive updates on the latest Yelp reviews or Facebook comments about their business, and then reply to those messages via e-mail.

Nabasny described how Wildfire assists local business in creating content in order to grow their fan bases, engage those fans and then drive in-store and online retail. He reiterated the need among small businesses for an easy and flexible one-stop-shop that helps them do things like create Facebook welcome pages and launch polls.

It’s clear that small businesses have opportunities available to them to grow their social media presence in ways that can directly influence sales – and a variety of partners are standing by to help them. The real question seems to be, what is necessary to convince many small business owners who aren’t actively involved to get on the bandwagon and take advantage of this new platform?  Based on today’s panel, it seems like this field is wide open.

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