If you have a business, you know that it is becoming more and more vital for your store or office to be found in online, especially in Google searches. We recently met with a Google representative who gave us the low-down on Google Business Photos, which can give your company a distinct edge, both in experience for the prospective customer as well as in your online searchability. (Hint: If this program is being promoted by Google, you can bet that it is a factor in search.)
So, what are Google Business Photos? They are a series of panoramic images of the inside (and often outside) of your store, office or premises that create a 360-degree interactive online tour. Online visitors can “step inside” and take a look around. This tour is hosted by Google and appears on Google searches, Google maps and Google+ Local business listings. As a business owner, you have full rights to all of the images. You can also embed the tours on your website(s) and social media.
The types of businesses that have been participating in Google Business Photos vary. Participants so far have included restaurants, retail shops, athletic clubs, car dealerships, office headquarters (such as the local office of a major home cleaning franchise), spas and hair salons, medical practices. They’ve even created tours of limousines for a limo company, an outdoor dog park and a campground. Business Photos can enhance the listing of many types of businesses; it’s not limited to retails shops.
To get started, you need to make an appointment with a Google-certified photographer (not just any photographer can do this for you- contact us and we can put you in touch with a Google representative at no charge). You will discuss pricing with the photographer, but it’s usually much less expensive than you might think because right now Google is not charging to upload the photos from your photo session. The photographer will work with you to plan the tour and emphasize any special areas in your store, restaurant or office. Sessions often last an hour or more as hundreds of photos are taken and then uploaded to Google. Once Google does its thing with the photos, they are available under a new “See Inside” window below the map of Google search results.
Businesses who participate in Google Business Photos have seen an increase in unique impressions, and many are seeing a link between the launch of their photo tours on Google and an increase in walk-in traffic and/or inquiries. We haven’t seen data released by Google, but again, if Google is promoting it, being an early adopter is probably a smart move.
The majority of consumers search for local businesses online. These photo tours are a great way to showcase your unique qualities, decor, products, experience, etc. Think of it as a fun and fascinating way to invite customers inside your business before they get there.
If you’d like to participate in the Google Business Photos program, contact us. We’ll connect you with a Google representative (at no charge to you).
A couple of weeks ago we received a meeting request from a large manufacturing company. The company’s representative found us while doing a Google search on social media for the manufacturing industry and read this article on our website. Before her search, we were not on her radar. We don’t pay Google for ads and we don’t have the company on a mailing or email list. We now have an appointment with the CEO and are definitely looking forward to the opportunity to present a proposal.
The above is just one example of how prospective clients have contacted us because they found an article on our site that matched their internet search. In fact, a good portion of visitors who come to our website do not come through the “front door” – in other words, most don’t get here by typing in www.mediavinemarketing.com. When we look at our Google Analytics, we see that most visitors are landing on either our articles or one of our website’s interior pages. That means that they are searching for something we address on our website, not our company name.
If we had minimal content on our website, we would not receive even a fraction of the visitors that we do every month. There is simply too much competition out there and we are a small firm with a relatively small marketing budget, so we cannot spend huge dollars with Google to capture search traffic for “social media marketing” or even “social media Chicago”. But we can keep adding articles to our site that speak to what our target market wants to know. And the articles stay on our website as long as we want; they don’t go away once we stop paying Google, such as what happens when your daily ad budget is spent.
When you’re a small business, it can be tough to find the time to write and post good articles. We know this- we do a much better job with this for our clients than we do for ourselves. But, the return on the couple of hours it takes to research, write, refine and post an article on your website can be huge.
If you would like to have more people find your business “through the side door”, consider adding a blog (preferably a WordPress one, but we’re biased) to your website and giving your prospects a bit of the information you know they want. We can help with both adding a blog to your site as well as supplying you with writing resources!
Note: We didn’t coin the phrase “coming in the side door.” Adrienne LaFrance from Nieman Journalism Lab did.
Many B2B company owners and leaders ask us to share one “social media” activity that they can use to encourage traffic to their websites and more interest from their target market. Our answer is usually the same; write interesting and helpful articles, place them on your website and share the articles with your social networks and opted-in email lists. Although not necessarily easy, this one activity can bring interested and engaged visitors to your website on a regular basis as well as help you focus on your target market.
Article writing can be a marketing gift that keeps on giving for the following reasons:
1. Article writing forces you to listen and find out what information might appeal to your target market. In order to plan out a series of articles, you might, for instance, ask your salespeople and customer service staff about the common questions and concerns they hear from prospects and customers. Sharing thoughtful content and listening to what your target market finds interesting and useful is at the heart of good social media. If people like what you post, they’ll be more likely to remember you when they need your products and services. And if you’re always thinking about what THEY like, well, so much the better.
2. If you place your articles on your website, people can access them at any time, even months (or years) after they were published. And if you give your articles interesting titles and add relevant, meaningful keywords to the content, your articles may be found when your prospects do a Google search on the topic. We have many articles on our own website that are listed on the first page of Google for certain phrases and keywords. The same can be said for our clients who take the time to write and publish articles (or have the articles written for them). Even small businesses can, and do, build significant traffic to their websites using this tactic.
Adding a WordPress blog (an excellent place to post your articles) with a subscription option to your existing website is not usually a huge undertaking; most web developers can do this for a fairly small fee.
3. Article writing allows you to showcase your expertise and the core values of your company. You may get a few visitors to your “About Us” page every now and then, but those pages on most websites are usually pretty dry and static. Adding periodic articles to your site, however, allows you to become the “go-to” expert for your target market. Occasionally, you can also use the opportunity to talk about what’s happening in your company, such as your involvement with a non-profit organization or a successful project. It’s surprising how many people will subscribe to your articles if you provide them with relevant and meaningful information. And the beauty of it is, if you build into your website the tools to allow readers to share your articles with THEIR networks, many people will.
If you have a B2B company and you’ve been struggling with what to share in social media, start writing or get someone to write for you. You’ll start to see results after just a few articles, and you’ll keep on reaping the benefits.
We often talk to B2B owners and CMOs who are thinking about funneling some of their marketing budget into social media. Many times, their main objection is the belief, either substantiated or not, that their potential customers do not use social media or would not think to look for their products/services on social media. Certainly, there are times when this is quite true today. If you have determined that your target demographic is 82+ years (that’s an actual best demographic for the hearing aid industry), you may have a point. And there are other demographics and industries where using social media won’t net you a lot of results today. But we like to think about the future.
Consider what Shiv Singh, Global Head of Digital for PepsiCo Beverages, has to say about social media when discussing Oracle’s acquisition of Vitrue and Salesforce’s acquisition Buddy Media: “No more is it (social media) something separate, disconnected, cute and experimental. It has just moved to the heart of all marketing efforts, and the stock price movements of Facebook will not change that. Social Media Marketing is on scale and needs to be at the heart of your marketing efforts right now.”
Investing time and energy into developing relevant and useful content and a large digital network now is preparing for your future. Pulling people to your website now by offering them something to read or watch on a regular basis is planting the seed for a later time. Just as in face-to-face business networking, you do not know where that initial Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook contact or posted article will lead down the line. The content that you place on your website and share out through your social media network doesn’t get thrown in the trash like a postcard. It remains to be found by your potential customers, today or in the future. They may even have to catch up to you. But you’ll be there already.
As we have discussed in previous posts, the key to success in B2B social media is the development and sharing of content that will appeal to your target market. When we work with new B2B clients, we always have an in-depth discussion about content and these critical questions:
1. What type of original content do you already have? Articles, videos, radio show, infographics, presentations, photos, testimonials, whitepapers
2. What type of content will appeal to your target market?
3. What type of original (developed by you) content will be developed on an ongoing basis?
4. Who will be developing the content? A staff member, the owner, a group of people, Mediavine Marketing?
5. What other content can be used to supplement your original content?
6. How often will the original content be developed?
7. Where will the content be placed initially? The website, YouTube, a trade publication?
8. Where will the content be shared? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking sites, etc.
9. Will others be able to share the content as well? In other words, is your website set up to allow comments and sharing of your content?
Once we have established the who, what, when, where and why of content, we inevitably start discussing the details of developing content. Many B2B companies really struggle with this, and understandably so. Most of us will not acquire legions of raving fans who are waiting breathlessly for our next product or announcement.
So, what do we B2B companies share out there? How about thinking in terms of “edutainment”?
We’ve adapted the term “edutainment” from the educational world, but we think it applies well to social media. Edutainment is designed in order to keep people interested and engaged, and the goal is to provide some valuable knowledge to the target market by keeping them engaged with entertaining content. It doesn’t have to be hilarious and earth- shattering, but it does need to be interesting and/or useful enough to encourage further exploration of your digital profiles and even an email opt-in or phone call. Articles/blog posts should have targeted and interesting titles, and the articles themselves need to be written in a more conversational, less “whitepaper-ish” tone. Videos, rather than the “salesly”, long and over-produced showcases of yesterday, should be shorter, authentic and address a “pain point” or offer a way to solve a problem. Think about showing your prospective clients what their success would look like if they work with you. Help them visualize how they would achieve their goals with a short presentation or an infographic.
We have found from experience that edutainment may be the thing that keeps you in your prospects’ minds longer than anything else you have on your website. What do you think about the idea of using “edutainment” for B2B social media?
Today’s post is from guest writer Kyle Lagunas. Kyle is the HR Analyst at Software Advice, a resource for selecting a talent management or an applicant tracking system. Kyle reports on trends and best practices in HR and recruiting software—offering fresh insights into the ho-hum of people processes.
Qualified candidates are regularly overlooked, and for the simplest of reasons: they didn’t plug the right combo of buzzwords into their resumes. Candidates are taking things into their own hands. In an attempt to circumvent the keyword-laden resume game, job seekers are adopting a more creative approach to captivating recruiters. Rather than dropping the resume altogether, the trend seems to be more focused on breaking away from over-automation and a return to the heart of what makes a good hire. In short, they’re using elements of multimedia—video, infographics, and social media—to bring their resumes to life.
While there are certain guidelines that you should always follow when submitting a resume regardless of mode of delivery, there are a couple of multimedia elements a candidate can tap into to get that extra oomph into his resume:
1. Adding a Face and Voice with Video. By replacing a cover letter with a quick video pitch, job seekers can showcase skills and abilities lost in translation in a traditional resume. As Bruce Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing says, “Video can increase my confidence in a candidate’s ability to successfully interview–Is she professional? Is she articulate?–or eliminate a candidate from consideration.” Of course, time is money, and candidates need to give recruiters a reason to keep watching. My advice: personality is great, but don’t get too cute. Balance is key.
2. Bringing Flat Resumes to Life with Infographics. Breaking out of the traditional resume template isn’t easy without a degree in design. But presenting a recruiter with a more visually stimulating overview of experience and qualifications can go a long way in setting a candidate apart. Thankfully, it doesn’t take an Adobe Illustrator savant to turn a boring old resume into an interesting infographic. Not only are these easy to create, but they’re easy to share across multiple channels.
3. Showing Off with Blogs and Personal Sites. Blogs are an excellent platform for candidates to showcase their hobbies, writing and communication skills, and general interests. Think they’re just for marketing candidates? Think again. Even a meat cutter at Whole Foods can run a successful butcher blog to establish expertise and share experience with an avid audience.And who said blogs are just for writing? Techies can demonstrate their ability to build WordPress templates, too, or simply prove they know how to find and add plug-ins to build websites. And candidates for and candidates for artistic positions can showcase their portfolio of work.
When it comes to using social media websites for recruiting – what we call social recruiting – how far is too far? Beyond learning the hard way what works and what doesn’t, there are some best practices emerging to help recruiters know when they’ve pushed the proverbial envelope too far. And hiring professionals are discovering a new line of recruiting applications and tools built into applicant tracking software to help them rise above the same old hashtag to better identify, connect with and place viable candidates.
For all their good intentions, many folks using social media in their recruiting efforts are running into the same issues. Here are the top three:
● Spamming job posts. Want to render your social recruiting efforts ineffective? Spamming people with your job opportunities is a surefire way to do just that. The key to social recruiting is to be social and engaging. Share industry news and articles of interest, exchange personal messages, etc.
● Prying rather than researching. Some positions require a flawless social media presence. For the rest, you shouldn’t be digging too deeply into their profiles. Screening should be focused on general impressions of candidates to see if they would fit within your company culture.
● Penalizing candidates for level of access. It’s not unusual for candidates to deny recruiters access to their Facebook profile, inviting them to connect via LinkedIn instead. Many people use Facebook for personal, rather than professional networking – especially in Generation Y. Don’t write off candidates for showing a bit of backbone and managing their public image – it’s hardly something to penalize.
Lessons Learned from the Trenches
Some people are experiencing more success in social recruiting than others, and have picked up a few tricks worth sharing. Carolyn Betts, CEO of Betts Recruiting, is one such person, and was recently featured in a New York Times article, for leveraging social media to grow her recruiting success. She and I chatted last week, and she shared some lessons she’s learned from the trenches.
● Focus on strategy. You won’t be able to make the most of social media if you’re going into it blindly. You need to have a plan for how you want to accomplish your goals. Betts suggests starting with one social media site, familiarizing yourself with it, then growing your presence gradually.
● Have realistic expectations. When you consider the industry you’re in and the position you’re hiring for, are your deal-breakers realistic? You need to determine upfront how much weight you are giving a candidate’s social media presence.
● Leverage the right apps and tools. Many successful social recruiters know that in order to make the most of your social recruiting efforts, you need to leverage the right tools. Why go it alone when there are applications with built-in best practices for recruiting more effectively?
Software Expanding Recruiters’ Reach
Human resources software is growing to help recruiters make use of social media in their hiring strategy. But before recruiters can fully harness these helpful tools, they must determine whether or not they are in the right social media playground.
According to a recent study, approximately 85 percent of U.S. companies used LinkedIn for recruiting last year, though only 30 percent of active job seekers are on LinkedIn. As such, many recruiters are finding LinkedIn a bit overcrowded. Where are the candidates? The large majority of them are on Facebook.
Because the data recruiters are looking for is a little harder to find on Facebook, however, many miss the sourcing opportunity this vast network provides. Fortunately, there are third-party software developers devising methods to put actionable candidate information into the hands of recruiters quickly and efficiently. Some of these recruiting solutions are standalone applications that leverage recruiters’ networks. Others – like Bullhorn Reach – are applications designed specifically for automating social recruiting.
For further reading, check out Kyle’s HR blog at: http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/hr/social-recruiting-how-far-is-too-far-010271/
Last week I had conversations with two people, one in B2B sales and the other a business owner, who insisted that almost no one they know, other than sellers of consumer products, has made sales from social media. One of these individuals said to me, “I bet you that only about 1% of B2B’s actually get any business through social media”. My response was, “Then we’re in the 1%, because we’re a B2B company and we get regular inquiries and even close sales as a result of our efforts in social media. We’ve never even met some of our new clients in person. And, by the way, our B2B clients are seeing results as well.”
You might argue that the reason we make sales through social media is because, well, we SELL social media consulting and management. But the fact of the matter is, we are no different than any other company selling services to other companies. We could be selling accounting services, legal services, office furniture, or printing services, and we would still be strengthening our brand, increasing our visibility and expanding our pool of prospects by using social media. Why? Because we like results. After all, sales is still about numbers and sales cycles, and you never know where in the sales cycle your latest tweet or blog post will hit the decision maker.
We still use other sales strategies, such as in-person networking and even cold calling, but the in-bound inquiries we get as a result of our social media efforts almost always turn into sales.
It’s true that a good portion of B2B’s are not seeing any sales as a result of social media. But, in our experience, that’s because many B2B’s aren’t actually using social media with any regularity. All of the reasons are familiar- “It’s a time waster.” “We don’t have enough time.” “It’s too confusing.” “Until we know the ROI, we’re not touching it.” These are all valid reasons, of course. They just don’t help you expand your network and reach.
Social media is not rocket science. Sure, some of the tools can be confusing at first, and changes are always happening. However, like traditional marketing, the “trick” to social media comes down to a strong brand, good content, consistency, frequency and some strategy thrown in for good measure. Using a social media consultant, just as you use a sales or business process consultant, can help you simplify the process and put you into the fabled “1%” of B2B’s that make sales through social media.
By now we all know about Bank of America’s U-turn on its prior decision to start charging monthly debit card fees. After the uproar on Facebook, Twitter, and sites such as Change.org, big banks got a big wake-up call (or at least yet another wake-up call) about the social nature of business today. Businesses who think they can’t do social media because there are “privacy restrictions” and “sensitive information” issues need to figure out how they are going to get around these issues really fast.
The banking industry is one of the last hold-outs against truly embracing customer engagement online. Certainly, many banks are using social media, and many more are making plans to do so, but the gap is still apparent. Go to the websites of Bank of America or Chase and see if you can find any social media links. Both do have a social media presence, but you have to do some hunting (and in Chase’s case, you have to know that their Community Giving Project, explained below, exists).
In a recent report by Amplicate, a social media analytics company, 83% of the online sentiments about major US and European banks were negative over a recent 12-month period. That’s a lot of negativity begging to be turned around by creative customer engagement! Criticism is occuring whether or not banks choose to get involved in social media.
The U.S. has a few examples of financial institutions that are using social media creatively. American Express and Foursquare teamed up to give Am Ex cardholders discounts when they check in with Foursquare at participating merchants such as Sports Authority and H&M. The Chase Community Giving Project on Facebook has over 3 million fans and encourages people to suggest their favorite charities and vote for up to 10 charities to receive funding.
Both American Express and Chase have seen some great activity and engagement with people through their efforts in social media. However, it’s a non-U.S. bank, Standard Chartered, that really seems to be getting it right. Based out of Singapore, their online banking division, Standard Chartered’s Breeze, has been innovating to the point that they are considered one of the leading banks in the international mobile banking arena. Indeed, in the last two years, they have added over a million new active online banking customers.
Here are some of the social media-integrated campaigns that Standard Chartered has launched:
The Wishlist: Standard Chartered developed a Wish List application, where customers enter the things they are saving up for and then apply funds to each item as their savings grows. Customers can link to Facebook to tell their friends about what they are saving for and when they have enough to make the purchase.
Inmode: They partnered with a Frog Design, a marketing firm, to implement an international design competition. Its theme was “Design to Change the World” and they were deluged with submissions. The most popular designs were the first thing that users saw when they logged in to Breeze, Standard Chartered’s mobile banking app. The top winner received a cash prize and an internship with Frog Design.
The World’s Coolest Intern: Standard Chartered launched a hunt for a social-and-all-things-media intern. The winner received a 6-month internship and $30,000, so as you can imagine, they had no shortage of applicants, many of whom were very highly qualified.
Breeze Living: Their iPhone app allows customers to access location-based coupons, special offers and even a customizable social networking platform called Tribe.
Every industry is being affected by how social media is changing company/customer engagement. Standard Chartered’s efforts to encouarge customer input and provide helpful tools has greatly increased their market share in the last two years. They may be in the mobile banking space, yes, but smartphones aren’t going anywhere and new account holders are the young twenty-somethings who expect their banks to give them convenience and listen. And, yes, the campaigns I’ve described above generally appeal to the “younger” generation. However, the next generation sees social media as a gateway to conduct daily activities, and banks can capitalize on that to connect and build a community. The same applies to virtually any industry.
If you’re the leader of a manufacturing company and you haven’t made the leap into social media for your business as of yet, you’re not alone. According to a Forrester Research study done in March 2011, 30% of manufacturers said that they were planning to increase their spending in social media and community marketing. Contrast that number with over 50% for other industries.
Like many other B2B companies, you may have started to see other companies use social media with some success, but you aren’t quite sure how your company can benefit from it, incorporate it or even get started with it. In this post I’ll share some manufacturers who are finding success with social media as well as some tips to for your business to get started.
Who are some manufacturers that have seen success in social media?
Channellock, Inc., is a tool manufacturer headquartered in Pennsylvania that recently won a PRism award for a best-in-class, multi-faceted marketing campaign that incorporates YouTube videos, a Facebook fan page, Twitter and a blog.
According to Michele King, the Communications and Training Manager at Channellock, “The biggest advantage of being relevant in social media as a manufacturer is having a direct line of communication to the people who use and enjoy (our products). It affords us the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.” She says that their social media profiles have attracted visitors and fans from all over and from all walks of life. Source
Jim Carr, President of CARR Machine and Tool Company in Elk Grove, Illinois, has been successfully using social media for a while now and believes that social media will be leading the way in helping small and larger corporations reach out to a new customer base. When his company experienced hardship during the economic downturn, Carr turned to a marketing company to design a strong web and social media presence. He believes that, going forward, corporations need to embrace the online culture because that’s where their next generation of customers already exist. Source
Steelmaster, a manufacturer of prefabricated steel buildings, got involved in social media about a year and a half ago. They found out that Facebook was a great place to post photos of their customers’ steel buildings and that social networks gave their products greater exposure to other vertical markets, such as chicken farmers and woodworkers. Source
What are some tips we can use to get started?
Make sure you have a strong brand and an updated website. Do some work up front to make sure that your company’s brand is well-represented and that your website looks current. Manufacturers often have the least attractive logos and websites. Even if your company is producing the most technologically advanced products, if your website looks like a clunker, you could be sending a message that you’re behind the times.
Showcase your company’s values, mission and culture- in addition to your products. Manufacturing is often extremely complex, with some companies producing literally thousands of parts that may become part of larger products manufactured by other companies. While some manufacturers do sell directly to the public, this is very often not the case. Most manufacturers are marketing to businesses, so social media has to be viewed as a place where a company can share its values, mission and culture as well as its products. It all comes down to, “Why should I buy from you instead of Company X?” Videos and photos can do a stellar job of answering that question.
Give value. If you just think of social media as a place where you are just going to sell your products, your efforts will drop like a lead balloon. Instead, think about information you can share with your potential customers that will be beneficial to them- as well as remove barriers to the buying process. Good content makes prospects notice your company. Blogs and videos accomplish this goal very well.
Encourage interaction and be prepared to listen. Many manufacturers are using social media as a forum to connect with prospects and receive feedback that can be used to improve product quality, stay current, and improve customer service.
Let your products tell stories. Like many manufacturers, your products probably end up becoming part of another product, and so on. Use photos and videos to tell a story of how your products become part of something larger. And if you can connect your products to people’s lives, so much the better! Most people have little information about how their favorite products come to be. Although you probably don’t sell directly to consumers, you can still connect with prospects in a unique and strong way when they are in the information-gathering phase.
Attract new employees. Although this isn’t a tip on how to get started using social media, it is a tip that can benefit manufacturers. We often hear that young adults don’t have knowledge or interest in the manufacturing field and that there is a perception out there that all manufacturing jobs are dirty, hot and don’t require much skill. You can use social media to change that. Young adults use the internet and social media constantly to search for information on everything under the sun, including careers and companies. You’ll appeal to the younger generation if you have an updated, mobile-accessible website and a strong social media presence that includes photos, videos, Facebook and Twitter.
With a strong U.S. sentiment toward manufacturing “reshoring”, companies can use social media to help make the case that they are ready, willing and able to provide the best products with a commitment to quality and integrity.
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.
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!
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’?
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?
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?