1 Out of 5 Small Business Owners Using Social Media Platforms

 

The University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business recently studied  the relationship between social media and small businesses and found that one out of five small business owners were actively using one or more social media platforms. Many small businesses are increasingly investing in social media applications including blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Small business social media adoption has doubled in the past year and is positioned to grow even faster in the future.

Small business owners offered detail on how they employed social media, how well it meets expectations, and whether it pays for itself financially. They reported that social media is time consuming, but offers benefits in building customer  relationships. Its current use is marginally profitable, but owners expect a bigger payoff in the near future. Of those businesses using Social Media tools and platforms, here is what they are doing:

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Source: The State of Small Business December 2009 Survey of Small Business Success by University of Maryland’s Smith School of Business

Many small business owners are beginning to believe social media can help them generate new business.  Half of those surveyed found the time it takes to use social media sites was more than expected.

Facebook and LinkedIn have become the main networks and  platforms for small business owners. Only a quarter of those using social media use Twitter for external communications, and a sixth use Twitter as a service channel.

45 percent of those using social media expect to make a profit from using social media, while only 9 percent expect to lose money. The cost benefit can be hard to measure and is sometimes subjective, but by and large, small businesses feel the medium is breaking even now but will yield a positive return. It is likely that small business owners are continually learning to use the medium more effectively, while they have gotten over the initial costs of setting up and the learning curve.

There are a clear advantages for competitive small businesses using new media tools and platforms.

  • They will be first to ferret out new niche business leads. 
  • They will get a big head start engaging new customers and millennials.
  • They will be the first to get comfortable with the ever changing social media communication styles and technical platforms.
  • They will be better at reputation preservation because they are listening in on these new channels. 

Social media now gets more pages views daily than Google. Thirty-six per cent plus of all internet hours are spent in SM networking spaces. Congratulations to the 20% of small business adopting. The rewards are yours.

Needing help contact Inclusion Media

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Small “Business Social” Media Marketing

 

With the overwhelming success and sustained growth of Social Media websites and platforms, it has now become the norm for competitive businesses to employ some Social Media (SM) presence. Many savvy SMBs have been active across SM networks and tactics for the past few years. The rationale for each business is different. The upside and benefits are common to all businesses concerned about growth, ROI, marketing, advertising and image.

New Media Inclusion

More Nimble and Less Costly Than Traditional Marketing

Advertising campaigns are designed and planned months in advance. Printing and broadcast are not cheap. Newspaper readership is hitting new lows. Broadcast and cable ads are fragmented, at best. Not a lot of iPod or MP3 player users are listening to radio.  When was the last time you used the Yellow Pages? Couponing has gone digital and there are never enough links to your website. And…things change, so your planned ad campaign, if planned 24 hours in advance of launch, would probably be a bit different than 24 days in advance. SM marketing is nimble and less costly. The rumor of SM being free is a myth. Planning and time will be needed. Outsourced professionals may be necessary for small businesses.

Compete with Larger Businesses

Small budgets can compete with big business in this arena. Going viral has nothing to do with brand or budget. Content, timing, and execution rule. Properly executed SM marketing uses pretty much the same tools regardless the size of your business. Your reach can be hyper-local or national. You can have geo-location specials on Foursquare and compete with Starbucks or Chili’s. It’s not the number of your friends or followers, it’s the quality of content and two-way communications.

Image and Brand

It was not that long ago that TV, radio, print, billboards, and cable  were the only media capable of reaching mass market. It was costly and mostly large corporations had those types of budgets. The advantage was clear. Social Media has leveled the playing field. You and I can now compete via a wide array of options. YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Blogs, LinkedIn, Flickr,  and dozens of other platforms have us competing with larger organizations.

Word of Mouth Marketing

Launching or rebranding, new PR push, something big to promote, new involvement with your community, new hires, or whatever drives your business or organization. SM offers vehicles to promote business in a custom fashion that makes sense for you; no cookie cutter approach necessary. There is a lot more to local marketing than coupons and newspaper ads. SM transforms the internet into local micro-broadcasting networks.

New Lines of Communication With Customers

Social Media is not all about promotion. It’s almost 2011 and customers want to be digitally engaged. Forget the tent card on the table or the feedback postcard. Think about that last Yelp review and your Facebook page. Think about your Twitter presence and your next blog entry.  SM gives every business owner the ability to listen to their customers in real time and to respond in real time. All business (including yours) is now 24x7x365. Business/social media never sleeps.

Internet Traffic

If you utilize  the different SM outlets, they eventually become inbound links and will drive traffic to your business website. Many companies are missing the boat on this right now. More SM traffic and visibility often equals ROI. Even if you are not in an ecommerce business, you want the traffic to your webpage. And with iPhones, Blackberries, Androids, and other Smart phones reaching critical mass in 2011; that mobile traffic to your site may be the factor that makes or breaks businesses.

SEO

SM is searchable. SEO includes “everything” on and connected to your presence on SM sites.  SM sites not only rank very high on search engines, they also rank quick. All you SM data and bios are looked at and ranked by Google. Yes, even LinkedIn profiles, Tweets, this blog post, Yelp reviews, Tumblr pictures, and your Facebook updates.

 

Sometimes this can seem a bit much. If you do not have the time to manage your new media presence, give Inclusion Media a call or send us an email.

contact us at Inclusion Media

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Positive Online Review Strategy for Small Business

Social networking makes online customer reviews and word of mouth marketing critical for many small and mid-size businesses. The internet has become a vital tool for customers and voicing their opinions.

Businesses who ignore Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, blogs, and review sites are either very busy, myopic or arrogant.  Avoiding negative reviews and getting positive ones requires some time, logical thought, and a little strategy. Unsatisfied customers are more likely to tell others about their experience than satisfied ones. Social networkers are greatly influenced by peer reviews. The same tools that will spread the negative reviews can be used in proactive and positive ways.

blogger wordpress friendfeed facebook gowalla google twitter posterous amazon email squidoo yelp yahoo-buzz frinedster digg delicious aol mobileme ebay retweet reddit stumbleupon youtube vimeo

What can your business or organization do?

  • Make it easy as possible for customers to communicate with you and review you -  Make it as easy as possible for a customer to write a review. Is your Yelp information correct. Do you have a presence on Twitter,  Facebook, Foursquare? Do you send follow up email with a link to your review pages. Let customers know that you value their opinion and that you welcome feedback so you can improve your business. Do you make it convenient via your marketing materials and websites to find your business links to LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.
  • Just how good are you? – Being OK isn’t enough. If you want to get more positive customer reviews, you need something exceptional or have a very loyal clientele. What are you Tweeting about? What’s new or unique about your business. What is featured in your latest blog or Facebook post? Almost every business has exceptional features or qualities. What makes you a competitor, the leader in your field, the underdog,  or new guy on the street? Your most satisfied customers know. Engage them and they will tell you.
  • Take all reviews seriously (and some with a grain of salt)-  Some customers don’t provide feedback because they assume it just gets ignored. Customers who do give feedback need to know you are listening. That is exactly why you need to show you take the reviews seriously. Responding respectfully and thoughtfully to negative reviews shows that your business cares and is not afraid to engage criticism. Taking the time to communicate and respond to the issues shows customers that you value their opinion. Business owners and customers have never, until recently, had this type of digital dialog and micro-cast available. The resource is powerful and  indelible. The digital world is like the “real” world. There is a chance you will never satisfy everybody. Some people only thrive on the negative; you need to get a quick sense of who they are and politely let them be.
  • Don’t argue Don’t get too upset. You don’t want to argue with the reviewer. Don’t look defensive and unprofessional. Apologize for the negative experience, and find out if there’s anything you can do to fix their opinion. Maybe you can resolve the problem, and possibly have the negative review deleted by the user.
  • Leave a trail for reviews but never bribeReviews need to be genuine. You can not ethically offer your customers an incentive for giving you a positive review. No freebies or discounts. This has come back to haunt some businesses . If you bribe  for positive reviews, you’ll be in violation of the policies of most review sites, and many customers can see through your game. Encourage your best customers to review you, but do not reward.

Are you aware of all the places your business is mentioned and reviewed?

How are you monitoring your reputation and responding?

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Filed under blogs, business, facebook, Foursqure, Reviews, small business, twitter

Social Media Myths and Truths for Business

A recent “Onion” article took a funny stab at Social Media tools and hype. The piece was almost as funny as people belittling the cost and labor of Social Media Marketing, PR, and Business Development. This month I have heard or read the following SM myths;  maybe we can dispel some of them here.

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 1. Social Media; It’s Free (not a chance)

Social media costs time and money. Social media is about as free as manufacturing, shipping, marketing, advertising, sales, public relations, research, or any other function of your business.  You may be able to do it yourself if you are willing to spend day after day planning engagement and interacting with people, or you can save some time by hiring someone who has already put in the hours and can share shortcuts, tools,  and personal connections. There are economies of scale for the SM professional. Those economies save you time and money. People who really understand social media are going to be busy and are going to get results, and they are going to bill accordingly.

2. Social Media is Very Easy (right!?!)

Social media marketing and PR is real work. You need to find, work with, create and micro-cast pertinent content numerous times daily. The speed of technology and information in the social media world is intense. You need to read, learn, solve technical puzzles, re-learn,  and engage the right people at the right time. You need to do this daily for each client. Social Media is about as easy as any profession is easy. If Social Media is so easy why do millions of businesses and people who register for Twitter never get out a Tweet? Why do so many business and personal blogs get one entry per year? This is real work for business/marketing professionals.

3. Social Media Is A Magic Pill and You’ll Feel Better In The Morning

SM marketing can takes months or longer. You’ll have a million followers by next month, your YouTube video will go viral by day two, and your blog will be as widely read as the New York Times after your 2nd post. Not quite! The good news is with a plan and professional help you will be moving to the proper platforms faster and more efficiently. You have spent years and hard cash building your business; it’s not time to let competitors pass you by because you want to stick only to direct mail, newspapers, and the way you have always done marketing.  This is 2010 and your customers want and will be connected to, engaged by, and validated by you … or your competition.                 

4. Social Media is Best When Using an Intern or Student (Really!?!)

Social media is not all that difficult to mess-up. Who writes your press releases? Would you contract your advertising copy to a High School kid or part time college student. No offense meant to either of these teenagers. We know they do “know” everything. Just what is the value of your reputation you have worked for and earned? Kids do spend a lot of their life on Facebook. Sorry, that does not make them competent marketers, writers, strategists, and PR professionals. Would you let a teen intern write your LinkedIn bio?

5. Just Set-Up Facebook and Twitter and That’s All You Need to Do

Nice try. What have you got to say?  Having a Twitter profile or Facebook page are the wheels on the car. These don’t make you special or get your driving in the fast lane on the highway. You need to say something interesting, important, or humorous. And you are now competing with millions of other social media voices.  Social media is often about making connections with real people. Customers, community members, influential’s, traditional media, business leaders, potential customers, and the right targets for your business. You can’t just put that Twitter or Facebook widget on your company web page or door and call it a “social media strategy.”

6. Social Marketing Works For Every Type of Business                         I doubt it can work for all business types, locations, and sizes. Unless you are foolish and abusive, social media marketing certainly can’t hurt. Social Media heavy users are driving the market at this time. Follow any Twitter stream and you will see Ipad news, Smartphone reviews, tech writers, and marketing conferences. Brick and mortar or service businesses need to be creative and keep conversations going.  You can’t just sell the “2 for 1 special” or the 50% off sale. “Unfollowing” happens for being crass or spammy. And it should. Customers want personality, humor, value, validation, listening, and to be engaged before getting the hard sell. What are you looking to get out of social media tactics? If nothing else the right social media strategy can give you and added value “word of mouth” from the most influential target demographics. 

 

It has become impossible to get through the day without hearing a personal or business social media story. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs. What custom programs are needed for your business? This is the time to re-shape your business marketing and get into the business/social media echo-chamber.

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Old Media is Yellowing for Small Business

I swear the stack of Yellow Pages in the lobby of my building has more books now then when they were delivered a few months back. Directory advertising is a $15 billion industry. If you have a broadband connection, do you need a phonebook? Fifteen billion dollars; I know the demographics of who still uses phone books – but- $15 billion in 2009?

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Small business marketing habits are changing. Web pages, social media, new mobile couponing technologies, digital engagement, blogging… The billions spent on directory ads, direct mail, newspaper, and other formerly dominant old media tactics is driving all digital marketing platforms. And rightfully so.

Today’s connected consumers want to be engaged, informed, validated, and even entertained. They want to see a YouTube video, read a blog post, be Tweeted to, or get a Facebook invite. A coupon or ad on page 678 of a 2010 doorstop will not work.

I remember the “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking” ad campaign for The Yellow Pages.  How odd that we all let our fingers do the walking now. They walk to Google, Yahoo, Yelp, Bing, Facebook, and other sites with more valid and current info. What a nightmare come true this must be for Yellow Page publishers. And to make matters worse, 20% of all homes and many business do not even have a landline phone or bill.

One of my favorite old (1979) movies was Steve Martin’s, “The Jerk.” Think of this classic scene in light of today’s social  networking on Twitter and Facebook. “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here! This is the kind of spontaneous publicity I need! My name in print! That really makes somebody! Things are going to start happening to me now.” BTW, there is a Navin Johnson page on Facebook and you may be able to friend him.

So why do we Google  instead of “Phonebooking” or “YellowPaging” someone?

Think: connection, convenience, current info, engagement, value added, and the right platform at the right time.

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Why You Can’t Quit Facebook (Ten Reasons)

We have all read and written about Facebook and it’s gorilla-like privacy tactics. They have repeatedly changed settings and privacy controls for their own benefit. Many users have been vocal and actually thought about the privacy issues and potential downside risks. Some users have thought about digital responsibility for the first time. Employers, insurance companies, marketers, law enforcement agencies potentially all have easy access to almost everything on your Facebook pages. Facebook’s privacy controls have been confusing and I have pretty much lost count on how many times the settings have changed in the past year.

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So why do Facebook users stay around? It’s easy to figure out!

  1. Its the #1 site on the web 540,000,000 unique visitors;  35.2% reach; 570,000,000,000 pages views. So with these type of numbers where are your more likely to have more friends, Facebook or …?
  2. Users have invested too much time and labor on their pages. Starting over would be a lot of work. Would all your friends be there? You can only leave if your friends go  with you.
  3. There is no real competition to Facebook. The garden is kind of walled off, even with the open privacy settings. You are kind of stuck.
  4. Lack of privacy is good for business. Facebook’s business users are not in it for privacy. They are here for a new level of business engagement. They won’t leave unless you do.
  5. Facebook is trying to listen. They say they are now giving us better control of our user and privacy settings. Time will tell.
  6. There are no 12-step programs currently available to get off Facebook. I’m not sure if social networks are damaging to your health? It’s not a far reach to other addictions. Smoking, drugs, overeating, etc.
  7. Everything in life is a trade-off. Actions and consequences. Agreeing to Facebook’s EULA is the trade off. The benefits of being networked on Facebook outweigh the forfeit of some of your privacy rights. That is the bottom line.
  8. If we quit Facebook… how would our sophomore year roommate find us 20 years later?  And all those old girlfriend stories?
  9. Where are you going to go? Twitter is definitely not Facebook. LinkedIn, YouTube, MySpace, Friendster ? I don’t think so.
  10. Bad day for a Facebook exodus! “Quit Facebook Day” was this past Monday, Memorial Day. 33,000 users reportedly quit. It may have been a more effective protest had users been indoors on Monday and had the Facebook execs not addressed some of the issues earlier in the week.

You and 400 million others can not quit. You may be in it for the long haul. What would Facebook (or any other dominant site) need to do to make us flee?

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    I’ll Have A Blog Post with that Latte

    I stopped by one of my favorite local coffee shops this morning for an espresso and a bagel. I did not sleep well last night and needed to get awake before a 9 am appointment. I opened up my laptop, checked a few emails, and overheard some conversations between the shop owner and a few customers.

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    The first went something like “… I see you have a some new coffee choices”. The cafe owners response was “…we posted it upon our blog a few weeks ago and we hope our regulars will like the new blends.” The customer said he had read it on the blog recently and told him she liked the new item. He then gave the owner some green suggestions for future posts; the customer was sold on the re-cycling efforts of the business and was not shy in telling the owner how he should promote and Tweet about this aspect of the business.

    About 5 minutes later another customer referenced some new pictures she saw on the coffee shops Facebook page. She and the owner joked about the political appropriateness of the shirt the barista was wearing in the pictures. By the time I checked out the page the pictures seemed to be gone.  Publish first, edit later.

    I was packing up my electronics, getting ready to  leave when I overheard my final new media interaction. A geeky looking guy in a business suit was telling the barista that he was from out-of-town and always refers to Yelp before hitting coffee shops when visiting new cities. He cited one review that helped him make his choice.

    I thought, whatever happened to “this coffee is too acidic”.

    Not bad for 9 am on a Friday. All business paradigms are shifting.

    Social media may just be caffeinated.

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