9 Ways for SMBs to Beat Big Corporations on Social Media [With Examples]

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9 Ways for SMBs to Beat Big Corporations on Social Media

Everybody loves an underdog. David versus Goliath… Your local bookstore versus Amazon… Marty’s Fish, Milk & Bait versus WalMart. All these battles, famous or not, tug at our heart strings. Trouble is, if you’re a small business owner, you know you need to do more than just tug at heart strings to make your business work. You need to actually get people in the door. You need to get them to buy things. Then you need them to come back.

Social media has long been hailed as a marketing equalizer. In many ways, it is. It’s free to create an account and free to post and to build your following (Facebook changes aside). But it’s time to get more specific about how to use social as a marketing equalizer. So here are 9 techniques SMBs can use to beat big corporations on social media.

1. Be yourself.

To thine own brand be true. Maybe you call it your “brand identity”. Maybe it’s your “company voice”. Whatever words you use to describe your company’s soul, define it and embrace it. As the saying goes, “Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.” You can’t compete with huge companies unless you have a rock-solid brand identity that stands out.

Ben and Jerry’s is no longer a little company with a big identity. But when they started out they were. Who knew two hippies with a passion for ice cream could change the world? But they have, and they stick with their quirky roots.

Ben and Jerry - Pam Neely


2. Actually care about your customers or clients.

Sadly, you’ll have an edge on most larger companies if you do this. Just make sure you genuinely do care about your customers, and then demonstrate that daily. Part of this is your company mindset. Part of it is allocating enough resources to make it happen. You have to obey the terms of social media engagement. For example, 72% of customers expect a reply within an hour to any customer service complaint placed on Twitter.

One way to demonstrate you care is to show how you are part of your target audience. Any tagline like “made by gardeners for gardeners” or “made by skiiers for skiiers” is an example of this.

See how New Zealand company Matakana Botanicals describes themselves below. Note the images of real gardeners – real users. Many small companies get another edge over larger firms simply by using photographs of real people instead of agency models. Many outdoor clothing companies also show their designers and staff out in the woods, testing the gear they make to its limits.



3. Find your true audience.

It is as essential to your success as finding your brand. You cannot be all things to all people. The smaller your company is, the more this is true. So buckle down and figure out who your heavy users are. As one of my old marketing professors used to say, “never, ever, ever leave your heavy users”. What he was talking about leverages the 80/20 rule (that you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts).

This applies to customers and clients, too. Hone in on the segment of your customer base that is sending you the disproportionate bulk of your business. Then delight and inspire those customers. With a specific enough group, you can have the resources and the common bond to squeeze out any huge, monolithic company. You’ll be building a tribe, not just a customer base.

One example of this is Cloak. They go completely against the tide of social media. Instead of using their app to connect people, Cloak uses technology to help you  “avoid exes, co-workers, that guy who likes to stop and chat—anyone you’d rather not run into.”

I suppose this app could also be used to meet up with friends more spontaneously, but from Cloak’s view, it’s a way to stay solitary. To each his own.



4. Limit your social media channels.

This one will be hard. You’ll see larger competitors on every imaginable social media platform. You probably don’t have the resources for all those platforms. Trying to be everywhere will just end up with you spreading resources too thin.

Pick one or two social media platforms, and rock them. Just pick them carefully, and based on what your business needs. For you local businesses, Facebook may be de rigeur: 73% of customers say Facebook is the most important social media platform they expect a local business to be on.



5. Fail fast.

You have a major edge over huge companies, simply because you’re small. You’re agile. You can be a lean, mean marketing machine. You can see an opportunity and adjust your strategy in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. Big firms? They take months to do something like that. Leverage the bejesus out of this. It’s one of your best assets.

Smaller firms can also take risks larger ones can’t, or won’t. Best example? The way Uniqlo “stormed” Pinterest in 2013. The company hired about a hundred pinners to upload images of Uniqlo products within a very narrow timeframe. Instead of being as spammy, Uniqlo’s pinners created Pinterest performance art – a phenomena dubbed “branded mosaics”. It was an amazing experience for anyone on Pinterest at the time. And it put Uniqlo on the map: 64 media outlets covered the “event”. That brought in over 37 million impressions to Uniqlo’s site. Nyce.

6. Appeal to the David lovers.

As I mentioned in the opening, everybody loves an underdog. So be the underdog. Embrace it. Take the lead of Hertz’s “we try harder” and the rising tide of local business. There are a lot of people out there who love small businesses. They want to support them. They get how critical small business is for local economies.

Don’t ignore or dismiss that sentiment, or the people who want to see the underdog win. Celebrate it. Add some local marketing to your overall marketing strategy, even if your business is largely online.


7. Curate.

As a small company, you simply don’t have the content creation resources that larger firms have. That’s okay. Get really good at content curation, and your audience may never notice.

what types of content do you most trust and value - CMO council

There’s evidence that curated content builds trust better than in-house created content. Your curated content could develop leads as well or better than your own created works.

8. Show your enthusiasm.

Big companies often develop a corporate tone. It’s deadly for them. As a tiny business, you don’t have to ever “grow up”. Do try to lean toward being professional, but never lose your kid-like enthusiasm for what got you started in business. Let your hair down from time to time. If you love a certain topic or event or product or idea, odds are good your customers will too.

One of the wilder examples of this is the “Will It Blend” YouTube series from Blendtec. CEO Tom Dickson has blended over a hundred items, from iPhones to hockey pucks. The result? Nearly 800,000 subscribers on YouTube.


9. Have a written-out social media strategy that works for you.

The 2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark Budgets and Trends report from the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs found that 60% of marketers with a written out strategy rated their content marketing effective. Only 32% of marketers without a written out strategy said they were effective.

I can’t guarantee your larger competitors don’t have written out marketing strategies, but I figure anything that doubles your odds of being effective is worth doing. Don’t you?

Bonus: 10. Think big.

As a small business owner, you already know there is nothing “small” about small business. There is absolutely no reason for small companies to feel small.

Never be intimidated by big marketing budgets or huge staffs. Despite their glitz and swagger, most of those big firms are actually terrified of you. They know damn well you’ve got a better shot at toppling them than they’d like.

Got any more tips for how “small” companies can out-market big firms on social? Tell us about them in the comments.

And if you’d like to see how content curation can help you improve SEO, you should read this eBook!

improve SEO the power of content curation - CTA end article download ebook

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About the Author

Pam Neely
Pam Neely has been marketing online for 17 years. She's a serial entrepreneur and an avid email and content marketing enthusiast with a background in publishing and journalism, including a New York Press Award. Her book "50 Ways to Build Your Email Marketing List" is available on Amazon.com. Pam holds a Master's Degree in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University. Follow her on Twitter @pamellaneely.
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Hugues Gontier
9 years ago

Very well said and written!
I would add: Bonus 11: Don’t justify everything all the time! (Close to bonus 10).
Companies (Small or big) who spend their time justifying and promoting everything (including technologies from other brands and too much media coverage) eventually appear as not really…sure if what they offer is “really” good ….

Also avoid the “Me me me, me me me” and prefer the “You You You”! (That could go with Advice#2 I guess).

Well written again!

9 years ago
Reply to  Hugues Gontier

Thank you, Hugues. Your tip is excellent. We should definitely focus on the “you” in our marketing, not the “me”. Or as some people say, audiences are almost always listening to WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?). If you can’t talk to them on that channel, they may not hear you.

Great addition, again. Thank you for commenting.

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