Believe it or not, it’s creeping up on the end of the year again. Which means it’s time to start lying to ourselves about how few carbs we’re going to eat and how many sit-ups we’re going to do in the coming year. December is also the time when small business owners should be taking stock of how things have gone over the past 12 months, and looking ahead to the future. While pretending to be serious about all kinds of personal resolutions is one of my very favorite traditions, the things we vow to do and do better at in our professional lives are hopefully taken seriously. Below is our list of 5 things we think are likely mistakes for small business owners to make in 2014. Read, avoid, and be ahead of the curve.
- Focusing too much on social media
Yes, you read that right. After years of every blog and news story telling you how much social media matters to every small business, it has now become necessary to temper our focus on the online world. It’s not that social media is any less essential to a well-rounded marketing and customer service strategy, it’s just that more traditional tactics are also still crucial, and are increasingly being neglected. For most small businesses, it’s enough to make sure your presence on social media is strong, representative, branded, responsive, and regularly churns out content – but that’s good enough. You don’t need to be glued to Twitter all day long. For most businesses, doing so will hurt you by taking your attention away from other vital operations. Social media is all about finding that sweet spot where your investment is balanced with your return; you don’t want to be putting in too little or too much energy. 2013 will hopefully be the year that small businesses take a step back and start figuring out where that perfect balance is.
- Not using paid social media marketing
Speaking of advice that has changed: ignore whatever you read two years ago about how you should never pay for advertising or sponsored content on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. You probably should at this point. What’s changed? In short, everything. Both Facebook and Twitter have completely overhauled the methods by which they deliver content to their users, and without getting into too many mind-numbing specifics, the bottom line is that paying to promote your content is actually more worthwhile than it’s ever been. And it’s also easier than ever to have your unpaid content get totally lost in the mix. Prices start pretty low for this kind of marketing, so now is a good time to look into it.
- Being chained to your computer
In some ways, it’s fantastic how rarely a small business owner feels a need to leave their computer to do business. Tasks that used to mean travel (whether it’s just to the next room or across the world) now can happen without ever having to get up from your desk. That is undeniably pretty cool. But at this point, maybe it’s time to stop being amazing at the coolness and convenience of modern business technology, and start actually examining which old-school methods are worth holding onto. This tech audit will surely look different for every small business, but we’ve found this is a good bottom line to aim for: do everything you can to preserve face-to-face interactions. Just trust us. Any time it’s possible, suggest a coffee or lunch meeting instead of volleying emails all day. It can end up being a time saver, not to mention the invaluable forging of relationships that result from personal contact – especially during a time when it’s increasingly rare. Simply meeting in person is enough to make you stand out and stick in someone’s mind. Be that person.
- Blaming the government for anything
Yes, Obamacare. Yes, government shutdown. Yes, fiscal cliff. Listen, the government has undoubtedly been active in the past year in a lot of ways that are impactful for small businesses. We’re not saying these issues don’t matter to you and your business. Of course they do, and it’s smart to stay informed on them. What doesn’t help, however, is using them as an excuse for anything. At the end of the day, you are still responsible for the health and vitality of your business, and a big part of that means successfully navigating changing conditions and environmental challenges. Keeping your head down and figuring out how to adapt is a lot more useful than complaining and excuse-making.
- Drowning in apps
There is (almost literally) an app for everything by now. There are so many brilliant tech tools designed to help your small business function more smoothly (and really, we’re not hating on them – so many of them truly are brilliant.) That said, 2014 should really be about doing your homework, figuring out which apps are available and would most greatly benefit you and your business. Once you’ve identified a small set of tech tools that will make the biggest impact on your time, try to not use any others just because they’re there, or are especially cool. We know it’s hard, but honestly, it’s better to keep things simple.