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27 Small Businesses Will Simply Become More Naturally Social

small business georgetown coThis past year brands large and small rushed head on into social media marketing. They had to learn about all things Twitter, hire social media consultants and create special social media metrics and budgets. Now that hype surrounding the next new thing has settled a bit, businesses are coming around to the understanding that social media isn’t a department or separate marketing tactic. In fact, It’s not so much a tool as it is a behavior. And as such it can and should permeate the whole of the business.

Trapping social media engagement in the marketing department and demanding a tradition ROI measurement structure is a mistake. Social media activity and behavior can help facilitate communication and connection with your entire collaboration universe: prospects, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees and as such should be freed from the limited thinking. I’m not saying you shouldn’t demand a return on anything you do, but I am suggesting that you explode the notion of social media as one segment of one department.

My guess is the most successful small business will simply become more naturally social.

Here are few ways social media behavior is applied throughout.

HiringLinkedIn is the one the leading tools used by organizations these days to find job candidates. Scanning social media participation of prospective hires is a great way to access their social skills and (one of my new favorite terms thanks to Tara Hunt @missrogue) wuffie factor – a bit of a social media graph that can demonstrate what one values.

Training – Using social bookmarking tools like delicious or Instapaper you can easily create reading lists of information your entire team, customers in various industry segments or strategic partners should read to learn and grow.

Awareness – Social media has become a tremendous lead generation tool when used as a way to create awareness about valuable, education based content. Facebook Ads, for example are a great tool to employ to point out your upcoming webinars.

Public Relations – One of the best ways to achieve media coverage these days is to build relationships with journalists using social media tools. Most every journalist has a blog, leave comments and participate in their conversation. Create a Twitter List of key journalists for your industry. Create Google Alerts for those same journalists and start building relationships – that’s how you get covered

Referrals – Giving and receiving referrals was, is and remains the first and ultimate social behavior. Making a referral publicly, in a forum like Biznik, is a great way to demonstrate your belief in the power of giving. Reading and leaving ratings and reviews on sites like Yelp! is another great way to start the referral machine.

Strategic Partners – Finding strategic partners to work on projects or simply share the work of marketing to a target group is a great strategy empowered through social media tools. You can easily find businesses to connect with through networks like OpenForum or LinkedIn and then use a tool like MeetUp to co-host an event. (Disclosure: I am a contributor to OpenForum.)

Internal News – Using a tool like Yammer, Posterous, or even well formed hashtags on Twitter is a great way to communicate with a team and highlight content that should be seen by that team. Setting up RSS feeds and alerts for brand, industry and competitive mentions is another simple way to make sure everyone knows what’s going on and being said.

Lead Conversion – Adding a customer or prospect’s social activity to a CRM record through tools such as ACT! 2010 or Batchbook is a great way to discover the wants, needs, interests and challenges they face. Carefully reviewing that information can lead to ways to deepen relationships and even uncover unmet needs. It’s funny how often we sell something our existing customers are asking for but didn’t we had!

Customer Service – Countless organizations have turned to Twitter as way a to communicate with customers in need of some help. I think the serving of customers in public offers a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate how well you take care of business.

Research – I get great information every time I ask a question on LinkedIn or put up a quick Involver application poll on Facebook. The speed of this kind of research and the conversations that can erupt offer incredible opportunities to learn and connect.

Inspiration – This one can be hard for some get their head around, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve turned to my RSS reader to find inspiration for an idea, content, and even just as a way to regain my focus. In fact here’s my list of 10 places (mostly social) I turn to for content inspiration.

SEO – In case you haven’t heard, social media and SEO are pretty much hitched. Simply building profiles in communities such as TED or BusinessWeek Exchange can help you claim search real estate and provide those valuable links back to your primary website.

Testing – I’ve seen authors test book titles, businesses test pricing and logo designs, and professionals test various service offerings in Facebook and Twitter. The immediate and often quite informed feedback of a carefully built social network is an extremely useful tool.

Sourcing – Has anyone used XYZ software? I need a good WordPress designer. These kinds of requests go out all day long in social networks and have become one of the primary ways I make buying decision and hire professionals for projects.

Help Desk – Social network communities can provide incredible amounts of help for the most specific kinds of challenges. Let’s say you can’t make a computer network connect. One tweet can provide the answer. Let’s say you need some Photoshop tips, a quick trip to the Behance Network will likely turn up dozens of design software resources.

Brainstorming – When I’m wrestling with an idea for an article, book or strategy I’ll often put some form of the idea out for discussion on Twitter and engage some really smart people who follow me in discussions that can lead to some pretty interesting validation or other conclusions. It’s a fascinating process. Of course you can also create public Mindmeister mind maps and draw in even more brainstorming collaboration with employees, customers and partners.

What ways have you found to apply social behavior to your organization?

Image credit: vbsouthern

55 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing

social mediaThe first truth I need to reveal is that the idea for this post is a bit of a response to a post by Sonia Simone of copyblogger titled – The 7 Harsh Realities of Social Media Marketing. Sonia and I sparred a bit over the fact that “harsh realities” and making all this sound hard is something that keeps some small biz folks from diving in the way they should. Yes, it’s work, but what about marketing isn’t?

First, understand that I think Sonia is brilliant and copyblogger gets a daily visit from me, but – using social media to grow your business just isn’t that harsh and it doesn’t need to be that hard. Okay, it’s new and there are some new names to learn, cultures to understand and lingo to get comfortable with, but the fundamentals of marketing are the same, only the platforms have changed.

Here’s my 7 Simple Truths of Social Media Marketing

1) Listening is the best way to develop strategy

Everyone knows they should develop a social media strategy before diving into to every network they can. The problem is, few can tell you how to do this because any real marketing strategy is highly personal and involves your customers, market, competitors, suppliers, products and services. The best way to approach discovering a strategy for your social media participation, and perhaps all of your communications, is to listen really, really well. Social media is one of the greatest listening tools on the planet. Your customers are telling you about their fears and hopes, they’re telling about what they like about your products and dislike about the competition, they’re telling you what they wish someone would make – and now you can hear it. If you do nothing but set-up listening stations, using free tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search, you can get an enormous return on your time invested.

Once you spend time listening to your market, understanding how people use blogs and just what seems to work and not work on LinkedIn you may be more prepared to develop a marketing strategy, once that based on achieving marketing objectives, than ever. Don’t skip this step for tactics!

2) Nobody really wants to read another blog

I’m fond of telling anyone that will listen that every small business should have a blog. I don’t say that because I think your customers are itching to grab a cup of green tea and fire up what you wrote in your blog today. In fact, if you polled most of your customers and inquired as to whether you should write a blog, most would tell you no. But, those same customers go to search engines like Google and Bing every second of every day looking for answers to questions, suppliers in their town, and ways to solve pressing problems. And when they do, guess what most of them find, that’s right, blog content!

I’m not saying you shouldn’t write incredible stuff, with a long term goal of attracting lots of readers – when these readers start linking back to that content your search results will soar – what I am saying is, write what people search in your market and your town, educate with your posts and you blog will pay off faster than any other online play.

And it that weren’t enough blog software, like WordPress, is so user simple and feature rich that it’s the best way to run your entire web presence.

3) It’s kind of a real estate game

While I started this post off talking about the virtues of a solid strategy, there is a bit of a real estate grab that comes on the front end of getting value from social media. There are many profiles that you can claim and optimize, even if you don’t quite yet know what your development strategy is, and you should claim them. Creating spokes of branded and optimized content in sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr, Slideshare and YouTube has become standard SEO practice, but don’t forget about taking the time to build very rich profiles on sites like Biznik, BusinessWeek’s Exchange, OPENForum, and BizSugar. (Disclosure: I write for OpenForum)

Your profiles in these outposts will serve as content real estate that you control and can help fill in the gaps when someone Google’s You.

4) Sell awareness and the money will follow

A lot of people will tell you, and perhaps you’ve experienced it first hand, that you can’t sell using social media sites. Let me ask you this, have you ever really have much luck selling anything to anyone just because they happened to be standing in front of you. The only difference is social media makes it easier to stand in front of someone. You can’t really sell anything to anyone until you’ve built trust. The most effective way to build trust in any setting is to show someone how to get what they want and allow them to come to the conclusion that you have something they might want to buy.

Social media, just like the most effective advertising, is a great place to build awareness about your content: blog, white paper, seminar, workbook. If you do that, and your content builds trust, social media is a great place to make money – think of it as another version of 2-step advertising.

5) Networking hasn’t really changed

I really believe that effective networking on social media sites like Biznik, Facebook, or LinkedIn greatly resembles that of effective networking at in person Chamber or Association events. The key difference being one of a style of engagement and perhaps a different set of follow-up steps.

Before you do, act, or respond in any manner on a social media site, ask yourself if it would be an effective response to a prospect you’ve just met at an business event? You know, you wouldn’t go shirtless, with beer in hand to an association meet and greet, why would you post the same on your Facebook profile? This varies to some degree, but not that much.

6) It makes your offline play stronger

One of the things I don’t hear enough people talking about is how much social media can impact your offline efforts. Most business is still done across a desk, but starting relationships on LinkedIn and then building them much deeper over lunch is the killerest combination.

Social media also allows you to more easily and more consistently stay on top of what’s going on in your customer’s world. A growing number of CRM tools, such as ACT2010! and BatchBook make social media activity a part of a contact’s record.

7) A system is the solution

A well run business is a collection of systems. Marketing is a system and one of the best ways to keep social media participation from becoming your full time job is to create systems and process for how you participate.

I know you see people that spend their entire day on Twitter, but you must understand that they fall into two camps a) people who make a living teaching people how to use Twitter, b) people getting ready to go out of business.

It may seem a bit robotic to talk about social media and engagement as a process, but scheduling routines for your blog posting, commenting, tweeting, fanning and friending is a must, just as scheduling the appropriate time for selling, training employees and meeting strategic partners. Here’s a look at what an example social media routine might look like

Image credit: viralbus

8 Update of My Free Social Media Ebook

Social media and online marketing tools and tactics are an evolving lot. What was true last month may have a new twist this month.

social media for business

With that in mind I am happy to report that I’ve once again teamed up with the Microsoft Office Live Small Business team to bring you the revised and freshly updated – Let’s Talk: Social Media for Small Business.

While the reasons why a small business might jump into the social media fray have remained fundamentally the same, the how of it all has evolved substantially since version one. In this update, I’ve added a lot more information about Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and also included some thoughts on managing the social media beast, including my own social media system.

office live small businessThanks to Microsoft for making this free guide available again. You can grab a copy from the Office Live Small Business site or here.

33 Twitter and LinkedIn Finally Sync Up

LinkedIn and Twitter announced an integration today that should be interesting.

Starting sometime today, LinkedIn users can automatically feed their Twitter status updates to their LinkedIn status updates. While LinkedIn’s status update feature is right there for all to use, my experience is that people don’t use it nearly as much as they should – or certainly not like Twitter. (Even though LinkedIn has more members than Twitter.) This should be a real shot in the arm to LinkedIn from an exposure standpoint, but it may shake things up a bit too as the volume of status updates skyrockets.

The partnership is significant for another reason. I think this update is a further move towards positioning Twitter as the central content distribution hub for business. Facebook Fan Pages now offer easy Twitter integration and Bing and Google have established official ties with Twitter as well.

The ability to cross post goes both ways.

On LinkedIn

You can post from LinkedIn status and have it update twitter or the other way around. On LinkedIn you will change some setting and then click the Twitter box to have a LinkedIn status update post to Twitter.

linkedin status

On Twitter

The Twitter integration works very much like the popular Selective Twitter App for Facebook, when you post on Twitter and add the hashtag #li or #in the twitter update will also post to LinkedIn.

twitter integration

Here’s the update announcement from the LinkedIn blog: LinkedIn works with Twitter, and vice versa

12 Biznik Blends High Tech with High Touch

BiznikFortunately, it’s starting to feel like the wave of social media hype has crested and small businesses can turn their attention to understanding social media “best practices” rather than obsessing over next week’s new tool.

Today’s greatest small business opportunity awaits those who learn to skillfully blend the awareness creating, automating, and filtering aspects of social media platforms with the trust and customer building aspects of education based, face-to-face networking.

Seattle based social media upstart Biznik (well, compared to the likes of Facebook or LinkedIn) has positioned itself as this new breed of network tool. Biznik’s primary target is small business owners and, while they have plenty of real estate to tap, it’s primary objective is to build a social network that combines the best of an online platform with localized community events and human contact.

On the platform side the tool allows you to effectively build a profile (here’s mine), post articles, invite members to become a part of your network, join and create groups around community or themes, and create and promote local events. (More on this)

On the harder to quantify side, the quality of engagement in this network far outstrips anything I’ve seen and been a part of in other networks. This comes through loud and clear in things like article comments and messages to new members. In some ways, this would be enough to make Biznik a winner for the small business, but it’s the tip of the iceberg, I think, for people who drill down into this a bit.

The fact that Biznik has also created an event platform that is geographically driven presents a unique opportunity. So, now if you want to create a Feed Your Mind Networking Breakfast, like Jesse Wolfram in Mill Creek Washington does, you’ve got a targeted network and a ready made platform. I think it might be one of the best way to optimize social networking and traditional business building

I visited with Biznik co-founder Dan McComb for an upcoming episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast (Dan acts as the online editor while his spouse and co-founder, Lara Feltin, acts as CEO) and Dan confessed that the organization’s West Coast roots led to lots of natural growth in communities like Seattle and Portland, but that there is tremendous opportunity for growth elsewhere. To me this is a platform ripe for community leaders.

While Facebook and LinkedIn are grabbing headlines and remain great places to build business, I think small business folks should join Biznik and start building there as well.

13 New Feature Makes LinkedIn More Like a CRM Tool

LinkedIn pushed an upgraded feature through today that makes it a much more powerful small business prospecting and relationship tool in my book.

When prospecting on LinkedIn in the past you could type in a keyword or specific company search and locate people you might want to reach out to. For many folks this is the greatest benefit of LinkedIn participation. The tough thing was you had to look at the details of each profile you might find and make a decision about contacting them right then as there wasn’t a convenient way to save or group your chosen profiles for future use.

Today, LinkedIn added a tool in the paid version that allows you to create searches and then save the profiles that look interesting to folders in what it’s calling your Profile Organizer. So, let’s say you are scouting out journalists at a certain publication. You can do a search, set up a folder, and save all the profiles you like in that folder for later contact. They’ve also added a “note” feature so you can jot something of interest to yourself or even something that was said when you contacted them last. I think this feature makes the paid version worth a look. Of course, they’ve also made it free for 30 days. You activate the free trial by simply using the Save a profile feature.

Search on the term marketing – hover over a profile and save it to marketing folder (Click image to enlarge)

In profile organizer you can make notes on any saved profile (Click image to enlarge)

The Profile Organizer shows up as a workspace under the contact tab and once active you’ll see “save profile” as an option any time you are looking at an individual or group of profiles.

The thing I like most is that this allows you to work in LinkedIn any time you have 10 minutes and makes that 10 minutes much more efficient. For me researching and contacting are two very different activities and take different frames of mind when doing them. I like that fact that I can organize all the profiles as I feel like it and then come back and do laser focused reaching out when I’m in that mood. The note taking field is what makes this CRM like to me. (Note: You don’t have to be connected to someone to save and note their profile either.)

You can read more about the Profile Organizer update here on the LinkedIn blog

85 5 Tips for Getting More From Your Blog

notebooksIn a further continuation of my series of quick social media tips (check out 5 Tips for Getting More from LinkedIn, 5 Tips for Getting More from Facebook, and 5 tips for Getting More from Twitter), I’m returning to my old pal the blog.

Seems like blogs have kind of made it into the main and don’t get talked about as hot social media plays, but in my mind, a web hub of education based information, easily created and housed on a blog, is the ultimate social media foundation element and probably the key to success when you engage prospects in other social media platforms.

1) Read, follow and listen – you probably won’t get much in the way of results from blogging until you know what and how to write. The best way to do that, and by the way something I’ve done and continue to do daily, is read lots of blogs, follow lots of people who point out interesting reads and listen using RSS, bookmarking sites like delicious, and every question your prospects and customers voice. Use an RSS reader such as Google Reader to make it very easy to listen to lots of content and then get a little notebook and carry with you at all times so you can jot down every question customers and prospects ask.

2) Write what people search – If you’re one of those folks who’s resisted blogging because you don’t think anyone would read your blog, don’t worry, they probably won’t. Most blogs aren’t read like a magazine, or like you might view it, they are found. In other words post the answers to the questions, problems, and challenges that you know your market is asking and seeking and your blog content will become the single greatest online lead generation tool in your mix. Discover the exact phrases people in your market are using when they search and write valuable content around that and people will find your blog before they know your competitors exist.

3) Ask for participation – Blogging is one of the first ways to build an engaged community. People talk about building community on twitter and other social sites, but few things can compare to the engagement that can surround healthy debates, reader generated content and suggestions in blog comments. Write your blog posts in ways that invite people to comment, ask for their ideas, and even ask them to give their opinions. Often, some of my points are amplified and made better through the comment stream that can surround them. Over time, you will build community participation and you may find that blogging is more fun when it becomes a conversation.

4) Engage your comment community – When people take the time to offer thoughtful comments take the time to respond when appropriate. If a debate is in order it’s okay to start one. Visit the sites of your comment community and engage in their writing. Link to their content in your blog posts and on twitter. You might also find that using comment enhancing plugins such as Disqus – the commenting system I use or Top Commentators, which shows a list of the people who comment the most, can make your comment community more active. (I wrote a post long ago called 7 ways to get more blog comments that you might also find useful)

5) Amplify your message – one obvious way to get more exposure for your blog is to post links to twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn with each new post and, as long as that’s not all you do, this can be an effective traffic strategy, however, another great way to amplify and broaden the exposure for your blog is to guest blog. Many, sometimes high traffic, blogs welcome well-written content from guests. Look for blogs that should have your same type of reader and offer samples of your writing. Be sure that your posts will receive a byline and link back to your blog and then also promote the heck out your guest appearance.

Image credit: Dvortygirl

29 How Social is Your Email?

I’ve noticed a really interesting phenomenon lately that I think needs some addressing.

For years people have sent out email with the little “tell a friend” or “forward to a friend” button and links – in fact, that may have actually been the first form of social media.

But here’s something else I’ve noticed. Email marketers aren’t further moving to amplify their efforts to spread the word by integrating social media into the email mix.

Personally, I think this is a great opportunity missed. Some marketers are claiming that social media will kill email, but I happen to believe neither is killing either. Integrating social media more fully into your email marketing efforts, and vice versa, is a way to make both broader and more far reaching.

The reason I think these two medium support each other so well is that they really serve different purposes in the marketer’s toolbox. Social media is not now, and may never be, a very good way to sell directly to a prospect, but email has a long history of very effective conversion, promotion and direct selling.

So, rather than dumping email for social media why not use your current lists and email marketing efforts to make social media a better tool for you.

Here are few ways to get started enhancing your social media presence through your email efforts while making your email efforts reach further using social media. (This post assumes that you have already established basic social media activities such as blogging, twitter, facebook and LinkedIn – even if they are not yet robust)

Email signature – this one is silly basic, but why not use the space – add your social network profiles to your every day email signature – some people may prefer connecting with you there.


Make your mail tweetable – add a tweetmeme button to your email newsletter archive and make your stories easy to share via twitter,


Subscribe and archive on Facebook – add an email newsletter archive to your Facebook fan page and don’t forget to add a newsletter sign-up form there too (I wrote about how to add a custom form to a Facebook page here)

in your email newsletters

Add links to all your social profiles


Want to hear more about this and other ways to get more from your email? Join me for the Evolution of Email, a webinar sponsored by Verizon, Wednesday September 9th at 12:30 EDT

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29 5 Tips for Getting More From Social Media Marketing

listeningIn a further continuation of my series of quick social media tips (check out 5 Tips for Getting More from LinkedIn, 5 Tips for Getting More from Facebook, and 5 tips for Getting More from Twitter), I’m covering some overarching advice today as I believe small business owners and marketers need to think strategically about social media use, perhaps before they ever start to discuss tactical use.

1) Integrate – Don’t treat your social media activity as something separate from your other marketing initiatives. Feature links to your social media profiles in your email signature, on your business cards, in your ads, and as a standard block of copy in your weekly HTML email newsletter. In addition, make sure that links to your educational content are featured prominently in your social media profiles and that Facebook fan page visitors and blog subscribers are offered the opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter and attend your online and offline events. Make your social media profiles a part of your address copy block and you will soon see adding them to all that you do as an automatic action.

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65 5 Tips for Getting More From Twitter

follow me on twitterIn continuing with my series of quick social media tips (check out 5 tips for LinkedIn and 5 tips for Facebook) I’m covering some tips for business use of Twitter here. I’ve actually written about some of these tips in great detail before in this free ebook – Twitter for Business, but this can act as a quick primer for folks who like their info snack sized like this.

1. Tweet great content 3-4 times a day – Follow people who always find great stuff, subscribe to blogs that feature great links and reviews of new tools, scan weekly and daily email news digests such as SmartBriefs, cruise over to the delicious popular page and read print publications of interest. All of these sources (most of which can be scanned in a 15 minute sitting once you have them set up) are rich with content that your followers and the twitter world in general wants to read. One of the most valuable services you can provide is to be a filter for the information overload your prospects, customers and network are feeling. In a way, your twitter stream can become that valuable filter for pointing out the best content, but do it consistently and watch your follower count grow.

2. Reply to conversations (@ducttape) – One of the best ways to get engaged with those you follow is to join conversations where appropriate and offer answers and suggestions. Many common tweets come in the form of a question from someone looking for help. When you offer the solutions to these forms of tweets you automatically become more engaged and demonstrate some of your own knowledge, expertise and willingness to help. Obviously, you can’t sit around all day answering questions, but by focusing on addressing conversations that are related to your industry and field of expertise, you can build a reputation around topics that matter to your business objectives. Use 3rd party tools such as Seesmic Desktop (make sure you look at their browser based tool if you are having resource issues with desktop tools) or Tweetdeck so that you can easily scan conversations and be ready to reply to conversations that are directly related to you.

3. Retweet other people’s content – Another network and follower building practice is to retweet other people’s tweets. This is simply the act of taking someone’s tweet and tweeting it in your stream – with full credit to the original tweeter. This has become a very standard practice on twitter (designated with a RT) and can be overdone, but you can also use it for two purposes. If you are following people who tweet what you find to be very interesting content you are doing your followers a favor by sharing that content with them. In addition, you are, in effect, acknowledging the person whose content your retweeted. This is a nice bit of the culture of sharing and usually comes back in some form to help you build your following. People generally pay attention to the folks that are retweeting their content. However, this can become a crutch as well – make sure you are pushing your own content out in a nice mix. You can use tools like tweetmeme to track the most popular retweets. This can be a way to find new content for tip #1.

4. Use search to meet objectives – For many twitter power users search in the most important feature of twitter. You can use the twitter advanced search tool to create very elaborate searches that can filter out only the tweets that address your specific industry in your specific geography. Or you can find people talking about your expertise, whining about a problem you can help with, or proving a solution you need. Searches you create on twitter also produce an RSS feed so you can set your searches up in a way that deliver the results to your RSS reader on a daily basis. I would also include the use of the #hashtag function (I wrote in greater detail about hashtag use here) as a search tool. Get in the habit of using it to promote your events and promotions and while attending events, in person or online, as it’s a great way to find and connect with like-minded folks attending events. People who follow the event tag from afar will bump into your content this way as well. Once again, 3rd party tools like Seesmic Desktop and Tweetdeck allow you to monitor your searches, including hashtags, on your desktop.

5. Be easy to retweet and follow – This one is both on twitter and off. Sharing great info is the first rule, but you can do other things as well. While twitter allows 140 characters, if you aim for 120 your tweets will be easier for someone to RT. This way people can add their handle and a bit of commentary. Use tools, such as the Tweetmeme WordPress plugin I have at the beginning of this post (go ahead you know you want to click that green retweet), that make your content off twitter easy to tweet. Add your “follow me on twitter” button to web pages, email newsletters and email signature. Add your @name to your business cards, stationary and invoices.

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