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5 Advanced Social Media Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses October 13, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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by Samir Balwani

Social media marketing and the businesses that utilize it have become more sophisticated. More small businesses are beginning to understand how to best leverage online tools to build a community and recognize that engagement and interaction are the foundations of social marketing, but most don’t know what’s next.  What follows are five advanced strategies for small businesses that may already have small online communities and understand how to create an online presence, but don’t know what to do next.

What Is An Advanced Strategy?

The definition of an advanced social strategy is a technique that goes beyond the normal social media presence. It introduces or reinforces a marketing message while pushing a user to another profile or business site. Before moving forward with an advanced strategy, it’s important that your business understands social marketing, has experience engaging consumers, and that you possess a basic understanding of online marketing.

Strategy 1: Multimedia Usage

The term “A picture is worth a thousand words” has never been truer. Consumers are now using the web to look for product pictures and videos; they want more information and want to see what they’re considering buying. The good news is that it’s easy for a company to create and publish videos and pictures.

In addition to taking photos of products, you can also take pictures at office events as a way to highlight company culture. This not only helps convince others to work with you or to buy from you (consumers see that you are down to earth and one of them, instead of a stuffy company), it also helps your HR department recruit new employees. Who doesn’t want to work for a company that celebrates birthdays and has a good time?   

Videos are useful for explaining complex how-tos or concepts. Showing step-by-step directions can have a greater impact than even the most well written article. Businesses don’t have to invest huge sums of money to create good videos, either. I highly recommend the relatively cheap Flip camcorder, which takes great videos and is easy for even a non-technical marketer to use.  Multimedia can break down the faceless business-to-consumer sales flow and make your company appear friendlier. Use videos and images to show that your business is fun, you care about your employees, and most importantly, that you care about your customers.

Example: WorldMusicSupply.com

WorldMusicSupply.com, an online retailer of musical instruments and accessories, has used YouTube to build a strong online community. Their channel has built over 7,000 subscribers and has over 260,000 views.

Strategy 2: Integrate Offline and Online Advertising

Many small businesses do some sort of offline advertising, whether it be radio, print, or cable. Social marketing allows a business to extend their offline sales pitch.  Including your Facebook Page, Twitter ID or blog URL in offline ads act as social proof, inviting potential consumers to see your community and increase trust in your business. Not only can integrating online and offline advertising help the conversion process, but it can also help build your community. Introducing potential consumers to your social profiles means they may join your community now and buy later.

Strategy 3: Message Adaptation

As businesses start to become more sophisticated with social media they are starting to leverage more online platforms.  However, most deliver the same message over multiple platforms instead of tailoring communications for each individual site.

Social platforms each have an ecosystem of their own. What might be acceptable on Tumblr might be considered spam on Facebook.  A specific style of writing might spread on Twitter but fail on FriendFeed.  Understanding that each site is different and then customizing your message ensures they do well on each respective site.

Not only does customizing messages across sites help the message spread but it keeps users from receiving multiple identical communications. Be sure to maximize your potential by sending a user that follows the business on Twitter and Facebook two different messages, instead of the same thing.

Strategy 4: Local Social Networks, Beyond Yelp

For a small business, local search can be a big win. Being visible to consumers looking for a business in their area is extremely important. Make sure your site is included in local business directories in order to help ensure that consumers find you when they need you. Sometimes finding that many sites can be difficult, however. First, make sure you check your competitors.

Where are they listed? Check their inbound links to check for business directories you can add yourself to. Also, make sure your business has been added to Google Maps, using the Local Business Center.  Take the time to include all the information you can and update any old news. For many consumers, this will be their first interaction with the business.

Example: Bella Napoli in New York

Bella Napoli is a small pizzeria in New York that has done a great job of making sure they appear in as many local searches as possible.

Strategy 5: Contests and Discounts

Building a community is only the first part of social marketing. Using that community to drive sales, propagate marketing, or crowdsource operations is the true power of social media. One way to excite the community is to collectively do something to create a contest or offer an exclusive discount (i.e., the contest can create competition between users). Not only does a contest build buzz organically but if contestants need to, for example, publish an article that gets the most comments in order to win, the contest itself becomes viral.

A good social media contest should include some sort of sharing or virality as a requirement for winning.  Discounts are also a great way to connect with your community. By giving exclusive coupons to your social community, you’re rewarding and reminding them that you are not only a brand to engage with, but also to buy from.

Example: NetFirms.com

NetFirms.com decided to make it easier to register a domain by allowing people to do it via Twitter. Those who participated or spread the word by tweeting, were also entered into a prize drawing.

Conclusion

Creating a basic social media presence is easy enough, getting your community to actually do something is more difficult. Taking advantage of these strategies can help you build your community, make your marketing more effective, and incentivize buying.

____________________________________________________________

Samir Balwani is an emerging technology strategist at Morpheus Media, a firm specializing in Social Marketing, SEM, and SEO. 

You can follow him on Twitter @leftthebox and get his newsletter.

Top 5 Social Media Tips for Small Business July 16, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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Some content in this posting is from an article by Mya Frazier for Bankrate.com

A few years ago, using the Internet to market a small business simply meant to create a presence online with a simple, informational Web site.  Then came the demands of search engine optimization to ensure Google and Yahoo searches yielded top-ranked results for your company. Was your business’s Web site chock full of the key search terms that would bring it to the attention of customers?

Social Media graphicToday, social media is transforming the small-business marketing landscape. Social media are Web- or mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. It’s not just for seeing who your high school sweetheart married. Businesses can tap into powerful networking sites and other social media to drive customers to their shops or companies.

If done right, small-business owners might even be able to slash their traditional marketing spending to zero. Writing blogs (short for “Web logs”) or on-going online commentary using social-networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, can provide inexpensive but powerful online marketing.

Because it’s free, people think it’s easy to create a social media presence. But this attitude can lead to missteps. So before you dive headlong into social media, take some time to observe the customs and social norms of these new forms of communications, says David Spark, founder of Spark Media Solutions, a San Francisco-based firm that helps companies tell their story through social media.  “Also think about your strategy for effectively utilizing social media before you jump in,” says Linda Daichendt, CEO/Managing Consultant of Strategic Growth Concepts. “It’s easier to avoid costly mistakes before you begin than to correct them after they’ve done damage to your company’s reputation.”

“Think of social media as a cocktail party,” says, David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave,” books about how to create buzz online. “You don’t go into the cocktail party and go into the middle room and scream at the top of your lungs and say, ‘Buy my products.’ … What works is you have some meaningful conversation first. And that’s just how social media works.”

If you decide to take the social-networking plunge, here are five ways to harness social media to help your business.

1. Use free sites. Use free online services, such as the mobile short-message site Twitter, and popular networking sites Facebook and MySpace, to post significant news, specials or events. For example, you run a small Italian restaurant with a loyal following. You could create a Twitter account and upload the lunch or dinner specials via “tweets,” or short messages of up to 140 characters, daily to customers’ smart phones or to other Web sites.

“All you have to do is give a (Twitter) handle and start a conversation. You could put the Twitter handle on the menu or in the restaurant,” says Chris Abraham, Abraham Harrison LLC, a Washington, D.C.-based digital public relations agency. Granted, social networking sites are still for early adopters.  “You aren’t going to get Aunt Matilda to tweet about the experience she had at dinner,” Abraham says.

Abraham considers Twitter one of the easiest ways for a newbie to social media to get started.  “It’s more challenging to do Facebook,” Abraham says. “You have to create a personal profile, create a page and so on. With Twitter, if you’re Joe Smith with Motorcycle Emporium, you don’t have to create a page. And you can create Twitter updates via a phone or mobile device easily.”

“Don’t try to reinvent the wheel,” he says. “There are lots of people sold on really expensive solutions, but two of the best investments for reaching out to people and engaging with them are free on Twitter and Facebook.”

2. Shift marketing costs to social media. After learning how social networking operates, use social media to free up traditional marketing dollars for your small business by putting it online. You can quickly learn which of your Facebook or MySpace “friends” or online “group” members received and responded to your message.

Stanya Doty has cut her print marketing budget to zero. As owner of Simple Indulgences, a wine and high-end gift shop in Delaware, Ohio, she began using Facebook in December 2008 to communicate with her brother but quickly realized the online marketing possibilities.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, there are so many people here,’ ” she says. Indeed, Facebook boasts 200 million users worldwide.  In April 2009, she began promoting monthly wine tastings via a Facebook page for the shop that quickly attracted 100 members. Combined with an e-newsletter created using the do-it-yourself, e-mail marketing Web site Constant Contact, she keeps enough buzz going about her shop that her advertising budget for local print ads no longer seemed necessary. She usually sends out about 700 e-mails, with the response rate sometimes reaching nearly 50 percent. It sure beats a postal mailing.  “If I sent out a postcard with postage and paid for all that, I’d still have no idea who read it and who threw it away,” she says.

Indeed, unlike a print ad, Doty gets instant, measurable results. “On Facebook, you can see who has responded to invites,” she says. “It’s easy, it’s cheap and I’m actually appealing to people that at first know me from the store and then hopefully … pass the word along throughout their networks.”

3. Do your own social-media optimization project. Learn about the competition in your industry and geographic region that are tapping social networking. Spark recommends starting by researching the competition in the major search engines — Google and Yahoo.

“Type in keywords and phrases that people would use to find you, like ‘plumber’ and ‘San Francisco.’ If you don’t appear in the top percentage of pages, take a look at the Website of those plumbers that do show up,” says Spark. “Look at their pages, and usually they will have a lot of content on their sites.”

To increase a business’s presence on the Internet, Spark advocates companies create blogs, newsletters and other articles on their sites to bolster the number of keywords — terms that search engines recognize — to boost their ranking in all-important Web searches.

“That’s the way people discover you,” he says. “Take that plumber in San Francisco. The right search terms might just be ‘clogged toilet and San Francisco.'”  “That tells me I should write … in my blog about how to fix a clogged toilet and mention that I am a plumber in San Francisco,” he says.

4. Take social-network marketing to the next level. Create and post richer content about what your customers would expect from someone in your business. Don’t view social media sites as a place to simply hype your wares. It’s a place for conversation.

“Social media is about earning attention,” says David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” and “World Wide Rave,” books about how to create buzz online.  “What’s most important is to forget about what your company does. Instead, think about the people who are buying your products. Simply hyping products and services online and in social media sites completely backfires. People are not looking for products but for something fun. They are looking to make connections,” Scott says.

So it’s all about having something interesting to say or show. It could be a blog, or a video on the video-sharing Website YouTube.

For example, if you’re a caterer, instead of talking about your service, create engaging culinary content. Imagine positioning yourself as a gourmet magazine on the Web, complete with links to a video you uploaded to YouTube.

“A caterer could create a blog with information about how to create a fantastic party, and each blog post or YouTube video could be another installment,” Scott says. “On the Web, you are what you publish and being on the Web is about publishing information.”

So back to that plumber faced with the prospect of dropping an expensive Yellow Pages listing but worried about customers not finding him if they have a burst pipe or a misfiring shower head. Scott recommends the plumber post a list of “the 100 home fixes for common plumbing problems.”

“All of a sudden you are going to get indexed very highly in the search engines, and people are going to share that content with their friends,” he says. “When someone puts an update on Facebook asking if anyone knows a good plumber in Boston, a friend might point to your content.”

5. Use blogging to drive search results and help new customers find you. Lately, blogging has gained greater attention, with the advent of “micro-blogging” on Twitter. But consider the time commitment and strategy before launching an account.

Even with the spread of micro-blogging, Abraham remains a big fan of traditional blogs, which are lengthier and show up on Web sites. In general, no matter what form the blog takes, it should be consistent over time.

“If you can’t keep up one (blog) post a day or 12 tweets a day, do one tweet every Thursday. Consistency in blogging or tweeting will create a relationship of trust with your followers or readers. Do it once a week, but for the next two years,” Abraham says.

And don’t spend extra money on blogging software, technical help, or a ghost writer for your blog.  To get started, sign up with WordPress.com or Blogger – both are free blogging platforms which are easy to use for beginners.

Additional opportunities within the social media environment include:  online radio shows on platforms such as BlogTalkRadio, social networking sites such as LinkedIN, Plaxo, and FriendFeed, and a wide variety of additional tools as well depending on your type of business.

Following these social media basics for small business will get your company started on the right road to gaining new customers and increased revenue via social media.

If after completing this article you’re still not certain what your company’s social media strategy should be, we would be happy to aid you in it’s development – and implementation if you would like.  Please feel free to contact us via our website or via email at linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

A Basic Guide to Social Media Tools Geared Toward Small Business June 14, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, LinkedIN, MySpace, Naymz, Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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Web 2.0 technology in the form of social media tools empower you to maximize your business’ exposure and interaction with customers, potential customers, vendors, employees, and the community at-large; allowing you to connect and stay in touch more often, and with more people, than was ever possible utilizing the previously standard methods of Marketing your business.  These tools are currently typically free, and therefore, the only investment required is that of time to insure that they are utilized effectively to promote your firm.

However, as I speak with small business owners, the question inevitably arises, “how do you utilize social media to market your business?”.  The answer begins with having an understanding of which social media tools are available, and of those tools, which are most useful for your business. In fact I’m often asked “what are the best social media marketing tools for small businesses?”.   So in this essay, we’ll provide a bit of an overview and our recommendations.

Social Tools

Communities   Social Bookmarking   Video Sharing
LinkedIn Facebook

MySpace

Friendster

Plaxo

Naymz

Hi5

AIM Pages
Badoo
Bebo
CyWorld
EarthFrisk
ECpod
Faves
Grono
iBritz
LiveJournal
Lovento
Multiply
MyWebProfile
NetFriendships
Netlog
Orkut
Passado
Skyrock
Tagged
Tribe
Trig
Windows Live Spaces
Yahoo! 360
Zaadz

Professional

APSense
Biznik
CitiAlly
Cofoundr – Entrepreneurial
CompanyLoop
DoMyStuff
Doostang
Ecademy
Fast Pitch
JASEzone
KillerStartups
Konnects
Lawyrs
MeetIn
MyCareer.ge
NetHooks
Ryze
Small Business Brief
StartupNation – Entrepreneurial
Startupping – Internet entrepreneurs
Synergy Street – Entrepreneurial
Tapped In – Educational professionals
Upspring
Venture Capital Network
Xing
Ziggs

  Digg    del.icio.us

Stumbleupon

Reddit

Newsvine

AllMyFavorites
Backflip
Blinkbits
Blinklist
Blogmarks
Blummy
BuddyMarks
BookmarkTracker
ChangeToLink
Chipmark
De.lirio.us
Diigo
Dogear
Favoritoo
Feedmarker
Foxmarks
FreeLink
Furl
GiveALink
Hyperlinkomatic
iKeepBookmarks
Jack of All Links
Lilisto
LinkaGoGo
Linkatopia
Linkroll
List Mixer
Lycos iQ
Mister Wong
Mobilicio.us
MyBookmarks
MyHq
Mylinkvault
MyPip
My Stuff (from Ask)
MyVmarks
Namakkal
Netvouz
Online Bookmark Manager
OnlyWire
Oyax
Shadows
Simpy
SiteBar
SiteJot
Snipit
Socializer
StartAid
Stufflinker
Sync2it
SyncOne
Turboclip
Windows Live Favorites
WireFan
Zurpy

  YouTube Blip.tv

Vimeo

Metacafe

Stickam

Broadcaster
Panjea
Revver
Tubearoo
Viddler
Video Bomb
Video Sift
Vimby
Xillian TV

         
Photo Sharing   Blogging / Micro-blogging / IM / Mobile    
Flickr    Fotolog

SmugMug

Zooomr

Photobucket

Webshots

  Blogger      Wordpress

Typepad

Twitter

BeeMood
Feecle – Japanese
FlickIM

Frazr – German & French
IMified
Jaiku
Komoo – Chinese
loopt

mbuzzy
Numpa – Dutch
Pownce
Radar
Robisz – Polish
Rummble
Zannel

   

Additional categories of social media include:

CONNECTING WITH FRIENDS:

Classmates
ConnectU
Friends Reunited
Graduates
Meetup
MyYearbook
Reunion
SKOUT

CONSUMER REVIEWS:

Cork’d – Wine reviews
Chowhound
– Food
Epinions

RateItAll
Yelp

All of these tools enable you to interact with people, but in each group a different kind of content is the focus.

Social Communities – in some ways the simplest because it is the content focus is YOU. Each individual creates a profile and the directory enables you to find and connect with people based on the information they supply about themselves in that profile. This has extended beyond individuals to “entities”. So that a company or group can also create a profile. One thing to be aware of about these social communities – that not all of them approach “entities” the same way and most of them don’t make it very easy to figure out how to create a profile for your entity. Facebook invites you to create a Facebook “page” for your business but does not want you to create a “profile” for your business even though pages and profiles can use many of the same features and tools (but not all). On the other hand, LinkedIn has a very limited “page” for businesses providing very limited functionality. Small businesses often struggle to figure out which kind of existence they should have in these communities (should it be me? Should it be my company? Should it be someone else within my company?) that allows them to stay within the terms of service and yet still maximize the tool’s marketing potential.

Social Bookmarking (also called Link Sharing) – these tools allow you to highlight and share individual Web pages you like by sharing a link to them. People can “vote” on each link that has been shared and the links with the most votes move to the top of the page making the site a portal to the “best” content as filtered by the participants of the community. Note that an individual profile is connected to the posting of each link so over time you can get to know your fellow bookmarkers by their sharing habits, genre, frequency etc. These sites are useful if you post a lot of content and would like that content to be found and read by more people.  Be aware though that in order to gain a following in these communities, it is best to post content of general interest and value rather than “promotional” content for your business.  Community participants can be rather unforgiving of those seen as “self-absorbed”.

Video Sharing – sites like YouTube are usually very straightforward in functionality. They make it very easy to upload your own video and once the video is uploaded, it is also easily viewed and commented on by others. YouTube also provides ways for the video to be shared and embedded in other sites increasing the video’s ability to turn “viral”.  Using video to market your business can be done easily with a minimal investment in equipment.  While editing can be an expense, it’s not really necessary for educational, promotional, or testimonial videos – shooting them live tends to give them an authenticity that is appreciated by consumers.  A recent video and PowerPoint presentation by Hubspot gives excellent information on ways to effectively use video for small businesses.

Photo Sharing – these sites are usually quite simple in functionality. Members can post photos which then can be viewed and commented on by the general public, or only by those who are invited to see them. Small businesses sometimes use these sites to share photo galleries instead of building photo gallery capability into their own Web site.

Blogging – the content is your creativity, your voice. You post content on a regular basis whether it’s text, video, photos, podcasts or all of the above. Blogs enable you to be an individual publisher, and usually enable readers to participate in the conversation by posting comments.

Of all the tools available, the top 4 in my list for small businesses to utilize would include:

  • Blogs
  • FaceBook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
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