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Thank you for the opportunity to talk for a bit about small business social media. Now I am not an IT professional. And I am certainly not a web guy; but after five years in social media marketing and content strategy and application, it is safe to say that our small businesses here in Lake Norman need social media more than ever for their success. In fact, the most important marketing messages for business today as we head more deeply into the year 2016, are now principally found across social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google +.
As most of you know, I am the owner of I.M.U. Social Media LLC, located in Davidson, and we have been doing social media content creation since 2011; unbelievably, this makes IMUSM one of the longest existing small business social media companies on the East Coast. We provide strategy and organic social media content for other small businesses; less than 12 employees, products, services, and food that need our services. And we do it in three states. It has been a whirlwind experience for both growth and opportunity.
I need to share a little bit about one of my favorite towns:
There is nothing more over the top than Las Vegas, Nevada! The intersection of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard is non-stop 24-7 action; it is the heart of the Strip.
In Las Vegas, the famous four corners sit at that historic intersection: the Flamingo, Bally’s, the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace are the soul of Las Vegas. In fact Bally’s slogan is “Bally’s the CENTER of ATTENTION”.
Your small business, or if you are a solo professional, what you do, needs to be the center of attention as well because in social media, there are also four very famous corners. Both Vegas and social media have a lot in common; non-stop action! Each social media platform I will talk about today is growing and changing and each one is nonstop, 24-7-365.
Now, the famous four corners of 2016 Social Media are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Word Press blogging are critical for business success. At the busy intersection of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ (Google My Business) and Blogging, everything happens and it is always in constant motion with marketing, connecting, visibility and communication.
Every small business across Lake Norman needs to play on these four corners. If your business uses social media, and it should, this is where you need to play.
With over a 1000 busy small business scattered around Lake Norman, from the kitchen table in Davidson to the brick and mortars along Catawba in Cornelius, it seems no one has time for anything extra, let alone take that trip to Las Vegas this afternoon. We are just too busy to hop on the plane even if it was free. However, many of us also use that same exact excuse for social media. We just never seem to have time or schedule it to grow.
It is important to note that without a solid social media presence, businesses are literally gambling with the future.
With that said, branding, marketing, advertising, sales and social media are all connected now and the need to create and integrate process has never been more important. It does not make a difference if you are a solo professional, a small business, or one of the big race teams in Concord or Mooresville; regardless of the size of the business, you have to be THE WHALE, that big player in the world of local social media in your industry.
Let me ask this? Is your business on a social sabbatical? And nothing much is going on.
Many businesses are in this category… YET,
Many small business owners know this much about social media:
- They do not want to do it themselves
- They do not know how or where to do it
- They are not doing it right now
- They do not understand what needs to be done
- They did it for a while but they stopped doing it because of time
- The competition is doing a pretty good job at it
Here are the very sobering facts: businesses need content, strategy, visibility, consistency and engagement all the time. It is a must now as we head more deeply into 2016. Social Media is a marketing tool, not just a strategy any more.
Social Media can make or break profitability and growth.
Let’s DRILL DOWN for a minute and look at some interesting statistics before we get into each platform’s use:
- Facebook: The focus in 2016 has to be here first because of presence. Of the world’s seven BILLION people, about 1.6 billion will be on Facebook today. That is almost one quarter of the world population. These numbers make Facebook the third biggest nation in the world behind China and India; and every business MUST have presence on this very popular platform or it will be less effective.
- Twitter: This platform is also a huge player as well. This micro-blogging empire, with over 300 million users, is critical for engagement, especially with direct client communication, building expertise, sharing knowledge and creating credibility. I call it the local positional authority.
- Google My Business (Business Google +): This is the most recent of the platforms and it can be considered the newest kid on the block with about 200 million users. It is constantly trying to figure out what it wants to do with itself. It is kind of a hybrid that reflects both Facebook and Twitter. Yet, it is serious business for each of our businesses. Google and its related searches dominate the access to the world’s information, with about 3.25 billion searches per day; that is over 40,000 searches a second. And a Google + business page gets you verified as a business and indexed on Google.
It is a strategic “must” to be indexed by Google, have presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Google My Business on a regular basis. You are then in the game and not up in the hotel watching the Bellagio fountains from a distance.
AGAIN, here is the problem many of our small businesses face. Even though, all of the social media efforts are free, we think we DO NOT HAVE TIME to do it! Businesses often complicate the social media process and “over think” to the point that that a strategic 140 character tweet, plus spaces and hash tags, is almost an impossible task. But look at it like you would any other aspect of your business. You need it. It is here to stay, and it is growing and changing daily.
Let me discuss blogging for a minute… And the true power of Word Press:
Blogging can drive traffic to your website. It creates credibility and visibility. It creates engagement on Facebook and Twitter. Google is the first to index and place these posts in searches. This is the SECRET SAUCE for small businesses. It is why real and organic blogging content is king for your business. The only requirement is that it has to be “good stuff” and written by real people, or Google’s algorithms will not impact your SEO.
In fact, my view is that SEO should be called SEF: search engine finding. When people search for local business they are doing it in traffic at the light, the kitchen table, and at boring business meetings. When people look for your products and services, your small business needs to be found quickly. Being consistent across the social media platforms makes a huge difference in both visibility and credibility. It is also important to note here that all searches are influenced by the quality of the writing. Google engineers are now calling it E.A.T: Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness. The more you have of these qualities within your blog posts, the higher you are ranked.
It is important to note right here that businesses can do an array of OTHER definable branding activities on the Internet from Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Periscope, and LinkedIn. But again keep things simple; right now, small businesses should only focus on the four corners: Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Word Press blog articles.
I have to share something I have never shared before. I love Bojangles. And I love it so much that I suggest you replicate your social media business model after them. Bojangles is always out the door jammed all the time. The drive-thru is continuous, car after car, like a parade down Catawba. It is “Bo-Time” all day long!
Yet when you stop for a minute to smell the chicken, Bojangles really only does three simple things very well: biscuits, chicken and sweet tea. That is it. Now they might wing a Cajun Filet or two to people at lunch, and I am sure they sell a few fries too, but what makes them so successful is their famous fried chicken, fresh biscuits and sweet tea. Their slogan, famous chicken and biscuits, says it all.
Your social media strategy should also just have the basic menu as its principal focus. Business Facebook, Business Twitter, Google + (Google My Business) and Business blog posts on Word Press/ Blogger. It is where your clients (primary audience) are and your “clients’ clients” (secondary audience) are most of the time.
Keep things simple. It is a;; about the fundamentals. Make your social media activity fun and productive.
Let’s look at “Linkedin Corp.” for a minute. Now, everyone in this room needs an individual Linkedin professional presence. It is a “gotta have”. Make sure you have a complete, well-written, up-to-date profile and a great “glamour” business formal picture. Be in the right groups and associations and check your messages twice a week. Just know that no one is looking for your business there on a daily basis. They only are looking for you as a professional or someone like you with your professional credentials. It is strictly a solo professional networking and connection site.
The recommendation here is to list your business on Linkedin if you must, but remember it is a connector site, one on one professionals; a “find you” place . People are not normally looking for businesses and services there (as of yet on a large scale); they are looking for you. It is the individual professional networking site that every one of us needs to be on, especially if you are looking for work or you are changing jobs or careers.
Again, our small businesses need to be the “basics”, blogging for visibility, and using Google to drive traffic to their websites.
Now, within social media strategy, business success is three fold: Time, Money, and Client Acquisition. We need to be critically aware of these ingredients as business people because collectively they drive success or they put us out of business.
When small businesses play in the local and regional market place across North Carolina, there is the constant need for fresh organic content that creates the message. Content is king. My view is that content is the only thing regardless of the platform.
Consumers across Lake Norman and North Carolina are now online ALL THE TIME! It is the best and most cost effective way to find brands and products today. Your business has to connect people directly to your content. Blog posts, Facebook posts, tweets, and videos must engage your readers and get them to like, re-tweet and share your information.
Most of this activity is FREE. But it takes time to play in these famous four corners.
People are on Facebook about seven times a day here in Lake Norman. Facebook might not be your website, but Facebook is the magnet. Just look at the Exit 28 Ridiculousness Facebook page. Groups bring people together.
Traditional marketing strategies like print coupons, banners, postcards, and post-it notes on local mail boxes are less and less effective. One good Facebook post gets more attention.
This is the year, 2016, that social media will explode. Every presidential candidate has a huge social media presence now. Check your phone today for anything Presidential Election ’16. Every big news story is found on an app on your phone. Your smartphone is application and news central.
Businesses have to have a professional online presence and they need to do it organically, REAL CONVERSATION FROM REAL PEOPLE, and keep it fresh. In the old days, before 2008, marketing campaigns could last months. Today they have to be continually assessed, timed and readjusted in just minutes; and that is done with the power and “connect ability” of social media.
It is all about content creation and strategy, and the organic posts and tweets that attract the possibility of new clients and new business.
Remember, a lot of what we do in social media marketing we do with our smartphones; and it is within the visibility and consistency of the content that draws engagement and new clients. You do not have to be slick and fancy to be successful. You just have to be effective. You need to put the face and the personality of your business on Facebook, Twitter, Google + (Google My Business) and Word Press and be consistently engaging. The lines of communication between the business and your chosen audience must be continuously wire-open.
Content marketing and 2016 go hand-in-hand. Small companies can indeed compete on the same level as the big companies because of the power of content. The playing field has been evened up. Our small businesses can be out there and just as effective on the local level as Ford and Pepsi. The agility (quickness and focus) of your content is another aspect of your secret sauce!
Let’s look more in depth at what needs to happen on each main platform:
- Business Facebook: This is the number one platform for business activity. What does your page look like? It is filled with posts and pictures? Are you constantly evolving and improving with each and every post? Are your LIKES real and organic? Are you looking at the simple analytics Facebook offers? How many pages do you really have out there? Facebook is a very informal social media platform, like a backyard get-together. People say things on Facebook they would never say to a person at a networking event. From politics to sports, to religion and puppies; people just love to post here. It makes them feel important. Remember, clients need to feel important too. Our business pages are evolving billboards for products and services. It is important to note that every single Facebook post needs a picture. It truly is worth a 1000 words. Share what you write from your business page site to the local groups you belong to, like the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce or the LKNSBN. Ask people to like and share it. This minimizes the costs of boosting and advertising that Facebook loves as profit.
- Business Twitter: Your business tweets must be different from your Facebook posts; different audiences. Do not cut and paste one to the other. Always include a picture with your tweet if possible. Just make sure that every picture is free to use without royalties. Do not pull the photos from Google Images; only Google can do that. Find a photo site that allows (gives permission) for free downloads. Although you must go through a couple of hoops like an e-mail registration and CAPTCA fill-in, it is worth eliminating the chance of using illegal pictures and getting a letter from a legal firm. Fill your Twitter page with links and helpful educational views steered by #’s. Twitter is where your business establishes positional local authority over the course of time. Your tweets need to be informative, educational, and knowledge-based. The local positional authority gets all the gravy. For example, our general physician, the one we might have to see every year to maintain our medical benefits, makes about a little over six figures a year. The specialist in internal medicine might make $300,000. But the local positional authority in retinal ophthalmology has a house on Lake Norman with its own helipad. It is important to use Twitter to establish that kind of credibility. Be that local authority in your industry or your field.
- Business (Google My Business) Google +: This informational site needs to be used like Facebook. It does not matter how many followers you have on your Google + Business Page. It matters that you use it on a regular basis and that you have a verified business that Google recognizes as real. Unbelievably, Google verifies your business by sending you a POSTCARD. Make sure you get as many legitimate Google Reviews as possible. It is critical for searches and for page rank.
- Word Press/ Blogger Blog Posts: We recommend using Word Press for your website and your blog posts. Google, although the owner of its own blogging site, Blogger; loves to index and page rank excellent content written by real people who use Word press websites and blogging pages. Simply “bolt” your blogs to your website. Google scans the first and last line of every post, determines the “legitimacy” of the article and indexes it. Google is your best friend and you should place an “optimized title” and a linkable “resource box” or footer with live URLS into each of these well written posts.
Here is another “secret sauce trick”. Keep the blog article to about 300/ 325 words. No one has time to read your version of WAR & PEACE. People today all have A.D.D.. Not the A.D.D. you are thinking of, this A.D.D. stands for ALL DATA DUMPED.
In the 86,400 seconds you have every day, from the time you get up until the time you get up, (24 hours) you are hit with up to 100 e-mails, a dozen texts, 20 voice mails (the majority of them you delete without listening to), and you are in and out of Facebook and Twitter 10 times. Who has time to read anything for more than five minutes?
Short and sweet single topic posts that DO NOT SELL ANYTHING but present good information, get indexed with positive page rank and get “googled”.
And what business does not want some Google love?
Make sure the blog post includes an external (authority) link or two, and an internal link in the body of the article as well, directed back to your website. Add some SEF, some “locationals” like Lake Norman, Catawba, Davidson, and the like; and add a simple call to action.
YouTube is also great for sharing videos as links on Twitter and Facebook. I recently placed well thought out Christmas music videos on all of our managed sites and people loved it.
Let’s address the use of hash tags (#poundsign), which are more and more popular and are used across every platform I have mentioned today. Twitter launched the #’s in 2007. Allowing what we call searchable topics, slogans, tags, and key words that are grouped and gathered by topic within other people’s posts. Each hash tagged word, key term, or phrase becomes a mini-searchable link. Click on the term or phrase and see all the related posts within that topic discussion. Today for example, people are searching the hashtags, Presidential Election, Primary, Hillary, and Trump. Hashtags are a very good way to market and ensure exposure. Look at how others are using it and be a pro in no time. From your Facebook app, go to the search box at the top and search #famouschickenandbiscuits; it is that easy to see how it works.
Suggested Generic Small Business Social Media Start-Up Game Plan:
Get out a clean piece of paper and sharpen that pencil…
Look at the history of the business, current situation, and the marketing strategies currently in use… then:
- Set specific and definable goals
- Choose the right platforms on social media to promote the business
- Assess your target audiences
- Define both challenges and opportunities
- Track and measure the analytics (or returns/ ROI) for growth and return
- Use retargeting/ repositioning strategies and CHANGE them up every week to improve process and results
In summary, remember to engage your clients. They want and need to be paid attention to every day! Success is a team sport, not a client base. Always be networking along with great social media presence. Remember that agile engagement, relationships, sociability, consistency, message, strategy, and opportunity will build your business. Do it right and remember to build your business on those FOUR CORNERS without gambling away your time, money or clients.
Relevant content will always fuel loyalty and passion. And it does not cost a ton of money.
Again, much of social media marketing is free. And listen to your clients, they will tell you how to build the right content. Results are everything. Just remember that social media is a work in progress and that doing it without assessing it is a waste of time.
And speaking of time, according to Forbes Magazine, creating successful quality content in a small business can take up to six hours or more a week. It is a huge commitment. This is the reason why only 50% of businesses in the United States have a blog presence and many only focus on the really easy “BUY OUR STUFF NOW!!!” If your small business does social media right, it will be better for the effort.
There is indeed a lot of value and return on investment with social media if you are at the famous four corners and not 27 floors up in your room. Focus on social media now before it is too late. And do it right for your business and your clients.
Founder I.M.U. Social Media
This informational training post was brought to you by the writing team at IMU Social Media, your small business strategy and content organization, located in the Davidson NC.
We are #morethansocialmedia
Photo: I.M.U. Social Media LLC