In 2016, we launched a social media tool for small businesses. The learning curve was steep.

Here are some of the key lessons of our journey so far.

One of the great things about writing an article at the end of the year, is that you get the chance to predict the future. In this author's experience, by mid-April, you'll probably have been wrong about everything. However, 2016 has been an interesting year for us, and with our new product just around the corner, it feels like a good time to take stock. In part, we hope this will help keep us on track in future. But mainly, we want our fellow marketers and social media fanatics to know what to expect when selling to small business.

Creating a Social Media Tool for Small Business

In late 2015/early 2016, our company launched a product called SoGrow. The product was aimed towards the time-poor professional, and was designed to automate social media and generate a targeted audience. Our enterprise platform, SoDash, was alive and healthy, but we were itching to try something new. Our new platform would offer users some of the enterprise benefits, with none of the time spend. What's not to love? The Guardian and Scotsman featured us, and we were getting plenty of attention. But, it was never what we envisaged. In practice, while we've had (and continue to have!) success with the product, we knew that we hadn't quite grasped the needs of small business. As a technology company, who are also a small business, we had made our perfect product. However, that didn't always stack up with the real world, and what businesses outside of our bubble wanted to see.

The ROI of Social Media

ROI of Social Media

When it comes to social media, many small businesses struggle to grasp the value of a powerful online presence. It's perfectly understandable of course - in a time where businesses of all sizes are being squeezed, all spending should be justified. Our focus was on helping businesses gain a following on social media, that was relevant to them and their business. What we didn't do, was show the return on investment (ROI) that social media could deliver. The ROI of social media is a large topic, and worthy of it's own blog post. For now, consider that according to research group Yodel, 82% of customers want to use local businesses, and 75% expect to be able to learn more about a business online. Also consider that Twitter has over 300m active users per month, so you can be sure that someone in your area has searched for what your selling. Social media lets you be found by your customers, when they're looking for you. Social media isn't just a small business sales tool - it's a business survival tool, that makes sure your customers know who you are and where to find you.

Automation over All

Before, we worked on the assumption that small businesses, on the whole, didn't have the most positive view of social media. The reality couldn't be further from the truth! When we built the first version of Orla, automation was the key feature. However as we attended trade shows, and got to know our customers, we soon learned something about small business owners and the wider public. We learned that automation is scary.

As a company born in the Edinburgh software bubble, it hadn't occurred to us that trusting the robot wasn't such an easy thing to do. We produced guides and support, but in the end, it was often a jump into the void that customers weren't ready to make. And rightly so! In the new Orla, we take a new approach. Firstly, we've made Orla free to get started with. No trials or contracts - plug it in, and give it a whirl. Secondly, we're helping small business find relevant content on social media. Thirdly, we're giving small business a social media scheduling tool. And finally - you get to train your own AI.

AI and You

AI and Social Media

Automation might still be a challenging concept for some, however, we're proud of our roots in Artificial Intelligence. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience AI, learn how to collaborate with machines, and embrace the value they provide. Orla can now be trained, and tailored over time to match your exact needs. The more you use it, the more it understands how to behave - like a faithful dog!

Key Points

  • Small businesses know that social media is important.
  • Presenting the ROI of social media is key.
  • Showing how online relates to offline is more important for small business.
  • Automation is valuable, but can also be scary. It needs to be approachable, enjoyable, and desirable.

Ready to try out Orla? Get started by clicking here!