If you’re not on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, you need to get on for your business’ sake, Gary Vaynerchuk told business owners at America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C.

Vaynerchuk illustrated the necessity of this message when he asked the nearly full ballroom of attendees, “How many of you think Twitter is stupid?” and half of them raised their hands. Then similar numbers raised their hands to say they once thought cellphones and the Internet itself were stupid, but all admitted they use both today.

The arguments people are having about social media today are the same ones they had about those now-ubiquitous developments just 10 to 15 years ago, Vaynerchuk said. And arguing instead of getting on board is just a waste of time, he said. “Innovation doesn’t care about anyone,” it just flows on and will run you over if you don’t jump on and ride the wave.

It also isn’t helpful to disparage social media when you haven’t even tried it out. “I love it when people have a whole lot to say about Facebook and Twitter and they don’t even have an account,” said Vaynerchuk. “Shut your mouth!”

All business owners, he said, are just in one business: the attention business. Today, people’s attention is fragmented and harder than ever to capture. To get it, you have to use new methods and strategies; you have to use social media.

“People aren’t looking at billboards, they aren’t even looking at the freakin’ road anymore,” said Vaynerchuk, who admitted to using traditional advertising in the past and explained he believes it is grossly overpriced today.

Companies had it easy when they could take a broad-sweeping approach with billboards, newspaper ads and television commercials, but today, businesses have to work harder to reach out to individuals, Vaynerchuk explained. We’ve gone back to a small-town way of doing things, where the way you treat individual customers matters because they are going to tell others about the experience they’ve had with your business.

“We’re living in an era where word-of-mouth is on steroids,” he said. People aren’t just talking to their neighbors and the folks they run into around town; they’re talking to the world via social media.

If you’re finally ready to get your business on social media, take a deep breath and try to relax with the help of these four simple tips from Vaynerchuk.

  • Don’t worry about what you’re going to say; just get started and build from there.
  • Don’t focus on trying to win new customers, but instead on treating your existing customers well so you can keep them and inspire them to endorse your business.
  • Don’t obsess about ROI. There’s a certain amount of serendipity in word-of-mouth marketing, and the numbers don’t always tell the full story.
  • Don’t ignore what people are saying on Twitter. It’s a great source of information about what consumers like, think and do.

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15 Responses to “Gary Vaynerchuk explains why small-business owners need to stop debating social media and start using it”

  1. Kristine says:

    Most importantly: social media helps us monitor our "reputation" as it's publicly perceived, discussed, and tweeted. I love Vaynerchuk's book "The Thank You Economy" and the value of negative comments about our brand, business or product. Check out page 70 for the beginning of the discussion . . .

  2. Lynn Brown says:

    When Gary speaks you should listen. His insight into social media and today's business is spot on. Instead of finding all the negative about social media (which for me there really isn't) turn that energy around into finding all the wonderful, creative and positive ways social media will build your business.

    Going back to the 'small town way' I like that that take away from Gary on that one. Simplicity, keep focus and just get in there and do it. A great message here that I hope business will really grasp.

    Thank you Brooke for sharing this!

  3. Bill says:

    I understand that GV is a very popular voice in the space and I agree with many of his points but anyone who's ever pitched a business on an online marketing campaign understands that many of these arguments hurt more than help. "Don't obsess over ROI"? Is that a joke? Small business has one job … to obsess over ROI and to try and stay in business. To try and tell someone that is insulting.
    I consult for an industry (self storage industry – $20b/year) in which billboards do work and they work quite well. Who am I to talk them off that ? Small business owners need streamlined solutions to social media that result in $$. They can't spend on infrastructure so they can tweet from their store. They can't check facebook routinely because of customers. These are the challenges that I see a need to address.
    "Shut your mouth" doesn't solve these problems, it only creates more.

    • I don't believe anyone is telling you to give up your billboard advertising, Bill. If it works for you, great – but how about combining the billboards with Facebook/Twitter outreach to your customer base? I can imagine how the two combined might boost your business and help you retain and engage your customer base.

      Since each business is unique, so is each one's social media strategy. I haven't spent thousands on infrastructure to be able to tweet, or post on Facebook, yet we have over a thousand followers on each platform. I can certainly check Facebook repeatedly throughout the day, inbetween customers, and I believe that we can offer our customer base entertainment, information and other valuable information, which creates engagement and great word of mouth. Any business owner can spare a few minutes to do this and be good at it.

      It seems that Gary's right. Those that haven't tried it are the ones who disparage it the most. I'd suggest climbing onboard, Bill.

      • Steve Miller says:

        Sorry, Lori, I'm not drinking the social media kool-aid just yet. Bill is more right and Gary is more wrong. Social media is not the be-all, end-all marketing/communication/relationship-building tool that so many social media pundits would have you think.

        It might work for you, that's cool. But that doesn't mean it works for everybody. There is no such tool. Billboards still work for some, as Bill says, but they might not work for you. Should "billboard fans" be upset with Vaynerchuk for disparaging them? Social media is exactly what it says it is, a media…no more, no less.

        And just so you don't think I'm one of those that haven't tried it, I have 9331 followers on Twitter, 1473 connections and my own group on LinkedIn, and I've been blogging and posting YouTube videos since 2006.

        • gary says:

          context my friends :) My point is Billbnoards are not as powerful as they once were, the example to show our attention is going in different directions ( phones ) But in the same talk I said I still love billboards, TV, print ect… just not the prices in a 2013 worls

  4. Jason Gunter says:

    I just started my companies Facebook page a few days ago. Since it's free (if you don't buy their ad) I've wasted nothing on it other than a little time if I get no return. However, I really don't see this as a way to get new customers (although that would be great) but more as a way to offer education to our customer base without the cost of a monthly newsletter for example. And so far it's only taken me a few minutes each day to find an interesting article online or a piece of information that may be helpful to my customers and then to share that on our page.

  5. Jeff Scherer says:

    Jason- I think you understand it from the right perspective- that SM needs to be informational and conversational. Manu a company that I know of has more than stubbed their electronic toe by thinking that FB was going to be the Holy Grail to their shrunken marketing budget. There is a reason that GM pulled the plug on FB- to Gary's point- because they were trying to find justifiable ROI. You can't fault them for that, but you can summize that if they were sold into FB because their cost-per-lead was 1/20th of their other marketing channels, they were sold on a fish story.

    We have also seen some of our larger partner re-allocating their marketing spend from traditional media to SM. Supporting Lori's point, I believe wholeheartedly that it does STILL take a blend of traditional media and "new" media (incl. SM, mobile, video, etc) to really cover all of the newly-formed consumer tentacles.

    I still have to smirk when I see companies that tout they are "SM-focused" and their FB page has 26 Likes or their YouTube vid has 12 views.

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  7. We have to admit that Social Media marketing is the "in" thing nowadays. And even if you think that your business won't really benefit from it, you can still use it as much as you can…maybe just don't spend too much time and effort on it. But I'm sure social media will still benefit your business even in a small scale only.

  8. i agree people today tend to ignore advertising but ihmo the kind they ignore most is online.

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