Pinterest for Small Business Retailers: Marketing Hot or Not?

Red Pinterest logoIf you are savvy about social networking, you know that Pinterest is all the rage lately. But, do we really know what Pinterest is? According to its website, the social media site is a “Virtual Pinboard” that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” The About page talks of using the service to plan weddings, redecorate your home and organize recipes–a far cry from a platform that contemplated a business use down the road. However, as with everyone on the Web today, if it’s free and you can create a community around your product, service or industry, businesses flock there trying to push their wares. Pinterest has struggled to manage the change, but certain business users have stuck with it as the platform addresses these missing functionalities for marketing purposes. I’m going to try to contextualize what makes Pinterest so appealing to people, what I see as a challenge for Pinterest’s growth, and then what aspects of the service are positive for Small Business retailers on Pinterest. From there, you can make your decision whether investing in Pinterest is right for you and your business.

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Facebook Timeline Comes to Brand Pages

W3 Consulting's New Facebook Page Timeline

If you’re like most Small Business owners, your Facebook Page stood the same way today as it will tomorrow. However, Facebook has changed your Page to the new Timeline format whether you, I or your customers like it or not. Actually, they did so on March 31, 2012. Facebook is not where I engage my target audiences primarily so all I do is typically syndicate curated content and self-published content to our Facebook Page (like my blog posts and tweets), but for many Small Business owners it is currently their main Social Media hub. (My Facebook Page with all of 26+ Likes would have stayed the same, except that I posted a coverphoto to my Facebook Page in anticipation of writing this post today.) I am writing this article to educate you about the good, the bad and the ugly (sorry, there’s not much good here) of Facebook Timeline, in hopes of providing you with a small business strategy to leverage the change to benefit your bottom line.

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Google for the Small Screen (Google Mobile Web Products) [events]

Google Mobile Web ProductsGoogle for the Small Screen (Google’s Mobile Products Overview)
March 8, 2012
10:15 – 11:15 am

Who in the world thought you could have the world on your mobile phone?!  Deploy Google Mobile products in your business to give employees access to information anywhere, anytime.  Let Ray Sidney-Smith show you how you can literally have the world at your business fingertips!  Join us for this free one hour webinar.

To register, go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/974369169 or call 703-778-1292 for more info.

Google+ for Your Small Business [event]

Google+ logo

 

Google+ for Small Business
Technology That Can Help Your Business Grow!
February 29, 2012
9 am – 12 Noon

 

With only 20 spots for this hands-on workshop, we anticipate more demand than space.  Email or call Patricia Melton if you are interested.  Slots will be filled on a first come, first served basis, and then we’ll start a standby list.  See information below.

 

Google is the well-known search engine and leader in the Web advertising world, but if you haven’t already started seeing and hearing, they have recently launched a new service platform called Google+ and its Google relations, the +1 buttonDirect Connect and Search Plus Your World. Together, Google+allows businesses share, promote and measure the building of relationships between the business brands and the people who care about them. In this seminar and workshop, you get the best of both worlds from Alexandria Small Business Development Center. First, Ray Sidney-Smith, president of W3 Consulting, a Web and digital strategy firm for Small Business, presents a strategic overview of Google+ for small businesses. Following the presentation, Ray will walk you through the steps to launch your own Google+ pages for your business. This event is not to be missed!

 

From Google+ Pages’ site:

 

Share

 

Different people are interested in different parts of your business. Whether it’s breaking news, updates, promotions, links, photos – even talking face-to-face with groups via easy-to-use video chat –Google+ lets you easily share the right things with the right customers.

 

Promote

 

Help word get around. Put the +1 button anywhere you’d like people to be able to recommend your business, products or services to friends and contacts all across the web.

 

Measure

 

How’s your page doing, and how could it do better? Google+makes it easy to learn more about how your followers’ interactions on your page affect your brand, and your business.

 

Bring your wireless-enabled laptop, netbook, or mobile tablet (e.g., iPad). The session will be held in our boardroom, located at 625 N. Washington Street, Suite 400.  Because we expect this to close out early, we ask if you register, please attend or let us know if you cannot, so others may have the opportunity!

To register, email or call Patricia Melton, SBDC Counselor, at 703-778-2960.

 

Enter the “Retail Parking” garage via Pendleton Street for free parking.

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Small Businesses Are on Alert, FBI Is Watching Social Media

FBI Announces Plans to Monitor Social MediaIn a spooky and telling move, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced plans to start downloading and reviewing the public data available from social networking sites. On the surface, the issue seems benign as its data that is already out there on the Web for anyone to see. FBI, in their statement, “will not focus on specific persons or protected groups, but on words that relate to ‘events’ and ‘crisis,’ and activities constituting violations of federal criminal law or threats to national security.” That sounds like double-speak legalese to me to say that they’ll be watching anything and everything they’ll get their hands on. However, to temper my concerns, I’m glad that there are organizations out there that will be monitoring what the FBI will be doing.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has weighed in on the matter and is quite concerned about the stifling of individuals’ privacy on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and others. They are certainly the organization to watch as this movement by the US government and its agencies begins.

Who is the EFF?

(from their website’s About page)

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990—well before the Internet was on most people’s radar—and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today.

What are the implications for Small Business?

In a word: tremendous. Businesses are just learning the power of Social Search, using social networks and social media to conduct market research and find their customers on the Web, as well as the benefits of content marketing, using social media to engage with their target audience through content. If people become reluctant to speak comfortably about themselves on the Web, Social Web content will decline and the real-time, real-world experiential knowledge Small Business was garnering from their target audience diminishes in value. Additionally, that means that businesses will draw back adoption of content marketing strategies, which will leave a struggling economy in limbo about how businesses can generate consistently new clients. All this doesn’t even take into account how the FBI will use this data in taking actions against businesses with their data.

So, it seems like we’re on guard and alert that changes are on the horizon for Social Media and how Small Business can depend on content marketing as the next generation of marketing strategy. Summarily I think we, as business owners, should pay attention and not change our plans based on this one announcement, but don’t be afraid to change as the tide does. If you’d like to read the original article from New Scientist, it’s a good background on the matter. And, in the words of the British propaganda poster (which has seen a revival, albeit in the commercial sense), Keep Calm and Carry On.

Facebook, Defined for Small Business

Definition of Facebook, the social networking service (c) Dictionary.com

Facebook

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t believe it with my own eyes. I was looking for a way to give context to Facebook and a good overview to start developing a Social Media business marketing strategy with Facebook as one aspect of it. So, I used Google’s “define” search function for “Facebook” and, lo and behold, Dictionary.com had an entry, and as you can see from above, it’s pretty accurate for consumers. The external social networking service founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004 generally captures the people-spying-on-people mentality that pervades much of social networks. However, there’s more to the Social Media platform than meets the eye for businesses, and I’ll be blogging regularly about the many facets of the global social networking juggernaut. First, I’d like to just give a few definitions to cover some of the regular terms that define Facebook for small business.

PROFILES
The bottom line as to whether you use a Profile or Group for your business’ Facebook presence: never. I know that some will relent and give me all the reasons that their particular reasoning for using their Profile or a Group that they’ve set up for their business is better than setting up a Page. And, some will not that Facebook themselves made Pages as a second thought for businesses. My hope is that by explaining some key features of Pages and key disadvantages of Groups and Profiles, that you’ll go ahead and take the effort to launch your business’ Facebook Page in the not-too-distant future and then try to do away with your other Facebook presence as soon as practicable.

GROUPS
Facebook Groups are wonderful tools but for small communities within Facebook, such as committees, focus groups, boards, and groups of friends. Although it may be tempting to create a Group because you’ve heard of the few “advantages” over Pages, we highly dissuade you from thinking this is true. While you can send messages directly to members of groups, member engagement is higher in groups thanks to generally smaller size, and the discussion thread feature set, Groups are missing the core extensibility of Pages–Applications, analytics and Web coding functionality. Over time, Facebook engagement will be completely about the functionality of your Pages as much as they are about the content you offer.

PAGES
Facebook Pages are the de facto home for businesses and brands on Facebook. Every business should stake their claim to their Facebook Page (especially if you have a retail location). Facebook Ads and ad networks allow you to direct traffic to Facebook Pages, you can have unlimited fans following your Page, and users associate Pages with companies they like and trust. Every business’ marketing needs are different on Facebook, so research your target market well in a variety of Social Media before leaping in headfirst.

Facebook, no matter how you define it, is a commitment to Social Media that warrants close and careful contemplation. There’s no question that your target market is there; with 600 million users and counting, everyone’s target market in the United States is likely there. But, will they pay attention to your brand message while engaging on the platform? That’s the question you have to ask.

Still have questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll be happy to post video responses to my Vimeo account and post them here in the Comments for you.

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Have You Resolved to Blog in 2012? Small Business Bloggers Unite in Alexandria, Virginia.

Blogging is for everyone, even small businesses.So, you’ve created a Facebook Page, updated your LinkedIn profile, and you have a Twitter profile, yet you’re not swimming in “Likes” and “Followers” in any social network. While you hear about new Social Media sites launching every month, you feel it’s a waste of time to invest in every tech start-up that hangs their shingle out. And, I agree. Well, it’s a new year and as good a time as any for a strategic marketing plan, that should include a small business blog to help plan, motivate and drive site traffic. In the meantime, I’m going to tell you what I tell every audience I talk to about the foundation of Social Media: blog. Yup, that’s it–a plain and simple strategy to jump-start your Social Media campaign in 2012. Stay tuned for a series of articles here that will cover blogging for Small Business!

If you don’t know how, and you live or run a small business in Alexandria, Virginia, you can get some great assistance by joining the Small Business Bloggers in the Alexandria Small Business .COMmunity here at AlexandriaSmallBusiness.com. It’s not only a community blog about the great things that Small Business is doing in Alexandria, but the products and services they provide, and advice to start, manage and grow your Small Business in general from the folks over at the Alexandria Small Business Development Center in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

Photo courtesy of The Library of Congress