Big Meets Small: Charlotte’s Terry Cox Talks Social Media and Start-ups

Countdown to Social Media Makeover Forum: Charlotte

A "startup weekend" in Charlotte

Bringing together big brands and small companies to learn from each other is a critical goal of the SMB Social Media Makeover Forum.

Our Charlotte event on May 8th is no exception. Companies like UPS, Chiquita and Wells Fargo will share their lessons with three SMB makeover recipients and the small businesses in the audience.

And that is why I reached out to Terry Cox president and ceo of the Big Council for some insight into Charlotte’s start-up and entrepreneur community.

The Big Council is a partner of the Forum. The big in Big Council stands for business, innovation SMB Social Media Makeover Forumand growth not big business. I wanted Terry’s perspective on social media and what she felt entrepreneurs could learn from the big brands who have the marketing resources that small businesses lack.

Many of her answers will come into play when we feature Virtual Race Bags, a Charlotte startup and makeover recipient.

What can large companies teach small businesses about effectively using social media?

TC: Large companies can teach small business how best to engage with their customer base. Large companies can also guide small businesses with legal, compliance, and risk. The legal fees to ensure you’re compliant with regulations can be very steep and it’s a new path for even large companies. So to the extent that the large companies can navigate that path and share their practices with smaller companies would be helpful.

Small businesses would be interested in hearing some of the mistakes that the larger corporations have made and learn from them.

A lot of people say that when it comes to social media, small businesses have the advantage. Their organizations are more flexible and more open to social media engagement. Do you think entrepreneurs and start-ups have an edge?

TC: Small businesses don’t have the restrictions that larger corporations have and are more flexible, but they don’t have a large customer base either. They can try new strategies with less risk and exposure than a larger corporation, however, they should be mindful of legal landmines even if they are small.

Social media can give companies a personality…defines their brand….so if done well, can provide smaller businesses some visibility and exposure on a larger scale that otherwise would not be affordable or available to them.

For a start up, resources are often the biggest obstacle to social media success. What can a start-up do if it lacks the time and money to engage customers and prospects?

TC: Small businesses often think they can just roll out a social media strategy for little to no cost since the tools are all free. However, startups and small businesses should invest the time and resources to address the fundamentals first (before leaping right into social media tactics), i.e. A well understood Value proposition, a Brand and Communication Strategy, a decent website, etc.

Social media is just one outlet to engaging your customers and prospects, but if you don’t have a strong value proposition and brand, then social media could potentially do more harm than good for your company. I recommend outsourcing your social media efforts if you don’t have someone strong internally to manage it daily. Also, a very good copywriter is key! Someone who can represent your brand well and consistently.

Start-ups are in constant flux in terms of money and strategic direction. At what point should a start-up begin a social media strategy?

TC: Once they have a solid communication strategy in place, then they can use social media as one of the tactics for the overall marketing and brand strategy. You don’t want to build a community of followers with the wrong message.

They should ask themselves: why do you want to use social media? To drive sales, build a community or customer base, or something else. Social media is not for every business, so be intentional about your use and purpose for social media.

What do you hope your members get from the Makeover Forum?

TC: I hope the entrepreneurs learn what the larger companies are doing- the good, bad, and ugly, so to speak. We would like to hear about their failures as much as we would like to learn what is working well.

I also hope that this event provides greater awareness and confidence to pursue an intelligent social media strategy. They should have quite a few “ah ha” moments from an event like this given the diverse group of speakers.

I also hope that this will open the pathway for larger corporations in Charlotte to work with and support the smaller businesses in their backyard. It’s about supporting the community at large so that everyone prospers and succeeds.



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