A continuation of the Q&A with Melanie Notkin.
Kara: You come from an interactive marketing background, so incorporating social media (Twitter, blogging, Facebook) in your marketing seems natural. What advice can you give other small businesses about the advantages (and disadvantages) of using more 'non-traditional' ways to reach out to customers?
Melanie: Anyone who knows anything about business knows that it’s all about relationships. Kara, you know that intimately, being the Community Manager for the Dell Small Business Blog. Small businesses need community on a number of levels, not the least of which is support. So building community and relationships is nothing new. What is new is the way we’re able to approach it through social media.
I can honestly say that the launch of SavvyAuntie.com would not have been nearly as successful without the social media communities I have joined. The people I connect with on Twitter, Facebook and through my blog are tremendous supporters of the site and of me frankly. In fact, many of the Savvy Auntie Experts and Advisory Board members are people I met on social networks. And there are so many people who have helped with Word of Mouth side of my launch by blogging about it, Stumbling it, Facebook sharing it, and Twittering about it. I am proud to say that “SavvyAuntie” was the most Tweeted word on Twitter the day I launched. How cool is that?!
Of course, I support the people I have met through social media as well, which is the key to success in community. Listen before you talk.
If you are planning to launch or have launched a small business and are looking to engage community, find people you want to learn from and connect with on a micro-blog like Twitter. Join the conversation. Tell them about your business and ask them for help building it. Don’t ever sell. Twitter is not a market-place. It’s a community. Think of it more like volunteering to plant the community garden, not selling the community your sod. If the garden needs sod, the community will know who to turn to.
Kara: Creating your own site forces you to get more 'up close and personal' with technology. What surprised you most about the technology needs to launch a site? What tech gadget/system/software could you not live without now?
Melanie: While I do understand technology, I am hardly a tech geek. I love my iPhone (version 1.0) and have a lot of fun with my Canon Powershot and my Flip camera. But I leave the more sophisticated technology up to my Technology team over at Quarksoft.com. One of the things I learned early on about starting my own business was to know what I know and do what I do– and do it well. What I don’t know or can’t do, I hire people much smarter than I to manage it. I also have a wonderful Advisory Board.
Kara: On your blog you give 20 great tips for new entrepreneurs. If you could only give one tip for women who want to start their own company, what would it be?
Melanie: Ask for help. Some women are either embarrassed to ask questions, or think they are not worthy of someone’s time. But, I have found that 95% of the time people are more than willing to help. If you are excited and confident about your idea, you’ll be surprised how willing people are to help, even strangers. Everyone wants to be a part of something new and inspiring. They will thank YOU for the opportunity to be a part of it. And that other 5% who are not willing to help? Well, that’s where karma steps in.
Kara: The launch of SavvyAuntie.com has filled a gap in the online world – the first online community for Aunts. What other opportunities do you see on the horizon for small businesses online?
Melanie: It used to be that if you launched something online, it had to reach and engage everyone. Today, niche destinations are more exciting. Social media enables like people to form communities online and engage each other with user-generated content. The more niche the content, the more focused and connected the community, the more exciting the possibilities. Be something really special to a niche group, and develop something really engaging. If you build it, they will come. And if they don’t, never regret trying.
A friend of mine, also an entrepreneur, told me recently that he had a really bad day because he started a triathlon and had to quit soon after he got on the bike – the first leg of the race – because he had a fever and just couldn’t make it. I told him he should be proud. Most people never get in the race in the first place. The courage to get on the bike is the key to winning the race. There are no guarantees you are not going to fall, get hurt, or quit. But if you never get on the bike, you are guaranteed never to get to the finish line. It’s that simple. So to all of you small business owners who got in the race in the first place – cheers!
If you have questions or comments for Melanie, please share them here and she will try and respond. Also, feel free to connect directly with her on Twitter.com/SavvyAuntie.