Archive for social media

LinkedIn’s Showcase Pages Help You Be More Relevant

LinkedIn_Showcase-Pages

LinkedIn continues to add features to help you promote your business online. Not too long ago,  LinkedIn updated the design of company profile pages to make it easier for members to access information the companies they care about it. They also added features to help businesses build relationships with their target audience.

The recently addition of Showcase Pages provides companies with another tool to connect with their target audience. Showcase Pages highlight the different areas of your business and help build communities around your different segments, brands, business units, etc.

According to the LinkedIn blog post announcement, Showcase Pages “are dedicated pages that allow companies to highlight different aspects of their business and build relationships with the right community.”

We often talk about effective marketing as being able to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Small business owners and marketers can use Showcase pages to speak specifically with a target audience about the information, products, and services that are of interest to them. Here are just a few examples of how companies may want to use Showcase Pages:

  • An accounting firm that offers services to both small businesses and Fortune 1000 companies may want to create Showcase Pages for each of these audiences.
  • Software resellers who represent several vendors may want to Showcase each vendor separately.
  • Companies specialize in more than one vertical market may want to Showcase their solutions for each vertical.

Creating a Showcase Page is pretty straight forward. If you’re a Company Page administrator, navigate to your to the “Edit” dropdown menu and select “Create a Showcase Page.”

Add-Showcase-Page

Once created, you can start sharing content on your page.

Users can follow a Showcase Page just like they can a company page, but now they can just follow the company news and content that is most relevant to them.

LinkedIn has always had a great set of tools for individual networking online. Lately, they have been beefing up their company tools as well. If you haven’t taken a look at LinkedIn’s company pages in a while, you should give it another look.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about using Showcase pages (or any other aspect of LinkedIn) for your business.

Vine is Twitter’s New App Helps You Create and Share Short Videos

twitter's vine application

Twitter recently released Vine, their new  mobile service that lets you capture and share short (6 second) looping videos.

Videos are captured using the Vine app, currently available on the iPhone and Ipod touch. You can download the app for free from the App store.

Recording is extremely simply – you just hold your thumb against the screen to begin recording and remove it to stop. Video clips can be shared on Vine, Twitter, or Facebook.

It is still early, but the tech press seems to like Twitter’s acquisition of Vine. The folks at TechCrunch believe Vine makes Twitter a better social network:

Vine Just Made Twitter A Stronger Social Network | TechCrunch - techcrunch.com1/25/13

However, the story is not without controversy. The NY Times blog is carrying a story about some potential privacy snags:

 

Twitter Introduces Vine, a New Video Feature, but With Privacy Snags - bits.blogs.nytimes.com1/24/13

And Facebook quickly blocked the Vine app from being able to find your Facebook friends.

Facebook Cuts Down Twitter’s Vine - mashable.com1/25/13

It will be  interesting to see if small business owners will take to Vine and how they will use it. Have you created any videos with Vine?

Storytelling and Content Marketing

A little over a year ago Coca-Cola launched their Content 2020 advertising strategy, announcing their “move from creative excellence to content excellence”.

Below is the part one video explaining the Content 2020 strategy. While this is obviously a “big brand” approach to content marketing and social media, there are several lessons that small business can take away from Coke’s approach – here are a few that I noted:

  • The importance of storytelling – note the emphasis on storytelling throughout the video. Small business have great stories to tell, be sure to share yours.
  • Liquid and Linked – at the 0.32 mark, the idea of content excellence being liquid (contagious ideas) and linked (ideas that are innately relevant to business objectives) is discussed. Pay special attention to this section.
  • Compelling Content – Coca Cola is striving to create the world’s most compelling content – how can you create the most compelling content in your world, whether that is you neighborhood, city, or industry?

You can see the Part Two video here

How Much Time and Budget Do Small Businesses Spend on Social Media?

VerticalResponse recently surveyed 462 small businesses on how much time they spend on social media activities, including finding and sharing content on popular social networks and blogging, and what tasks take the most time. They also asked small business about their marketing budgets.

Here are some of the highlights from the survey results:

  1. Small business are spending more time using social media – Two thirds of small businesses responding reported spending more time on social media than they did last year with 43% reporting they spend 6 or more hours per week on social media activities related to their business.
  2. Facebook and Twitter dominate – Small business owners are focused on Facebook and Twitter. About half of those surveyed are on LinkedIn while only about 30% are on Pinterest and Google+.
  3. About 25% post to their blog once a week – About half of the businesses surveyed have a blog and a little less that half of those businesses post to their blogs on a weekly basis.
  4. Budgets are up – Social media budgets are increasing at a faster rate than overall marketing budgets.

The folks as VerticalResponse used the data from their survey to create this infographic:

VerticalResponse Social Media Infographic
Courtesy of: VerticalResponse

How do these finding match up with what you are doing in your business?

LinkedIn Introduces 1 Click Endorsements

On Monday, LinkedIn introduced a new feature that makes it easier for you to endorse your connections (and vice versa) based on the skills listed in their profile.

With just one click, you can now endorse your connections for a skill they’ve listed on their profile or recommend one they haven’t added yet. Here’s how it works:

  • On the top of a connection’s profile, you’ll see recommended endorsements for them. You can suggest additional skills as well.
  • You can also endorse them from the new Skills & Expertise section that now showcases these endorsements.

Here is a sample screen shot using my friend Michelle Golden’s profile

linkedin-endorsements

LinkedIn will notify you via email and on LinkedIn whenever you are endorsed. You can  scroll to the bottom of your profile page under “Skills and Expertise” to see the faces of people who think you’re great at what you do. You can also accept any new skills recommended by your peers that you may not have thought to include on your profile. Or you can also add a new skill by clicking on “add a skill” on your profile page.  Here is some more information from LinkedIn on how it works:

 

So now would be a good time to double check the skills you have listed on your LinkedIn profile.

Evaluating Your Social Strategy With Forrester’s POST

Did you have a clear set of objectives before you started working on your small business social strategy? Probably not.

If you were an early adopter, you jumped right in. You found some things that worked and some that didn’t and adjusted accordingly.

Even if you were a little more cautious getting started (or are just getting started now) chances are you had some broad ideas of how you might best use social media, but you probably didn’t have specific objectives. At least, that seems to be the majority experience of the folks I talk to.

As social tools continue to become a part of our personal and business lives we continue to evaluate how they can help us accomplish our goals. We care less about social being cool; we care more about how it can help us be effective.

Several years ago, Josh Bernoff and the folks at Forrester were trying to help businesses figure out how to “do social the right way”. They created an acronym called POST which stands for People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology. The POST method provides a common sense method for evaluating your current social strategy and identifying areas you can improve. Here is a quick overview of the POST method:

People - Don’t start a social strategy until you know what your audience need to know and where they turn for answers.

Objectives – Do you want to listen to your customers, or to talk with them? Decide on your objective before you decide on a technology.

Strategy - What will be different after you’re done?

Technology – comes last. Once you know your people, objectives, and strategy, then you can decide.

If you are unhappy with the results you have received to date from your social strategy, use the POST method to evaluate your current strategy and correct your course. You can learn more about the POST method on Forrester’s blog and from the book Groundswell.

Creating a Total Online Presence

creating a total online presence ebookIt wasn’t that long ago that when we talked about small businesses having an online presence, we were just referring to having a website. With the explosion of social media and other internet technologies, having a website is quickly becoming the bare minimum for businesses who want to have an effective online presence.

There are many moving parts to a modern online presence and sometimes it can be a challenge to get your arms around all of them. To help, John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, has put together a helpful guide, 7 Essential Stages of a Total Online Presence.

This guide outlines what small businesses need to know, how to go about building it, and helpful tools for creating your total online presence. The 7 stages outlined in the guide are:

  1. Content Platform
  2. Organic SEO
  3. Email Marketing
  4. Social Media Marketing
  5. Online Advertising
  6. Mobile and Location
  7. Analytics and Conversion

Your online presence is your key to success no matter what your business sells, even if all of your transactions are done face-to-face.

Whether you are a “do-it-yourself-er” or just want to know enough to make good outsourcing decisions, I think you will find this to be a practical guide.

Grab your free copy of the 7 Essential Stages of a Total Online Presence here.

Creating Social Media Strategies That Drive Business Results

Do you have a social media strategy for your business?

As small business owners are becoming more comfortable with social media, many want to know how to create strategies and plans to use social media tools to drive business results.

Many small business owners, and many of the consultants they hire, jump right to tactics without taking the overall business and marketing strategy into account.

Selecting tools that make publishing easier (i.e. Hootsuite and TweetDeck) and creating a schedule of who will post what, when, are important parts of your execution plan. However, the execution plan is not the same as a strategy. If the tactics you are executing are not rooted in a strategy, then these tools will only help you fail more efficiently.

Before you jump into selecting your tools and creating your publishing calendar, take a few minutes to consider these 3 questions:

1. What do you want to gain from your social media plan?

Have you defined what success will look like for your social media plan? Having a clearly defined business goal, whether it is building a community, driving traffic to your offline store, or enhancing your customer service, is the first step the first step to creating a successful social media plan.

2. What do you do or offer that people will want to talk about?

People will talk about and share things for their own reasons, not for yours. Do you know what your audience wants to talk about? Sometimes, they may want to talk about the features of the products and services that you offer; more often they want to talk about the benefits those product, services, or just knowing you, bring to their lives. If you want to be part of the conversation, talk about the things that interest your ideal customers.

3. How do you make money and how can social impact that?

Do you make money by selling products online? Do you have brick and mortar stores? Do you sell directly or through affiliates? Are you a consultant looking for long term engagements? The answers to these questions will make a difference in how you use social media in your business.

If you want to create a social media plan that drives business results, start by asking and answering these 3 questions.

The Key To Small Business Social Media Success

The key to effectively using social media for growing your small business isn’t picking the right tool, or determining the right number of hours per week to spend on social media, or any of the other myriad of tips and tricks we hear every day.

The key to effectively using social media in small business is to start by defining business goal – what is it (specifically) that you want to accomplish? Do you want to:

  • Increase your store sales by driving more traffic to you store?
  • Find the best people to hire for your open position?
  • Increase referrals by teaming up with strategic referral partners?
  • Improve your ability to serve your customers by keeping up with their industry news and competition?

Once you define your business goal(s), you can start to ask important questions like:

  • Who should I be talking to? Where do they hang out?
  • Why would anyone take the action I am asking them to take? What’s in it for them?
  • What should I be measuring to help me determine if I am headed in the right direction? How will I know what’s working and what’s not?
  • Once a conversation begins, what’s the next step?

With your business goal defined, your next step is to determine how to use your social media communication tools to get someone (including yourself) on the path or continue along the path towards fulfilling that goal.

For example, if your goal is to increase referrals by building a referral partner  network, there are several steps along the path to meeting that goal. You can’t just connect or “friend” someone online and then wait for the business to roll in. You must to identify and approach potential partners, meet with them and decide whether you are a good fit,  work to achieve and maintain “top of mind” with them, and manage the giving and receiving referrals. All of the steps along this path require communication; whether social media is appropriate for each individual step will depend on a myriad of factors – much the same way you know when it’s ok to send an email but in some cases you need to pick up the phone or meet in person.

If you find yourself getting caught up in trying to find the right tool or the “magic formula” for social media success, trying taking a step back and defining the business goal you want to achieve.

Finding Customers Online by Listening for Intent

For small business owners, social media presents a familiar good news, bad news situation.

The good news is social media gives us access to thousands (millions) of conversations going on in the marketplace.

The bad news is social media gives us access to thousands (millions) of conversations going on in the marketplace.

Small business owners don’t have time to sift through thousands of conversations hoping to find the few that will help them make a sale. Without tools and techniques to filter out irrelevant conversations, most small business marketers will typically:

  1. Budget a block of time to “do social media”. Typically this just limits the amount of time that is wasted rather than improving results.
  2. Try to outsource it (just get it off my plate). Outsourcing can work, but only if owners and employees stay actively involved in the process.
  3. Abandon social media because it’s “not right for their business”

listening stationMany small business marketers try to filter out noise and find relevant conversations online by creating listening stations. Listening stations are essentially queries that send you a notification whenever they find a new result. Google Alerts is a common starting point for creating a listening station.

Typically you are listening for a particular set of keywords used by your prospects. Ideally, you will have surveyed your customers to learn how the phrases they use when describing the problem you solve and searching for solutions.

For example, if I am an attorney specializing in estate planning, I may want to listen for conversations containing keywords and phrases like:

  • Wills, inheritance, probate
  • Trusts, living trusts, irrevocable trust
  • Estate planning
  • death taxes
  • life insurance

The problem you will run into when you do this is you will be inundated with conversations that are not relevant to your goals. How can you sort through the massive amounts of conversations taking place online to find relevant conversations without having it become a full time job?

A common recommendation you will hear is that you need to refine the keyword phrases you listen for to be more specific. While this may be true, I believe you also listen for other words/phrases that will help you determine the intent of the conversation.

For purposes of this post, I’m going to oversimplify things by narrowing down intent into 3 categories:

  1. People looking for help
  2. People promoting products and services
  3. Other

Most small business owners want to listen to conversations looking for people in category #1. The problem they run into is they get swamped with messages from people in category #2.

I suggest (as always <g>) that you apply the skills that make you successful in “live” networking events in your online networking activities. Here is what I mean by that.

Whenever you attend a local chamber meeting, or other networking event, you meet both people looking for help and people wanting to sell. When you have conversations, you use your listening skills to determine the intent of the people you talk to. Even if you are there to just help (i.e. not sell) you must determine the intent or needs of individuals before you can help them.

How do we listen for intent online? By listening for the words and phrases your prospects use to express they are looking for help or are in the research stage of their buying cycle.

When you conduct keyword research, you try to determine how your prospects express the solutions you provide. You also need to understand:

  1. what events trigger a prospect to look for your solutions and
  2. how they typically start their research – what questions do they ask and where do they turn for answers.

You may find that your prospects use words and phrases like:

  • help
  • who would you recommend
  • what is your experience
  • do you have any tips
  • where can I find
  • who do you know
  • do you have an opinion about…
  • what do you think about this vs. that?

Once you find the phrases that your ideal prospects use to express intent, combine them with your targeted keyword phrases to create listening station queries that deliver relevant results.