All posts in Small Business

  • Small Business Owners are the ‘NCOs’ of the Current Economic Struggle

    I just finished watching an HBO series called The Pacific, which recounts in brutal detail some of the hardest fought battles of the Pacific Theatre during WWII. There is a scene, which I’ve clipped from YouTube, where the company commander is speaking to a group of NCOs regarding their role in winning the war. Read more

  • Most Small Businesses Use Social Media But Few Do It Well

    Small business social media

    The Los Angeles Times reports on a new survey from Manta, an online forum for small business, which found that, of the 600 small businesses surveyed, 78% use social media in one form or another. The survey also found 58% say they “struggle to find value in using Facebook to promote their businesses or don’t have a page at all” and that “25% of those surveyed said their company website drives the most business for them.”

    Which brings me to this article at MarketingProfs – Four Reasons to Jettison the Traditional Website and Go Social – that says small businesses are “dispensing with the traditional website in favor of integrating the most popular social networks right into the website.” While the article doesn’t advocate complete abandonment of traditional websites, it does recommend that companies opt for the use of social sites.

    Which brings me to the question – traditional websites: to be or not to be? Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of having a traditional website or to take arms against a sea of troubles by opposing them? (with apologies to Shakespeare) Perhaps THAT is the question.

    My belief: It’s not either/or, but both/and.

    There are some very good reasons to have a more traditional company website supplemented by a presence in social media as a secondary layer. And, if you can integrate the two, mores the better.

    Website or Social Site

    All in favor of websites, say “aye.” 

    As the scale above indicates, there are four good reasons to have a website.

    1. You control the design, so that it matches your company branding.
    2. You own the data. Guess who owns the data on Facebook? (Hint: It’s not you.)
    3. You can do a better job of targeting and personalization.
    4. You can reach the entirety of your audience.

    All in favor of social sites, say “nay.”

    There are an equal number of good reasons to have a presence within social media.

    1. Social sites are inherently interactive. Most small business websites aren’t.
    2. Social sites are where people spend time.
    3. Social sites are easy to acquire. It costs nothing to use them and it’s relatively easy to set up an account.
    4. Social sites facilitate viral sharing.

    Like I said, not either/or but both/and.

    Now that we have that question resolved (and, of course, I am always right about these things), it’s time to move on to the question of why small businesses aren’t experiencing a lot of success.

    Easy answer – they lack the know-how, which is the #1 reason why guys like me exist.

    More expanded version of that answer – not only do they lack the know-how, they also lack the time and budget to maximize the value social media has to offer, which is the #2 reason guys like me exist.

    My advice to small business owners is simple and succinct:

    1. It’s worth having a presence within social media for all the reasons mentioned above.
    2. Take some time to get trained on how to leverage social media to your advantage. There are plenty of resources available to help you, both online and in your local area.

    Of course, if you find your back up against a wall, I’m always ready to help. Give me a call.

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  • F-Commerce on the Rise in Spite of Big Brand Abandonment

    F-commerce still on the rise

    “Selling through Facebook (f-commerce) is set to be worth £3.1 billion for UK businesses over the next 3 years, according to new research.” That’s nearly $5 billion in US dollars if my calculations are correct. (source: Digital Strategy Consulting)

    The research alluded to in the quote was carried out by global market research firm TNS on behalf of e-commerce platform provider Ecwid. TNS surveyed 2000 consumers in the UK and found that 25 percent of those polled would prefer to shop on Facebook rather than eBay due to the fact that it provides a more personalized shopping experience.

    Even though a number of major retailers have abandoned their Facebook shopping carts, does this research indicate there is still hope that Facebook may become a shopping destination?

    For more than two years I’ve said that Facebook has morphed from a pure-play social network to a 21st century version of AOL. People use Facebook as their go to site for pretty much everything these days, so it stands to reason that shopping would fit that behavior pattern as well. The research seems to confirm my suspicion.

    At its heart Facebook is still a social network, not a shopping destination. But, where e-commerce is concerned, that does not mean Facebook can’t serve a supplementary role to amplify product discovery, drive traffic to dot com sites, build customer loyalty, and increase lifetime value. In fact, that’s exactly what it is doing.

    UK digital marketing agency Valtech cited several facts that suggest investing in a Facebook commerce presence is warranted:

    • Facebook has over 955m active users globally.
    • In the US, users spend longer on Facebook than they do on Google.
    • An average of 130 people will see a friend’s “word of mouth” recommendation.
    • Each new fan equates to 20 extra visits to their website over the course of a year.
    • 70% of Facebook users engage with Facebook applications.
    • 20 million Facebook app installations are made every day.
    • 75% of Facebook users have “liked” a brand
    • 60% of people would be willing to share a product or service if given a deal/discount.
    • 53% of people have used Facebook to interact with a brand.
    • 36% of people liked or shared a brand page on Facebook the last 30 days.
    • Each new fan equates to 20 extra visits to their website over the course of a year.
    • 41% of respondents said they want to receive communications from marketers on Facebook.

    But shopping on Facebook is a different experience than shopping on a traditional e-commerce site. As it pertains to f-commerce, Dr. Paul Marsden, editor of Social Commerce Today and co-author (along with me) of the soon to be released book The Social Commerce Handbook, made the following recommendations in his post “Survey Says: Facebook to Take 6.1% of E-commerce Market by 2015.” Brands should offer:

    • Something new (something new, not available elsewhere yet – a fan-first offer)
    • Something different (unique not available elsewhere at all – a Facebook exclusive)
    • Something more (additional value – such as a free gift with purchase)
    • Something for less (better pricing – fan-pricing)

    As I indicated in an earlier post small businesses are the ones who seemed to have tapped the secret to successful social commerce. While some big brands have stepped back to re-evaluate how to crack the f-commerce nut, mom and pops are kicking booty.

    So, f-commerce is still on the rise in spite of big brand abandonment. We’re still early in the process, but if you take into account the results of the aforementioned research, the statistics reported by Valtech, and the advice from Paul Marsden, I trust you will agree there is rational for establishing a presence there.

  • A Movement Called The Small Business Web

    Why start a company when you can start a movement. 

    That was the inspiration for the latest post on my blog The Social Retailer over at Practical Ecommerce. It has to do with a "movement" known as The Small Business Web. 

    A couple of years ago the folks at CRM software provider Batchblue had an idea — bring together "like-minded, customer-obsessed software companies to integrate our respective products and make life easier for small businesses."

    From that idea grew a movement known as The Small Business Web (TSBW), a clearing house of resources perfectly suited to the needs of small business, especially small-small business.

    READ THE FULL POST

  • Sure-fire Way to Make Social Media Work for B2C Small Business

    Pat Kitano is one of the smartest people I know. I met Pat years ago during my Blogging Systems days when my business partner Richard Nacht and I were trying to convince the real estate industry that blogging was THE thing to do. Pat was/is a seasoned entrepreneur with keen insights as to how social media can be used for marketing.

    Pat recently wrote a post that opened my eyes to how local, retail-oriented small businesses could use social media. It's simple, effective and won't take a great deal of anyone's time. It's involves the use of four social network platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Yelp. 

    Here's how it works (and I'm borrowing some great quotes from Pat's post for context):

    Facebook

    "Facebook is primed to evolve into a massive Sunday advertising circular for local businesses."

    Every local small business should set up a Facebook Fan Page. Why? Because, with over 400 million users, over 50% of whom log on every day, there is a great likelihood that your customer is there. What better way to connect with them than by creating a presence there as well.

    For many small businesses who have either no Web site or an online brochure, for all intents and purposes the fan page could become their new Web site. 

    What do you do once you've set it up? Let me answer that question by asking one. What are you promoting via other forms of advertising (TV, radio, print)? Do the same thing via your fan page. Not only that, use it to create coupons and special offers just for fans. 

    Of course, use it as an interactive medium through which you engage with fans, upload interesting content such as videos, blog posts, photos, etc. Make it your digital outpost inside Facebook. 

    Click here to learn how to use Facebook for business.

    Twitter

    "[T]he new local advertising vehicle is the Twitter coupon…Twitter will develop hyperlocal couponing systems that will be online equivalents of PennySaver coupons and Valpak."

    If anyone has proven the effectiveness of marketing products via Twitter, it's Dell. Through their Dell Outlet Twitter account, the company has sold millions of dollars worth of inventory with only a minimal investment of resources. Even though they are a Fortune 100 company, the principle holds just as true for small business. 

    There are a number of good examples, not the least of which is Naked Pizza in New Orleans, which gained national attention due to their use of Twitter. (Another great example is what Ramon de Leon, owner of a Dominos franchise in Chicago, is doing with Twitter and other forms of social media.)

    It hurts me to think of small business not seeing the value of using Twitter for couponing, customer service, customer relationship building, search marketing, and so on. 

    Click here to learn more about how to use Twitter for business. 

    Foursquare

    "Geolocation is changing the social media by providing nothing more than the tagging mechanism to define social networks by localities."

    Applications like Foursquare, Gowalla and others are hot right now. If you're not familiar, they are location-based social networks that allow users to "check-in" to wherever they may be at a given moment. In addition, there is a game playing element to each. Foursquare, for example, allows users to accrue points each time they check-in to a given location. The person with the most points is deemed the "mayor." 

    "Geolocation is changing the social media by providing nothing more than the tagging mechanism to define social networks by localities. Geolocation facilitates the development of a new, more practical, more intimate Twitter/Foursquare network of friends who just happen to be living down the street," says Pat. 

    More and more businesses are rewarding the mayor with special offers, discounts, or freebies (free drink, free appetizer). Think of the benefit to doing this. It's a great way to build repeat traffic to your location. 

    Not only that, when a user checks-in, Foursquare shares that information with their social network. And, it can automatically publish the information to the users Twitter and Facebook accounts! Talk about viral, word-of-mouth marketing…using social media, it's on steroids! (Oh, and small business owner, you had to do nothing for this to happen except extend a special offer to the mayor.)

    Click here to learn more about how to use Foursquare for business.  

    Yelp

    "[T]he new reviews column is Yelp."

    The fourth social network local, retail small businesses should be using is Yelp, a "rating and review" site that allows consumers to "share the experiences they've had with local businesses and lets business owners share information about their business with their customers."

    Claiming your business profile allows you to:

    • Communicate with your customers– privately and publicly
    • Track how many people view your business page
    • Add photos, a detailed business description, up-to-date information, history, and specialties
    • Announce special offers and upcoming events
    • Recommend other businesses

    It's a way to leverage grass-roots opinion and encourage those who are favorable toward your business to express their pleasure. For those who may post unfavorable comments, by claiming your profile you get the opportunity to turn an enemy into a friend and do so in a public way, which can serve to engender trust by consumers. 

    Click here to learn how to use Yelp for business.

    What role does the company Web site play?

    With all these new outlets, you may think the role of the company Web site is marginalized. To the contrary, I see a unique role as a "hub," or base of operations from which your visitors can connect with you on all of the above. Those that find your first on Facebook, Twitter or Yelp can be directed back to your site. 

    I've said it numerous times, the Web today is all about shared connections, not information silos. Connect your company Web site to all the places you have a presence online and connect from those places back to your site. It will create a unique synergy that will attract the attention of human visitors and search engine spiders alike. 

    What about the time investment? 

    Facebook/Twitter – You will more than likely spend the majority of your time updating your Facebook fan page. It can serve as your social media digital center. From there, you can autopost content to Twitter. Conversely, you can have your Twitter posts publish to your fan page as well. 

    There are some things that cannot be automated, such as personal interaction with fans/followers, but that investment of time is well worth it in the long run. 

    Foursquare – Your responsibility to Foursquare is simply to a) offer a coupon, special offer or discount to the mayor (or offer something to anyone who checks-in via Foursquare; it doesn't have to only be the mayor) and b) monitor check-in activity and comments. 

    Yelp – Claim and populate your business profile, then encourage your best customers to post reviews/ratings there. Each time someone writes a review you will receive an email notification, so you're not having to constantly monitor the site. (Note: Yelp has also launched a geolocation/check-in app for the iPhone.)  

    What if I need help?

    The Handyman is here to help! I can provide anything from social media strategy consulting to assistance in setting up a Facebook Fan Page, Twitter account, or Yelp profile. DM me using Twitter, email me at pchaney at gmail dot com or call me at 337-804-2081 with questions or to learn more. 

    Conclusion

    I would be remiss if I failed to mention that Pat's secret sauce in all of this is the use of what he refers to as the Breaking News Network, a series of hyper-local portals that get lots of traffic and attention via the use of aggregated/filtered localized Twitter feeds. In effect, it is a digital "watering hole" where people gather daily to learn about what's going on in their community. 

    It's a brilliant concept which Pat is taking to city after city (his target is 300 cities). He sees it as just as essential a component as any of the four I've just mentioned. (And, frankly, so do I.) If you'd like to learn more about BNN, contact Pat at pkitano (at) gmail (dot) com. Tell him I sent you!