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The Future for Small Biz in Social Media

Time.  It’s a little word, but the single biggest roadblock to small business engagement in social media.  Sure, millions of biz owners have embraced social.  But time constraints produce constant dropouts and millions more won’t buy in as long as they believe the time sink outweighs the benefits.

The future, then, may well be a web-based service called Roost – or something like it – which promises to revolutionize social business engagement with free (for now at least) productivity tools that help local biz owners leverage the social web to generate leads and build their businesses efficiently and effectively.

Roost is brand new; barely out of the wrapper.  But its new social marketing platform for Facebook and Twitter solves the nagging problem all business owners face when thinking about social marketing: “What do I post and when do I post it?”

Roost helps biz owners and local professionals plan their social marketing activities in 20 minutes per week. Just set the duration and content types (post, link, quote, etc.) for each social media campaign. Roost automatically provides customized recommendations on post type and frequency to match the length of the campaign and achieve maximum customer and prospect engagement.

Roost’s suggested content feature offers direct access to articles, blogs, quotes and other original content. You can queue up content on a daily or weekly basis from a library of topics related to your type of business.  A feature called The Roost Bar also helps you gain more friends, fans and followers.  When someone views a shared link, a small, branded bar appears above the article and allows audiences to immediately “like” your business Facebook page.

A feature called Roost Circles helps biz owners and individual pros band together with their closest business associates, and by request, share each other’s posts, providing branding and engagement opportunities across each other’s networks. Whether the circle includes employees, favorite customers or vendors, the technology capitalizes on the economically relevant concept that rising tides lift all boats.

Roost was built for the restaurant, CPA or Realtor who can’t devote 10 hours each week to online marketing, says Alex Chang, CEO of Roost. “They know they need to be on Facebook and Twitter, but they aren’t sure what to do or how to start.”  In short, Roost is a service for real business owners who have little to no time, aren’t fully up to speed on all the nuances of social media marketing but who may live and die by referral business.

And best of all, it’s free.

Roost, a venture capital backed startup based in San Francisco, already has about 20,000 small biz professionals using the service.

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

How to Jumpstart Your Biz with Social Media

Lots of small businesses – especially new ones – are jumping into social media because it’s the hot thing to do. But achieving results is something else entirely. You need a strategy and framework for creating the kind of experiences consumers want and demand in the digital era, says Rick Mathieson, vice president for Silicon Valley-based Creative Advertising & Interactive Media and a leading voice on digital marketing.

Here are five rules from Mathieson on using social media to launch or jumpstart a small business.

Rule #1: Ask Why, not How: Just because social networking is hot, that doesn’t mean it’s right for every new business. Don’t just ask yourself what your social networking strategy should be. Ask why it should be, and why your target customers should care.

For example, the small Seattle-based firm Jones Soda couldn’t afford pricey TV commercials to launch its brand of beverages. So it uses social media to connect with consumers in highly personal ways. Jones Soda Facebook “Fans” can upload photos that might be printed on Jones bottles and labels. Today, it has over a million submissions and has used thousands on bottles.

“We allowed the labels to be discovered, and that gave consumers a sense of ownership,” says founder Peter van Stolk. Paying a celebrity to sponsor a beverage has been worked to death by big soda brands. “For all the money they have, our big name competitors should be thinking more originally, but they don’t. If they ever do, I’m dead,” says van Stolk.

Rule #2: Focus on Events and Offers: While some pundits can find social media success by simply sharing their “stream-of-consciousness,” chances are you can’t. For most small businesses, a more strategic approach is in order. Think of social media as digital direct mail — the ability to deliver limited-time, social network-only offers.

Countless small pizza shops, for instance, offer specials on social networks to attract customers, says Mathieson. Some are now pulling as much as 40 percent of their business from such efforts.  According to a new Rice University study, Facebook fans of one Houston-based cafe chain visited 20 percent more often and spent one-third more than non-fans.

Rule #3: Keep It Social to Keep Them Coming Back: Youth-oriented discount travel company STA uses social media to help customers meet others who love to travel, and who may be part of the vacation packages they purchase. Users can read about other people’s adventures through their own words, tips, photos and videos. And they can ask experts about travel related issues. Best of all, the company offers travel prizes monthly. And Twitter and RSS feeds will even send STA subscribers the cheapest flights so they can stop spending hours online searching for the best deals.

Rule #4: Be Creative about Selling:The price of developing apps for Facebook is dropping, and with ingenuity, can be revenue builders. Pizza Hut recently launched a Facebook app that lets customers place orders directly. The time is coming soon when a local sandwich shop will be able to do the same.

Los Angeles startup ice cream truck company Coolhaus takes a different approach. In addition to differentiating itself with ice cream sandwiches designed with architectural principles and names like  “The Frank Lloyd Light,” Coolhaus roams Los Angeles and updates its location on Twitter, says co-founder Natasha Case. The idea is to entice people out of offices and onto the street for an “ice cream social” that racks up serious sales.

Rule #5: Be a Good Social Listener:Social networks are also a great way to solicit customer feedback. Perhaps you’ve heard of Dell’s “Twelpforce” (or Twitter help force), a team that fields questions, offers suggestions and sends Twitter-specific promos to followers.  Small businesses can use social media in the same way, answering customer questions and providing purchasing guidance.

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

Tactics to Tackle Twitter in 2011

Over the past two years, awareness of Twitter has zoomed from 5% to 87%, according to research by Social Media Today.  As one of the world’s fastest-growing information networks, Twitter is now being used by millions of people, organizations and businesses to discover and share new ideas. Twitter now claims 370,000 new signups daily and 160 million registered users who create 100 million “Tweets” per day.

As a business, you can use Twitter to quickly share information, gather market intelligence or insights, and build relationships with people who care about your company. There may even be conversations about your business already happening on Twitter.

Here are six simple tactics that can help you build a following for your business using Twitter, and gain customer trust:

1. Share inside info: Share photos and behind-the-scenes details about your business. If possible, offer a glimpse of new products, services or events you’re planning. Users come to Twitter to get and share the latest, so giving it to them will help you build a following.

2. Ask. Ask questions of your followers to glean valuable insights and show that you are listening.  This helps start conversations that engage potential customers.

3. Respond. Respond quickly to compliments, questions and other feedback about your business.

4. Reward your customers. Tweet updates about special offers, discounts and time-sensitive deals available at your business.

5. Demonstrate leadership and know-how. You can do this by referencing helpful articles and links that relate to your business category in general.

6. Establish the right voice. Twitter users tend to prefer a direct, genuine and likable tone from a business, so think about your voice as you Tweet. How do you want your business to appear to the Twitter community?

It’s also helpful to know Twitter terminology. Twitter users have developed short-form syntax to make the most of 140 characters (the maximum length of a “Tweet”). Here are 12 you should know:

  • Buttons: Twitter buttons are available in the Goodies tab of your account, and are used to link to Twitter from other websites.
  • Favorite: To “favorite” a Tweet means to mark it as one of your favorites by clicking the yellow star next to the message.
  • Follow: To follow someone on Twitter means to subscribe to their Tweets or updates on the site.
  • Geotagging: You can use location data in Tweets to tell people where you are in real time. This is called “Tweet with Your Location.”
  • Hashtag: Users often attach the # symbol to words in their Tweets to categorize them for others, such as: “Check out our new products for the Fall: #fallsale” Think of hashtags as the theme of your Tweet. Users can then click on a hashtag to see other similarly-themed Tweets and find yours in search.
  • Listed: This means to be included in another Twitter user’s list. Listed numbers and details appear in the statistics at the top of your profile.
  • Mention: Once you’ve signed up and chosen a Twitter username, you and others can mention an account in your Tweets by preceding it with the @ symbol, such as: “Glad your shipment arrived @janesmith!”
  • Message: If you want to privately Tweet to a particular user who’s already following you, start your Tweet with DM or D to direct-message them, such as: “DM @joesmith234 what is your order number?”
  • Promoted Tweets: These are Tweets that selected businesses have paid to promote at the top of search results on Twitter.
  • Reply: A Tweet posted in reply to another user’s message, usually posted by clicking the “reply” button next to their Tweet in your timeline. Always begins with @username.
  • Retweet: When you see a Tweet by another user that you want to share, click Retweet below it to forward it to your followers instantly.
  • URL Shortener: URL shorteners are used to turn long URLs into shorter URLs.
Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.