GWS Supporter and Board member in the Boston Globe!

Small businesses learn to tweet, post, and blog

Mike Pedersen, 59, the owner of Mike’s Automotive Services in Somerville, has always tried to keep up with the latest technology, especially when it comes to marketing his business.

“We had a Web page way back in ’94, when it was the cat’s meow,’’ he said, shortly after finishing a repair estimate for a customer.

But lately, he admitted, it has been a challenge to stay ahead of the marketing curve.

“Twitter, Facebook, Groupon — the whole thing has gotten a lot more sophisticated,’’ Pedersen said. “It’s kind of forcing my hand to get involved.’’

It’s one thing for big companies to navigate the digital marketing landscape, hiring specialists to make sure customers can find them on every new social network. But now, small-business owners who have spent years building their marketing around wall calendars and refrigerator magnets feel as if they are being forced to tweet and post to stay ahead of a never-ending succession of online services.

“Many small-business owners over 50 wish that social media had never been invented,’’ said Michael Katz, president of Blue Penguin Development, a marketing consultancy in Hopkinton that has many small-business clients. “There’s definitely a feeling of being overwhelmed. It’s just one more thing to do.’’

Mike’s Automotive does it all. It has an active blog, a Twitter feed, and a Facebook page. You can check in at Mike’s on Foursquare. Avid customers can subscribe to an online RSS feed of Mike’s blog posts. In October, the small auto-repair shop even offered an online coupon on Groupon, the “social coupon’’ site.

“We sold 1,705 ten-dollar oil changes,’’ Pedersen recalled. “It was crazy, and a little scary, to tell you the truth.’’

Pedersen has built his online presence with the help of his son, Mark, 31, who is launching a career as a digital media consultant. But many small-business owners are on their own.

Three years ago, when Annissa George, 37, started Stitch House, a yarn, crocheting, and sewing store in Dorchester, she was not prepared to sort through the onslaught of online marketing opportunities.

“I’m just old enough to be a little bit behind on all this mobile technology and social networking — and I’m still behind,’’ she said with a laugh.

George’s biggest challenge, she said, is “to be on the most current space online.’’ When she opened, the store’s primary online marketing page was on MySpace. Six months later, she moved it to Facebook. Now, Stitch House is also on Twitter, “but I still don’t have anyone special to do status updates and tweets and all that stuff,’’ she said. “We still feel like we’re playing catch-up.’’

She may be a reluctant participant, but George’s business has an impressively positive online profile. On the social review site, Stitch House had 30 rave reviews last week. A few months ago, George posted a deal on Groupon (half off a knitting lesson) that attracted 250 buyers.