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To wrap up the content-packed SMB Digital Marketing conference, a panel of heavy hitters zeroed in on the show’s pervasive theme of content marketing.

Perry Evans, CEO, Closely
Adam Japko, CEO, Digital Sherpa (NCI)
Randy Parker, CEO, PagePart; Founder, Constant Contact
Dave Walker, CEO, BizHive

This ran the gamut of blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, Yelp et, al.. These each come with their own opportunities for content marketing, but also carry familiar SMB challenge such as time/resource constraints.

Blogs are a great platform but SMBs have no ability to update them asserted Adam Japko. Ways around that include curation of third party material, and shorter form content that is snackable or can be shared via Twitter or Facebook added Randy Parker.

In addition to being time starved, another challenge lies in being content starved says Parker. 90 % of blogs go dark for this reason. And certain businesses are decidedly unsexy considering the eligible “content” to be marketed.

“I don’t want to read an article from my dry cleaner about the science of cleaning cottons,” says Perry Evans.

Pay to Play

For lots of these reasons, it can’t be expected that this content will be consumed and distributed virally or organically. In lots of cases it will be a pay to play model for the distribution of content, sort of like Facebook Sponsored Stories.

“These things are more intuitive to the business than search marketing – putting out a promotion or piece of news or bragging about award they got,” argued Evans. “People underestimate social media as brand building only. It can outperform search marketing 5 to 1 from what we’ve seen and there’s a high level of precision targeting.”

Things get even more complicated when you consider the democratized and connected world we live in; content marketing isn’t always in the hands of the SMB. This phenomenon is embodied most with Yelp, which Evans sees as a lightning rod for maligned angst.

“The median behavior of small businesses are average, and it pisses off the owner that its exposed,” he said. “[Those] that have good service will like Yelp; those that beat up Yelp tend to be average. The opportunity sometimes missed is testimonial solicitation coupled with dialogue with the customer.”

Dave Walker adds that what’s missing is an industry meter stick that quantifies the cost of a bad Yelp review. For example, what is the average Yelp rating impact from a business that was overloaded from having run a Groupon?

“Having the data to quantify the impact of that negative review would be good for all of us,” he said, “and make it easier to sell social media and review products.”

Picture Worth 1000 Characters

The conversation wouldn’t be complete without the recently S-1 minted Twitter. Like many of the options on the table there’s considerable opportunity, but one that’s saddled by all of the same SMB resource constraints.

“There’s a huge opportunity to identify prospects on Twitter,” says Japko. “Bring them deeper into the funnel. It’s huge but daunting to the small business, so it has to be made awfully simple.”

Speaking of Twitter, improving camera functionality like the iPhone5s makes multimedia content via Vine an emerging SMB opportunity. I’ve been saying that for a while. Add to this discussion Instagram Video and Instagram proper.

Evans claims that the content flows on Closely organized by business venue view are showing that Instagram is the biggest source coming through the pipes. These are mostly selfie pics, but even that carries an opportunity.

“What does an SMB do with that?,” he asks. “Use this content to start a conversation: ‘we want to start a gallery, if you wouldn’t mind me using your pic,we’ll give you a return visit.’ SMB won’t do it themselves, so that’s an opportunity.”

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