• Social Media & Small Business: Top 5 Things You Should Already Be Doing in 2012
    By Katye Munger
    Correspondent | March 26,2012
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    Social media is “the new kid on the block” when it comes to marketing your business. Although social media has been around in some form for over 10 years, it is only during the past few years that businesses began to adapt to this new form of interacting with their customers on a personal, every day basis. This trend is here to stay, and I am here to make social media work for your business.

    To a long-time small business owner, new Internet ventures can be scary. If you haven’t jumped on the Internet and social media marketing bandwagons yet, 2012 is the time to do it. Here are the top 5 things you can do to improve your marketing online.



    1. CREATE A WEBSITE

    Go to your favorite search engine and type in the name of your business. What results do you get? If you get a random web listing on a site you never heard of, this is not the face you want for your business. You want a message that projects your brand and presents your message and mission out to customers, both current and potential. There are many ways to go about doing this.

    If you have the funds to put into this effort, I would suggest you hire one of our local businesses (such as Bloomfo Websites – www.bloomfo.com). They are most likely already familiar with your business in some capacity, and have the ability to understand both you and your clients/customers on a more personal level. This will in turn create the perfect website for your business.

    Google has many templates and options for a website for a small fee (sites.google.com). If you are interested in being able to have a lot of control of your site without learning HTML (website coding), you could also look into a blog-based website, such as WordPress (www.wordpress.org) or SquareSpace (www.squarespace.com).

    Regardless of the platform you utilize, create a website.



    2. UTILIZE FACEBOOK

    Facebook is the most used social media platform worldwide. It is therefore the best way to engage your customers. Facebook and other social media platforms have transformed the marketing world. Some businesses refer to social media as “consumer-generated marketing,” or CGM. Social media is distinct from traditional media as it turns a traditional marketing message, where information is simply put forward through press releases and advertisements onto an one way track, and turns it into a two-way conversation, encouraging responses to those messages and ideas, as well as a medium to easily share your message or information. This conversation lets companies present themselves in a more humanistic light.

    Having a page for your business on Facebook comes with very helpful tools that allow you to measure and adjust your performance on the site. Being able to see the demographics of your fans as well as how many people are viewing your posts can be incredibly useful information. Learning from this information and reacting to it appropriately is integral.

    My big tip for using Facebook is to make sure that you do not overpost. Your posts should be thoughtful, engaging, encourage conversation, feedback, or sharing, and if it contains some form of media (a photo or video), it will most likely garner further attention. For more Facebook tips and best practices, visit the official Facebook page by typing “Facebook Page” in the search at the top of the screen on Facebook.



    3. INVEST TIME & MONEY IN GOOGLE APPS

    Google has created a series of applications (apps) to not only help you with your day to day affairs with in your business, but also to understand your marketing and track your business online. You can use Google’s email (gmail.com) for business use, as well as set up shared documents, spreadsheets, and calendars. Google does go beyond that, having relationships with HTML email companies (enabling you to send out a newsletter to an email list, for example); Google Analytics, allowing you to track not only how people are finding your website, but what portions of your website they are interested in; and Google Adwords, which gives priority ad placement on Google and their partners(when someone completes a search using one of your keywords.)

    These apps are also just the tip of the iceberg, as they develop and release new applications frequently and their site has many more. You need to look at them and figure out what works for you. If anything, after you set up your website, set up Google Analytics. This will give you valuable information on your site and pages within it that will allow you to alter your information and grow your site, if need be.

    Another Google app that I use is Google Alerts. I have them set up at work for my company’s name and nicknames. I get an email every day of new articles, websites, blogs, and mentions of my company. The good information comes with the bad information — being in marketing, I need to see it all. This is the same attitude you should have. Social media and online marketing have given businesses the opportunity to stand up for themselves and address adversity head on and usually, almost immediately. Good news and articles can then be shared with your “followers” on your website and Facebook fan page immediately. In turn, bad news or information can be responded to quickly. Fans and customers will want to see how you react to such information. They will hope that you can do so with dignity and respect.



    4. Yelp!

    Yelp! is a national review and search site. Customers write honest reviews about your business. You should be tied into these comments and respond to them. As I said before, you need to be able to hear the good and the bad. Responding to both good and bad reviews is important, but how you respond to those reviews is even more important. Potential customers may also choose to research you on Yelp!, and seeing that you got a bad review may deter them from using your business. But seeing that you received a bad review and then rectified the situation quickly? They will appreciate this further.

    As the owner of the business, you can actually have access to the insights and visit information of the page, to see how many people are searching for your business. Their insights use the tagline, “What’s word-of-mouth doing for your business?” and explain that they can track this through their site.

    Yelp! has a “Deal” creation section, too. There are no upfront costs to this, but people that utilize the site and find you are able to purchase this discounted “deal” from Yelp!. They retain 30 percent of the discounted price, and send you the money for the rest. They create an individual redemption code for each person and as the business owner, you can then log in and check them off as redeemed when they use their deal. They can purchase from their mobile app or website, right from the top of your page.

    Go to yelp.com and check out how your business stacks up. Signing up is free, so there is no reason to not do this now!



    5. TWITTER

    Six-year-old Twitter has taken the world by storm. What started out as a short-messaging service (SMS) for someone to communicate with a small group, has turned into a worldwide phenomenon that individuals, corporations, small businesses, newspapers, magazines, schools, and even government officials find their voice on. As I stated in my Feb. 3 blog post, The Power of a Tweet, it is easy to communicate directly with a business and get real time results and feedback. In the instance I discuss in my blog, my friend and I noticed an incorrect photograph in Newsday’s paper. Within minutes, literally, of posting the issue and mentioning Newsday in our posts, they not only responded to us, but fixed the photograph. This is completely effective customer service, and left me very impressed and appreciative of their social media team.

    Twitter is slowly taking off more and more in our area. Even within the past few months, I have seen more people use Twitter on a daily basis. You can sync up your Twitter and Facebook accounts, so when you are posting to Facebook, it can automatically push your status updates to your Twitter page. Don’t forget to use your hash tags, though, so people can find you in their searches! (#rutvt is the Rutland one.)

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    I hope that 2012 is the year that you bring your business into the Internet age. More and more people are going mobile for all of their needs, be it looking up a company’s phone number or address, to play a game with friends, to all of their business and communication tasks. The customer of 2012 is much different than the customer of 1992, or even 2002. The biggest plus to social media marketing is that the actually platforms are free. Where you may be spending money is in deals, ads, and on hiring a consultant or social media manager to oversee their use. Regardless, getting involved in each of these platforms will be your first step in the right direction.



    For more Internet and social media marketing tips, visit Katye’s blog at localsocialvt.wordpress.org.
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