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5 Social Media Platforms To Boost Your Small Business

Today’s world is faced paced and new businesses have to jump in with savvy in order to survive. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product or service is if nobody knows about you and you aren’t making an effort to connect with the public. Here’s where social media platforms come in- the ability to insert yourself into the social sphere and be a part of your customers’ lives, both past and future. There are some basic advantages that social media platforms can bring to a small business, a few of which include: The ability to forge a brand “look and feel” The words you use and the graphics/photos you post say a lot about you and what you’re trying to sell The power to answer and address feedback/complaints Customer feedback is crucial to any growing business and social media gives you a way to interact with clients and publicly fix issues that may arise The platform to offer deals and incentives Discounts and special offers are hugely enticing to the general public, and having a strong online media exposure ensures those will bring in business The tools to grow your following and increase brand loyalty The digital age gives you the instruments to interact with your customers, expand your mailing lists, boost your affiliations, and add the personal touch While it may seem overwhelming, especially if you are just starting out and seriously understaffed (or underfunded), investing in a solid social media plan will pay you back over and over again. If you utilize social media efficiently and in a targeted manner (e.g. a photographer may find more success on Instagram than say, YouTube), you will find your business growing in both sales and popularity. So let’s explore the top seven platforms and how they can bring engagement and panache to your small business! Facebook It’s the #1 social media site in the world, and for good reason. With almost 900 million users, your customer demographic potential is huge and chances are, everyone you know has a page of some kind on this multitalented website. This should be one of your most important advertising avenues, second only to your own unique website/blog, and you should take advantage of the myriad of options. You can post writings and photos, create surveys and contests, plan and invite people to events, invite people to “check in” at your shop, embed videos and links, use hashtags, and so much more. Twitter 140 characters don’t seem like much, but they can be quite powerful when used regularly. Do some research into the best tags to narrow down your target market, and think long and hard about everything you post before posting it. You’ll quickly become savvy at saying a lot in a few short sentences, and gracefully entering conversations about topics and fields that are pertinent to your business. Twitter is great for following people you admire, networking with other people in your industry, and being found by people searching via hashtag or live-tweeting special events. LinkedIn It may seem static at first, since this site is basically a glorified online resume, but don’t be too quick to write it off. LinkedIn has almost 150 million users, and is set up to connect you to other people in your industry, as well as provide a “reference” of sorts to people searching you or your business. It only takes a few minutes to set up your unique page, and update it as your experience grows, so there isn’t a reason not to partake in this useful platform. Over time, you may find opportunities to collaborate,...

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How to Use Twitter Successfully: What Is It & Why Is It Relevant?

Twitter tends to be one of those social media platforms that isn’t quite as easy for some people to grasp. After reading this, however, you will have a better understanding of Twitter and you may even be more interested in using it! “They say Twitter is like a river, ever-changing as it flows, and a Tweeter’s just a vessel that must follow where it goes….” What is Twitter? Twitter is a free online networking tool that allows users to connect and post status updates that are 140 characters or less. Users can follow each other and share pieces of their daily lives. Here are some of the terms used in Twitter defined for you: Tweet – a status post. Must be 140 characters or less. The ‘shelf life’ of a tweet is very brief, so feel free to do it throughout your day. TwitterStream –  For those of you familiar with Facebook, this is like your newsfeed. For those of you who are not, this is a stream of tweets from every user you have decided to follow displays on your home page. Follower – Someone who has opted to see your tweets on their homepage. @reply – Use the “@” symbol at the beginning of your message to reply to someone’s tweet. The only people that will see this are the people that follow both of you. Direct Message – A private (direct) tweet. Direct tweets do not appear in the public tweetstream. You can only send a Direct Message to someone that follows you. Retweet – See something you like in the stream? Simply retweet using the retweet button or “RT.” Similar to sharing a post on Facebook or forwarding an email. Retweets will give the original tweeter credit by including a link to their profile. Mentions – Using the “@” symbol anywhere but the beginning of a tweet will allow everyone who follows you to see this message. This is like including a link to that person’s profile. #, or “hashtag”: Including a hashtag will group your tweets by keyword. Hashtags are great for events, discussions, important topics, and groups. These also make it easy to search for a certain topic. Favorite –  A tweet you have bookmarked by clicking the star. Others can see your list of favorites as well. Trending – Current topics that are being talked about the most. Great, so now I kinda get it a little more… but how is this relevant to my business? Twitter is another platform that you can use to connect with your customers/clients, increase your brand awareness, position yourself as an expert in your field and open the lines of communication. Where to begin: Define your goals. Are you on Twitter to sell products, increase awareness, position yourself as a leader, and/or provide a feedback channel? Lots of larger organizations are very successfully using Twitter as a customer service channel. No more online forms to fill out or waiting on hold for ages.  Simply send them a tweet and you will be taken care of immediately. Get a feel for what people are saying and how they are interacting. Do a search of your company, your industry, your products, or your town.  Spend some time listening and observing. Don’t just push your ad messages. Be real, personable, and genuine. This is not a just another place to get free advertising. It is a place to connect with customers when they aren’t in front of you face to face. You don’t need to go follow everyone that comes across your screen.  Find the influencers in your industry/location/interest...

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Foursquare: What Is It and Why Should You Know About It?

Foursquare is not just a game you used to play at recess anymore. It is also a location-based social networking application that is worth paying attention to. As of January 2012, there are over 15 million people on Foursquare with over 1.5 billion total check-ins and millions more every day. As far as businesses go, there are over 750,000 using the Merchant Platform (i.e. they have claimed and are managing their location). Great… so what does it DO? It allows people to use their smart phone to ‘check-in’ at your location notifying their friends that they have arrived at your place of business (= FREE ADVERTISING). They can add photos and tips i.e. “Try the pink lemonade,” or, “The special today is amazing” (= ENGAGED CUSTOMERS). A Foursquare user gets points and badges for checking in at places and is then rated among the friends they are connected to. The more active you are; the more points and badges you get. This encourages people to check-in wherever they go. Not everyone is a Foursquare user, but those who are tend to be quite active. Why should a business know about this? Foursquare can help a business in a variety of ways, the top three reasons being that it will: Help you attract new customers Develop a stronger connection with loyal customers Enhance your SEO Not to mention it is easy to get started. Once you have claimed your venue, you can set up a campaign to offer a ‘check-in special’ (similar to Facebook Deals). There are a variety of deals you can offer on Foursquare. Here is the list from the Foursquare website to give you an idea: Swarm Special. A special is unlocked when a certain number of people are checked in. For example, an ice cream store can give away a free scoop of ice cream when 10 people are checked in at once. You can set a limit for how frequently this special can be unlocked so that you don’t give away too much product. Friends Special. A reward for when friends check in together. You can specify how many friends need to be checked in and what they receive for being checked in. Flash Special. A special for the first X people who come at X time. It’s great way to incentivize customers to stop by during your slow hours. Newbie Special. A reward for people who check in to your business for the first time. Offering a reward for a user’s first check-in — even if it’s a small one, like 10% off or a free side dish — is a great way to start a relationship with a new customer. Check-In Special. A reward for every single check-in. Restaurants can offer a free soda or a discount, while retailers might offer a few dollars off a purchase. Loyalty Special. A reward for a user’s third, fifth, seventh check-in — you determine the interval — to incentivize customers to return a few times to cash in on their special. Loyalty specials can be recurring (“every three check-ins”) or not (“on your third check-in”). Mayor Special. The mayor is the person who has checked into a venue more than anyone else. In theory, he is your best and most loyal customer. As such, he deserves a prize, whether it’s a discount, a free t-shirt, a beer or a meal on the house. Mayors tend to be proud and protective of their mayorship, and you might even see some turf wars when the mayorship changes hands. You can offer something whenever a new mayor earns the crown,...

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Facebook Contests: What You Can and Cannot Do

Everyone wants to be the Big Winner! Hosting a contest on your Facebook page is a great way to: Drive people to your page Get them engaged and Let’s be honest: Make them ‘like’ you more. There is just one little thing that most businesses don’t know about (or choose to ignore) in the world of Facebook. That is the ‘Facebook Promotions Guidelines’. Essentially, the way that the majority of people run a contest on Facebook (i.e. post a photo on their wall and get their friends to like it, etc.) is against the rules of Facebook. Facebook does not want to be connected to your contest or be liable in any way. So what are the ‘CANS’ and ‘CANNOTS’? I’ll try to keep this as succinct as possible. If you want more details you can check out the full version here. Promotions on Facebook must be administered through a third party application. Facebook features and functionality cannot be used in any part of your contest/promotion to automatically register people (i.e. “Like our page and you are entered to win…”). You can require them to like your page, check into your place, or connect to your app but you cannot require them to do anything else such as like a wall post, comment, or upload a photo to your wall. You cannot use Facebook features/functionality as a voting mechanism (i.e. “The photo with the most number of likes wins”).  You cannot notify winners through Facebook. That means no Facebook messages, chat, or posts on profile/ pages to notify your winner(s). You cannot say or imply in any way that Facebook has endorsed or has a partnership with you and/or your contest. There also needs to be a statement about this in your contest rules. You must also include a release of Facebook in your contest rules and tell contest participants that they are submitting info to you and not Facebook. Wow. That is 5 ‘cannots’ and only 1 ‘can’… You may say, “But everyone else is doing it ‘wrong.’ Why do I have to follow the rules?” Well, when it comes down to it, if you break the rules you run the risk of getting your page shut down without warning. (And that just makes you sound like you are in grade school again) Ok, let’s focus on the ‘right’ way. You CAN require people to like your page but you CANNOT automatically enter them into your contest. So how do you know who is ‘in’ or not since you cannot have them post on your wall or like your post, etc.? Enter the third party application. A third party application will completely separate your contest from Facebook’s functionality and features and we can all get a good night’s sleep knowing we don’t have to worry about breaking any rules. Phew. Here is a list of a few of those apps that will run a contest for you on Facebook. Take a peek through some of them and maybe even watch the video tour. The functionality is pretty great and they are already built for you. Wildfire is definitely one of the most popular Pricing Starting at $5 per campaign + $.99/day  North Social Pricing Starting at $19.99/Month Easypromos First promo is free, then starting at $15/promo. Contest Tab $29.99/month Sweptin Starting at $225+ $5/day WizeHive $295 +$3/day Strutta $299 + $99/month Lots of options here. After you have spent some time looking though them, pick the one that is the best for what you want and that fits your budget. If you have any other suggestions, please share...

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Facebook Profiles vs. Pages: What’s The Difference and Why Does It Matter?

In terms of Facebook, there are “Profiles” and there are “Pages.” What is the difference between the two and why does it matter, you ask? Read on and I will walk you through some of the major differences. Basically, Profiles are for people and Pages are for businesses. Sounds simple enough, but there is a surprising amount of stuff to explain about both of them. Let’s get started. Facebook Profiles are for individuals like you and me. You can connect with friends, share photos, join groups, etc. As an individual you may care more about your privacy and who you share your personal information with. This is why profiles require that you accept/extend a friend request before you are connected to another individual. Profiles have an extensive array of features to protect every piece of your information and help you differentiate what you share with whom. If you want to create a list of your co-workers that will only see certain pieces of info you post, you can. You can also have another list for your family that you allow to see all your updates and photos. Perhaps you want to post some photos of that day you called in sick and really went to the breweries with friends; you can exclude just your boss or the entire list of your co-workers from seeing that particular album on your profile. The possibilities are endless. Profiles have the functionality that suits individuals. So why is it ‘bad’ to have a business set up as a Profile? Well, first off it is against Facebook Policy. If the Facebook “Powers That Be” come across a profile that is set up to represent a business, they can and will shut it down. No warning necessary. And the list goes on: With a profile, those who want to connect with you must first wait for you to respond to their friend request. You cannot create custom tabs to welcome new fans, gather emails, or host a contest. One of the ‘biggies’ that every business should care about is that with a profile, you cannot see your insights (analytics, stats). You don’t know how many people are coming to your profile every day or how far your posts are reaching. With a proper Business Page, you can. Facebook Pages are for Businesses, Places, Organizations, Non-Profits, Companies, Brands, and Bands. Pages can be viewed by the public including people who do not have a Facebook account. They are well suited for businesses because: They can easily be maintained by multiple people on your team by simply adding additional admins. You can view your insights to understand who your fans are, which posts are the most viral, how far your reach is, and much more. If your business is international or multilingual, you can target your posts by language and country. Pages can be promoted with Facebook Ads Customization opportunities are nearly endless. You can set up a variety of tabs to welcome fans, collect emails, host a contest, and provide additional information in a way that matches your branding. If you prefer tables, here you go.   Profiles Pages To create a connection Friend Request must be extended and accepted Click the ‘like’ button Privacy You can protect everything from anyone. Possibilities are endless. Everything posted is public Posting on the walls of others Can post on your friend’s profile wall and a business’ page wall Can post on other page’s walls but not an individual’s profile Number of connections allowed 5,000 friends but unlimited ‘subscribers’* Unlimited Insights/analytics/stats No Yes Customization Only the main photo on...

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