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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Small Business Quick Guide to Social Media

By Pedro Hernandez | Published on: 10-Jun-13

Conceptually, many small businesses get the importance of engaging with consumers on social media. Unfortunately, according to Steven D. Strauss, small business expert and author of "The Small Business Bible," many companies aren't exploiting the potential revenue-boosting benefits of the medium.
Citing the results from the "Staples Small Business and Social Media Study," Strauss notes that the top marketing wish list item among respondents was a Facebook page with 2 million engaged fans (41 percent). It even beat out a celebrity endorsement (22 percent) or the mother of all promotional triumphs, a Super Bowl ad (18 percent).
"Social media is as big as it gets," says Strauss. Yet, 53 percent of small businesses struggle to find their footing on social media. It's a shame, because among those businesses that did calculate a return on their social media usage, 76 percent reported a positive return.

Social Media is the New Word of Mouth

"The game has changed," says Strauss. Word-of-mouth advertising, that coveted marketing concept, is increasingly being driven by social media.
Growing Brand Value Grows your Professional Services Firm
Shares, likes and retweets: "that's what word of mouth looks like today," says Strauss. So don't get left out of those conversations. Small business owners who value the power of recommendations from friends and a thumbs-up from loved ones cannot ignore social media.
Strauss fondly remembers a banner that hung at his dad's warehouse during his youth. It read simply, "Word-of-mouth advertising begins with you." Even today, that bit of wisdom endures. So fire up that Web browser or whip out your smartphone and get started.
Here are Strauss' tips for leveraging social media for increased traffic, sales and growth.

Pick One Social Network

Strauss advises busy small business owners to find one social network and concentrate their efforts accordingly, at least at the beginning.
Don't spread yourself too thin by juggling multiple social media accounts. Instead, "pick one platform," says Strauss. Which network should you choose? "It's not the platform that you necessarily like best," he warns.
"Follow your customers," advises Strauss—in the literal sense. Run a poll on your website to determine if your customers are flocking to Facebook or Twitter, and set up shop there. They may even prefer YouTube or Pinterest.
Once that's settled, "master that one platform" says Strauss. It serves the dual purpose of building a strong following and focusing your social media efforts.

Hire a Millennial

"It's in their DNA," jokes Strauss. Of course, anyone of any generation can become a social media ace—no ageism here. Yet, a small business owner's time is typically best spent on keeping the business afloat. Social media can distract from that mission.
Millennials, seemingly issued an iPhone at birth, have made social media an integral part of their lives. Engaging over the medium is practically second nature for them. Leverage their skills and enthusiasm by making a millennial your social media intern.
Empower them to do a good job, but oversee their efforts just as you would in any other part of your business. "Don't put them totally in charge of it," suggests Strauss. Your social media presence should reflect your company and its values, so be sure to check in and give direction as required.

Mind Your ROI

Make sure you're "getting a return on all of this effort," says Strauss. Although social media is considered a low- or no-cost marketing channel, it should nonetheless offer you a return on investment on your time.
It's common to measure social media's effectiveness on the basis of the number of likes, followers and conversations it generates. But the bottom line, says Strauss, is that those timeline posts, tweets and other interactions "should be making you more money."
If your revenues show no signs of picking up after you've been active on social media—or worse, they plummet—it's a sign that those efforts are going unrewarded and you are failing to effectively engage with consumers. It's time to regroup.

Remember the 80/20 Rule

Once you set up your social media account, resist the temptation to flood it with news and information about your company.
Put your customers first. "Eighty percent of your tweets or posts should be about them," says Strauss. Devote the other 20 percent to your business. It's a surefire way to build a relationship with consumers and drive engagement.
And be certain to make the remaining 20 percent something compelling and sharable. Strauss suggests authoring an ebook, posting a video or having a contest. The goal is not only to create content that provides value, but also generate—you guessed it—positive word of mouth.

Small Business Social: How to Build Relationships

Do you use social media to attract and engage customers?
Are you wondering how you can use social media to market your business and drive sales?
To learn how you can develop relationships with social media and content, I interview Jeff Korhan for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.
It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.
The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).
In this episode, I interview Jeff Korhan, author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business. He also trains and coaches small businesses on social media marketing at Jeff Korhan.com.
Jeff shares his knowledge of and experience with social marketing from running his own small business, and how you can implement it into your business.
You’ll learn about the ‘Social Marketing Process’ and the importance of collaboration and cooperation.
Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

Listen Now

You can also subscribe via iTunesRSSStitcher or Blackberry.
Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Build Relationships With Content and Social Media

What did the experience of running a local landscaping company teach you about social marketing?
When Jeff first started his local landscaping business, he had just completed 10 years in the corporate world and was fairly ignorant of how small businesses operated.
He started to research and study the industry he was about to move into and discovered by accident that small businesses were less formal than the corporate world. Even back then, people wanted to get to know you. Today it’s something that can easily be done with social media.
You’ll find out what Jeff discovered about consumers and why it was the key to getting his business off the ground.
Jeff explains how going door-to-door led him down the road to content marketing. Not only did he spend a lot of time with customers, he also spent time reaching out to other people in his industry. The one thing they all had in common was that they all used Yellow Pages for advertising. This led him to explore other options to stand out from his competitors.
businessman searching in yellow pages
Experiment with new sources of advertising and exposure. Image source: iStockphoto
You’ll discover what kind of advertising worked for Jeff and an example of an ad he used.
Jeff figured out before the age of social media that he could get business by educating his consumers with his expertise. He started to look for a way to differentiate his business from local competitors and found out that there were a lot of unanswered questions.
You’ll find out what you need to do to resonate with your customers to help build your business.
Listen to the show to find out why you need to start thinking of how you can be the source of answers and how educating people can make you an authority.
The Social Marketing Process 
Jeff explains the 3-step Social Marketing Process, which is:
  • Content attraction
  • Social engagement
  • Sales conversion
jeff korhan blog
The Social Marketing Process.
The first component is that content attracts attention. You should start at the beginning. Use content to attract the attention of people to help build an audience. You need to publish the information online, where people can find it.
The second component is to engage with people and develop relationships using social media. Over time, once you have developed trust, this is when the third component, the sales conversion, almost becomes a byproduct if you’ve got a sales process in place and you know how to convert people to whatever it is you’re selling.
Jeff finds that some businesses don’t have a reliable sales process. In his book, he writes about how to develop that process and if you have one, how to make it even better.
built in social book cover
Jeff's book, Built-In Social, explains how to develop a reliable sales process.
When it comes to knowing what kind of content to produce, Jeff says to start with the most relevant questions you receive. Through analytics you can also find out what resonates with people. It’s about tuning in to your customers.
You’ll hear about the different forms of content that people with small businesses can use and what the best type of content is for Jeff’s audience.
Jeff shares how the engagement side is to try to pull back the curtain and show people who you really are. He believes people want to get to know you on a personal level. Businesses have to understand, without oversharing, that the more personal they are, the more engagement there will be.
The co-founder of LinkedInReid Hoffman, once said, “No business has ever given you business, it’s always a person.”
You’ll hear the various methods of engagement and how the same method you use to answer your telephone for business can be applied to social media with the same results.
The last component is sales conversion. Jeff explains how he wasn’t formally trained in sales, but for him the biggest factor he found was confidence.
You need to have a process laid out. It needs to show the potential buyer that you can take them to where they want to go.
You’ll hear Jeff talk about his process and how it’s more than a series of steps.
Listen to the show to find out what you need to get people down the sales path.
Why businesses should think like media companies
Jeff explains how we are now our own media. When Jeff first started out 20 years ago with his landscaping business, he had to engage and connect with people in the media to have them write a story about him in a newspaper. Media was the influence, and the power was consolidated within those media outlets.
Now we all have access to social media. You can have your own television station (YouTube) and your own digital magazine (your blog). You need to have a strategy on how to use these to get people to tune in.
jeff korhan youtube
With the access we have through social media, we can have our own television channel.
Jeff talks about what people will tune in for and when they’ll tolerate ads.
When you take the risk of being specific, that’s when interesting stuff happens. Jeff believes there is so much room left for small businesses to take advantage. It’s waiting for anybody to step up and do it.
Listen to the show to learn why we are the future CNNs, NBCs and ABCs.
The importance of cooperation and collaboration
Jeff says you can simplify your life by working together with other people. It helps to collaborate with customers because you can develop better solutions.
When you create something on your own, you then expect people to buy it. Really what you should do is start with customers and collaborate with them.
smiling crowd
Collaboration with customers can help your business. Image source: iStockphoto
You’ll discover the advantages working with customers and also what you’ll achieve when you collaborate and cooperate with your competitors.
Jeff believes that cooperation is the way forward. As a marketer, you need to start thinking of new ways to partner with people. In Jeff’s mind, social media is more than just media. It’s changing the way we will all do business and it’s creating an interesting dynamic.
You’ll learn the best way to approach this, and as a result, you’ll make your business more relevant to the people you serve.
Listen to the show to find out why you should invite your competitors when building a platform and how it can add credibility to what you’re building.

Discovery of the Week

I’ve recently started to listen to a podcast by Rick Mulready called The Inside Social Media Podcast.
the inside social media podcast
The Inside Social Media Podcast on iTunes.
Rick does a great job of interviewing social experts—for example, Rick Wion fromMcDonald‘s, Scott Monty from FordFrank Eliason from CitigroupGary Vaynerchuk and Chris Brogan, plus many more.
He asks people who work for the big brands to share what they do and how a small business can use it.

Other Show Mentions

If you’ve ever left a rating or review on iTunes for the Social Media Marketing podcast, I would like to say a big thank you.
Here’s what Jeff Rodgers had to say about why it’s his favorite podcast. “The podcast is fantastic. Listening to it has inspired me to make some fundamental changes to our existing business (a portrait studio) and to launch a new business (a design firm). Keep up the good work! P.S. the half-hour run time is perfect to listen to while jogging.”
If you’ve not left a review yet, I’d love it if you could head over to iTunes, leave a rating or write a review.
Remember we also have the voicemail hotline and I encourage you to leave your questions.
Call in and leave your social media–related questions for us and we may include them in a future show.
Listen to the show to learn more and let us know how this works for you.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Can you find real online influencers?

By Elissa Freeman |
Recognize the following scenario?

"I was invited to two events where I'm not the target audience and excluded from at least one where I was a fit,” said Eden Spodek, digital communications strategist in Toronto. “In both cases, research obviously didn't play much of a role in the invitation lists.”

Those of us who are active in social media are often invited to events because of the influence we’ve created among our communities. If you take away the free food, free drinks, and the potential of a fabulous swag bag, you might be left wondering: “Why am I here?”

The ability to identify influencers to align with a brand or a cause is not seen as an exact science; once influencers have been chosen, they are often not used to their maximum potential. Many companies rely on popular social influence scoring platforms as a means of identification, but renowned Canadian digital strategists Danny Brown and Sam Fiorella beg to differ.

As the authors of the recently released “Influence Marketing: How to Create, Manage, and Measure Brand Influencers in Social Media Marketing,” Brown and Fiorella present a new methodology for businesses seeking to close the gap between influence marketing strategies and measurable sales impact.

“Everyone recognizes the value of influence, but the good old days of actually doing research to identify true influencers are gone,” says Danny Brown, chief technologist at ArCompany. “Businesses would rather rely on popularity-based platforms, but are they really getting what they need from these services?”

Well-researched and strategically chosen bloggers and active social media participants often act as ambassadors during the marketing communications life cycle of a brand.

Faye Roberts, communications director for General Motors of Canada, says a mix of influencers is key to finding ways to reach different communities: “We do our research to match potential influencers with the kind of people we want to attract to our brands. Involving the right people with the right opportunity also helps cement longer-term relationships.”

Here are five ways companies can identify and make the most of influencers:

1. Segment the influencers: Identify primary, secondary, and tertiary influencers. and nurture these relationships. “Think long-term strategies vs. one-off campaigns,” says Brown. “Properly cultivated influencers can not only impact future customer acquisition, a key success criteria for many businesses, but can also help sway opinion when that same company is in crisis.”

2. Define their role: What do you want from an influencer strategy: brand awareness, share of sales, customer acquisition? Having a deep understanding of an influencer’s profile can go a long way to achieving your goals.

3. What’s the ROI? “Our goal is to ultimately have new customers for our products,” says Faye Roberts. “Social media influencers help us reach people who don’t necessarily swim in our world to create an experience that challenges their impressions of our vehicles. We want them to experience our products, make their own conclusions, and tell their story.”
[RELATED: Master can't-ignore social media tools with Mark Ragan's one-day social media boot camp.]
4. Weight the influencer: Popularity does not equal influence. You need to consider other criteria including audience interaction and perception. Brown suggests using platforms such as GroupHigh and Inkybee. “Both have similar features that mine, rate, and rank blogs, plus provide measurement tools. Good research tools should determine the real context of the relationship between your brand and the blogger.”

5. Invest wisely: Determine your timeframe for success. Understanding your customers and where they are in the purchase life cycle is one way of determining short and long-term influencer strategies. “GM spends time doing research,” says Faye Roberts. “We know this is a long-term strategy, but it is an effective way in helping future customers get to know us.”

Monday, June 24, 2013

7 Tips for Creating a Social Media Plan for Your Business

social media how toDo you have social media plan?
Are you looking for an easy to follow guide to formulate a plan for your business?
Keep reading for seven tips to help your business develop a social plan…

Why Businesses Fail With Social Media

Businesses often fail in their social media efforts for the same reason New Year’s resolutions fail: It’s a good idea, but there’s no structure or commitment.
Then, when there are no immediate results, or the goal ends up being more difficult to attain than previously thought, it goes by the wayside.
Has this happened to your business’s social media presence? You aren’t alone. Very few people can simply choose to be active in social media and stick with it.
For the rest of us, we need something to keep us honest. That’s why I advocate youcreate a social media plan—a checklist, if you will—complete with daily maintenance, recurring tasks and milestone projects.
These seven tips will help you design a social media plan that will keep you on track, active and moving forward.

#1: Make a Commitment

Before you even start creating your plan, you have to make a promise. Establishing a healthy social media presence can be a very slow process. You can’t expect your list of fans, followers or subscribers to grow overnight.
You don’t want to start your business’s presence out by posting and updating consistently, only to get bored, lose interest and forget to log in when there’s no immediate gratification.
To prevent that kind of slide, make a commitment. Even if it’s just to yourself—even if you have to frame it and hang it above your computer.
No matter how silly an exercise it may seem, acknowledging and agreeing with yourself that building this presence could take upwards of a year (and then some), and then promising to invest time, energy and resources into it no matter what, will keep you committed and prepare you to be active and engaged even when you feel like your presence is stagnating.

#2: Find Your Best Fit

If you’re just getting your business’s social media efforts up and running, part of creating your plan revolves around seeing if you already have a fanbase out there.
yelp review
Search for your business on sites like Yelp. Thank customers for their good reviews, and apologize to customers who gave bad reviews. You could turn that bad experience into a loyal customer and a better review.
So do some searching. Are there lots of people posting videos to YouTube of themselves using your product? Does your company have a bunch of mentions on Twitter? Do you have reviews on Yelp?
Although it’s important to establish a presence on a giant like Facebook, make sure you also set up shop where you’re already visible.

#3: Schedule Engagement

Now that you’ve identified the social media platforms you’re going to focus on, it’s time to turn your attention to the ways and frequency with which you’ll engage with your users.
Infrequent interaction is one of the main reasons businesses experience social media failure.
Those who are most successful in social media know that you have to engage steadily.
taco bell twitter feed
Funny, engaging and prolific, Taco Bell's Twitter feed provides fans with frequent news, entertainment and engagement—a model for other companies.
Think of creating and responding to comments, tweets, posts, etc., as simple daily maintenance. It must be done. You need to start the conversation with your users, and anytime they reach out to you, you need to be prepared to respond.
Remember that the timetable for creating and responding to content is platform-specific. Twitter moves so fast that tweets can become irrelevant within the hour, whereas Facebook status updates and posts have a few hours of staying power, and videos are great because of their longevity.

#4: Create Expert Content

Your fans and followers don’t want commercials, they want conversation. They don’t want to hear how great your company is, they already like or follow you. They don’t want sales numbers, they want industry news and thought leadership.
A good rule of thumb is to talk about your customers and your industry 80% to 90% of the time, and then discuss your own business. That means you need to start a blog, write white papers, explore trends, release case studies and create infographics.
Post frequently and do it consistently. Your ideal goal should be some kind of content every couple of days or so. Avoid going longer than a week without posting.
Thorough, in-depth articles and papers will position your business as an industry expert and thought leader, and keep your fans and followers (and even competitors) looking to you.
mail chimp guides
MailChimp's more than 30 Guides cover a range of topics—from email marketing best practices to papers on how to use MailChimp most effectively—positioning them as a leader in email marketing.

#5: Run Contests and Promotions

Contests and promotions keep fans and followers excited, interested and coming back. Most importantly, they’re a covert way to get your business or brand in front of more people. That doesn’t mean you need to run one all the time.
If you’ve always got some kind of giveaway going, they’ll soon become more social background noise. This is especially true if you’re giving away not-so-great prizes.
Run a contest or promotion every couple of months, and make sure the prize is something to get excited about.
falken tire contest giveaway
Falken Tire's Porsche Giveaway is gated to fans only. And when the prize is as great as a Porsche, their fanbase is sure to be active and their fan count is sure to go up.

#6: Broaden Your Horizons

Every social media plan needs to start out the same way, with a commitment to the long haul and a focus on the basics like interaction and content. But once your presence is established and your users are engaged, you’re free to open things up to experimentation.
If you’ve built a solid fan following on Facebook, create and install some custom apps on your page, start posting videos on YouTube or interact more frequentlyby hopping on Twitter. Try things out for a few months, and then go back and see how they’ve performed for you.
Not every platform will be a fit, so if your business isn’t performing well on one for an extended period of time, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and explore different options.
rosetta stone apps
Rosetta Stone's numerous custom apps help them better engage their fanbase of over 1.1 million.

#7: Delegate Tasks

If you’re at the point where you’re looking at expanding to new platforms, congratulations! You’ve likely got a healthy presence. But don’t let all of this growth overwhelm you. The larger you grow, the more in danger you are of failing to engage (point #3), because—let’s face it—social media is a lot of work.
So look into adding some more team members. Graphic artists for your infographics, writers for your blogs and white papers and even some interns to manage the day-to-day social media conversations and information-gathering. A talented team can give you a richer, more robust presence than you could ever achieve on your own.
facebook admins
More admins frees you up to expand your social media pursuits and makes day-to-day engagement easier to cover, especially for pages with large fan bases.
What do you think? What’s your business’s story? Do you already have a social media plan? How’s it working out? Or are you about to implement one?Leave your questions and comments in the box below.