Yahoo! Asks Gen Y Entrepreneurs How To Get The Most Out of Social Media For Your Small Business

Yahoo’s! tech section today has a very interesting article today in relationship to small businesses. Scott Gerber, a columnist for Entrepreneur, Inc. and Wall Street Journal, recently asked a panel of successful Gen Y entrepreneurs how small businesses can go about getting the most out of their social media marketing and how they can convert more of their existing social media followers into paying customers. Their answers cover 12 topics, including what kind of engagement you need, why you should seek to foster relationships via social media instead of simply blasting out marketing campaigns and why quality is always better than quantity (which I’m not sure is necessarily true, but that’s for another time).

Here’s one example, which is the response Gerber got in regards to fostering real relationships on social media over just straight marketing.

“First, you may want to rethink how you are viewing social media. If you’re looking for an immediate pop in revenue, you’re likely to give up quickly on social media and completely miss the larger opportunity it provides. Of course the broader goal of all marketing is to generate sales; however, if you show up on Facebook and Twitter simply to promote your product or service it is likely you’ll be ignored. Social media is about genuine interaction and building relationships. By fostering relationships, social media becomes an incredibly powerful tool. Provide interesting content that will generate buzz, provide helpful hints and unique discounts that are only available on Facebook or Twitter. Customers will appreciate the ability to participate in a dialogue directly with your brand and these interactions will show up on customers’ news feeds. The resulting brand exposure and word-of-mouth will ultimately pay dividends in the form of new customers.”

Anderson Schoenrock, co-founder of ScanDigital

I think the article is well worth your time, even though you’re not likely to agree with all of it. Not to mention that once you get done with the article, it will seem like you’ll have to spend all your company’s time on social media. But that’s not case. These are good lessons to learn and useful advice.

I’ll soon offer my own thoughts on this article in full, but for the time being, have a read.

One plumber’s offbeat (but highly successful) ways of marketing himself

One of the blogs that we fully very closely here at Buyful is Construction Marekting Ideas. The blog, started by Mark Buckshon is a true leader in terms of construction marketing. And today, he has a story that is well worth your time.

Mark introduced us to plumber Mike Johnson from Wisconsin. Mike’s been posting on the forums and a related blog, under the name “Mike’s Plumbing”, with some rather incredibly creative marketing ideas – including bringing kids along on door-to-canvassing.

Mike’s lessons that he’s sharing on Contractor Talk may sound kooky, but he has quite a record of success. Mark had the chance to speak with Mike and found out the ways that Mike works to get himself attached to the local community that he does work for. And here’s the most interesting thing. Mike’s primary way of marketing himself comes without any actual cost to his business. Instead, he works to get himself well connected in the community, where word-of-mouth referral is king.

It’s a great blog post, and well worth your time. And it may even give you and you small business some great ideas. There’s no direct link to the post, unfortunately, but it’s currently the first post on Construction Marketing Ideas.

Is social media helping your small business?

One of the hot topics in any line of business right now is social media. We’ve taken a look at it a few times already. While there are certainly pros and cons to social media, the general reaction to it seems to be primarily positive. But what are your thoughts on it?

Well, you now have the chance to weigh-in on it. Symantec is currently running a quick 10-question survey that let’s you answer questions about how social media is going for your small business and how productive you feel it has been. Symantec has said that they will post the results on their Social Media Center page once the survey is complete. We’ve already taken it and will post the results once they appear.

[Symantec Small Business Social Media Survey]

Can social media usage become profitable for small businesses? Yes, it can.

It’s only a natural question that small businesses would ask themselves “Does it make sense for me to get involved with social media?” It has the potential to pull you away from other work that needs to done, and sometimes it leads you down a rabbit hole.

But a new study seems to suggest that social media usage can in fact be profitable for small businesses.

Via Small Business Trends:

In June of this year, they [Network Solutions] worked with the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business to survey 500 small business owners by telephone.

According to the Small Business Success Index (download PDF report here), 20% of businesses actively use social media.  The top 3 social sites they use are Facebook (82%), LinkedIn (38%) and Twitter (30%).

Of those who use or may use social media, it’s roughly a breakeven proposition for at least half of them today.  But they have positive expectations for the near future, when 57% expect to profit from their social media activities within the next 12 months.

Here’s a graph of the expectations by these small business, in terms of what they expect social media use to result in after another 12 months.

Whether or not these profits through social media come to pass, one thing is quite clear: Social media is not going anywhere and it is not a fad. Small businesses see social media as a way to market themselves, make connections, and even make sales. And it makes sense. If social media is done properly by a small business, it is not a time suck, it costs almost no money and it can greatly expand your influence. It still has its pros and cons, but social media is something all small business should be getting involved in.

The pros and cons of small business email marketing

Over the last two days we’ve been taking a look at what small business can do in terms of marketing themselves. Our initial focus was on very traditional forms of marketing, like trade shows and word-of-mouth before we moved on to internet marketing. Today we’ll take a look at the last method that small businesses can use: email marketing.

Email marketing

There are two common ways to create an email marketing list. One is to organically grow the list – generally done by asking people directly for their emails or providing them with a newsletter if they give you their email (slow process) – and the second way is by actually obtaining email lists of a potential customer base (fast process). There are a number of sites out there where you can purchase hundreds of thousands of emails that are very focused on specific fields (like construction) for several hundred dollars.

Lets look at the pros and cons of an organic email list.

  • Pros: Most companies offer a newsletter or some kind of information update to people who give them their emails. And when people voluntarily give their emails to you, you are guaranteed to get their attention when you send emails out. The reason why is that these people already recognize your company and are aligned with it in some way.  As you build up this list of people who want to remain abreast of what your business is doing or the valuable information it’s providing, the more powerful your business becomes. You can now reach a large loyal group of people at the drop of a hat.
  • Cons: While the benefits of organically growing your email list are great, it takes a very long time. There is also the danger that once you actually achieve a large email list, people will become annoyed if you try and change whatever message you are generally sending them. Example is if you provide them with a weekly update on the company, but then suddenly begin directly requesting that they buy your new product, you may anger them.

The second way to reach people through email marketing is by purchasing emails, usually ones that are specific to a certain audience, like construction.

  • Pros: This style of email marketing is a quick way to reach a massive amount of people in an extremely short time period. Done correctly, it can also help you build up a large database of users who you can alert to anything at anytime.
  • Cons: This type of email marketing is difficult for small businesses for three very specific reasons.
    1. One: You must first have the capability to send out thousands of emails at once. This is necessary because the clickthrough rate on most cold emails (meaning this person is unaware of your business and has never used it before) is very low, usually from 1-10%. So even though you may send out 10,000 emails, only 100 people may actually read it. It is also not simple to send out a massive amount of emails and avoid being labeled a spammer. A small business could dedicate people at the company to email marketing (but this could pull resources away from where they are need) or it could use an external company to send emails (no concerns about spamming or lost resources, but it can be quite expensive).
    2. Two: You need to go through analytics to determine how the email campaign is doing in order to improve on it. This is time consuming.
    3. Three: There’s a trial and error process to this game. One email may be opened by only 2% of people while another may be opened by 8% of people. In fact, the biggest danger is that it can become an extreme time suck. I was once at a company where three out 15 employees were dedicated to email marketing. Needless to say, the company did not succeed.

That concludes our series on small business marketing. Thanks again for reading.

The pros and cons of small business internet marketing

internet marketingYesterday we began taking a look at what small business can do in terms of marketing themselves. Our initial focus was on very traditional forms of marketing, like trade shows and word-of-mouth. While both are still effective ways to get customers, it’s become more and more apparent these days you need to be on the internet as well. But the internet isn’t necessarily some kind of panacea. It still has its pros and cons like any other form of marketing. So let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the basic forms of internet marketing.

Search Engine Optimization

  • Pros: Search engine optimization (known as SEO) is a great tool because it doesn’t cost you a dime. The basic concept is that Google (or other search engines) checks your site and its content, and then produces relevant results for the searcher. So anything you type on your web site, from headlines to articles, can be found by various search engines. With a little research, and optimizing your site URLS, you can immediately start producing results for your business web site.
  • Cons: There are a lot of cons to SEO. The first is that although SEO is free, the only way to have it bring in a significant amount of traffic is to have a lot of content. And producing content takes a lot of time – and you’ll likely have to pay someone to do it. There is also the problem that while SEO is a funnel of sorts, it often has very poor conversion rates. Meaning most of the people who come to your site via SEO will likely leave almost immediately. SEO is also a beast all its own. Large companies have entire divisions devoted to it. To really nail SEO you need to do things such as get on Google News (somewhat difficult to do), get meta tags, optimize keywords, create proper URLs, etc. Perfecting SEO is quite time consuming, and not something a small business wants to waste time on.

Google/Yahoo/Microsoft ads

  • Pros: This is a much better funnel than SEO. When someone searches for something specific using any of these search engines, related advertisements to the search pop-up on the screen. Generally, you are allowed to select what keyword searches you want your ad to appear under. So if you make “construction” a keyword for your business, anytime someone types construction in their search, your ad will appear for them. The ads are positioned in an easily viewable area and in most cases, you will not have to pay for them unless someone clicks on the actual ad.
  • Cons: These ads do cost money. And if many people are coming to your web site, but not being converted into actual customers, you’re essentially wasting your money.

Facebook ads

  • Pros: Facebook has become a dominant force on the internet with over 500 million active users, and a very good method for reaching individuals who may be interested in your business. Facebook has data on every single member, and as a result, is better able to pair up an advertisement with someone’s backgrounds and interests than even Google/Yahoo/Microsoft ads. So your advertisements are even more focused.
  • Cons: These ads also cost money. In addition to that, while Facebook is expansive, many businesses (and people who own or operate businesses) avoid it as well. While businesses are beginning to understand its importance, it’s still primarily a social network.

Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, Digg, MySpace, LinkedIn)

  • Pros: Social networks are quickly becoming the new word-of-mouth. The positives are that word of your business can spread like wildfire. Or, if not wildfire, you can at least begin to get into contact with people that you never would have been able to reach before. Social networks do make creating networks and meeting people with common interests from all over the world much easier. In addition to that, social networks are mostly free and all are relatively simple to use.
  • Cons: Social networks can just as easily harm you as help you. Take for instance this YouTube video ( mocking United Airlines that has over nine million views in a little over a year thanks to being passed around social networks. The other problem many people have is they believe social networks will instantly provide a boost for their business, when in fact building up a presence on Twitter, Facebook and various other social networks is often a long process. Unless you have instant name recognition, it will likely require some time to become established on these networks. And one of the other important things to understand is that each social network is different. Doing the same thing on Facebook that you do on Twitter will not always produce the same result. Each social network requires some research into how to take advantage of its potential.

Tomorrow we’ll move on to the final part of our look into small business marketing with email marketing.

The pros and cons of traditional forms of small business marketing

When you have a small business with limited funds, it can be difficult getting word out about your business. Do you go the traditional route of local trade shows and word of mouth? Do you hop on the internet and begin experimenting with Google ads and social media? Or do you try something like email marketing?

The truth is that there are pros and cons to any form of marketing, and in several posts this week we’ll look at both the positives and negatives for a variety of common small business marketing tactics.

Let’s start with the traditional forms.

Local trade shows

  • Pros: Even in today’s day and age, meeting people face-to-face is still the best way to do business. Local trade shows provide you with the ability to meet everyone from your customers to your suppliers face-to-face, allowing you to create valuable relationships that can help your business.
  • Cons: There are two large drawbacks to local trade shows. The first is that they’re local. And in this increasingly interconnected world, you may be missing the chance to build relationships with people who are half-a-world away, but can better help your business. Secondly, trade shows are time consuming, and if there’s one thing most small businesses don’t have, it’s time.

Word of mouth

  • Pros: Traditional word of mouth is oftentimes what begins to truly separate a business from its competitors. If you can reach this point through excellent work or service, and people are lauding your business, then you’re in excellent shape. Leads and jobs will become commonplace. No one will argue with the success positive word of mouth has. And best of all, it’s free.
  • Cons: Traditional word of mouth is something you actually have little control over. You may work hard and provide excellent services to people, but if they aren’t vocal about what you’ve done for them, then your business is not receiving any additional benefits besides compensation. Traditional word of mouth also takes a long to build up, often taking years, if not decades, of top notch work and service to achieve. And in today’s day and age with instant internet marketing, a company that decides to primarily build their business through traditional word-of-mouth marketing is likely to be passed by a more aggressive business.

Tomorrow we’ll move on to internet marketing.

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