Small businesses often have limited resources, so they’re looking for more cost-effective ways to build awareness, expand market share, and improve customer loyalty. Although the actual dollars to use social media may be lower than some other forms of advertising, social media is by no means “free” if done well, so it is critical to get involved in a way that’s consistent, smart and creative.
Here is a checklist you can use to determine if you’re on the right track:
Presenting your brand consistently. Does your brand look the same everywhere? Are you consistently using the same logo, coloring, taglines, and messages? Does your digital presence sync with your website?
Targeting the right people. Are you focusing on your company’s most ideal customers? Have you determined where they “hang out” online? Is information about their social media activities something you have considered and made adjustments to accommodate?
Sharing helpful information. Are you providing information that you know your customers and potential customers find useful? Are you creating your own content that will entice people to your website or wherever you want them to go? Does your content position your company as an expert in your area?
Planning strategically. Do you discuss your social media strategies and tactics with the other people involved in your company? When planning out your marketing activities for a period of time, do you consider how your offline and online activities can work together?
Listening. Are you listening as well as broadcasting (promoting/advertising)? Are you keeping in touch with what your customers are saying about what concerns them? Sometimes what people say online is not what they might say to you or your staff in person.
Socializing. Do you do as much or more socializing as you do broadcasting? Do you make time to interact with others in a non-promotional way?
Making your content “findable“. Do you use search terms and keywords in your content that are more likely to help your content be found online? Have you thought much about what phrases or terms people use to find your products and services? If you’re a local business, are you including your location in your profiles and accounts?
Staying consistent. Do you have social media engagement built into either your schedule or the schedule of someone involved with your company?
Seeking out the expertise of others. Are you bookmarking or subscribing to helpful blogs and email newsletters about social media? Have you been talking with other business owners or social media specialists to keep current and informed?
How did you do with the checklist? Are there any areas that you’re missing right now? If you’re like most small businesses, the answer is most likely “yes”. The good news is that there is a wealth of help and information out there. Take advantage of it and see where the added exposure and interaction can lead.
A recent survey by Hiscox, the online insurance company (which I’ve noticed has been advertising heavily on LinkedIn), asked small business owners and leaders about their usage of social media. They found that almost half of small businesses were not using any social media channels to promote their products and services.
Hiscox’s survey highlights:
- 47% of respondents indicated they did not use social media for business purposes at all
Of those small businesses that were using social media for their business:
-19% use Facebook
-15% use LinkedIn
-4% use Twitter
When all respondents were asked about how they felt about using social media for their business:
-12% described it as a must and they use it all the time
-24% use it when they have the time
-14% indicated they don’t know enough about it
The numbers show, in this survey at least, that many small businesses haven’t made the leap to building a digital presence.
But here’s the thing…
-70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase
-79% of consumers say they use a smartphone to help with shopping
-83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them
(according to Google in their recent ebook Winning at the Zero Moment of Truth by Jim Lecinski)
And according to a recent Nielsen report, the time that Americans spend on social networks and blogs now represents about one-quarter of the total time spent on the Internet. (Where was the most rapid growth? Mobile Internet users over the age of 55. Fancy that.)
If you’re reading this post, you may be a small business owner who is hunting for information on the best way to use the internet and social media to promote your products and services. You know that most of your potential customers are on their computers and smart phones chatting with others, reading reviews and seeking advice about products or services. But half of you aren’t actively building a digital presence for your business. So why the disconnect? In our own informal company surveys, we have found that it’s usually a combination of 1) not having enough time and 2) not knowing what to do.
The good news is that seeking help on social media and and other forms of internet marketing can remedy the (lack of) time and knowledge problems. Just as many of you benefit from using a bookkeeper, tax accountant, graphic designer, printer and other specialists, you can also save time and experience better results by seeking assistance (training, consulting and/or management) from a social media specialist. It’s time to start building a strong digital presence; save time by getting help.
If you’ve been using LinkedIn for a while, chances are good that it’s time to review your profile and spruce it up a bit. Here are a few tips to give it some extra polish and “findability”.
Customize your personal URL. Unless you like having a personal URL (or website address) for your profile that has a bunch of random numbers in it, take a minute to personalize it. A personalized URL looks nicer when you’re sharing it on a business card or in an email signature, etc. To customize it, just go to your Edit Profile screen and click on “Edit” next to Public Profile.
Once you have clicked on the above link, you can enter in your preferred URL. If you have a common name, you may need to add your middle initial or some other variation if someone else has already taken the URL you want. You can make the URL whatever you want, as long as it’s available.
Customize your website listing. Instead of having the generic “Personal Website”, “Blog” or “Company Website” listed, why not customize and let viewers of your profile know exactly what website they will be viewing? Go to your Edit Profile screen and click on “Edit” next to the website(s) listed.
On the next screen, if you choose “Other”, you can customize the description of the website to say whatever you want.
Share an update. A LinkedIn profile looks more current when you post an update on it every couple of days. Share a link to a great article, blog or upcoming event. You could also share a quote or news about a productive meeting or connection.
Whenever you share an update, not only does it appear on your profile, but it is also visible to any of your connections who might be looking at their network activity on their home page.
Add your Skills. Make your profile more “findable” by adding a Skills section. I noticed that when I added my skills to my profile, I appeared in search results about twice as often as before.
Get further details on adding skills to your LinkedIn profile here. Take some time to list as many relevant skills as you can. It’s also worth taking some time to check out the Skills beta feature, which is located under the “More” tab. This section has some great statistics and information about the skills that are important today as well as what you might want to include on your own profile.
Are you ready to dust off that LinkedIn profile and make it easier for people to find you?
As a small business owner or leader, you’ve probably wondered if you can possibly be heard above all of the “noise” in social media. To address that question, I’ve come across a couple of interesting quotes from people who are widely regarded as experts in marketing. Do you see the common theme in both?
“We’re entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that’s useful or helpful to their lives. The consumer is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be there to help them with that. To put it another way: How can we exchange value instead of just sending a message?”
– — Kim Kadlec, worldwide vice president of Global Marketing at Johnson & Johnson
“Talking isn’t the only thing that makes social media social. Just like adding Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons will not magically transform static content into shareable experiences. Listening, learning and adapting is where the real value of social media will show its true colors. Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.”
- – Brian Solis, social media futurist and author
The answer to being heard seems to be… listening first. That does sound familiar. People tend to do business with other people that they know and trust. And how do you get people to know and trust you? By listening and responding to expressed needs.
What does listening in social media mean for a small business? It means using some of the tools that are available and searching for, and paying attention to, what people are saying about your industry, products and services. For instance, a local payroll company hears that other businesses are confused about a new IRS rule and offers clarifying information and helpful tips. A small online toy merchant listens to so-called “mommy bloggers” and starts carrying eco-friendly toys and offering tips on recycling and restoring toys that require imagination. A web development company responds to other small business’s requests for cost-effective websites that they can edit themselves.
Most small businesses don’t need to be heard by everyone. We just need to be heard by the right someones. And that means listening to the right someones and responding the best that we can.
What a great challenge!
Twitter recently announced that they are making a couple of changes to Twitter.com that will enhance your experience.
Their first new feature is all about you. When it’s added to your account, you’ll be able click on the new tab (@username, replacing @Mentions) and see which of your tweets have become Favorites, retweets or tweets directed at you. You will also see your newest followers.
Twitter’s second new feature is a tab called Activity that focuses on your followers. The Activity section highlights the latest Favorites, retweets and follows by your followers. This allows you to see information about your followers and what they are doing in one location. You are also able to quickly follow the accounts your followers just followed (got that?).
Twitter is slowly rolling out these new features, so if you haven’t gotten them yet, you will soon.
What do you think about these new features? Will they entice some of you to go back and use Twitter.com rather than Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc.?
You’ve started a blog for your small business, and you (or your designated writer) have been putting out some great content. However, no one seems to know that your blog even exists. How do you get the word out about your blog and get some people to read it?
Here are 7 fairly simple and practical ways to share your blog:
1. Start an account with StumbleUpon and submit your posts there. StumbleUpon is an excellent social bookmarking site that allows you to share content as well as discover some incredible websites, blog posts, and videos you would have never come across otherwise. One word of caution: If you “stumble” your own posts, you must “stumble” other people’s content as well. StumbleUpon frowns on people who only share their own content, and it looks really self-serving, anyway. Whenever I submit one of my own posts, I always spend a few minutes “stumbling” and “liking” other people’s content that I find truly engaging. I really enjoy StumbleUpon and know many other people who do as well.
Along with StumbleUpon, there are many other bookmarking sites that you can use to post your content, such as Digg, Delicious and Reddit. Take some time to explore at least one of them and try posting your links to it.
2. Make sure that you give readers the ability to share out your posts by adding share buttons to each post on your website. WordPress and other blogging platforms make this pretty easy to add. However, you can also check out addthis.com for a solution to including sharing buttons on your site.
3. Many of you do this already, but make sure you share your post on Facebook. Preface the link with a comment or question. Ask your social media power partners to share it out as well.
4. Share a link to your post on Twitter, more than once. Sure, you may already tweet your posts, but do you tweet them several times, spaced out over a couple of days, for maximum exposure? Posting once is not enough. Try using a tweet scheduler such as Twaitter, Tweetdeck or Buffer. Vary the tweets that you send out with the link. Experiment with catchy headlines, questions and hashtags in your tweets. Also, if you are going to use Twitter in this way, make sure that you are tweeting other content besides your post over and over again.
5. Comment on other people’s posts and include the link to your own post when you are asked to enter in your website URL for validation. In other words, instead of entering in your general website address, enter in the URL for your specific post. Don’t talk about your post in the comment, however- that is not cool. Be thoughtful and give an authentic comment; if you do, people are apt to take a closer look and check out your link. This tactic is more effective if you comment on a blog post in the same industry as yours.
6. Share you post as a status update on your LinkedIn profile. Also, post it as a discussion item in any of the relevant LinkedIn groups that you have joined. Each group has its own rules for posting, so check with the Group Rules for their guidelines (if a group has guidelines, they show up under “Group Rules” on the right-hand corner of the group’s home page above the “Manager’s Choice” box).
7. Give your readers an opportunity to subscribe to your blog so that they receive an email each time you post something. There are several services out there that allow you to add a subscription function to your website. Aweber.com is one of the better known services, and they do charge a monthly fee, but they keep a database of your subscribers and give you many options for including an attractive subscription form to your website.
These are just some of the things you can do to get more pairs of eyes across your blog. Please share your own ideas.
Klout.com is a measurement of your overall online influence. This site calculates and assigns you a score (from 1 to 100) based on variables from the various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare. Klout also recently added Tumblr, Last.fm, Flickr and Blogger to its algorithm. It’s easy to set up a Klout profile; you just log in with Twitter or Facebook and start connecting your other network accounts.
According to Klout, the higher your score, the greater your sphere of influence and interactivity. Klout measures your True Reach, Network Score and Amplification Probability.
Your True Reach score calculates the number of people you influence. They filter out spam accounts and instead focus on the people who are acting on your content. When you post a message on any one of the networks they measure, these people tend to respond or share it.
Your Amplification score shows how much you influence people. When you post a message, how many people respond to it or spread it out to their networks? If people often act upon your content (such as retweet, share, like, etc.), then you have a high Amplification score.
Your Network indicates the influence of the people in your True Reach. How often do top Influencers (i.e., other people with a high Klout score) share and respond to your content? These top Influencers increase your Network score when they do.
Klout also show you who are your top Influencers and well as who you tend to influence. They even include a “Klout Style”, with names such as Networker, Thought Leader, Broadcaster, Pundit and Specialist.
In a nutshell, your Klout Score represents the measure of success that you achieve when it comes to engaging your audience as well as how much of an impact your messages have on other people.
But does Klout matter for your small business? My answer is that it depends.
If you are a sole proprietor and your name is your brand, then Klout can be very helpful in showing you how active and influential you are in your networks. If you increase or decrease your activity on any of the networks, especially Twitter, you will see a corresponding rise and fall in your Klout score over time. Your Klout score and the data they provide can be a useful reminder about the importance of engaging your networks and staying consistent in your online activities.
If you have a business with partners and/or employees, then things get a little more complicated. There is no way to pull together the accounts of several people who are using social networks to promote one brand. Another drawback I see with Klout at this point is that it does not yet incorporate Facebook Pages (such as your Facebook Business page). If you have an active Page with many “likers” and comments, that doesn’t get factored into your Klout score. Klout also seems to be heavily weighted on Twitter, so if Twitter isn’t your strong suit, you may have a lower score.
Overall, Klout can help you see how you stack up against other people and businesses in the areas of reach and influence. If you have large networks and share out content that people react to, and if you actually engage with your friends and followers, then your Klout score will reflect that. I find that it serves as a good “nudge’ for people to continue being social and staying consistent in their online activities. Klout is still a work in progress (it’s in beta), but it’s probably the best free measurement of online influence that we have right now.
When you’re working on a blog for your small business, sometimes the toughest thing is not the actual writing of the post, but finding a valuable and helpful idea for the post. Twitter can be a great source to find that next content thread. Here are 3 quick tips:
1. Search on hashtags and look at the Top tweets
If you’re in the real estate business, for instance, use #realestate in the search box on top and you’ll see tweets with that hashtag. You have a choice to see “Top” tweets, “All” tweets or tweets “With Links”. According to Twitter, you can use the “Top” tweets to quickly find the updates that others are finding interesting, insightful, and helpful in real-time. These are tweets that lots of people are interacting with and sharing via retweets and replies. If you search through some of these Top tweets on some hashtag variations, you should start to see some interesting trends. And interesting trends can spark a brilliant topic!
2. Check which of your tweets are your followers’ Favorites
Whether you’re tweeting your own content or someone else’s, finding out which of your tweets have been marked as Favorites can be a good indication of the topics and titles that others find engaging. A site like favstar.fm keeps track of favorite tweets; just sign in with Twitter and go to the My Tweets link underneath your profile photo. Favstar.fm also allows you to look up other Twitter users and see which of their tweets have become favorites.
I appreciate seeing which of my messages get the Favorites star. Tweets with questions and top tips with links seem to become easy Favorites that people want to reference later.
3. Take a look at your tweets, retweeted
Twitter doesn’t make it immediately obvious which of your own tweets have been retweeted by others. You have to go to the Retweets section on your home page and select “Your Tweets, Retweeted” link to find out. Seeing which tweets have been shared out by your followers can give you good insight into the type of information people find interesting and useful.
By using some simple Twitter features, you can take the pulse of your followers and follow the thread of a topic that engages them. What are some other Twitter features you have used for inspiration?
Before you make many of your purchases or decisions, do you perform online reconnaisance? Consider these stats cited in a recent eBook (Winning the Zero Moment of Truth) by Jim Lecinski, Google’s Managing Director of US Sales & Service:
-70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase
-79% of consumers say they use a smartphone to help with shopping
-83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them
The ZMOT, or “Zero Moment of Truth”, is the moment when you use online resources to learn more about something before you make a purchase or a decision. We now often use a variety of online sources, including ratings and review sites, friends and family via social networks, and videos. This includes both searches for information after we hear a specific brand name or company (such as “June’s Famous Bacon Chocolate Bar” or “XYZ Staffing Agency”) as well as for general products or experiences (“Chicago accountants”, “electric cars” or “bikram yoga”).
What are the components of a ZMOT?
-It’s online — usually starting with a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, review sites or any other search tool or engine.
-It’s in real time, at any time of the day or night, and it’s often mobile (The number of mobile searches on Google in 2010 doubled from 2009)
-It’s on the consumer’s terms
-It usually has an emotional component
-It’s a multi-way conversation: marketers, friends, strangers, websites and experts all have opinions and are competing for attention.
And just how much information are we consumers sifting through during the ZMOT? Shopper Sciences recently reported that we are seeking out 10.4 pieces of information per purchase in 2010, as compared to 5.3 pieces in 2009. That’s almost double in one year.
So, an ever-growing number of people are looking at a wider pool of data to make purchasing decisions. How do you as a small business owner win at the ZMOT?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, you’ve got to take the time to increase your digital footprint. You want your products and services to be found in multiple places- on your website, review sites, local search directories, and social media sites. Give people an opportunity to share their opinions about what you are offering. Think like your searchers and make sure you have relevant keywords on your website and on your digital profiles. Have an active presence where your customers are searching during their ZMOT.
You’ll find a wealth of information and advice from Google in their ebook: www.zeromomentoftruth.com.
I recently came across a couple of great posts by Jeff Bullas in which he shares compelling questions and information he uses to convince CEO’s about the efficacy of social media marketing.
A few of the questions that he poses to these social media skeptics highlight the changing behaviors of the general public when it comes to searching for and evaluating products and services:
In the last few months have you either professionally or personally…
1. Answered or responded to a direct mail letter or brochure? (Current research shows only 3% have responded to those types of marketing)
2. Did you follow up on a mainstream media advertisment on TV, Radio, Newspaper or Magazine? (22%)
3. Did you use the Yellow Pages to look up a company to buy a product? (3%)
4. Did you use Google or other online methods when looking to purchase a product or service? (97%)
5. Did you use your online network via Facebook, Instant Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn or other Social Media to get a URL to a website for a product that you were looking to buy? (80%)
And the “clincher” question…
6. So why are you still using marketing for your company that you yourself have not used?
We all know that it is hard to break long-established patterns of practice, especially when faced with an alternative that’s new and seems to be ever-changing. The good ol’ Yellow Pages and postcards have been around for a very long time and are easy to implement in the marketing plan.
It may be a long time before we finally see the death of the Yellow Pages. Direct mail is still very common (and apparently has seen a bit of a comeback). But both professional and anecdotal evidence has shown that we are using and responding to these forms of marketing less and less. And we are going online more and more to look at reviews, find local products and services, and ask our networks about their experiences and advice. Yes, using online and social media marketing for your business can be time-consuming, confusing and difficult to measure.
But you have to ask yourself- are your habits so very different from your customers’?
By now most of us have heard that blogging is one of the best things we can do to drive traffic to our small business websites and increase the awareness of our brands. In fact, here’s a great post from Phil Mershon (Social Media Examiner) that gives statistics on the impact that frequent blogging can make on website traffic as well as customer leads.
However, we speak and work with many small businesses in industries that, on the surface, don’t seem to be very “bloggable”. Plumbing companies, for instance. After giving tips about leaky faucets or the best temperature setting for a hot water heater, what is there to write about? That’s a great question, but it’s also taking a narrow approach.
When a small business begins to blog, the primary goals for having the blog are usually increased awareness, website traffic and, hopefully, leads. The content that a small business posts on a blog needs to be something that people are likely to read. If nothing else, it needs to be something that people will “skim” and associate with your company name and brand. Many small business owners believe that any blog posts from the company have to be very industry-specific. However, this is not the case. If you’re a plumbing company, you can post content about a wide range of helpful topics, with the operative word being “helpful”. As an example of what can be done with a seemingly “unbloggable” industry, here are some interesting ideas I found while perusing plumbing company blogs:
Oldest water heater contest: Radiant Plumbing in Austin, Texas gave away two free water heaters to homeowners with the oldest water heaters in town. They found one that was 47 years old! The company got two posts out of the contest- one announcing the contest and one reporting on the winners- complete with pictures.
What would you do if you didn’t have a toilet? Benjamin Franklin Plumbers of Arizona posted an article about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet to bring better sanitation to the 3 billion people in the world who don’t have access to a toilet.
Choose the potty of your dreams: Yes, you read that right. Moon Valley Plumbing of Phoenix, AZ invited everyone to ask about their June special on Toto brand toilets and find the toilet of their dreams. Moon Valley Plumbing also posted articles about the local home show, the truth about hard water, and the importance of supporting local companies.
How much it would cost to remodel a bathroom? Click’s Plumbing in Spring, Texas wrote an article about many of the questions a homeowner needs to take into consideration when planning a bathroom remodel. Plumbing is only one part of a bathroom remodel, but Click’s Plumbing provided some helpful information about the entire process.
New energy efficient household products: Raymond Plumbing of Lorain, Ohio, posted an article about some new household products that are designed with green technology and can provide savings to homeowners.
Blogs should be written with the target market in mind. Good questions to ask when blogging for a business are:
-What questions do we get asked the most on a regular basis, and can we answer them in a series of posts?
-What type of information will be helpful to my customers and potential customers?
-What content will help them feel as if we are looking out for their best interests?
-Is there anything humorous or attention-getting that we can post in order to increase our awareness and bring a little personality into our industry and company?
-Could we create and include some simple videos into our blogs?
-Where else will we be sharing the blog posts to gain maximum exposure?
Even if you are not a writer, you don’t have time to write and/or you don’t have a writer on staff, there are many people out there who would be happy to create great content for you.
I recently had the privilege of hearing Larry Broughton (@LarryBroughton), award-winning entrepreneur, former Army Green Beret, and founder of Broughton Hotels, speak at the Elite SDVOB (Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses) Convention in Chicago. The main message of his keynote speech was that if you are not failing, you are not moving towards your potential. Although he was applying his message to business ownership, I believe that it applies to utilizing social media to promote a business as well.
I’ve posted some poorly written and poorly received blogs. I’ve posted and tweeted too much, too little and without a plan. I’ve been inconsistent. I’ve forgotten to be social. Definite failures.
According to Mr. Broughton, like anything else in life that’s new, when you first try it, you will probably make mistakes, get frustrated and want to quit. You will throw up all kinds of objections about why you can’t do it. Remember that all of the social media platforms are tools. That’s all they are. When you learn how to use a tool, you usually need someone to teach you. Or have someone else in the business learn how to use it. Or even outsource it.
When you fail, it means you are doing something. I would rather see someone stumbling around doing something rather than doing nothing because it didn’t work right away. Other small busineses ARE using these tools to get the word out and accomplish their marketing goals. Yours can, too. There’s nothing magical about it.
Consistency and frequency equals visibility. Keep on trying… and failing.
Would you like to increase the impact and reach of your small business through social media? Having a few “power partners” can bring much needed resources, support and validation to your marketing efforts.
Most small business owners and leaders do some sort of in-person networking; many even join organized networking groups through chambers of commerce or other business organizations where members refer business to each other. When small business owners venture into social media, however, they often forget that online networking can be (and should be) just as cooperative as in-person networking. Pulling together a few people who are committed to promoting each other’s businesses online as well as offline can be very powerful.
Here are a few ideas for using power partners in social media:
Commit to promote:
Every day, you and your power partners should seek each other out wherever you have profiles- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog. Retweet, share, comment and increase your collective reach. You’ll keep in the habit of being “social”, which is crucial, and while you’re seeking out your power partners to promote, you’ll probably find other great content, businesses and people along the way. This has a snowball effect; when you see that someone’s content is being shared others, don’t you often take a second look to see why?
Obviously, you don’t need to promote everything that your partners say. Be authentic. In fact, you should also provide feedback, good or bad. We can all use a second or third set of eyes.
Being a small business owner or leader can be overwhelming. Sometimes social media marketing takes a backseat. Your and your power partners can provide encouragement and keep each other accountable. Is your power partner committed to writing a blog post per week? Hold him to it and let him know when he hasn’t written one for a while.
Share information and leads:
If you come across some great content, share it with your power partners. The same goes for a great lead. We’ve gotten some excellent referrals from power partners who saw an opportunity for us online.
If you feel comfortable referring a relative, friend or associate to a business, would you be willing to write a testimonial for that business? You and your power partners may want to write testimonials for each other that can be used on LinkedIn and review sites such as Yelp. You should only write what you know and believe to be true, but even a brief testimonial can be valuable.
Share your list of online advocates:
Most small businesses have customer lists. As you venture further into social media, you should also be picking up a list of valuable online contacts, such as folks who retweet, share and comment on your posts. Imagine if you exchange your list with another business that offers a related product or service to your company. Your power partner can follow, friend and connect with those people, using you as the reference. A “vetted” list of real people is a great resource.
Put links to your power partners’ sites on your website, and vice versa.
These are just some of the ways you can use power partners to help you increase your reach and stay social. Do you have a social media power partner? If so, how do you help each other?
The majority of small business owners and leaders that we talk to think of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as the primary social media sites to promote their services and products. They’re right, but one site that is becoming increasingly useful for reaching a wider audience is StumbleUpon. Earlier this year, Statcounter, a web traffic analytics firm, reported that StumbleUpon surpassed Facebook as the top source of social media traffic in the U.S. Therefore, StumbleUpon can be a great way for you to reach a wider audience and increase traffic to your website, especially if you create your own content.
If you know your target market and you offer helpful, engaging content on your website, StumbleUpon can be a great tool for reaching the people you want.
So, what is StumbleUpon? StumbleUpon is a social bookmarking site and, according to Wikipedia, a “discovery engine that finds the best of the web, recommended to each unique user. It allows its users to discover and rate Web pages, photos, and videos that are personalized to their tastes and interests using peer-sourcing and social-networking principles.” StumbleUpon likens itself to channel surfing through the internet, allowing you to discover new sites that you may not run across otherwise.
In your regular internet surfing experience, you probably run across sites, pages, videos and posts that you think would interest other people. StumbleUpon’s “I like it!” button (located on a toolbar you can download) allows you to tell others about your approval of a page or site and places it into its database of sites that are served to other users during their own stumbling sessions.
In order to use StumbleUpon and submit your own content as well as recommend the content of others, you will need to create an account and profile as well as choose your topics of interest (there are over 500). Like other social media sites, StumbleUpon makes it easy for you to connect with your current friends and contacts by importing your email addresses and finding people who are already on StumbleUpon. You can also connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
After you’ve created your account and downloaded their toolbar (although you don’t have to download it, it is handy if you want to use StumbleUpon on a regular basis), you can start rating pages that you come across during your normal internet activity.
The more you thumb pages up or down, the better that StumbleUpon will get at recommending pages that you like and less of what you don’t. You’ll also be able to share your favorite web pages (“stumbles”) through email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and of course, StumbleUpon itself.
Here are some suggestions for making StumbleUpon a valuable experience by promoting your own content as well as the content of others.
1. Create content that other people are going to like and rate favorably. The more people give your content a thumbs up, the more others will have a chance to see it.
2. Spend some time building your network. You can start by finding people you are already connected to in Facebook and Twitter. Also, make sure that you let StumbleUpon know about all of your interests by selecting categories for your profile.
3. Explore new content by clicking on the Stumble button on your new toolbar (see screenshot above). You’ll see content that others like (which will help you understand what makes compelling content) and fine-tune the content that StumbleUpon delivers to you as you give thumbs up or down.
4. Although it might be tempting to only “stumble” your own content, that’s not a good idea. You’ve got to take some time to give a thumb’s up to other content you find interesting in your areas of interest. StumbleUpon will actually penalize stumblers who promote one website over and over again. An easy way to find content to rate is to just click on the Stumble! button located on the left side of the page (see screenshot above). If you really want to promote your site exclusively and have a budget, StumbleUpon does offer a paid promotion service.
5. Promote content from people in your own network, especially things that aren’t currently in StumbleUpon’s database. It’s the golden rule.
6. Find things that haven’t been submitted to StumbleUpon yet, but you think that others will appreciate and like.
7. “Like” things that have already been submitted that you find interesting, entertaining, important or cool.
8. When you do submit your own content to StumbleUpon, make sure that you put it all of the relevant categories. This will increase its chances of being seen by others. Also, give your post a photo (or submit a video or photo by itself). People like visuals.
9. Put the StumbleUpon button on your website so that others can easily stumble it.
Have you used StumbleUpon for your small business? What has been your experience so far?
As a small business owner, you’ve probably been bombarded with people telling you that you “must” use social media to promote your business or you’ll be left behind. While we believe that using social media as part of your overall marketing plan can be extremely valuable, we also believe that, like anything else, you have to be ready to use it well.
Here are seven clues that your business is likely ready to use social media:
1. You have a goal for using social media other than “it seems like a good idea”. You’ll waste a lot of time in social media if you haven’t determined your reasons and goals for using it. Some of the goals you might use could include:
- Establish Awareness and Brand Recognition
Establish Expert Positioning
Monitor Your Brand
Researching Target Market, Competitors and Emerging Trends
Provide Value and/or Education to Audience
Become Part of a Community
Introduce Audience to the Sales Funnel- New Client Acquisition
Dominate Your Digital Presence – Improve Search Engine Ranking
Increase Website Traffic
Determining your goals for using social media is a good first step to developing a plan, which is also key to using social media effectively.
2. You have identified your target market and know where they are most likely to be online. It’s important to put the most emphasis and effort on the platform(s) your potential clients are likely to use. You’ve polled your current clients to see what they like to use and what information they would likely appreciate from you.
3. You recognize that social media is all about being social and that it requires engagement and follow-up. If you’re prepared to interact with people and regularly monitor what happens after you post or tweet, you have the right attitude. Social media is not “set and forget” by any means. People like to be thanked, reposted, retweeted and recognized.
4. You’re ready to listen to some feedback- positive and negative. As you gain more connections and put out more content, you’ll get comments from people. Some are great and some can be pretty harsh. The best attitude is to see all comments and feedback as opportunities for learning. I remember the first time I received a criticism of one of my blog posts. At first, I was a bit annoyed, but when I thought about it, I realized that the commenter had an opinion that others most likely shared and that I had to take this into consideration as I worked with clients.
5. You truly believe that your business can benefit from social media, and you’re ready to work at it consistently and frequently. You’ve investigated the digital accounts of other small businesses and have asked business owners how it’s worked for them. Also, having an understanding that achieving your goals (see #1) will take time and commitment is crucial.
6. You’re OK with being checked out online before you meet someone in person. When you create a profile, gain connections and start interacting, potential clients will have another place to evaluate you and your business. Keeping those profiles updated is important.
7. You believe that valuable relationships can be started and developed online. Strategic partnerships and just plain friendships can be nurtured in social media, but you do have to have the mindset that you may never meet some of your best advocates in person.
So, are you ready? Do you have any other “readiness” clues to add?
You’ve probably heard that if you use Twitter for your business, then you need to be sending out tweets several times per day. Why? Because if your connections are following more than a handful of people, their timelines are changing rapidly. Most Twitter users, even active ones, cannot sit and read tweets for hours on end. The window of time when most people are scanning their timelines is usually a few minutes here and there. So, posting once or twice per day simply isn’t enough. And posting several tweets within the few minutes that you might be logged into Twitter is not effective, either, because you’ll flood your followers’ timelines for brief period and then miss anyone who might be checking in later. Furthermore, your target market may be checking Twitter more often at 7:30pm, for instance, long after you’ve logged off for the evening.
So, how do you send out several tweets throughout the day without sitting at your computer? Use a Twitter automation tool. Now, there are many purists who believe that scheduling tweets is not authentic and just wrong. However, if you want to use Twitter to widen your reach while growing your business, then the following tools can really help and all are free to try.
1. Bufferapp. Bufferapp is fairly new and they describe their service this way: “Never flood your followers again. Add Tweets to your Buffer and we spread them out for you during the day.” The basic plan is free and very handy.
2. Twaitter. This is a great service, especially if you want to schedule tweets that recur for a specific period of time. Let’s say that you want send out a tweet every day in order to promote an event that will take place in 10 days; Twaitter allows you to schedule a daily tweet and give it an end date. A free basic plan will get you up and running by logging in with your Twitter account. You can actually schedule up to 10 tweets per hour, but you might lose some followers if you post that often.
3. Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is a very popular Twitter management tool that also allows you to also post to LinkedIn, Facebook and Foursquare. You can also use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets for the future. For instance, maybe you want to thank several people for their retweets. Instead of sending out a flurry of “thank you’s” in a few minutes, you could space out those tweets throughout the day. Tweetdeck is free and must be downloaded to your computer.
4. Hootsuite. Similar to Tweetdeck, Hootsuite provides a simple interface for scheduling tweets into the future. Hootsuite is a web-based application and is free for the basic plan.
5. Timely. Timely (timely.is) analyzes your past 199 tweets and then figures out the best times to send future tweets. They use this information to auto-schedule your tweets and learn as your audience grows. We’re still testing this one, but we like the intuitive concept. Timely does not support Internet Explorer.
Getting the most out of Twitter’s capability to increase your web traffic and audience is usually going to involve a tweet scheduler. You may not like the idea of scheduled tweets, but it’s a common practice and small businesses use tools like the ones listed above all the time.
Small business owners and leaders struggle to develop and maintain the consistency and frequency of their marketing program, especially now that social media is in the mix. We are already consumed with running the business and hopefully moving it forward. With mailers, flyers, newspaper ads, radio spots and even Google Adwords campaigns, you do a bunch of work to get them scheduled and set up, but then you can (I realize I’m oversimplifying this) sit back and wait for the phone to ring. A mailer might go out every 6 weeks. However, if you only post to your Facebook business page every 6 weeks, you’ll be lost in the torrent of information. With social media, the work to remain visible and engaged is constant.
It is not the job of the customer to remember us. It is our job to be responsive and deliver valuable information on a consistent and frequent basis. Consider if your favorite TV show aired for a couple of weeks and then dropped out for 3, then aired again for 1 week and dropped out for 2 more. You’d probably stop watching it.
Quality of the content you share is very important, but in social media, consistency and frequency may be even more so. I’m not saying that this good or bad; it’s just an observation taken from experience.
So how do you attain consistency and frequency? This is often such a struggle, but here are some of the tactics that we use and share with our clients:
1. Set up an editorial calendar. Your editorial calendar should document the days and times you plan to blog and post in the various platforms. Although the ideal may be every day, “I will aim for progress, not perfection” is a good mantra.
2. Read. It may seem difficult to carve out time to read something, but I have found that doing a bit of reading in a business book or 2-3 blog posts per day really helps with content generation. Sometimes it’s a quote (like the one above) that I run across during my reading that gives me the impetus to share something helpful (at least I hope it’s helpful!).
3. Observe and record. If something happens with a customer or employee during the day that would be a “shareable moment”, jot it down for later. People really respond when you share experiences that provide insight to your readers and customers.
4. Map out ideas for the next year. Most businesses already have certain dates or periods of time throughout the year that are important to the company, industry and/or sales cycle. Putting those dates down on your editorial calendar and brainstorming related ideas for social media content far in advance can really give you a laser focus for some exciting campaigns and content.
4. Get help. A social media specialist can assist you with planning, scheduling and content creation.
What tactics do you use to stay consistent?
Google recently opened up its latest venture into the social networking arena, Google+, to an invitation-only group (being a major geek, I was ridiculously excited about securing an invitation). Though not yet released to the general public, and still in development and testing at the moment, Google+ (or Google Plus or G+; who knows what will end up as the final shorthand?) already has some features that I like. Here are a few:
Circles: In Google+, you can place people into groups, called Circles, with incredible ease. Yes, you can group people in Facebook and Twitter as well, but Google allows you to use a simple drag and drop of faces and names. You are able to move people around at will, and they don’t know which of your Circles they are in (for instance, you could name a Circle “The Competition” and the people in that circle will never know).
When you post something, you can easily choose the Circles with which you will be sharing. You also have the option of creating as many Circles as you want (at least I haven’t run into a limit yet).
Another useful thing you can do with Circles is change the visibility on a per-circle basis. You can have some circles that anyone can find out about, some circles which are connections that only other people in your circles can know about, and some circles whose membership is completely private. In other words, nobody but you will know that you’re following those people.
Huddle: When you use Google+ on your smartphone, you can create a “Huddle” that is essentially a group text. Create a new huddle-specific Circle of your staff, co-workers, friends or family, or huddle with a circle you have already created.
Hangout: This feature may give Skype some serious competition. A simple download to your computer gets you up and running on video chat as long as your computer is video capable. If others in your business or network are already logged into Gmail, it’s simple to see who’s available or already in a “hangout”. As with Skype, companies with telecommuters or multiple offices can use this feature to connect. The difference here is that it’s integrated with a social network and email (Gmail) where people may already be logged in and spending time. It’s a Skype alternative that Google’s deep pockets will probably continue to enhance and tweak, and it’s already pretty good.
Do-overs: Google+ let you edit your posts after you share them. One of the people in my network said that it was great to be able to edit something so that her “moronification” could be changed- without having to erase the whole thing and start over.
Check out a connection’s entire digital presence: Much like LinkedIn, you can add your website, Twitter account and other digital accounts to your profile so that people in your network can check you out in other places. If you’ve already had a Google Profile for a while, this is nothing new, but seeing it in context with Google+ makes it all the more valuable. Of course, you can share other accounts on Facebook and other platforms, but Google makes the links fairly prominent.
If you’re interested in joing Google+ when it becomes available to more people, be sure to put some time into your Google Profile in order to get ready. If you don’t have a Google Profile yet, you just need a Gmail account. When you’re logged into Gmail, click on your name on the top right and you’ll see a link to your profile.
I do believe that Google has a serious contender for the social networking arena. Time will tell just how serious it is.
By now you’ve probably seen the bumper stickers that say, “Wag More, Bark Less”. I saw one on a station wagon the other day (with a dog hanging out the back window, no less) and it made me think about how that pretty much sums up the attitude and activities of my favorite people, both in real life and in social media. Wagging more and barking less will always be the best strategy when trying to promote a business or organization online.
Wag More- The best traits of man’s best friend:
1. Be open and authentic. My favorite dog, Sierra, always had a friendly wag and a smile (seriously!) for anyone who came by. She didn’t care what they looked like or how much money they had. To her, we were all an opportunity for a belly rub or a treat. In order to develop trust and build your reputation and digital presence, it’s good to offer a friendly wag at everyone. You never know which positive or helpful post, tweet or comment will resonate with someone. While it can be fun to be a bit sarcastic or snarky once in a while, you don’t usually want to brand yourself that way. All too often, I see people, even business owners, use social networking sites to air their feelings of superiority and negativity.
2. Be loyal. If you have people in your network who are supportive with retweets, comments and likes, return the favor on a regular basis. Make that part of your routine. You’ll get a lot better response by promoting others than by constantly promoting your business.
3. Be consistent. You can set a watch by a dog’s routine. Using a ”set and forget” attitude with social media (or with any marketing tool) will not bring you the results you could get if you have a plan and stick to it. It is difficult to be consistently engaged and develop good content, but doing so is the usually the only way you’ll see a good return.
4. Be excited. If you’re enthusiastic about your products and services, show it! Passion resonates with people, especially since your interactions are online and can so impersonal. People want to filter through the information overload and find the buried ”bone”, so stand out with excitement.
Bark Less- The most annoying trait of man’s best friend:
5. Dogs that constantly bark usually either get ignored or receive negative attention. The same thing happens with barking people online. Most of us get tired of being sold to all of the time. It is OK to talk about your products and services, of course, but you have to temper promotion of self with gratitude and promotion of others.
Spend as much time promoting others as you do yourself, and you’ll see far more results from your efforts.