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The One Topic Your Business Blog Needs to Cover

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When you log online to make a buying decision, what information do you want most?

You perhaps are interested in a product’s features or the scope of a company’s services. Reviews might be important to you, and some people like to do in-depth research about their options. You may like to compare products/services, and you probably want to know disadvantages, not just good points.

Marcus Sheridan at BlogWorld New York If you have a small business, you can be covering all of these topics on your blog. But what one piece of information are most businesses avoiding but should be talking about regularly?

Marcus Sheridan talked about this one topic during his session at BlogWorld New York (see picture at right). David Brook talked about this on his Partners in EXCELLENCE blog. Others have touched on this, as well.

To talk about this topic, I want to examine three whys:

  1. Why people care
  2. Why businesses avoid blogging about it
  3. Why you can outshine your competitors if you blog about it

Why Everyone Cares about Price

That’s right – price is what most small business avoid listing online, even though everyone cares about it. Rich or poor, people want to know the money they need to get your product or services.

For consumers on a budget, price can be important in two ways: first, they might have to rule out options they can’t afford. Second, they might want to know price so they can save up for the purchase.

Even well-off consumers who don’t have budget restrictions care about price, though. Everyone wants to ensure they are getting a good value, that the price they are paying is justified.

Why Most Businesses Avoid Mentions of Price

Price is scary. As a freelancer, I have had to quote prices, and it’s frightening to avoid saying (or typing) a number. A lot of what-ifs go through my head:

  • What if consumers think my price is too high?
  • What if consumers think my price is too low and, thus, my services aren’t as good as my competitors?
  • What if competitors see that price and quote slightly lower to outbid me?
  • What if I undervalue my own abilities and the consumer would have been willing to pay higher?
  • What if I want to change prices in the future, but have already quoted this lower price?

All of those what ifs can be applied to any small business, not just freelancing. What if homeowners think my lawn service price is too high? What if would-be patrons think my prices are so low that I can’t possibly give a good haircut? What if competitors see my day care’s prices and price themselves just a little lower as a response? What if I’m missing out on profits because my restaurant’s prices are too low and hungry customers would have gladly paid more? What if people get mad when I raise my bakery’s cupcake prices?

Price is scary and that’s why most business owners avoid it, even though consumers really want to know.

To this fear, these what ifs, I have this to say: so what?

There will always be people who think your prices are too low or too high, and if competitors really want to know your prices, all they have to do is call and ask. What matters is that you are charging what your products or services are worth.

Why You’ll Kill Your Competitors if You Talk about Price

Just like competitors can call (or email) to ask about your price, so can consumers. So why is it important to put this information on your websites, and more specifically, on your blog?

People are lazy.

It’s that simple. People want a product or service, but calling around to find information is hard work. They’ll compare prices and value online, but picking up the phone takes an additional step. Sometimes, they’re willing to take this additional step – but only if you give them some ballpark information first.

Think about it. Let’s say you are in a strange city on vacation and you’re craving pizza. So you Google it and find three places near you that will deliver to your hotel. Two do not list their prices. The third says large pizzas cost $10. Are you going to take the time to call all three places, or are you going to simply hire from the $10 place, since that seems reasonable?

Many people will just go with the $10 option. It’s easier.

This works on a larger scale as well, for businesses selling more than just pizza. If you’re willing to list your prices, people will simply use your business – or at least consider you a top contender – because your competitors do not talk about price.

I suggest you take it a step farther by blogging about price often. Cover all the what ifs:

  • What makes your product or service worth a slightly higher price?
  • How do you keep quality high and prices low?
  • Why is your price justified even if competitors charge a lower amount?
  • What higher-priced packages do you offer for customers who want to spend more?
  • Why are you raising prices?

Talking about your prices – and talking about them often – gives customers the chance to learn as much about you as possible. This allows them to make informed decisions, and since you’re the one helping them make these decisions, they’ll be more likely to choose you over your competitors.

So, the bottom line? Don’t avoid listing some numbers, or at least giving people a general idea of what they can expect today. Don’t let the what ifs and fears keep you from talking about this topic!

Is Your Small Business Missing Out on the Mobile Crowd?

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As much as I hate to admit it, if you see me, there’s a good chance you can also see my cell phone. Or at least hear it if it rings. I was a late bloomer, not getting my first cell phone until I was in college and only getting my first smart phone about two years ago. I’m still a little resistant. I like a phone that makes calls and allows me to send text messages from time to time.

But even as a new media lover but a cell phone hater…well, I have to admit that my cell phone comes in super handy when I’m not at home. I can use it to set alarms. To check Twitter and Facebook. To take pictures. To send quick emails. To look up product prices to see if I’m getting the best deal. If you have a small business in a physical location (or locations), cashing in on utilitarian cell phone users like me can boost your profits more than you think. Let’s face it – you might be cutting edge, but most smart phone users are still pretty new to the whole new media thing. So how can you grab their mobile attention?

  • Create some kind of very useful free app. 
The likelihood that I’m going to pay for any app is slim to none. Seriously, I think to date I’ve purchased three apps…and I’ve had my phone for over two years. Of course, other users may be more likely to shell out a few bucks for an app, but if you create something useful and FREE? I’m there. Maybe you’re a restaurant that creates an app allowing me to order online. Or maybe you’re a bakery that creates a simple game I can use to win free cupcakes. Whatever. Be creative and get people downloading!
  • Give me a mobile version of your site.
Nothing annoys me more when using a cell phone than trying to look up something on a business’ website on my cell phone and there is no mobile version of the site. Half the time, some ad pops up on the screen making it impossible to click on anything. Yuck. Creating a mobile site is actually extremely easy (WordPress users have their choice of plugins that create it automatically for example). So no excuses!
  • Reward loyalty. 
People are still kind of figuring out location based mobile apps, but there are already likely thousands of Foursqaure and Gowalla users in your area. Reward their loyalty when they check in to your business’ location. An easy way to do this is to give a free item or discount to anyone who shows a waiter/clerk/etc. that they’ve checked in. You can also give a bigger reward to the person who is the mayor on the first of every month – it encourages coming in often to compete with other users.
With more and more people embracing their smartphones every day, your small business will really miss out if it is ignoring mobile altogether. This crowd will only continue to grow and it doesn’t take much time or money to reach out to these consumers and get them spending more money with your business.

Social Media for Small Businesses with “No Time”

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I completely understand why small business owners are worried about the time factor when it comes to social media. If you aren’t careful, networks like Facebook and Twitter can suck away several hours from your day, and few small businesses have the resources to allow that to happen. But don’t feel so overwhelmed with the demands of social media that you don’t give it any time at all. Even if you only have a few hours a week for you or your employees to spend on social media, you can get your company online and reap the benefits of these new platforms. Here are a few tips to help you get started with social media, even if you aren’t ready to devote you entire day to it:

  • Pick one to three sites and do them well.

New social networks and bookmarking sites are popping up every day, so it’s easy to get frustrated with the time it takes to be active on all of them. Instead of joining ten of them and doing a bad job at staying up-to-date on all of them, pick one to three sites to join and do them well. I think all small businesses should have a page on Facebook, so that should be a top priority for you, and beyond that, you can also join Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, Foursquare…the list goes on and on. Pick the networks that make sense for you – go where your customers are.

  • Make checking your social media sites part of your daily routine.

Every morning when you check your email, check your social media profiles as well. Respond to any complaints, thank people for compliments, and make announcements. Do this again mid-afternoon. You don’t have to live on social media; you just have to check it once or twice a day. If you make it part of your routine, it won’t seem like such a big hassle.

  • Share something new once per day.

If you don’t have a lot of time to spend on social media, don’t sweat it. Simply share something new once per day, whether that is an announcement about your company (“Hey guys, we started dipping our new chocolate-covered strawberries today!”), an interesting article you read relating to your industry (“Men’s Health has an awesome article about the health benefits of chocolate on their site right now.”), or a poll/question for your readers to answer (“Out of all the candies we make, what’s your all-time favorite?”). Stuck on what to share? Post a picture (“Here’s a snapshot of our test kitchen.”) or share “insider” information (“Today at the office, we’re testing out new lollipops. Yum!”). People love behind-the-scenes looks at their favorite companies.

  • Streamline your response to complaints.

Customer complaints are one of the biggest challenges in any business, and social media makes it extremely easy for people to take their complaints public. Instead of responding to all of them in such a public setting, streamline the process and take it private. People want to know that you’re listening, but a lengthy back-and-forth on Twitter probably isn’t how you want to spend your afternoon. Instead, make your response, “I’m sorry for *insert issue here*. Can you email *insert email address here* so I can help you?” or something similar. That way, any of your employees with access to social media can respond to the complaint while allowing you to handle the individual responses privately.

  • Hire employees you trust – and give them all access to social media.

Many of your employees probably already use social media. Give them access to your profiles or allow them to speak on behalf of the company so that you have more of a presence online. Of course, you’ll need to set some policies in place (what to talk about or not talk about, how to distinguish who is updating if multiple people have access to one account, etc.), and you definitely need to trust your employees if they’re going to be using social media on your behalf. But if you don’t have a lot of time, getting the entire company involved is a great way to make sure your company is represented online as much as possible.

Should Small Businesses Really Worry About Social Media?

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Session: Is social media still relevant for small business or is it just wasted time?
Speaker: Kirsten Wright

While the simple answer to the question this blog post poses is ‘of course’, I know the Blogworld community wants more than that, right?

You want to know why social media is important, what you should be worrying about and how you can possibly get it all done.

Let’s start with the why.
To find your audience. Most small businesses clientele are the average consumer. This means they are neither the richest or poorest 10%, they have a computer in the home and are probably among the 900 million+ people that are active in social media on a regular basis.

Next, let’s discuss the what.
Measuring conversation, engagement and analytics. Learning what your customers are saying is key to figuring out how to improve what you’re doing and to add more customers to your current buyers. In order to accurately and effectively do any of this, you need to be worried about conversing with them. This means 70% conversation, discussion and engagement (ie: about them) and 30% promoting your business and links to your content (ie: about you).

Finally, let’s cover the how.
With a strategy team. No one can do social media alone. It takes understanding the unique dynamic, having the tools for the analytics and having brand awareness that is a combination of you and their expertise. The monetary commitment into social media will vary but there is no free way to get involved. However, it is important to know that social is less expensive than a lot of traditional media forms which is why the barrier for entry is lower and therefore more reasonable for small businesses.

Of course, all of this just grazes the surface of social media for small business…but you didn’t think I’d tell you everything, now did you?
What struggles do you face in social media as a small business? I am happy to hear from the big businesses too!

Hear a bit more about Kirsten’s topic and why she is pumped to attend BlogWorld Expo L.A. in November:

Go to our YouTube channel to see what other speakers are saying about BlogWorld.

 

At 5150, Kirsten rules the social space, managing a team of content creators, analysts and project managers to bring passion and intelligence to the daily social activities, assuring that every tweet, status update, dialogue and video asset is ideally placed in your markets. Kirsten is a graduate of California State University Long Beach with a degree in Rhetorical Communications, and in her off time, loves taking her greyhound, Badger, for runs, and watching old movies with her husband. You can connect with her on twitter, facebook & youtube.

How Businesses Can “Go Undercover” Using Social Media

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I was flipping through the channels early today and landed on a show I had never heard of before called Undercover Boss. The concept is simple – someone high up in management at a large corporation goes undercover, posing as a new worker in an entry-level position. At the end, their co-workers are surprised with the truth and hard-working employees are given awesome rewards. The company gets the added benefit of learning a little something about about how their business workers at the basic level.

The episode that was airing had Don Fertman from Subway posing as a “sandwich artist” (aka, the person behind the counter who makes your sub) at four different locations. It was comical to see others get frustrated with him as a new employee and heartwarming to see him surprise four deserving people with awesome prizes, like scholarships and vacations, after revealing who he really was.

As a small business owner, or even a mid- to large-sized business owner, you might not have the ability to go undercover and learn about your business from the trenches, but you can “go undercover” in a sense – with social media!

One of the things I simultaneously love and hate about the Internet is that people are brutally honest. Most will speak their mind without a second thought because there’s the protection of the computer screen, which makes things seem more anonymous even though your name and picture could be right beside your comment. Brazen commenters can be a bit annoying, but as a business owner, you can also learn from them. Here are a few steps I recommend you take to go undercover online and find out what people really think about your company:

  • Read the tips on FourSquare and other location-based services.

Oh, the problems that could be solved if only the management would read the tips people give about their companies online! The other day, I checked into a small family restaurant and the top tip was that people should “get there early for dinner because the wait is really long.” Obviously, the person who left that comment still thinks the restaurant is worth visiting, and even getting there early…but that doesn’t mean you should consider it a victory if you’re the restaurant owner. If the top thing people have to say about your restaurant is that the wait is long, think about ways you could solve that. Could you add more tables? Hire more staff to handle the dinner rush? Offer a happy hour at the bar that people can enjoy while waiting? Even if people aren’t complaining doesn’t mean that you can’t improve.

  • Follow your employees on Twitter.

Some people lock their Twitter accounts, but most keep them public so others can see what they’re saying. Find your employees on there and follow them – under an anonymous name. If your employees see you following them, it may make them think twice before saying anything about their job or co-workers, so keep it on the down low and just see what they are saying. Do they think their boss is an idiot? Hopefully that isn’t you! Invite them into your office to talk about what they would do differently if in change. Do they promote your company even on their off hours? Reward them with an extra Christmas bonus. Do they tweet while at work? FIRE THEM! Just kidding – actually, take this as a criticism of how your workday is structured. Tons of tweets even though all the work is getting done might mean that your employee is bored working at a job below his ability level, for example.

  • Use search functions to see what your customers are saying.

You should definitely be doing this if you aren’t already. Monitor the conversation about your company and answer as many people as possible whenever you’re mentioned. It’s easiest to do this on Twitter, in my opinion, but you should also be responsive on Facebook and other sites that make sense for your niche. You can’t solve every problem, but you can show that you’re listening. And – this is important – actually listen. If a customer complains that the t-shirt your company sent was too small, the answer isn’t just to send him or her a refund. The answer is to send the refund and take a look at the sizing information on your website to see if it is accurate or post more information about your clothing running a little small in size. The point is not only to fix problems, but to avoid the same problems in the future.

How does your small business use social media to monitor the conversation and improve your products/services? I’d love to hear your tips in a comment below!

Small Business Social Media Profile: The Mermaid Inn

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We’re starting a new series on the BlogWorld Blog called Small Business Social Media Profiles. I’ll be talking with small businesses who’ve incorporated social media aspects into their website, marketing, and promotion – asking them for their input and hopefully encouraging you to further your social media reach!

First up is The Mermaid Inn in NYC – a casuallly sophisticated urban fish shack located in the East Village and Upper West Side in New York City as well as the Mermaid Oyster Bar located in Greenwich Village. Very prominently on their homepage they have links to their Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts – plus a link to their Oysterpedia app!

I think their website layout and flash elements are very fresh and sophisticated. I was excited to talk to them further!

When did you start integrating Twitter and Facebook into your business marketing and outreach?
We started our twitter and facebook outreach about two years ago.

How did you begin promoting your account and encourage fans to follow you?
At first we reached out a lot to people in the food community – food bloggers, oyster lovers etc and they helped get the word out about the account. Also we made sure everyone on staff was aware of what we were doing and supported/promoted it in the restaurant as well.

Do you run any contests, or specials, or have other interesting activities in place for social media?
We have Social Media Mondays in which we tweet a password or phrase as well as put it on our facebook page for a 20% discount if a customer says this phrase to their bartender or server. We also have the best foursquare deal in the city – check in for a free side for your table or steal the mayorship for a free lobster sandwich (a $26 entrée!). We also have an iPhone and Android app called Oysterpedia that is a guide to over 200 North American oyster varieties, with tasting notes, photos, and rating system to save your favorites.

Do you have a social media plan and/or policy in place?
Our social media policy is to connect and communicate with our customers – both current customers and potential – and to do that in an engaging, fun way that promotes the Mermaid brand as a quality, laid-back neighborhood seafood restaurant.

Do you have social media goals for your business?
Our social media goals involve increasing our social media presence and quality of interactions, sharing (and learning) about topics relative to us – such as oysters, etc., staying on top of what is going on in the social media world, and finding new ways to promote our brand as well as listen to our customers.

Do you have a dedicated employee for social media or do you all interact?
Many of our employees are on social media and post their own things about the restaurants but we have one dedicated person who is the voice of the Mermaid and her personality through our official social media accounts.

How important do you think social media is for a company, especially restaurants?
I think social media is important for companies because it’s a great way to interact with customers as well as get new customers, and hear feedback about your company and the things you’re doing. For a restaurant it’s a great way to share information about what is going on – such as new menu items and special events – and having other people (your followers) promote it too.

How do you deal with questions/concerns/complaints via social media? Do you ever fear being too accessible?
We deal with questions/concerns/complaints on social media the same way we would if we heard the complaint at the restaurant. We respond in a timely manner and if there is anything that needs to be resolved, we resolve it as well as answer any question asked to us.

I don’t fear we are being too accessible. We’re a laid-back, fun and casual restaurant environment and we’re not too stuffy to hear what our customers have to say. It’s fun and it gets people excited about the restaurant.

If you’d like to have your small business profiled, please shoot me an email with your name and website!

How to Monetize the Content of your Blog in Speaking Engagements

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… by Barry Moltz

Make New Things We love to write, but it’s time we learn to monetize our content. Many bloggers try to sell consulting services as a primary source of income. While this may work in the short term, it is difficult to make a lot of money billing by the hour. There is no leverage in consulting services when paid hourly. While many bloggers turn to selling products through their website, an overlooked path to monetizing content is speaking professionally.

Before picking up that big check, people need to have a reason to listen. Every blogger should articulate a strong brand and promise: For example:

  • What have you done?
  • With who (brands more famous than you)? What did they say about you?
  • What have you published?

The most effective place to get content for your speeches is from past blog posts and articles at other sites. Repurposing content from tweets to these articles or guests posts can also be effective. Videos with other ‘bigger named’ people also will extend your brand. Podcasting is now simple with free tools such as Blog Talk Radio. Most importantly, increase your reach by blogging about what is in the general news that day which revolves around your area of expertise.

If you want to be paid as a speaker, your web site needs to have the following:

  • One line brand on what you speak about.
  • What the audience will learn.
  • Video of you speaking.
  • Which type of businesses benefit most from your speeches.
  • Show your expert deliverables: your books, webinars, and ebooks.

Where do you start constructing a speech?

  • Find the two things you want your listeners to learn.
  • What are the 5-7 points you want to emphasize with stories, examples and action items?
  • What is the impactful opening and closing that the audience is sure to remember?

Don’t memorize, but learn the speech. Break it into 3 to 5 minutes modules that you can be comfortable learning. Practice, Practice, Practice Outloud!. Watch video of yourself giving the speech. This is the key un-magic of speaking. Don’t have the arrogance that you can just wing it on stage. Don’t get fooled by watching other professionals that make it look easy. The good people have practiced it hundreds of times.

How much should you be paid? Start small. Do it for free to get experience. Then, charge expenses and a small honorarium (Less than $500). Using these initial speaking engagements as your base will propel you to command four to five figure fees.

Tell us how you made the leap!

Barry Moltz has founded and run small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for more than 15 years. He helps small businesses get unstuck and get back their long forgotten potential. Follow him at www.barrymoltz.com or on Twitter @barrymoltz.

Book Review & Giveaway: ‘Perspectives on Social Media Marketing’

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Perspectives on Social Media Marketing isn’t your average social media how to book. It provides easy to digest topics with both an agency perspective and a brand perspective (with a guest perspective thrown in for added viewpoints). Stephanie Agresta (from Porter Novelli) and B. Bonin Bouch (PepsiCo) come together to talk about understanding social media, how it has changed the marketing landscape, how to implement a tactical and strategic social media plan across your organization, how to best measure the ROI of a social media campaign, and more. Each topic has short and concise answers, with concrete examples and tips – so you can start implementing social media marketing in your business today. We have a copy to give away, details below!

Audience: Large Businesses, Small Businesses, Individuals – There’s something for everyone, including start-ups and successful businesses.
Tone: Conversational with some personal views, humor, and case studies sprinkled throughout.

Here are just some of the 89 specific topics included:

  • What is Personal Branding and How Important Is It?
  • How Has Social Media Changed Customer Service?
  • Do Consumers Really Want to Communicate with Brands? Why?
  • What Tools Are “Must Haves” for Every Social Media-Marketing Effort?
  • Should Strategy Come from PR or Marketing?
  • How Can Companies Use Social Media Internally to Improve Employee Morale?
  • Should Your Company Follow People on Twitter, or Just Be Followed?
  • Is There a Direct Relationship Between Social Media and Sales?
  • Is It Ever Too Late to Start Social Media?
  • What Would You Consider to be the Worst Social Media Campaign Ever Run?

An excerpt from the book (reprinted with permission):

Topic #27 What Advice Would You Give a Manager For a Company That Has So Far Ignored Social Media But Now Wants to Get Up to Speed?

B. Bonin Bough: The Brand Perspective
The first step is to make sure you yourself participate in the platform. Don’t kill yourself, though, trying to participate in every platform. Figure out which platforms you care about and focus on those. Also, understand that as an individual, you can be a part of social media without necessarily putting a lot of content into the space. I think one of the best rules of thumb is the 1–9–90 rule. It says that 1 percent of the people create the social media content, 9 percent of people participate in that content, and the other 90 percent are passive. It’s okay to be passive—although as a marketer, you want to be sure you understand the nuances of what it means to participate. I’m not the most prolific Twitter contributor, but I’m a freak about following it, so much so that that I have data visualization in my office that I can follow like a news ticker.

Next, you want to identify people in your business or industry who are influencers and power-users. If you can find folks who represent your passions, that’s even better. Start to fan, follow, subscribe. Search online to find recent articles that talk about the players in your area who are doing social media well and identify experts who discuss social media marketing in general. If you are a brand manager, bring in as many agencies as you can find time for.

I know that becomes very difficult after a while, but bring them in to talk to you so you have a sense of your options. Nobody has the one answer in this space, and you want to understand what all the different players bring to the table. Look for an agency that sounds different and that provides ideas that are not just based around their traditional business structure. And if they are a social media agency, look to see if they understand the scale necessary to drive your business objectives. Do not be afraid to be very clear about the resources that you require to actually make your program successful.

Another important piece that gets overlooked a lot is going to conferences. I spend my life going to conferences—talking to people, mingling with people, meeting new technologies. It’s a great way to be exposed to the culture of the space. For example, if you go to a social media conference, there will almost certainly be a Twitter screen behind the panelists. They are talking and tweeting at the same time. Everybody at the conference has a laptop, and they’re talking and tweeting and reading different things. That level of multitasking is completely lost inside the walls of a lot of marketing agencies right now; that’s a proof point that as a group we aren’t spending enough time at the conferences where new ideas are being formulated and thought about and behaviors are being transformed.

Finally, you want to follow and analyze your competition. You want to identify the best-in-class examples, and you want to find where the gaps and opportunities are. Also, look beyond your direct competitive circles and look at comparative circles. For example, with Gatorade, we are not just thinking about Gatorade and what might be perceived as other beverage competitors; we try to figure out who shares the mindspace of our core targets. In the case of Gatorade, that is elite athletes, athletic directors and coaches, and sideline moms. Who else are they listening to? Are there programs they are part of we can align ourselves with? That’s some of the best advice I can give for getting started.

Stephanie Agresta: The Agency Perspective
If you want to get up to speed with social media, the first thing you need to do is to get started with your own social media efforts. By that, I mean create personal accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These three platforms are the most widely used. For media consumption, check out YouTube and Hulu and photo-sharing sites like Flickr. If you’re feeling ambitious, try starting a blog and posting a few thoughts. Sites like blogger.com and wordpress.com offer free blogging solutions. Create media and upload it. Share it with your friends. Also, read, read, read! There are so many great blogs out there, and the best part is, the content is free! Check out AdAge’s Power 150 list (http://www.adage.com/power150) for a complete list of top-notch marketing and PR blogs. Also, take note of what people are tweeting and re-tweeting on Twitter. Often, the best content is curated by people who are in your trusted network. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn basically create a river of news from your friends, colleagues, and family members. More and more, people are using this as a main source of information. Posts on these networks may just clue you into what is going on at a very high level, thereby allowing you to do further research on search engines and professional news sites.


Giveaway!

Here are the rules to win a copy of Perspectives on Social Media Marketing:

  • Leave a comment below, saying what you’d hope to learn from the book, to receive one entry.
  • Tweet about the contest for a second entry.
  • Entries must be received by midnight PST January 18th to be considered.

Ways A Small Business Can Use Social Media

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I hear a lot of small business owners who say things like: “I am not a huge company and cannot invest the time or money into online marketing. What can I do?”

Dave Peck

My response is you do not need to have a huge budget or invest tons of hours into social media for small business. Here are some easy and simple tips I will give you in list form. As people like lists:

  • Change your brand/companies message to fit the social network you are on.  So you may post “@pizza is here to help with  all your pizza needs” on Twitter.  Well that will not fly on say Plurk or youtube. (Always have to work Plurk into a blog post, it is just fun to say.) Make sure you know the basic ins/outs of the site you are on. Think of it as when you travel to a different country. There are different customs in each you should follow. Things you do and things you do not. (This actually is good practice for any size business or brand.)
  • Cool it with the cross posting. For those of you do not know let me give you the definition of cross posting. It is when you take the same single message and post it on multiple social networks and forums.  Sure it makes your life easier one post that hits many websites. I get it. The problem is that the same people may follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, etc. You need to mix it up. I promise you that if you post the same message to all your networks, you will lose people from your community. Also, I think posting a link on Facebook directly looks a lot better then just placing the url.
  • Time Shift your messages. So when you want to post about a special going on or a blog post you just wrote, do it on different days at different times.  Some people may be online at 10:00 am others may be on at 4:00 pm. Thus, they maybe more likely to respond and see your message at different times. Play around with it and mix it up. Personally,  I have had a lot of success updating my networks late at night. It allows me to get the attention of people I may never have.
  • Do not post the same exact message over and over. Twitter has begun enforcing the TOS of not allowing recurring Tweets on Twitter Accounts. Why? Its annoying, plain and simple.  Though I do not see why you can not mix up the message and tweak it throughout the day. I have used Tweetlater aka Socialoomph with much success. (No doubt I’m going to get some nasty comments about my thoughts on this one.)
  • What is in it for the customer? Part 1. Have online discounts and promotions. I always get clients who say “I want millions of Twitter followers” or “I want everyone to join my fanpage.”  My response is “What is in it for them?”  Why should they follow you  and fan you? You need to give them something back. It can be a coupon code, a special time sensitive discount, or even early bird passes. There needs to be something in it for them.
  • What is in it for the customer? Part 2. In reference to the above item, you don’t have to just give specials and discounts. It could be insight to why your company does what it does. Maybe behind the scenes videos, podcasts or blog posts. You can communicate directly to people who follow/fan you, so do it!! Make them know your listening by talking to them. This has value sometimes that is worth more the items in Part 1.
  • There is more to social media then Twitter & Facebook. There I said it. Heck this should be a blog post by itself. (Actually I think this will be my next post.) If you targeting people who like wine, find a social network about wine. You want to sell comic books, there is a site for that. Heck.. just check out  Ning you can find anything.

BONUS: So let us say your company is Ed’s Vacuum Cleaner Repair. Why not start a Fan Page, Twitter Feed, or Ning site about Vacuum cleaners? Create an online community for people you know will have a need/like for your product! Bottom line: If you cant find it online, create it yourself!

Dave Peck is a Social Media Strategist For Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Follow him on his Website: www.thedavepeck.com or on Twitter

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