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Is Social Media A Worthwhile Investment For The Self-Employed?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Posted by Sung Yoo - [Editor's note: Sung is one of the NASE's summer interns. Look out for more posts from Sung and his fellow intern, Jaimie McFarlin, this summer!]

MP Mueller of The New York Times asks, "Should every business invest in Social Media?" She recalls seeing a poster for an off-site airport parking lot, enticing people to like the parking lot on Facebook, tweet it on Twitter, and watch it on YouTube. She expressed puzzlement at the value of advertising a parking lot through social networks, considering the difficulty of injecting pizzazz to such a mundane business. Case to point: Even funeral homes have Facebook pages today!

That begs the question: Is social media worth it for the self-employed? Over half of NASE Members are sole-proprietorships, meaning they are responsible for every aspect of their business. Should they be picking up their smart-phones and tweeting away, too? If so, what kind of content should be posted?

Mueller says there are three core myths about social media:

Myth 1: It is free advertising. Not exactly, says Mueller. Social media takes time, and time is money. Getting trended on Twitter and social media takes a lot of patience. Would you rather be updating your Facebook page, or working on a project for a client? The answer is simple, isn't it?

Myth 2: Every Business Should Invest in Social Media. Mueller suggests asking yourself if the service you provide is relevant to a customer's daily life. Following social media takes time from the customer's point of view, so why should they take the effort to keep track of a service they rarely use? 

Myth 3: Everyone Will Really Like Us. Maybe not, says Mueller. They key here is to bring the social media interaction a distinct value to the customer, either through coupons, freebies, or contests. For a lot of sole-proprietors, this may not make sense from a business standpoint. Also, in absolutely no circumstances should a business owner beg for likes or follows on social media. Make the relationship as organic as possible.

Yet even with these pitfalls, Dr. Woody at Fox Business argues that social media is the great marketing equalizer of our time. Woody cites a study saying that marketers continue to see social media as a huge tool for generating more business exposure and increasing online traffic. He suggests using available online tools to manage multiple social networks as a way of saving time, directly engaging and interacting with the public, as well as setting specific milestones to reach via social media.

For sole-proprietors especially, personal branding is something worth caring about. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald suggests that it’s important to not only get your name out there, but to get your name out there and have people know what you are about. Think Oprah, Sarah Palin, or Donald Trump.

This is particularly important for the self-employed, who are always looking out for their next gig. Dan Schawbel at Forbes recommends claiming your online presence proactively in order to effectively manage your online reputation. He cites a study by OfficeTeam saying one third of HR managers believe online profiles will eventually replace resumes.

As an article on NASDAQ claims, it appears that whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay. 

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