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I don’t care what they had for breakfast

10 Jun

There is a common misconception that Twitter is a place for the narcissist to update their  every move; what they ate for breakfast, what TV show they are watching, where they are having dinner. While this type of Tweeter exists, they are the exception, not the rule. Twitter is now the quickest way to disseminate news and comment on topical issues.

Typically I don’t recommend Twitter as the first social media platform a small business engage with. The fast-paced environment requires interaction at a minimum of twice a day to be successful. However, there is great benefit for a small business owner to set up a personal account to follow key players in their industry for inspiration.

I follow social media strategists, PR strategists, brands, celebrities, news outlets and lifestyle publications, friends and colleagues. Their tweets  inspire topics for this blog, keep me updated on news and informed of trends that could be useful for clients. Twitter streamlines my information download so I don’t have to go visit a variety of sources each day.

Here is an example of what my Twitter feed look like (click to zoom in):

While you do not have to actively participate in Twitter in order to get a feed from your followers, you’re likely to get the bug to engage. As always, just remember that Twitter is completely public, so make sure what you Tweet is isn’t embarrassing or potentially damaging. Yes Rep. Weiner, I’m looking at you (sorry I couldn’t resist!).

Our next post will examine how to find people to follow. Stay tuned.




Survey Says

31 May

While studying for my PR degree (shout out to the University of Oregon J School), I learned the importance of research in any successful communications/marketing effort. Social media is no exception. With all of the social media tools available, it can be overwhelming deciding where to start. Research can help point you in the right direction and set you up for success.

Here are some ways to start the research:

  • Poll your customers: If you have an email database, include a quick poll asking about social media usage. You can also use a free tool like Survey Monkey.
  • Ask them: If a poll isn’t your speed, then ask at check-out or during an appointment. Something simple like this works well, “We’re considering becoming involved in social media. What sites do you currently use and where would you be most likely to interact with us?”
  • Are they already talking?: Search Facebook and Twitter to see if there is already chatter about your business. Are people checking-in on Foursquare? Use Google’s blog search to find out if you have any blog fans out there.
  • Think Niche: Facebook and Twitter certainly reach the masses, but be sure to research more targeted social tools where you might get a better ROI. For instance, a Facebook page may not be the best fit for a lawyer, but maintaining a profile and soliciting reviews on Avvo (a referral site for doctors and lawyers) probably will be.
Questions about what site might work best for you? Need advice on a finding a niche site? Ask me below.

I’m not a Social Media Expert

26 May

I write a blog about social media. But,  I will never claim to be an expert. I’m a strategist. I do my best to keep up with how to use online and social tools and make recommendations to clients as part of overall marketing efforts. With the evolving tools and platforms it is simply not possible to be an “expert” in this field.  A recent blog post by Peter Shankman encouraged me to clarify this.

In Shankman’s post he rails against those calling themselves “experts.” We never hear “advertising expert” or a “marketing expert.” That just sounds silly. Yet, “social media expert” sounds acceptable to some.

Social media is one of many tools that a company should use for its marketing and communications efforts. For small businesses who don’t have a large (or possibly any) budget for a marketing campaign, I believe it can offer strong ROI, especially considering most tools are free. 

If you are looking to hire someone to assist with your social media efforts they need to have a depth of experience in communications work including public relations, marketing and/or advertising. They should talk more about strategy and messaging than about quick and easy ways to build fans and followers. There should be an overall marketing plan that social media fits into. Social media is not the plan.

 They’ll discuss ways to find your target audience and develop transparent, genuine ways to connect. At the end of the day the heart of social media lies in communications, not technology. The tools change, but marketing and sales principals do not. We just have to learn how to best apply them.

Bottom line, anyone can learn the technical aspects of social media, just like anyone can call up a newspaper and place and ad. It’s the message and strategy behind that ad (including find the best publication) that ultimately will help increase the revenue of your business. The same applies for a social media property.



It’s not Field of Dreams

25 May

If you build it, it they won’t necessarily come. Social media isn’t magic and setting up that Facebook page, blog or Twitter profile doesn’t mean you will immediately have followers, you have to actively promote your pages in order to drive engagement. Here are some tips to increase following of your social media properties.

  • Website integration: Integrate your page into your website so visitors can automatically Like the page, follow your blog, etc. Facebook has free and easy to use plugins and Twitter has a variety of widgets.
  • Email blast: Use your existing email database to announce that you have launched a Facebook page, blog, etc. Include a direct link to the page and briefly let contacts know why they should follow i.e. great tips, special offers, etc.
  • Email signatures: Include a link to your company’s social media property in email signatures of all employees.
  • Network: If you are a blogger, proactively comment on other blogs (be sure you are offering something of value and not just spamming to secure followings). On Twitter actively follow and tweet to others.
  • Coupons: People love deals and offering coupons or special offers is a sure way for others to spread the word about your page You can even require they “Like” the page in order to be eligible for the deals. There are apps for Facebook that can help with this.
  • Promotions and contests: Be sure you are adhering to Facebook’s guidelines, but offering a contest or sweepstakes will encourage others to spread the word to their networks. You will need to use a third-party app such as Wildfire. Contests on blogs and Twitter don’t have guidelines, just make sure you adhere to local laws.
  • In-store promotion: If you have a physical location, incorporate point of purchase or window signage encouraging customers to Like you on Facebook, follow you on Twitter, etc.

Share in the comments how you have promoted your social media page.



The Phone Call is Dead

24 May

Okay maybe, dying is a more accurate depiction. Admittedly, this is not a new revelation. A Nielsen study last year reveled cell phone minute usage among 18-24 year olds dropped from 1200 to 900 in just two years. Those ages 25-34, only dropped slightly less. However, there was almost no change in those 35 and above.

Why is this? From personal experience, its convenience. I’m on a computer all.the.time. The more I can do on a computer the better. I can shoot off an email, book a vacation or make a restaurant reservation seamlessly. And herein lies the importance for businesses of all sizes, your consumer should be able to find all the information they need online as well as make any transactions, or you could lose them.

When I go to a website, or business social network page, I expect to find pricing, menus/service offerings, hours and an easy way to book an appointment. This goes for everything from dry cleaning to an accountant. I realize the old adage that you want to entice people to give you a call and close the sale on the phone. But with the new generation, you’re likely never getting a call because they will have moved on. We are the generation of instant gratification. And as technology continues to improve, this need for instant will only increase  and businesses need to adapt to succeed.

Booking online is the best service a business can offer, and there are several free sites such as OpenTable (for restaurants) and the newly launched Style Seat (for spa and health services) that will allow you to easily integrate.  As a consumer, here’s why I love online booking:

  • No need to compare schedules back and forth with the receptionist. Pull up your calendar and the booking tool, make a quick cross-reference and voila!  booked.
  • Customers are not bound by your business hours. They have the freedom to book at 10pm or during regular business hours when their boss is unlikely to notice they are engaging in a quick personal task.
  • Easy to reschedule.
Do you withhold information on your online properties? Why?

Social Shout Out: Skin by Marywynn

19 May

As I mentioned in an earlier post, each Thursday will be the Social Shout-Out, a post that highlights small businesses who are successfully using social media. The first shout-out goes to Skin by Marywynn, a Portland-based business offering skin care services and products, most specifically facials. I’m giving them a shout-out for the awesome presence on Yelp. I know for a fact they have generated at least one long-term client as a result because, well, the client is me.

I was new to Portland and in dire need of a facial. I went to my trusty Yelp to see what was recommended. Skin by Marywynn far outshined the rest with nearly perfect reviews. But it wasn’t just the reviews that impressed me, it was how Marywynn handled a negative review. The responder posted an update indicating Marywynn had reached out to her and her complaint was resolved. Below is that exchange (click on the photo to enlarge).

I’ve continued to be impressed with Marywynn. She also recognizes positive reviewers. I posted a positive review of services and she sent me a message through Yelp thanking me. She sure knows how to make her customers appreciated.

In addition to responding to the reviews, she keeps her Yelp page updated with special offers, professional photos and current hours. Check out the profile here.

Share in the comments some businesses that are doing a great job in social media!



If my business was a magazine…

16 May

But I don’t have anything to write about!

Generating content is one of the most common concerns I encounter with clients. I advise them to think of their social media properties as a mini magazine that represents their company. Define an editorial theme and relevant topics. Think of the magazines you read. They have an overall theme and that includes broader topic areas. Good Housekeeping for example discusses more than just housekeeping, but topics that are of interest to their target reader including fashion and food.

For example, a local clothing boutique doesn’t need to only focus on fashion. They can speak to topics that would be of interest to their shoppers like local social events, celebrity gossip and entertainment.

For this blog, I’ve created an editorial direction. The main theme is helping small businesses use social media. Under that umbrella comes tips, social media news, relevant events and general news about small business. I’ll also discuss current projectsI’m working on (with client permission). Having regular “features” will also help inform content. Every Thursday on Small Biz Social will be the Social Shout Out. It will feature a small business that is doing great work in the social media space to serve as inspiration.

Tell me about the focus of your social media properties below! Watch for an upcoming post that will discuss how to further expand your content.