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6 Ways to Influence Your Influencers

Word of mouth has long been considered the best advertising a small business can get. And in today’s digital world, word of mouth is even more important and effective than ever.  But the social media explosion has transformed how word of mouth works.

Social media vastly amplifies word of mouth in a 24/7 system. But many business owners are puzzled about how this works, and what to do.

Basically, it’s about what the social media world calls “influencers.”  Other people listen to what influencers have to say. They come in all shapes and sizes, from a busy mom who’s active on Facebook, to a well-known blogger in a particular industry or profession. Influencers are active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, industry forums and their own blogs or websites.

Influencers are always building their digital networks and social media reputations. They may have hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of friends (Facebook; Foursquare), followers (Twitter) and connections (LinkedIn) that constitute a immense digital word-of-mouth opportunity.

Every single connection is amplified in the digital world. For example, according to LinkedIn, my relatively modest 450 connections link me to an astounding 7.8 million professionals.

Your goal is to first identify your influencers, and then – well – influence them to spread positive word-of-mouth about your business.

How to Do It

Here are six tips on how to do that suggested by a leading social media analytics firm Sysomos:

1. First Check Your Own Network

Some influencers may already be in your fold. These might be past and present customers and prospects who already know your business and engage with you on social sites. Remember that customers are highly influenced by what their friends and family do and like. People already in your network can have this kind of influence on their own connections, so reach out to them.

2. Use Google and Twitter searches

This will help you find people who’ve already identified themselves (by the keywords them included in their personal or business profiles) as being interested in your industry or demographic. Don’t forget to search related or overlapping terms as well. You can also check their influencer scores or ratings with services such as Klout.com and Kred.com. But don’t rule out up-and-comers. Even people with small (highly targeted) networks can have big influence.

3. Recognize and Reward Your Best Influencers

Recognition is a powerful tool for influencing your influencers. Everyone likes to feel special in some way, and influencers in particular love to feel like they are “in the know” and have valuable tips or information they can pass along to their own networks. You can foster a special feeling by creating an influencer network (although you don’t have to call it that) and offering them first crack at special deals, news, offers, samples and demos. And social media experts at Sysomos also suggest tapping top influencers for feedback on new products or services. Loyalists will love this – especially if you make them feel they’ve had an impact.

4. Segment Your Audience and Tailor your Tactics

Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. Influencer behavior and digital word-of-mouth looks much different depending on the social platform (i.e. Twitter vs. LinkedIn). Twitter updates, for example, should be made throughout the day (but no more than hourly). Facebook updates are generally less frequent – maybe once per day. On blogs and discussion forums, it’s best to try and join in a dialog on a topic of interest. You can gain leverage and be more efficient with your time by “cross-pollinating” some of your photos, tweets, posts and comments across multiple platforms. For example, don’t just post a great photo on Facebook. Also put it on Pinterest and tweet it.

5. Personalize your Approach

Don’t be shy about reaching out to key influences one-on-one. Use the social tools at your disposal to do this, including the direct messaging capability of Twitter, LinkedIn and others, as well as leaving thoughtful and constructive comments on influencer blogs. A social CRM service such as Nimble.com can also be a huge help.

6. Keep up with the Conversation

This requires continuous effort but is essential.  When you become an integral part of the digital media conversation in your industry or profession, influencers will be more likely to mention and recommend you on their own. Sharing thoughts and reactions to industry news will keep people thinking and talking about you.

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

Biz Cheat Sheet on Owned, Earned and Paid Media

As digital marketing continues to soar, here’s a question I’m getting more often from business owners and start-up entrepreneurs:  What’s the difference between paid, owned and earned media for promoting or advertising my business, and how do I make them work for me?

The whole “owned-earned-paid” thing is familiar to advertising and PR pros, but totally mysterious for millions of small business owners who’ve never really thought in those terms. Yet understanding the digital-world differences — and more importantly, how to deploy owned, earned and paid media simultaneously to grow sales — is critical today.  Here’s my BizBest “cheat sheet” for business owners on owned, earned and paid media:

Owned Media Basics

Perhaps the simplest examples of “owned” pieces of online media real estate are your business website and Facebook page. You built ’em. You operate ’em. You own ’em. Done well, they’ll be nicely designed, easy to navigate and chock full of helpful information, articles, photos, videos and other compelling content that customers and prospects will find interesting. Other “owned” media would include any blogs, newsletters or additional social media accounts your business has.

The basic idea with owned media is to fill them with useful and engaging content that helps potential customers discover your business when they search for something online, or use their own social media channels.  This is the realm of what’s called “content marketing,” which uses helpful, high-value information to draw people into your products and services.

Paid Media Basics

No surprise here.  Paid media are the online ads and promotions you pay for with hard, out-of-pocket marketing dollars. This includes search and other pay-per-click type ads, banners and paid promotions on social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.

Using paid media is the more traditional approach that most businesses are familiar with.  You set a budget, pick your channels and spend as you see fit, while tracking results as best you can.

Earned Media Basics

Public relations fits here.  Issuing a press release that gets mentioned somewhere (either online or offline) “earns” you exposure that you didn’t have to pay for (at least not directly). But it gets trickier. The “earned media” piece is  huge, and difficult to execute — yet it’s a critical leg of the marketing/media triumvirate.

Earned media can produce really good stuff; the attention and engagement you “earn” from customers but that can’t be (legitimately) bought. For example, great comments, recommendations, reviews, mentions, likes and shares are all valuable types of customer-generated media coverage that you must earn, and can’t (directly) pay for.  This includes word-of-mouth, but amplified through the digital megaphone.

Making Owned, Earned and Paid Play Well Together

Owned, earned and paid media don’t exist in isolation. They overlap. In fact, your goal is to make them overlap and work together.  For example, paid ads might attract people to your website or Facebook page where they see some interesting content they want to “like” or share.  In turn, that engagement earns you more notice among the media.  Thanks to the nature of social sharing, the interaction possibilities are almost endless as information passes from one person’s network to others.  This is sometimes called “converged media” — the place where owned, earned and paid intersect.

To have an inkling of what’s going on here, business owners must first recognize that the way buyers research purchases and find businesses has changed radically, and rapidly. These things once occurred via isolated channels. But no more. It now happens through thousands of highly fragmented media channels on a 24/7 basis, often simultaneously as people occupy several digital platforms at once.

Big companies recognize this and now engage is what’s called “Brand Streaming” where they attempt to be absolutely everywhere, 24/7, monitoring what’s being done and said, and reacting quickly to any engagement by a customer or prospect (which is called “agile engagement”).

What to do now

First, don’t despair.  It should already be abundantly clear that since consumer behavior has changed, marketing a product or service will never be the same. You will need to embrace new digital tools and tactics (including some from all of the above categories), and deploy them in as many places as possible.

Start with a firm foundation. Look for small wins that you can reasonably achieve in each category (owned, earned, paid) and build from there.  Take it one step at a time. Don’t try to concoct some huge strategy that takes months to deploy.  Test small things to see what works and what doesn’t. It’s easier, less stressful and more effective.

Copyright 2000-2012, BizBest Media Corp. (@140Main) All Rights Reserved.

10 Tweet Ideas for Small Business

Growing numbers of small and local businesses are discovering that a tweet can be a powerful tool for making your presence known among customers, prospects, your area and your industry.  In particular, Twitter is great for helping amplify your marketing messages and grow your business.

More and more of your customers are joining and using Twitter, so if you aren’t there you’re missing an opportunity to be part of the online conversation. To use Twitter effectively, what you Tweet about – your “voice” – should reflect the online identity of your business.

For example, you can tweet about the value your business brings by sharing links and photos with your followers and letting them see what happens behind the scenes. The more people who talk about your business on Twitter, the more followers – and customers – you will get.

Here are 10 ideas for things to tweet about on a regular basis from Twitter for Small Business:

1)    Offer Special Promotions

Create special promotions available exclusively to your Twitter followers. Some businesses tweet a special offer code or secret word that customers can mention to get a discount when they visit either in person or online.

2)    Go Behind The Scenes

Tweet behind-the-scenes videos or photos that provide access to information your followers can’t get other ways. A bakery, for example, might tweet photos of how the breads and muffins are prepared.

3)    Media Mentions

Whenever there’s positive news about you or your business, or perhaps your industry in general, that’s something to tweet about. Be sure to mention the media outlet where the story appeared, and include a link if possible.

4)    Helpful Hints

Create an ongoing series of helpful tips related to your product or service that people would find interesting or surprising. A chef might tweet helpful kitchen tips or recipes. Or a clothing store might tweet ways to match current trends and vintage items. Establish a regular day for sending your tweet tips and people will start to look for them.

5)    Spotlight on People

Look for ways to focus on the people who help create a positive customer experience at your business. You might, for example, include photos of them at work.

6)    Tweet Offers and Incentives

One easy way to boost your audience is to offer a discount to anyone who re-tweets your offer – but only if you reach an established number of re-tweets (perhaps 5 or 10). Offer customers a reward of some kind if they mention your business – such as a free trial or extra service. (It’s also a good idea to include a link to the terms and conditions of your offer.) Some businesses ask customers to show them the tweet on their phones at checkout. Online sellers sometimes send the follower a discount code that can be tracked at checkout.

7)    Try Some Q&A

Pose a question in your tweet and then answer it yourself with a link to your website or another location. For example, a car dealer might ask “What are the top 10 reasons that people buy a new car?” and then link to a blog post that provides the answers. Or a golf shop might ask “Is there an easy way to correct a slice?” and link to the answer.

8)    Entertain and Inspire

People love to share positive tweets that entertain or inspire them in some way.  The tweets that are passed along or “re-tweeted” the most usually contain links, photos or videos. Remember that when you tweet something interesting it has the potential to be shared among many prospective customers.

9)    Tweet Photos

Experience shows that a descriptive tweet that includes a photo will not only get more clicks, it will inspire people to share it with others by re-tweeting it. Think of it as a caption and photo combination. The words in the tweet are the “setup” and the photo is the punch line.

10) Base Your Tweet on a Quote

Some businesses inspire customers by tweeting pertinent quotes from business, literature, history or pop culture. Try to choose quotes that your followers will find inspirational enough to pass along to their own followers.

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

A 10-Step Facebook Cheat Sheet for Biz Owners

Despite its massive reach and wide adoption, Facebook remains baffling to many business owners. Facebook itself has never really understood small business, and hasn’t done a great job explaining how biz owners can use it to grow sales.

To Facebook’s credit, that’s starting to change as they provide more and better tools top help small firms, local businesses, professionals, start-ups and others leverage a platform that now claims over 1 billion users.  If you have a Facebook business page, you’ll be hearing more from Facebook as it roll’s out a variety of new ways for small companies to use paid advertising.

So far, however, the vast majority of local businesses are sticking with what they can get from Facebook for free – which is actually quite a lot.  Only about seven percent of small businesses surveyed recently by Merchant Circle are using paid promotional services on Facebook. That compares to 70 percent who are now using Facebook’s free features to promote their business.

The good news is that Facebook has upgraded the free tools and information it offers to help you succeed. The Facebook for Business section (www.Facebook.com/business) has helpful how-to tips and guidance on everything from building your page to best practices for engaging users. You’ll also find interesting stories on how other small businesses are using Facebook successfully, and a list of helpful resources.

Success always starts with building an engaging Business Page – the free foundation of your effort to grow with Facebook.  Here’s a quick 10-step cheat sheet on what to do:

1. Your Category

Choose a category and give your page a name that represents your business.

2. Your Photo

Pick a photo or logo to use as your “profile picture.” This is the smaller image associated with your page. In some cases, this might be your photo, a square version of your logo (beware: non-square logos can end up being chopped off), or some other graphic representation of your business.

3. Your Tag Line

Create a “tag line” or short sentence that captures briefly what your business is about – specifically what you do or sell, and the value you offer.

4. Your URL

Create a custom Facebook web address for your business that’s memorable and shareable.  The part you pick is what comes after Facebook.com. For example, Facebook.com/StateBicycle.

5. Your Cover Page

Select a “cover page” photo or other image – preferably something that people would associate with your business. Use a high quality image, as it will be featured prominently on your page. It’s the first thing people will see and should showcase your product, service or brand. Size restrictions are very specific. It’s best to use a horizontal image that’s 851 x 315 pixels. Avoid generic photos. It’s much better to use an image unique to your business, such as a popular menu item for a restaurant, or perhaps a customer using your product or service (with their permission). You might have to experiment with a few different images to see what looks best.  Avoid putting contact information or other business details in your image. Those should go in your “About” section.

6. Your News Feed

The “news feed” is the centerpiece of the Facebook experience. You can easily create different kinds of “news” or “posts” for your feed, including written text updates, photos, videos or questions. People who “like” your page will see your updates in their own news feeds (one reason you’ll want as many “likes” as possible). The news feed is where people spend 40 percent of their time on Facebook. This is where people engage and share ideas and information.

7. Your Posts

Short posts work best – no more than 250 characters (about 50 words). They’ll get 60 percent more likes, comments and shares than longer posts.

8. Your Sharing

The best things to share, however, are photos (including photo albums) and videos. People are twice as likely to engage with these as other types of posts.

9. Your Deails

To add details about your business, click on the Edit Page button in the admin panel. Then choose “Update Info” to change or add what you want.

10. Your Invitations

Invite people to like your page – including your community of friends, family, customers, employees and others who care about your business. The “Build Audience” button on your admin panel will show you some things to try.

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

How Return-on-Relationship (ROR) Trumps ROI

Small business owners traditionally view customer relationships this way: You produce a product or service, and customers pay you money, some of which you re-invest in finding more customers.

But Bill Lee, author of a new book called The Hidden Wealth of Customers (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012) has a different notion.  Wouldn’t it be far more effective if you let the customers you already have help drive your sales and marketing efforts and fuel your growth? Makes sense, right?  No matter how much you spend on marketing and advertising through outside channels, they are still at least one layer removed from actual buyers. Existing customers have the best handle on understanding your potential customers, hands down.

Lee’s research has revealed this: Businesses that achieve rapid growth are the ones that don’t just think of customers as “people or businesses that buy stuff” but rather as advocates, influencers and contributors.

That’s a key mindset that can work magic for small and local businesses of all kinds, no matter where they are or what they sell. Instead of thinking only about a return of investment (ROI) on your marketing dollars spent, start thinking also about a “return on relationship” (ROR) with your customers.

The truth is, says Lee, your customers are incredibly well equipped to market, sell and even help develop your products and services.

Here are six ways that customers can help grow your business better than you can:

1) Attract high-value information from and about other customers and prospects.

Existing customers have inside knowledge of their peers that can be super valuable. For example, they know what movies they watch, which restaurants they visit, where they like to travel and so on. Consider a company called Westlaw, which provides research services for law firms. It realized that its clients were interested in how they and the markets they served stacked up to other firms and markets. So Westlaw created something called Peer Monitor, which collects and aggregates client information (anonymously, with their permission) and turned it into a lucrative new business.

2) Believably promote your product or service.

No matter how hard you try, you can never be as believable in promoting your own business as one of your customers can. It’s this simple: You’re trying to sell something. Your customer isn’t. That fact alone makes them far more credible to other potential customers than outside agencies or internal employees.

3) Close the sale.

Yes, customers also make better salespeople than you do. They can honestly say, “This product or service worked for me and it can work for you too.” Look for ways to connect existing customers with prospects.  Many business owners find that prospects are far more interested in talking to other customers than to you or others at your firm.

4) Connect with their peers (your prospects).

Prospects are much more open to opportunities of connecting with friends and peers than they are with getting close to companies. That’s human nature. But too often when companies try to form “communities” around their business or brand they put the focus on the business logos and a company spokesperson. Instead, look for ways to creatively foster dialog between customers and their peers that touches on issues related to your products or services.

5) Energize your online and social media marketing.

Try as they might, many small businesses get nowhere with their social media marketing efforts. Often that’s because they try to force traditional ways of communicating into the social sphere.  Try other creative ways, such as video and mobile to engage customers in social media.

6) Help you enter new markets.

Typically, a small business hoping to enter a new market will hire and agency or use employees to help with research. How about using local customers in those areas?  Find and engage local VIP players to play a central role in your effort. Use them for product testing and feedback and to communicate your message.

Too many small businesses say, “customers are our best assets” but never leverage those assets. By using social media and other methods to harvest those assets, you can spark a new source of growth for your business.

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

5 Keys to Improving Search Ad Results

Millions of businesses use some type of paid search advertising to attract customers and prospects to their location or website. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising – also called search engine marketing or simply paid search – can be an effective, low-cost way to gain visibility online. If your business is using or planning to use paid search advertising, here are five keys to getting the most bang for your buck:

1. Make your keywords really count

Keywords are the essence of PPC advertising. This is what you are actually paying for – the right to show up in results when customers or prospects search for specific words and phrases. The more carefully you choose those keywords, the better your results will be. Ideally, the keywords you buy should match the terms that your customers are most likely to use when searching for your products or services.

But that’s harder than it sounds.  Customers often think in different terms than business owners or professionals and might use different words and phrases to describe the same thing. In short, buying the wrong keywords won’t get you anywhere.  Google has a good keyword tool that can help you find the precise words and phrases that people use most often to search for millions of different products, services and solutions online. Visit www.googlekeywordtool.com.

2. Consider “negative keywords” as well

Selecting keywords is a little like preparing a party guest list. There are people you choose to invite and some you choose to avoid. In similar fashion, using “negative keywords” for your search is like crossing certain people off your guest list. Negative keywords that you specify will not trigger your ad. Thus, for example, if you sell only new or paid services, you might put the terms “used” or “free” on your negative keyword list. That way you won’t pay for people seeking only used or free items.

But using negative keywords is a bit of balancing act.  If you use too many of them, your ads might end up reaching too few customers. If you don’t use any negative keywords, however, your ads might show to people not really interested in what you offer.

3. Be conscious of your quality score

Your ad’s “quality score” is something that many small businesses fail to consider. Unbeknownst to many business owners, search engines don’t consider all ads equal, even if you pay the same or even a higher rate than a competitor. Google, for example, assigns each ad a quality score based on how relevant it considers your ad, your keywords and the “landing page” you are linking to. Their goal is to deliver the most relevant and useful ads to people searching online. The higher your quality score, the more often your ad will be seen by the best searchers. If you use Google AdWords, you can check your quality score in your online account (under the Keywords tab).

4. Write compelling ad messages

Search ads are extremely short so you have to make every character count when you write your copy. Hone in on only the most critical benefits and features of what you offer, knowing your goal is to get someone to click on your words. Include your keywords in your ad copy so searchers know your ad is relevant to what they want. Ads that include the exact search term get more clicks.

Emphasize any unique selling points you have, and include a call to action such as “buy now,” “sign up for a free trial” or “request a quote.”

5. Send users to the best landing page

When someone clicks on your ad, the page on your website that you send them to is the “landing page.” But it doesn’t have to be your homepage. The idea is to send people to the most relevant page on your site that relates to their search, and that helps them make a purchase.

To improve conversions – and get a higher quality score – try to match the text in your ad to the message and other content on your landing page. Don’t make visitors hunt and click for offers you featured in your ad. They should be able to find what they’re looking for on the landing page.

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

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.

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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.

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