Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

SMB Marketing: In House vs. Outsourcing

As a small business owner, do you run your own marketing and social media efforts or do you outsource them to a third party company? Constant Contact has taken the time to analyze small business owners' marketing goals against the time restraints and cost concerns that they face. We break it down for you in our latest infographic:

Social Media Infographic

3 Creative Ways to Promote Your Business Around the Holidays

The holiday season is swinging into high gear with Halloween, Thanksgiving and December celebrations right around the corner. This can be an excellent time to empty out aging inventory, introduce new customers to your brand and pad your bottom line as you move into 2014.

Here, Evan Lamont, owner of TLG Marketing, an Internet marketing agency based in Long Beach, Calif., offers a few business promotion tips for this time of year.

Mobilize a mascot

Get creative with your online messaging by creating a mascot for your business, suggests Lamont. Establish Twitter and Facebook accounts for your mascot and send out promotions under those accounts. Your customers will love it.

“We worked with a local chiropractic firm and created a new personality for them, a skeleton,” says Lamont. “Many owners don’t want to be the direct face of their business. The skeleton is an example of how a business can answer client questions and promote the business in a fun way.”

Own a bakery? Establish a cupcake with a personal name as your mascot and Tweet as that persona. Own a pet shop? Establish a dog bone with a personal name and send out Facebook posts as that mascot.

“You want to keep two different social media presences,” says Lamont. “One that is generic for your business where you offer pertinent advice and industry news and one that is your mascot’s account where you offer creative deals, special offers and communicate with your community in a less threatening way. Mascots can be great for beefing up a brand.”

Connect with the local media

Regional newspapers and television stations are always looking for feel-good stories around the holidays. Tap into that need by creating an event that will help the public and then distributing a press release about it, Lamont recommends. Just make sure to notify the press well in advance of the event date (at least 2 weeks prior). 

If you own a CPA firm, schedule a seminar on how to save money over the holidays. If you own a bike shop, schedule an event where you teach parents and children about bike safety. Then reach out to media outlets. Chances are good that they will show an interest as long as your event serves the community.

Schedule a ‘give back’ sale

The holiday season is a great time to give back to those less fortunate. Tap into this opportunity by donating a percentage of your sales to a local charity on a specific day and ask everyone (including television cameras) to stop by, offers Lamont. Giving back will only increase public feelings of goodwill toward your business and customers will remember your philanthropic efforts long after the holidays have come and gone.



Work Your Biz Wednesday: Maximizing Social Media

How do you maximize the time you invest into running social media for your small business? Learn some tips from Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson, with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday.

A Social Media Tool Breakdown

Are you unsure which social media outlets would best benefit your business and industry? Here is an overview of the most popular options and how they differ from each other.

4 Innovative Ways to Market Your Company On LinkedIn

LinkedInAuditWhen LinkedIn launched back in 2003, some people were skeptical. After all, social networking was an entirely new concept and the idea of sharing personal information on the web wasn’t really embraced.

How times have changed. Today, social networking is an integral part of almost everyone’s lives and LinkedIn has firmly established itself as the leader in online business networking with more than 200 million users.

So how can small businesses utilize LinkedIn to build visibility and attract potential customers? Follow the four tips below for the best results.

Post one status update per day

First, create a LinkedIn page for your small business. Follow the tutorial and fill out all necessary forms. Once your page is live, notice the blank box under the “Activity” header. This box is for you, the business owner (or your social media-dedicated employee/consultant), to type status updates.

According to Josh Turner, founder of Linked University, these updates should be business related. Examples can include links to blog posts you’ve penned about your industry, links to industry-specific articles from other sources and one-sentence, discussion-starting questions.

“Keep these questions business focused on your industry or on a general topic like, ‘Where do you see technology taking us in the next couple years?’” says Turner. “I’m based in St. Louis, so it would be fine for me to write, ‘Go Cardinals!’ but don’t get too personal with your updates like you may on Facebook.”

Invest in newsfeed advertising

Have you ever noticed the sponsored ads in your Facebook feed and clicked on one of them because you found yourself interested? LinkedIn offers a similar adverting concept on its platform.

“Ads on newsfeeds are a really good thing for small businesses to try because they can target specific demographics,” says Turner.

Join non-obvious groups

If you are the head of an accounting firm, you may be inclined to join finance-related groups on LinkedIn, but Turner guards against the practice.

“Join the groups where your customers hang out—be it CEO, COO and CTO groups or the groups of your customers’ industries,” he recommends. “You aren’t going to get in front of new customers if you hang out in places where your competitors are.

“Once you are in a group, post valuable content no more than twice per week. You don’t want it to look like you are spamming your group.”

Dig through your connections

LinkedIn can help you find qualified referrals, you just have to look through your contacts for people who may be connected to the potential client you have in mind.

“It can be laborious to go through your contacts to find people who are connected to each other and then request an introduction, but it is absolutely worth the time,” he says. “Anything that gets great results takes more time than strategies on autopilot.” 

Approach Social Media with Business Goals in Mind

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are still relatively new and as such, there is a lot of confusion regarding how businesses should best utilize this technology to their advantage.  Social media should not be a strategy in and of itself; rather, it is a tool or a tactic that should be used to help reach specific business goals.

So many businesses (even major companies!) make the mistake of launching marketing campaigns where their ultimate goal is to garner “friends”, “likes” on their social media pages or acquire votes of some kind. But those types of goals, at the most, should simply be stepping stones to the real business goals of driving your company forward, generating revenue and producing customer loyalty.

Now, don’t get me wrong- building up a social media presence is important, but if you just focus on getting people to “like” your page of choice one time and don’t focus on your big picture business goals (like having loyal customers that repeatedly purchase your products or services), you are missing the mark.

Social-media-for-businessUsing your social media pages as a one way billboard of sorts to advertise whatever it is that you want to advertise is also a big mistake. The key word to social media is “social” and if you really want to use it effectively, you need to foster a sense of community.

To build a solid social media community, spend time interacting with your customers and followers to build real connections first, before you start advertising to them. Really listen to them, ask for feedback and authentically engage with them. People love to talk about themselves, so you can launch polls, start a question of the day or use Twitter hashtags months in advance of a particular sale or event that you are having to build up your relationships with your audience. If they know, like and trust you, they will be much more likely to participate in your events or purchase your products or services, which will grow your business much faster than shouting your sales pitch over and over again to a bunch random people that don’t really know what you or your business are all about.

You can even crowdsource to get ideas for the types of offers, sales, products, or events that you are considering. People also love to give their opinions, so reach out to your community to get their knowledge, feedback and preferences. Crowdsourcing allows your community to feel emotionally invested in your business. They’ll be much more likely to patronize your business, since they feel in some way that they’re a part of it. And you’ll have a much clearer idea about the kinds of products or services that your customers are looking for, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Then, after you have your sale, event, etc. continue to dialogue with your social media community. Follow up with more polls, chats or questions regarding feedback. Social media isn’t a one-time thing; you have to continuously work to build that sense of loyalty and community in order for your social media efforts to truly be effective.

After all, having a lot of “likes” may feed your ego, but as an end goal, it won’t feed your family.

Tuesday Tip: Listen to Your Customers on Social Media

Social MediaOf course your business is active on social media—you’ve got Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest accounts, and you’re posting, pinning and tweeting all day. But is your social media activity one-sided? Like a big-mouth at a party, are you only posting, pinning and tweeting about yourself, while never stopping to listen to what others have to say?

If so, you’re wasting a huge opportunity. Social media offers you unprecedented ability to listen to your customers’ wants, needs and desires without having to conduct expensive surveys or time-consuming cold-call campaigns. Instead, you can simply watch your social media accounts to see what customers are saying about you.

To get the best results from listening on social media, try these 3 tips:

  • See what gets attention. What products, services or aspects of your business are customers most interested in? Do more people respond when you offer special deals or discounts, or do they get more excited about events (such as a special tasting menu at your restaurant) or limited-edition products? Once you start paying attention, it’s simple to do more of what gets results, and less of what doesn’t.
  • Focus on responding. Instead of worrying about what to say about your business, focus on responding to what your customers are saying. That could mean replying to or commenting on their posts or retweeting relevant content. It could mean dealing with customer complaints on social media or probing deeper into customers’ interests.
  • Ask questions. Tweeting or posting quick questions, informal polls or surveys is a great way to find out customers’ likes and dislikes. By asking their opinions, you’ll not only show them that you care and make them feel engaged with your business, but you’ll also gain valuable information that can guide your future business decisions. 

#1 Customer Service Mistake via Social Media Channels

“The biggest mistake a small business owner can make is to think social media replaces customer service, and to just use Twitter and Facebook to put out fires,” says Peter Shankman, author of Customer Service: New Rules in a Social Media World and Nice Companies Finish First.

Good customer service, says Shankman, comes down to making customers happy at the point of purchase and engaging them in positive ways via social media channels.

#1 Do

But what should a small business owner do if a customer leaves a negative comment on the company’s Facebook or Twitter page?

“Answer as quickly as possible and explain that you are in the process of fixing the problem,” he recommends. “Remember: there is no better lover than a former hater.”

Shankman advises business owners to create alternative email addresses for complaints. For example, if a customer visits a company’s social media page to complain about something, respond quickly (in an hour or less, if possible) and ask them to send you an email documenting their complaint via an alternative email address (one that is different from your primary address, but is still forwarded to you). This will help cut down on spammers who see the same tweet and want to send you multiple ranting emails.

#1 Don’t

delete-buttonWhile it can be difficult to see scathing reviews on your company’s social media pages, remember not to react in haste by responding unprofessionally or deleting the customer’s comment altogether.

“Deleting comments is never a good idea,” says Shankman. “The customer can easily retaliate by taking a screenshot of their former comment, posting the screenshot and telling the world that you deleted the comment, which can make matters even worse.

“Just reach out, acknowledge their complaint, tell them that you are taking steps to find a solution and then offer your contact information.”

Quiz: Is Twitter Right for Your Business?

twitter-iconTwitter, a social media platform that allows users to broadcast, or “tweet,” 140-character messages to the world, has more than 200 million users worldwide. So does that mean that your business should have a Twitter account, too?

Not necessarily. Some small business owners feel guilty if they don’t use Twitter, but also aren’t sure if the platform would really help their bottom line. “I call it social media guilt,” says Jason McDonald, director of JM Internet Group, a social media and SEO consulting company in Fremont, Calif. “Social media might be technically free to utilize, but it takes a lot of work and if your customers aren’t listening, it might not be worth it. Sometimes you have to throw stuff over the boat.”

Consider the following questions before opening a Twitter account for your business.

Question #1: Are your customers on Twitter?

McDonald’s daughter is obsessed with the apparel brand Juicy Couture. She follows the brand on Twitter and shares photos of celebrities donning the clothing. “Juicy is a company with a good demographic for Twitter,” he says. “Customers are 18 to 28 years old and really into their mobile phones. They want to know about the latest products before they hit the market and get the inside scoop.”

But what if you are a plumber or a CPA? “I recommend opting for Google Local or Yelp for those professions,” he says.

Question #2: What can you offer only on Twitter?

Taking the plumber and CPA example, there are very few value-adds that those professions can offer on Twitter. On the other hand, a food truck or pizza restaurant can provide great value to clients on the social media site.

“In the case of the pizza place, you could tweet out a special deal for the lunchtime crowd or alert them to a change in the menu,” says McDonald. “If you own a food truck, you could tell your clients when and where you will be the following day so they have insider information.”

Question #3: Do you have a plan for your Twitter page?

Survey your customer base before launching your Twitter page. What business-specific insights would they find valuable? Once you collect that information, create a well-thought-out plan for your Twitter page. Detail how often you will Tweet, what you will send out, how many discounts you will offer, etc.

Bonus Question: Do you ever go to conferences?

One of the best ways for small business owners to get their feet wet on the social media site is to join a conference-specific Twitter conversation using hashtags.

“Twitter is huge a tradeshows,” says McDonald. “The next time you go to your industry’s version of ‘nerdworld,’ boot up your Twitter page and participate in the conversation. It will help you get an idea of how to use the site.” 

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