Small Business Social Media: “There Is No Wizard!”


Last week, I sat through a presentation on social media put on by a local community magazine – many towns have them – that feature articles about, coincidentally, sponsors and do “Best of” polls and have a few pages in the back of beautiful photos of beautiful people attending beautiful events.

The presentation left me troubled that social media was just too vast to grasp for a 50-something small business owner.

So, I went to my own Wizard. My friend and partner (and world-renowned marketing speaker) Bryan Eisenberg consults the Dells and the Universal Studios and the Volvo Internationals of the world. Recently, he delivered a keynote to a small business expo in Connecticut.

He talked about social media and how to harness its power. I asked for 10 minutes of his time. He gave me thirty. What follows is the first of a three-part interview we did. Today, we discuss what triggers social media, Wal-Mart, and gurus, experts, and wizards … and by “we” I mean Bryan articulates incredibly useful information, and I try to stay out of his way …

Tim: What I want to talk to you about this morning is it piqued my interest when you did the keynote earlier this month at a Small Business Expo in Connecticut and you’re so well known for working with larger companies, working with the Dells of the world and Universal Studios.  What was the topic of your presentation at the Small Business Convention?

Bryan: Well, you know I decided to name it “Waiting For Your Cat To Bark” also because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say when I first got the gig.  So I figured you can’t go wrong naming it after a book.  As I started thinking about what I really wanted to say I was going back and forth between thinking should I cover some of the stuff behind the pendulum of society because obviously that’s a very big fact of what’s going here, should I cover more of the technology issues and how things are being transformed.  And I was like probably some of the other people will cover some of those more tactical issues.  And so I’ve been saying this for awhile and I think this will help put it in perspective for you.  We all know Roy Williams likes to say advertising only accelerates the inevitable, right; have a good business, great product, advertise it, more people will love it.  Provide lousy service, give lousy products and eventually your business will just come crashing down. Right?

Tim: Sure.

Bryan: And I came to be thinking about you know what, social media also accelerates the inevitable, advertising you can turn on and turn off, social media is not in your control. Right?  And that was pretty much the premise of what “Waiting For Your Cat To Bark” was all about, right, that you’re no longer in control of the marketing message, you can’t ring the bell of advertising and have customers respond like Pavlov’s dogs, right, we’re really dealing in relationships with customers who are a lot more like felines where they want to be in control of the relationship.

And what I did was I ran them through the super duper concise history of marketing, commerce and connectivity that showed this progression of reduction of friction in the history of commerce for customers, making them have more control and seating the control of the vendor or business that wants to do their business.  And I just showed them how this evolution has happened and how we’ve gotten into control, essentially in the last decade and why social media is really so critical.  I do think though that people are really struggling with a lot of the social media concepts though and that’s something I touched on and I wished I had more time to go into with them.

Tim: It’s interesting, Bryan because just like the concept of social media, it’s so vast and I sat through, just last week, at the request of a client I went and sat through a hour long presentation of social media put on by the local community magazine, you know the pretty pictures in the back of the important people in town and a feature on the people and businesses who – coincidentally – advertisemet in the magazine. It really is a … what’s the word? … pretty magazine magazine but they were doing a thing on social media and in the span of a hour they attempted to cover what Twitter is, how to use it well, what Facebook is, how to use it well, LinkedIn, how to use it well, and then that was it and they were out of time, and oh – by the way – buy some space in our old-fashioned print magazine.  And even their concepts were so broad and again, a 60 year old heating and air conditioning guy at the end of this presentation looks up and says, “Well I don’t understand much of what you said, should I just hire some 20 year old kid to do all this for me?”, because is that really where the people in  your audience in Connecticut, the people who read my blog who are small business owners and unable to wrap their arms in the scale and scope of social media, is that really where they should start, just go hire some 20 year old out of college and have them figure it out?

Bryan: Absolutely, not.  I ended the presentation with a picture that will be very familiar to you and anybody that’s been at Wizard Academy of the yellow brick road from the Wizard of Oz.

Tim: Sure.

Bryan: And I explain to them that the power of social media has nothing to do with the wizard, right, I don’t have to reveal any wizards to you, there is no wizard in social media, it’s not the guru’s or the consultants or the 20 years old kids, they’re not going to help you do it. It is not in the ruby slippers, which are just the tools or the platforms that are out there, they don’t make a difference.  The power of social media has everything to do with you and the power inside you to be remarkable.  Either you’re going to make your business have the factors that are remarkable, that want to get people talking out it, it’s your choice, positive or negative and mind you, there are business that use the negative very very well for positive points. We all know those restaurants that total dives, you throw the peanuts on the floor and stuff like that, but that’s part of who they are.  So I’m not saying that necessarily that’s bad, but you have to have something that people want to remark about, they want to comment about and you just can’t be average, you can’t just say, “Oh well, I run a business like anybody else, if I’m in the middle of the pack and just deliver,” no, that’s what’s going to kill you in social media.

What’s going to end up happening is that advertising is become less and less effective, we know that; people are trusting less and less what they hear in advertising and more and more what they hear fromother people.  As more people go around with their mobile phones and they start putting comments on and ratings and reviews and put things up on Yelp, and they put things up on Google Maps and on Facebook and Twitter, and just all over the place, they’re going to get comments about where they should shop, who they should buy from, who gives the best deal, who has the cleanest bathrooms, all the little details that matters in the customer experience that gets people to talk about your business and not one of your competitors.  That’s the power of social media, it has nothing to do about the platforms.

Tim: That’s fantastic because all of the things you just described, Bryan, are fairly inexpensive to evaluate and fix.

Bryan: Oh, absolutely, unless you’re selling a lousy product.  If you’re manufacturing and you have a lousy product you’re definitely going to have to retool it.  One of the great examples of this, and I’ll go big business to kind of point this out to you but I can break it down to small business.  I knew that the world of consumer packaged goods and products were changing the day Wal-Mart decided that they needed reviews on their website. It was one thing Amazon did it and obviously it was one of the things I took down in the presentations, Amazon was the first one to leverage what I call Tom Sawyer effects.  They knew that they were going to have millions of product descriptions they had to create but they couldn’t do it so let’s get other people to review the books and that will leverage their business.  It was one of the reasons that they grew so well.  Think about it, Amazon accounts for 25% of all e-commerce transactions on the web today because we all know we can go there and find reviews about the products before we purchase them.

What happened with someone like Wal-Mart is they go ahead and they get product descriptions and reviews from their customers. And it was funny, this story, I was listening to the CEO of talking about how his wife was shopping for non stick cookware and she kept coming across this one product that kept having these reviews about how bad they would scratch and he had to go to this team and say, “Why is this product still on our shelves?”, and that fundamentally I knew that the world has changed because the power went from the buyer in Wal-Mart back to the customer.

In part 2 of our talk, Bryan and I discuss the real power of social media. Are you familiar with the ideas of relational and transactional customers? It might be helpful before we come back with Bryan. Then, in part 3 on Friday, Bryan will provide you with six powerful steps to start a strong social media effort with your business.

UPDATE: Here’s part 2 of our talk.

Why do companies like, Google, Forbes and HP, call Bryan Eisenberg to speak to their audiences?

For more than 10 years, Bryan has been showing them many things about the online world with one net result: how to get more people to do more things. Why do people buy? What makes them click? What takes an online company from good to great? This is what Bryan knows. This is what Bryan shares.

Bryan Eisenbergmarketing speaker, is a former teacher with a great passion for sharing his rich knowledge. He’s delivered keynote addresses for many corporate events and industry conferences such as Search Engine Strategies,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, E-consultancy, Webcom and the Canadian Marketing Association.

Good advice? Please share. Thanks!
  • Tom Wanek

    Hey, Tim. Fantastic interview with Bryan. Thanks for sharing and look forward to part 2 about social media.

  • Shawn Kinkade


    Great interview and discussion – I do some social media workshops and Brian’s points resonate very well. Everyone focuses on the technology (and they get overwhelmed with the technology) but the reality is the key to social media success are the relationships you build (and being remarkable).

    I did a blog post recently advocating that in a lot of ways we’re going back to the old ways of doing business – based on relationships and feedback from your customers.



  • Tilak

    Great discussion…it opens the mind.

    Thanks for sharing.