blog

Three MORE Social Media Marketing Avenues For Small Business

Three MORE Social Marketing Avenues For Small Business.

In our first post we discussed three of the primary avenues for small businesses to get involved with social media marketing. We outlined Facebook, Twitter and Blogging and explained the pro’s involved in leveraging them for inexpensive brand exposure.

Today we will be continuing with that theme as we dive into yet another three avenues that can provide excellent marketing coverage for small business.

1. LinkedIn.

When discussing LinkedIn one of the most common descriptions we have heard for it is “Facebook for Professionals”. LinkedIn is an online social network designed distinctly for business professionals. Profiles consist of resumes, cover letters, references and so forth. It is an excellent place to showcase yourself as a professional.

LinkedIn also hosts a bevy of job opportunities, easily searched based on industry, category, background etc. Many businesses use LinkedIn to post job openings and to head hunt top-notch talent. It currently plays host to over 50 million users in 50 different countries.

More than that, LinkedIn also offers “Business Pages”. A tool that, much like Facebook, allows businesses to operate pages centered around their brand. LinkedIn is quickly growing and has been marked as one of the top places to generate sales leads.

We discuss more on LinkedIn here: LinkedIn Dominates Rivals For Lead Generation

Cold: Sign-on and generate a personal LinkedIn profile. As with an Social Media platform, it is important to understand the tools and resources available. Take a look at how connections with other individuals are established, explore some of the job postings, and check to see what your competitors are doing – do they have a business page?

LinkedIn hosts’ “Groups”. These groups consist of business professionals from similar backgrounds. There are groups for Graphic Designers, Social Media Marketers, Salesmen, Mechanics… just about anything. These groups can be a good place to start, try joining one or two and getting a feel for how it all operates. This is where to begin developing connections.

  • Note that there are often multiple groups for the various categories. Some of these groups have little or no activity. LinkedIn will display the “Activity Level” for each group, allowing you to see before joining. 
  • LinkedIn is good about policing spam, but it is not unusual to see users abusing these groups by posting redundant or spam links – don’t worry, these are easy to weed out and the users don’t last long.

Medium: As you get comfortable with LinkedIn, start working with more of the tools. Use the search option to find other professionals, or potential clients and begin inviting them to connect via LinkedIn. Remember DO NOT SPAM people, but be genuine in your intent for connecting.

For example, when we seek to connect with a potential client we will communicate something to this effect: “Hi there ________ we are a small business marketing group here in the Okanagan, and we are looking to establish connections with business professionals like yourself, would you be interested?”

Note that there is no cheesy sales pitch, just a polite explanation of who we are and what we are doing. We will often do some research on the individual or business first and include a reference to their specific industry or background – this helps to breed familiarity.

LinkedIn is a great intermediary spot to connect with people. There is little risk and less obligation when connecting – this offers an advantage, as people are more willing to connect.

For this reason it can make sense to use LinkedIn as a place to locate and generate first impressions with potential clients and businesses.  Once you have found these potential leads and generated some awareness and recognition of who you are, you can begin to generate actual leads. Visit their place of business, invite them to an event – whatever sales tactics you use, you now have a target, a direction and a doorway to potential sales.

Get out and build those connections.

Warm: LinkedIn offers a diverse array of tools that often go missed by typical users. Encourage your customers, clients or vendors to provide an online “recommendation” on your profile. These recommendations can quickly set you apart from other professionals and competitors. It is all about reputation after all.

Get more active with the various groups available and explore starting your own. The more active you are within the online communities the more buzz will be generated around you.

  1. Join in group conversations and make yourself known.
  2. Answer questions and share educated opinions.
  3. Start establishing yourself as a leader on specific topics within these groups.
  4. Begin your own conversations and invite others to pitch in their two cents.

Long term it may make good sense to create a business page for your brand. These take a high level of resources to maintain and succeed in, but the end results can prove well worth the while.

Above all, and as with all Social Marketing, remember that you are a voice of your brand as a whole. Ensure consistent and measured communications – never misrepresent your brand!

2. Connecting With Other Blogs.

Time is valuable. It is the one thing we all run short on. As such it may seem backwards to take that time and spend it on other people’s blogs. However consider this: Every time you offer an insightful comment or share with others, you are promoting yourself and your brand to them. This establishes recognition (visibility) and credibility.

Remember, people are not going to flock to you – you need to go to them. Getting involved on THEIR blogs and profiles is a one of the primary means of doing this.

Cold: Find 3 -4 blogs that are relevant to you and your business. The best way of doing this, is to use the “Reader” option on your particular blog site. The “Reader” option will allow you to search the site’s database of blogs for specific terms. Another option is to explore specific terms via Google as the best blogs SHOULD always be near the top of their lists.

When determining which blogs make sense consider the following:

  1. Is the blog highly active? When was the last post? What amount of time is lapsing between posts? Look for high activity bloggers.
  2. Is the content relevant to what you, yourself will be sharing? Even if the blog states it is about one thing, that does not mean the content will match.
  3. What type of audience does that blog currently have? (Most blogs will display how many followers are currently subscribed). The higher the number of followers, the larger the audience that will see your comments.
  4. Are they generating a lot of comments already? If so, feel free to also comment on existing these comments.

Now that you have a handful of blogs to follow, get involved. Share educated opinions and participate in the conversations. One surefire way to generate interest, is to include personal experience, stories or case studies.

Medium: Use these interactions to develop relationships with the various authors. Since beginning our blog, we have established some great relations with PR, Marketing and Branding folks all over the globe. These relationships span other profiles as well. Many of the bloggers we have gotten involved with, have connected with us on Twitter and Facebook as well.

Warm: Developing these relationships as well as brand credibility and trust brings other perks as well. Once you are comfortable with the various authors consider asking them to allow you to guest post on their profile.

Guest posts are a common occurrence with many blogs. This positions you as a trusted source and places you in front of an expanded audience.

Make sure to communicate and agree on a topic ahead of time. Expect to provide a draft of your article well in advance, with time built-in for their review.

In return consider offering them a similar opportunity. Allow them to guest post on your blog. This provides them with the same perks and is a great way to draw further attention to your own efforts.

Remember it is all about reputation, it may take some time to develop any sort of renown, but keep at it and the perks shall come.

3. Comments and Conversations About Your Company.

It is important to note one thing: “Whether you are on social media or not, people already there and they are talking about your brand”

“It is becoming apparent to many brands, how important it actually is to maintain a presence on Social Media, if not to promote, then to monitor.” – Ben Erickson

Like it or not, your business and brand will be discussed on Social Media, can you afford to not be a part of those conversations?

Cold: Establish a presence on the main Social Media sites. Twitter and Facebook are two great places to begin. Familiarize yourself with the built-in tools available for tracking and monitoring. Both of these platforms (and many others out there) provide easy to use tools and searches to track what is being said about what.

  • Facebook now provides a real-time search engine. The search box located on the top right hand corner of any Facebook page. To start, search for your company’s name to see who is talking about you. Facebook is already planning integration with “Bing” which long-term will allow you to search for Facebook updates directly from the Bing search engine.
  • Twitter currently allows users to search for real-time results on just about anything (if you do not have a profile with Twitter, you can visit their homepage). As with Facebook, try searching your business name to see what pops up. You may also want to search words and terms that are relevant to your brand or business.

Additionally, Bing catalogues Tweets and Google has plans to roll out something similar.

Once you have a bead on the conversations taking place, make sure to join them where necessary. Don’t shy away from discussions and above all be honest. The worst thing that can happen to a brand on Social Media channels, is for them to lose their reputation as being truthful and reliable.

For an example of Social Media catastrophes resulting from questionable conduct visit either of these posts on the Chick-Fil-A fiasco:

Medium: Begin understanding the outside resources available for monitoring and tracking.

  1. Programs like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Seesmic all come with built-in search, catalogue and monitoring tools. These systems not only track Twitter, but can be used for Facebook and LinkedIn also,
  2. Google Alerts is another option. Google Alerts updates you free of charge, via email anytime results you wish to track, have been “Googled”.  You may wish to track competitors names, your business name and/or specific search terms related to your industry. Anytime Google adds something to its index that mentions any of the terms being tracked, you will receive an email advising, and providing a link to that content. Google Alerts can be set up for blogs, websites, videos, images, updates or groups searches.
  3. Google Analytics (or similar programs) are the next step. Keep tabs on the results in your web analytics in order to measure your impact. We ourselves like the free Google Analytics tool. This free tool provides detailed and insightful information pertaining to your website traffic, meta-tags, search terms etc. It is a great way to gauge SEO and measure your online marketing impact. Google Analytics also allows you to attach specific tracking tags to your various online marketing campaigns. This is crucial to getting an accurate measurement of your marketing results.

Once again, the purpose for monitoring is to get involved in the discussions. Once you have ascertained who is saying what, get your voice into the mix.

Hootsuite Display Screen

Warm: As you gain experience you may want to consider consolidating your various monitoring strategies into one. Several applications exist for this purpose.

  • truVOICE provides excellent keyword monitoring for social media platforms.
  • Radian6 collects information from Social Media sites, dissects it, and provides easy to understand metrics related to your brand.

These just scrape the top of the proverbial iceberg, and many other programs exist to measure, monitor and record.

Monitoring of course is simply the means of accurately determining who to engage, on what topics and when. You cannot be everywhere at once. It will take some time to determine which conversations to tackle, but as you negotiate the various Social Media sites it will become easier to do.

Experience and time will hone the edges of your communications. The key is to remember that you speak for something bigger than yourself, you speak for a brand (even if that brand is JUST YOURSELF 🙂 ).

Brand Representation on Social Media.

These are all no more than tools to enable you to broadcast, communicate and position your brand before the masses. In order to succeed with these tools, there is a dire need to understand the big picture involved in BRANDING.

We have discussed branding a few times in the past and you can view our thoughts, and those of others we respect, on the following links:

The key to remember, is that regardless of how many profiles you choose to use for your brand, they all need to be CONSISTENT.

In other words, no matter where your brand can be seen or heard, the audience should see and hear the same thing.

Your Twitter presence should match your Facebook presence, which should match your Website, which should match your Business Cards, which should match your Brochures, which should match you Office Space…. and so on.

Branding Consistency pertains to both:

  • Aesthetics (how your profiles look)
  • Communications (what your profiles say)

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE OF CONSISTENCY TO BRANDING! (Yes this is all caps, yes we are shouting – this is important).

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

Advertisements

WordPress Finesse! Part 1: Taglines

WordPress is a terrific tool for businesses of all sizes, shapes and colours. Whether you are simply hosting a blog, or utilizing it as a website, the profiles available on WP are highly versatile.

We ourselves enjoy parousing the wide variety of articles, writing styles and perspectives available. In our WordPress travels, however, we have noticed that many users are not utilizing all of the tools and resources available.

For instance, did you know that the little bit of text below your blog title that says “just another WordPress site”  can be adjusted to say whatever you wish (in our case we chose “Our Place For Discussing Small Business Marketing & Branding”).

Here is how to do it:

1. Starting at the home screen when you first log in.

2. In the top right hand corner, hover over your NAME  (in our case “Ben”) until the drop down menu appears.

3. On the FIRST drop down menu, click the BOTTOM OPTION, which should also be your blog title (in our case “Transition Marketing”).

4. You should now be on the MAIN READER screen for your blog. Now go to the top left hand corner and hover over your BLOG NAME (in our case Transition Marketing).

5. On the drop down menu click on “CUSTOMIZE”.

6. This will bring you to your “PROFILE OPTIONS” menu.

7. Click on the “SITE TITLE & TAGLINE” option.

8. On the second line you can now adjust your “TAGLINE” from “Just another wordpress site” to something far spiffier.

Very easy to do, while you are here experiment with some of the other options. Adjust your colours, your profile format and even your navigation. Play with it until you find something you like and that you feel will appeal to readers.

Above all else remember to have fun, and blog with care.

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists.

Why Your Businesses Blog Stinks!

Contrary to popular belief. Bloggers like you and I simply are not as interesting as we think.

Blogging? More Like Boring!

One of the single most important epiphanies I have had, is that not everything that I write is fascinating to others. Writers, of all manner of materials, like to think that people will hang off their every word.

This is an untruth.

In fact we in the blogging community are not that interesting.

More specifically, we in the marketing and business end of the blogging community are not that interesting.

Too many times I have encapsulated my thoughts in 1500 words, when 500 would have done. We get caught providing too many details in an effort to make ourselves understood. We double and triple check our thoughts, insecure that readers may find fault in us, or that our customers may misunderstand.

Clarity matters.

So does simplicity.

The blog world, specifically the business blog world, has its share of discerning readers. Nonetheless the primary importance of a blog is that it be read and the average viewer is going to care less about syntax and more about the crux of the content.

Readers want to understand your key points.

They want to understand them quickly.

The natural habit of our society is to skim, to glance, to look for a hook to grab our interest and reel us in. Many modern professional authors have moved away from writing in the classical literary form. If you compare Tolstoys “War & Peace” to Cormac  McCarthy’s “The Road”  you can see the difference in form.

Studies indicate that this tendency to skim arises from several areas:

  • The internet contains such a heavy amount of content, people do not want to take too much time attempting to discern whether to commit to a specific article.
  • Blogs generally exist to communicate a specific idea – often a large one. As such, they can be intense to read. Viewers need something to pull them in, few are willing to commit to a long read.
  • Blogs are almost always an optional read – like a newspaper and unlike a contract. There is no necessity for anyone to read then.
  • Too often in an attempt to create “skimmable” content, posts are structured in a ridged and predictable form and simply do not work.

One of the single best tips we have ever come across for blogging successfuly, is to write in an “AP” (Associated Press) style. While a good start, that is not quite enough. Here are a few tips to assist you along your way.

Boredom affects 10 in 10 Canadians. Don’t let your readers look like this.

Tips To Healthy Blogging:

1. Understand AP Style & Apply It.

Why? Because AP style is the gold standard for print journalism.

The AP style appeals to the “reader with no time”. It is intended to convey clear information concisely and quickly. The opening paragraphs immediately provide the key concept, with following paragraphs subsequently examining the specifics.

This is, by far, the first thing every blogger should commit to understanding.

Here are a few quick AP style tips (Source):

  1. Numbers:  One through nine are generally spelled out, while 10 and above are generally written as numerals. Example: He carried five books for 12 blocks.
  2. Percentages: Percentages are always expressed as numerals, followed by the word “percent.” Example: The price of gas rose 5 percent.
  3. Ages: Ages are always expressed as numerals. Example: He is 5 years old.
  4. Dollar Amounts: Dollar amounts are always expressed as numerals, and the “$” sign is used. Example: $5, $15, $150, $150,000, $15 million, $15 billion, $15.5 billion
  5. Street Addresses: Numerals are used for numbered addresses. Street, Avenue and Boulevard are abbreviated when used with a numbered address, but otherwise are spelled out. Route and Road are never abbreviated. Example: He lives at 123 Main St. His house is on Main Street. Her house in on 234 Elm Road.
  6. Dates: Dates are expressed as numerals. The months August through February are abbreviated when used with numbered dates. March through July are never abbreviated. Months without dates are not abbreviated. “Th” is not used. Example: The meeting is on Oct. 15. She was born on July 12. I love the weather in November.
  7. Job Titles: Job titles are generally capitalized when they appear before a person’s name, but lowercase after the name. Example: President George Bush. George Bush is the president.
  8. Film, Book & Song Titles: Generally these are capitalized and placed in quotation marks. Do not use quote marks with reference books or the names of newspapers or magazines. Example: He rented “Star Wars” on DVD. She read “War and Peace.”

2. What Is In A Name?

The name of your post is crucial. As with the subject line in an email, the title will make or break blog success.

If it does not sound interesting, why would anyone bother? No one has the time to waste.

Consider the target audience when naming the article – what would grab their attention?

3. The First & The Last.

Boring-blogging-social-media-transition-marketing

Keep your blog quick, sharp and fresh. Avoid creating the comatose!

We have all done it. When skimming content, we avoid large paragraphs, paying attention only to the first and last sentence. If those two sentences do not do their job, then the rest of the content is lost.

4. Keep It Short.

Short paragraphs are more likely to be read. As above, the average reader is not going to pay much attention to anything but the first and last sentence, the shorter the paragraph, the easier – and therefore more likely – it is to be read.

5. Poke The Bear (Provoke).

Controversy and conflict generally generate interest. When writing, position your content in a way that takes a side, or questions a situation. Create that emotional connection with readers – they may disagree with you, but they have to read it to do so.

  • Go ahead and take a side on issues.
  • Force readers to consider the new, or the other side of a situation
  • Provide conclusive opinion and provide the evidence to back it up. Engage your audience in thought and conversation.
  • Ask the hypothetical’s – What if Google really is evil? What if Government is in big businesses back pocket? What if “Hello Kitty” is a metaphor for classical neo-nazism?

Practice always makes perfect, or some derivation of it.

6. Punctuate For Effect.

When punctuating consider what will grab attention. Draw attention to specific key phrases and portions with your Bold, Italic and Underline options. Adjust font size and font style, however do so in moderation.

Alternatively, question marks naturally draw attention. It engages readers and indicates an area of importance.

These tips won’t make you a top notch blogger, they do however, offer the stepping stones for success. To paraphrase Paul in his letter to the Philippians “What you have learned and heard, put into practice”

 

Transition Marketing Services Social Media Small Business

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions. TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

 

6 Small Business SEO Tips

Small Businesses can still market big.

Small Business / Big Online Marketing.

97 % of consumers polled recently stated that they begin sourcing products and services through online means, a number that is increasing with the on surge of mobile tech.

Regardless of what business one may be in, a website is a necessity.

Creating a website is a careful balance of style and function. It needs to be visually stimulating and it needs to be easy to find.

The term SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the science and engineering that goes into ensuring a website appears at the top of specific search results. SEO is all about making a website the first one a consumer sees and it can take small business online efforts from zero to hero.

Here are some simple SEO techniques any small business can do today to boost its Ssearch Engine rankings:

Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips:

1. Develop The Website To Be Search Engine Friendly.

Almost every website platform is going to do this anyways. However if when a site is customized, several key areas should be examined. Consider your site map, the HTML or code readability and your Folder structure.

These technical aspects reside more or less in the background of every website. Many website designers  are highly focused on creating an aesthetically pleasing site. The aesthetics and image are very important, however a website that is not engineered properly will seldom be seen.

The engineered background of a website is what matters to Search Engines, it is what dictates the websites ranking in search results. Better search results mean a larger audience and more traffic.

Put another way. A good website succeeds in two areas:

  1. Human Audience: It’s layout and content is visually appealing, and it navigates easily – customers can find their way around without any trouble.
  2. Search Bot Audience: It’s internal coding and structure is virtually appealing, Search Engines can find it easily and quickly ascertain what it pertains to, thus affecting its ranking.

Technical engineering does not mean sacrificing appealing design, it simply needs to be considered an equal partner. When it comes to a websites technical engineering one is best to forget about “style” and concentrate on text based descriptions, content. The more clues a website provides to the search bots, the better.

Enter key words that pertain to your business & industry.

2. Determine What Key Words You Want Associated With You Website For Search Results.

This is most easily determined but quickly writing down the first half dozen ways you personally would search for your site. It is best to ask the same thing from those around you, then cross reference and determine which are the most common ways from all of the results.

A few of the results will likely be the same, those are the ones to be key in on. Once that is done, run each of the search terms and isolate where your site stands in the results. The idea is to be in the top 10 results. This may be harder to achieve, depending on the number of related sites in your industry, and how common your business name is.

Generally speaking if you site does not appear within the first two or three pages, then your site should be examined. Not many consumers have the patience to click through that many pages.

While running the test searches, examine which sites are appearing higher in the results. Are the in the same industry? Are they local or global? Small or large? Do they offer direct competition to your business?

When choosing your search terms, remember that other sites will be fighting for top ranking as well. Keep this competition in mind. You may find it useful to break the trest results of search terms into three categories and then target as such:

  1. Strong Search Term | Low Ranking | Minimum Competition: Your results show your site low ranked, but the search term is highly relevant to your site, and there is not much in the way of relevant competition. Start here. Prioritize them and you will begin to see results quickly.
  2. Strong Search Term | Low Ranking | High Competition: Your appearance in the results is low, the search terms is highly relevant, yet the competition is as well. The high competition should be an indicator that this as a strong opportunity. However your competition is likely entrenched here and it could get expensive trying to punt them.
  3. Strong Search Term | High Ranking: Hurrah! Your site appears high in the results, the search term is relevant and you have clearly risen above any competition. Monitor these terms and ensure you stay on top.

Choosing relevant search terms, and prioritizing your targets should have resulted in at least three strong key words to concentrate on.

Make sure your website is Search Bot friendly. Image source: ezearn.info

3. Your Homepage Is To Contain A Textual Description That Includes 2 – 3 Of Your Top Key Words.

And so we begin melding the artistic and the technical. The content should stimulate the viewer, yet make easy climbing for the Search-Bot-Web-Crawlers.

Simply put: “If you want people searching for your key words to find you, then place the key words all over your site”

Think of your key words as little rock holds for the spidery Search Bots to grab hold of in their search. The more holds your site has, the more grip those little Search Bots will get on your site (that is a good thing).

Keep in mind that you do not want to cover your site in redundant textual info for the sake of the Search Bots as you then lose your Human Audience. It needs to be a careful blend of both worlds.

As you change and adjust your sites engineering and content, monitor the changes in your ranking.

4. Include A Page Or Blog Spot Dedicated To The Top Key Words.

This is a good idea for two reasons:

  1. If provides a natural text space to use your key words (again keep in mind not to overdo it, it needs to be readable).
  2. It provides an opportunity to show expertise and relevance in relation to your key words, and therefore your industry.

Rule of thumb write as if you had five minutes to explain to a friend or family member what it is you do.

5. Ask Colleagues, Industry Partners, Friends & Family To Post Content About You.

Search Engines view external links to a website as an endorsement of sorts. Like references on a Resume.

Asking external sources to post about your business AND include one of your key words within a direct link to your site, is known as a “Link Exchange”. While a useful SEO tool, many look at this as questionable when done in large quantities, or when exchanged with irrelevant sites or content (Ex. A Dental practice Link Exchanging with a Bulldozer rental site).

Mass Quantity Link Exchange Examined:

  • Some businesses and web developers will trade Link Exchange rights with other sites regardless of their content. For instance Herp.com may ask Derp.com to allow them to place a link on their site in exchange for the same privilege – even if the sites have nothing in common.
  • Others developers may go as far as to purchase the rights to share the links on other sites, or even set up a website directly aimed at nothing more than mass Link Exchanging.

There are a few schools of thought on this as an SEO strategy. Many Search Engines, like Google, do not like this type of thing – considering these types of Mass Link Exchange as misleading in relation to relevant content. These Search Engines are beginning to adapt their algorithms to give this sort of link sharing a pass.

Side Note: Google – the Search Engine with highest consumer use – has made it clear that they are geared towards search results based on relevant content, not SEO “cheats” like link exchanging to irrelevant outside sources. As such creating wide spread relevant content attached to your name is becoming important while mass link exchanging may be on the brink of extinction.

Make sure any link exchange you take part in, is relevant and provides relevant content to the reader. No misleading! That is a massive SEO party foul!

Mass Link Exchanging is frowned upon, however done legitimately, Link Exchanging is a great above-board practice for genuine websites with original content.

6. Back Link Your Website To Your  Social Media.

Relevant Content is the key to true SEO. Image source: Inboundwriter.com

I for one avoid Link Exchanging anyways. I prefer to develop my own content and utilize Social Media platforms for independent link sharing.

It is similar in nature and concept, to Link Exchange, in that it is positioning your link, attached to keywords, elsewhere on the web – yet different in that it is not on external source, but still on your own.

The Bonus here is that it is also CONTENT related, so it scores on two SEO levels and works within many Search Engine preferences for relevant content (it keeps the Google bots happy).

By developing a Social Media platform and link sharing your site, you are creating a larger “web presence” and more reason for Search Bots to find you and rank you.

The Search Engines will essentially crawl the content and trace it back to you. The more relevant content you have for them to crawl, the larger your presence and the higher your rank.

 

Transition Marketing Services. Our passion is educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds.

We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how were doing or if you have any questions.

TRANSITION MARKETING SERVICES – Small Business Marketing Specialists

9 Twitter Tips For Small Business

Twitter provides a channel for brand communication with customers.

Twitter has become the primary platform for brand expansion and customer engagement. While tweeting is an excellent tool for promotion and dialogue, it in itself does not necessarily translate into leads, sales and traffic. A high volume of Twitter followers will not guarantee a high volume of sales.

To succeed with Social Media you need to do more than simply tweet. You need a strategy, you need to know your target audience and you need to measure, measure, measure (measurement provides the impetus to your forward movement). Above all else, however, you need to understand what Twitter is and why you are on it. Here are a few things to consider.

1. …Your Homework, Do it!

Twitter offers and unprecedented medium for dialogue with your customers. It offers insights, trends and direct communication channels with the people purchasing products and services. Use it to to garner Market Research. This market research will quickly multiply your success potential. Speak with your audience, search out your target market and begin the conversation. Ask the questions – what matters to them? what are they looking for? how do they feel about your brand? how do they feel about your competitors?

Twitter offers an enormous opportunity to accumulate the feedback necessary to build your brand.

2. Make A Plan.

Don’t dive into the deep end with your water wings! Every business, big, small, wide and tall needs a strategy. This strategy should address key concerns such as:

Have a plan before jumping into Social Media head first.

  • Who is handling your monitoring and communication?
  • What are they posting?
  • How often are they posting?
  • Who (market target) are you chasing and engaging?
  • What is your brand goal once you have followers?
  • What message do you need to communicate?
  • How do you communicate this?
  • What is your contingency for customer feedback?

For tips on sourcing a good specialist, or for what is required to succeed in Social Media we recommend checking out: TIPS TO FINDING A GOOD SOCIAL MEDIA SPECIALIST and IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA OPERATOR QUALIFIED?

Before you roll out your tweets we recommend taking part in the Twitter community. Log on and follow some tweets, get a feel for what people in your industry are doing. Understand the general zeitgeist surrounding your target market

Think about what you plan on posting – is it relevant and interesting?  Be realistic about how often you can post, schedule less if you need to, in order to remain consistent. Social Media is all about consistency and creative content.

3. Make Your Brand Known.

Get out and spread the word. Pass along to clients, industry partners, and relevant contacts that your brand is on Twitter. They may not be on Twitter yet, and partnering with them in your efforts can often be beneficial.

Begin engaging others on Twitter. Follow relevant feeds (IE experts, competitors etc). Begin conversing with established brands. Create content that will position you as an expert in the minds of your audience. You want to develop credibility and build your reputation. The more of a presence you make the more people will take notice.

Remember that you want to remain consistent to your Brand message. Your Social Media efforts should never appear fractured from the rest of your business.

4. ENGAGE.

Small Business success hinges on relationships and customer service. It is not often that the small business can compete on price point alone. Success is almost always determined by the brand loyalty one develops through nurturing their customers.

This is seldom easy, however it is highly rewarding (and profitable). Despite its online nature, Social Media is a great platform for developing these relationships. It is all about engagement, communication and dialogue. If your Twitter feed is a monologue then you are doing it wrong.

Talk to your customers, seek them out and begin the conversation. Doing so shows integrity and can instantly earn appreciation. Customers want and need to feel that they matter, by going to them you are reinforcing this association with your brand.

5. Be Human.

Be human. Be Authentic. Be Honest. Be Real.

Remember in all of your engagement to be real, be honest and be human. Brands spend thousands of dollars annually, attempting to “humanize” themselves, to make themselves accessible to “Joe Consumer”.

Be human and authentic, create a friendly banter and enjoy a good conversation. Don’t take offense to their feedback, but use every opportunity provided to show your customers that you are a customer as well, and your brand understands.

This is one perk to being a small business. It often comes more naturally and requires less red tape.

6. Build A Following.

This is achieved through three key steps.

  • Build relevant and creative content. Give your audience a reason to want more.
  • Post on a consistent schedule. Maintaining an active presence is absolutely key to building and KEEPING a following.
  • Post a consistent message. Whatever your content, ensure that you maintain a consistent brand message and meet the expectations of your followers. If you are plastics manufacturer, do not suddenly post LOLCATZ. You can change things up every now and again to keep it interesting – but always keep it relevant.

Keeping an active presence will ensure you build and retain your following. The value here is three fold:

  • It allows for quicker spotting of unhappy customers – which you then will engage.
  • It allows for more thoroughly spread updates to your audience.
  • “Viral Spread” – The more people are talking about your brand, the more are people hearing about your brand. The bigger your following, the quicker your content will be shared en mass.

7. Know Your Lingo!

Make sure you know how and what to communicate on Twitter. Here is a quick beginners breakdown:

Know the lingo and make waves on Twitter.

  • Tweet: A message of 140 characters or less.
  • Retweet (RT): A reposting or sharing of someones else’s tweet.
  • @johndoe: The means by which you directly address another Twitter user within your tweet.
  • #Hashtag: Placing the hashtag (#) in front of any word or sentence turns it into a search reference for the Twitter search engine. It can also be used to accentuate the point behind your tweet.
  • “Via”: Source or author of the content being shared.
  • OH: Overheard. The means by which you share a rumour or story.
  • #FF: The Hashtag (search reference) for Follow Friday. The means by which you share people you follow with your followers, “paying it forward” if you will.

8. SEO.

Search Engine Optimization is fairly easy to utilize on Twitter. First of all make a list of industry relevant key words. Implement them into your Twitter handle, your profile description and as often as possibly into your tweets. This will ensure that these key words are being associated by search engines, with your Twitter efforts (Further Info Here:)

9. Measure, Measure, Measure.

Hurrah! You have begun tweeting, you have followers! What does that mean? How do you measure the value? There are a number of tools to helop you do this. Consider Social media tools likeTweetdeck and Hootsuite. Both are easy to learn, easy to use, and can be downloaded free (Hootsuite also has a paid service).

You may also want to investigate Klout.com which can link into all of your Social Media efforts and using a series of algorithms and measurements, provide you with an “influence” score between 1 and 100.

Summary.

Small business owners face many challenges, the world of Social Media has, in effect, provided us with a wide array of tools – free tools – to engage and build our brand. By utilizing platforms like Twitter small business owners can engage and develop their client base.

Use Twitter to build your brands association with expertise and service. Dialogue with your customers one on one and as a group. Broadcast your small business and brand and you will not be disappointed.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

16 Tips For Marketing On A Budget

Image Source: smallbiztrends.com

Clever Marketing Does Not Need To Always Be Expensive.

Small Business owners seldom have the budget for glitzy or high profile marketing and advertising. Small Business marketing often needs to be as unique and specialized as the business it represents. Here are a few tips for Marketing on a budget.

1. Get On Board With Your Local Press. Most local news outlets have resources available for the local small business community:

  • 1. You can go with a standard ad.
  • 2. A classified ad (billed per word).
  • 3. Issue a press release. A press release is a great way to get free exposure in the local media.

Check with your local papers and see what they have in place.

2. Support A Local Charity Or Campaign. This is something businesses should do either way, however by getting on board with community initiatives you can get a great deal of (positive) free exposure.

You gain terrific PR, build relationships within the local community and lend support to those in need. This is the type of Marketing that truly builds a brand.

3. Sponsor A Local Sports Team. This refers back to supporting local charities or campaigns. It is an excellent way to boost community relations and branding. Just about any amateur team would be glad to don your logo for the cost of a jersey.

It can be a great way to build contacts and good will with parents, athletes and athletics supporters.

4. Local & Online Business Directories. The Yellow Pages are still a consistent resource for most local consumers. Many communities will also have their own local business directory. These can be inexpensive means with which to ensure consistent exposure, primarily to people looking for local and specific services.

There is an slew of online directories available as well, however these should be researched and explored according to their relevance for your industry, your geographic region and their results in search engines.

Bulletin Boards are a free place to post your advertising. They should be utilized with thought towards how they will portray your brand.

5. Use Free Cork/Bulletin Boards. The one caution with this, is to be mindful of how an ad and its placement portrays a business and brand. One can place a printed ad on almost any community cork board – typically free of charge – however they need to be mindful of how it represents the company.

  • Make sure it is a professional and clean ad – it should portray professionalism and associate the business with experience.
  • Place it nicely – square it up, fasten the corners, keep it neat. Don’t slap a thumbtack off centre and call it a day – that looks shoddy.
  • Make it catchy – corkboards fill up fast and typically wind up cluttered. The ad needs to stand out and grab attention.
  • Monitor it – It will eventually wind up behind other posts and ad’s. If this happens it will look dated. Cycle it out with new ad’s to keep it fresh and ensure it is at the top. Many billboard owners like a date placed somewhere on the ad to indicate it’s age (this enables them to clear dated posts) work with them and help them maintain the board.

6. Hand Out Business Cards To Everyone. In the age of online and social media, printed mediums are still highly relevant and nothing reinforces your word-of-mouth campaign like business cards. They are inexpensive and easy to keep on your person at all times.

Typically they print in groups of 250, 500, 1000, 2000 – with costs being reduced with each increase in quantity. Keep in mind that 250 cards can last a long time, so do not be afraid to hand them out and hand out more than one. When we meet with clients we will typically hand them three or four cards, this provides for their misplacing them or handing them out to colleagues.

Business cards are one of those items you want to revise every once in awhile. Hand them out while they are fresh and you will not have a bunch of obsolete cards when you revise your information.

7. Let Fly The Flyers! Going back to the relevance of printed materials, a flyer is a great (inexpensive) way to draw attention from the local community. Included in papers, door to door, or exchanged with other businesses along with business cards – they can increase brand awareness and draw attention to your services.

This ties in nicely with posting free Corkboard ad’s as flyer’s can be utilized also for this purpose.

8. Product Placement / Venue Exchanges. Brand yourself publicly at events and venues with product and logo placement.

Example: If you are a DJ make sure you have a banner, flyers, business cards and wear a shirt with your logo – brand yourself to the public. The amount of business that can be procured at a wedding, by a good photographer or DJ is incredible. Don’t ruin the wedding by networking, but be prepared if guests come to you for information.

9. Hand Out Branded Swag! Whatever your budget may be, there is a Merchandising manufacturer out there that can accommodate, so get some merch’ and hand it out! Useful items like pens, shirts, hats, mugs etc. will get used and make their way around.

As with all other materials, put some thought into type of “swag” that matters to your industry and have some fun making it. The more creative and relevant the merchandise, the more likely it will see use.

People love gifts, it is a great way to establish relations and create a positive experience for your clients. As with business cards, hand them out frequently and freely.

(Hint: Make sure the pens are decent quality – shoddy pens quickly find their way to the bottom of the bin)

Drive your marketing! Vehicle decals and wraps are cost effective and guarantee exposure. Image Source: indepthwraps.com

10. Decal Your Vehicle. Hank Yarbo of late Corner Gas fame exemplifies this concept in a rather unique way with his “Hank Board

A personal vehicle is literally a moving canvas. Brand it with decals and graphics and it effectively becomes a billboard wherever you find yourself. There are a number of businesses that offer this service – the price versus the advertising exposure makes this a top value option.

11. Advertising On Public Transit. Depending on the communities mass transit infrastructure, there can be many advertising spaces available in buses, taxis and trains. Check with your local transit authorities, these spaces can be surprisingly inexpensive.

12. Join Online Networking Communities. LinkedIn is likely the top source for these type of groups. By connecting with groups relevant to specific industries and the local community, one can gain both, an audience and dialogue opportunities.

13. Trade Shows. Local trade shows can be a great way to boost both, customer awareness and client engagement. For the price of a booth or table, one gains the opportunity to network with relevant, and local, small business groups and individuals.

14. Socialize With Media (Social Media). Blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, there are numerous online avenues that (at no charge) provide the opportunity to increase online presence and engage customers, both current and potential.

(Hint: Visit blog posts on “Social Media Engagement” or “How To Find A Good Social Media Specialist” for more information on this)

15. Reward Your Current Customers. Build goodwill with the current customer base and the word of mouth campaign will pay back the efforts a thousand times over. Offer incentives, “swag” (see tip 9) and insider info.

16. Web Updates. Basic web updates can be a great, cost effective way to keep customers interested and coming back. Fresh content, news and designs are the means for consistent engagement. One should never underestimate the value of increasing online traffic and engaging the online audience.

No matter what size the business, customers need to be communicated with. There are many inexpensive and effective marketing avenues available – if you know where to look.

Small Businesses have several key advantages over their larger competitors. Recognizing and leveraging them can drastically impact success.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing ServicesContact us for a free consultation.


The Delicate Art Of Engaging Customers

Branding is all powerful, in an ever changing world the ability to brand is hinging more and more on the ability to engage customers. Social Media is one primary means of doing this, but what do you do when a customer engages you with tough questions or questionable attitude?

FIRST: The Foreshadowing.

My wife and I had a wonderful Mother’s Day Sunday this past weekend. I muddled through making her breakfast, we attempted a hike up Rose Swanson Mountain here in Armstrong and more or less enjoyed the bright Okanagan sunshine. Nearing the end of the day we were feeling relaxed and more than a little lethargic. The thing with Armstrong is that it is tiny and tiny towns often lack many of the amenities of big cities – including family restaurants open past five o’clock. There are a few nice pubs, but they frown on bringing in an 18 month old so we decided we would simply order some take-out and eat on the patio at home. We placed our order at the local pub and then went to the park to chill until it was ready. I ordered the biggest sloppiest burger available, while my wife settled on the Greek Wrap (carefully described in the menu as being loaded with Greek vegetables). When we got our food home, we discovered that, aside from the normal tomato, lettuce and black olives, the “Greek” wrap was made up of shredded carrots, radishes and purple cabbage. We are not culinary snobs by any stretch, but we were a little dumbfounded by their definition of “Greek” Vegetables. A quick search of vegetable origins found the following information:

  • Radishes – Originate in China.
  • Carrots – Originate in Afhganistan (along with Parsnips).
  • Cabbage – Originate in either Sweden & Poland (or both).

Now yes, I get that the Greeks we a singular golden culture, and that their empire did indeed stretch across europe under the reign of Alexander the Great. I was not, however, aware that carrots and radishes were considered “Greek”. I laughed a little as I thought of a couple of quips I could post to their Facebook page (if they had a Facebook page). That lead me to think about how they might respond, which in turn lead me to think about how I would respond if I were them. One thing lead to another and now we have this blog.

Second: The Crux – Customer Engagement

Actual customer engagement tests your brand promises.

Customer Service, for many businesses, is the front line for brand image. It is where Brand promises are put to the test and in many cases it is the first “real” engagement that customers are going to have with any business brand. This can be where many large businesses lose out, but where small business can excel. The larger the company, the more people represent it and the more difficult it can be to maintain a consistent Brand message. Disconnects can occur between employees of the same department (IE Customer Service Reps answering differently to the same question) They can also occur between departments (IE Sales making promised that After Sales cannot deliver on). Larger companies tend to source out their service departments. As such there is less of a personal stake in the response and care offered. The service reps are often underpaid, understaffed, under trained and under the gun to respond according to pre-scripted operating procedures. Lack of knowledge and lack of flexibility in your service department is a big problem. Answers need to be quick, thorough and above all RELEVANT. When I call in I do not want to hold for twenty minutes listening to commercials promoting your outstanding service – that makes me bitter and sarcastic. I do not want to speak to a rep who knows less about the product than I do and I want to be able to understand what the rep is saying. Lastly I do not need a blanket response, or corporate run-around… I want an answer to my problem, my SPECIFIC problem. If you want to build a strong brand, build a strong service department. This is where small business has some advantages – there is a personal stake and a more direct line with the people to whom the business (and customers) matter. It is more consistent and more urgent. I call to a local small business and I am likely to get a response from someone who believes I matter. I am not just a drop in the bucket for those who can count their clients on their hands, and often know them by name. Engage me and I will be a customer for life. I still send my business to the little guys for that reason. I have relationships with these people, with their businesses – relationships built on previous service, honesty and faith, relationships that surpass the bottom dollar. Engaged customers are willing to overlook the occasional blunder or hiccup. They are willing to work WITH you and once engaged they will follow your brand the distance – and that is what branding is all about.

Third: Customer Engagement 2.0

Social Media acts as a magnifying glass for this engagement. For many customers it is easier to post to Facebook or Twitter then to call in. It is also quicker than the traditional means of email or snail mail, which means more emotion is included in the message and less time can be taken in structuring a response. Let’s go back to the story of the Greek wrap that wasn’t Greek. Hypothetically, let’s say that I posted to their Facebook page “Hey _____ Pub, I ordered a Greek wrap, not a Inter-European/Asian wrap – Carrots & Radishes are not Greek!” How would you respond? How would you expect a business to respond? Am I kidding around with this statement?, am I being belligerent?, am I being a troll? and how can you be sure? How do you engage the customer in a situation like this? Do it wrong and it will cost you. Do it correctly and it will promote you. Social Media requires fun, amiable, personable, creative, quick and professional direction. Those representing your business need to love people and dance on coals. The term “Social Media Ninja” is about as cliche as “Social Media Guru”, but Ninja fits the bill – keep watch, be quick, adapt and engage. Social Media is not just for big business, many small businesses are beginning to utilize it and the I’ll leave you with this nifty example of someone trolling Taco Bell, and Taco Bell’s subsequent response.

How you engage customer via Social Media Channels can drastically impact your brand.

Notice that they engaged not only the sender, but their entire audience, by not only going along with the joke, but coming out on top. They even utilized hash tags to further both the joke and their commanding statement. In this case context was made evident by the name of the sender (Men’s Humor) and the hashtag. It is not always so clear, and misinterpreting it can be costly. But, as this example shows, doing it right can have amazing results.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.