After the baker cuts fruit and concocts a few muffin fillings, he listens to his online communities.
Once the dentist examines the patient’s X-rays and completes their checkup, she writes the next blog post, edits it, and shares it across social media.
The tax preparer takes a break from reviewing financial records to attend a lunch networking event. When he returns to the office, he follows up with his new connections before getting back to the income statements.
The baker, dentist, and tax preparer are among many small business owners who have social media responsibilities on top of their main business roles.
“Lots of small businesses are initially pretty averse to spending on online marketing; especially the kind that involves social media,” says Neal Vora, CEO and co-founder of SMPLE, a San Francisco-based startup offering a DIY social media solution for small businesses. “We know that business owners need less work. Especially in the context of technology, the simpler we can make things, the better. We had tried building a platform that had lots of fancy charts, graphs, and analytics. However, at the end of the day, business owners just want to know what they need to do. They’d rather spend their mental energy on the day-to-day execution of their business—not in online marketing. If we can make SMPLE easy, then we can make it accessible to everyone.”
While 87 percent of small business owners use social media marketing, they don’t necessarily have the time to do it, nor the skills, besides lack of money to hire a social media consultant to help with it. So what ends up happening is a fragmented, ineffective, online presence. It could be mismanaged listings, a poor reputation, an inaccessible website, or one of hundreds of other things.
“When business owners start using SMPLE, they realize that a lot is involved in managing an online presence, and this elicits a need for support and an understanding of value. In this way, SMPLE becomes a natural stepping stone to help business owners realize the value a consultant can provide,” Vora says about the startup he founded with Kushan Patel in early 2013 and launched this spring. “For social media consultants that aren’t necessarily focused on providing online marketing help, SMPLE is a stopgap solution for their clients seeking support in a way that’s trust building. It shows the consultant is invested in educating and enabling. SMPLE is also an easy way to keep track of clients and the status of their online presence.”
The platform has a basic dashboard that provides notifications on reviews, comments, improvements, posting reminders, search rank tracking, and other analytics consultants use to manage clients. Loaded with more than 300 rules, SMPLE analyzes hundreds of different data points derived from a business’s online listings and profiles. From this, a customized task list is generated for a business owner based on various metrics, including type of business, level of expertise with a system, time required, level of value, and more. The software doesn’t make any changes; it simply pushes the business owner to make them—a decision based on a small business survey with more than 10,000 respondents. Vora says across the board, a majority of business owners prefer a “hybrid” solution over completely doing it themselves or leveraging a full-service option.
“We wanted to build something that could begin to provide the guidance of a consultant, but do it close to the cost of doing it all yourself,” says Vora. “There are hundreds of great tools built for small business owners to help them with aspects of their online presence, such as Yext for listings or Weebly for websites. The challenge is that most of these are just tools. If you put a hammer in front of someone, all you’ve done is given them a tool. You haven’t shown them how to use that hammer effectively or even how to use it at all. With SMPLE, the goal is not to provide business owners with another tool, but to provide them with the coaching to use all of those tools effectively.”
For example, there are a lot of tools to help you post on Facebook or to update your listing on Yelp. We don’t need more of those. SMPLE helps you understand how and when to post to Facebook, and how to create a great listing on Yelp.
Soon SMPLE will make it possible for business owners to monetize through Pinterest as well as add phone capabilities. “We’ve gotten a number of requests for our notifications and task lists to be made available directly via mobile alerts,” Vora says. “Running through a task list on your phone, and being reminded to tweet and linking directly to your twitter app seems pretty cool, right?”
If you’d like to get back to baking, examining, or crunching numbers, you can try a free, 30-day trial of SMPLE. After that, the service is $8 a month.