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Innovative Poster
Social Media and Small Businesses – Creating Marketing Strategies in the Digital Age
Leslie D. Edgar
Assistant Professor
University of Arkansas / AEED Department
205 Agriculture Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
(479) 575-6770 Phone / (479) 575-2601 Fax
[email protected]
Jefferson Miller
Associate Professor
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
205 Agriculture Building
Fayetteville, AR 72701
[email protected]
(479) 575-5650 Phone / (479) 575-2601 Fax
Stacey W. McCullough
Instructor-Community & Economic Development
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture-Extension
2301 S. University Avenue
P.O. Box 391
Little Rock, AR 72203
[email protected]
(501) 671-2078 Phone / (501) 671-2046 Fax
Kimberly B. Magee
Program Associate-Community & Economic Development Instructor
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture-Extension
2301 S. University Avenue
P.O. Box 391
Little Rock, AR 72203
[email protected]
(501) 671-2078 Phone / (501) 671-2046 Fax
Social Media and Small Businesses – Creating Marketing Strategies in the Digital Age
Marketing expert David Meerman Scott (2007) began his new book, The New Rules of
Marketing and PR, with this sentiment: “There are many people who still apply the old rules of
advertising and media relations to the new medium of the Web (sometimes referred to as Web
2.0), and fail miserably as a result” (p. xxiv). It’s easy to observe the changes in media and see
how underutilized new technology appears to be at times, but because the changes are so new,
few businesses and individuals seem to know exactly how to adapt and take advantage of
marketing opportunities created by Web 2.0.
Social media has been defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the
ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0 and that allow the creation and exchange
of user-generated content” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010, 62). Amidst the considerable debate in
academic literature about the definition of Web 2.0, it has been defined as a “second generation”
of web-based services that transforms web sites from static information to a participatory
functionality, allowing for social networking in a casual fashion by end-users, and/or enabling
improvements in technologies through the Web (Huang & Behara, 2007). Examples of Web 2.0
tools include Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flikr, Blogs, Wikis, YouTube, web
widgets, podcasts, newsfeeds, and virtual worlds. Numerous potential applications exist for such
tools including research and development, marketing, sales, customer support, and operations
management (Bernoff & Li, 2008).
This potential bodes especially well for small businesses in rural communities, which may have
limited resources for marketing and limited markets constrained by geography. Rural areas,
especially those that are economically dependent upon agriculture, mining, and manufacturing
are losing jobs due to technological improvements in production and management (Goetz, 2005).
In essence, rural areas are falling behind as a result of technology. Their ability to “catch up”
may depend on the ability and willingness of small business owners in rural areas to adopt new
technologies. This “second generation” of World Wide Web tools, which can bolster marketing
and sales efforts of businesses regardless of geographic location, offer an opportunity for small
businesses in rural communities to improve technologically and economically. The small, rural
businesses that can adapt quickly and take advantage of Web 2.0 technology may find new
opportunities for success that could have impacts on the local economies in which they exist.
Global social media use increased as much as 82% in 2009, and users spent an average of 5 ½
hours a month on social networking sites such as Facebook & Twitter (The Nielson Company,
2009). A recent survey by Frost and Sullivan (2009) found that while 80 percent of respondents
personally used Web 2.0 technologies and 54 percent used them for professional purposes, only
40 percent of organizations formally used social networking and Web 2.0 tools. Few of those
taking advantage of such technologies did so for customer relations, advertising, marketing, or
business communications. Businesses with less than 100 employees or more than 1,000
employees use Web 2.0 tools less often than medium-sized enterprises. These findings, along
with the obvious economic decline in some rural areas, suggest a need for educational research,
programs, and products to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses in tapping into these
valuable resources.
New versus Old Marketing Communications – How it Works
Faculty at [University] and the [state] Cooperative Extension Service have developed curriculum
that introduces Web 2.0 tools to small business owners in rural communities. The program was
based on four phases: a) Research, b) Curriculum Development, c) Pilot Program, and d)
Training. As part of the training sessions small business owners were introduced to a comparison
of new versus old marketing communication strategies. Some of those comparisons included: a)
One-way vs. two-way or multi-way communications; b) Advertising as interruption vs.
informational ads as the main attraction; c) General audiences vs. highly specified “niche”
audiences; and d) Reliance on journalists vs. reliance on online content and bloggers.
Having a Web site isn’t enough -- Sites must contain information that audiences seek and must
be extremely “findable” (search engine optimization is a must). Additionally, sites must be
interactive and should contain useful information that satisfies needs (i.e. blogs, RSS feeds,
educational podcasts, special promotions, online shopping or ordering). In terms of social media
use, businesses must understand why people use social media (to feel [and be] connected to
others. Furthermore, successful social media efforts cater to this need first and integrate
marketing efforts second. (Example: Coffee house tweets to customers about what bands are
playing this week so customers remain “in the loop”). Finally, customers demand to be
entertained while being informed. A small business should strive to be viralous (i.e. viral
YouTube videos, viral blog posts, viral emails).
Results to Date/Implications
Social Media content (blogs, RSS feeds, wikis, Flikr, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook)
was delivered through five workshops, which included seminars and hands-on demonstrations.
This poster will highlight content delivered, social media adaptation by small business owners,
and strategies for small business owners to improve marketing efforts through social media use.
This project has provided an opportunity for small business owners to improve marketing
strategies through effective implementation of social media. Insight from this project has the
potential to impact Extension, education, and communication strategies and education in
multiple states.
Future Plans/Advice to Others
Future plans will focus on determining if participants integrated their newly acquired Web 2.0
skills in meaningful ways into their marketing efforts. Also, Extension educators in [state] and
nationwide will be trained to facilitate similar workshops using the curriculum developed as a
result of this project. An online course will also be available. Materials will be available through
a variety of media, including eXtension and several Extension-related Web sites. This type of
relationship can be implemented with any industry interested in furthering their use of
technology, while providing industry with information, experiences, and skills that are valuable
to the promotion, marketing and longevity of their businesses.
Costs and Resources Needed
This nine-month project had a budget of slightly less than $25,000; nearly half supported labor
for curriculum planning and development, and travel and supplies for the training seminars. Two
Extension faculty and two university faculty were involved in this project and assisted in the
curriculum development phase, pilot delivery, and evaluation.
Bernoff, J. & Li, C. (2008). Harnessing the power of the oh-so-social web. MITSloan
Management Review, 49(3), 36-42.
Frost & Sullivan Inc. (2009).Corporations slow to adopt social networking and Web 2.0 tools,
according to survey by Frost and Sullivan. Retrieved July 15, 2009, from
Goetz, S. (2005). Searching for jobs: The growing importance of rural proprietors. Southern
Rural Development Center: Measuring Rural Diversity Policy Series, 2(2).
Huang, C. D. &Behara, R.S. (2007). “Outcome-driven experiential learning with Web 2.0.
Journal of Information Systems Education, 18(3), 329-336.
Kaplan, A. M. & Haenlein, Mi. (2010), “Users of the world, unite! The challenges and
opportunities of social media,” Business Horizons, 53(1), 59-68.
Scott, D. M. (2007).The New Rules of Marketing and PR. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley and Sons.
The Nielsen Company. (2009). Led by Facebook, Twitter, global time spent on social media sites
up 82% over year. Retrieved January 29, 2010, from