insightfulmarketing

Simple, effective and insightful small business marketing

Social Media for Small Business: 3 Steps to get Started March 15, 2013

Filed under: Marketing,Small Business,Social Media — insightfulmarketing @ 10:02 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Small business owners have a lot to think about on a daily basis; personnel, customer service, finances, inventory, scheduling and more.  Social media isn’t always the first thing on your to do list, and it can be daunting, but it’s integral to your marketing success…and setting yourself up for success will make all the difference.

Here are 3 ways to help get you started

1.)  Create a Strategy

It’s fairly easy to go out and set up a Facebook page or create a Twitter account.  It’s harder to sit down and decide on your strategy for managing these accounts.  However, it is an important first step. Deciding on what you want to accomplish, how this relates to your brand and business goals and who within your organization is going to do it, are important questions to ask yourself.

Set your objectives.  Be clear on what you want to accomplish.  Is it more traffic to your site or more traffic in your doors?  Is it building an email database for outbound marketing?  Is it creating an online community to support your brand?  This will drive how and what you’re communicating through your social media efforts.

2.)  Choose your Networks

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

As the world’s largest social media site, Facebook is somewhat ubiquitous so you can certainly find a network of consumers for most industries there, while Google+ is good in a B2B or software/technical market.  On the visual side, Pinterest is good for the home-making, fashion, food, fitness and home goods markets and YouTube, the 2nd most used search engine, is a good video medium for brands. LinkedIn with its 200 million+ members, is a powerful online professional network. These are generalizations, so there are always exceptions.

Explore each of the big five social networks and see if your competition, or related product/service providers are doing well there. If so, you might also be able to make a place for yourself.  It’s also a good idea to ask your customers where they are spending their time online, so you can focus your efforts in the right direction.  They’re your target, so don’t be afraid to inquire.

Don’t forget the niche-specific online networks. If you’re in travel, you could be very active on Tripadvisor Forums. If you’re a home improvement specialist in a large city or town, AngiesList is an important website for you. Paying attention to niche social networks might be a way for your business to be somewhere your competition is not.

3.)  Generate Content and Engage – 

I heard it best as “teach with story and sell with subtleness”.  Use what you know about your business and industry to sell yourself and what you do.  Think from the customer’s point of view to know how to frame it.  You’re the expert – what would customers want to know about your product or how to use it?  What success stories could you tell?  If you’re a plant nursery, you could create content on subjects ranging from soil to seasonal plants…the possibilities are endless.

Set a 90-day plan.  It’s tempting to try to do it all, but in order to remain consistent  with your content you must start small with manageable expectations. You can always add more later.  If you’ve decided to use Pinterest and YouTube, a reasonable 90-day plan could include building your social media community on these channels (remember to use your traditional or offline marketing avenues to help build your online efforts) and engaging that audience with consistent, compelling content.

There are so many ways to participate in social media, so figure out what works for you and go for it!  Be patient though.  Initially, your ROI will be in online word-of-mouth.  This eventually should translate into more tangible metrics.   And finally, reevaluate periodically to determine what’s working and what you could be doing better…it’s critical to your overall success with your social media efforts.

 

How Much Time Does Your Business Spend on Social Media? November 2, 2012

A new survey from email marketing software firm VerticalResponse found that 43% of small businesses (100 employees or less) spend at least six hours a week on social media, with seven percent spending over 21 hours a week on Facebook, Twitter, and such! Wow, with hectic schedules and the many hats they wear, small business owners are spending more time on-line, suggesting that more businesses are either realizing or actually seeing the benefits of social media marketing.  “Our survey confirms that small businesses are understanding the value of social media,” said Janine Popick, VerticalResponse CEO/founder. “They’re spending more time doing it, and investing more money into it at a faster rate. But the extra work will likely lead to time management issues, especially for the small business owner who’s handling social media on top of all the other responsibilities of running a company. This implies that small businesses are in need of tactics and tools now to help them save time.”

It’s interesting to note that small businesses are realizing the value of content – but, again, time is an issue.  More than half (55 percent) of small businesses surveyed have a blog.  (Of those, 43 percent publish a blog post at least once a week. Nearly half (45 percent) spend one to three hours to create one post, while 16 percent spend more than three hours.  (I can relate as it often takes time to come up with content, write the blog and then post it).  So, nearly half of those who blog spend up to three hours per blog post on at least a weekly basis – time that, prior to having a blog, would have been used on other business activities. This suggests that small businesses are recognizing the increasing importance of generating content for social media, over other business activities.

However, while they’re realizing content is valuable, time is still an issue. Respondents reported that finding and posting content to their social networks are the most time-consuming, followed by: learning and education; analyzing their social media efforts; and following their competitors’ activities. Answering questions posted on social media is the least time-consuming.

budget

Even with limited marketing budgets, small businesses are finding value in paying for social media. The survey data show social media budgets are increasing at a faster rate than overall marketing budgets.  More than 22 percent reported an increase in their social media budget compared to a year ago, while only 6 percent reported a decrease. So, there are nearly four times the number of small businesses that have increased their social media budget, versus those that have decreased.

Take a look below at the inforgraphic illustrating this data:

Image

 

How Pinteresting February 22, 2012

How many of you are pinning?  Pinterest, the newest social media site, just hit more than 10 million unique visitors, making it one of the fastest growing websites ever. In the past six months, visits to Pinterest grew by 4,000%, receiving 11 million hits in just one week! I have been seeing or hearing about the site everywhere…from the delicious recipes I was perusing on Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures that had a link to her Pinterest page to the friend at my son’s basketball game last weekend that shared she recently got an amazing recipe and her kid’s Valentine idea from the visual pinboard.

English: Red Pinterest logo

Pinterest was named the best new start up of 2011 by TechCrunch and is doing a great job of driving traffic, leads, and sales. In fact, early research indicates that Pinterest is more effective at driving traffic back to a website compared to other social media sites, even Facebook. Josh Davis includes some interesting stats on his blog:

  • Pinterest is now driving more traffic to the Real Simple website than Facebook is.
  • Warbly Parker, the hip but inexpensive eyeglass retailer, reports that 11% of its social traffic is coming from Pinterest. 18% is coming from Twitter.
  • Like many early bloggers, Kate Bryan managed a blog that was based around her interests, but it never generated many readers. She blogged about her professions of hairstyling and jewelry making, and also her craft projects. Hairstyles are extremely popular pins on Pinterest. Kate started pinning her own work and rapidly started generating traffic. In five months, she achieved over 14,000 new subscribers to her site as well as generating over one million page views from Pinterest.

What’s unique about Pinterest compared to most social media websites, is that it reduces the number of steps from discovery to the coveted conversion. This means that visitors from Pinterest convert into leads or sales faster than from other social media sources. Pinterest is also a great tool for increasing links back to your website, thus driving more traffic.

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Let’s look at Twitter, as one example. If a person reads a tweet regarding a product, it’s less likely that a user will buy that product from just seeing one tweet – well, we’re all a little shallow so maybe unless it’s celebrity-endorsed. Are you in the market to pay big bucks for Snoop Dog, Tori Spelling or the Kardashian’s to endorse your tweets? Ummm, probably not!

The site now connects with Facebook, according to a recent Open Graph announcement, which enables users to automatically post new pins to their Facebook news feed for others to see. This translates into more people from other channels getting access to the images you post to Pinterest. However, for business marketers, right now Pinterest only connects with personal Facebook profiles, not business pages, so there is no way for businesses to automatically share their pins to their Facebook pages. In order to do so, marketers must manually share the link to the pin on their business page.

Yet, if marketers sign up for Pinterest using the same email address used for their corporate Twitter account, they can automatically share the pins they post to their Twitter account.

So ask for your invitation and start helping your customers plan their wedding, select their next pair of shoes or just let them get to know your business brand better through the visuals you pin.

Happy pinning!

 

5 Branding Tips for Small Business February 16, 2012

Filed under: Marketing,Social Media,Uncategorized — insightfulmarketing @ 9:51 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Even though you may not be the size of a corporate giant like Coke or Microsoft, engaging in branding is important for your small business.  Here are 5 branding tips that could make a difference for the long-term success of your small business.

English: English and Hebrew Coke labels in an ...

1.  Create a logo and put it on everything.  You don’t need to spend a lot of time or money creating your logo, but you do need something that stands for your business that customers can recognize.  You then need to put it on everything from letterhead and invoices to your website and newsletter…and every communication in between.

2.  Start a blog. A blog can be a great tool for a small business. With it your site will rank better in search engines, you can communicate to customers and grow brand involvement. Blogs help you share valuable information and help you become the expert customers will trust when the time comes to make a purchase decision.

3.  Prepare a one-page business overview. This one pager will be critical as a leave behind when you meet prospects. Be brief – Use short sentences in short paragraphs – people like to read quickly. Also make it very conversational; it’s not a white paper. Your one page overview should include your value proposition, target audience benefits, customer testimonials and a mini-case study – and don’t forget to put how to contact you!

4.  Participate in local business events and network.  Participate.  Get involved.  Going to events is wonderful, but you’re just a face in the crowded room. Ask to be on one of the committees or chair or sponsor a meeting. Interestingly enough, it’s as easy as just asking most of time. Groups are looking for volunteer to help and it’s a great way to elevate your status and visibility among the entire organization and your local community.

Proper branding is critical to your long-term success. A lot of people think of branding as just logo development. But in reality, branding is managing the thoughts and feelings of your customers through the whole sales process to ensure that you can bring the benefits they desire. If your desired brand image isn’t what’s in the minds of your target audience, you’ve got to figure out where the gaps are and how to address them. And fixing those issues is hard work because the old adage still rings true – the customer is always right.

 

 

 

Local Business + Social Media January 27, 2012

Your small business can learn a ton from large corporations and their social media tactics. It’s not rocket science and you don’t need a dedicated team to do it.  Local businesses have a unique opportunity that doesn’t often present itself in the face of big corporations. If your local company isn’t trying these local social media opportunities, it’s time to get started! Here are 7 productive ways to begin that cost you nothing…but your time!

 

Creative Ways Local Businesses Can Use Social Media

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

1.) Complete all of your profile/page information. I know, it’s not very creative, but the easiest to accomplish. As search gets more social, it’s more and more likely your social profile could show up in search results. Make sure you’ve filled it out with adequate information about who you are, what you do, where people can find you, and how to get in touch with you. Of all the social media networks to consider when leveraging an organic search presence, Google+ is currently at the top of the pile. With its consistent incorporation of Google+ profile and page information into search results, brand presence on Google+ is quickly becoming a social media must. Are you there?

2.) Monitor social media mentions. Of your brand…of related products and services…and of your competitors. When people are talking about these things, you should be the first to respond with a coupon, information about your product or service, or just a helpful answer to their question. People use social media for real-time information, and if you’re the one who provides the answer, you elevate yourself as a local expert and a trusted source. This tactic will help you generate new leads, close more sales, or just keep prospects, customers, and your community happy.

3.) Do a little investigating. Check out your fans’ and followers’ profile information to see what they like, and edit adjust marketing activities and communications accordingly. This helps you create buyer personas, refine the style, tone, and content of your messaging, and ensure you’re talking about the things your audience likes to prompt more social engagement.

4.) Become a resource for local events in your industry. Keeping your ear to the ground on events — whether live or web-based — that your audience would like to attend makes you an indispensable resource. Aggregate everything that’s happening in your industry, and maintain groups on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, or Circles on Google+ that keep interested parties up to date on can’t-miss activities. And be sure to show up to these events, too; your future customers will be there! Why not create another impression?

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

5.) Maintain your presence on local review sites. Sites like Yelp! often appear among the top results in search engines. How does your reputation look? Consumers hold peer reviews in high esteem (I do), and it’s crucial that their first impression of you is a positive one. Plus, these sites help answer common questions for customers like addresses, hours of operation, and contact information that people are frequently checking on their mobile devices when on the go. You should be actively involved in maintaining your reputation on these sites by keeping your business information up to date, soliciting positive reviews from satisfied customers, and working to resolve issues with those who have posted negative reviews of your business.

6.) Ask your employees to use their social networks for your business. National companies may ask their employees to do this, but they won’t reap as much benefit unless their employees connect with people that are overwhelmingly interested in their industry. What do people tend to have in common with lots of their connections? Location! If their networks know their friend or family member works for a local company, you can be sure they’ll contact them the next time they need a local dentist, doctor, health food store, pet sitter, t-shirt maker, custom closet designer…well, you get the point.

7.) Connect with other local businesses and consumers. Get active in online conversations. Connect with people that live in your city and businesses that are doing cool things in your area (especially if they could act as a referrer of business!). It’s important to stay locally connected and network with people even if they’re not directly related to your industry; you never know when someone has a secret passion for something you offer or a need arises further down the line for your products and services.

Your local business can use social media to remain a fixture in the local online community and at your storefront.