There’s nothing to be afraid of…..

Most of the people using social media to their advantage are not experts,  they are often not writers and they are most ‘[tweetmeme source=”alisonstoodley” only_single=false]’ certainly not all from the tech dept., me included.  What they are is unafraid. Unafraid to embrace new technology, to make mistakes, to try something new even if they are not an expert and to take a stab at engaging their audiences and offering them something of value.

If you want to be one of them  just take a deep breath and dive right in….if you need help taking the first step contact me.

Why your business needs an email newsletter.

If you’re reading this you are probably aware of the changes in effective marketing techniques that are emerging on [tweetmeme source= ‘alisonstoodley’ only_single=false]  a daily basis.  You probably already  have yourself a Facebook fan page, a Twitter account and are a profile on Linkedin. (If not, what are you waiting for?) With this foray into the world of social media don’t forget a very effective and low cost tool that can be the hub for all the buzz your efforts are generating:  the email newsletter.

A sign up box can be easily placed on your website,  Facebook fan page and blog, garnering you the exclusive attention of interested, potential clients and a program like Constant Contact can provide professional templates and very simply functionality that will more than meet your needs.

Now all you need to do is provide these potential customers with relevant content that helps them spread the word about you and your product. Why? because these are your best clients. They are the seeds that will help  nurture your online presence  and create a conversation about your business that translates into sales.

Email newsletters are an excellent relationship building tool.  Smart marketers realize that in today’s tough economic climate customer relationships are very, very important.  People are more apt to purchase even low cost items based on a recommendation from a friend rather than a multi-million dollar ad campaign. Your newsletter can be that recommendation.

Whether you are selling soup, cars or services, your current customers can be opening the door to your future customers but you have to place them in front of the door.  Use your newsletter to outline a lucrative referral program, provide the latest industry information and to shower appreciation  rather than as an email advertisement. Use it to create your reputation exactly as you would like it to be.  Outline philanthropic efforts at your company or within affiliated associations, talk about your outstanding employees or others in your industry, answer questions that not only customers but staff and affiliates might ask and above all, make it extremely easy for your readers to share this content.

As mentioned above you need to  link to your social media accounts  in all your email communication.  You also need to place ‘forward to a friend’ links wherever possible and you need to remind your readers that you appreciate them passing your message along.

Make sure to be consistent in your efforts – monthly works best-  and you will keep the buzz going, drop the ball and the momentum you have built drops with it.

If you need help creating an email marketing campaign that is geared towards increasing your companies bottom line let me know in the comments section or email me.

Is Social Media Marketing Intimidating?

It may seem at first glance that the entire world of online marketing is a private club that only the very tech savvy can[tweetmeme source= “alisonstoodley” only_single=false] join.  If you have dipped your toe into the often murky waters of blogging, Twitter, Linked In and the like you may come away from the experience feeling that you are unqualified, or that you just don’t have the time to learn the way things work.  Both ideas are simply not true.  Blogging and social media marketing can be incredible simply.  Once these tools are explained to you it becomes easy to see how the entire social media platform works together.  Now you can understand that with a strategic plan you can manage your social media presence in less than an hour a day.  You may even want to come back to the lake and wade in up to your hips, or, dare I say, dive in?

Of course there are companies out there like mine who will manage your social media marketing for you if you can’t liberate the hour a day but regardless of who does it, make sure you are well informed because your goal should be to eventually take it over .  Not only because it will save you money but because nurturing a social media presence can put you head and shoulders above the competition by ensuring you are up to date regarding innovations in your industry.  It is an excellent networking tool that will provide qualified, interested leads,  it is a bargain compared to traditional advertising and perhaps best of all, its fun!

results?

How do you  measure the results of your social media campaigns?  Sure, if your sales are increasing that’s ‘[tweetmeme source=”alisonstoodley”only_single=false ]’one way, but it wont give you much information to help you direct your efforts.  Google Analytics is a fabulous and free tool that will give you a ton of information about who is visiting your site, where they came from, what words they searched to find you, etc.  Setting it up is easy and with the benefits it provides  can improve your time management by  showing which efforts to duplicate  and which to let go.

That being said, a social media campaign takes a little time and nurturing to produce results of any kind.  Give your efforts 3-6 months for an initial picture to emerge but of course  a year will provide a much better idea of how well your efforts have paid off.  Considering that most social media sites are free and that having someone besides yourself manage them will  only cost a fraction of traditional advertising, a year of  investing in these innovative marketing sources is a small price to pay for what may prove to provide incredible results.

Why, if my company is doing fine, should we jump on the social media bandwagon?

Social media (SM) is an innovative way of marketing that has  proven to be an invaluable relationship building tool for companies and their customers/clients.  A 6% increase in blogging by Fortune 500 companies in the last year means the big guys are taking notice, social media works. More on that study.

People often think that blogging is a waste of time but look at it like this, if all the people who had questions about your product or service could have them answered, wouldn’t that translate into real income for your company? Everyone can benefit from positive conversation about their business and that is what nurturing your social media presence will create.

Even if your company is well established, and in some cases, especially if it is, a well constructed SM presence will tell your customers that you are innovative and up to date. SM will keep your company top-of-mind and nurture the relationships you already have with your customers, resulting in more referrals.

SM may seem intimidating and overwhelming if you have never blogged or been on Facebook but all it will take is a little training and you can be up and running like a pro. These sites are free and there are tons of online resources, also free, to get you started.  If you would like a further explanation and some guidance email me and I will help you get on the bandwagon.

Tips for social media posting for small business:

Unsure what to post on your social media sites?

–          Keeping it is simple goes a long way. Don’t get into a lot of technical jargon unless your customers are techies or your audience is very industry specific. New and potential clients may not warm to something that immediately seems over their head.

–          Remember the last question that a customer asked you and answer it. Keep a list of FAQ’s on hand that you can draw from when posting. When customers ask new ones, add them to your list. Keep in mind that customer retention is largely about solving their problems with your product or service. Hint: FAQ’s can come from everywhere, anyone ask about your business at the last party you attended? While watching your kids play hockey? At the gym? Etc.

Be aware, because FAQ’s don’t necessarily come from your customers.

–           Subscribe to industry specific blogs and when you read something interesting quote it and give your 2 cents. Experts in your industry are out there writing about issues pertaining to it every day. Your opinion matters to your clients and potential clients. Give it to them.

–          Don’t mix business with personal life. At times it is relevant to post about current events, see Golden for an example, but sharing things like your political opinion (unless you are a political columnist) can cost you customers.

–          Posting pictures or video can have a powerful impact and will lessen the words you need to come up with.

–          Have someone proof the posting for you. A colleague can give valuable feedback and correct grammar that you may not pick up on yourself.  ALWAYS use spell check – an occasional spelling mistake is forgiven but making them consistently tells your audience that you don’t care enough to click a button and clean it up.

5 Tips to Creating a Social Media Presence for Your Small Business

  1. Never underestimate the power of blogging – A blog is where you get to talk about your business and not worry about boring uninterested souls to tears. Use this arena to generate discussion about your product or service. Answer your FAQ’s and invite your customers, clients or interested parties to comment. And do it all in a free, easy to use and to set up environment that allows you to control both the content and the comments. 2 favorite blog sites: www.wordpress.com , www.blogger.com .
  1. Open a Twitter account – here is where you provide snippets of info or links to articles about your business or industry that you would like to share with your target audience.
  1. Open a Linked In account. This site is less of a playground and more about getting down to business. It allows you to link to people you know or have worked with and to build a network of individuals based on your industry, geography or education. One of the best areas on Linked In is Groups.  Monitor the ones pertinent to your field and answer the questions posted or open a line of discussion about a topic you would like some feedback on. Linked In is also an excellent place to give and receive recommendations that serve to build your reputation in your field.
  1. Establish a Facebook Page for your business that is separate from your personal profile. The line between business and pleasure can be blurry on Facebook and you want your business page to be about your business, not someone’s online farming or mafia playtime.  Use this space to promote your blog posts to your fans and to inspire discussion, which works incredibly well on Facebook with the easy commenting ability.
  1. Your posts don’t have to be, and in fact shouldn’t be, all about you. They should be about solving your customer’s problems and answering their inquiries.  Finding out what those problems are is one of social media’s greatest assets. The opportunity to speak one’s mind can bring powerful feedback about your product or service and you can streamline your offering to directly answer these issues.

Overall, social media works best when your offering is consistent. Leave your Twitter account inactive for a month and you simply fade into the background – not a good place for a business to be. Use these tools as a cohesive unit, think of them as a way to talk to everyone interested in your businesses at the same time, without having to schedule hundreds of appointments. Remember, if you use social media as a big advertisement you will quickly be ‘unfollowed’ and deleted, if people wanted ads shouted at them they would turn on their TV. Social media requires the players to step up their game and tell us what they can do for us not just what they are selling. I for one think it is about time business, both big and small, had to think about what they are spewing into the world, and that makes me very grateful for the emergence and popularity of social media.

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