Yes, BIA/Kelsey’s survey says 48% of SMBs are on Facebook. However, the more telling implication of the above chart is how SMBs don’t even use marketing methods that have been around for a while (43% on email?) or are well recognized as effective (22% with blogs, most likely abandoned). At Street Fight Summit last month, Warren Webster mentions that 50 percent of the businesses in communities covered by Patch do not have websites. Simply put, local merchants simply don’t understand the new marketing rules, and have proven they aren’t keeping up with new innovations like email, let alone Yelp, Foursquare, and Groupon.
So we have this wide open Blue Ocean opportunity to service literally hundreds of thousands of SMBs who need to develop a social marketing plan. They need a turnkey solution provider who understands their locality and their business, and is affordable. With such demand, it’s surprising to see very few social marketing agencies operating at a local level. The hurdle may be that social media marketing demands smart local human resources for hands-on engagement and the cost of procuring that talent may not scale or be too expensive in the face of small SMB marketing budgets.
Hyperlocal publishers are well positioned to support their business communities by providing turnkey social marketing services. Brian Kinkade created Apsides Media Group to provide local social marketing that works in conjunction with his ten local media sites in Denver. As a local media publisher, he not only offers to manage the local merchants’ social marketing but also has the media distribution platform to actually implement the programs. The new business model is to create subscription revenues by providing marketing services that engages his company with the client as opposed to selling “rate card” advertising that is transactional and doesn’t engage the client beyond a pay for play level.
Social marketing services can be outsourced, but only to companies that understand the nuances of American social and business marketing culture (that means India can’t do this yet). Main Street Hub is one of the first outsourcing companies I’ve seen that manages local merchants’ Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Yelp presence for $200-300 monthly subscription. Main Street Hub facilitates local social marketing by enabling publishers and agencies like Apsides to offer a scalable, hands-on turnkey service that is potentially more difficult to build and maintain locally.