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How to Know if Facebook is Right for Your Business

The rash of publicity over Facebook’s public stock offering has even more business owners thinking about social media. Indeed, many small businesses are having great success promoting themselves on Facebook. But anyone who’s ever set up and managed a social media account knows that the time drain can be huge. 

Busy local business owners don’t have that kind of time to spare, so deciding whether or not Facebook actually makes sense for your particular business is critical.  In other words, is spending the time worth your while? In many cases the answer is a resounding yes. But not always, and taking a realistic look at what it takes to maintain a social presence is one of the first steps small business owners should take. 

A good lesson comes from Sarah Skerik, a vice president and social media expert at PR Newswire, who recently helped a friend with a niche business decide whether or not Facebook was worth the bother.  Skerik helped her friend systematically evaluate the social media marketing opportunity in the context of her business of boarding and training horses for people who actively compete in horse shows.

Sarah believed Facebook would be a great fit for her friend’s business.   It has a good regional footprint, local associations running horse shows are active on social networks, and so are riders and trainers. That quickly answered the first critical question any business owner needs to ask: “Are my customers and prospects present on this particular social network?”

If the answer is yes, proceed to the next square. But in addition to being time-strapped, many business owners are not terribly inclined toward social media generally, and Facebook in particular.  Most are simply not heavy online networkers, so that’s a factor too.  

That’s a disadvantage because in order to get the most out of a social network, you must have a decent, if not proficient understanding of how the network works and how to use it specifically for business purposes.

As you consider these issues, be realistic about your willingness to spend time learning. But also be aware of how spending that time can benefit your business. Those benefits include:

  • A way to build awareness among a specific community or group of people who are interested in what you provide.
  • Staying ‘top of mind’ with your market through an ongoing stream of messages.
  • The ability to rapidly communicate with audiences once you’ve established a good following.
  • A way to subtly communicate with potential customers, and spark word-of-mouth recommendations.

Facebook is not a one-way street, notes Skerik, who manages social media for PR Newswire.  “It’s not simply a conduit for marketing messages.  You can’t just post sales pitches and expect to gather any sort of audience.”  Here’s a realistic baseline of what you’ll need to do:

  1. Commit to posting content – a mix of text, pictures and video – every few days. Daily would be better.
  2. Keep an eye on your Facebook “wall” to ensure that content posted by others is relevant to your business and not spam, and to watch for comments or questions.
  3. Respond to any comments. You don’t need to be a slave to Facebook and constantly obsess over comments, says Skerik. But you should check them nightly and respond to anyone who took the time to write on your page. You don’t need to spend a lot of time on it, but you must pay attention.
  4. Build social media connections with related businesses and experts on Facebook.  Connecting with these people builds your network over time and increases visibility for both you and your business.

 Too many local businesses get sidetracked on social media by establishing a page that either doesn’t help them or they can’t realistically maintain.  Having a Facebook page might do your business a world of good.  But only if you are ready and willing to do your part. 

[Unlocking Social Media for PR by Sarah Skerik is an excellent ebook and available for free download.]

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

10 Social Posting Tips and Traps

One question business owners often ask about social media is what to post on Facebook, Google+ or other social pages and platforms.  The list of options is long, but here are five easy things to consider posting, plus five things you should never put on your Facebook business page or in any other public forum for that matter:

Five Types of Posts to Consider

1)    Bite-sized Business FAQs:  Most businesses get asked the same questions over and over. Develop a list of the things people ask most about your product, service, business or industry – along with some they don’t ask, but you wish they would – and supply brief, informative answers.  Don’t post your list all at one. Instead, offer them up in bite-sized pieces from time to time as helpful tips that provide extra value to people who visit your social media page. If you already have an FAQ section on your business website, avoid simply linking to that.  Doing so forces customers or prospects to make extra effort to click through to your website and find the answer.

2)    Offers and promotions:  If you are having (or planning to have) a sale, run a contest or offer discount coupons, by all means announce and offer them on your Facebook page. But when it comes to promotions, some words attract attention better than others. Good words include: event, offer, new and win. Words that        tend to turn people off include: exclusive, free, discount and limited. 

3)    Photos, graphics or other visuals:  People love eye-catching photos, interesting charts or graphs, illustrations, videos or other content they can grasp at a glance.  Be sure images are decent quality and charts tell a simple story. Poor quality pictures or complicated graphs won’t help.  If you sponsor local events, teams or causes, that’s made-to-order photo material for your Facebook page.

4)    Links to interesting items you’ve seen elsewhere:  This requires the least amount of work on your part. Whenever you see or read something that would help your customers in some way related to what your business does, save the link in a “helpful links” list.  Then share those links with a brief explanation on your Facebook page.  This shows customers you are looking out for their interests beyond simply trying to promote your own business.

5)    Your own helpful tips or articles: If you already have a blog, this is easy since all you have to do is put your blog posts on your Facebook page.  But you can also write articles for your website or write brief updates directly to Facebook.

Five Topics to Avoid

1)    Negative comments:  One of the worst things you can do is talk trash about a competitor or customer.

2)    Unverified information: Even if you are in a rush to share news or other information, take time to get the facts right.  Many business owners have shot themselves in the foot by jumping the gun on announcements that contain incorrect dates, times, prices, phone numbers, addresses, directions or other vital information.

3)    Out-of-the-blue subjects: Stick to topics that have relevance to your business and your customers. When you stray into unrelated topics you quickly alienate your audience.  People take time to visit your page because they see you as an expert in your area of business, so don’t blow.

4)    Overly personal information and opinions:  There’s a fine line between being open, personable and opinionated and going over the line into rants or personal details that should remain personal. Applying the “is it useful to my customers” test will help.

5)     Confidential business or customer information:  This is common sense but still trips up some businesses that post such information innocently or by mistake. Think first, and only hit the publish or submit button when you are confident that what you are about to post is appropriate.

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

Earning Social Currency for Your Small Business

In a world where social media marketing gains power by the minute, earning “social currency” for your local business is critical to success.  In short, social currency is what your business earns when customers and prospects share information about your business via social media. That might be a simple thought, recommendation, review, blog post, tweet, photo, video or other piece of content.

Whatever it is helps put your name and your “brand” (if you have one) in front of potential buyers. The point is that they are sharing something about you, and that’s (almost) like money in the bank. It helps you develop a unique identify for your business, yourself or your brand and creates more opportunities to interact with customers and prospects and develop the all-important relationships that lead to repeat customers and referrals.

Building social currency for your business is one of the most important value-building marketing moves you can make today.  And it doesn’t have to cost you money.

Vivaldi Partners, a large brand management and consulting company, recently conducted a study to identify how the most successful businesses are building social currency. The study identified six crucial factors that determine social media success – the “Social Sixes:”

  1. Affiliation: What your business does in social media helps people feel like they are part of a community of some kind.
  2. Information: You provide valuable information that people can share with others.
  3. Utility: Your social media initiatives help people get more value from what you offer.
  4. Conversation:  Your approach gets people talking about your business or brand.
  5. Identity: Your efforts help others express part of themselves to others through whatever products, services or brands you offer.
  6. Advocacy: Customers and prospects are motivated to speak positively about your business and recommend it to others.

The more of the “social sixes” you accomplish, the more social currency you earn to drive and grow your business.  To earn it, you may find yourself interacting with customers in new ways. For example, granting customers access to special information or inside knowledge is a powerful way to connect. And once you do, you’ve essentially gained permission to interact further with those customers or prospects.

Remember that earning social currency is not an end in itself – you can’t use it to make a payroll. To start earning social currency, develop a social currency strategy for your specific type of business. Consider which of the “social sixes” above might work best for your type of customers. For example, a fitness club might concentrate on providing valuable fitness tips that people can share, while an auto dealer might share photos and videos of new models.

It’s usually not one single factor that earns a business social currency, but a combination of factors in both the online and offline worlds. Vivaldi’s research findings make another crucial point: Social currency CAN be managed. Don’t buy into the trendy notion that customers are totally in charge. The facts show that people embrace businesses that help them solve the problems and challenges of daily life. That’s where you want to be. What customers want is for you to provide meaningful solutions to those needs, and using social media to demonstrate your ability to do that is a fantastic way to earn social currency.

Look for ways to use social media to specifically drive value for your customers, including ways to save money. If you can rally around a single vision and concentrate your efforts there, so much the better. Then replicate that vision in different social media settings, such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. But choose carefully, since your choices need to be the social networks where your customers tend to congregate, not necessarily where you like to go yourself.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Social Media Marketing on Main Street is Skyrocketing

The revolution has officially begun. Local business owners – once skeptical about the business and marketing benefits of social media – are going social in record numbers. “To them it’s the Holy Grail,” says Kip Cassino, Executive VP at Borrell Associates and author of the just-released research report “Main Street Goes Social.”

According to Cassino, social media marketing offers local businesses an easy way to sidestep expensive local media advertising channels and deliver their offers directly to potential customers.

In the latest survey of more than 4,000 small firms conducted by Borrell, local business owners, on average, said they expected to devote about 14 percent of total online ad spending this year to social media.  That’s more than double the 6.6 percent social media allocation by local businesses in 2011.

Put that into dollar terms and it represents a spending increase from about $1.1 billion last year to projected spending on social media this year of over $2.2 billion by local businesses.

And Borrell’s market research experts say local business is still just getting started. They expect Main Street businesses to double spending on social media marketing again by 2013 to over $4 billion.  And over the next five years, spending on social media marketing by local businesses should jump seven-fold, according to Borrell.

In short, the trend means one thing: Social media will continue to play an ever-growing role in the marketing activities of U.S. businesses both large and small for many years to come.

But just what are these “Social Media” the researchers are talking about.  For most small business owners, the dominant player is Facebook. But the social media universe includes many other key players, including Google+ (which launched its business service just a month ago), YouTube and Twitter, along with ethnic networks such as Blackplanet, Latpro Network and Muxlim. Add to that the business-oriented sites such as LinkedIn, Focus, Quora and Ryze, plus thousands of other special interest sites.

Local business owners still split their online ad spending among several different methods. Email marketing – with a 17.4 percent share of spending – is still the largest, although social media is likely to overtake it soon. Search engine marketing (such as Google Adwords) is second with a 15.1 percent share.  Social media is third, while business directory listings occupy fourth place with a 12 percent share of the typical business owner’s ad wallet. Other top categories include banner or display ads, streaming video ads, mobile, sponsorships and audio (podcast) ads.

Here are five success tips for social media:

1)    Don’t wait. Start using social media tools right away. Startups should take their brand into the social sphere from Day One. Having a solid online presence will help professionals and other local business owners quickly gain access to an audience that will read and comment on your products and services. It’s also a great way to listen in on what customers are saying, monitor the competition and stay abreast of trends.

2)    Name your Facebook business page carefully and keep it separate from your personal page.  Changing the name once its set is difficult.  Use an adaptable name, like stylist, hair pro, financial services professional, etc.  

3)    Spotlight others on your Facebook business page.  Give credit to employees and clients.  These people will in turn “Like” your page and share positive reviews – a powerful resource for attracting new clients.

4)    Let everyone know you’re socially connected.  This gives you an advantage over your competitors who might not be as actively involved.

5)    Create content that will engage your audience. Develop a list of topics that will interest your customers and prospects.  For example: Talk about trade show events you’ll be attending (before, during and after). Share business-related photos and videos and tips of the day or week. Showcase events and people from your local or business community.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

10 Reasons you need Facebook for Business

When it comes to promoting a local business, professional office or other small firm, Facebook is looming larger than ever. The latest salvo was the test launch of Facebook Deals in five cities (Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, San Diego and San Francisco) – a challenge to daily deal juggernauts Groupon and LivingSocial. More cities will soon be added. Basically, Facebook Deals will make coupons more social by letting users grab special discounts on products and services from businesses of all sizes and then automatically sharing their shopping savvy with friends on the site. Users will be able to see what deals their friends have chosen, along with a “deals near you” section.

Is there a Facebook page in your future? Considering the juggernaut that Facebook has become for marketing through social media, the answer is resoundingly yes.  It’s your first step into “F-Commerce.” If your business doesn’t have a Facebook page yet, here are 10 reasons to get off your fanny and fix that problem:

1)      You’ve simply got to keep up:  When it comes to Facebook, your business has already fallen behind the competition if you’re not there.  Consider that Facebook has over 600 million users.

2)      Connecting with customers is more critical than ever:  This is core to social media. Connecting is king – people connecting with each other and to businesses they like.  Customers you connect with on Facebook are some of the internet’s most engaged users. And that translates into lots of good things for your business, including higher satisfaction. It’s also an effective way to communicate news and information about your business.

3)      To promote your brand:  As a place to build your brand, Facebook has few peers.  But it doesn’t happen by itself; you have to be active and post useful, interesting, relevant content that excites people and makes them fans.

4)      To protect your brand:  If you have or are newly building a brand, and have intellectual property such as trademarks and brand names, it’s critical to stake out your Facebook turf by registering pages for your brands.  If you don’t, you risk the possibility that others will. 

5)      It’s a deal you can’t refuse:  Most biz owners like a bargain, and this is a screamer.  Setting up a Facebook page is free.  The biggest investment you’ll have to make is time to learn how it works, build your business page and keep it fresh and active.  More and more small businesses are hiring local firms and social media consultants to help, so for them it’s no longer free.  But the investment may be well worth it down the road. 

6)      It’s fantastic for speedy feedback:  Facebook is a great way to gather customer feedback on your products, services, promotions or plans, or just hear what customers have to say in general.  Consider it a key extension of whatever customer service and support mechanism you now have.  A tool called Facebook Insights can provide detailed info on who’s visiting your page and what they’re looking at while they’re there.

7)      To be a bridge between your online and offline efforts: Your offline advertising and marketing, including direct mail, in-store, outdoor, newspaper, magazine and other can direct customers to your Facebook page.  Once there, they can share experiences, learn about an event, or much more.  You can easily post Facebook status updates or other content in minutes.  

8)      It will help customers find you: Well-built and “optimized” Facebook pages can perform well in search results, leading customers to your page.  What’s more, with millions of Facebook users now use Facebook’s own internal search tool when they are looking for something, so you have a good chance of showing up that way as well.

9)      It can boost your sales: The point of all this connecting and communicating, of course, is to drive sales for your business in some way.  “F-commerce” on Facebook is another potential revenue-producing sales channel to consider.  Facebook Places is a vital location-based marketing service for local business.

10)   Your website may be obsolete:  Some small businesses no longer consider it necessary to have a standalone website and have made Facebook their entire online presence.  And that can make sense, depending on the type of business you have and where your customers come from.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved

Inside Tips on Using Google +1 for Business

Right now, Google officials are quietly meeting with corporate partners to enlist support for the much-anticipated business version of Google+, their new social media platform. Soon (they hope), local businesses will be competing to be “+1s” from customers (similar to a “Like” on Facebook).  Here’s a sneak peak at what Google execs are saying:

  • Circles:  Big G says today’s social media experience is “sloppy” (we only connect with certain people at certain times); “scary” (all online conversations are public); and “insensitive” (we all define friend and family differently).  With G+ Circles, you can separate groups of coworkers and customers, which lets you share certain information only with the people it’s meant for.
  • Sparks:  Sparks is meant to be an online sharing tool that feeds you relevant content from the web.  Businesses can use it to stay up to date on important news about an industry, profession or competitor.  
  • Hangouts:  Connecting with others online can be awkward.  When someone doesn’t respond to a request, you aren’t sure if they’re not there, or just not interested. Through multi-person video chat, Google+ Hangouts changes the game.  For example, businesses can arrange video conferences with up to 10 employees or co-workers; or use Hangouts as your own live customer support line.
  • +1:  Putting +1 buttons on your website will let customer recommend your business, site, page or content to friends and contacts.  Consider it free word of mouth marketing.
  • Photo sharing for business: A phone is a perfect collaboration tool for business owners since it’s always with you and always online. But getting photos off your phone is a pain. Google+ instant upload lets users add photos to a private site in the cloud, and even add locations.
  • (Also see ShopTalk: Social Media’s “What Local Business Should Know now about Google Plus.”)

The +1 Button is the Key

The +1 button lets users recommend you right on Google search – or from your own site, if you have the button installed.  Adding the +1 button to your business website gives customers and other visitors another way to endorse your business or brand.  The more +1’s your business collects, the better. Having +1’s will improve search results for your business, product or service, and also give your ads more oomph.   It works like this:

1)      Julie clicks the +1 button next to your online ad or organic search result about your business. This now becomes a public recommendation, linked to her profile.

2)      Her contacts will see a personalized “annotation” (more on this below) on her own search results and ads showing that Julie “+1’d” (pronounced PLUS-ONE’D) it.

Where to Get the Button

Google has created a special page for businesses and webmasters to learn more about the +1 button, download the code and even create customized versions of the button for specific uses.  That’s where you’ll find everything you need.  Put the button wherever you think it will be most effective. On the top half of the page, near the title of the page, and close to sharing links are good locations. Placing the +1 button at both the end and the beginning of an article or story can also be effective.

How +1 Affects Search Results and Traffic

Basically, +1 helps people find relevant content—a website, a search result, or an ad—from people they know. As G+ expands, the +1 button will appear on more and more websites and ads.  You’ll see a +1 button on a Google search result or next to an article you’re reading on a news or industry site.

Adding the +1 button to pages on your own site lets users recommend your content, knowing that their friends and contacts will see their recommendation when it’s most relevant—in the context of their future Google searches (yes, a little scary, but true).  Personalized annotations next to your page in search results may increase your site’s visibility and click-through rate. To see how +1 affects your search traffic, try the +1 Metrics tool available in Google Webmaster Tools.  Available metrics include:

  • Search impact: See the pages on your site that received the most impressions with a +1 annotation, and see how +1 annotations impact click-through rate.
  • Activity: See the total number of +1’s received by pages on your site.
  • Audience: See aggregated information about people who have +1’d your pages, including the total number of unique users, their location, and their age and gender.

Google+ Annotations

Personalized annotations display the faces of friends and social connections who’ve already +1’d a piece of content. Google tries to display +1’s to people (specifically those in the user’s social connections) who would find them most useful. By making the recommendations more discoverable, users will be more engaged with your site. 

How to Stay in the Loop

To preview the latest updates to the Google+ platform, subscribe to the Google+ Platform Preview group.  For updates specifically about the +1 button, subscribe to the Google Publisher Buttons Announce Group.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

ShopKick is Next Big Thing in Local Social Commerce

Remember this name: ShopKick. You’re about to starting seeing a lot more of it. ShopKick is a new mobile application that tracks and rewards customers with points (called KickBucks) just for walking into your store. Think of it as a new digital way to easily drive foot traffic into your location. 

Customers earn additional points for picking up and scanning the barcode on an item in your store using their smartphone’s camera and, of course, for making purchases. The more involved with your store a shopper becomes, the more KickBucks they can earn. It’s like a digital version of the old-style repeat-purchase punch card, but with vastly more capabilities.  

KickBucks can then be redeemed for rewards such as discounts, gift cards, merchandise and charitable donations. Consumers simply download the free ShopKick app to their smartphones and start looking for nearby stores and restaurants offering “Kicks Rewards.” The ShopKick FAQ section helps explain in detail how the app works from the customer’s point of view.

ShopKick is amazingly simple and – apparently – effective as well.  Several big retailers such as Crate & Barrel, American Eagle, Macy’s and Target began experimenting with it in 2010.  Best Buy, the electronics big box giant, likes it so much it recently rolled it out nationwide.

The big news, however, is that ShopKick has just launched a pilot program to begin offering the service to local businesses in 11 cities and metro areas, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Austin, Seattle, Washington, DC, Detroit and New Orleans. Initially, 1,000 local businesses will be selected to participate and will get the service free for a year.

While any local business can apply for free, the preferred types of businesses for the experimental program are coffee shops, yogurt shops, bakeries, family restaurants and local clothing boutiques.  Other factors in your favor include these:  You have less than 20 locations are located in a shopping area, have a good Yelp rating and a distinctive store design.  Citibank is picking up the tab for the pilot program, and clearly sees big things ahead for ShopKick. Citi officials see it as an exciting new retail program that local businesses can use to help them connect with customers in their communities.  

A New Local Mobile Frontier

The huge growth of mobile commerce via smart phones is fueling Palo Alto, CA-based ShopKick and will change how customers interact with a local business. Already, about 20% of consumers use their mobile phones to check prices, according to a recent Booz & Company study. As smartphone penetration more than doubles over the next 3-4 years, that figure is expected to soar as well.  Booz & Co. also predicts that purchases made directly from mobile devices will more than triple by 2014.

It creates a new personalized experience for customers to tap into when shopping at local merchants.  And according to BIA Kelsey, which tracks local marketing trends, ShopKick is already available in 2,500 big retailer locations and 160 malls nationwide.

In short, ShopKick is a new retail technology that – for the first time – starts to meld the previously separate worlds of selling either online or offline.  Armed with their app-equipped mobile devices, customers can now exist simultaneously in both the digital and physical shopping worlds.

ShopKick, founded in 2009, has high-powered venture capital funding, and counts Kleiner Perkins, Greylock Partners and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman among its backers.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Facebook Finalists are a Learning Lab for Local Business

American Express OPEN and Facebook have announced the 10 small business finalists in the Facebook Big Break for Small Business, a national contest that has the lofty goal of transforming the way small businesses use Facebook to connect and engage with customers. Over 11,000 small and local businesses entered the contest, aiming for an all-expense paid trip to Facebook headquarters for an intensive two-day makeover of their Facebook business presence, plus a $20,000 cash prize.

Take a look at the websites these mainly local businesses have built, and what they are doing already on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.  While it’s too late to enter the contest, your business can still be a winner by learning from what the finalists are already doing online.

Naturally, winners will be chosen by “fans” and other followers of the finalist businesses themselves, not by Amex or Facebook.  Starting now, anyone can vote for their five favorites among the 10 finalists to win the trip to Facebook and prize by visiting http://www.facebook.com/Open.  You get five votes, but only one vote is allowed per business. The deadline is July 19. Here are the finalists:

Our personal favorite here at BizBest is Viesso.  In part that’s because we’re only a few blocks from their showroom ourselves, but also because the entrepreneurs behind Viesso seem to be pretty web-savvy and already have a leg up on using social media to build their business.  

Meanwhile, AMEX OPEN has just launched YourBuzz, a free tool to help small businesses manage their online presence, learn what is being said and about them and their competitors, and connect with customers in the places where they are most vocal—social media.  This is another in a series of so-called “reputation management” tools that are being launched for local businesses.

YourBuzz offers a consolidated view of what customers have to say about your business across CitySearch, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other popular sites, and respond when necessary. The platform will also let you consolidate customer contact information from the Internet and manage it from YourBuzz. Here are other things you can do with YourBuzz:

Manage Online Presence

  • View existing business listings
  • Claim and edit business listings
  • Create new business listings

Learn What Customers Saying

  • See how you stack up against your competition
  • View an aggregation of customer reviews and online mentions
  • Respond, re-tweet, take actions or create a new conversation on major social sites
  • Get recommendations on different actions to take

Manage Online Connections

  • Import customer profiles and contact information to segment direct marketing efforts
  • Highlight influencers in your Social Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Market to these contacts directly based on available public information

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

Facebook Beats Yelp in Local Business Reviews Battle

More fuel for the Facebook fire:  The “Like” button, launched in 2010, is already more popular than Yelp as a way for customers to show their support for a local business online.  Results of a new Harris Interactive survey also reveal that no single source or factor dominates the consumer decision-making process of which local business to choose in any given category.  In other words, while Facebook “Likes” are winning the feedback war with Yelp and other reviews sites, it’s not the first or only information source that customers consult when making local purchase decisions – especially when trying something new.

The message for local business owners is this:  While having a Facebook page and actively encouraging “Likes” is important, taking steps to reach customers through a variety of methods, both online and offline, is critical as well.  There’s no single magic bullet that can influence everyone.

Here are the local business takeaways from the Harris Interactive study:

1.       When it comes to recommending a local business or professional, or just showing support, a simple whisper in the ear still trumps a click.  Three out of four local customers (75%) still recommend businesses by word-of-mouth.

2.       20% of people say they will “Like” a local business on Facebook to show their support, compared with about 13% who say they’ll write a review.

3.       Younger age groups are much more likely to hop on Facebook over Yelp, as are women.  While about 40% of people under 35 will “Like” a business in Facebook, the figure is 49% in the 18-24 group, versus 18% who said they would write a review.  About 25% of women overall hit the “Like” button, versus 11% who write reviews.

4.       Daily deal sites aren’t as big a factor as some people think.   Despite the frenzied attention given to Groupon, Living Social and others, discounts and offers do not appear to be a major factor in how consumers choose a merchant.  Less than one in ten people (8%) said a deal is the number one thing that influences them to try a local business.

5.       More than half (52%) of adults under 35 visit more than two websites before visiting a local business; 63% of respondents under 35 head to Google; 24% visit Facebook; 21% look at reviews sites and much to marketers’ chagrin, a hefty 17% say that they simply click on the first link in a search result, whatever it happens to be.

6.       People do care about the face behind the business. When doing their homework, customers under 35 say that feedback from the business owner can carry equal weight to input from friends or social networks.  The message is clear:  When doing online marketing, be sure you are personally represented along with your deals or specials.  Almost half (47%) of people under age 35 are more influenced to try a business from the owner of the establishment than a friend

7.       High gas prices and distance are changing how consumers decide;  67% of people overall said  that gas prices now factor into their decision around which businesses to visit – 87% of women ages 18-34 said gas prices and distance influence their decision, compared to 67% of men in the same age range.
Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

8 Getting Started Twitter Tips for Business

Small business owners, local businesses and startups of all stripes are embracing social media marketing with gusto.  Signups on Facebook and Twitter are soaring.  And why not?  Biz owners see these platforms as free marketing that may be tricky and unknown, but well worth a shot.

After all, when half of local businesses say they’ll spend less than $2,500 on marketing this year, the lure of social media is strong with its relative ease, low cost and low entry barriers.  And while Facebook is king, Twitter has seen tremendous growth from local business owners and professionals who aim to build awareness for their products and services – as well as themselves.

If you’re giving tweets a try, here are some vital tips and strategies to keep you from stubbing your Twitter toe:

  1. To start off right choose a good Twitter name or “handle.”  This could be your own name or your business name, a variation or abbreviation of your name or business name, or a combination.  You should make it easy for others to recognize who you are, and connect you to your business, product or service.  Put your Twitter handle (looks like “@name”) on your website, email signature, business cards, name badge, letterhead and anywhere else potential followers will see it.  Avoid cutesy, random or made-up names that have nothing to do with you or your business.   
  2. Set specific business goals for being on Twitter, and pursue them.  For example, you can use Twitter to help position your name or brand, communicate with customers and prospects, announce events, point to articles, videos or other content on your website.
  3. Hone your profile.  A Twitter account lets you create a brief but highly visible profile, so don’t blow it.  I’ve seen many lame profiles that include mundane personal traits or meaningless information. Worse yet, no profile at all.  Others look like random stacks of keywords.  And many lack a link to a website or blog. Don’t make these mistakes.  Include your company, position, fields of interest, and what you have to offer. Consider it your elevator pitch to attract followers.
  4. Avoid pointless tweets.  Concentrate on providing useful information. Promote things you have on your own website, or point to someone else’s content as a useful or interesting resource.   You will only gain followers if people believe they will enjoy, be informed by or otherwise find value in what you tweet.  Concentrate on specialized knowledge your business has and can share with others.
  5. Search the site.  A great way to get ideas for tweets and find potential followers or folks to follow is to use Twitter Search.   This is a highly effective, but under-used Twitter feature that’s both helpful and free.  Also search for tweets that have mentioned your company or brand.  And btw, while you can be choosy about who you follow on a personal account, when using Twitter for business, be sure to follow back anyone who follows your business.
  6. Make Twitter part of your regular networking.  The old days of simply collecting business cards are over.  Today when you attend meetings, trade shows, lunches or other events, make a point to collect Twitter handles and hand out your own.  Many people now display them on name badges, signage or other prominent places.  To go directly to someone’s Twitter page, just add the name (handle) to the end of the Twitter URL, like this:  www.twitter.com/danielkehrer.  
  7. Hop onto hashtags.  Hashtags are used to organize tweets around categories, themes or topics by adding the pound sign (#) before a word or phrase, like #smallbusiness, #entrepreneurs or #startups.  When you use a hashtag in a tweet, it is automatically posted to that category in addition to your basic tweet stream.
  8. Point people to your website.  Tweets are a great way to get people to visit your website.  Perhaps you have a whitepaper available for download, some interesting photos, a new video or some other type of content.  Don’t be shy. Tweet about it with a link back to your site.  But use a URL shortener to avoid filling your entire tweet with a long link.  Two popular services where you can do this in seconds for free are http://bit.ly and http://ow.ly.

Take it from someone with a perfect TwitterGrader score of 100:  If you do it right, Twitter can pack a powerful marketing punch for almost any business.

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