Posted by . In topics: Marketing · Social Media

Synopsis: With so many social media options out there, how do you go about picking the platforms that work for your business? We’ve outlined a few ways, including knowing where your customers are at and what social media platform you prefer to use, in order to make picking your presence easier.

When you hear social media, what do you think? Thoughts of Facebook posts and Tweets might come to mind. Then, of course, there’s Instagram photos, Tumblrs, check-ins, pins, and more. That doesn’t even include all the new options that keep sprouting up to help you connect with other people in a whole new way. It all becomes too much for one business owner, company or entrepreneur to manage.

But there are benefits to having a presence on social media, if it works in tandem with your overall marketing and advertising goals. Some of these benefits include connecting with new customers, turning onlookers into brand advocates and more sales. There’s the other uses, including customer service and as a public relations forum, which also can be vital to an online business in this day-and-age.

So, with all the options, how do you go about picking the right platform for your company? It’s a more simple process than many want to make it seem. A whole new industry has been built to manage, create, implement and guide companies’ social media platforms. With all the options, it can seem like a headache that you can’t get rid of. But remember that many of the people discussing social media, work with large companies that have massive budgets to spend (and sometimes waste) on platforms that don’t return the investment. They can make these bets, in hopes to strike it big on the next platform.

You don’t need to do this. Because for every successful social media launch, there are probably ten to twenty fails from companies with the budget to support these endeavors. Here are a few ways to go about making sure you select the right social media presence for your company, without wasting time:

1. Who Are Your Customers?

Who do you sell to? If you’re a B2B company, you probably want to connect with executives. There’s a better chance to do so on LinkedIn. However, if you connect with a very specific sub-group, like shippers, there might be a shipping social media service that would help you connect even better with that group. If you’re selling to consumers, then maybe Facebook or Twitter makes more sense. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Social Media

Just because we’re in the traditional advertising business doesn’t mean that we have a chip on our shoulder regarding social media.  In fact, anything that helps local businesses grow is a good idea in our view.

But a study published this week raises serious questions about how Social Media is being used in retail:  the finding suggest SM does much less for local retailers than many expected.  The analytics firm ForeSee Results found that social media drove just 5% of visitors to retail Web sites. On the other hand, “promotional emails, search engine results, and [traditional] advertising are more influential,” it says.

In fact, the study found that more traditional marketing techniques not only generated more traffic, they also deliver better-quality customers. “Some of the most satisfied site visitors arrived at the site because of previous familiarity with a brand, promotional emails, word-of-mouth, and product review websites,” it says in its report.  See the study details after the jump.

The Big Ideas:

  • We don’t disagree with this research.  Social media is clearly still in it’s hype stage and there’s a lot of experimenting going on and a lot still to be done.  But don’t write off social media. We’re still in the 2nd inning with this rapidly evolving platform and consumer expectations and norms are changing continously.  Get out there, get comfortable in the space, and experiment.  Get ideas from people half your age.
  • Social media is not ‘one thing.’ Different types may have different benefits to your business: watch them all.  The goal of any local business shouldn’t be to just drive traffic to its web site.  It should include building the brand, informing those that want to be informed, and improving its relationships with customers – and last but not least: driving store traffic!  Yelp.com is social media that impacts expectations and perceptions.  The Facebook ‘like’ button can influence thousands of people at a time.  Same with ‘check-in’ sites like Foursquare.com. Group buying sites like Groupon are social and they can drive huge traffic spikes (just be careful how you use them).  Even Google is building social into it’s index for search.  Be broadly social, regardless of its immediate impact.
  • We strongly agree with one thing here:  Email works.  The problem with email is that it’s difficult/expensive to reach people outside of your own customer base, so it’s a tough putt for new customer acquisition.  With strict ‘opt in’ laws, you run a big risk buying email addresses and many of those you can buy are long-since dormant.  You can solve this problem by leveraging other people’s email lists.  Start with your local media outlets.  Our radio stations have listener email programs that you can usually use to get the message out to thousands of new prospects and ask for your own opt-ins.  Consider more creative approaches, like partnering with another complimentary business to reach a broader base.  Use traditional advertising to drive people to your site for a reason (a discount, gift, etc) and get them to register as a condition of taking the freebie.  Even consider designing a promotion with a large local media co (radio is perfect), to use your advertising dollars to drive entries for contests and fun activities.  Again, the goal here is to get them to register so you can communicate directly later.  You don’t even need a website for this – your local station can drive it through theirs.

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Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Social Media

As most of you know, Twitter is a free social media platform.  Its users micro-blog everything from what they ate for lunch to news articles that they’d like others to see and share.  Users express themselves in short 140 character broadcasts to designated groups of “followers” (Tweets), which can be read and passed virally through the Twitter site, mobile devices, and a number of 3rd party applications.  In the last months, The Growthwire has received a lot of questions about the use of Twitter for local businesses.   Most of these questions come from people who clearly see Twitter’s value as a social and a customer-service/relationship tool, but are uncertain about Twitter’s usefulness for customer acquisition.

Our honest answer is that we don’t know the answer yet.

The platform obviously has many evangelists, some of whom say it’s a great acquisition tool.  We’re not entirely convinced that these anecdotes are objective or applicable to the average local business.  Most of the more thoughtful discussions note that even if it does ‘work,’ it’s probably not for everyone.  The most common challenges appear to be: 1) It requires a lot of work and a broader social media strategy to use effectively, 2) Its potential decreases significantly as the geography of its use narrows (i.e. global, virtual companies like Dell will get more ROI than the small brick and mortar/local market computer shop), 3) Despite all the talk and awareness, only about 11% of the US is using the service (compared to 40% for Facebook), and 4) A lot of Twitter activity is now the cultivation of mass-follower lists to facilitate spam advertising.

Maybe we’re jaded – we’ve been through several major cycles of internet hype to date… So instead of trying to tell you what’s going on, we’ll simply ask.  Read on to take our one-question poll and see links where you can learn more about Twitter. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Customer Retention · Digital Marketing · Local Search/Google · Marketing · Social Media

With recent advances in search technology, your customers’ experiences can now be instantly in the public domain and, in many cases, magnified by the size and nature of social networks.  This adds to the existing risks posed by sites that offer un-moderated ‘ratings’ of local businesses – many of which you may not even know exist.

If you don’t already, its time to start taking steps to manage your brand’s reputation online – at the very least, to find out if there are any reputation-killers lurking in the dark recesses of the web.  For most businesses, this can be as simple as a doing a couple of quick searches each month, or setting up an automated Google Alert to do the searching for you.  Other businesses may need to dedicate more effort to this issue; particularly ones that are active in social media, have high staff turnover, face very aggressive competitors, or who’ve had problems with product quality or customer service.

In this, the first of two posts on Reputation Management, we’ll cover why you should be concerned and how you can take steps to monitor what’s said about you or your business online.  In the second post, we’ll focus on how to use this information, including strategies for remedying bad situations. Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Digital Marketing · Marketing · Social Media

According to several recent studies, 75-90% of small businesses get no return on investments in web marketing via social networks.  This, despite the fact that about 50% of small business owners spent over 100 hours last year engaged in social media marketing. In one recent survey conducted by BizLaunch, owners were asked a very general question:  “What social media platforms have contributed to your sales?”  The answers were pretty dismal:

  • Facebook: 14%
  • Linked-In: 7%
  • Twitter: 5%
  • Blogs: 4%
  • YouTube: 1%

So what’s going on? Read more »

Posted by . In topics: Digital Marketing · Marketing · Social Media

If you’re like most managers, you’ve migrated from print media to the web to keep up with business, your community, and areas of interest.  Once there, you’re finding many more useful niche sources of information than you had offline.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing:  good in the breadth and depth that you can now explore, but bad in the amount of time that you spend simply trying to make sure that you’re not missing something important.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is here to help make your online reading much more efficient.   RSS is a free tool that you can use to have new information from your favorite sources sent to you, instead of you looking for it.  RSS doesn’t fill up your inbox, can save hours each week, and will greatly increase the odds that you don’t miss anything important.  This video from commoncraft.com explains everything you need to know:

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