Recently I had the pleasure of joining a round table discussion on the future of Social Media for Small and Medium Business, hosted by Dell and chaired by Neville Hobson – you can read the post on his blog too. It was a Google hangout, with Shel Holtz, Kerry Bridge (Social Media Manager), Lionel Menchaca (Dell’s chief blogger) and Susan Beebe (Dell’s chief listening officer), which worked exceptionally well, even with the panelists spread around the globe! You can watch the recording on YouTube:

There are great practical tips in there, as well as some useful context and background. Social Media is the future for SMEs. It gives access to resources and capabilities that were previously reserved for large businesses. It provides the ability to reach a global audience, and to create and distribute content globally. Combined with the dramatic technology evolutions that have happened in mobile phone technology, it allows even the smallest of businesses to put video and audio onto the web, in a very affordable way.

The future of social media is that we stop talking about it, at least we stop talking about it as a separate thing. It becomes integrated into how businesses work, not just in the marketing domain, but for customer support, product and service development, sales, supplier management, and even the way that employees communicate. It will become the way that business works; the communications glue that we take for granted, much as we treat the telephone or email today. Social media provides new opportunities too. It’s a great source for market research and customer engagement, enabling you to identify advocates and detractors of your business.

As a business owner, the scarcest resource that you have is your time, and the time of your team. Within that time, the most fiercely contended battle is the fight for your attention. That same is true for your customers and potential customers.  Social Media is all about attention; who you connect with and follow, what you read, and what you share. The key to success with Social Media is to get, and provide, a return on that investment in time and attention, which means connecting in the ways, and the places, that benefit both your business and your community. They are far more opportunities and possibilities than your business can pursue, so it is about choosing the great over the good, then experimenting and iterating.

Here are the links to the resources mentioned in the middle of the video as useful for the SME getting started in listening:

Setting up some basic Google search alerts is a quick and easy starting point, the finding the platforms that are most relevant to your business and building from there.