When Dave's…on St. Clair launched last November in Toronto, the restaurant/bar faced two big challenges.
One was to establish enough of a presence to make customers aware that it was open for business.
The other was to make sure it wasn't being mixed up with its predecessor, a pizza joint that had served cheap beer to customers who included what one patron on Chowhound.com described as a "sketchy crowd."
It didn't help that the former outlet had been called Dave's Gourmet Pizza, which caused some people to think it was the same operation, and not a new business.
But creating a page and an account without doing much more is not going to do the trick - and, like many small businesses, Dave's proprietor, Liz Guerrier, was stumped about how to make the most of social media efforts.
For Dave's, like many small businesses, social networking has not been much of a priority. It's not terribly surprising: Many small-business owners say they don't have the time to embrace social media when they have so many other responsibilities.
Even if they do carve out some time, they have to figure out how much content they have to create, the kind of content that will have the most appeal, and who will be responsible for pumping it out.
And they have to commit to doing it on a regular basis if it's going to gain any traction.
They also face the hurdle of deciding which social networking service to put their focus on.
That was the conversation I had with Ms. Guerrier the other day. She's not a client but got some free advice when I stopped in to sample one of Dave's mean hamburgers and fine selection of beer.
Given Dave's target clientele and neighbourhood demographics - young, hip, single people and families with children - my vote was to put the focus on Facebook. (In time, she can also think about using Twitter more).
As I told Ms. Guerrier, not only does a business have to put a Facebook page up, it also has to promote it. It's not enough to create regular content if nobody knows the page exists.
Making people aware of a Facebook page can be simple as putting an icon on a company's website, tacking the Facebook logo on the front door and putting the Facebook page's URL on menus and bills.
Social media consumes a lot of time and effort. For small businesses that do commit, the benefits can be significant, helping to build a community using free services, rather than paying for marketing and advertising campaigns. The cost to participate is the time to make it happen.
The more time Ms. Guerrier can commit, the more she may see the payoffs.
Special to The Globe and Mail
Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting, a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.