Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Social Media for Small Business: A Page o’ Links

Some small businesses struggle with how to use social media
Social media is everywhere and yet many businesses are still not using it or not using it well.

Sometimes it is a time issue. Sometimes it’s a feeling of "Where do I begin? Sometimes it’s simply a feeling of intimidation or having bene left behind.

My hope with this page of links is to offer some useful resources for any small business owner at any stage of their social media evolution:


Hubspot, probably the best champion of inbound marketing – attracting customers – has a useful post for those starting on Facebook: How to Create a Facebook Business Page in 5 Simple Steps 

Hubspot’s Mike Volpe offers a video tutorial called How to Advertise on Facebook Using Pay Per Click Ads link text

Twibs, a Twitter business portal, lists more than 47,000 businesses who are on Twitter and covers 1,000s of topics. 

On Pinterest there are thousands of boards. Two that might prove useful: Interesting Graphics – a Pinterest board curated by me that features infographics that mostly relate to social media and its uses for business. Social Media Posts – a Pinterest board also curated by me that features images that link to blog posts about social media.

On Linkedin? Then use its groups feature to discover useful groups in your community and in your industry. Go to Linkedin Groups.

Useful posts on the web:

Mashable, a great resource for news about social media has a section dedicated to social media and business.

Entrepreneur magazine’s collection of social media posts.

Inc. magazine’s The Business Owner's Social Media Tool Kit

Social Media Examiner’s A Beginner’s Social Media Guide for Small Businesses

B2C, the Business 2 Community, blog’s 10 Benefits of Social Media for Business Every Skeptic Should Know 

How to Create Perfect Posts on Social Media is an infographic that covers Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Linkedin.

Mark Schaefer regularly blogs about social media and business; his 5 Great ideas to unleash business benefits from Twitter Lists is very useful.

A collection of my earlier blog posts that may be useful to small businesses:
Have other good links? Feel free to pass them along via the Comments area.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Social media offers big benefits to small business

One thing all small business owners can agree on: They don’t have unlimited resources to put into marketing and other customer outreach.

This is where social media can be a big help. 

What does social media allow your small businesses to do?

Listen for opportunities: Possibly the most-overlooked benefit is simply being on social networks as a way take the pulse of a marketplace or to hear people discussing a need … a need you may be able to meet.
Vertical Response social media and small business survey results
Vertical Response surveyed small business and
found which platforms they preferred to use
Offer better customer service: Customers using Facebook or Twitter can easily communicate directly with you and you can quickly answer them in a public format that lets other customers see your responsiveness.

Stand out in web search: Social media allows you to share your content to a wide range of interested readers who then might visit your website, share your content with others and even link to it. It is commonly believed the big search engines take into account social signals when they decide how to rank links on the search results page.

Demonstrate your business’s personality: Social media can be a great way to show off your business’ personality, as well as behind-the-scenes information about you, your employees, your workspace, and more. By humanizing your business, it makes it easier for consumers to connect with you and develop loyalty.

Be seen to add value: By regularly sharing useful content on social media customers and potential customers are likely to decide that you’re adding value and therefore are at the least worthy of their interest. When it comes time to buy something or select a service you are more likely to be top of mind.

Extend your reach: Social platforms start as places you share information, but can also be the place that your follower extend your reach by resharing. This means people who are not yet customers are exposed to you and your business. 

Conduct competitive research: This can be as simple as seeing what your competitors are sharing and saying about what they are doing or connecting with a competitor’s dissatisfied customer to see if you can help them. 

Small business how to … get started on social media: 
  • Set a goal or goals: Be realistic because social media is a not a magic bullet and usually works best in combination with other tactics.
  • Understand your audience: Who are they and where can you find them on social media?
  • Develop a strategy: Be sure to start small and always record results, good and bad, and modify accordingly. This is an area where you might need outside expertise or at least to talk to others you trust to see what worked for them. 
  • Give social media a chance: This means allocating a modest amount of time each day and ensuring you stick with it for at least six months so you have a chance to build a following.
  • Only post relevant and interesting content: If you have to, write a list of the types of things you will share on social media. Be sure it is only stuff people would be impressed with and might reshare.
  • Be willing to adjust: After a tactic or specific social platform has had a chance and is not producing results let it go and move on.

So has this been helpful? Are there things from your own experience that other small business owners should consider? 

Related post:
10 Social Media Resources for Small Businesses

Saturday, September 13, 2014

10 Social Media Resources for Small Businesses

Any small business owner knows that it’s always about being short on money and short on time … which is why social media can be such a good investment. 

By carefully choosing a few social media platforms and allocating a little time each day small businesses can reap rewards including new customers/increased sales, competitive intelligence, better customer relations and greater word-of-mouth marketing. 

The question is where and how to begin. To help here are 10 resources for small business owners. 

10 Resources for Small Businesses on Social Media

1. Your Guide to Benefitting From Social Media by Bar Charts Inc is a good intro to social media for business purposes, has some helpful "Getting Started" tips and also answers the question for small business: “Why be on social media?”

2. Top 5 Social Media Platforms for Your Business by Gold Coast Design Studio covers Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest and offers reasons you should use them and a few best practices for each.

3. Small Business & Social Media by Purolator is a basic explanation of five key platforms and includes need-to-know terminology and "7 Tips for Getting Started in Social Media" for small businesses. Its Canadian focus on social media usage numbers is hardly surprising given that Purolator is a Canadian shipping and logistics company.

4. The Small Business Guide to Social Media Mastery produced by MarketMeSuite and Placester shares some powerful stats about why small business needs to be on social media and then offers useful tips, recommends some social media leaders to follow and warns against "spreading yourself too thin."

5. Unlock the Secrets of Facebook (For Small Business) by Intuit – offers solid beginner tips on the set up and operation of a small business Facebook page. It also offers a couple of friendly reminders about maintaining a tone of voice and scheduling posts on social media.

6. All About Twitter for Small Business by Search Engine People offers plenty of reasons to be on social media, insights into why customers might connect there and tips for optimizing a small business Twitter account.

7. Small Business Guide to Twitter by Simply Business is a great flow chart approach to answering questions a business owner might have about social media. Each of the 21 boxes in the flow chart then has a clickable link to a useful resource.

8. 5 Go-To Tips to Master Pinterest For Your Business by Infinista Concepts is a useful step-by-step graphic to get better engagement through Pinterest.

9. The Small Business Guide to Google+ by Simply Business consists of a nice interactive flowchart that answers questions and directs readers to more resources based on their knowledge and/or interest level in Google+.

10. The Power of the Hashtag for Small Business by The Huffington Post is a brief history and overview of hashtags and how they can be used by small business to get new customers and learn from other businesses.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other resources for small businesses on social media available on the web, this is just a starter list. I hope it is helpful.

Class: This list has been put together ahead of a new class I’ll be offering at the Rochester Brainery. For more see Social Media for Small Businesses.

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Foursquare – The Reviews Are Mixed

The Tastes feature of the new Foursquare 

The new Foursquare arrived this week – splitting off the Swarm social check-in app for good and offering Foursquare users a much more robust recommendation app for anything its users are likely to want to do. 

The new Foursquare logo and its pink color scheme
The new logo
Foursquare now has a pink logo and a pink-and-blue color palette (perfect for a newborn) and will offer recommendations based on Foursquare's database of 10,000 tastes, which cover qualities like food served, ambience, and activity type that Foursquare has gleaned from all the user tips that it has stockpiled over the years.

So what are people saying about this new Foursquare? Not all the first impressions are glowing. A round up:

In "This Is The New Foursquare" on TechCrunch Jordan Crook (@jordanrcrook) says: "Everyone, please meet the new Foursquare, a recommendations app that has nothing to do with location sharing and everything to do with smacking down Yelp using the force of a thousand suns.

"The author is impressed by the new version saying: "… using the new Foursquare instead of Yelp for the past few days has felt like upgrading from a BlackBerry Bold to an iPhone 5s."

In a piece called "The New Foursquare Is Here, and It's Surprisingly Good" author Pete Pachal (@petepachal), Tech Editor at Mashable, says "The check-in is dead." He asks rhetorically where that leaves Foursquare before answering his own question:

"As one of the best city guides you can get on a smartphone, actually, with a fully revamped user experience that puts some of the 5-year-old company's best information front and center.

"Foursquare 8.0 is a big step forward for the app, but it's far from perfect, and longtime users may not have the patience to discover its charms," Pachal says.

On Wired the spin is "Radical New Foursquare App Thinks You Want Even Less Privacy." Senior Writer Ryan Tate (@ryantate) says the new version is "… keeping tabs on you at all times, sending your location back to Foursquare’s servers, which then push recommendations back to your smartphone, suggesting restaurants and stores to visit—and stuff to order and buy once you get there."

He quotes Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley: "To actually get an app to talk to you like a friend would talk to you. That’s what we’re going at here, and I think we’ve done a really good job of it."

But Tate thinks users' privacy concerns may be a big problem for the new Foursquare: "The data you share with Foursquare today could conceivably end up in the hands of the NSA, hackers, or private data brokers tomorrow."

"Foursquare kills off the 'social media' pretense of data collection" trumpeted Ars Technica over a story by Casey Johnston (@caseyjohnston). The report notes: "Perhaps the most surprising thing about the app is how little you can interact with it for something that is (or will become) so personalized." 

"The tip-leaving interface is essentially a one-directional version of Twitter, and there are no options to toggle location-based services," Johnston notes.

"Fortunately, Foursquare doesn't publicly share any of a user's location information unless it's in aggregate. Users can follow each other, but the only content they see is each other's tips," she says.

"This is the cleverest portion of the service's revamp: make customers feel like they are sharing nothing, when in reality they are sharing everything."

And what did Foursquare itself have to say about the launch? It seemed very pleased. In a blog post Thursday it noted that "... tastes are already one of the most popular features. In the last 18 hours, you have already added 15 million tastes to profiles globally."

The post concludes with: "With the all-new Foursquare, you don’t have to know what you want. Just say, 'where should I go to lunch?' The app knows what you like. Let it lead you to places you’ll love."

So what do you think of the new Foursquare? Will it replace Yelp? And will you use Swarm for check-ins?

Related post:
9 Ways to Maintain (Some) Privacy on Social Media, the Web

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Talking to Kids About Social Media and Other Online Activities

Parents and teens likely see social media activities differently
Parents and teens see social media and other online activities differently. A parent's best bet? Be a good listener
In what is likely no real surprise to savvy Web watchers, but may have been a rude wake up call to parents with kids who are all over social media, it turns out nothing is really ephemeral on the web.

Evidence came recently as The New York Times reported that Snapchat, the popular mobile messaging service, agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that messages sent through the company’s app did not disappear as easily as promised and that it may have misled users about how their information is stored and shared, even if unintentionally. 

This development has likely wiped away the last traces of the "what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet" thinking.

But with younger and younger kids getting online (because even toddlers see their parents use all kinds of devices) what does this mean for parents concerned about their kids roaming the social web?

How do parents talk to their kids about being smart on social media, what they share there and who they share it with? Some ideas: 

Kids under 10: A 2013 study found more than half of children use social media by the age of 10. The good news? Two thirds (67 per cent) turn to their parents when they experience difficulties online, the poll found.

How can you help kids at this age?
  • Be there: Help kids understand they can ask you anything about online and you’ll answer without judging. This encourages them to come to you first.
  • Show them:Sometimes kids at this age are too accepting of what’s in front of them. Find gentle ways to tell them that some people share inappropriate things just to get attention and, worse, some have bad intentions. Repeat this message regularly because at this age repetition is what makes a message stick.
  • Don’t wait: It’s especially important to take any opportunity (a TV show, a conversation about one of their friends) to talk openly about the good and the bad on the web in general and social media in particular. Again, let them know they can come to you with any questions.
  • Be patient: Small doses of information, repeated as needed (not nagging) will eventually get the message there.
  • Guide them: Suggest that sharing anything online with anyone other than a family member or a friend their parents know may be dangerous.
Kids 11-13: Legally these kids are still too young to be allowed a Facebook page, for example. But the reality is that more than half of them are on Facebook and other social networks. 

In addition to the steps above how can you specifically help kids at this age?
  • Understand:At this stage kids might be unrealistically confident about their ability to handle themselves online. Gently ask questions that show them situations they might not know how to handle.
  • Set limits:Now is the optimal age to get agreement (in writing if you must be sure it’s clear) about how much time on social networks and at what time of day is OK. Modeling good online habits can also make this easier. Start with no more than an hour per day (perhaps broken up into 30 minutes after school and 30 minutes after dinner).
  • Co-opt a sibling:If there is an older sibling in the house ask them to help their younger brother or sister navigate the online world. This will depend on the age and maturity of the older child, but it can also be a way for the younger child to hear of scary experiences and learn from the other’s experiences.
  • Discuss bullying: This is the age that online bullying can become an issue. Talk about this with kids and encourage them to speak up when they see it.
  • Offer empathy: At this age they will hate the limits. It’s their job to test limits and yours to set them based on your values.
Kids 14-18: Probably the most-dangerous ages for teens online. They’re doing what teenagers have always done – trying to figure out where they fit it, how to be cool and how to push the limits – except now they are doing these things online in places that might keep public records of that activity forever.

They’re also old enough to know their way around the social networks and, mostly, nowhere near mature enough to understand the consequences of everything they do online.

In addition to the steps in the age groups above how can you specifically help kids at this age?
  • Listen:Keep track of the big things the kids talk about and the little things. Listen for anything that suggests social media is causing stress in their lives. Ask about that stress. If kids at this age are using social media to relax and communicate, that’s normal. If they are using it and its causing them to get upset, there’s a problem.
  • Ask: Come up with non-threatening, non-judgmental ways to ask your kids what they really like about a social media platform they are on. Reassure them that you’re just curious. Ask them to show you how a social network works (because it’s highly likely they’re on some platforms you aren’t). And, again be hyper aware for any signs that social media is causing distress and offer to be a set of ears.
Kids, 18 and Older: Yeah, they’re not really kids anymore, but online they are likely still acting like kids.

Despite the talk about how future employers, voters and even future spouses etc. will become increasingly tolerant of youthful online indiscretions, it is far more likely that things you do at 18 or older could and will haunt you in the future.

At this age what can you do to make them realize that the "web is forever"?
  • Show:Ask if you can show them something about yourself that was posted online many years ago that no longer represents who you are or how you’d like people to think about you. Now ask them to imagine a scenario when that posting involved something that an employer might find objectionable. Use this as a springboard to discuss such ideas as "think twice, send once" and "How would grandma (or someone else important in their life) feel if they saw this?" All the while being non-judgmental and expressing that their future happiness is your primary concern.
  • Reassure:Try to take the discussion to the next level by asking about things that your child sees or hears online that make them uncomfortable and how they handle that. Tell them that they likely have a good "internal compass" and if something makes them uncomfortable they don’t have to be part of it and you’re always available to answer questions.
So, what do you think? Are there other things parents can do to help their kids navigate and stay safe online and in social media?

Related posts:
9 Ways to Maintain (Some) Privacy on Social Media, the Web
10 Tips for Social Media Beginners
Hey baby, not on social media? This might help …