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Posts Tagged ‘social media’


Should You Encourage Your Employees to Use Social Media?

November 26th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

As a small business owner, you are responsible for how your employees spend their time at work. After all, you have to pay them, whether they’re doing something to help your business or just twiddling their thumbs. That means that you have to decide whether or not you want your employees using social media at work.

You can’t, of course, decide whether or not your employees can use social media at home — at best you can support them in the endeavor if you approve of the idea of having them use social media, or you can request that they don’t discuss your company if you’d prefer your employees not use social media.

Should Your Employees Use Social Media?

The big question on the table in many companies is how valuable social media is — or might be. Many small businesses have experienced incredible growth as a result of their social media efforts. Others have found that social media just burns through resources, without providing an equivalent return on investment. It’s difficult to tell where your business will fall until you’ve actually had a chance to try out different social media strategies.

If you do have an employee who is interested in social media, you may have an opportunity to move faster with your online marketing efforts than if you were relying entirely on yourself to handle the work. There can be a clear benefit to having employees who are socially savvy.

However, if you have an employee acting as your business’ main face online, you should be prepared for other businesses to make an effort to recruit that particular employee. As he or she builds up your business’ social media presence, an employee can easily build up his or her own online presence. That’s the price of working with a social media-savvy employee.

Keeping Your Employees in the Comfort Zone

The worst social media nightmare is that a none-too-bright employee will broadcast something unpleasant about your company to the world — and that’s a risk you will essentially be running if your employees are active in social media. But it’s also a risk you run if your employees aren’t active in social media in the office, but they are at home. It’s not a problem that will go away by ignoring it. Rather, the best step you can take is to invest in training for your team to help them use social media effectively.

It’s impossible to keep your employees entirely away from social media. Whether or not you have a social media plan in place in your business, you have to be aware of that fact. It’s impossible to control social media — but you can preempt it with positive campaigns, rather than waiting for something negative to happen. Otherwise, your only option is to prepare a response to that inevitable day when an employee posts something like a choice photo from the company holiday party to Facebook.

Image by Flickr user Jason Pratt (Creative Commons)

From the GrowSmartBiz Conference: Proven Strategies to Convert Web Visitors into Customers

November 17th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

One of my favorite sessions at the GrowSmartBiz Conference on November 5 was a Technology Track panel discussion that offered valuable, no-nonsense ways to convert Web visitors into customers.  Thanks to Jennifer Shaheen, President of the Technology Therapy Group, Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, and Walt Rivenbank, VP of the Mobility Applications Consulting group at AT&T for such great information!

Their strategies are fairly easy to implement, but they will require some time.  Here’s what to do:

1. Check Google Analytics to find out whether your Web visitors are staying.

If you don’t have an account yet, get sign up for one today (it’s free, natch).  One of the things Google Analytics looks at is your website’s bounce rate.  If people are visiting your website but not staying long and not moving from one page to the next, it’s not good.  It means you are probably not supplying them with the information they are looking for and you are definitely not converting them into leads, let alone customers.   It also means you need to update your website.

2. Have a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Update your website by offering a consultation, white paper, how-to guide—anything that is both educational and valuable.  As Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, said, “Give away your best stuff.”  But you’re not giving away anything for free!  Before they get that free consultation or white paper, ask them for their name and e-mail address.  Your web designer/programmer can help you set this up.

3. Be sure your CTA is easy to find.

Don’t hide your CTAs!  Add them to every page in the form of a big button that is hard to miss (it need not be a garish eyesore, just prominent).  If you have a shopping cart, make it a really big button that is easy to click on.

4. You have 7 seconds to convince your Web visitors to stay.

Your website is your home base and most visible online presence.  Because you only have 7 seconds to grab the attention of your Web visitors, your home page must be especially well-written.  As you are writing—or re-writing—your website content, also keep in mind that your website is not a book—people do not read it from beginning to end.

5. No handouts.

When you give a presentation or workshop, do not hand out information that elaborates on your topic.  Instead, ask attendees to visit you online at your website, Facebook page, or Twitter account to receive some great information that they will find useful (really sell it!).  You can, however, give them a one-sheet (a one-page brochure) that acts as a CTA.  It should only include some information to pique their interest.  Your goal is to get them onto your website or connected to you via social media so you can continue to engage with them and convert them into customers.

Photo Courtesy Shashi Bellamkonda

Want to Target Wealthy Consumers? Get Social

November 8th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

The very rich aren’t that different from you and me after all—they’re spending time on social media sites, too. So if you’re trying to reach wealthy consumers with money to spend, consider targeting them on Facebook.

That’s the finding of a new survey by SEI Wealth Network, which found that high-net-worth individuals are more likely than the average population to be using social networking sites. To be exact, 70 percent of high-net-worth individuals surveyed said they use Facebook and other social media sites. That’s considerably more than the number of social media users among the general populace; according to a report earlier this year from the Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Americans ages 18 and over use social networking sites.

Here’s a closer look at a few key results from the SEI survey, which polled wealthy individuals with more than $5 million in investible assets, and what they mean to your business:

Result: Of the SEI respondents who use social media, 50 percent use Facebook; 37 percent visit YouTube; and slightly under 35 percent use LinkedIn.

What it means to you: Wealthy Americans are similar to average users in the sites they’re spending time on—so you need to be on those sites, too. Viewing video is growing among the wealthy just as it is with everyone else, so be sure to put video in your social media mix.

Result: While wealthy Americans are more likely to use social media, they’re using it less often than the average person. Just 17.4 percent of SEI survey respondents said they use social media on a daily basis, compared to 38 percent of those surveyed by Pew who do.

What it means to you: Everyone’s busy, and wealthy individuals are even more so. Make sure what you post on your social media sites offers true value that makes them want to return again and again.

Result: In general, high-net-worth individuals consider social media a personal activity, not a business tool. More than half (51 percent) of Facebook users surveyed say their account is for personal use.

What it means to you: Using social media to target wealthy individuals is likely to be most effective for companies that sell a consumer product or service, rather than a BtoB offering. Post information, deals and tips that you think users will want to sharie with their friends.

Image by Flickr user Liam Dunn (Creative Commons)

How Are Your Customers Using the Web?

October 28th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

Do you know what your customers are doing online? With the Internet so crucial to marketing today, a clear picture of how your target customers use the Web is essential to success. A recent study by Nielsen, What Americans Do Online, offers some insights.

According to the survey, U.S. Internet users spend more than one-third (36 percent) of their time online communicating and networking, whether it’s by e-mail, instant messaging, social media or blogs.

Use of blogs and social media has increased 43 percent from the same time last year, and now takes up 22.7 percent of time spent online. The second most popular online activity was playing games, which accounted for 10.2 percent of users’ time—a 10 percent increase compared to last year.

E-mail was the third most popular activity, accounting for 8.3 percent of users’ online time—although this represents a 28 percent drop compared to last year. Showing a strong rise? Videos and movies, although they only make up 3.9 percent of users’ online time, grew by 12 percent compared to 2009.

How can these statistics help your online marketing efforts? Here are three tips.

1. Start socializing. If you weren’t already convinced of the value of social media, I hope that “43 percent” increase changed your mind. No small business today can afford to ignore social media—a no-cost way to get the word out about your company, interact with customers from around the country (or the world), and build relationships that lead to sales. Whether you try Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or all three, I urge you to get out there and give social media a shot.

2. E-mail still matters. In fact, while use of e-mail on desktops and laptops declined, use of e-mail on mobile devices increased. E-mail accounts for 41.6 percent of time on mobile devices, compared to 37.4 percent last year. So keep your e-mail marketing efforts going, but integrate them with your newer activities by using e-mail to drive traffic to your social media presence. Also make sure your e-mail newsletters and other marketing messages are optimized for mobile viewing.

3. Think video. It’s still somewhat under the radar, but video can make a big difference in your business. For one thing, including video on your website, blog and/or Facebook page helps you rank higher on search engines. For another, some consumers simply prefer video viewing to reading. And for a third, videos can be a great way to “go viral.” If your video is interesting, funny or useful enough, users will forward it on. Posting video to your website can be as simple as grabbing a Flip video camera and talking about your product, your services or an upcoming event at your business. Now’s the time to start experimenting, so when video really takes off, you’ll be ahead of the pack.

Image by Flickr user Rob Pearce (Creative Commons)

How to Manage Twitter When You Have a Zillion Followers

October 28th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

By Monika Jansen

Every time I get a new Twitter follower, I look to see how many people they follow and how many people follow them (I’m at twitter.com/monikacjansen—feel free to look me up).  When I see numbers in the tens of thousands, I think, how the heck do they manage all those followers?

I did some research and found the answer.  Three answers, actually:

  1. Good tools
  2. Selective communication
  3. Regular housecleaning

1. Good Tools

An online application or platform that helps you manage your social networks is absolutely essential, because it will organize your Twitter feed for you.  I thought everyone used one, but based on what I read, that is definitely not the case! I happen to use Hootsuite, which I really like.  Every morning, I log in to check Twitter and Facebook.  My direct messages (DMs) and mentions (@s) on Twitter are aggregated in their own columns, so I look there first.  I’ll briefly skim what other people are posting, too, but I only visit Twitter briefly and once a day since I also have to work.

Two other popular tools that can help you manage Twitter are Seesmic and Tweetdeck.   It doesn’t matter what you use, just use something!

2. Selective Communication

I do not strike up a conversation with everyone who follows me.  I use Twitter to share information on B2B, social media, and small business marketing, not to make friends.  The first thing I do every morning is check my personal and professional e-mail.  Then I spend around 10-15 minutes checking Twitter and Facebook.  I reply to most DMs and mentions, which doesn’t take long, and look for new people to follow.

3. Regular Housecleaning

Because quality, not quantity, of Twitter followers is important, it’s a good idea to regularly clean your Twitter house.  Friend or Follow creates three lists for you: who is not following you back, who you are not following back, and who your mutual friends are.  Simply plug in your Twitter user name, and the first thing that pops up is a list of people who are not following you back.  (I was shocked by who was not following me!  But then I realized most of them are not active on Twitter.)

Use Who Follows Whom to find more people whom the power users in your circle follow.  It is a really great way to increase the quality of your followers.  You can type in up to five names.

Image by Flickr user yushimoto_02 (Creative Commons)

Mobile Marketing Is the Next Big Thing

October 26th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

By Monika Jansen

Mobile devices are very hot in marketing right now (think apps and website-mobile browser compatibility).  So I figured mobile marketing would be the next big thing.  I did some research.  What I found really surprised me.

Based on my research, the key to a successful mobile marketing strategy will not rely on push marketing (text messages or e-mails), but rather geo-location social networking sites like Gowalla, Foursquare, Facebook Places, and Yelp.  According to a recent survey by JiWire, more than 50 percent of mobile users would like to receive location-specific advertising and another 39 percent would like to receive location-based coupons.  Coupled with the popularity of the above-mentioned sites, there is a huge marketing opportunity in the mobile space, especially for small businesses. Here’s a closer look.

Gowalla

Gowalla is a mobile app that lets users find and share information on businesses and hotspots and pick up coupons from restaurants, stores, and venues when they’re out and about.  Users can collect stamps in a passport for the places they visit, share photos with friends, and comment on the places friends go.

Mobile marketing possibilities: Coupons and special promotions are a great way to attract new customers.

Foursquare

Like Gowalla, Foursquare is a mobile app, but there is less emphasis on traveling.  Foursquare users “check in” at restaurants, stores, clubs, and other locations, which is then broadcast to other Foursquare users. If you check in to the same business a lot, you can become a “mayor” of that location, which is a big deal.

Mobile marketing possibilities: Awesome!  Offer coupons to mayors and/or people who check in, but be creative.  Users can access area maps to see other specials being offered at nearby businesses and which businesses are the most popular.  Foursquare also provides information on the people who check in at your business, which can only benefit your marketing efforts.

Facebook Places

Facebook Places was launched this year to compete directly against Foursquare. When a Facebook user “checks in” to a business, their location is published on their Facebook wall, and they can then see which friends have also “checked in.”

Mobile marketing potential: 500 million users and counting.  Enough said.

Yelp

Yelp is a user-generated website featuring reviews of businesses, services, locations and events. The mobile version has an interactive map that allows users to “check in” at locations. After “unlocking” your location, you can offer coupons, update your business’s information, and promote events.

Mobile marketing potential:  Because so many businesses hate Yelp due to their very secretive process of choosing which reviews to display, I am not sure how many businesses will use them.  But with 33 million users, the potential to reach a lot of potential customers is pretty good.

Image by Flickr user dennoir (Creative Commons)

How to Use Delicious for B2B Marketing

October 25th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Next in my monthly series on unsung social media platforms is Delicious.  If you missed my first two posts in the series, check out what I had to say about using Digg and Reddit for B2B marketing.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site that serves up “The Tastiest Bookmarks on the Web.”  (Until their recent acquisition by Yahoo, they were called Del.icio.us.) Their goal is to help you find cool stuff online and save it in one place that can be accessed from any computer.  You can share your bookmarks with others, see what other people are bookmarking, and search for the most popular bookmarks across a range of topics and interests.  To categorize all of your bookmarks, you use tags rather than folders.  So if you like to bookmark funny videos, you can tag videos with both words and they’ll be findable under both terms.

Even before I did research on using Delicious for marketing purposes, it became obvious to me that you can build quite a reputation on Delicious for interesting and useful information.  If your website, articles and blog posts get bookmarked on Delicious often enough, they’ll make it to the front page of Delicious, deliver a lot of traffic to your website, and brand you and/or your company as a source of great information.

With that said, your popularity on Delicious is dependent on the quality of your online content rather than your popularity among other Delicious users (no voting here!).

After you create a free account, here’s how to get going:

1. Create a network. A network allows you to collect your favorite users’ bookmarks in one spot—and vice versa.  You can organize your network in to “bundles” to separate friends from colleagues, etc.

2. Subscribe to tags. Make a list of your favorite tags.  As bookmarks are added with those tags, they’ll be delivered to your subscriptions page.  It’s a great way to find new users to add to your network.  (You can also create subscription “bundles” to keep things organized.)

And here’s how to get use Delicious for marketing purposes:

Post information that makes users’ lives easier. I found a great blog post about Delicious on Traffikd’s blog.  To get a lot of bookmarks, they suggest posting resource lists, guides and tutorials, online tools and useful services.  Avoid humor, gossip, videos, news and opinions.

Spread the word. Add a Delicious badge to your website and blog. Invite friends, colleagues, and people in your professional circle to join your network, and ask people to bookmark your website, blog, articles, etc.

Integrate your Delicious strategy with your SEO strategy. Make sure the pages, articles and blogs posts you want to be bookmarked (and become popular) on Delicious use the keywords or phrases that you are currently found for on search engines.

Numbers Don’t Lie: Why You Need to Use Social Media Marketing

October 6th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

The good folks over at HubSpot put together a great presentation on social media stats and sound bites that should convince you, once and for all, that you can’t afford to ignore social media marketing anymore.

Global Internet Users

The number of global internet users worldwide is, in a word, huge, making your potential audience very big no matter what industry you operate in, who your target market is, or whether you sell a product, service, or combination of both.

North America: 252,908,000

Latin American/Caribbean: 179,031,479

Europe: 418,029,796

Africa: 67,371,700

Asia: 738,257,230

Australian/Oceania: 20,970,490

Social Media Users

The volume of information being shared online is staggering.  In 2009, 90 trillion emails were sent.  The biggest, most popular social media platforms are not only generating a tremendous amount of information as well, but they’re also being used by tons of people.  Again, this translates into a lot of potential customers.

There are 550 million Facebook users and counting.

Blogs on the Internet number 126 million.

Since 2006, over 10 billion tweets have been distributed on Twitter.

Every day, 2 billion videos are streamed on YouTube.  Every. Day.

Even though I have the tendency to sound off on the fact that so much is written about social media at the expense of marketing in general, I happily acknowledge that social media is the future of marketing and advertising.  Not only is it where the people are, it’s an easy way to share information about your company to a targeted audience and track the return on your marketing investment in the form of new clients.

Social Media + Lead Generation Opportunities = New Clients

Now is the Right Times to Spend on Online Technology according to SBSI Report

September 30th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

Small business owners are routinely confronted with a difficult decision: when is the right time to spend money on the business. The question becomes significantly more complex when you’re considering spending that money on online technology. It’s evolving quickly — what is cutting-edge for your industry today may be obsolete next week. Despite these concerns, however, making the investment in the right tools for your company is necessary.

In the survey that resulted in the most recent Small Business Success Index, small business owners reported lower levels of spending on online technology. While there’s still plenty of spending on social media — adoption rates held steady at 24 percent — adoption of other technologies dropped. That includes technologies ranging from websites to online advertising.

Getting Ahead of the Game

If your key competitors are small businesses, this information means that there is an opportunity to get ahead of them with some carefully considered investments into your business’ online technology. The best opportunities depend on your industry: if you’re in a particularly tech-heavy field, you may need to be moving towards the latest and greatest social media opportunities. A particularly heavy investment may not be so important if you’re in an industry where your competition is slow to adopt new technology. Many individual professionals, for instance, have been slower to roll out new websites and other online marketing efforts, creating a gap where you can move forward if you’re willing to put some money into the online technologies that will help you reach out to new customers or even manage your business more effectively.

The difficult consideration is choosing where to invest your time and money. If you’re planning to handle each step internally, it can take time for you or one of your employees to get up to speed on the fast moving developments among website tools and the like. Simply for the sake of efficiency, it may be worth focusing your initial spending on tools or consultants that can bring you up to speed quickly. It’s perfectly possible for a small business to build its own online technology, but it is often at the cost of taking away from your core competencies.

Focus Energy on the Big Wins

When it comes to online technology, there will always be low-hanging fruit: something as simple as building a basic website can transform your business if you haven’t already done so. Similarly, there are ways to get the most bang for your buck with social media or SEO. By going after the big wins first, you’ll get significant benefits. The opposite approach — doing each step perfectly and optimizing it as much as possible before moving on — will get you the maximum benefit, but only over a longer time frame. By looking for the biggest changes you can make, you can start reaping the benefits fast enough that you’ll be able to easily spend time and money on the smaller tweaks later on.

That approach can extend beyond marketing technologies. There are many online technologies that can help with other facets of your business, although the marketing tools often offer the biggest upfront wins. New inventory systems, bookkeeping tools and other technologies are also worth investigating.

Image by Flickr user Michael Surran

Working Abroad: What It Takes and When It Makes Sense

September 28th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

Interest in telecommuting is growing — and not just for employees. Many business owners are exploring opportunities to make their companies virtual, so that they can travel or move easily. The specific form such a change can take varies, but for small business owners with goals simply beyond growing a business, heading abroad can certainly make sense. Thinking globally can have benefits beyond the personal for a small business owner, as well. Only 7 percent of small businesses do most of their business globally, according to the Small Business Success Index, but there are huge opportunities.

Making the Choice to Go Virtual

You may have worked on the assumption that you have to go into the office every day for years, but the real truth is that most office-based businesses can easily be made virtual. Even many stores can be converted to online-only operations with surprisingly few problems. The only businesses that don’t offer the possibility of going online are those that require a physical presence — a mechanic can’t usually convince a customer to ship a car overseas to be repaired and a doctor probably needs to see his patients during the diagnosis process. It’s worth noting, though, that the administrative processes for such businesses could probably be virtual.

But there’s more to the decision to go virtual than just the option to do so. Not everyone is comfortable working from wherever they happen to be: some people need the environment of an office. That means that, before you decide to take your office entirely online, it’s important to actually test how you and your employees work without the structure of an office environment. Similarly, you’ll need to test tools to see what you’ll need to be able to manage each part of your business.

What Your Business Will Need

A virtual business still requires a mailing address and some other physical aspects of a company. However, those needs don’t have to tie down the company. They can amount to something as simple as a post office box that someone associated with the company checks once a week. There are even companies that do little more than accept mail and scan it for the actual recipients. You’ll also need a computer and an internet connection no matter where you are, which can often amount to a laptop and some sort of wireless access point. Beyond those basic necessities, you’ll need to look at the specifics of your business and your industry.

Many of the software tools needed to operate an office now have web-based counterparts, allowing you and a distributed team to stay up to date with each other from around the world (provided, of course, that everyone involved has a decent internet connection). That includes project management, bookkeeping and even industry-specific tools. It’s a matter of exploring what is available.

Image by Flickr user Tom Godber