Social media expands the potential "community" that is available for small and micro-businesses, but it also changes the way that they can interact with and engage their customers.
Social media is not only a tool for marketing, but it now gives businesses the ability to touch base with their customers on a personal level that they could never get without people physically coming to a store location (or office). Not only does this mean more sales, the potential to build more loyalty, and obviously make more money, but this also gives businesses the ability to develop or improve their products with feedback from the people most likely to spend money with them.. their existing customers! There is no better venue for businesses to develop and grow on this level. Add to that the fact that there is an incredible ability to track, understand, and utilize information that comes in via social media platforms, it can allow business to streamline their marketing and engagement strategies on a level no other form of advertising/marketing truly can. You never know how many people discover your business through newspaper ads or television spots. There's no question who comes to your doorstep via social media.
The sky is the limit with social media, and the ones who stand the most to gain from it are definitely small businesses.
I am not too sure if Twitter and Linkedin on their own can truly benefit a small independent company. However, Linkedin and Twitter only make up a small part of Social Media Sites - Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut,Tagged, Badoo etc.
The sites themselves are not the answer .... it is how small companies address the opportunities offered by the Social Media Platforms.
A small company CAN benefit from engaging in Social Media Marketing and can level the playing field and compete with much larger companies for the attention and ultimately their customer. For this they will need to know what their customers want and provide it in the form of valuable content. This way they can begin to build a relationship, become known as experts in the field, and contribute to a meaningful conversation. If they don't they will be defined by how their competitors define them, not how they would define themselves, if they had been part of the conversation.
When they are blogging and deeply involved in the conversation and adding to the conversation they will be seen as leaders and have people come to them for solutions to their problems.
Social Media is here to stay....Small companies need to harness the power of Social Media Marketing by providing opinions, solutions, advice, etc. The power of the blog is one of the channels that they can use. Others are videoblogs, webinars, participation in other conversations etc. This is how they will stand out.
Yes they need a level playing field and social media marketing can help provide a competitive edge. Besides, if they are not engaging with their marketplace, their competitors, surely will.