Social Media for Small Business Owners

 

Small business owners have very little spare time and many are saving time by cutting out social media usage to promote their business. However, social media should play a pivotal role in any company’s marketing efforts and is worth making time for. Here’s a look at some effective ways small business owners can leverage social media and still have time to run their companies.

Reach the Masses

When it comes to social media, this is time well spent and it can yield big dividends compared to the amount of time you dedicate to it. Think about how many potential customers your words can reach. You type something once, publish it to the web, and suddenly it’s available to millions of online surfers.

Social Media Software

When it comes to social media software, much of it is as simple as entering your words into your web browser and pressing enter. With the more visual forms of social media, like your own blog or Facebook, where your words go is a fairly straightforward process. With Twitter, however, it can feel like they just went into cyberspace and they’re gone.

TweetDeck (tweetdeck.com) is a versatile piece of software designed to help you better manage your Tweets as well as your Facebook posts. With TweetDeck you can arrange you Twitter feeds into ways that make sense to you, monitor many accounts inside the same interface, and set alerts to notify you of the most important Tweets.

The scheduling feature, however, is the real show for small business owners. This works in conjunction with setting aside a certain amount of time each day for social media. With this feature you’ll be able to schedule your Tweets to meet the needs and expectations of your audience. This is great for daily Tweets you don’t necessarily want to type out each time. Simply set them up in advance and they’ll post automatically.

LinkedIn

Don’t forget to include LinkedIn when attending to the social media side of your business. With the prominence of Facebook and Twitter, it’s easy to overlook some other legitimate outlets. LinkedIn has more than 150 million registered business professionals from more than 200 countries and unique territories. Each month the website is home to nearly 40 million unique visits, making this a very important and prominent social media outlet.

You never know when your company is going to attract a big investor, a more cost effective manufacturing partner, a legal professional willing to offer inexpensive services, or a host of other potential relationships that could help take your small business to the next level. LinkedIn is the home of millions of business professionals and neglecting this crowd could prove costly in ways you may never discover.

Offer Deals

If it’s possible for you to offer special deals, coupons, and the like to your social media followers, do it. Online coupons are proving to be a huge boon to business owners big and small. Remember, people are following your business through various social media outlets for a reason. Giving them one more way to do business with you is, well, smart business.

Set aside a particular day each week to unveil a new offer or coupon and you could find yourself the beneficiary of a blitz of social media followers ready, willing, and able to cash in on all your great offers.

Create a Blog

Blogs are a relatively easy thing to create. They’re also starting to be the preferred source for millions of web surfers seeking personalized information and entertainment on the Internet. Whether you have your own corporate domain and website, or are a small operator who isn’t ready for that type of presence, a blog make sense for any small business owner.

Your blog can contain anything you desire. Tout your products and services. Write in-depth information about them. Create an atmosphere that entices readers to write comments, provide product reviews, vouch for your company through testimonials, and to participate in your company’s success in any number of different ways.

Hire Professionals

If your company is in a position to hire a social media professional to manage your company’s online image, make certain you’re dealing with someone that can provide references and show a track record of success.

Utilizing the services of a full time social media liaison can truly elevate your company’s presence and reach. Professionally written content, managed discussions, timely press releases, and all the other benefits that come with a public relations expert can create “buzz” about your company on the Internet.

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Developing an image for your company can separate you from your competitors. That image can include a superior online presence and expert use of social media. In the modern era of high-tech everything, this is the kind of story that can propel a company into its next phase of growth.

Whatever you choose to do with social media, make certain your choice isn’t to ignore it or to treat is as a passing fancy. The “fad” phase of this powerful form of marketing wore off ages ago and now it’s become one of the greatest—and cheapest—marketing tools for small businesses everywhere.

This guest post is by Edwin, a writer and content specialist for USDish.com.

The Three Components to Building Your Personal Brand

 

In this day and age, though education, experience and ability are all still important to employers and businesses, there is a new dimension to your qualification: a Personal Brand. Whether you are starting your own company, or trying to establish yourself in your current workplace, building yourself up to be noticed has become increasingly important. Below are the three most important factors to building a dynamic, sustainable brand that you can maintain and grow over time.

Be Yourself

Everyone has their own unique talents, gifts and qualities. Sometimes it is difficult to identify these in you, and particularly in others, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. The first step to building your Personal Brand is to really know yourself. Though this may seem like an exercise in philosophy or religious analysis, what is meant here is more practical. What are you good at? Are you a people person, pet person? Are you artistic, a problem solver? The list can go on and on, however this is what you need to identify before you can start to build your own brand. Once you do find what you have to offer, stay true to that, and continue to be honest with yourself and those around you. Commit to what you believe about yourself, and be confident that you can find people or businesses that will be interested in what you have to offer.

Surround Yourself with the Right People

We all know plenty of people, some are nice, others are not, some are supportive and vice versa. As you endeavor to promote yourself and your own brand, make sure the people that you choose, yes choose to spend your time with will enable and not discourage your vision. Choosing wisely is extremely important, you need to evaluate your friends, your colleagues and maybe even your family to make decisions on who you want in your support network as you try and establish yourself. Growth will always be one of the main goals of your Personal Brand, so make sure you are surrounded by individuals that promote and allow you to spread your wings.

Build Your Target Market

Whether you plan to sell jewelry from home or want to take over a Fortune 500 company, you will need supporters and allies. Look for like-minded people at work, at play or in online forums, blogs and talk/interact with them. Not only with this help reinforce the vision that you have for your own brand, but it will help you grow a base of supporters who may want to buy or support you and your goals. In conversations, face to face, on the phone or online, you will also learn what others have to offer as well as what people other than yourself want, and are willing to get behind. Getting involved in social media is a great way to help you build this aspect of your brand, but make sure that your content is promoting what you want, and not alienating you from your target market.

Building your Personal Brand can be the difference between living in obscurity in a dead end job or living your dream and being successful. Your brand will take time, hard work and perseverance to build, but if you base it on yourself, good support and an audience that appreciates you, the sky truly is the limit.

Meriel Anderson is a blogger and writer who has reaped the rewards of building a great personal brand. For further details on how to be successful in career and life, she recommends checking out Jay Cataldo, the best life coach NYC has to offer. Thanks for visiting!

Retaining Site Visitors with Video

 

 

The great paradox of the Internet: There are billions of people out there, and none of them cares about what you have to say. At least not until you get their attention. Those quiet seconds of interaction between you, your brand and the consumer is a mystical interval wherein that consumer decides based on a baffling series of circumstances whether you’re worth listening to.

In the Internet age, those seconds can manifest as a higher ranking in search engine results. User experience (or UX) is how companies can make certain they maximize the value of their web presence. Just a decade ago, a business might have had an advantage by simply having a website. Now, almost all businesses have websites and other links to the Internet and many business successes can be measured not just by the quantity of traffic and money generated, but by the quality of the experience their customers or clients have when they visit their website.

Video and SEO

From a purely search standpoint, videos have risen in importance over the past several iterations of the Google algorithm. Getting people to a landing page is the easy part (depending on who you ask), but keeping them there is a bit harder and Google rewards a higher notch in the search engine results to domains that hold on to their visitors, even if it’s just for a few seconds. As a result, videos have become a de rigueur facet of SEO because they can captivate users quickly and hold on to them longer than landing pages that greet visitors with a wall of text.

Videos and SEO aren’t exactly strange bedfellows. When Google began indexing videos in search results, there was a movement to create specialized video content and upload it to Youtube (also owned by Google, if you remember); this would ensure that Google indexed the video and make that video a potential SERP.

Mixed SERPs are a bit more complicated than that now, but time spent on the landing page is still an important factor in ranking and videos are the marquee vehicle for visitor retention.

All Interacting Is Good

User experience metrics haven’t always been easy to pin down, but increasingly sophisticated analytics software has brought UX to the foreground and made those metrics available to the scrutiny of everyone. The result is information we can use to see how much time people are spending on sites and how they’re spending it. What we have seen is that key landing pages on a domain that feature short videos retain visitors longer and generate more interaction in the long run.

What type of interaction? Sometimes visitors will navigate to the domain’s Youtube page, or click around the domain to investigate it a bit more. No matter what those interactions are, each of them signals to the Google algorithm that there is content here that is interesting enough to evoke a response. In other words, any interaction is good interaction.

Pulling It All Together

Ultimately, using video as a way to capture the attention of people visiting your landing page is a small piece in a marketing machine that should include email marketing, social media campaigns, pay-per click efforts and good, old-fashioned, creative organic SEO. Ultimately, you are the master of your destiny, but a few hints on the road to fate can’t hurt, right?

Google AdWords Made Simple [Infographic]

Thinking about using Google AdWords to market your small business? You’ve heard the success stories. But where do you start? Here,  a guide to preparing your campaign, setting up your account and optimizing your efforts based on results.

Click image to open interactive version (via Simply Business).

How Your Website Can Improve Your Customer Service

Website conversion rates are one of the most important aspects for any e-commerce business. These rates are crucial in determining profitability, and success in online conversions depends largely on your customer experience. So how do you ensure your customers are happy with your website?

Website design
The design of your website has to be logical, clear, easy to navigate and overall generate confidence so your customers feel they can trust you. Customers are highly unlikely to purchase from a website that doesn’t have valid contact details. At the very least, you need a phone number and an address. It is also a good idea to include links to your Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Remember that if you are using these platforms you need to be regularly engaging with your customers, so ensure that this is factored into your customer service strategy. In short, do anything and everything you can to make sure your customers know that there are real people on hand to help them when they need it.

Response speed
In this fast-paced online age, customers expect an immediate response to any question raised. While this may be difficult to manage, it is vital that you have a proper system to deal with these communications. Emails need to be answered quickly, phone calls followed up instantly, and social media platforms monitored closely. CRM is key here. Handle your customer communications successfully, and you are on the road to success.

Customer complaints
Not every customer is a happy customer. This should not be viewed negatively as it presents you with an opportunity to really put your customer service skills to the test and fix problems. The best way to manage a disgruntled customer is to keep in close communication with them regarding how you are fixing their problem. They need to feel reassured that you are working hard to resolve the issue so aim to use every communication channel available to you. Organization and forward planning are once again crucial here, so make sure you have a robust CRM system in place to manage all communication channels.

Privacy
Your website should also include a privacy policy that explains different aspects of the shopping process. Included in this should be details on the shipping process, the returns policy and when customers can expect their delivery. By stating this prior to the item being purchased you are managing expectations, and reducing the amount of customer questions that could arise in the near future.

Social optimization
Social media can be an extremely effective way to share information, and it’s important that your website harnesses the potential it offers. Social media can attract customers to your website and then help them share their experiences of your business when they do arrive.

Adding social features like a “tweet this” button to your website will help visitors share your brand online, and even encourage customer service success stories to spread. The reputation of your brand online is crucial in attracting customers and harnessing online conversions.

Your website is your business’s online shop front. Working to make it as accessible and reliable as possible will help to keep your customers happy and therefore keep your sales pipeline full. Organization, transparency and integrity should be at the heart of your customer service strategy, and therefore of your website strategy too.

Will Vicary is a digital marketing specialist whose interests include CRM solutions and online customer experience, as well as online lead generation. He is specifically interested in CRM insurance and cloud technology.

Zen Living for Busy Solopreneurs

Everyone needs a vacation. If a week in the Caribbean isn’t in your budget, plan a stay-cation

Every solopreneur needs to achieve a little zen in their work and personal lives. We’ve compiled some useful tips to help you regain perspective and a positive attitude toward doing the work you love.

Hire the help you need

Whether you need to hire a permanent employee or just a temp to get you through an unusually busy time, get help. Your mind will be clearer and you’ll be more productive if you’re not spread too thin.

Don’t micromanage your employees

You may feel you do the job best, but if you’ve hired folks to increase productivity and relieve some of your burden, allow them do just that.

Let technology streamline your work

Make use of software and computer programs that simplify your job.

Don’t work longer days than necessary

There will be days that require more man-hours, so save your energy for those times.

Make a plan and stick to it

A little time management goes a long way. Having a fairly firm idea of how your day will be spent can relieve a tremendous burden. Employ organization techniques and your efficiency – and peace of mind – will improve.

Give yourself time off from work

Everyone needs a vacation. If a week in the Caribbean isn’t in your budget, plan a stay-cation. Aside from an emergency contact, don’t let anyone know you’ll be home. Stream movies, order take-out and relax.

Determine where you do your best work

A home office can save money in rent, commute time and other expenses. On the other hand, if you have a home office that’s constantly invaded by family and friends, you should investigate leasing office space away from home. The price you pay for an office rental may be well worth the time you gain in getting your work done. Business coaches can help you with time management and in determining what office location will best suit your needs.

Employ on-the-job relaxation techniques

Set a subtle alarm to go off every hour reminding you to roll your shoulders, take deep breaths and stretch. Get up and walk around for 5 minutes. Cell phones allow a lot of latitude for talking and moving at the same time.

Figure out your prime working time

If you’re a night owl and your business permits flexibility, sleep in and work late. For early birds, going to bed at a decent hour and rising with the sun may be the way to go. Either way, sticking to a regular sleeping schedule will enhance both your productivity and mental health.

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Busy solopreneurs often attempt to have it all while losing a few priorities along the way. If you fall into this category, let one of the many life coaches throughout the country help you learn how to work and live comfortably. Remember why you started your business in the first place and how great you can feel doing what you love.

Connecting Traditional Advertising With Digital Marketing

 

 

Yard signs and banners have traditionally been a very cost-effective way to get the phone ringing. With the recent explosion in smartphones, savvy small business owners are figuring out ingenious ways of using these traditional signs as a doorway to interactive web sites and social media engagement.

QR Codes
QR (quick response) codes are one of the best ways to get immediate action from people that are seeing your signs. Smartphones make it as simple as snapping a picture of the code, which brings the user directly to your website’s home page, a landing page, or a social media page. Combine these codes with clever copy on a vinyl banner or yard sign, and you can elicit an immediate response that bridges the gap between traditional advertising and your interactive marketing efforts. The only downside to using QR codes is that it requires the user to have a free QR code reader app installed on their smart phone.

Shortened URLs
An alternative to using a QR code is shortening a long web page address (called a URL) so that people can quickly type it into their phone or desktop browser. You can turn a long url — www.supercheapsigns.com — into a shortened URL — bit.ly/q1cge quickly and easily. As an added bonus, many of these services have traffic metrics, so you can create several unique urls and track which signs are diving the most traffic.

There are a number of URL shortening services that bring your URL down to about 20 characters, so it’s simple to type in. Here are three you can try:

Some Examples
These techniques can be utilized throughout a variety of small businesses and are cheap and effective. Here are some examples we’ve seen that might relate to your small business:

  • Real estate agent linking yard sign riders to online property flyers
  • Restaurants handing out stickers with QR codes that link to their menu and specials
  • Contractors and remodelers using signs that link to a portfolio of their work
  • Special events organizers linking straight to the event’s registration page
  • Landscaper signs that link to a web portfolio of cool projects
  • Roofing companies that link to online appointment forms for a neighborhood after a hailstorm
  • Local sports teams running a ticket promotion in exchange for social media activity

In a time when your customers have a near infinite amount of information at their fingertips, it’s important to make it easy for them to learn about your business as conveniently as possible. Using prominent banners and signs with QR codes and URLs will allow your customers to quickly access your interactive website and learn more about you on the fly.

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Rich Wiseman writers for Super Cheap Signs — one of the leading online sign companies in the US. The company currently ships more than 10,000 yard signs, banners, and magnets to 50 states every week.

Five Business Marketing Solutions That Won`t Cost The Earth


One of the most important aspects of running a business is how you promote your company and products or services. Effective marketing campaigns should be implemented on a continuous basis. Larger companies have the benefit of qualified marketing professionals. Smaller companies and start-up businesses, however, do not always have the budget to employ marketing experts.

The good news is that effective marketing solutions do not have to cost a lot of money and can be implemented by small business owners. Provided below are five marketing solutions for business growth.

 Value your customers

Your customers are perhaps the most important aspect of your business. Your customers provide your income and should, therefore, be made to feel special. This is how you build a loyal customer base and establish a reputable brand name. Good customer service should be delivered throughout your business. Staff training should be a high priority, especially in service-based businesses where the customer comes face-to-face with employees.

Social Media

The increasing use and availability of the internet has seen the way people communicate change. The rise of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide an online platform for people to share ideas, photographs and video. These sites are often used as a way for friends and family to stay in touch over long distances. Businesses are now adopting social media as a valuable addition to marketing plans. Social media is free; therefore, it is a popular tool for small businesses to use. The only cost involved is time.

Networking

Another low-cost marketing solution is to arrange networking events. These events can be anything from product launches and VIP customer events to educational seminars or conferences, depending on the type of business you run. For example, if your business is a fashion retail store, you could consider hosting VIP customer evenings where you offer discounts or special offers.

E-mail marketing

Direct mail is a great way to communicate with your customers. Flyers and leaflet drops can be very effective for promoting product launches, discounts or special offers. However, direct mail can be expensive. Graphic design, artwork and printing costs can be substantial, particularly if you implement direct mail campaigns frequently. An alternative low-cost option is e-mail marketing. Customer databases can be used to send regular e-newsletters. Another benefit of e-mail marketing is how quickly campaigns can be implemented. It is also much easier to track and monitor e-mail campaigns.

Use creative marketing materials

The best way to catch your customer’s eye is to produce marketing materials that stand out from the rest of your competitors. This should include promotional flyers, company brochures and business cards. If your marketing materials are dull, people will automatically throw them away. Creative artwork can be the difference between people remembering your company or instantly forgetting it. Business cards are a low-cost but necessary promotional tool. Your design should be eye-catching so that people are likely to keep a hold of it.

This guest post was written by Francesca, a UK-based blogger with an interest in marketing for businesses. She writes on behalf of Rickitt Mitchell.

The Productivity Killer

There’s a new menace in town, in every town, across the world that threatens our very way of life. It doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat and certainly doesn’t care about anyone else but itself. It can strike at any time of the day, and as many times as you’re willing to let it.

It known as the productivity killer, and has been known to use the alias “time burglar.” Those deadlines seem to creep eerily closer whilst the time burglar is busy distracting you with emails, phone calls, social media and even mind controlling colleagues to make sure distraction wins.

Don’t fret, we’ve been tracking the productivity killer’s every move and can help you eliminate this threat for good. Simply Business recently created an interactive productivity guide that compiles resources from the top productivity experts to help you get things done. It has videos, how-to articles, and tools to help five time suckers:

  1. Collaboration
  2. Meetings
  3. Workload
  4. Travel
  5. Email


Click image to open interactive version.

Simply Business also interviewed entrepreneurs to get their personal productivity tips. With all of this information at your disposal, you’ll be defeating the productivity ninja at no time.

A word of caution: This isn’t going to be easy, and there may be some temptation to succumb along the way. With Simply Business’ help, our advice and your focus and discipline – we can take him out together.

Determine the productivity killer’s preferred time of attack

The PK (productivity killer) typically looks for unique vulnerabilities in each person, including the time of day in which to strike because your guard is typically down. The best way to determine when he’s running amuck is to determine when you have the hardest time concentrating on one task.

“The PK has been hitting me every morning when I first get to work for years. I get to my desk, turn on my machine and the next thing I know – it’s 1pm.”From Ohio, does not wish to be named

Alternatively, you can reverse his thought process by figuring out what point of the day you’re most focused on tasks and extract the clues as to why.

“After lunch, I usually tend to shake him off. For some reason, he decides to leave me alone in the afternoon before continuing his reign of terror in the evening.”James, NY

The first step towards freedom is finding the right time of focus for you and determining the reasons why. Maybe you’re more productive because you decide to turn off social media in the afternoon? Maybe you don’t have your email open and listen to Bach in the morning?

Don’t let him dictate your day

Once he’s in, the PK has the ability to shift meetings, extend deadlines and even overwrite your schedule. We’ve devised a system to beat him at his own game, so please follow the steps below:

  1. Write down all the things you need to do today in order of priority. On a scale from 1 to 5, 1 means it’s urgent and 5 means it can be done when you have spare time.
  2. When the PK isn’t attacking you, (morning, before lunch, afternoon) make sure you work on your tasks with a high priority level.
  3. If you manage to get your highest priority tasks done, you’ve already won.

Reclaim more of your day

Sometimes the window in which he doesn’t pop by isn’t enough time to get things done, so you need more time. It’s now common knowledge that the productivity killer assumes the shape of:

  1. Open email monitoring
  2. Instant messaging
  3. Social media
  4. Mobile phones

There are other forms yet to be listed, but some will be specific to you. The key is to eliminate as many of these forms as possible during your day to fend him off. As long as these channels are open, you’ll never be free, so do yourself a favor and shut them down when you need to get things done.

We know just how dangerous he can be, we wish you the very best of luck in your fight and we encourage you to spread this message to your friends and family.

Good Luck!

3 Top Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Go Mobile

The first smartphones appeared on the market during the halcyon days of the 1990s tech boom, and like the first personal computers, they spread through the business world like wildfire. Only recently, however, have smartphones become advanced enough for savvy entrepreneurs to use them as a powerful platform for marketing their products and services to consumers. Small businesses are in a particularly good position to take advantage of the rise in mobile computing because may not have to worry about the bureaucracy that can bog down large companies.

Perhaps you own a small business but are not sure whether investing in mobile computing will add to your bottom line, especially since it’s not always easy to predict where digital trends will go. After all, the blogging craze of the last decade has given way to more user-friendly options such as Facebook and Twitter. There are, however, three strong reasons why the current smartphone craze isn’t likely to go away and may soon become the next big business venue.

 Reason #1: LTE

You don’t need a business degree to understand why smartphones have played second fiddle to fixed line broadband when it comes to their usefulness as a business platform. Mobile broadband has simply been unable to reach the speeds necessary to display web content and applications quickly. Long Term Evolution (LTE), however, promises to upset this trend since it supports download speeds up to 100Mbps and boasts of a high user capacity. While it will take time before LTE becomes the global standard for wireless networks, it will give smartphones the performance boost they need to compete with desktop computers.

Reason #2: Popularity

Why balance a clunky laptop on your knee when you can use a smartphone or tablet instead? This is what consumers are thinking now that mobile computing devices have become robust enough to handle most – if not all – of their needs. More than a third of all Americans already use smartphones, which is why marketing analysts from the International Data Corporation (IDC) predict that by 2015, mobile devices will become more popular than desktop PCs when it comes to accessing the web. Businesses that go mobile now, therefore, will gain an enormous advantage over competitors that wait to utilize this technology.

Reason #3: Convenience

How are consumers using their mobile devices these days, anyway? While smartphones have long been popular for playing games and listening to music, they have now become an important shopping tool. According to a Google survey conducted last year, 79% of the respondents used their phones to provide them with shopping information while on the go, 74% made an in-store purchase after browsing, and 35% actually bought products through their devices.[1] Smartphones, then, are fast becoming the most convenient way for consumers to find information about products and services they need. Although the data also reveals that mobile devices are not the preferred way to buy, it’s likely that once more attention is given to developing stronger security features, consumers will overcome their fear of identity theft just as they have done with shopping online at home.

For these reasons and more, small business owners should consider taking full advantage of what mobile devices have to offer, not only because they are a way to reach existing customers immediately, but also because they enable easy access to new markets. In addition, mobile devices will soon become powerful enough to handle more demanding business computing tasks, which should cut hardware costs. Lastly, mobile devices give users access to information wherever they go, meaning that small business owners with an eye for the future will want to invest in both apps and mobile versions of their existing websites to keep customers happy.

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Bethany Brewer writes on all the latest technological trends as a freelance writer from Los Angeles, CA.

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