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2015

Whether we like it or not, whether we agree with it or not, the fact is that social media has become an unstoppable force in the world of small business. It is used by various businesses in many different ways: interacting with customers, prospecting for leads, responding to comments, or what have you.

 

That said, it’s not all good news; there are both pros and cons when it comes to this new platform:

 

  • On the positive side, social media can be an amazing tool for networking, connecting, engaging, broadcasting, and brand building
  • On the down side, it can prove to be overwhelming, time-consuming, frustrating, and even a waste of time

 

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

The secret is to harness the good and minimize the bad. How? Here are six steps that can help:

 

Step # 1. Decide on Your Purpose: Getting involved (or getting more involved) because you are supposed to or because everyone else is, will almost inevitably prove to be a losing scenario. Before you dive in any deeper, you need to really think through what you’re trying to accomplish with your social media efforts. It will take even longer and the learning curve will be steeper if you are unclear about your goals.

 

There are many things you can do with social media, but the basic options are that you can use it to:

 

  • Build your brand and/or become a thought leader
  • Prospect for business and meet new people
  • Engage with current customers
  • Promote products

 

So, Step #1, and it is #1 for a reason, is to know what you are doing and why.

 

Step #2. Pick Your Platform: Based upon your answer to the first rule, you need to think about which social media platform offers the best possibility for fulfilling your purpose. Is Facebook actually doing the job for you? Would Twitter be better?

 

I suggest you concentrate on, and master, just one or two. For posting coupons and specials, for instance, Facebook is tough to beat. If you want to show off the visual style of your furniture store, Pinterest or Instagram might make more sense.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss

 

You only have so much time to engage in social media, so pick your platforms wisely.

 

Step #3. Have A Plan: Once you know your purpose and have chosen the platform most likely to accomplish it, then it is time to create a social media action plan. As with any marketing or other business plan, social media requires forethought and proper planning.

 

Plan out content for the month, taking into account both your purpose as well as the various specials, deals, holiday sales, etc. that your company will run. Even though you will more than likely wind up going a bit off script at times, the existence of a plan will mean that you will (almost) always know where you are headed. You will also know what you will be posting, why, how often, and therefore will be far less likely to get lost in the social media forest.

 

One book you might want to pick up is 30 Minute Social Media Marketing.

 

Step #4. Give More Than You Receive: The general idea is, to the extent possible, to post about others a good deal more than you post about yourself. Nobody wants to be friends with the person who’s always talking about him or her self.

 

A variation of the 80-20 Rule applies here – make 80% of your posts about them and only 20% about you and your business.

 

Step #5. Post Shareable Content: People love to share on social media, and when they share your content, that is the ultimate social media compliment. It is also mighty word-of-mouth advertising. You can foster that kind of sharing by:

 

  • Posting content that either helps your customer base in some way (saves them time or money, teaches them something, etc.) or elicits a strong emotion – people tend to share things that are funny, heartwarming, or upsetting
  • Including eye-catching graphics

 

Step #6. Interact With Your Followers: Social media is not a monologue; it is a conversation, so make sure that you are listening to what your followers are saying and responding when appropriate. Retweeting positive messages, responding to customer complaints, answering inquiries, and offering advice are all great ways to show your followers that you are listening and not just talking.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here



 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 


Touchpoint

How to Do Mobile Right

Posted by Touchpoint Jun 17, 2015

Mobile_body.jpgBy Heather R. Johnson.

 

On busy sidewalks, in the grocery store, even at the gym, more and more people have their gaze fixed on a tiny, multifunctional screen. According to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ 2013 Internet trends report, people look at their phones up to 150 times a day.

 

At a time when nearly one third of web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets, small business owners must rethink their media strategy to take advantage of this rapidly growing market. A recent report from eMarketer shows that global mobile advertising will hit $101.37 billion in 2016—a 430 percent increase from 2013. 

 

Even small businesses with limited marketing budgets can incorporate mobile into their campaigns. “Look at other mediums you are using and carve out underperformers,” advises Julian Lewis, director of account management for Fiksu, a Boston-based mobile marketing agency. “A small business should understand how their users engage.”

 

Keep budget in mind, as well as the tips to follow, to maximize your mobile ad spend:

 

Native advertising gets results

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms use native ads—ads that match the form and function of the platform on which they appear—as well as publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. A study from software company Sharethrough and marketing agency IPG found that consumers viewed native ads 53 percent more often than display and banner ads. “The format resonates with users because it resembles content that they are used to consuming,” says Lewis.

 

Mobile_PQ.jpgQR codes may not

We see those funny quick response symbols everywhere, but do they work? One study showed that only 21 percent of American smartphone users have scanned a QR code. “A short URL that users can remember easily can be just as effective, if not more,” says Lewis. For example, users may be more likely to visit tinyurl.com/mobile when they see it on a promotion than to scan a QR code.

 

Search engines and social media remain strong

Small businesses can target a highly specific audience through social media as well as find new markets. With a well-placed ad on a search engine, a business can get its name in front of local customers that are searching for its niche.

 

Don’t ignore display and video

BI Intelligence data shows display and video as the fastest-growing mobile ad formats, with a compound annual growth rate of 96 and 73 percent respectively. “For a service that is difficult to describe, a video spot that explains benefits to the consumer can be very effective,” says Lewis.

 

Network and experiment

Connect with fellow business owners to share ideas. Lewis also recommends that business owners test multiple channels and ways to buy mobile advertising. Investigate ad exchanges and demand-side providers, which can put online ads in front of a selected target audience via a bidding process.


Regardless of the path, Lewis recommends small business owners diligently research before launching a campaign. “Don’t spend on mobile just to spend on mobile,” he says. “You have to learn something from it.”


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media LLC to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media LLC is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media LLC. Consult your competent financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

You probably know by now that you are supposed to be promoting your business on social media. Many of you may be doing just that; the latest stats indicate that about half of small businesses have gotten with the program.

 

Today what I’d like to discuss is not whether you should use social media, but rather, which social media platform is best for your small business? It is not an easy question to answer because many factors come into play – the needs of your business, its size, your goals, etc. It is really a matter of weighing the pros and cons of each and applying that to your circumstances.

 

To help you, below are the top 7 social media sites and their strengths and weaknesses.

 

1. Facebook. The Big Kahuna. Everybody is on Facebook personally and the steady drumbeat is that your business should be there too; an added bonus is that creating a Facebook page for your business is pretty easy. The challenge may be keeping the page fresh with new content. It takes commitment. But even so, you should have one, right?

 

Maybe. Maybe not. Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png

 

The good news is also the bad news when it comes to Facebook. Yes, it is very big, and very popular. That means that you will have, potentially, a big audience. It also means however that you will have a lot of competition for eyeballs.

 

Consider the stats below from StatisticBrain.com. Facebook has 1.4 billion users. Everything else pales in comparison:

 

Facebook:          1.4 billion

YouTube:            1 billion

Google+:            347 million

LinkedIn:            336 million

Twitter:               289 million

Instagram:          302 million

Pinterest:            73 million

 

2. YouTube: The only thing close to Facebook is YouTube and YouTube is nice for a few reasons:

 

  • First, people love video. It is the present and future of the Web.
  • Second, people are engaged when on YouTube. They spend a lot of time watching videos.

 

For that reason, the site ranks consistently high when it comes to redirecting traffic to a website. As such, if your business lends itself to a visual, video presence, YouTube is a great way to both extend your brand and get clicks.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss


3. Google+: Google+ has a variety of tools, including Circles, Hangouts, Messenger, and Hashtags. A newcomer on the block, G+ has two distinct advantages over the competition:

 

First, because it’s Google, you can expect to get better SEO and visibility.

 

Second, Google+ Hangouts are great because they offer you the chance to create engagement by broadcasting online. For instance, I have done a series of G+ Hangouts over the past year with my friends here at Bank of America. The conversations are always interesting and (hopefully!) useful for you, our tribe.

 

Here’s an example of our last one.

 

Doing something similar for your business or in your industry could really help you create a brand and a following.

 

4. LinkedIn. I once heard someone describe different social media sites this way: Facebook is the living room, YouTube is the den, and LinkedIn is the home office. It’s a pretty apt description and it describes LinkedIn well.

 

In the past few years, while LinkedIn has added many services, including the ability to post content and polls, join groups and what not, the site still is best for what is was designed to do: Link people up professionally. If you are looking to make business connections, LinkedIn is the place for you.

 

Tip: It is especially important to create a strong LinkedIn profile because it is often what people will find first when they Google you.

 

5. Twitter: Twitter, while it gets a lot of attention, is actually fairly small in the social media universe, based on the stats above. It can also be a challenge as crafting a valuable message into 140 characters (the Twitter limit) is no easy feat.

 

On the other hand, Twitter can really be a powerful tool to set yourself up as an expert/resource and, in that regard, it seems to be especially helpful for professionals and service-oriented businesses. Additionally, it can be an excellent networking tool since it is a great way to meet people you otherwise would not normally meet.

 

6. Instagram: Instagram is sort of like Facebook, but with pictures. You can post graphics and captions and have people follow you. As it is popular among younger people, Instagram really works if that is your intended demographic.

 

7. Pinterest: By the very nature of the site, whereby you create visual storyboards and “pin” things to it (pins can be pictures, videos, comments, etc.), Pinterest is a site that works great for businesses with visual appeal.

 

So, which site is best for your business? As I said, it is tough to generalize. Your best bet is to weigh the pros and cons of each, choose one or two, and jump in.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here


 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.

 

©2015 Bank of America Corporation

 


Snapchat_body.jpgBy Jennifer Shaheen.


Snapchat is a social networking platform that allows users to send each other images or videos, called snaps, which then disappear after a short time period. Hugely popular among younger people—more than 70 percent of users are under the age of 25—Snapchat can also be used effectively by small businesses for marketing purposes.


The social aspect of Snapchat is similar to Twitter; you can follow other Snapchat users, and they can follow you. You can only send snaps to people who are following you, but when you do send a snap, there’s a much higher chance that the snap will be opened, generally within seconds of receipt, says Craig Smith of DMR, a digital marketing statistics website.


That’s good news for small firms that want to use Snapchat to help bolster their marketing efforts. Snaps can inform and entertain customers about a whole variety of topics and can be used by businesses of all types. Here are some of the ways Snapchat can be used to help build your brand:


Show off your merchandise

Use a series of snaps to show off your merchandise “in action.” This can be ingredients being prepared and combined into a restaurant meal, or apparel and accessories coming together to create a stylish outfit. Snapchat allows senders to caption their snaps with text and graphics. Use this caption as a call to action.


Snapchat_PQ.jpgMystery discounts

Reward your customers with a discount sent via Snapchat when they’re about to check out in your store. Some retailers have had great success in varying the size of the discount, leaving shoppers feeling excited about how much their bonus savings are going to be. Use of discounts in this way can help to increase the number of Snapchat followers you have, as people have to add you in order to receive the savings.


Customer service

Snapchat is proving to be a very powerful customer service channel. Create two- to 10-second videos illustrating the answers to your company’s most frequently asked questions to have an instant response ready when a customer snaps you a question. Use Snaps to provide directions to your store, showcase exactly which items are included in the latest sales event, and even to explain a special ordering process.


Why Snapchat matters to small business

Snapchat has 100 million active users, who create over 400 million snaps every day. Snaps are shared enthusiastically, with one in every eight snaps being shared at least once. For a small business, this is an exciting way to get images of your merchandise or incentive offers in front of multiple people quickly.

Snapchat also has the added benefit of relevance: while young people are using Facebook to stay connected to family and friends, it’s not where they look for fun things to do or merchandise they’d like to buy. If you want your younger customers to pay attention to what you’re saying, use Snapchat.


Bank of America, N.A. engages with Touchpoint Media LLC to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Touchpoint Media LLC is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Touchpoint Media LLC. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

 

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