How to Use Twitter if You Are a Small Business

As a small business owner, you probably don’t have a lot of money to pour into advertising or time to spend on social marketing. You may try your hand at SEO or may have even hired a company to help out, but if you are like most small businesses, you rely on word of mouth to build your customer base.   Today’s modern “word of mouth” is social media outlets like linkedin, manta, Facebook and Twitter.

Over the next few months, we will be presenting you with a series of articles that will help you leverage the power of social media, search and business listings to promote your business.  These articles will be in plain language that every small business owner will understand and will help you make the most of your time and money with surprisingly great results!  We start with Twitter.

Twitter can help you spread the word about your business without a large investment of time or money.

The first step in using Twitter for your small business is creating an account and profile. Make sure that your screen name, known as your Twitter handle, matches up with your business. Avoid writing an overly clever profile. Keep it simple and describe exactly what you do in plain language.

Twitter is a network of followers. You want to follow individuals and companies that add value to your Twitter experience. It’s a good idea to follow other small businesses rather than Fortune 500 companies. In turn, you want followers who are either current customers or potential customers.

When you’ve built a solid following of customers or potential customers, offer some Twitter-only specials. This will make your followers feel more valued and engaged. You always want followers to pay attention to your tweets.

Be sure to include your twitter account on stationary, business cards, menus and your website.  Encourage people to follow you and provide incentive in the way of a discount, free service or another promotion.

When used appropriately, Twitter can be a useful tool for small businesses. Be cautious about over-Tweeting. You have 140 characters to work with per tweet. Make them count, and you’ll see your efforts pay dividends.

In the next blog in the twitter series, we will go over short cut keys and how to create meaningful messages that help you promote and grow your business.

Happy Tweeting!

 

 

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Get More Customers with Local Search Marketing

Online Local Search Marketing is equivalent to placing your business on a billboard on a super busy highway with just the right passerbys for your business.

Here are ten tips to help you get found on Local Search.

1)     Check out your business on Local Directories

There are literally thousands of local or niche directories with your business information.  Perform a search query of your business name and different variations of your address and phone #.  Many of these local directories offer great free services and provide information to help  you get more customers.

I recommend you keep a record of the link in a spreadsheet with the link, business name, address, and phone #.

2)     Consistency is Key

It is very important (as we have posted before) to keep your business name consistent across the Internet.  This will help with ranking as Search Engines use these citations as one way to determine the accuracy and relevancy of your business’ data.  So help out the Search Engines and make sure that the data is exactly the same.  Remember even minor details can make a difference.  For example, Suite vs. Ste, Road vs. Rd.

3)     Be Submissive

Sorry, couldn’t resist that tag line – But the bottom line is that you should submit your information to as many directories as you can.  Create a plan so that you spend at least 15 minutes a week checking and submitting.  You can use great services like UBL (Universal Business Listing), but their submission service only includes a small fraction of the directories available on line.  Submitting to these directories has great SEO benefits, such as link building and citation creation, it also establishes a wide presence across the Internet helping potential customers find you.

4)     Google Places

Create and maintain your Google Places listing, but only after you have submitted your business to FREE directories like SuperPages, YellowBook, Yelp, MyLocally.

 Why?  You will be seen as an authority off the bat if your business is listed and updated in other directories.

If you have already created your business in Google Places, submit your business in other directories and then update your listing by adding a picture, a link, or adding a new business category.  Google will scrape the Internet upon resubmission to determine relevancy and authority.

5)     Build Links

I find myself writing about link building more and more these days.  Links are an important, but often misunderstood and misused SEO tactic.  Links should be natural and should include geo-specific keywords for the anchor text.  Be certain to include joining local chambers of commerce and other local networking sites that provide links back to your site(s).

6)     Optimize Your Site for Geo-Specific Keywords

Optimize your site with geo-specific keywords, but don’t over optimize.  Be certain that you include keywords on every page.  Also include your business, address and phone # on every page as well.

7)     Multi-Location Optimization

If you have several locations, create either a separate web site or separate pages for these locations.  Local Search on Google makes up 20% of all Searches and mobile is making geo-optimizing even more important than ever.  It will help your customers find you at the location nearest to them and will let Search Engines know that you have separate locations.  Be certain to submit to directory listings for these different locations.

8)     Be Social

Add a facebook fan page for each location, don’t just create it and expect it to grow.  Include your facebook link on all of your sites.  Encourage others to Like or Follow you and participate on a consistent basis.  Be certain to guide consumers back to your site and include promotional messages to your audience.  Offer them deals and reasons to promote and do business with you.

9)     Blogging

If you are not blogging yet, you should be.  Blog posts should contain geo-specific anchor texts.  Be sure not to overdo it, make sure it seems natural or you will be penalized by the major Search Engines.

10) Solicit Opinions, Comments, Reviews and Interaction

If you are writing a blog or participating in forums, ask your readers to participate with comments, opinions, etc.  On your web site and directories encourage people to write a review by asking for their Feedback.

By following these ten basic steps, you can improve your online visibility and  help your business get more customers.

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Reaching Dot Boomers Through Your Online Marketing Strategy

This article was first published in the March 2012 issue of The Business Scene magazine.

“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now … Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” One can only imagine if the lyrics to this epic song would include, “will you still tweet me, w” if Paul McCartney had written these lyrics today.

If you are planning your annual marketing strategy and think that the Baby Boomer(those of us born between 1946 – 1964) market is anywhere that does not include the Internet -then think again!

Boomers in the U.S. are technologically savvy enough to comprise 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users and twitter users. You can’t afford to overlook them!  Despite the misconception that since Baby Boomers didn’t grow up with the Internet, they don’t use it -Baby Boomers are fast becoming “Dot Boomers” and are including online activity as part of their daily routines.

While this demographic may have been a bit slow to embrace these new technologies, they are the fastest growing segment on the Internet; using Search and Social Media to stay connected (or reconnect) to family and friends, to make purchasing decisions, conduct banking, research a topic, purchase online, or plan a trip or the weekend’s activities.  Leaving this group out of your online marketing strategy is short sighted and a missed opportunity.

It is important for you to understand that Baby Boomers are willing (and do) spend their money and make up the lion’s share of the spending power in the United States. Baby Boomers are using the Internet to research and make both online and offline purchasing decisions.  Over $7 billion dollars is spent online by a generation that has embraced the Internet as a cyber super mall.  Boomers aren’t just buying online, they now consider the Internet to be the most important source of information for their purchasing decisions. Older adults are finding that the Internet provides a safe and convenient alternative to brick and mortar retail stores that have low lighting, loud music, and young employees.  Small businesses have a huge opportunity to meet Boomer needs online, but most businesses haven’t tried to tap into this opportunity –but now is the perfect time to start!

Understanding Baby Boomers’ purchasing patterns and making small changes to your online marketing strategies can make a big difference.  While younger Americans tend to make decisions based on the “cool” or “wow” factor, Baby Boomers rarely do.  Studies show that Baby Boomers are drawn to a business that garners trust and promotes relationship building.   Your online presence should  include the right balance of images and wording.  While a younger consumer will make a decision to stay on a site in approximately 7 seconds, older consumers stay on a site for much longer.  They want to know how many years a company has been in business, they want to know that they are reputable and promote a feeling of trust and well-being.

Another small change that is easy to make is to include more age appropriate images in your online presence.  Even changing your wording in small ways can make a difference; Baby Boomers have changed the face of “old Americans”, but they are looking for businesses that engender trust and reliability, not flash and pizzazz.  While Americans are working later in life, they often have more flexible schedules; encouraging Baby Boomers to take advantage of off hour specials can fill your restaurant, winery or retail store when the younger crowd is busy with their work or family life.

Going to “grandma’s house” to connect with older relatives may be a thing of the past.  Boomers are using titter, Facebook, LinkedIn and social networking sites in increasing numbers.  Boomers in general have more time to engage in Social Media activities and are doing so.  They are participating in growing numbers in posting original content, writing blogs and reviews.  Like your online marketing strategy, your Social Marketing strategy should take into consideration that Boomers are using Social Media and that they are looking for businesses that solicit trust and loyalty..

The Internet has changed the way we live, play, shop and connect with others.  Savvy business owners who understand their total target audience and who consider Baby Boomers in their online strategies will be able to harness the buying power of a generation soon to make up over 45% of the American population.

About the Author – Carol Lee Collins is the Vice President of  MyLocally, an online directory that showcases local businesses and encourages them to interact with the customers through seamlessly integrated Social Media tools.  She has worked in the advertising, marketing and internet/SEO space for over 20 years.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Use Email When You’re Angry and Other Great Business email Tips

Most businesses use email as a primary form of communicating with current clients and potential clients.  It is easy, convenient and free.  But emails tell a story and you need to be certain that the story that they tell is professional and representative of your business.

1)      Don’t Use Email When You’re Angry – Even if you are not emailing the person who is the recipient of the email, the tone of your email can be greatly impacted by your state of mind.  So if you are angry, hold off on writing that important email.

 2)      Be Professional – Emoticons and text acronyms are alright for personal emails and correspondence, they are still not accepted in the business world.  Trust me a prospective client doesn’t want to read that  you are “jk” or have you “;)” at them.

 3)      Be Professional Part 2 - Be aware of the professional (or not) relationship between yourself and the recipient before starting an email. Check the tone of your email and check spelling and grammar.  Re-read your email and if you have any doubt about the messaging or tone, ask a co-working to read it.

 4)      Include a Sig (Signature File) – Include a signature file, but keep it to no more than four lines: Name (use the name you want to be called), title, company, phone #s.

 5)      Be careful . Email is not private; it can be intercepted anywhere en route to its recipient. It can live on for years and posted or quoted on the Internet or emailed to one or more recipients.

 6)      Think About Your email “Handle” – Keep it professional and relevant to your business.  If you have a personal email with a “pet” name, that is great, but don’t use it for professional purposes.  For example is you have a cleaning services, prospective customers don’t want to hear from honeybear@gmail.com, instead they want to read an email from ProCleaning@gmail.com.

 7)      Images and Color – These are a great way to reach out to your customers and set your business apart from other businesses, but be careful a lot of email servers do not accept large files or put html emails in to spam.

 

 

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Turning Negative Reviews into a Positive Marketing Opportunity

On a recent trip I commented to the hotel clerk that I had read a review online complaining about the condition of the linens.  She proudly remarked that they had upgraded ALL of their towels and bed linens and that this wouldn’t be a problem.  I commented that this was great, but why hadn’t the hotel commented on the bad review, letting other potential guests know that they had made the change?  Then I thought to myself that the blog I had meant to write on how to use bad reviews to your benefit was long overdue.

Every business, even the most service oriented, will encounter an unsatisfied customer.  Maybe the customer or the employee was having an off day … but savvy business owners know how to turn lemons into lemonade and bad reviews into opportunity.  Here are some helpful tips:

Tip #1 – Resist the knee jerk reaction; accusations, excuses, and the worst anger.  It is a natural reaction, but one that you will only regret later.   So even if the review is completely off base; breath in, relax and read tip #2.

Tip #2 – Respond quickly and carefully, recognize the criticism or complaint, offer to correct the situation in private by inviting them to call you directly, and remind your customers that customer service and customer satisfaction are your top priority.  Invite the reviewer to return to your establishment or to try your services again, and if you have done something to correct the situation (for example updating your linens), for goodness’ sakes let the public know.  Reviews stay online for months, and future customers will be pleased to know that you have corrected the situation.

Tip #3 – You do not have to respond to every criticism, and while there was a time when courting negative reviews helped your business get found online, Panda has changed this.  When you do respond to reviews, do so with future prospects in mind.  Just like tip #2 encourages the reviewer to return, tip #3 invites future customers to purchase your product or services and see how you have improved or how the negative review was a misunderstanding.

Tip #4 – Know what the world is saying and what you can do about it.  First I recommend signing up for services like “Google Alerts” which notifies you when something is written about your organization online.  It is better to have read the review so that you can respond to any and all comments both online, in person, and make it part of your future marketing strategy.  Think of Domino’s Pizza, they took a risk and challenged complaints head on with promises of better products and customer care.  The risk appears to have paid off, although in my opinion they should be thinking about transitioning their strategy, but …

Tip #5 – Know what you can and cannot do about the reviews. Some sites let an authorized user respond to a review, some let an authorized user delete a review, and some allow business owners to edit a review.

Here are just a few examples:

  Respond to a Review Edit a Review Delete a Review
Google Places Yes Yes Yes
Yahoo! Local Yes Yes Yes
Yelp Yes No No
Merchant Circle Yes Yes Yes

Tip #6 – Andrew Shotland and other SEO experts say that business owners should NEVER ignore reviews, and while I agree 100%, business owners should resist the temptation to get caught up in a dialog where you invite more negative comments.  Make your statement, invite personal correspondence and remain calm and level headed.  Never fall into the trap of personal accusations and attacks, but remember reviews have legs and if you ignore them they will certainly run away and have a negative impact on your business.

So while every business owner would love only positive reviews, savvy business owners can turn these reviews into a positive marketing opportunity if they follow some basic guidelines.

 

 

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Social Media Rules the World

Does Social Media rule the world? If you asked me that question three years ago, I probably would have said no, but I was never the type of person who had to have a page on My Space or use Twitter. I never imagined I would join the rest of the world after my 65 year old dad asked me, “Why aren’t you on Facebook?” It was then that I pondered, “Am I the only person who is not on Facebook?” I guess you could say he talked me into joining and once that happened I was hooked.

So what compels us to want to be part of such of the world of social networking? Social media provides us with the ability to stay in contact with the ones we love in a way that just a few years ago would not be possible. It reconnects us with old friends to share thoughts, pictures, politics, or news stories that are important to us.

Millions of people around the world are connected to leading social media networks such as Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter. I can only imagine this is just the beginning of something bigger to come..

So, If you ask me today if Social Media rules the World I would say, “It Will.”

 

 

 

 

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Good Bye Steve Jobs

This could be a long winded post about this amazing man who will be seen in the history books as the Thomas Edison of our generation, but a conversation with Mark Cahill, a friend from my Atex days who pondered whether Steve Jobs wished he had spent less time working, made me change the direction of my post and I found some quotes from his commencement speech given at Stanford in 2005; one year after his diagnosis.

Of his success and of love, to which I feel he felt were indelibly entwined, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do … If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Thanks Steve, you were an amazing man!

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Facebook Freak Out!

The speakers at last Wednesday’s f8 conference were barraged with complaints about Facebook’s new features.  Facebook’s answer: “people will get used to it.” Interesting response, but I guess when you have 750 million users you can dictate how the market SHOULD respond to your initiatives!  I wonder if while at Harvard Zuckerberg learned about the fall of the Roman Empire or the old adage, “Before pride comes a fall… “

Regardless, they are Facebook and it appears that the changes are here to stay.  I do have to admit that MyLocally is including some of these features in our new online directory, so hopefully Zuckerberg is right that people will get used to features like tickers and activity news feeds.

While I doubt that Facebook sees MySpace as a threat to domineer the world of Social Media, it does look at its rise and fall as a lesson they should choose not to follow.  According to a Facebook executive, as a company they realize that in order to survive and thrive they must change and adapt.  I recall just last week, when a musician friend of mine, Adam Bubert, wrote a post on Facebook about his MySpace page, some bewildered 20 year old asked ½ tongue in cheek what MySpace was!  I guess Justin Timberlake isn’t “bringing MySpace back” quite yet.

While many of these changes were in the works before the introduction of Google +, its meteoric rise (and slide) certainly gave notice to Facebook that they weren’t the only game in town.  That being said, according to eMarketer, Facebook has $3.8 billion in worldwide advertising this year and a predicted $5.8 billion in 2012 – so they are doing something right.

I wrote this blog last week on my way to the Lake Tahoe Marathon and never posted it, so a week has passed since “Black Wednesday” when many of us Facebookers woke up to find our beloved home pages altered.  Since that time I can tell you that I have gotten used to the changes, and the ticker on the side has some interesting features that I like, such as scrolling down and seeing someone’s post appear with images and the thread!  But I did find it a bit disturbing that Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com was listening to some band I have never heard of and NOT returning my calls…can you say “Facebook stalking” Andrew?

 

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Facebook and SMBs

Tim Judd sent a post from DMS 2011 with some interesting updates about Facebook.  His comments come on the heels of major (and somewhat annoying) changes to Facebook and the f8 conference in San Francisco.  f8 is Facebook’s conference for developers and innovators.

The news from DMS was surprising, confusing, and promising.  Facebook reported that although Facebook has over 750 million users and that over 48% of all SMBs are “doing” Facebook; most create a page, update business hours and little else.

SMBs are still confused about how to use Facebook (and social media in general) as a marketing tool.  Facebook provided some great tips for SMBs to reach out to their fans through targeted ads, promotions, events, and deals.  It reinforced what many of us already know;  it is difficult to use Facebook to drive calls.

During the session, Facebook revealed that the cost of advertising on Facebook had decreased and that inventory had increased.  This was promising news, as it would allow SMBs with a more affordable and targeted advertising option.  Then, surprisingly, they announced that it had a total of three people working on Small Business Strategies.   I am still scratching my head over this one!  I guess Facebook felt it was important enough to attend DMS, but not to read the first paragraph of their home page;

“Globally there are an estimated 50 million SMBs, spending tens of billions of dollars on media and advertising. BIA/Kelsey’s new U.S. SMB Spending Forecast (2010-2015) indicates that SMBs will allocate 70 percent of their marketing budgets to digital/online media, performance-based commerce and customer retention business solutions by 2015.”

There is no real news here as SMBs and lead generation providers like eLocal Listing continue to try to find a way to drive calls to SMBs.

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Deals – The Way of the Do Do Bird

OK, I am probably predicting the death of Daily Deals a bit too prematurely, but Tim Judd, CEO of eLocal Listing is sending me updates from the SMBs and Deals: The Next Wave session being held at the Directional Media Strategies Conference in Denver and informs me that perhaps I am not the only one that is annoyed with the constant barrage of deals.

Groupon has become controversial with thousands of users complaints, plus it is a crowded space with over 600 different deal sites.

Deals have spread beyond just spas and salons, it has twice as many email subscribers in Chicago than both the Chicago newspapers.

Building a social buying community which focuses on vertical communities is key to deals’ success!  Creating virtual communities where “word of mouth” becomes a part of a successful business’ marketing strategy helps drive deals and trusts!

Tim, you must be pretty excited in these sessions, since this is exactly the direction of MyLocally.com.  In reading Tim’s summaries, I can see that Deals are still a “Do Do”, but unless Daily Deal sites don’t adapt and become part of the newly socially engaged Search world – Deals may be a “don’t don’t”.

Great info Tim, keep the posts coming!

 

 

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