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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: A new report highlights the growing clutter on social media. This means for your company to break through, you need to go back to the basics. Here’s how.

By now, your small business probably has a Twitter handle or Facebook page. Raise your digital hands if you’re having any luck connecting with customers on the feeds? And I mean actually having conversations with customers as opposed to posting something and hoping they ‘like’ it.

My guess is not too many of us can raise our hand. But you’re not alone. Hubspot has put out an interesting infographic that shows how businesses (particularly, large businesses) have infiltrated the feeds, making it less about conversation and more about selling a product. This has also led to information overload, leading to many people turning their head, ignoring most of the conversations.

Hubspot, however, has a solution. The main reason for this shift is due, in large part, to the number of national brands on the sites. Hubspot thinks it’s time to think more like yourself. They quoted social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk, saying, “social media requires that business leaders start thinking like small-town shop owners [emphasis added]. This means taking the long view and avoiding short term benchmarks to gauge progress.”

That’s easier said than done, but what it really shows is that an entrepreneur or small business owner has advantage over the large brands online in the sense they already know how to react, communicate and talk to people like shop owners. It’s how the business has survived and grown.

AllTwitter likened the change in social media to that of email. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: Mashable has launched a live test study of one small business’s attempt to grow its social media presence in a month. Is that enough time? And will it have an impact on the bottom line?

It’s the eternal question when it comes to online promotion of a company. We hear about the success stories. We read how social media consultants suggest growing your online network. We see how social media companies continue to boom. But does it actually work? And, if it does, will it for small businesses?

Mashable has decided to try and find out. It has recruited a business that will receive free social media consulting, and the results of the company’s efforts will be publicized after the month long trial.

The recipient of this opportunity is a small business from Malaysia, called JumpSacBaby. After having a baby, Syazrina Ismail suddenly discovered the need for a baby sling. When it worked great for her, she tried selling her own to others in Malaysia. It took off, and now she has over 12,500 Facebook fans and a steady flow of business.

But not much has come from all those followers. So Mashable connected Ismail to Katy Lynch, a Chicago-based social media expert. Here are a few suggestions that Lynch offered Ismail:

  • Create a Pinterest page – And offer a way to win a free sling
  • Run a Contest on Facebook – Which would draw interest and notoriety to the brand
  • Grow Twitter Following – Looking to jump into conversations already happening on Twitter

Now, those are all great ideas. But the real question is will a month be enough to show strong results from a limited following? For example, Ismail has a Pinterest page, but no pins at this point. Unless she already has a strong email base – meaning one that’s dedicated, loyal and interested in what she has to say – then it will be hard to see significant increases in the Pinterest page after only a month. That is, unless the giveaway she offers truly stands out among her target audience.

The same goes for Twitter. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: Social media can become a dangerous place for your company to interact on during a tragedy. Here’s how to handle your platforms, when a national or local disaster occurs.

It seems as if anytime something horrific or truly tragic happens, there’s inevitably a business that steps on it, by trying to sell their product while using the tragedy on social media. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing, another such incident occurred.

Epicurious, the food blog, managed this when the day after the bombing, they began tweeting insensitive posts on Twitter. Some of the posts included: “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” or “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start the day.”

Eventually, Epicurious apologized for the tweets, saying they were “insensitive.” A little late to the party, but better than their original response which was to auto respond to everyone who showed anger towards the tweets, with “We truly regret that our earlier tweets seemed insensitive. Our hearts and prayers are with the people in Boston.” And only after people got upset with the notion that they “seemed” insensitive, did the blog apologize.

Talk about a huge mistake on the social media front. And for a growing business, this type of disaster could force your sales to a grinding halt. And you simply don’t want to be that company that everyone is talking about for all the wrong reasons, when so much emotion is at stake. Epicurious isn’t the first or the last company that will make such an error. But how do you avoid making the same mistakes? Here are a few ways to handle social media activities during a tragedy: Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: The importance of word-of-mouth marketing has become a vital aspect to online success. We had author of Brand Echonomics, and former TV anchor Jeff Brady explain how to accomplish this.

You have the business up and running. You have satisfied customers. You have cash flow.

But do you have a tool to attract new customers? A sustainable lead-generation engine? A platform to generate buzz?

If not, then consider the concept of brand echonomics as a means of growing visibility and attracting new clients and commerce. It’s more effective than any other concept in media because it works on all technology platforms, it’s more authentic and far more affordable. In fact, it costs nothing. We often call it word-of-mouth marketing 3.0. A brand Echo is created when one well-connected client has an extraordinary experience with your company, product or service and tells someone else… who tells someone else… who tells someone else. One person might call a friend. Another might Tweet about your amazing brand. Another might mention your brand at a networking event. And so, the brand echo has begun.

Here’s the key – you need to give him or her a great story to tell. And it’s NOT a story about your product, service or company. It’s a story about the CUSTOMER who was AMAZED by the product, service or experience your company provided. It’s a story that customer tells organically. Unprompted. Unsolicited. Unaltered.

Yes, word-of-mouth or referral marketing has been around for a long time, and many companies have been built on its power. Now, however, we have entered the ‘Era of Influence’ when those people with loyal followers – are at the apex of the marketing chain because their voice is heard above most all others. And it rises above the din of all other messaging – because people listen to and believe trusted voices.

Clutter is the problem.

We have more media clutter now than ever. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: Want a great idea to market on social media? Think about how you can turn social media into an offline interaction that will improve the whole business. Here’s how.

When you have a strong social media presence, or any social media presence, one thing you need to do is look for opportunities to take the conversation offline. And the more creative you can do this, then the more buzz you can build.

Bud Light did something similar, taking a conversation that was posted online, and turned it into an offline experience. During the Miami Heat’s 27-game winning streak this year, forward Shane Battier discussed superstitions with NBA.com. Battier said, “Well, I try to drink the same beer – Bud Light – but that’s about it. You never know. I don’t want to chance luck and switch up brands, so I’m staying loyal to Bud Light.”

When Bud Light heard about this, they turned an online conversation into an offline meeting, by delivering 1,100 cases of beer to Battier’s home. You can see the video below.

 

 

But this isn’t just an attempt to reach Battier, for Bud Light. By doing this, they’ve created an online video that has the potential to go viral, developed fantastic advertising material, helped grow their image of a fun, lighthearted brand, and have ensured a customer for life.

We’ve seen this marriage of online conversation turning into offline interactions all the time from big brands. Wheat Thins most recently did a similar tactic, using fans that mentioned the product on Twitter. Soon after, these fans would find a van full of Wheat Thin boxes at their door. And this is a tactic that you can use as well, just on a smaller scale. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Advertising · Marketing · Startup · Your Business

Hello, and welcome back to TheGrowthWire.com.

My name is Ryan Derousseau. I’m a business owner that has also worked as a journalist for the last seven years, writing for a number of national publications, including Inc.com, FastCompany.com, Fortune, Money, Forbes and many others. Cumulus Media asked me to revamp their online space for business owners like yourself. And that’s why we’re re-launching TheGrowthWire.com today!

My goals for TheGrowthWire.com are to provide you with regular and reliable information about running your business. It will also serve as hub, so you can interact with your peers from across the country, who are all trying to do something similar: Create a successful and sustainable business. It’s a big goal, since I am – like all of you – extremely busy growing my own company. As the lead of RMD Media, I work with organizations to build content strategies and understand how to connect with journalists. It gives me the unique situation of having the experience of writing while also understanding the uphill battles I face while starting my own company. That said, I’m extremely excited to tackle this challenge.

So whether you run a company with one employee or 100, you’re welcome to come here, discuss issues facing your business and hear from others who have tackled similar challenges to you. Hopefully, I’ll offer up some information, lead a conversation or moderate an exchange that will help you to navigate the ever-changing business landscape of the 21st Century.

That’s why I’m here. Why is Cumulus here? That’s because they have listened to what their customers want. With 550 radio stations in 110 cities, nationwide, Cumulus has the opportunity to hear what their customers want like no other company. And at a time when marketing, social media, advertising, the way we run businesses and the way we launch businesses is changing faster than ever before, the need for a serious, welcoming, inquisitive and intelligent conversation on what impacts you is more vital than ever.

Here’s what you can expect from The Growth Wire blog moving forward. We will cover a range of issues, that touch on what’s impacting your company. These include:

  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Raising Money  
  • Hiring
  • Getting Started
  • Tools to help you work more productively
  • How news or changes in Washington impact your business
  • And much, much more

But this isn’t a lecture. Conversation is a two-way street so I’ll be delving into issues that impact you every day and bringing you guest commentators to provide expert opinions. Let us know what you think. Give us your insight and share your experiences so we can all learn from each other.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to receive some extra insight delivered to your inbox, then please sign up for our newsletter on the right. You can also find us on Twitter at our brand new Twitter feed, @GrowthWireBlog and please share when you see something helpful.

Finally, good luck growing your business! We hope you join The Growth Wire on our journey to grow as well.

-Ryan

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Posted by . In topics: Digital Marketing · Marketing

Synopsis: With the ability to build a site or social site within minutes, it’s no longer about getting the most clicks, but building a community. Here are some ways to do that for your online (or offline) business.

With new tools to better access more and more people online, it seems like the idea of getting clicks and traffic back to your website is a ‘set it and forget it,’ opportunity. But unfortunately, it’s not that easy to get new customers to start buying. And the reason is because it’s not about driving clicks to your site. Instead you need to create a community around your product or service.

The reason being are two-fold:

1. You need to be able to build trust around what you do and who you are. With so many bad players out there, you, unfortunately, have to prove that you can add value. And one of the best ways to do that is have other customers sing your praise.
2. Social media has turned the web into a connected world like never before. So we go to the web in order to build friendships and networks. It also allows businesses to be a part of that network.

The great thing about this opportunity is that once you have developed this community, it can allow you to grow simply by selling to the same customers over and over again. They’re your advocates and they want you to succeed. So as long as you continue to provide them with that value and network, then they will make sure you’re taken care of as well.

But that adds the issue of how to grow your network? Here are three tips, to make sure your number of followers grow.

1. Communicate

You will find that you must communicate with customers like never before, if you really want to grow a powerful network. This means you will need presences on social media tools that your customers prefer. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the countless other social sites, you will need to provide quality content to your customers on your chosen one or two platforms. But it isn’t just about that one communication platform. It’s about upping the conversation, so you’re chatting with them on Facebook, sending them to your blog, and then offering them something extra from there. It can be a newsletter or daily specials or something. But anything you think they will need to continue talking with you and about you. Read more »

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Posted by . In topics: Marketing

Synopsis: How does social media, advertising and marketing work together, intersect and diverge? We take a look at what makes them different and how it all works together.

Clearly, whoever created the old adage of “two’s company, three’s a crowd,” never had to build a customer base. Because with the advent of social media, businesses have had to figure out how to manage it along with advertising and regular marketing efforts. It has become a triumvirate of responsibilities.

And that has led to some decisions internally at companies of all sizes in how to allocate time, energy and money for all three efforts. Early on, many jumped at the “free” notion of some social media. That has changed, now that social media has become a crowded space, that also needs investment via time and sometimes money, in order for it to sell your product.

So what should your company do? Well only you can solve that puzzle. In order to do so, first you need to understand how social media, advertising and marketing work together, intersect and diverge.

First, let’s talk about the new kid on the block: Social Media. With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, etc., etc., businesses have the opportunity to connect with customers on a one-to-one basis like never before. But you have to question whether you’re actually connecting with customers when you’re on such feeds. If you are able to connect with your customers on one or two platforms, then it’s worthwhile to look into. But often, social media for businesses, especially B2B and small businesses, it’s more about PR aspects, customer service and connecting with industry insiders. This is how word-of-mouth marketing is done. This often means it’s a slow process as you need time to build a network. Read more »

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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 · 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 »