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3 Local Marketing Initiatives with Higher ROIs November 20, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in marketing strategies, Strategic Growth Concepts, Web 2.0.
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2 comments

With most small businesses today seeking every low or no-cost marketing option they can find to promote their products and services, the publishers of this blog are constantly in search of information about new resources that can help.  As we have discussed in many previous articles, many Web 2.0 options abound to help businesses promote themselves, but most are unable to concentrate your firm’s efforts on your specific geographic area – at least not easily.  However, the following tools are ideal for promoting your business within your specific geographic region to insure that those potential customers closest to you are well aware of your existance and what you have to offer.

Take advantage of these tools that any small business can use to promote your business within your local community.

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Forget the Phonebook: 3 Local Marketing Initiatives with Higher ROIs

Gregory Go (Wise Bread), Nov 12, 2009 –

The phonebook is so 1998. Few people use it anymore, and yet in an ironic twist, advertising in the phonebook has become more expensive as telcos try to boost revenues. Don’t play their game.

Boost the ROI of your advertising budget by switching your local marketing focus to the following 3 websites.

The basic strategy for each of the following options is two-fold:

  1. The first step — making sure you are listed and have accurate info — is free for all three of the following sites. It’s equivalent to making sure your phone number and address is accurate in the free, basic listing in the phonebook.
 
  2. The second step — buying advertising — is equivalent to buying an ad in the phonebook. Versus the phonebook, you’ll get more reach and better tracking data, which helps ensure you maximize your local advertising ROI.

1. Yelp!

Yelp is the premier review site for local businesses. Consumers love it because it lets them easily share their thoughts on local service providers and retail outlets, and in return, get honest reviews of local businesses from their peers. Businesses love Yelp — honest, reputable businesses, at least — because businesses that receive positive reviews see dramatic increases in referral customers.

Start here.

Step 1: Control Your Listing (and Get Stats)

Yelp provides business owners that have “unlocked” their pages with lots of value-added features including messaging options (eg., post offers and announcements, reply to reviewers) and stats on how many people have viewed your business page. Check out this page for a screenshot of the business dashboard you’ll have access to as the owner of the business.

The biggest benefit of taking control of your Yelp page is being able to highlight positive reviews of your business and/or responding to reviewers privately.  However, don’t think that just because Yelp is willing to take your money that it means they will take down negative reviews of your business.  They won’t, unless it violates review guidelines (eg., contains racial slurs or is second-hand information).  As a good business owner, you should take comfort in this policy, because it means your less scrupulous competitors won’t be able to hide their shady practices for long.

Step 2: Buy Advertising

Yelp offers two advertising options for increasing your exposure:

  1. Top placement in search results.
  2. Showcasing your business on a similar business’ page.

You can see screenshots of both options here.  Pricing varies based on your city, business category, and number of impressions you want to buy.  You can talk details and pricing with a Yelp sales representative by filling out this form and waiting for a callback.

2. Google Local

Start here.

When consumers search for a local business or a local service (eg., “thai food”, “dry cleaner”) on Google, a small map and some business results appear at the top of the search results (screenshot).  Additionally, you get a business details page that can contain information like your phone number, email address, store hours, accepted payment types, photos and videos, and service or product categories (screenshot).

Step 1: Take Control of Your Listing (and Get Stats)

Adding business details and creating coupons is completely free on Google. Start by claiming your business at Google’s Local Business Center. Once you’ve verified your ownership, you can start adding details and creating coupons that will appear on your business details page.

Here’s where Google Local become more exciting than the phonebook. On your Google local business dashboard (screenshot), you can see what search phrases people are typing in to find your business and where those searchers are located on a map (abstracted to a zip code level to protect searchers’ privacy).

Click here for more information on Google’s Local Business Center features.

Step 2A: Buy AdWords Ads

AdWords is the program where advertisers bid on search keywords and have their links appear next to or on top of search results.  While the AdWords program is not specifically geared towards a local market, as an advertiser, you can limit where your ad appears based on the searcher’s location.

You buy AdWords ads by bidding on how much you’re willing to pay for clicks on your ad.  Your ads appear on search results for your targeted keywords (ie., phrases people type into the search box).  The more popular keywords (eg., “thai food”) will cost more per click than more obscure keywords (eg., “pad thai”).  

Balancing the cost per click versus the popularity (reach) of keywords is what makes AdWords advertising a bit tricky.  It does take quite a bit of management to maximize your ROI. Fortunately, Google allows you to set spending limits so you don’t blow your monthly budget, and offers plenty of tools and resources to help you manage your AdWords campaigns.

Managing an AdWords campaign is beyond the scope of this article, but here are some resources to get you started:

Step 2B: Buy Local Ad Listings

These are a new type of ads Google is selling specifically for local businesses.  They are currently available only in San Fransisco and San Diego.  To get a notice when they are rolled out to your area, fill out this form.

The difference between Local Ad Listings and AdWords is that you don’t have to bid for keywords or do any fancy campaign management.  Google charges a flat monthly rate for these ads, and shows them on local searches at the top of search results (screenshot) and in Google Maps (screenshot). 

The rate depends on your city and business category.  Rates are offered after you’ve claimed your small business listing in step 1.  Once you’ve claimed your local business and Google has rolled out these ads to your city, you will see a new “Ads” tab in your business dashboard.

An advantage of the Local Ad Listing — in addition to having your business appear prominently on related searches — is the call tracking.  When someone calls the phone number listed on your Local Ad Listing, the call is forwarded to regular phone number, and when you pick up, you will hear a short “this call is from Google” message. Counting up the number of calls you receive from your local Google ad, you can then determine if the monthly fee is worth the number of new leads you receive.

3. Yahoo Local

Start here.

Step 1: Claim or create your Yahoo Local listing

Just like Yelp and Google Local, you can claim your Yahoo Local business listing for free.  Claiming or creating the listing will allow you to enter additional information and keep your business details up-to-date.

The first step is to create a Yahoo login.  If you already have a Yahoo email address, you can use that login account to manage your local business listing.  If you already have a Yahoo account, login to your account.  If you don’t already have one, you can sign up for a Yahoo account here (it’s free).

Start by doing a search for your business at Yahoo Local.  If your business already has a listing, click on the “edit info” link on the details page.  Your business will then be linked to your Yahoo account, and when you go to listings.local.yahoo.com, you can click on the “Local Listings Account Center” link in the upper right hand corner to see all your business listings.

If your business is not yet listed, go to listings.local.yahoo.com and click on the “Sign Up” button. You will be presented with a form to fill out your business details like address, phone number, service description, and hours of operation.

For more information about Yahoo Local Listings, check out the help page for Yahoo Local Listings or visit the start page for Yahoo Local Listings.

Step 2: Upgrade to an Enhanced or Featured Listing

And just like the other options, Yahoo offers premium listings that you can purchase to give your business more prominence.  Yahoo Local offers two levels of premium listings: Enhanced or Featured.

An Enhanced Listing costs $9.95 per month.  You get to add up to 10 photos, a longer description of your business, and stats on how often people see and click on your listing.

A Featured Listing puts your business in the sponsored results section of Yahoo search results.  Pricing ranges from $15-$300 per month depending on the size of your city and demand for your service.  Click here to view current pricing details.

Check out this page for a comparison of features for the Basic, Enhanced, and Featured Listings.

Do You Need Your Own Web TV Show? October 2, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Video Marketing, Web 2.0, Web TV.
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6 comments

In our quest to continually bring information to our readers on the latest technologies available to aid you in marketing your business, today we present  another idea that’s beginning to gain traction for small businesses.  Thanks to technology, anyone today can be a “TV star” by hosting your own online television show to promote your business – and, you may even be able to make money doing it!

Below is an article from Business Week which reviews this latest marketing ‘tool’ and talks to small business owners currently utilizing it to promote their firms.

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Independent Web shows can attract advertisers, sponsors, and thousands of viewers, but marketing and profiting from them is a challenge

By Karen E. Klein for Business Week Smart Answers, 9/29/09

Yana Berlin dabbed on a product sample for a new perfume and liked it O.K. But when her three grown daughters got a whiff, they had one reaction: “You smell like Grandma!”

“I don’t think the manufacturer is going to like it, because it’s being marketed to women over 40 and no one at 44 wants to smell like Grandma,” Berlin notes wryly.

In the past, the perfume company might not have gotten direct feedback from people like Berlin, a San Diego entrepreneur who founded the Fabulously40 social networking Web site. But that’s changed now that Berlin and her daughters, Daisy, Sasha, and Stephanie, have started a Web TV show called, The Love or Hate Debate. It features product reviews and demonstrations from two generations of women.

$20 Billion in Ads at Risk

Like growing numbers of entrepreneurs, Berlin and her family produce the show themselves, edit it, and post it online using free or low-cost video-uploading and streaming software. These Internet-based videos—most packaged in short episodes no more than four minutes long—have the potential to transform marketing and turn small business owners into celebrities in their own right, experts say.

“It’s a fascinating shift and one of the more important ones we’ve seen in B2B communications,” says Daniel Taylor, lead technology and media analyst at The Big Picture, a research firm covering digital media, technology, and communications.

If Internet video continues to catch on as a marketing alternative for small businesses, Taylor says, $20 to $30 billion in advertising that currently goes to the business and trade press could evaporate. Small firms that typically advertise in their industry trade publications, business publications, the Yellow Pages, and on cable television could shift their marketing dollars into producing their own video content. “About 10% of the overall advertising spending in the U.S. could be at risk because of this” new phenomenon, Taylor says. “It’s largely small to midsize businesses that are involved in this, and the caliber of people and the quality of what they’re doing is really amazing.”

Starting in a Garage

Take Andrew Lock, a marketing consultant and former U.K. television producer whose weekly show, Help! My Business Sucks! provides entrepreneurial advice and interviews and attracts corporate sponsors.

The 74-and-counting episodes of Lock’s show attract 100,000 viewers each, have helped boost his consulting business to five-figure monthly revenue and brought him speaking invitations around the world, he says. “I go to conferences where entrepreneurs line up and ask for my autograph,” Lock says. “And I’m just this little British guy living in Utah who started a show out of my garage!”

That show proved so popular, he says, that he built a studio facility near his home in Salt Lake City where he houses professional sets, six employees, and a host of additional presenters who tape their own shows there.

Production Quality Improving

While it’s still very early in the world of Web TV, Lock says, there are myriad shows springing up that cover niche topics like wine, gadgetry, and scrapbooking and are building loyal audiences. “These are real people, not Hollywood, air-brushed celebrities, and it seems viewers respond positively to that real-ness that is very different from traditional TV,” he says.

All of this, of course, is only possible due to technology updates that have taken place in the last three years, says Steven C. Hawley, principal analyst and consultant at tvstrategies, a telecommunications consulting firm in based in Seattle.

In the earliest years of Internet video, picture quality was low, frames were tiny, and the action dribbled out herky-jerky. But now, new technology platforms, such as Blip TV and Vimeo, have sprung up and are maturing so quickly it’s difficult to track them. “The number and type of are proliferating and changing constantly. Internet technology competes head-to-head with cable and satellite, and the availability of multiple platforms makes it possible for just about anybody to distribute content over broadband,” Hawley says. “In fact, I’ve thought of doing it myself as a consultant and an analyst.”

All You Need is $100

It is also nowhere near as expensive as it once was to produce and distribute PC-quality video content. “You can build an audience through social media and through your customer database and drive traffic to your own site. All it takes is $100 for a video camera and a mike. You set it up on a tripod, talk to it, and upload it,” Hawley says.

He sees most small business people using Internet shows to do self-publishing and self-promotion. But entrepreneurs are also infiltrating—if not dominating—the entertainment side of the Web TV experience.

Leyna Juliet Weber, a writer and actor, moved to Los Angeles from New York City a few years ago hoping to break into the big time. But she found that opportunities were few and far between. “The TV climate is really bad, so instead of just waiting around, I worked on some student films at USC and met a fantastic gal named Annie Lukowski,” Weber says.

Launched at Funny or Die

The two stayed in touch, and after Lukowski attended Weber’s live comedy show, they decided to collaborate. They formed a company called Working Bug Media and produced two shorts that they posted at FunnyorDie and YouTube (GOOG).

“We funded them ourselves on a dime budget,” Weber says. After the shorts were well-received, they decided to write and produce a 10-episode show called Road to the Altar. “It’s a wedding story shot as a mockumentary and told from the groom’s point of view,” Weber says. “We pitched it around town and to Web production companies, but everyone is afraid to put money into anything.”

Eventually, the pair negotiated a deal with a company called MWD Media. When Weber was able to get Jaleel White, who played Urkel on the 1990s TV show Family Matters, to star opposite her in the series, they attracted corporate sponsors including Panda Express and Pier 1 Imports. At least 40,000 people have viewed the series on YouTube alone, Weber says.

Old-Fashioned Show Sponsors

Still, although independent Web shows can attract advertisers, sponsors, and thousands of viewers, marketing and profiting from them is a challenge, says Joshua Cohen, the co-founder of Tilzy.tv, a Web site that chronicles and reviews episodic Web series.

The options for Internet video advertising include pre-roll, post-roll, and mid-roll ads as well as overlay ads that pop up at the bottom of the screen. Then there are old-fashioned show sponsors that hark back to the early days of television, when one company or specific product would fund a show and often get a plug by the host. “There are thousands of these shows being produced by major studios, TV networks, film students, and amateurs. It’s everything from NBC down to the most independent, bare-bones productions,” Cohen says.

Episodes typically run from three to five minutes, because most Internet shows are viewed at work. “Lunchtime is the new prime time for online viewing. Technology is being developed so you can watch the Internet on your big screen TV, but it hasn’t broken through yet, so most of the viewing is still happening on the PC at work,” Cohen says.

Trying to Monetize the Shows

While some firms predict that Internet advertising will reach $1 billion by 2011, Cohen says, online shows are not yet pulling dollars away from traditional television advertising. “People are still trying to figure things out online, where they’ve been making money off of TV for 50 years and they’ve gotten very good at it,” he says.

Lock says that while he has used his Web TV show to attract sponsors, increase his consulting profile, and boost his revenues, many Internet entrepreneurs are not as good at monetizing their efforts as he has been. “The show enables people to discover me and what I provide in a relaxed and informal setting. I don’t have to sell. If people respond to the messages in the show, they’ll come to me. I don’t have to do any cold-calling or any of that silly nonsense,” he says.

While many entrepreneurs love what they do, and enjoy producing their own shows, he believes that many of them could make more money at it if they did strategic marketing and advertising campaigns. “There are extremely popular shows that aren’t making any money at all, because they don’t know how to monetize it,” he says.

“A Slow Process”

Lock predicts, however, that advertisers will be increasingly willing to buy into Web TV series in the near future. “It’s a slow process, but it’s definitely happening. Advertisers are looking for other avenues with people tuning out of television, fast-forwarding through commercials or watching their shows on Hulu,” he says.

Karen E. Klein is a Los Angeles-based writer who covers entrepreneurship and small-business issues.

Email Marketing @ Mail Chimp Goes Forever Free September 27, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, Web 2.0.
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9 comments

Those looking for cost-effective ways to market your business can now take advantage of one of the leading email marketing service providers thanks to the following recent announcement.  Now small business has no excuse for a lack of marketing to their customers.

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MailChimpEmail marketing service provider MailChimp made its service pretty much irresistible as the company announced the introduction of its “Forever Free pricing plan”.

The new service level allows subscribers to send up to 500 emails per campaign and 3,000 emails per month at no cost. That’s not a misprint folks – that’s a fact.

“We’ve always seen email first as a publishing tool and second as a marketing tool,” said Ben Chestnut, Co-Founder of MailChimp. “We’re aiming to empower smaller groups like artists, musicians, nonprofits, small businesses and hand-crafters to communicate effectively at no cost. That’s why we’re calling this Power to the People. We want to give everyone all the tools they need to send professional, permission-based email campaigns.”

The power of email marketing is well documented. If you’re not currently leveraging email as a marketing channel, this should act as good incentive to give it a try.

Virtual Events Can Generate Leads for Small Business August 23, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Strategic Growth Concepts, Virtual Technology, Web 2.0.
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6 comments

Trade shows – you know what they are, a major element in business development and networking. Whether they be community events sponsored by the local chamber of commerce, or national events sponsored by a national professional or trade association; any business attempting to gain new customers is going to participate in some sort of trade show(s) at some point in time.

Some companies feel it’s imperative to have a booth, others want to attend the educational seminars (or present at them), still others prefer to ‘make the rounds’ and do extensive networking. One thing they all have in common is cost, including: booth rental, display development, staffing, travel costs such as hotel & airlines, and all the materials to distribute – frankly the list can be endless. According to Tradeshow Week magazine, mid-to-large size companies spend about $550,000 every year participating in the standard physical trade shows, with an average cost per show sometimes as high as $100,000 for the larger companies.  Small entrepreneurial companies can easily spend in the range of $50,000 per year.

And recent studies have shown – not necessarily productive enough to be worth all that time and expense, particularly in today’s economy.

So what options does a small business have? It turns out, more than you might think! Welcome to the world of VIRTUAL TRADE SHOWS.

BlogTalkRadio graphicAs part of Strategic Growth Concepts on-going education series for small business owners, the firm is focusing the next episode of their BlogTalkRadio program, Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business, on Virtual Trade Shows/Expos/Conventions.  Read complete News Release HERE.

This new technology enables small businesses to engage with current customers and find new ones in a highly cost-effective and efficient manner without ever leaving their desk.  

We’ll provide a panel of industry experts including :

  • Kevin Carbone, CEO of 6Connex;
  • Brent Arslaner, VP of Channels at Unisfair; and
  • Cece Salomon-Lee, Director of Marketing at InXpo

to educate us on how virtual events work, what they cost, how to maximize their benefit, who’s using them, and how your company can get involved. Learn how your small business can put this technology to work for your company!

Those interested in learning about this new technology can listen to the show live on Tuesday, August 25th at 2:30 p.m. EDT by calling (347) 215-6955, or they can download a podcast of the show at their convenience by accessing the show’s website at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/StrategicGrowthConcepts .

Social Media Measurement Tools to Determine Value / ROI August 11, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Web 2.0.
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1 comment so far
Social Media graphicWhile many of the Social Media tools are free to use, there is a cost involved in the time for development of the Social Media profiles and on-going management of Social Media activities.  Measuring that cost with respect to results against goals that have been identified will determine whether or not your Social Media strategy has provided an ROI at the level expected, and how it stacks up against more traditional methods of Marketing.  To help you achieve an accurate analysis of Social Media results that can be measured against those goals, please review the article below for a variety of tools to assist you.
Should you be interested in developing a Social Media strategy for your firm which has the ability to achieve a significant ROI against company goals, we at Strategic Growth Concepts would be happy to assist you.  Please contact us via our Website or via email at info@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com to schedule your FREE initial consultation.
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by Jye Smith

3 Steps to Picking the Right Social Media Measurement Tools

  1. Understand business outcome
  2. Identify the social media activity
  3. Analyse the relationship between social media activity and business outcome

Then pick a tool.

I cannot stress enough how important it is though, to understand that relationship between social media activity and business outcome. That’s where the expertise is, that’s where the ROI is.

Which tools do I use to measure social media?

This would have to be the most asked question of the lot – but honestly, it’s like asking how long is a piece of string. Last night I presented at Social Media Club Sydney (slides and notes now available) and still there was a call to look at which tools. Which one are essential to me? Google Analytics and Bit.ly for starters.  Katie Chatfield has done a presentation to look at some of the tools available – and you’ll instantly see how overwhelming it can be. But that’s ok – because you need to know what you are valuing first, and look at the tools  last.

MeasurementCamp also published another list of social media tools you can use:

  1. Addictomatic A cool search engine that aggregates rss feeds into a nice visual dashboard
  2. Blogpulse Blog search engine with conversation tracker tool
  3. Boardreader Search forums and message boards
  4. Boardtracker Forum search engine offering instant alerts
  5. Buzzmonitor Embeddable widget showing recent instances of your search term
  6. Compete.com Comparable site metrics for any website
  7. Del.ici.ous Social bookmarking engine. Search by tags and subscribe to feed results
  8. Facebook lexicon Searches facebook walls for words and phrases
  9. Google alerts Email updates of key search terms
  10. Google insights Compare search volume over time
  11. Google trends Compare search term trends
  12. Howsociable Gives a social media score for your brand, with email updates of your score.
  13. Ice rocket Blog search engine with results rss feed
  14. Newsflashr News search engine, presenting results in nice dashboard
  15. Sphere Related content widget
  16. Summize Search for keywords in ‘tweets’.
  17. Technorati Blog and social media search engine
  18. Twing Discussion board and forum search engine
  19. Twingly Spam free blog search engine
  20. Twitturly Track what urls people are talking about on twitter
  21. Xinu Shows how well your site is performing across different metrics. Also gives a site diagnosis.
  22. Quarkbase Fricking cool mashup tool
  23. Twitter Grader Enter your twitter username to get your grade and ranking
  24. Twist Graph Keyword trends in Twitter. Very cool.
  25. yExplore Not strictly social media, but easy access to see inbound links to a page.
  26. Trendpedia Excellent blog search engine that graphs results over time.
  27. Website Grader Not completely sure how accurate, but cool tool anyway!
  28. Yahoo Pipes Err, yeah, can’t believe I missed this off in the first place.
  29. Socialmention Real time UGC search engine, with social rank
  30. Bit.ly and Cli.gs – analytics for your tiny urls.

Go Viral. Go Visible. Go Video! July 31, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Strategic Growth Concepts, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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7 comments

Article by Lou Bortone, a long-time marketing and branding consultant who helps entrepreneurs build breakthrough brands on the Internet, with services such as online video production, video branding, coaching and creative support.  Lou is a former television executive who worked for E! Entertainment Television and later served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Advertising for Fox Family Worldwide, a division of Fox in Los Angeles.  Lou is an author and ghostwriter of six business books, a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach and a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach. Visit Lou’s website at http://www.OnlineVideoBranding.com.

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“I see you everywhere!” Yup, I get that a lot!  Colleagues and clients tell me all the time that I seem to be “everywhere.”  They see me on YouTube, Facebook, on blogs and on Twitter.  I am definitely visible!  But my online visibility is no accident.   My visibility strategy is simple:  I leverage the power of video to increase my exposure – and you can, too!  Lou Bartone - video

Online video is the perfect tool to maximize your web presence because it’s highly visible and viral.  You can create one video and have it spread from YouTube to Facebook to your own website and beyond.  It’s the ultimate leverage resource, because you create it once and use it in many different ways, and in many different places.

Best of all, creating a video to enhance your visibility is quick, easy and inexpensive.  Armed with only a webcam or an affordable Flip Video camera, you can shoot a simple video message and upload it to YouTube in minutes.  All you need is a (high-speed) Internet connection and a free account on YouTube.com.

Once your video is posted on YouTube, you can send it to Facebook and MySpace with one click!  Other free video hosting sites like Blip.tv give you easy sharing and cross-posting functions to add your video to your own website, or to social sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon. To really leverage your time and energy, use another free service, TubeMogul.com, to blast your video out to over a dozen sites with one click!  You get the idea: One video to many sites means leverage and visibility across the web!

Keep in mind that even just posting your video to Facebook is going to give you video some mileage.  As others comment on your video on Facebook, the video then appears on their Facebook page in addition to your own.  That’s the “viral” in viral video!

And let’s not leave Twitter out of the video party…  While you can’t post the video itself on Twitter, you can certainly promote the link to your video on Twitter.  Better yet, there are several free services, such as Tweetube and Twiddeo, that will notify Twitter for you whenever you put your video on their sites.

Finally, if you want the ultimate, maxed-out, super-charged version of video visibility, be sure to get in touch with me about a free trial of Veeple.com.  Veeple is the video hosting platform that I use to make my videos clickable (with live links) and interactive. Veeple’s  new deal with TubeMogul means you can even blast your video from Veeple.com to a boatload of popular video sites.  It’s one-stop shopping for massive video visibility!  You can find more info on Veeple here: http://tinyurl.com/ltdjgv.

If you’d like more information or a quick crash course on video visibility, please feel free to visit my “Video Traffic Blast” website.  There you can find out more about my step-by-step viral video process.  Be sure to get your video online now!  Start sharing your video on the web and soon, you too can be seen “everywhere!”

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If after completing this article you’re still not certain how Video can be utilized to market your company, we would be happy to assist you in developing a customized program to promote your business.  Please feel free to contact us via our website or via email at linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

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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19 comments

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.

Top 5 Twitter Analytical Tools July 9, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Twitter, Web 2.0.
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As every marketer knows, if a marketing strategy is worth implementing, it’s worth measuring.  That includes social media strategies in spite of the fact that there is currently no cost involved in utilizing them.  It is still to your benefit to analyze the exposure that they are providing to your firm.  To help you in this endeavor, here is an excellent article that provides access to very useful tools to help you evaluate your company’s use of Twitter.  Check them out for yourself; you might be surprised at all the information they can provide you!

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by Ron Calleri, InventorSpot.com

What kind of footprint have you made in the Twitterverse? Do you know your Twitter ROI, your Twitter influence or stats that determine your Twitter psychographics? In the social media world, this data is becoming easier and easier to access as new analytical tools become available… and now you can track it.

Twitter Analysis Tools graphicBecoming more and more significant, social networking analytics will be used by companies to determine what type of consumer you are, and by prospective employees to consider you for hire. As a modernized version of the Kevin Bacon paradigm, social media has reduced our ‘connectivity to others’ from 6 to 3 degrees.

Most Twitter users are seeking exposure. Whether that reach is to sell a product or oneself, it’s up to the user. How they perform on Twitter to meet that goal will determine brand advocacy. The ones that work to perfect relationships and loyalty will thrive, while those that fall short of this goal tend to lose interest and drop off. One needs to know the value of the Twitter resource and the investment of time that is required to become a successful member of the Twitterverse.  

Similar to our every day lives, if one focuses on creating value, building transparency and becoming  authentic, the greater chance one has in making an impact on Twitter. I relate these personality traits to our newly elected president Barack Obama. He embodies these characteristics and could be the reason he was elected to highest office in the land  (also see previous blog that discusses Obama’s use of social networking)

So social networking analytics are the tools to both qualify and quantify our worth. Here, I have selected what I feel are the top five analytical tools that are available to us today. They will help us determine various aspects of our Twitter make-ups. Not totally perfected and some are still in beta format, I suggest you explore these tools to best analyze your brand and the value and reach of your tweets.

1) TwitterAnalyzer    
TwitterAnalyzer is one of the most comprehensive Twitter analyzer toolsTwitter Analyzer graphic out there. It tracks followers who are online when you are, number of readers that have been exposed to your message, your tweet habits, who is retweeting your updates, twitter follow statistics, growth rates, conversations being made about you, the size of your audience and your followers’ demographics. It will let you research the way your fellow tweeps behave. It will surface which messages they answer and which ones they paid attention to, drilling down to their occupations and which users and are in your line of work.

2) TwInfluence
TwInfluence is a  tool for measuring the combined influence of your Twitter account and followers, and then assessing your reach through the quality of Twinfluence graphicyour followers. Since all users and all followers are not created equal, this analysis will determine the “horizon of communication” that extends beyond your own direct contacts. This is demonstrated whenever somebody “retweets” your message and its influence begins to create ripple effect throughout the Twitterverse. TwInfluence uncovers one’s reach, elocity and social capital, and its worth the time to spend with this tool to learn how these components interact.

3) TweetStats
TweetStats will graph your total tweets by the month, by the day, and by the hour. It also tells you your number of @replies and which interface you used to Twitter your tweets. By calculating the volume of your tweets andTweetstats graphic retweets it quantifies your tweet density. Most people who say they get no value from Twitter should first look at their usage and consistency to realistically evaluate what they have invested in Twitter before they consider the results. This tool also allows you to spy on others or those that have amassed Twitterati fame, as long as you know their Twitter handle.

4) Twitter Grader
Twitter Grader graphicTwitter Grader is another third party app which calculates a grade for a particular twitter on a scale of 0-100. It will show you your ranking in your city, state, and country. It will also show you active and influential Twitter users that you may want to follow. The Tweet Cloud indicates the frequent user words in your Tweets with the most commonly used in larger print. This is very beneficial because its a quick overview of your content.In addition to the TwitterGrader, Hubspot also has a Facebook Grader, Website Grader and Press Release Grader that you should check out as well, if those stats are important to you.

5) TweetPsych
Still in Beta, TweetPsych is a work in progress. Its purpose is to build a psychological profile of a person based on the content of their Tweets. It compares the content of a user’s Tweets to a baseline reading that was built by analyzing an ever-expanding group of over 1.5 million random Tweets, and then highlighting areas where the user stands out. Dan Zarella,the developer behind TweetsPsych continues to expand his set of psychologicalTweetpsych graphic definitions, while also refining the system and its algorithm to better analyze Twitter-specific content.

Dan feels TweetPsych has great potential in matching like-minded users to identifying users that exhibit certain useful or desirable traits. He is asking users to provide him with feedback to improve the system and the technology and take TweetPsych to the next level. Check it out and report back to Dan.

Since all of these tools are free, I suggest taking them all out for a test drive to determine which ones work the best for you. In helping you qualify and quantify your Twitter efforts you can better define your goals. Sometimes, we get so caught up in what we are getting out of something that we often forget to look at we are putting into it. Are you worth following, do you create value for your Twitter followers? Are you an observer or an active participant that is part of a collaborative community? All these questions and more can be better assessed with the assistance of some or all of these tools.

If you honestly look at what you are investing in Twitter and continue to apply an analytical eye, you will slowly begin to benefit from the output and the fruits of your labor.

Hispanics Online: Young, Mobile and Bilingual July 3, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Web 2.0.
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The US Hispanic Internet population is growing—in numbers, broadband connections and time spent online. eMarketer estimates that this year there will be nearly 23 million Hispanics online, over 50% of the US Hispanic population.The Hispanics Online report analyzes the trends driving the growth of this young, mobile and vibrant population.

Hispanics make up 12.3% of the US Internet population in 2009, and will increase to 13.9% in 2013.

Like its offline counterpart, this group of Internet users is young—63% are under age 35—and mobile. Some 81% of Hispanics own a cellphone, and for 25% of these adults, their mobile is their primary phone. They use phone features, including Internet access, at higher rates than other mobile subscribers.

Many marketers and online publishers are creating campaigns and Websites in English and Spanish, to reach an audience that switches between languages and cultures.

Franchising and Social Media: Integrated for Bottom Line Profitability June 17, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Social Media, Strategic Growth Concepts, Web 2.0.
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BlogTalkRadio graphicToday’s broadcast of Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business, featured franchising expert, Paul Segreto of FranchisEssentials discussing social media and its importance to the franchising industry. Areas of discussion included:

  • The ‘new’ franchise development business model
  • The ways social media can aid in franchise development efforts
  • What are the best social networks for a franchise to utilize and why
  • The importance of integrating social media marketing with traditional marketing
  • The role of women in social media and franchising

The interview with show host and CEO of Strategic Growth Concepts, Linda Daichendt, included a wealth of information providing value to franchises and other small businesses with regard to effective utilization of social media in growing your business. Be sure to download and listen to the interview at your convenience.

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

Small Businesses Participate In and Benefit From Social Networking in Increasing Numbers June 6, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in FaceBook, Marketing Plan, Social Media, Twitter.
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Small business owners have always been among the strongest of networkers, and today’s new technology networking options have only increased their efforts as the economic downturn continues to drive laid-off workers toward self-employment and small business ownership.  A recent article by the New York Times discusses the increasing involvement of small business owners in social networking, and the positive effects being experienced by those companies.

After reading the article, if you would like assistance in developing a social media strategy for your firm, please feel free to contact us at our website or via email at info@strategicgrowthconcepts.com .

____________________________________________________________

by:  Mickey Meece, New York Times, June 3, 2009

BY choice or necessity, successful small-business owners are earnest networkers, gladly shaking hands, handing out cards and attending local meetings to find and keep customers, solve problems, seek feedback or support and bolster their bottom lines. 

Now, the Internet is starting to upend those long-established methods; online networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and newer niche sites can be instantaneous and far-reaching.

The sites are efficient and free, which is especially important in an economic downturn, as owners scramble for new customers, said Rob King, vice president for strategic marketing at Sage North America, a unit of Sage P.L.C., a global supplier of business management software and services.

Fast, free and efficient — those attributes appealed to Brighter Planet, a socially responsible start-up based in Vermont, which built social networking into its DNA.

“There’s almost a grass-roots quality to it,” said Patti Prairie, its chief executive. “As a start-up, we can’t afford to be buying ads anywhere. We have to use our outreach.”

For more than a year, the Brighter Planet team has been blogging, Tweeting, friending on Facebook and initiating viral marketing campaigns intended to help consumers reduce their carbon footprints.

While most small businesses have not yet embraced social networks as Brighter Planet has, their numbers are growing. According to the April index of Discover Small Business Watch, compiled by Discover Financial Services, 38 percent of owners were a member of an online social networking community, up from 22 percent in October 2007.

Charles H. Matthews, president of the International Council for Small Business, said the key was to view the sites as tools, not toys. “It can certainly help enhance the process of identifying customers, especially in niche markets.”

For Brighter Planet, the niche is the environment. Before Earth Day, for example, it sponsored Earthtweet, an Earth Day Tweet-a-Thon, which has generated 4,200 conservation Tweets and 2,500 followers.

Soon, BrighterPlanet.com will feature a portable social Web application that will allow visitors to calculate the status of their carbon footprints and share what they are doing on conservation on other social platforms like Facebook.

Friends, family and colleagues can immediately see how saving the environment is important to BrighterPlanet members, Ms. Prairie said. “That’s what we find is the beauty of social networking, particularly for environmental-type causes.”

A recent study for Sage North America found that 65 percent of small businesses that used social networking sites said that they felt more comfortable doing so this year than they did last year, and 51 percent said that they had acquired and retained customers because of it.

More than 260,000 North American businesses currently use social networking to promote their businesses, Mr. King said.

In April, Sage, which has 2.9 million small and midsize business customers, introduced its own networking site, SageSpark .com. “We know we’re not the first to the game,” Mr. King said. “Our twist really is the community, tools and services.”

Other niche sites have sprouted recently, like Shustir.com.

Last week, Shustir.com introduced its virtual marketplace, which was started by two former Lehman Brothers colleagues, Shu Kim and Khanh Pham. “It matters where you spend,” Ms. Kim said, echoing the site’s catchphrase. The goal, they said, is to keep Main Street U.S.A. alive.

“We want you to spend with small businesses,” Ms. Pham said. “By doing so, 80 percent of the money goes directly back to the community.”

The site is arranged so owners can create virtual storefronts with photos, video, blogs and store information, and communicate with customers.

“Shustir gives consumers a one-stop destination,” Ms. Kim said, where they can buy from trusted businesses, post about their favorite shops and make recommendations.

Businesses can exchange advice, ideas and information, and network on a site that provides them search optimization.

In its second phase, Shustir will add Facebook and Twitter badges so owners can use other social media to build business. There will also be a shared community calendar. “The call to localism is existing across the country,” Ms. Pham said, “because small business is suffering.”

PartnerUp has been around longer. It is a social networking site that helps entrepreneurs and small-businesses owners find partners or co-founders, network, ask for and offer up advice, find resources and create or join groups based on their interests. It was founded in 2005 and acquired by the Deluxe Corporation in 2008.

PartnerUp has more than 100,000 active members, and more than 300,000 unique business owners and entrepreneurs come to the site every month, according to Steve Nielsen, its president.

“We’re at an inflection point now,” Mr. Nielsen said, “where social media sites that are specific to a purpose for a market are going mainstream, and they’re not just for early adopters any more.”

In late 2007, David Reinke joined PartnerUp for a specific purpose. He had quit corporate America to start a fashion rating Web site, StyleHop.com, but needed a partner well versed in technology. He posted a profile on PartnerUp, and a job description for a chief technology officer and said, “Let’s see what happens.”

About a month later, Froilan Mendoza, who had 12 years experience building technology start-ups, contacted him and after a series of discussions, Mr. Mendoza quit his job to become chief technology officer of StyleHop.com.

Turning to PartnerUp, Mr. Reinke said, was consistent with how he uses online sites. “I was looking for something specific. I go to the source where the experts are,” Mr. Reinke said. PartnerUp also allowed for a quiet search and limited exposure, he added, so thousands of people would not know about his start-up.

To be sure, the majority of smaller concerns have not caught the online wave. In its monthly index, Discover noted that 62 percent of businesses still do not have Web sites.

What’s more, when asked which networking opportunities they used most, 46 percent of small-business owners identified traditional methods like conferences, trade shows, local in-person groups or chambers of commerce. Of the remaining respondents, 16 percent cited “other” networking opportunities, 8 percent cited online sites, 7 percent said e-mail messages and 22 percent said they were not sure.

Mr. King of Sage North America estimates that small businesses have a 12-month window to figure out online social networking. “I hate to say it, but if they don’t, they’ll get left in the dust,” he said. “It’s here to stay.”

Global New Media Trends and Using Them to Grow Your Business May 8, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in email marketing, mobile, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Twitter, Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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A recent report issued by The Nielsen Company, a global information and media company active in more than 100 countries, provides a comprehensive overview of the status of new media in today’s marketing environment.  Some highlights of the report include:

  • Online display advertising’s share of revenue has plateaued at 20% of total online ad spend in the U.S.
  • Despite online video’s persistent positive buzz, actual usage is averaging around six minutes per day in the U.S.
  • Packaged goods manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and telecommunications firms, three of the largest historical spenders on traditional media, are moving online at a pace we haven’t seen before, even as the recession continues to deepen.
  • Access to social networking sites via mobile devices almost tripled during 2008, largely due to rising smartphone penetration and improved network speeds.  Increasingly consumers are turning to their phones for a wide range of online content.
  • The pace of new online users has significantly slowed down, and the story has become about how much time people are spending online and what they’re doing while there.
  • Americans spend the most time online during the average month (about 2 hours per day).
  • The U.S. online population skews more to the age 50+ than the other countries listed in the study.
  • It is rare to see segments grow from BOTH an audience and an engagement standpoint, but we are seeing exceptional growth in these areas over the last couple of years in both video and social media sites.
  • While Member Communities (Facebook, MySpace, etc) have been garnering impressive audience numbers for the last five years, video audiences have been growing at meteoric rates.
  • From a time spent perspective, Member Communities surpassed email for the first time in February 2009.
  • From February 2008 to February 2009, the viewers of online videos grew 10%, the number of streams grew 41%, the streams per user grew 27%, and the total minutes engaged with online video grew 71%.
  • The reach of Member Community (social networking) sites is highest in Brazil (80%) but growting fastest in Germany (from 39% to 51% in one year).
  • The steady upward march of micro-blogging site Twitter will likely be the biggest online media story this year.
  • In the U.S., the mobile Internet audience grew 74% between February 2007 and February 2009.
  • More than 12 million U.S. mobile subscribers access their social networks over their phone.
  • As consumers look to do more on their phones while maintaining or perhaps decreasing their overall wireless spend, we expect that consumers will continue to warm to the idea of ad-supported mobile content.

This information is extremely valuable to marketers and small business owners as it enables companies to see areas of tremendous opportunity where they can maximize their firm’s brand awareness among target audiences.  Click HERE to review the complete Nielsen report and determine how it can be utilized to your company’s benefit.  Should you need assistance sorting thru the options to develop the best marketing strategy for your firm, please contact us to schedule a FREE initial consultation.

Video Marketing; A Great Way to Showcase Your Business April 23, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Video Marketing, Web 2.0.
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In today’s Web 2.0 marketplace small business owners are learning to take advantage of every new technology tool they can find to grow their business. One of the least understood tools is Video Marketing. In this week’s episode of our BlogTalkRadio program ‘Strategic Growth Concepts for Small Business’, our panel of experts explains how you can utilize Video marketing to grow your business, and how you can achieve this extremely cost-effectively. If you’re seeking new ways to market your business in the Web 2.0 environment, this is the show for you. Our panel of experts includes: Tim Tevlin, President of Local Business Videos Online; Greg George, Founder of iVideo Makers; and Bob Sullivan, Development Director of Think Creative Media Works.

Click HERE to listen to the complete broadcast!

FREE Marketing Plan Give-a-Way for Small Businesses; $8500 Grand Prize Value April 4, 2009

Posted by StrategicGrowth in Marketing Plan, Strategic Growth Concepts.
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Small business owners across the U.S. have the opportunity to win a comprehensive Strategic Marketing Plan for their business prepared by consulting firm, Strategic Growth Concepts of Southfield, MI.  Strategic is sponsoring this national contest, being promoted primarily via Web 2.0 technology and social media, as part of their efforts in support of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s upcoming National Small Business Week celebration.

Contestants can enter the contest via Strategic’s website at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com where they complete an online entry form, including essays about their business and why a Marketing Plan will benefit their company.  Contest entrants have the opportunity to win the grand prize, a Strategic Marketing Plan designed to help the firm effectively market themselves to prospective customers and achieve increased sales (approximate value $8,500), or one of five secondary prizes, 2 hours of small business consulting per winner (approximate value $470 per winner). Entries can be submitted thru April 30, 2009, with winners being announced during National Small Business Week, May 17 – 19, 2009.

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Strategic Growth Concepts is a Detroit-based firm that provides training and consulting services to start-up, small and mid-sized businesses in the areas of Start-up, Marketing, Operations, HR and Strategic Planning.  The firm’s CEO, Linda Daichendt is a recognized business expert with 20+ years of corporate, small business and franchising experience.  Linda can be contacted at linda@strategicgrowthconcepts.com , and the company website can be viewed at www.strategicgrowthconcepts.com.