Social Media Marketing.
Facebook offers exceptional, low cost marketing opportunities for small business.
Facebook now has over 300 million users, and while that seems like an outrageous
number for small businesses to be targeting, Facebook offers a very powerful platform
on which to build a presence. If you’re not already active on Facebook; you should
get started right away.
If you haven’t signed up for Facebook yet, you absolutely
should as soon as possible. Once you’ve signed up, you should also consider securing
your company’s username. Be aware, however, that if you reserve your company name
for your personal account, you won’t be able to use it for your Business Fan Page
(more on those in the Advanced Strategy), so you may want to create a Page before
registering your company’s name. Fan Pages have special rules regarding usernames,
which you can read here.
You should do one other thing: search for your competitors and evaluate their Facebook
presence. What types of Pages have they built? How many fans or “friends” do they
have? Spend 15 minutes (per competitor) looking at their posts, photos and/or videos
to understand how they’re using Facebook.
Advanced Strategy: You may already have a personal Facebook account,
but how do you extend that presence for your business? You have several options.
You can register a Business Account – which is designed for a very simple presence
on Facebook. There are many limitations on such accounts (read the FAQ here), however,
so you’ll most likely prefer to have a Business Fan Page. A Business Fan Page lets
you create a page where customers or fans of your business can register as a “fan”
— expanding the presence of your business (because your updates will also flow to
their pages). You might also want to consider running hyper-local ads on Facebook.
Twitter has grown tremendously over the past year. For some small businesses, it
offers an incredible marketing platform. BusinessWeek’s recent profile of 20 ways
businesses use Twitter might give you some ideas about how you can leverage Twitter
for your business.
Basic Strategy: If you haven’t signed up on Twitter yet, you should
sign up today and reserve an account in the name of your business. While you might
ultimately tweet in your own name, you’ll want to have the option to tweet from
a business account. More importantly, you don’t want your competitors to register
your business name. Twitter has put together a simple guide to help you understand
what Twitter can do for business. You can also check out Mashable’s Twitter Guide.
Next, you should spend 15-30 minutes on Twitter’s homepage, doing basic searches
to become familiar with the type of content available on the service. For example,
if you are operating a small gift basket business, do some searches for various
terms and phrases such as “gift basket,” “gifts,” “gift basket business,” etc. You
should also search for the names of your competitors to see whether they’re on Twitter
and if they are, how they’re using it. And don’t forget to search for your small
business name – your customers may already be talking about you! Once you become
comfortable with the content that’s already available and how your competitors are
using Twitter, you can begin thinking about a strategy for how you’ll leverage Twitter
for your business.
Advanced Strategy: To truly leverage Twitter, you’ll want to learn
and use a few more advanced tools. This includes desktop and mobile Twitter clients
like TweetDeck, Seesmic, and Tweetie. Desktop clients give you more flexibility
and more control over your Twitter strategy than you’ll have on the Twitter website.
Among other things, you’ll be able to pre-define searches (so that you can monitor
certain keywords, including your business name) and group people you follow so that
you can minimize the noise and focus on the real content. You might also consider
using a web tool like Twitterfall, which will allow you to define (and color-code)
various custom searches that you can review from time to time, and also to follow
trending topics. For example, I use Twitterfall to identify helpful graphic design
and industrial design resources to share with the crowdSPRING community.
LinkedIn is a business oriented social network for professionals, and it’s huge,
with nearly 50 million users from over 200 countries.
Basic Strategy: Once again, you’ll want to at least reserve your business
name (or your personal name) so that others can’t use it. Similar to the way you
might start exploring Facebook and Twitter, you should look around on LinkedIn to
see how your competitors are using the service. You might also look up your customers
and connect with them.
Advanced Strategy: LinkedIn has some powerful features that most people don’t
use. For example, you can encourage your customers, clients or vendors to give you
a “recommendation” on your profile. Recommendations are useful because they’ll make
you and your business more credible with new customers. If you’re a roofer, for
example, ask your customers to recommend you after a successful job. You’ll find
such recommendations useful – particularly since your LinkedIn profile will come
up high in search engine results. I recommend that you read Chris Brogan’s post
from last year discussing the elements of a good LinkedIn recommendation.
Another strategy involves the many subject matter groups on LinkedIn. Find some
groups that have a connection to your small business and become involved in the
conversations. Answer questions when you can, and help to establish yourself as
knowledgeable about specific topics related to your business. There are many small
business and general marketing groups that will be very useful resources for you,
and if there isn’t a group that interests you, consider starting one.
4.Participate On Other Blogs
It might seem counter-intuitive for you to spend your valuable time by participating
in discussions on other people’s blogs, but the payoff can be very valuable. Remember
that it takes time to build a reputation and establish your credibility, and you
can’t always expect everyone to come to you. Sometimes, you have to go out and build
your own credibility and reputation.
Basic Strategy: Identify 2-3 blogs in your industry, or those that focus
on small business, and get into the habit of regularly reading the content and participating
in the discussions. Whenever you can, try to add value by sharing a personal story
about what has/has not worked for you. Get to know the writers – they’ll be valuable
contacts for you. One strategy for identifying good blogs is to use Guy Kawasaki’s
Alltop, which is a directory of popular blogs across many different subject areas.
For example, for blogs focused on crafts, you might follow this page on Alltop.
If you want to participate in blogs focusing on small business issues, you might
start at Technorati’s list of the Top 100 Small Business blogs.
Advanced Strategy: Once you’ve spent some time on other blogs and have participated
in discussions, you’ll find that you’ve built a level of credibility and trust,
based on your participation. You should consider reaching out to the blog owners
and asking whether they’d allow you to guest post an article on their blog (kind
of like this post). This is a nice way for you to get in front of a bigger audience,
and many blog owners will invite guests to post from time to time. Agree on a topic
in advance and provide a draft of your post sufficiently in advance of the publication
date to give them an opportunity to review.
Alternatively, ask if they would consider guest posting on your blog. Since you’re
looking to attract more readers (and more potential customers), either option works
well for that purpose. Don’t worry so much about going after the A-list blogs right
away. There are many excellent blogs and it might take a bit of time to build your
reputation to such a level that you’ll have opportunities to post in the top blogs.
That doesn’t mean you should wait, though – make opportunities for yourself and
offer to guest write whenever you can find a new audience. I recommend you read
How To Guest Post To Promote Your Blog from blogging expert Darren Rowse.
5.Mobile Social Networks and other Local Strategies
Yelp publishes millions of reviews about local businesses. Foursquare is a combination
city-guide, friend finder and competitive game. It allows users to “check in” by
cell phone at a local venue and announce this via other social networks such as
Basic Strategy: Yelp, Foursquare, and other mobile social networks can be
powerful marketing channels for small businesses. You should at the very least register
accounts on the popular services and get to know them. If you have a restaurant
or a retail store, for example, you’ll want to get to know Yelp pretty well. You
can set up a business account on Yelp (no cost), which will let you answer questions
about your business, track how many Yelp users view your business page, add information
about your business, and announce special promotions. Similarly, you’ll want to
sign up with Foursquare to take advantage of local advertising opportunities. Using
Foursquare, you’ll be able to push promotions to potential customers who’re in the
vicinity of your business.
You should also consider other local strategies. For example, you can add your business
to Google Maps, or update your listing to include additional details. You can do
the same on Bing.
Advanced Strategy: If you believe that your business can truly benefit from
a presence on Yelp, Foursquare, or similar networks, you’ll want to do more than
just register accounts with those services. For example, Yelp allows you to include
a website URL for your business. Nearly all sites will let you upload photos to
your profile, and photos will make your profile more trustworthy.
You can also proactively use Yelp and other similar services to promote your business.
Ask your customers, friends and family who have used your services for a review
on Yelp. You can encourage reviews by running promotions or discounts – offering
free appetizers, for example, to a customer who will write a review about their
meal at your restaurant (or to one who already wrote a review), or a small discount
to a customer who hires you for carpentry work and mentions that they found you
Similarly, you can find ways to promote your business using Foursquare and similar
networks. If you have a TV display in your store connected to a computer, you can
display the people who are checking in. You can offer specials or discounts to the
person who visits your location the most (this is similar to frequent buyer cards
that many businesses have used for years).
Don’t forget to also consider how you can improve your use of other basic local
strategies. For example, many small business websites are optimized for specific
keywords or subject areas, but are rarely optimized for local searches. If you have
a gift basket business, you’ll want to be sure that users searching for gift baskets
in your geographic area will find you.
6.Comments and Conversations About Your Company
Whether or not you are a party to the conversations, people will talk about your
company. How do you monitor and, when appropriate, join those discussions?
Basic Strategy: There are five simple steps you can take today to begin paying
attention to conversations about your business.
First, set up Google Alerts. Google Alerts are free email updates from Google search
results about any topic you’re interested in tracking. For example, I track, among
other alerts, the names of our competitors, the name of our company, and certain
other terms I believe are important to my business. Anytime Google adds something
to its index that mentions my company or the other terms I’m tracking, I receive
an immediate email notification with a link to that item. Alerts can be set up for
web, blog, news, video, or groups searches.
Second, review the results in your web analytics data. At my company, we use Google
Analytics. Google Analytics is a free tool from Google that provides detailed and
very useful information about your website traffic and the effectiveness of your
marketing efforts. When we run social media campaigns, we’ll often attach tracking
tags to those campaigns so that we can properly monitor them in Google Analytics.
This is important because without such data it will be nearly impossible for you
to evaluate the success of your social media marketing efforts. But analytics are
important for another reason: they’ll tell you which sites are sending traffic to
Third, search Facebook. In August, Facebook rolled out a real-time search engine
(the search box is on the top right of any Facebook page). One effective way to
take advantage of Facebook search is to search for your company’s name to see who
is talking about your company and what they’re saying. In several months, you’ll
be able to search Facebook updates directly from Bing, which will be integrating
Facebook public updates into Bing’s search results.
Fourth, search Twitter. You currently can search Twitter for real-time results (if
you’re not logged in, just go to Twitter’s homepage). One easy way to monitor conversations
about your company is to search for your company’s name. You can also currently
do this on Bing, which is indexing Twitter updates. Very soon, you’ll also be able
to search Twitter updates (and other social media content) via Google’s Social Search
(Social Search was rolled out to Google Labs recently, as an experimental product).
You can also use Twitter clients like TweetDeck or Seesmic to save searches and
monitor in real-time whenever someone uses a specific word or phrase in a tweet.
Finally, take advantage of services that will, similar to Google Alerts, push data
to you. I use and like BackType, which is a real-time search engine that indexes
online conversations in thousands of blogs and social networks. I use BackType primarily
to keep up with conversations in blogs. Every day, I receive emails from BackType
with links to comments that include the keywords I’m monitoring. Without these alerts,
I would be unable to monitor so many blogs, and my ability to respond to posts about
my company would be very limited.
Advanced Strategy: If you’re having trouble keeping track of your various
search strategies, you should consolidate your efforts and leverage one of the many
applications that will help you monitor the social web. I have not personally used
these services, but they appear to be held in high esteem by knowledgeable people
who have. For example, truVOICE provides keyword monitoring of the social web with
an emphasis on blogs and forums, while Radian6 pulls in a lot of information from
the social web, analyzes it, and provides consumer sentiment ratings for your brand.
A good resource to learn about paid social media monitoring tools is Mashable’s
post Top 10 Reputation Tracking Tools Worth Paying For.
In addition to monitoring, you’ll need to decide how, when, and where you’ll engage
in conversations. It’ll be very difficult for you to engage in conversations everywhere,
so you should spend some time learning the various networks and deciding where you
should focus your efforts. Looking at your website analytics data — if you own an
online business — will help a great deal because it’ll help you to better understand
where your traffic is coming from. If much of your traffic originates from Twitter
and Facebook, for example, you’ll want to spend more time on those services.
Multimedia (video, photos, audio) is a bit more complicated for many small businesses
to execute, but can provide excellent social media marketing opportunities.
Basic Strategy: YouTube has been constantly evolving and adding features
that make it an attractive social site for small businesses. Although you don’t
have to produce videos to participate on YouTube, you should consider whether simple
videos can help your marketing efforts. For example, if you’re already posting videos
to your blog, you can upload them to YouTube to reach a broader audience, and embed
the video content in your blog posts. YouTube has also been adding more comprehensive
activity updates for its users and has made pretty powerful analytics tools available
so that you can evaluate the effectiveness of your video content.
Similarly, you could start a Flickr account for your business and post photos of
your customers or your products (or both). Flickr offers a place where people can
share photos with others, but also has discussion groups, many focused on local
markets, that offer additional opportunities for you to market your business. You
can also consider setting up your own Internet radio talk show using BlogTalkRadio,
which is another way to use multimedia to speak directly to your customers. Get
creative with it — own a restaurant? Start a call-in show for people to ask cooking
questions. Are you a piano teacher? Perhaps you could start a show to talk about
Advanced Strategy: Advanced strategies using multimedia are complicated and
typically benefit from using experienced consultants. One effective way to leverage
video, for example, is to create content that has the potential to become viral.
While I don’t believe you can set out to make a viral video (an incredible amount
of luck is typically involved), there are a number of things you can typically do
to build awareness about your small business using viral video (these strategies
are beyond the scope of this post). Once you’ve created good content, you’ll want
to distribute it using as many social networks as you can.
When you consider how you can leverage social networks, think about whether each
network provides an audience or a technology solution (or both). For example, YouTube
provides both a huge audience and a solution for uploading video files. Flickr can
also provide both an audience and a technology solution, but not for every business.
While your customers might not be on Flickr, you can still use Flickr as a place
to store and tag your photos, and then distribute those photos to other social networks
where you prefer to invest more time and effort.
9.Leverage Combinations of Social Media Tools
One of the best ways for small businesses to leverage social media marketing is
to use various social networks in combination with each other.
Basic Strategy: At a minimum, you should do several things today to cross-market
across the various social networks you’re most likely already using. Here are three
First, connect your Twitter account to Facebook so that your tweets will appear
in your public updates on Facebook. This will let you leverage your time on Twitter
to also update your Facebook fans.
Second, connect your LinkedIn profile to your WordPress blog. LinkedIn allows you
to publish, in your profile, synopses of the most recent blog posts on your blog.
This application will automatically update your LinkedIn profile with your most
recent blog posts.
Third, integrate Twitter tools into your blog. I like and use the TweetMeme retweet
button on my blogs to make it easier for users to tweet about the blog posts. I
also use the ShareThis tool to enable readers to quickly share content on multiple
Advanced Strategy: Advanced strategies require careful planning/execution
and appropriate tools. In nearly all cases, your goal is to maximize the value of
your content. For example, if you’re posting videos on YouTube or Vimeo, you can
blog about those videos on your company’s blog. Then, you can tweet about the blog
posts on Twitter (which I assume is integrated with your Facebook account). This
way, you’ve taken one piece of content and found a way to leverage it across multiple
You’ll also want to consider ways that you can optimize the distribution to multiple
social networks at the same time. Leverage tools to help you do this. For example,
Ping.fm lets you update multiple social networks all in one go. Keep in mind that
not all social networks will make sense for every business. Learn which networks
are best for your business and find ways to leverage combinations of those networks
to make your marketing more effective.
Social media marketing can be a phenomenal marketing channel for small businesses.
I hope that the strategies I’ve outlined above provide a starting point for you
to explore how you can leverage social media marketing for your small business.
And if you have additional resources to share or other helpful advice that’s worked
for your small business (or thoughts about things to avoid), please take a minute
and leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you.
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