RSSAll Entries in the "Social Media" Category

Why Small Business Ads on Facebook Flop

Should small business owners advertise on Facebook?  While some who’ve tried it seem satisfied, others are convinced it’s a bust for most local businesses. When USA Today ran an article recently on Facebook’s effort to attract small biz advertisers, many business owners responded to say their experience with such ads was negative.

The point is this: While online marketing is something all businesses should consider, using social media channels for paid advertising simply doesn’t work well for some types of businesses. Dry cleaners, for example, might be better off focusing on getting people through the door with targeted emails and direct mail offers rather than spending a ton of time tweeting.

Raed Malhas, who is CEO of a small online business called MiNeeds (www.mineeds.com), was disappointed (to say the least) with his experience placing ads on Facebook. Malhas breaks down Facebook’s failings as a small biz advertising platform into three categories:

1. Demographic Dilemma: Facebook’s approach to advertising is largely based on targeting certain demographics. And while that works well for some businesses and especially national brands, it’s far less effective for local businesses. By contrast, Google Adwords and various local search sites such as DexKnows, YP.com and SuperPages let you target specific keywords.  Thus, local business ads will show up for specific searches for an attorney in Atlanta, for example, or a plumber or pet store in Portland.

As Malhas points out, targeting demographics is tricky for small business advertisers because it means you are trolling for customers on Facebook based on such things as gender, age, location, marital status, schools attended or other details. For local advertisers that’s a big problem because of what you DON”T know – i.e. the prospect’s “intent” or “needs” at a given time. Advertisers are left to guess at those needs, hoping they catch a few prospects at the right time with their offer.

That’s usually much less efficient that using “intent based” search ads that have a much better chance of capturing customers at the point they are ready to make a purchase.

When Facebook first started taking ads, Malhas jumped right in. He was experienced using other online platforms but says he found Facebook “extremely challenging.”  He launched an ad campaign targeting Facebook users who might be interested in remodeling their homes, and already knew the demographics he was interested in.

He tried several approaches, but all of them flopped. “The realty tricky part about Facebook,” he says, “is that no matter if you are a restaurant, plumber, attorney or accountant, you won’t know which users are searching for your type of services.”

2. Ad Fatigue: Even if you do manage to create a successful Facebook ad, it could be difficult to sustain your momentum. “Let’s say I’m targeting males in Seattle between 28 and 40,” says Malhas. “Even if my ad is extremely appealing to that target audience, the same audience will soon get bored with seeing the same ad again and again. They’ll ignore it and my conversions will drop to almost nothing.”

This fatigue factor is especially troubling for small businesses with a limited local target audience.  On the other hand, search ads tend to attract mostly fresh eyes. I might search for a locksmith this week, but not next. And you might need one a month from now. So the locksmith advertising on search platforms will catch both of us and there’s no fatigue factor.

3. Competition from Deep Pocket Brands: When Facebook first launched its ad platform, smaller businesses were paying only a few cents for clicks on their ads. But then big national brands starting competing for the same demographics and drove up the price. Malhas claims that the rates he was paying rose ten-fold in a matter of months. “Suddenly it made our cost per lead too high and we had to kill many of our Facebook ads,” he says. “Today’s small business with only a few hundred dollars to spend per month stands no chance on Facebook against those titans.”

While most local businesses can benefit by establishing a social media presence for free, paid advertising on the likes of Facebook and Twitter can be another matter. If you give it a try, be sure to test a variety of offers and approaches to see what works best.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Ways to Tap Twitter for Leads

Slowly but surely, many business owners are realizing that Twitter is a terrific (and free) tool for a variety of business purposes, including marketing, customer service, branding and PR and generating leads. Those who use it effectively are generating traffic for their websites, building networks and getting closer to their customers.

Using Twitter specifically to generate leads is something that works differently for different types of businesses.  You should try out different approaches and see what works best for you. Then go with that.

Here are 10 things you can do on Twitter to attract prospects to your business:

1)   Tweet about special offers you have available at your business. But follow this tactic judiciously. Tweeting too often about business offers can get you labeled as a spammer.  One nice way around this is to weave offers into a blog post or article on your website.  Then simply Tweet a link to your article, with some “teaser” text to spark interest.

2)    Create your own business-branded page on Twitter. This makes it easier to generate leads.  An enhanced business profile page increases your Twitter presence by prominently featuring your most important content and visually branding your page. Your enhanced profile page is completely public — users can view it without joining or logging into Twitter. Twitter is still in the process of rolling out this feature to all businesses. See details at business.twitter.com.

3)    Use “featured tweets.” This is available from your business brand page and lets you display select tweets at the top of your page for an extended time. Normally tweets move down the page as you add more, but these stay put and are a great way to feature special promotions or offers.

4)    Target key products, services and industry terms via Twitter Search. It’s a simple yet powerful tool you can use from inside Twitter to help you identify the people and companies that care about the things that your business does. This will open up a rich vein of potential people to follow who may follow you back.

5)    Look professional and attract more attention by installing your own custom Twitter page background. This can include colors, images, logos and other graphics related to your business. The better your page looks, the more customers you’ll attract.

6)    Make sure your Twitter profile shows up in search. Your Twitter profile can contain a maximum 160 characters so make the most of it by including the top keywords associated with your business or profession. You can’t use all of your keywords, so be sure and pick the best. Be brief and grab attention.

7)    Answer questions.  Two out of three Twitter users say they are more likely to buy something from a local business that answers their questions on Twitter. So while that begs the question of how many of your customers and prospects are actually on Twitter, it’s a safe bet that whatever that number is, it will only get bigger.

8)    Leverage the power of #Hashtags to locate your leads. On Twitter, hashtags are used to organize tweets around specific topics.  They’re the words with the pound sign (#) in front of them. By pargeting your tweets to specific hashtags – or topic streams – you will reach people specifically interested in that topic.

9)    Chime into Twitter “Chat.” On Twitter, “chats” are similar to hashtags except more granular.  There’s a publicly available document posted on Google Docs call “Twitter Chat Schedule” that lists over 600 chats on specific topics. Just search “Twitter chat Schedule” on Google to find it.

10)  Create a customized Twitter visitor welcome page for your business website. Once you have this, you can include the link in your Twitter profile and in your tweets. Anyone who clicks on it will arrive at your special welcome page for people who’ve found you via Twitter. This customizes your message and makes them feel especially welcome. It also opens up the possibility of special offers to Twitter users.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

Why You Should Have a LinkedIn Business Page

Although LinkedIn is the world’s largest social media network for business people and professionals, most small business owners still don’t have it on their marketing radar. But that’s changing as LinkedIn itself ads more features aimed at helping businesses market to its 160 million registered users, and more small businesses start taking advantage of this powerful platform for generating leads and making business connections.

Your first step is to create a free LinkedIn “Company Page.”  It’s similar to a Facebook business page but easier to set up, better looking and with more ways to feature your products and services. And LinkedIn recently introduced an improved look for company pages that offers new ways to tell your business story, share news or updates and drive word of mouth.

Unlike Facebook, which was originally built for college students, LinkedIn was created from the ground up with the needs of business and professionals in mind. That shows through in the capabilities it offers to create awareness of your products and services. What’s more, millions of people conduct searches from within LinkedIn every day and if you and your company aren’t there, you can’t be found.

Posting updates to your LinkedIn company page gives you a powerful way to generate leads by including links back to your own website. The LinkedIn company page lets you post large images, create your own calls to action and include testimonials or recommendations from your connections. This is all free if you’re willing to spend a little time to learn how it works and get your company page operational.

But you don’t have to get everything done at once. As with LinkedIn personal profile pages, you can start with the basics and add features and sections as you get more proficient. Here’s how to get started along with a rundown of key sections of a LinkedIn company page:

Getting Started: You can set up a LinkedIn company page in minutes with just a few steps. You must first go to the “Add a Company” page to confirm your connection to the business and be authorized to create your page. Go to www.linkedin.com/company/add/show and enter the company name and your business email address. You’ll receive an automated email asking you to confirm your request. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start creating your page.

Overview: This is your big chance to make a powerful first impression. The overview section, or “tab,” is the place to start spreading your message and open a conversation about your business.  You can include a high-level description of your business along with company announcements, product releases or news from your industry. It’s also a great place to feature employees and other people who are connected to your business.

If your business is already creating updates or other content for a Facebook page, this is another place you can put it to good use. But remember that LinkedIn’s membership is much more “white collar,” so be sure to put your best professional foot forward.

Products and Services: This is the place to showcase what you offer.  Setting up a Products & Services section requires just a few steps and can be done in a few minutes.  Click “Add a product or service” under the Products & Services tab and fill in the information about category, product or service name and description. Be sure to include your business photos and videos to bring the section to life. And don’t forget to add your business URL and other web links back to the product, service or order form pages on your own website. This helps with SEO and can send traffic and leads back to your site.

To add more products and services, simply repeat the steps above. When all of your information is complete, click “Publish” to go live.  You’ll then be accessible to millions of LinkedIn members who can view, recommend and share your information within their own networks. It’s word-of-mouth power on steroids.

Company Updates: LinkedIn suggests using this section to share articles, ask questions or post special offers. It also offers the ability to target your updates and offers to specific groups of your connections or followers, as well as to “all followers.”

For more information on how to use company pages visit:  learn.linkedin.com/company-pages.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Use a Tweet Tease to Boost Response on Twitter

TV and other news organizations are skilled at using “teasers” to entice interest in a particular story and get readers or viewers to click or tune in. And when you tweet for yourself or your business, you should aspire to do the same. The result will be a higher headcount of people who read, react to and retweet your content.

Too many tweets are simply trash.  In fact, research conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and Georgia Tech (cleverly named “Who Gives a Tweet?”) shows that Twitter users only consider 36% of the tweets they see to be worthwhile.  About 39% are thought to be marginal, while a quarter of all tweets are considered totally worthless.

Tackiest Types of Tweets

Most people consider mood or location updates to be the tackiest types of tweets.  On the flip side, what people like best are tweets that share valuable, insight tips and information, including links to more extensive content posted elsewhere.  To leverage the appetite for the latter – and avoid tweet trouble at the same time – try taking the teaser tack.

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. A teaser is a carefully crafted sentence, phrase or headline that “hooks” readers into wanting more.Taking a little time to write these will pay off in bigger response.
  2. Be sure to provide a link to the location of the content that will satisfy the curiosity you’ve just piqued.
  3. The idea is to provide enough substance to attract attention, but not give away the news or the “punch line” in the tweet itself. As Twitter CEO Dick Costolo once told me, “A great tweet is a caption for something bigger.”

Teasers that pose a provocative question are one proven way to go.  @GuyKawasaki, who has 1.2 million Twitter followers, is a master at crafting teaser type tweets, including many that are questions. They are usually very short – barely half the allotted 140 characters – and usually include a link.

What to Watch Out For

Teasers are powerful when used right, but can also hurt you in the long term if used badly. A few tips:

  • Avoid over-promising in your teaser.  If the “payoff” for the person who takes your tease is unfulfilling, they are less likely to bite the next time.  By making sure the content at the other end of the tease is high quality, you’ll get the response you seek.
  • Also try to tweet about news that’s as fresh as possible (and hasn’t already been tweeted a billion times by everyone else); provide enough context around your tweet so people understand what it’s about; and don’t over-do the use of #hashtags.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.  Follow @140Main

10 Small Business Tips and Tactics for Pinterest

Pinterest – the hot new social media network – is starting to catch the eye of many small business owners. And the reason is simple: It’s a great new way to drive traffic to your website and create leads for your business.

In fact, the early read on Pinterest is that it’s more effective in some cases than Facebook. And growth on this social sharing site, which is free to use, has been phenomenal. Pinterest has skyrocketed to become the fifth biggest social site, ahead of Google+ and LinkedIn.

Pinterest is a highly visual site, based in large part on sharing images, along with other content.  The platform lets users visually share things they’ve found online by “pinning” an image, article, video or other item to their own “pinboard.”  Users often create collections of “pins” around a theme of some kind. They can either pin things they’ve found on the web, or upload their own images. You’ll also see the Pinterest button showing up on websites as a way for visitors to quickly “pin” an item, which might also be a simple URL.

Some small businesses that rely heavily on website traffic to increase sales are reporting a surge of traffic now coming from Pinterest. Susan Lyne, CEO of the popular shopping site called Gilt.com, which offers designer goods at a discount, says her site has gotten a big boost from Pinterest. In part that’s because Gilt has lots of high quality images of the items it sells, which is the kind of thing people like to pin on Pinterest.

Here are ten tips and tactics for small business success on Pinterest:

  1. Although it’s already become the fastest growing social network of all time, Pinterest is still technically in “beta” so when you go to sign up you must request an invitation to join. But don’t worry, it’s all but automatic that you’re in.
  2. Pinterest doesn’t yet provide a connection to Facebook business pages, so if your business is on Twitter, be sure to use the same email address you use for your business Twitter account to sign up for Pinterest. You’ll be able to sign in with your same Twitter login.
  3. Write a detailed “About” description of your business, using appropriate key words and geographic locations so you’ll show up in search.  Also make sure the button marked “Hide your Pinterest profile from search engines” is OFF.
  4. Link your Pinterest account to other social media – especially your Facebook page and Twitter account – and link it to your business website. But keep in mind that Pinterest was designed for individuals, not businesses, so there’s really no such thing yet as a Pinterest “business page.” Just think in terms of using the site as a person, rather than a business.
  5. Your main activity on Pinterest will be to set up various “pinboards.”  You’ll gain traction for your business by organizing and naming them according to the types of products and services you sell. You should create these first, before you start trying to build your Pinterest following. As with Facebook “Likes” and Twitter followers, you’ll want to build a loyal follower base on Pinterest by catering to topics that people are passionate about.
  6. Once you are on Pinterest, add the Pinterest follow button to your business website, blog, social media pages and even your printed materials. This is a good way to jumpstart your Pinterest presence.
  7. Focus first on visual content. Remember, Pinterest is a heavily visual medium, so you’ll want to use your best stuff here. If you have great product shots, that’s one option. Some businesses are pinning photos of their employees and location.
  8. So far, Pinterest users have been more heavily female (about 65%), so keep that in mind as well.  If your customer base is mainly men, Pinterest might not be right for you just yet.
  9. If you have a blog and are using strong photos there, make a habit of putting them on your pinboard as well. You can also pin charts, graphs and other graphics.
  10. 10. Follow the same social media “rules” you’d follow elsewhere. For example, concentrate on making yourself a valuable resource to others rather than trying to overtly sell.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

12 Top Tools to Manage Your Social Media Marketing

Small business owners who are successful at marketing through social media often have help from a growing arsenal of time-saving tools and services that make it easier and more effective. Taking advantage of these tools can mean the difference between having time to make social media marketing work for your business or not.

Here are 12 of the most popular web-based services that are being used by small businesses to keep the time commitment in check, while leveraging the power of social media. Some have similar features so it’s best to try them out and see what works best for you before deciding which to use.

1)    Shortstack (www.shortstack.com) is a service that helps businesses design a better looking Facebook page and customize it with such things as contests, forms, videos and more.  The service is free for pages that have up to 2,000 “likes.” Beyond that, a tiered pricing system kicks in.

2)    Buffer (www.bufferapp.com) is a great way to schedule your social media activity. The service lets you add posts and tweets to your “buffer” from anywhere and have them automatically distributed throughout the day.  By keeping your buffer topped off with content, you can be assured of having a fresh social media presence for an entire week or more.

3)    Postling (www.postling.com) was designed with small business users in mind and provides easy-to-use tools, alerts and insights that will help you get the most out of social media marketing. Postling lets you publish to all of the major social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Tumblr and Flickr and schedule your posts in advance.  It also pulls comments from all of your social media sites into one place which saves a lot of time and effort for responding.

4)    TweetDeck (www.tweetdeck.com), which is owned by Twitter, is a “dashboard” from which you can manage a variety of social media. It allows you to monitor and manage unlimited accounts, schedule tweets to suit your audience and filter content to focus on what matters to you the most.

5)    HootSuite (www.hootsuite.com) is similar to TweetDeck and lets you manage all of your social media accounts on a single dashboard.  This is a good solution if more than one person at your business posts to your social media accounts.

6)    MediaFeedia (www.mediafeedia.com) is a free business tool for Facebook (only) that lets you manage multiple fan pages from one dashboard, schedule content, track messages and distribute deals through something called Mediafeedia Offers.

7)    Sprout Social (www.sproutsocial.com) is a popular tool among small businesses to monitor what’s being said about you online, schedule and publish updates to your social media pages with one click, and track your efforts with various reports.

8)    Pagelever (www.pagelever.com) is a highly affordable analytics tool that’s all about measuring your social media marketing results. It produces professional looking charts and graphs showing traffic, fans, users, comments and more, including some demographic data.

9)    If you blog for your business, Disqus (www.disqus.com) is a terrific plugin for getting more marketing mileage out of reader comments. This takes the standard “comments” function that exists on most blogs and turns it into a social media machine that lets users sign in and comment via a variety of platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

10) Constant Contact, a leader in email marketing, offers a service called NutshellMail (www.nutshellmail.com) that’s a social media lifesaver for business owners who prefer to receive updates via email. NutshellMail tracks what’s being said about your business in social media, packages it up in a “nutshell” and sends a summary email to you on whatever schedule you choose.

11) Crowdbooster (www.crowdbooster.com) is a handy way to keep track of your social media accounts and marketing efforts from a single dashboard. It will automatically post to Facebook and Twitter, keeps track of your “likes” and followers and tells you how often your content is being shared.

12) Shoutlet (www.shoutlet.com) is a do-it-yourself platform for managing social media marketing. But it’s a fairly sophisticated service, favored by many larger businesses as well. It offers a wide range of features, including sophisticated data capture, customer relationship management (CRM) and unlimited accounts.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

How Bundle is Reinventing Local Business Reviews

Customer online reviews are a flawed device and the rapid proliferation of review sites has long worried local businesses over the potential for abuse and inaccuracy.  But a new service called Bundle aims to reinvent the online review.  By tracking actual consumer spending patterns – what people buy, where they buy it and how often they return, for example – Bundle’s sophisticated computer programs eliminate subjective opinions and get to what people actually do, not say, and then turn that information into more objective measures of popularity and customer satisfaction.

According to Founder & CEO Jaidev Shergill, Bundle was born from the idea that people need real insights and ratings on the places they go, not just subjective opinions. Bundle uses data from the U.S. government, along with aggregated spending transactions from Citibank (all personal information is removed or “anonymized”) and other third party data sources to come up with personalized recommendations on restaurants, bars, bakeries, clothing stores, coffee shops, florists, shoe stores and other local businesses.  With that information, customers can find out what type of people go to a place, how often they actually go back, and can get recommendations on where to go based on places they already like.

In short, Bundle crunches the data from real spending to give consumers the lowdown without the bias.  Since Bundle is backed by Microsoft, Citibank and the investment information firm Morningstar, and representatives of those investor firms sit on the Bundle board, it’s a good bet that Bundle will have the support it needs to scale the model.  So far, Bundle is providing comprehensive coverage of local businesses in about 18 major cities, but expansion plans are underway.  

Keep an eye on Bundle.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. 140Main™ is a trademark of BizBest Media.

Twitter to Offer Small Business Ads

Starting later this year, any U.S.-based small business will be able to advertise on Twitter using a new self-service ad platform for two ad products to called “Promoted Tweets” and “Promoted Accounts.”

The first small businesses to use the program, however, will be selected through a new partnership between Twitter and American Express, a deal that initially makes it easy for small business owners to advertise on Twitter.  Amex card members and merchants will be invited to try this new advertising solution before anyone else, and American Express will give $100 in free advertising to the first 10,000 eligible businesses to sign up.

If you are an Amex card member or merchant, you can register now to participate in the initial introduction of this new offering via ads.twitter.com/amex.  Twitter will launch this new offering more widely later this year.

Since meeting Twitter CEO Dick Costolo a few weeks ago and hearing about the growth and innovation going on at Twitter, I’m more convinced than ever that this platform has far more social local marketing potential for small businesses than it’s being given credit for. And this move to open things up for advertising will likely put Twitter on the radar for more local businesses.

As the folks at Twitter point out, successful business owners already know how to build good customer relationships.  In fact, local businesses were first to start using Twitter to talk with consumers in real time, which helped demonstrate Twitter’s potential as a marketing platform. Today, some of the most innovative marketing campaigns around come from local businesses. For example, check out the mouth-watering photos of @VanillaMoonBake cupcakes, or the @glennztees Tweet contests meant to promote their latest T-shirt design.

You can sign up here to try this new ad solution on Twitter.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved. 140Main™ is a trademark of BizBest Media.

Top 10 Small Biz Twitter Rock Stars for 2012

BizBest Media’s own @140Main Twitter account — where we tweet as LocalSocialMedia — has been named to the Top 10 Small Biz Twitter Rock Stars for 2012, compiled and published by SkedX.  Their blogging team at The SkedCast reviewed and analyzed hundreds of small business Twitter accounts and ranked them not just on content, but on how the small business community responds to them.  Be sure to check out the other “Rock Stars” on the list — they’re all worth following.  (@140Main is also a Top 10 Influencer in the Small Business category on Klout.)

Here are the others ont he Top 10 list:

Twitter CEO on What Makes a Great Tweet

Before I get to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo (@dickc), let me tell you about Willy O’Sullivan who owns the Irish pub in my neighborhood. Willy is quite worldly on social media matters and a savvy business person overall, but Twitter confounds him. “I have Twitter, but I have no idea what to do with it,” he says.  “You open it up and it asks me who I want to follow, and I have no idea about that either.”

And Willy, in fact, is a proxy for millions of local business owners who grasp the importance of social media but simply don’t have time to experiment with using it for business purposes.  As new products and platforms are devised to help business owners use social media effectively, the balance will shift, given social media’s power for cost-effective marketing.  While Twitter remains a mystery to many business owners, its popularity is skyrocketing based in part on how simple it is compared to Facebook or Google+.

Costolo is the man leading Twitter’s charge.  He became CEO in 2010 and previously launched and ran several smaller businesses, so he knows what it’s like to take risks, meet payroll and wear multiple hats.  I just met Costolo at a UCLA/Anderson School of Management leadership seminar, courtesy of Dean Judy Olian (@DeanOlian) and entertainment mogul (not to mention owner of NBA’s GS Warriors) Peter Guber (@PeterGuber).   Costolo is super articulate and has great passion for what he does as well as the confidence to lead Twitter to the Promised Land called IPO.  

What Makes a Tweet Great

Since the price of a seat at the table in Olian and Guber’s seminar is a confidentiality pledge, there’s much that can’t be said here of Costolo’s behind-the-scenes revelations, but a couple of things are up for grabs.  In particular, Costolo’s take on “What makes a great tweet” is something everyone business person should know, as it describes effective communication in general.  Costolo didn’t even need 140 characters to say it:  Here it is in a mere 47 characters:  “A great tweet is a caption for something bigger”

Hmmmmm.  “Something bigger.”  That’s where millions of tweets fail every day to pass the greatness test.  If you only have 140 characters to say something, too many tweeters fall into the trap of saying essentially nothing.  You need a “backstory” as they say in the entertainment biz – something that entices people into thinking or looking further. As we’ve said often here at 140Main (our name, of course, derived from Twitter’s 140 character length limit on tweets), the art of tweeting well is to entice and engage followers with useful information.

By thinking of your tweets as “captions” you can stay focused on the bigger “picture” behind what you are saying.  Is there something else you can offer as a link? An idea, tip or thought that can help others see that bigger picture?  If so, your tweets will rise above the noise and gain more attention.

Embrace the 140 length limit. To Dick Costolo, Twitter’s inner beauty lies in that simple constraint and it’s unlikely that will change. In fact, the latest studies show that slightly shorter tweets in the 120-130 range generate the best response.

Follow us @140Main

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.