I've become really fascinated with how small independent businesses can take advantage of emergent social web tools. Much of my professional experience has been in the non-corporate world (except for Ritz
Carlton, Hyatt, GTE Sprint, and some early career positions);
independents generating less than $5 million in annual revenues.


The growth challenges posed to independents are, I believe, much more difficult than that for larger organizations. With larger organizations comes economies of scale. The independent organization manager has so
many more hats to wear and not nearly the time or educational resources
available.


How can these organizations take advantage of the new tools of the social web? The social web research firm Wetpaint/Altimeter found that organizations with total social media engagement were able to grow their
businesses by 18%. It's no secret that the social web offers
organizations opportunities, but these players aren't able to afford the
market rate for social media strategists and community managers
($100/hour and $60/hour respectively).


**Please do not think you can conduct good social media by hiring a kid with a large Facebook account - that will FAIL miserably.


How does an independent restaurant, inn or coffee house effectively compete against the multi-units in social media? This question has been rattling around my brain for the past six months and I think there is a
minimum of three answers:


Do It Yourself. Doing it yourself offers the operator complete control. It also means significant time in learning effective strategies, tools and methods. In addition, it means significant time
involvement in maintaining your social media activities (production,
distribution, monitoring, engagement).


Outsource To A Large Firm. Outsourcing to a large firm can be attractive because of the automation offered in distribution, monitoring and analysis. In addition, you don't have to invest time and money in
learning effective strategies, tools and methods. The disadvantage is
that your organization will still have to do the content production and
the engagement, requiring your time and attention.


Hire A Small Professional Creative Company. I posit that this is the best option for the independent small business. The creative company brings all the resources for production, distribution, monitoring and
engagement - crafting and executing a sound and highly individualized
strategy. Time requirement for the organization is minimal, requiring
meeting in person or through technology for the creative professional to
gather some raw content and give reports/feedback. It's personal and
accountable.


I'm going to forecast here that 2010 will be the year we'll see an explosion of small creative social media providers catering to small business. Market rates will be reasonable, ball-parking in the $500 to
$1000 per month range. With small business being the backbone of the
American economy, I believe these social media providers will become the
norm.

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