The feedback from small businesses from our extensive Small Business Saturday campaign was overwhelmingly positive with small business owners all over the country thankful for companies like American Express, FedEx and ourselves turning the spotlight on their businesses!
During this time, we invited some of our favorite social media experts to give us their input on ways small businesses can get their cash registers ringing. So, today we thought it’d be great to recap some of their best tips and insights on marketing your business online.
Website – Your online presence starts with your website. You should take the time and resources to create a professional looking website since your website’s overall appearance reflects the quality and credibility of your business. Make sure all of your company’s basic information is included on your website: full name of your company, its address, phone number, hours of operation, a very clear and specific description of your company and products, directions to your business, a ”contact us” page, customer testimonials (very important if you are service provider), high-quality photos, seals from industry associations and media mentions. You can use tools like WordPress and premium themes like Thesis, to create a professional looking site that is also inexpensive (less than $100).
Content – Our experts agree that content is key in attracting more people to your website, blog, Facebook or other social media platforms. Create content that matters to your consumers and be a valuable resource to them. If your audience finds your information useful, then they most likely will share your content with others and your fan base will increase. It’s not so much which social media tool to use to grab people’s attention but rather the quality of the content you offer. Be a trustful resource to your local community by providing valuable and creative content and you will set your business apart from your competitors.
Videos – Videos are a favorite new media tool among our experts as a means to showcase your business and your expertise. Videos don’t have to be complicated but can help you establish yourself as the expert in your local community. For example, if you are a plumber, you can film a short “how to” by videotaping yourself fixing a plumbing problem; or if you are a dog groomer, you can create a video on how to trim a dog’s nails. Then you can post your “tutorial” videos on your website, blog, Facebook or on You Tube. Animoto.com is a great tool to create an inexpensive video.
Blogging – Blogging is also a great way to establish yourself as an expert in your industry and connect to your customers. You can use the blog tool, WordPress, to easily create and manage your own blog. Before you start blogging, try to find out what sort of information your customers are seeking and then try to provide it to them. For instance, if you are a local cleaners, are your customers interested in finding out how to get rid of stains on a particular fabric, information on how to keep a shirt from fraying or how to fix holes in a sweater? Having a clear understanding what your customers are looking for, you can then post advice, tips and suggestions that would entice people to follow your blog. However, make sure you consistently update your blog with new information, or else you may risk losing your followers.
Twitter and Facebook – These two tools are on the top of the social media food chain at the moment. And as Mari Smith puts it, if you are not present in those sites, then for some people, you don’t exist. Regarding Twitter, after setting up an account for your business, you can target your audience by using a tool such as Twellow to find specific local followers. To do that, once you are at Twellow’s website just click on to the “Twellowhood” tab and find your local area. Tweet some great tips, advice and resources and you will gain followers. Twitter, in particular, offers real-time opportunities to reach out to your audience and is a fantastic way to engage in conversation with them. If you don’t have time on a daily basis to Tweet, you can pre-schedule content to Twitter, using a tool like HootSuite. You can also set up searches on Twitter using TweetDeck. Create a Facebook page for your business where you can offer special deals, helpful tips, “how-to” videos, and other content that your audience will find useful and engaging. If you are a restaurant, ask your audience to select the specials of the day they would like to see for the weekend. Get your business noticed by local consumers by using Facebook’s ad targeting to extend a special offer to a particular demographic. When you are not online, you can also use tools such as NutShell Mail to keep up with your social media via email notifications on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis.
Location based services – To hear Jason Falls tell it – “if it solves a need, then it’s worth it.” Brick-and-mortar stores can improve foot traffic by employing social-location tools like Foursquare. Foursquare is a “low-cost loyalty tool” that people can use to find your business and receive perks. You can reward your top customers who use the tool, or “Mayor” of your location, with discounts or free products, etc. Set up your business page on key location based tools such as Google.com/Places and Gowalla.com/business and include key information about your business such as phone numbers, hours of operation, etc. These are great tools to make your business visible in your local community and beyond. Also, make sure your business has a profile on Yelp, another great resource for potential customers to find your business. But be sure to consistently monitor your profile and reviews.
Email marketing – Email marketing is another great way to increase foot traffic to your store. Whether you are a brick-and-mortar business or an online company, make sure you have a way to capture people’s email addresses, so you can keep in touch with them with a newsletter or special deals offerings, discounts, and invites to local events at your store. You can also set up polls to learn more about your customers’ needs and wants. There are some great tools out there that can help you create a well-designed email campaign - two of them being AWeber and MailChimp.
Listening tools – Knowing what people are saying about your business is a vital and useful practice. Using listening tools, you can learn the public’s perception of your business, what your customers like or dislike about your products or services, and provide immediate assistance with a customer service issue, etc. You can even conduct polls and market research. Some of the recommended listening tools include Radian6, TweetBeep, Gist, and Google Alerts.
You can check out our full Q&A interviews from our Small Business Saturday series to get more in-depth information and valuable marketing tips!