Making Time for and Managing Social Media in Small Business

It’s tough to think about a world that existed before Social Media, because it seems so pervasive in most people’s’ lives today. However, there was a time when Social Media was a handshake and smile, and not a Web or

Social Media Time Management MatrixIt’s tough to think about a world that existed before Social Media, because it seems so pervasive in most people’s’ lives today. However, there was a time when Social Media was a handshake and smile, and not a Web or digital tool was involved in connecting two or more people. Since those days are long gone, we have to cope with the new digital deluge and find ways to practice safe and sane Social Media time management. Since this is one of the most oft-asked questions from my audiences at seminars and workshops, I thought I’d round-up a strategy and the best tools I’ve found for making time and managing Social Media in Small Business.

Keep Ahead of Social Media Trends

If you’re a child of the 80’s then Social Media is the fashion equivalent of wigwam socks for the modern-day business marketer. (If you’re a child of the 70’s, we’re talking about Daisy Dukes. And, for the 60’s, well, that’d be a tie for platform shoes and bell-bottoms. But, I digress.) For every generation there are many trends and in the Digital Age, trendsetting is hyperactive with new websites, Web tools and online services launching daily. To keep track, you have two options that readily come to mind.

One strategy is to set up a blog/RSS feed reader. This is a tool that lets you curate the blogs that are publishing the most pertinent content about Social Media (or any other kind of marketing on the Web and beyond) and capturing them all in one tool. This is really saves time so that you only have to check your RSS reader daily, or weekly, instead of going to 50+ websites to see if they’ve published anything new. So, you can stay abreast of all the important social trends all in one place. While there are many options of readers, I really like the combination of Feedly and Pocket. You subscribe to blogs you want to follow in Feedly and save them to Pocket, say, every Friday afternoon, then you on Monday morning you can review all the articles you saved to Pocket. Some you will want to share with others, some you’ll want to tag with keywords and save for reference and easy retrieval later; Pocket is the best person for the job here.

Also, we will be re-launching our email newsletter, soon which will be a “best in class” update on all things marketing and operations via your website, email, Social Media and blogging, online/social advertising, mobile and more. We’re really excited about the email newsletter re-launch, so if you’re not already a subscriber join now and await the first email coming in the next week or so. Basically, we will be doing all the work of reading all the blogs, email newsletters, resources and eBooks galore and condensing it down to the most important few (with our insights) to share with you on a weekly basis. Not bad, eh?

Develop a Social Media Strategy

The next logical step in managing your time on Social Media is developing a strategy that works for your business. As this topic could be dozens of blog posts by itself, I’m going to go over the fundamentals using my simple and effective Social Media Strategy Framework (pictured below).

Social Media Strategy Framework

 

For your Social Media strategy to work, it requires four elements to creating an online community: giving (Listen), taking (Speak), a sense of belonging (Connect), and tracking engagement (Measure). To begin the Listen phase of any Social Media strategy means that you are looking for conversations that your target audience is having already. Go to their places and talk to them; you’re giving content , advice and time to those blogs, social networks and people (through posting comments and interacting in their conversations). Note, that once you follow the diagram above back to Listen, now you’re reading the comments on your own blog and engaging with your audience there as well.

Next, you Speak by publishing great content on your blog and disseminating that to social networks, your email audience and more. We will talk about how to do that efficiently in the next section. But, this Speak phase is really about setting the tone for your brand, tell your story, and communicating your core value through competent, helpful and positive advice for your readers, or listeners (podcasts) or watchers (video blogs, or vlogs).

Following Speak, we have the Connect phase of the framework and this encompasses strengthening the bonds that you have established. This could take the form of introducing members of disparate groups to one another; perhaps you know the owner of a nail salon and the proprietor of a hair salon and spa, that you can connect so that they can refer their customers to one another. Do this proudly via Twitter or another publicly appropriate social network, then take it offline and make the “real” connection. The stronger the bonds, the stronger the web that supports your community.

Finally, you have the Measure phase, which is there because it’s all online and almost everything can be tracked. For most Small Business owners, start and grow with Google Analytics; it’s free, it helps you track all the largest pieces of the Web marketing (Web, Mobile, Email, Advertising and Social Media) in a centralized dashboard. There are many other tools that you will come across along the way that help you learn more about the effect you’re having on your target audience engagement through your Social Media work. This information will guide you well, but remember that the true guiding force for your Social Media strategy is sales. If your website is getting traffic, your blogging effectively and disseminating it outward to your audience, you should be seeing sales increasing. If not, blame not Social Media. You likely have a hole in your sales process–website navigation, poor Web copy, not enough blog deep links, or engaging in the wrong social networks. Patch those holes and let the sales flow!

Editorial Calendar for Greater Content Production

No Social Media time management article is complete without talk of an Editorial Calendar. In journalism, writers, editors and publishers live and die by the deadline. And, so should your blog and Social Media publishing! Review several of your industry competitors’ blogs and see how often they post: daily, weekly, monthly or less often? Now, once you’ve surmised what an average number of posts you’ll need to produce annually, you can start with a paper calendar and block out the general periods of your professional calendar. Is there a “busy season” in your year? When are your sales highest (check with your accountant/bookkeeper if you don’t know)? Break your year down into smaller units (“themes”) however it makes sense for your business. Thereafter, send those themes around to your staff and ask them to assemble a list of blog, ebook, white paper or other resource topics for each of the themes; this is individual brainstorming is best (and not in a group setting). If everyone gave their all, you will have an overflowing bucket of topics for your editorial calendar. Finally, you will need to assign who will be writing the content, editing, publishing and disseminating those blog links to social networks.

Thankfully, there are several tools out there to really help with managing an editorial calendar:

  1. Google Calendar – this amazingly elegant and no-cost, and has the ability for you to make an editorial calendar so you can track themes, topics, deadlines and responsible parties all within Google Calendar. It offers color-coding, multiple calendar sharing, notes, powerful search, and access on desktop/Web as well as via mobile.
  2. EditFlow – if you’re using WordPress as your website/blog hosting platform, EditFlow is a handy, no-cost plugin that helps manage the content-side management of your blog. This tool also really helps with the people involved in putting the content together from the initial topic ideas to drafts to the redacted versions scheduled to be published.
  3. Buffer – This handy app helps you curate (by drafting the who tweet-sized messages for you!) and schedule posts to your major social networks (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook). It learns from your posts when the best times are to post and adjusts to post them when more of your audience is clicking on things. Very smart tool!
  4. HootSuite – As the granddaddy of social sharing tools, HootSuite has the greatest number of social networks that it can manage. Also, if you have a larger team, HootSuite is definitely the way to go since it manages a distributed workforce very well.

Pay Attention After Publishing

One area that can really take up a great deal of time is paying attention to all the conversations about your company, brand, products, services and your blog articles. When the conversation is happening on your website/blog, I really recommend that you sign up for Disqus (pronounced dy-skuhs, as in the word “discuss”), a social commentary profile, system and dashboard. There’s also an amazing WordPress plugin, Disqus Comment System, that helps you integrate Disqus into your blog so it manages the commenting on your blog seamlessly. Now, when you make a comment on someone else’s blog that also uses Disqus, it captures that comment also in your Disqus ecosystem and helps you track when replies happen to the comments and so forth. Very handy! If you like more email, there’s a spiffy competitor to Disqus called Livefyre and their WordPress plugin equivalent is Livefyre Comments 3. It notifies you via email when new comments happen and lets you respond to those comments via email, which it then posts as a blog comment reply. (This can be handy if you’re not at your office often and need to manage on the road.)

So, that’s for when the blogs are neatly happening on your blog/website. What about the conversations happening everywhere else on the Web? That’s where good, old-fashioned Google Alerts comes in handy. This no-cost solution built by Google notifies you of search criteria that you set up and emails you when the search criteria is met. (You can also try Google Alerts’s competitor, TalkWalker Alerts.) So, for example, I have a search set up something like this…

w3consulting AND “W3 Consulting” AND “W3 Consulting” AND “Web and Beyond” -site:w3cinc.com -site:w3.org

This Advanced Search string in Google Alerts tells Google to send me an email (or I can subscribe to an RSS feed in my Feedly account from above) to anything on the Web that matches conversations talking about my company, tagline and brand. Now, set up these same kinds of searches for your products, services and combinations that include your name and company name to catch any of those conversations happening about you and your products/services. What would take hours is now automagically gathered together for you!

Synthesize the Analytics

After all this blogging and commenting, you’re going to have a plethora of data from Google Analytics, your website/blog, Buffer, HootSuite, Disqus or Livefyre, Google Alerts and more! One way to streamline this is to use a URL shortener (which I’ll be covering in-depth in an upcoming post) so that you can have all the various tools I’ve just mentioned capture all that data into Google Analytics where appropriate. This takes some know-how that searching the Help articles on all the tools listed will explain, and taking an afternoon to set it all up. Thereafter, though, you will save in compound dividends of time! Once all your Social Media traffic clicks and engagement metrics are run through Google Analytics, you need only look there to start to understand what is working, and what isn’t. And, what I love most about Google Analytics, is that you can customize a master report that is emailed to you every week or month (to whoever in your company needs to see it). Once you’ve done the setup, all the synthesizing work is done for you and delivered to your inbox. Business decisions become faster and sounder.

There’s no question that Social Media takes time, and time is your most important commodity in Small Business. But, the world has changed and Social Media is one of the best ways to reach your target audience, understand your business and grow your sales. So, if you keep track of the Social Media trends, develop a strong, consistent strategy, master your Editorial Calendar for producing great content, and then pay attention to the conversations and the measurements, you will not only minimize time spent on Social Media but increase your business’ sales too!

Mindmapping on the Web [Archived Webinar]

Mindmapping on the Web As early as the 3rd century CE, there is evidence of the existence and use of the mind map–visual representations of connected thoughts. Mind maps utilize multiple parts of your brain and that means you’re building

Mindmapping on the Web

As early as the 3rd century CE, there is evidence of the existence and use of the mind map–visual representations of connected thoughts. Mind maps utilize multiple parts of your brain and that means you’re building mental muscles that will help in every part of your business. Mind maps can be used for brainstorming, memorizing, teaching, and problem-solving. And, in this archived Web presentation, we focus on the benefits of mindmapping on the Web for Small Business brainstorming and problem-solving purposes. We discuss mind map techniques, the business benefits, and tools you can use.

[Note: for purposes of this Webinar, we use “mind map” as a noun and “mindmap” as verb.]

Also, check out this list of mind mapping software on Wikipedia.

This Webinar, as part of the Beyond Google: Marketing and Managing on the Web series from Virginia SBDC, will be presented by Ray Sidney-Smith, Web & Mobile Strategist, author of SoLoMo Success: Social Media, Local and Web Small Business Marketing Strategy Explained (available in paperback and ebook versions), and President of W3 Consulting, a digital business strategy and training firm helping business owners learn why and how to use Web, mobile and digital technologies for greater marketing and management impact.

Who should watch?

  • Small business owners, entrepreneurs, micropreneurs, and solopreneurs
  • Office/sales/customer service managers, marketing directors, executives and professionals
  • Administrative/executive assistants and sales/account representatives
  • nonprofit executive directors and board members

If you do decide to start mindmapping on the Web, let us know and we can offer suggestions and recommendations on your technique. Just comment here or tweet @w3consulting on Twitter. Happy mindmapping on the Web!

Advanced Google Search Techniques [webinar]

Advanced Google Search Techniques Google’s mission is to make all the world’s information both “useful and accessible.” And, wow! have they certainly done that with much of the information on our planet. However, it’s sometimes a daunting task to find

Advanced Google Search Techniques

Google’s mission is to make all the world’s information both “useful and accessible.” And, wow! have they certainly done that with much of the information on our planet. However, it’s sometimes a daunting task to find just the right business information when you confront Google’s sparse Google Search home screen with that blinking cursor. Enter Virginia’s resident Google-ologist to save the day! Google provides you with many advanced Google search techniques that with the right mindset and a few instructions, you can find your way ahead of the competition in both business insights and professional knowledge. Join us for this Google-enlightening session!

This Webinar, as part of the Beyond Google: Marketing and Managing on the Web series from Virginia SBDC, will be presented by Ray Sidney-Smith, Web & Mobile Strategist, author of SoLoMo Success: Social Media, Local and Web Small Business Marketing Strategy Explained, and President of W3 Consulting, a digital business strategy and training firm helping business owners learn why and how to use Web, mobile and digital technologies for greater marketing and management impact.

Who should watch?

  • Small business owners, entrepreneurs, micropreneurs, and solopreneurs
  • Office/sales/customer service managers, marketing directors, executives and professionals
  • Administrative/executive assistants and sales/account representatives
  • nonprofit executive directors and board members

Blogger, the Small Business Blog Tool by Google [webinar]

The Social Media Revolution started nearly 20 years ago! But, hands down the Social Web couldn’t have developed so quickly in the mainstream without the proliferation of the “blog.” And there’s no other blogging service out there that hasn’t had

The Social Media Revolution started nearly 20 years ago! But, hands down the Social Web couldn’t have developed so quickly in the mainstream without the proliferation of the “blog.” And there’s no other blogging service out there that hasn’t had as large an impact on blogging as Blogger. In this Webinar, you will be taken through the start of a blog and working behind the scenes to get your blog running smoothly and found by your target audience. We’ll also discuss briefly Blogger’s sister service, Feedburner, a tool to help Small Business bloggers manage subscribers to your blog’s RSS feed.

This Webinar, as part of the Beyond Google: Marketing and Managing on the Web series from Virginia SBDC, presented by Ray Sidney-Smith, Web & Mobile Strategist, author of SoLoMo Success: Social Media, Local and Web Small Business Marketing Strategy Explained, and President of W3 Consulting, a digital business strategy and training firm helping business owners learn why and how to use Web, mobile and digital technologies for greater marketing and management impact.

Who should watch?

  • Small business owners, entrepreneurs, micropreneurs, and solopreneurs
  • Office/sales/customer service managers, marketing directors, executives and professionals
  • Administrative/executive assistants and sales/account representatives
  • nonprofit executive directors and board members

4 Lessons on Writing for Your Business’s Website or Blog

For a business looking to try something new or different on its website, it’s never been easier than right now.

Adding streaming video, real-time social media feeds and attractive design effects can be simple. And users have the bandwidth and savvy to handle it when they land on a more complex site. There’s never been a better time to experiment.

That said, the simplest element of every website has not lost its importance as web pages have gotten more sophisticated. That element is the text.

I’d like to think that the words you publish on your business website are the most important part of the site (although I understand that some photographers and designers might beg to differ). There’s no doubt that the words play a big part in the impression you make on potential customers and clients, not to mention the search engine spiders that crawl and classify your site.

With that in mind, here are four lessons about writing I have learned over the years. Keep them in mind them when you’re writing for your site — whether it’s the text on your homepage, the staff  bios on your “About Us” page or posts on your company blog. I think they’ll help you make just the right impression.

1. Write the Way You Talk

This is the foundation of all the writing and editing I have done since high school. I learned it from my mom, who suggested this approach as I worked on a term paper.

This lesson does not mean that all of your writing needs to be conversational — although on the web, less formal often works better than more formal.

What it means is you should read the words you are writing as if they are being spoken, and if they don’t sound like something anyone would ever say, try again. Depending on your audience and your goal, the voice you imagine speaking your words could be casual or formal. But make sure the words match the voice and sound natural.

2. Less Is More

There are very few sentences that cannot be improved by making them shorter. (In fact, the previous sentence is probably better written as “Almost every sentence is better when it’s shorter.” That edit cuts out five words — a 38 percent reduction).

This lesson applies doubly on the web, where attention spans are short and competition for information and entertainment is a click away.

In a way, this lesson conflicts a bit with Lesson 1. When we speak, we often use extraneous words — understandably, since we are turning thoughts and feelings into words on the fly. Perhaps Lesson 1 should be, “Write the Way You Wish You Talked.” That’s only two more words.

 

3. A Second Set of Eyes Always Helps

Reporters and writers have editors. Entrepreneurs who are writing blog posts about their business don’t always have that luxury.

But if you can get someone — anyone — to read what you’ve written for your site, either before you publish or after it’s live, it can save you headaches and embarrassment.

Whether you realize it or not, you will have blind spots about anything you write yourself. Readers notice the errors, typos and faulty logic that you miss — so why not have the first reader report them back to you?

If you’re in a pinch and can’t get a second set of eyes, I suggest you read your copy in a different way. Print it out and take a red pen to it. Load it on to your tablet (if you wrote on a PC or laptop) and read it there. Read it backwards (really, this works — you’ll pick up spelling errors you would have glossed over going forward).

4. Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

You have limited time to write for your site or blog. If you stare at a blank page for long, you might convince yourself you have “writer’s block” and it will take too long. You’ll move on to other things — hey, you have a business to run — and you may never come back to the writing.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. I know, because every time I faced a newspaper deadline, somehow I found a way to get all the words written in time. If you make yourself write, you will write.

If you’re having trouble getting started, I suggest putting yourself on the clock. Tell yourself, “I have to have six paragraphs written in 30 minutes,” or something like that. It will happen.

You can also avoid the mythical “writer’s block” by collecting ideas. Start a notebook or file on one of your devices where you jot down ideas for good material for your business site. Then when it’s time to write, you have a place to start.

So there they are, four lessons that should help you write for your business site. As good content becomes more and more important on the web, I hope these tips help you make the right impression and explain your business to customers and clients.

I’ve written it before — a website can be beautifully designed, SEO-friendly and quick as Usain Bolt, but if the actual words on the page are sloppy, unprofessional or indecipherable, you’re losing readers (and business).

Jon DeNunzio worked in the Washington Post newsroom for nearly 20 years and now runs Squarely Digital, a consulting firm that aims to make the internet a little bit easier and a lot more profitable for your company. Contact him at [email protected].

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3 Things You Should Know Before Using Google AdWords

The reasons to use Google AdWords to market your business are numerous. The reasons not to are nearly as plentiful.

If you’re not sure whether you should use the popular search advertising platform, this post won’t go very far in helping you make that decision. There are too many variables, starting with your budget, your time and your product or service, for me to compose a “should I or shouldn’t I?” post that would apply across the board.

 

Google AdWords sample ad
A sample Google AdWords ad.

What I can do is save a little time for those of you who decide to try out AdWords. I didn’t know AdWords from AdSense from Words With Friends at the beginning of 2013. But now I know enough to manage AdWords accounts for five clients who spend a combined $4,000 on AdWords each month.

Many manage bigger AdWords budgets and I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have been able to get results. And I have learned a lot. What follows are three lessons from experience — hopefully they will give you an idea of what it takes to run a successful campaign.

(For readers who don’t know what AdWords is: It’s Google’s advertising platform that allows users to create ads that run on search result pages and a network of partner sites. Google offers pay-per-click (PPC) as well as cost-per-thousand impression (CPM) advertising, and advertisers can create text or display ads. Most of my experience has been with PPC text ads.)

Lesson 1. AdWords Campaigns Need Regular Attention

Especially in the early days of a campaign, it’s vital that you check in regularly to see what’s working and what’s not.

If you have keywords that aren’t attracting clicks, you’ll probably want to get rid of them. Or if a certain ad is are doing exceptionally well, you may want to create a few more that like it to try and get even better results. Adjusting your ad spending may make sense, as well.

Tweak and experiment, wait a few days to see results, and tweak again. You’ll find a routine that works for your campaign adjustments — but it almost certainly won’t be “set it and forget it.”

Lesson 2: If You Like Tweeting and Stats, You’re In Luck

Writing an AdWords ad is not unlike posting on Twitter — you’re trying to craft something people will notice in a very limited space (ad headlines are limited to 25 characters, and each of the two lines below the headline are no longer than 35 characters).

If you’ve worked in print journalism (I have), it’s also a lot like writing a good headline.

The difference is the amount of feedback you get. The AdWords interface is not always intuitive, but once you learn how to use it, you’ll find an impressive assortment of data to measure your campaign’s effectiveness. Impressions, clicks, cost per click and average ad position are just the beginning.

Being handy with Excel or Numbers helps, too. I find myself setting up regular reports and downloading more data on the fly to track progress, look for opportunities and create client reports.

Lesson 3: It Doesn’t End at the Click

This may be obvious if you’re focused on return on investment, but simply getting a click on an ad doesn’t equal success. Figuring out what the users who click ads do when they get to your site — and how many turn into actual customers — is the key to success.

That means the adjustments you should expect to make as data starts to pour in should include edits to your site, especially your landing page (the first page users who click on ads see).

A well-designed, engaging landing page increases the chances visitors will convert into customers, of course. But Google also positions ads and charges you for them based on the connection between keywords, ad copy and landing page content. The more related they are, the better you’ll do.

Those are the top lessons I have taken away from AdWords so far. If you have questions or comments, I encourage you to leave them in the comment section below or to send me an  email or tweet. And if you take the AdWords plunge, I wish you luck

Jon DeNunzio runs Squarely Digital, a digital consulting firm that aims to make the internet a little bit easier and a lot more profitable for your company. Contact him at [email protected].