6 Common FAQ’s about Social Media from Small Business

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Navigating social media can be a confusing labyrinth of choices, especially for the small business owner who lacks time and money to dedicate to their Marketing activities. Social media isn’t a phase, it’s changed how people communicate and conduct business for the foreseeable future. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions from small businesses about how to use social media:

1) Why do I need to use Social Media?

Social Media has changed the way people communicate on Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops and PC’s. People communicating via social media have now surpassed the use of SMS text messaging which represents a huge shift in the way we communicate. In order to reach your audience, then you must communicate with them using the methods they use. There are literally billions of people of all ages using social media, so go find them.

2) I don’t know where to start

Always start with a plan. Write down your goals and objectives, form a strategy and implement that strategy through a well structured plan. Make your goals SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

3) How much time should I spend on Social Media each day?

10-20 minutes in the morning and 10-20 minutes in the evening is all you need to keep on top of your social media strategy.

4) When should I post on Social Media?

Consider the lifestyle of your audience when thinking about what time of the day to send your posts. If you want to target people who work, send posts in the morning when people will be on their way to work and check their messages, at lunchtime and when they’re travelling home from work after 5pm.

If you want to target people who don’t work, post in mid-morning, mid-afternoon and mid-evening.
Test, test and test the times you post and measure the responses, or lack of. Find out what works for your business, industry and customers.

5) What Social Media platforms should I use?

Facebook is the obvious 1st choice with well over a billion users worldwide and this number is growing daily. As a business Facebook is an ideal platform to target your audience with excellent advertising options. People in the UK check their Facebook accounts on average 14 times a day.

Twitter is recommended to connect with your peers, prospects and customers and gives you access to information and news quicker than traditional news channels. With tweets limited to 140 characters you must learn to say what you want to using as few words as possible. People’s attention spans on social media and the internet is extremely short, mainly due to the vast amount of information available.

Pinterest is a visual platform used to upload and share photos of any subject you can think of. Women are by far the biggest users of Pinterest, whereas Google+ is more widely used by men. Google+ is widely tipped to be the social media channel to challenge Facebook in the next few years.

LinkedIn is a Business to Business social media channel and is more formal than others. LinkedIn is an excellent platform to connect with peers and network professionally.

Of course there are a multitude of other platforms, but these are some of the more widely used.

6) How much does Social Media cost?

For small organisations if you have little or no marketing budget then the only cost to you is your time AKA Sweat Equity. If you would like to increase your organisation’s exposure then consider Facebook advertising which can be extremely affordable and effective. This can cost as little as a few pounds a day.

This is not a definitive list of most commonly asked questions nor the list of possible answers provided. Always consider the context of your business, industry, customers, budget and time. If you plan, test and measure then you’re on the right track.

5 Tips to help you find the time for Social Media

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So many small businesses have a desire to harness the power of social media, but there’s one constant grumble I hear – But I don’t have the time to do social media. It’s tough running your own business and there never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything you want. You’re constantly juggling customer enquiries, doing the accounts, answering the phone, deadlines to meet and the kids need picked up from school. Then you need to do the gardening, attack that pile of ironing and make the dinner. Always juggling and you can never find the time to send those tweets or update your Facebook page.

Social media IS important and there’s always something more important to do right? – Wrong! Find the time and make social media a priority. With a little thought and forward planning you can always find the time for social media, here’s 5 tips to help you find the time.

1) Outsource your household duties

Instead of outsourcing your accounts to an Accountant or Marketing to a Consultant, do it yourself. It’s important to understand all the different business functions and the best way to do this is to do it yourself. So instead of paying an Accountant, pay a Gardener or pay for someone to do that pile of ironing or house cleaning. Be dedicated to your business and take the stress off your shoulders, free up time and dedicate this to your business, in particular your social media functions.

2) Schedule

Write down a daily schedule and stick to it. 15-20 minutes in the morning and the same in the evening and make this a daily habit of your everyday working practices. Just make social media a daily priority and ensure you don’t fall behind the times, it’s where your customers are. Form a strategy and write down your plan, always write down your goals and objectives.

3) HootSuite

HootSuite is a fantastic auto-scheduling tool which can help free up time to post for you at optimum times of the day. I like to post when people will be sitting on the bus/tube going to work, at lunchtime and evenings. You can’t always be ready to send out posts at these times so use the schedule function on HootSuite to do the work for you. You can post to all your social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn all with one click. The free version will be ample for small businesses.

4) Twitter Lists

Open the homepage to your Twitter account and the volume of tweets can be daunting; the solution is to use Twitter lists. Sort all the people you follow into distinct lists, as a Marketer I have a number of lists which include Social Media Marketing, Entrepreneurial posts and Market Research. This way I can look at each individual subject from my lists and pick out the best posts to write about or re-tweet. Lists can easily be set up on your HootSuite account for ease of access.

5) Involve your employees

If you have employees, then get them involved in your social media strategy. If you involve your employees make sure of you have a social media policy in place and ensure your employees have received adequate training. Failure to do either of these 2 things can lead to damaging your brand, so training and a social media policy are essential.

Social media is important to your small business, it’s a cost effective way to market your business and allows you to personally engage with customers on a 1:2:1 basis. Remember that large businesses struggle to answer every customer on social media, but you can. Social media is where your customers are communicating, so go and find them.

Why Content isn’t King!

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If “Content is King” then Marketing and Advertising is dead. Consumers may be suffering from advertising saturation on our TV’s, Radio, the internet, newspapers and social media sites but I truly believe that good Marketing can make Advertising & Marketing relevant and appealing.

Research Findings

I base my opinion on facts learned from researching small business owners on the subject of their Marketing and social media usage for business purposes. The majority of small business owners don’t know what Content Marketing is and therefore don’t apply the concepts and practices. Research findings from small business owners highlighted that posting mainly sales-related content to the correct target market that have shown an interest in a particular company/products/services resulted in increased sales and enquiries for those companies.
Now not all companies will experience success by posting mainly sales related content as the research findings determined that B2C and product-based companies experienced the most success. However the importance of segmentation and accurate targeting must not be ignored or undervalued. If you know who your customers are, where they are, what media channels they use and what interests them, then it’s possible to achieve success in your Marketing activities.

Sometimes you don’t need Content

I’ll use an example from Groupon who posted an offer for a Spa day at a luxury resort near Edinburgh to one of my female friends. The advert offered 60% off usual prices which was an excellent deal. My friend passed on the advert to all of her female friends on Facebook which resulted in 8 ladies all booking a day out at the spa. The significance of this example is that not a single piece of “Content” apart from the offer was promoted. If your offer is appealing enough and targeted to the right audience then it is possible to achieve success without believing that “Content is King”.

Content Marketing is Still Important

Content Marketing is an important element of a company’s Marketing strategy and it is a good way to raise awareness of your brand and gain new followers, but for small businesses they need to tread carefully. Posting industry articles, sharing content and writing a blog require sweat equity and time-starved small businesses often cannot afford to dedicate their time to content Marketing. A balance needs to be reached to ensure a mixture of quality content and sales-related material is implemented into any Marketing strategy. Just don’t overuse and abuse the now cliché “Content is King” – that’s nonsense, the customer is King.

LISTEN!

As marketers we should be listening to what consumers want and what form of Marketing actually works rather than what we perceive to work! A recent article entitled The Digital Gap between Consumer and Marketer by Jacey Gulden on Social Media Today highlighted the gap in perceptions of consumers and Marketers. Jacey writes about the benefits that smaller businesses have when personalizing communications with consumers, which I agree with when targeting the correct target market.

Yes Content Marketing is important and yes content should be designed to engage your audience but people are interested in companies, brands, products and services and what they have to offer. Good Marketing practices should be focused on the customer and provide them with what they want, when they want, we just need to listen.
My previous blog Is Content Really King offers more on this subject.

The Importance of a Database in Marketing for Micro-Businesses

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Who exactly is your customer? This is one question many small businesses struggle to answer. What age are they? Where do they come from? What are their characteristics & lifestyles? These are all fairly easy questions to answer, if you have a database.

The Importance of a Database

When someone enquires about your products/services via email, Facebook, your website or any other channel you’ll naturally respond to those people using the channel they made the enquiry from. You’re correct to respond to your customers using the channel they use, but it’s also important to collect as much information as possible about each individual person or company. If they phone you then ask for their email address, if they email you ask for their Facebook profiles. If you want to know who your customers are, then you must collect as much relevant details as possible so you can begin to understand exactly who your target market is. When I see an advert with only a phone number, it’s dead. Unless I need to call that company immediately their potential to sell to me has been lost. If that advert had a Facebook page, a website or email address then I can make an enquiry in my own time.

Database Benefits

The importance of capturing as much information as possible about your customers is essential to ensure future marketing activities are more relevant to the people who’re receiving them. With a richly populated database you will be able to understand:

• How much it’s cost you to generate a lead (Cost Per Lead)
• Cost Per Sale
• Conversion Ratios – Enquiries to Sales
• Customer trends & habits
• Your typical customer location
• Your typical customer demographics
• The typical lifestyles your customers share

Measurement & Segmentation

Measuring the effectiveness & ROI of your marketing efforts cannot be achieved unless you capture, store and utilise the information from your database. There’s no point in having details about your customers in a range of locations like a diary, email list, pieces of paper and social media accounts. Your customer details must be in one place so they’re easily accessible for speed and accuracy with the ability to collate and measure that data. From here you can target smaller segments of customers based on a range of variables and tailor marketing communications to those smaller more unique groups of people. See – Why Small Is Good in Segmentation.

What Database?

What database do I use? Good question to ask. There are a multitude of database options available for small businesses and using Microsoft Excel or Access is a good place to start. Once your database and company begins to grow then you might consider upgrading to paying for CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems which will incorporate all your back office processes. CRM systems are advantageous over the likes of Excel & Access with superior capabilities, but it would be advisable to use simple free databases in the early stages of your business and reconsider your database options as you experience growth.

Don’t underestimate the importance and power of the database to your business, because from here you will truly be able to understand exactly who your customers are and how to reach them.

Top 5 Social Media Influencers (Infographic)

Social media has changed the way in which we communicate and conduct business. With a recent Honours degree in Business Management with Marketing I still feel behind the times in terms of my social media knowledge and experience. With the help of top social media influencers my knowledge and social media skills have risen, mainly due to the “Social Media Mafia” The following infographic is a little bit of fun, but it’s packed with information on what I believe to be the top 5 Social Media Influencers. (click once on the infographic to view in full screen)

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This was my 1st ever attempt at creating an infographic so please excuse any flaws with screen options. If anyone has any advice or tips on how to optimize infographics then please feel free to comment.

Is Content Really King?

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Content is King

“Content is King” that’s the current buzz phrase in social media marketing which focuses on the relevance and impact of creating content which is engaging. It’s one of those sayings which are true in theory but in practice it can often be overused and used to hide ulterior motives. In a world of information overload people and companies blog, tweet and spew seemingly free information. Siphoning through the volume of information on the internet can indeed unveil some ground-breaking research, genuinely engaging content and suitable to people’s individual tastes and preferences. We can access information on any topic when we want and about what we want, but does the content we consume manipulate us to then become customers?

Free Content – At what cost?

Ask yourself why is it possible for me to watch this video or read this article completely free of charge? That’ll be because you’re always being sold to. Almost everyone providing you with a free blog or video or free e-book are leading you down a path of consumerism, somehow you’ll end up paying. Even me writing this blog, I’m attempting to raise awareness of my skills and my company which will ideally lead to a sale. There’s always a hook leading to a sale of some kind, you just have to look and you’ll find it. Businesses cannot survive without sales and by giving away the secrets to their trades, they want something in return.

Manipulation

Marketers and businesses can be clever in understanding human psychology as we all have buying trends and impulsive behaviours. Content is not always king as our predictability as human beings can be manipulated to the advantage of commerce. People respond to colours, images, sounds and visual effects used in much of the content we access which is designed to illicit buying impulses, not to provide free content. Videos, gimmicks, special offers and freebies are offered to raise our awareness of a particular brand who want a share of your wallet, not to provide free content. Perhaps after decades of people enduring advertising and marketing saturation, we become immune to the realisation that there’s always a hook leading to a sale.

Jargon

If you truly believe that “Content is King” then you’re trying to sell something to someone. As a marketer I fully comprehend the meaning behind the phrase and believe customers do benefit from the ability to access truly rich and engaging content, but always at a cost. Content is king is now just marketing jargon which has lost its meaning and is over-used and abused for commercial gain. The only thing worthy of being attributed with the tile King is the customer.

Why Small Is Good in Segmentation

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What is Segmentation?

Market segmentation is a marketing concept which is fairly easy to understand, just imagine an orange. The orange represents the entire market of potential customers, but within that orange there are various segments which basically divide those customers into smaller groups. Let’s take an example of a designer of women’s shoes. The shoes produced can be sold to any women, yet not all women will be the target market of the product. The style of shoes will appeal to a different age group, from different geographical locations each with different lifestyles. Instead of marketing the shoes to the entire orange, break down your target market into smaller segments to enable more effective and relevant communications.

Micro-Segmentation & Measurement

Micro-business and SME’s can make market segmentation a little easier by applying micro-segmentation. This is simply identifying your market (entire orange) then the individual segments (single orange segment) such as age, sex, address and lifestyle. Then you should analyse each segment in more depth where you can now target a certain age group in a smaller geographical area who share similar interests. Back to shoes for a moment, the shoe designer could target women age 20-30 within 5 miles of a city centre whom are all working professionals.

Measuring the effectiveness and ROI of a marketing campaign is much easier and more cost effective if you apply the concept of micro-segmentation, especially when advertising on social media. Take Facebook advertising as an example, if your target market is in Edinburgh; don’t launch an advert aimed at the entire population of Edinburgh. Launch more adverts aimed at a smaller micro-segment rather than launching an advert aimed at a wider market segment. Believe me, micro-segmentation is far easier to manage and most importantly measure the effectiveness of your marketing activities. Change each individual advert also, use a different picture, change the wording of your adverts or change the types of products/services being offered in your advert.

Applying Micro-Segmentation

All too often I see small businesses citing every single product and service they offer in a single advert by trying to be all things to all men, DON’T! If you want to measure the effectiveness of your marketing you must firstly address the issue of testing. Think about it, if your advert was sent out to everyone in Edinburgh then how do you know the breakdown of who your customers are and exactly where they live? Instead of sending an advert to a higher number of people, send a higher volume of slightly different adverts to micro-segments. For example if you send an advert to women age 20-25 within 1 mile of the city centre, and a similar advert to women aged 25-30 then you can now measure the impact and ROI of your marketing in more detail. Figure out what works and what doesn’t work and alter your marketing efforts accordingly.
Understanding the composition of an entire orange can be confusing, split your audience into micro-segments to gain a deeper understanding of your customers and the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. When it comes to segmentation – Small Is Good.