5 Circles: Should I be using social media marketing?

socialmedia

Alright friends – here we are for another post in the 5 Circles Series. This time, we’re going to be talking about social media.

You’re probably thinking one thing right now. This is a blog about marketing and business, in the digital age, primarily for bootstrappers and high-ROI seekers. Social media is probably high on the recommended marketing tactics list, right?

This post has a hard-hat on, because it is going to catch a lot of [email protected]

This isn’t about the conventional wisdom, or the same ideas being spewed out by every other blog out there. That seems to be a trend here on this blog, actually. The fact is, this might be a pretty big revelation in social media for those of you who have been trying to avoid playing the social media game (and those of you who have been forcing it, even though you don’t like it.)

Should you be using social media?

Marketing Circle: Social

Along with email marketing and networking, social media is the primary social medium that businesses use to share their messages. Many, many people get stuck in social media, spending hours each day “managing” their platforms, pages, and feeds, sending messages, sharing content, and more. The ROI they receive on this time is typically pretty dismal, but because it is conventional wisdom that you’re not a “real” business without a social media presence, they continue.

Best-Fit Archetype: Communicator

If you love the idea of networking, but can’t stomach face to face interaction, then social media may be for you. No in person interaction required, you can hide behind your screen (and no, you don’t have to get over this completely and take over the stage if you want to be successful), and you can still engage with people. Experts are prone to blast their messages out on social media, rather than engaging in conversations, and so the strategy recommended below is likely a better fit for anyone in the Expert archetype.

Secondary Archetype: Supporter/Facilitator

You love connecting people, so being helpful-by-association is one of the ways you use to build trust. Connecting people on social media is a fantastic way for you to show off this skill – just be careful that it doesn’t start consuming all of your time.

How does it work?

The conventional school of thought is that you must be on social media (actively) with your own branded pages and 16+ more things to manage, right? Just look at the expensive conferences and courses offering to show people how to build an entire business on something like Twitter. Twitter – to build your entire business. When you put it that way, it kind of sounds insane doesn’t it?

Guess what – you already are on social media. Your ideal prospects and customers are already sharing and discovering your content on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. – whether you actively use them or not. Even if you don’t have any social media accounts or pages, even if you don’t have share buttons integrated into your website, you already are using social media.

Let’s introduce you to a new concept. One that social media experts (those selling their courses!) are going to hate, and you are going to love. 

It is very simple.

Instead of forcing yourself into being active on social media all day, every day, optimize your content for social sharing.

This means using “click to tweet” links in your posts, like the link above. It means creating “pinnable” images for your content. It means using widgets and other tools to allow readers to share your content on social platforms, providing short links, and uploading your video and audio content to social sharing sites like YouTube and SoundCloud.

It means writing epic headlines that will get clicks and providing all of the necessary tools to allow others to share your content on social media.

Then you can sit back, relax, focus on creating “epic content”, and check in on Facebook and Twitter when you feel like it. You no longer have to get lost in Facebook Groups and Twitter Feeds, spending hours every day answering questions on Quora and LinkedIn, or organizing your contacts into “Circles” on Google+.

Because social media platforms don’t make money off of small advertisers, or small businesses that just post content without paying to promote their posts. They make money when people stay on their site for longer – and they are masters at making sure that happens.

If you have a business to run, the last thing you want to do is actively choose to spend time doing something that is intended to suck you in and waste your time.

So there you have it.

That is it for today. No best practices, no real warnings, just a social media strategy that you can use in your business – even if you hate social media – to capitalize on the huge amounts of traffic those networks can send.

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

What We Can Learn from Boners BBQ…

… aside from not naming your business something to do with the word “Boner”.

Thanks to Twitter, the biggest social media fail of 2012 was brought to my attention today. What happened was this:

  1. A BBQ joint who has barely stayed afloat since opening posts a coupon online to entice people in.
  2. A customer chooses to use that coupon, bringing in their husband for his birthday dinner (who promptly cleaned both his plate and hers!)
  3. Finding the restaurant okay, but not great, the patron leaves a 25% tip for the service she received as the only customer in the restaurant.
  4. She then goes home to write a review on Yelp, detailing what she liked and disliked about the restaurant, the food, and the service.
  5. The owner proceeds to post the customer’s photo on their Facebook page, insulting her, warning other restaurants about her “not tipping” and telling that she “cleaned her plate… every last drop!” Also added in were detailed instructions on a game similar to hide and seek (but with more profanity) and likening the woman to a female dog.

Now, I’m not sure what to say in this situation. I wouldn’t even really call this the worst use of social media in 2012, I would call this “the reason they’re going out of business in the first place.”

Social media did not do this. Boners BBQ did this as a natural act, something they likely would have done through another avenue had social media not been available. This would have caused a problem for them no matter what.

Why? To quote my friends over at Unmarketing…

Social media doesn’t make a business bad or good, it amplifies what they already are.

If you’re great at customer service, social media will amplify this. If you’re innovators, social media will amplify this. And if your business name includes the word “Boner” primarily because that is the owner’s nickname… Well, social media will amplify that too.

The lesson we can all learn from Boners BBQ is this:

Whether you’re a genius or a Boner, social media will show the world.

My advice? As long as you’re not a Boner, just be yourself. Your customers will love you for it.

The Biggest Mistake Small Businesses Make with Social Media

Every once in a while, we here at BuzzCrate have an opportunity to make a real difference to small businesses just by publishing a simple blog post. This is one of those times. What you’re about to read will, we hope, be a great eye opener for those of you already using social media to promote your business, or for those who are considering doing so.

I want you to think, just for a minute, about one of the crucial functions of your business. Something that you know takes a specialized skill set. Something that may be easy to “get”, but very difficult to master. Some things that come to mind are tasks like woodworking, cake decorating, sales copy writing, graphic design, or programming.

Think of a task like that within your business. Really get a sense of how much time and effort it took to really master that skill, and how much that employee’s mastery means to your business.

Now I want you to imagine, for a minute, what would happen to your business if you let your office clerk, your neighbor’s kid, or someone else who “gets it” but hasn’t “mastered it” do that task for your business day in, day out.

Can you see what a catastrophe that would be?

  • An automotive shop hiring someone who has done an oil change to rebuild engines?
  • A roofing company hiring someone who patched their own roof as a crew foreman?
  • A spa hiring someone with painted nails as their esthetician?
  • A transport company hiring someone with a learners’ permit to drive their Freightliners?

You couldn’t imagine doing something like that in your business. It would be probably the worst decision you could make, right? Even if you cut your labour costs in half, you would lose so many customers so quickly, you would likely never be able to recover. Right?

I want you to really understand the gravity of what it would be like to under-value the mastery of those skills, and hire someone less than qualified to complete them. What effect would that have on your business? Your lifestyle? Your family?

It paints a grim picture for sure.

Now there is something I would like you to “try on” for a minute. For some of you, this may not be true; However, for a large percentage of you who are reading this, I want you to take this in for a second.

When it comes to your online presence – your website and your online marketing, including social media – you’re doing exactly the same thing.

There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t see a freelance project or employee position come up, where someone is having their Receptionist, Office Assistant, File Clerk, Customer Service Rep, or some other unrelated person within the company handle their website and online marketing.

Many of you are likely already doing this. You have someone in another role within your company managing your online presence. Or perhaps you are managing it yourself, or having a friend or one of your children manage it for you.

Think back. Think about that ominous feeling you got about the future of your business when you took something essential to your business that requires mastery, and put it in the hands of an unskilled worker.

You need to get that feeling about your online presence, as well.

Businesses need to begin to understand the real value of a qualified person working on their online marketing. Yes, online marketing is lower cost than print advertising. Yes, everyone knows how to use the internet these days. And yes, everyone under the age of 28 may seem like an absolute internet and social media genius sometimes.

But it takes a lot more skill to use effectively and get results than even print or broadcast advertising.

If you were going to get a television commercial produced, you wouldn’t let your receptionist carry around a camcorder, would you? Of course not!

But when you have your receptionist, sales person, customer service person, or other unrelated employee handle your online presence, that is exactly what you are doing.

Now, we’re not crazy. We work with a lot of small businesses, startups, independent professionals and non-profits. We know you likely don’t have the budget for an $80,000/year Online Marketing Consultant, in house.

But you don’t need one.

How many hours do you think your “online stuff” person takes each day away from their primary function. 2? 3? 4? You would be surprised how long it takes for someone inexperienced with using the internet for marketing can actually take in managing a presence like that.

Conservatively, let’s just say 2 hours each day. And let’s give them the new BC minimum wage – $10/hr. That is $20/day in lost productivity on online marketing that, lets face it, probably isn’t bringing back $20/day.

Over the course of one year, you are losing over $5000 worth of productivity from that employee for something that may or may not have worked for you at all.

Much like hiring a salesman with social phobia,
you’re saving in the short-term for a larger long-term loss.

There are a variety of companies, like our own, who offer services to small, medium, and even large businesses, non-profits, organizations, and governments to build, brand, and better their presence online. But you might think having a dedicated person is unnecessary and expensive, right?

Well, no and no.

Most of us charge well under $5000/year for services above and beyond what your receptionist could achieve. Companies who do this professionally study, gain experience, do and read market research, and commit their entire careers to mastering online marketing, branding, and PR.

We call it “new media” – everything from Facebook and Twitter to blogs, online ads, search engines, directories, online video, websites, and more.

Not only do our services typically cost less than losing productivity from your regular staff (with our typical small business client seeing costs of around $3100/year, on average), but the return on investment is far greater.

If you’re having someone in-house manage your online presence, or managing it yourself, you likely don’t even know how well those forms of marketing are performing – and if you do, you probably don’t think very much of the results.

New media specialists not only make a point of tracking “metrics” (numbers that tell us if we’re making you money or not!), but they pride themselves in just how much of a return we can generate on your investment.

When was the last time your office manager expressed an interest in providing a good ROI for their wage?

Exactly.

I firmly believe that it is only because of a lack of understanding that businesses choose to operate this way.

Because you may not know everything there is to know about social media yourself, you fail to see how much is really involved in using it successfully – especially when there are hundreds of millions of people and businesses already on Facebook. You think to yourself, “Well, it can’t be that hard. If they already have a profile, they know how to use it!”

That is true in the same way that owning a television makes you
qualified to produce SuperBowl ads.

I say that to illustrate a point. The above sentence seems absolutely preposterous – crazy even!

But there is no difference from a couch potato producing SuperBowl ads and your nephew building your business website. None whatsoever. Unless of course your nephew is a professional web designer with experience and samples of sites that have generated real revenue – then all we have to say is, you’re one lucky aunt or uncle!

The time has come for small businesses to start seeing the real value in new media. In our world today, it has become an almost essential part of modern business life.

30 years ago, you weren’t in business unless you were in the phonebook.

Today, you aren’t in business unless you’re on the web.

The cost of the ad space may be lower, but the expertise required is far beyond anything that any marketing or advertising medium has ever required before.

Luckily for you, even when hiring a qualified new media expert for your business, the cost of their efforts will still be far smaller than the cost of an equally effective television or even radio or newspaper ad.

I want to hear from some small business owners on this topic. Do you agree? Disagree? Did this blog post help shed light on these areas of your business, or are you still having difficulty seeing the value of new media?

Join in and share!

10 Reasons to Use Facebook Instead of Email Marketing

Through a service called Networked Blogs, this blog post is about to appear on our Facebook Page and Twitter account – without me having to do a single thing. Every blog post does. It also comes with a handy header that, when a user clicks through to the blog post, appears across the top of the page allowing them to Tweet or Like it right from our blog.

We’re not alone, either. Most blogs with Facebook Pages link to every post from their profile. Increasingly, Facebook is becoming the way that people follow blogs.

This post will also be going out via MailChimp tomorrow morning at 4am, without any action from us.

Did you know that 10 times more people will be reading this post on Facebook than via email?

It’s true. We may be small, but we’re mighty. Not only do we have more people following this blog via Facebook than via email, it seems our engagement rates are higher as well – not just more bodies, but a higher percentage of people read our blog from Facebook than email.

Why? Doesn’t that fly in the face of conventional wisdom, that email lists are the be-all end-all of marketing, and Facebook is only for teenagers?

We thought so, too – so we came up with 10 reasons you should be using Facebook instead of email marketing for your blog :

  1. Facebook hits people when they have time to kill – email does not. Have you ever been running out the door, and decided to scroll through your Facebook feed? If yes, you need help. If no, then you’re like the rest of us – Facebook is a medium you use when you have time to actually use it. Email users are often in a hurry, and skip past emails – even if they want to read them “later”, with good intentions. You have a higher likelihood of a Facebook follower actually reading an entire post than an email follower who gets your rss to email campaign.
  2. Facebook is less intrusive. Complain all you want about email – ever received a loud email notification during a meeting, only to see its junk mail? Yeah – not impressive. But how many pages on Facebook do you unsubscribe from for posting updates at 3am? I think you can see where this is going. People come to Facebook – in droves. Like it or not, that is still an advantage.
  3. Social sharing doesn’t need to be integrated. It was a trend that started about a year ago – including social sharing links in your emails. According to some studies, people are more likely to forward your email than share it through social sites. What does that mean? That if viral, social sharing is your objective, then social networks are the medium that work best! You don’t need to integrate a “Like” button when you’re already putting it on Facebook.
  4. Stats, stats, stats. Google Analytics is great for telling you what people visited and clicked on, and it can be easily integrated into most email campaigns – what can you do with Facebook? Why, view your insights of course! You can see not only how many people have seen and clicked on your page, you can see how many people see and click on your content in their news feed, what percentage of posts actually have interaction, and even pick out what days of the week see the most traffic.
  5. It’s a two-way medium. Okay, so email is too – but it’s different. If you’re blasting out an email newsletter, it is impersonal – much like a newspaper. People don’t call up the newspaper editor to talk shop. But they *do* comment on Facebook Page posts. Now you have a way to talk with your customers that is easy to use and manage!
  6. It facilitates conversations. Not just between you and your customers, as above, but customers can talk with each other as well. How many times has your newsletter spurred a community of 100+ people to have a conversation with each other? Never. How many times has a Facebook post? It practically happens every single second. Believe it or not, those conversations are more valuable to you than one-way communication.
  7. Familiarity, approachability, and personality. Email is impersonal at best – and destructive at worst. What you really want is a medium through which you can make yourself available to prospects, talk with them on an approachable level, be real, warm, and personal with them, and make yourself familiar to them. Social media allows for that because it allows for freedom of expression. Instead of needing to come up with a topic for an entire email, all you have to do is come up with something short and interesting. Thoughts like that pop into our minds all day long!
  8. Easy to leave. Have you ever tried to remove yourself from certain email newsletters, only to find it damn near impossible? Yeah – me too. And I’m willing to bet that you were a little bit more cautious sharing your email address next time! With Facebook, however, every single page has an easy to use “Unlike” button, and half a dozen other ways to hide your content if they don’t like you. Users know that – and they’re more willing to subscribe as a result! It is less of a risk to “Like” you than subscribe to you.
  9. Control. If a subscriber says something inflammatory, untrue, or spammy – you can delete it. Comments, posts, whatever – you can remove it. You can guide conversations, start them, join them, and moderate them as needed. You can’t control what clients say about you in an email. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility – moderate comments only when absolutely necessary, otherwise people may be less willing to comment on your page.
  10. Ease of use. If you’re like most people, learning a new program, website, or piece of software takes work. Guess what? There is a good 95% chance that if you’re online, you at least have a basic knowledge of Facebook. Use that to your advantage! Pages are hardly different from your regular profile, so you already know how to do most basic functions. That means you can communicate much more easily through your page, because you’re not struggling to learn!

Can you think of any other reasons to use Facebook instead of email? Let me know in the comments – either here, or on our Facebook Page!

Building a Community Around Your Business

Community building is so important to a business.

Sure, you can advertise in the Yellow Pages, put up a website, use Pay Per Click advertisements, you can even use television and billboard advertising – take out a full-page spread in a national newspaper if you want. But what will that do?

High cost per lead, low ROI.

Okay, okay – so “cost per lead” and “ROI” are typically thought of as big-business terms, but aren’t. You should know how much it costs you to get a customer, and you should know how much you get back for dollars spent in various ways.

For example, if you know how much your Yellow Pages advertisement costs you each year, you should find out how many customers you get from that ad – and the average amount of money those customers spend.

If your Yellow Page ad costs $240/year, and you get 12 customers from that ad (one a month, which is more than most businesses get from Yellow Page advertisements)…

Your cost per lead is $20.

Now, if we say that your cost of goods sold is $20, and your average customer spends $50, then we know three things :

1. That your Yellow Page ad is getting you about $10 in profit for each new customer.

2. That you can use any form of advertising you want, and as long as your cost per lead is under $30, you’re going to break even… And

3. That the lower your cost per lead is, the higher your profit per customer is.

We all know that online strategies like blogging and social media have drastically lower costs per lead than traditional strategies, but it gets even better – when you build a community around your business!

Within a community, you have the evangelists… They go out and sell your product or service for you. And no, you don’t have to pay them – they’re customers and community members who are so impressed with you and what you’re doing, that they want to convert other people to their way of thinking – they want to make other people buy from you.

You also have the technical support… These are users who know your product inside and out, and answer questions on your behalf to solve problems for customers – thereby increasing the value of your product, since “everyone knows how to fix it!”

You’ll have the beta-testers… Those who feverishly buy up every new product or service you release, and give you constructive feedback through your contact forms to improve the product.

You’ll have the re-tweeters… Not as prolific as the evangelists, but they believe in what you’re doing, so they share it with their friends through Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.

You’ll have the commenters… The insatiable commenters. They’ll discuss anything and everything you have to say. They attract massive amounts of attention to blog and social media posts by providing a level of interaction. Don’t discount “trolls” either – those who start arguments for the sake of arguing. Sure, everybody will respond to the arguments – but in the meantime, they’ll be reading your content to see what started it.

All of these personalities come out when you build a community around your company, and every one of them will give value to your business beyond what they may buy.

Communities are simple things. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, once said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that you can never “build” a community – you can just create great tools and hope that a community uses them.

That is what we do.

The right tools are never a guarantee of success, but if companies like Apple and Coke have taught us anything, making a cult following look easy takes time, effort, and patience.

Watch for our coming series of posts on things *you* can do to build a community around your business.

Just because you're not the first…

A short post for you today, inspired by some of the people we work with.

Clients (or potential clients, or partners, or people on the street) often bring it to our attention that they are not the first in their line of work to utilize social media.

And to that we respond, you are absolutely correct.

But then a funny thing happens – they tell us that they feel there is no point in doing social media because they aren’t the first company or person to do it. Everyone else will already be engaged with their competitor, so why bother?

This is where we get thoroughly confused.

Why can you not adopt a social media strategy – just because your competitor did?

Does Roto-Rooter not advertise in the Yellow Pages because “Joe’s Plumbing” did first?

Do Proctor and Gamble refuse to advertise on TV because SC Johnson did it first?

Do Coca-Cola and Pepsi never advertise in the same medium?

The number one principle of advertising and marketing is this :

Go where your customers are, and tell them what you can do for them.

That’s it. That is all marketing is.

And instead of avoiding social media because your competition is doing it, we believe you should engage in social media because your competition is doing it.

After all, if they’re engaging their market using social media, and they’re competing with you – chances are, your market is in the same place.

Go there, and tell them how you can help.

New FREE Product!

We’ve just put up a brand new FREE video!

To check out “Using Social Media and Cloud Computing
to Create New Lead Generation Streams” on video, click here!

We’ll be creating a free ecourse for our RSS subscribers in the next few days, as well as uploading a new free report “10 Biggest Social Media Mistakes” exclusively for subscribers!

Sign up now to receive them when they are released!

We need a website – now what?

That is a question we get posed so often, we almost want to have a canned response. Or at least, we wish we could.

It usually starts with a potential client calling our offices and asking us a few questions about our services, our prices, how we work, etc. And then the question is posed:

“Well, we know we need a _____ (be it a website, a Facebook page, a social media strategy, a blog, or any other high-tech marketing apparatus) – Now what?”

See, most businesses identify the need for a website, blog, social media strategy or anything else by the fact that “so and so” told them to, or “everyone else” does. Most of you, honestly, don’t know exactly why you need it.

But that isn’t true, you say.

You know exactly why you  need that website linked with Twitter and Facebook, with a built in blog. Because it will bring you more customers.

GREAT! And how will it do that?

Uhh…

Exactly.

Websites and social media are part of “Inbound Marketing”.

Your old ways of marketing – TV and print ads, direct mail, flashing banners and tradeshows – those are “Outbound” forms of marketing. They work by disrupting the lives of those they come in contact with, forcing them to pay attention, and for a small number they get enough attention to actually sell a product.

The new way of marketing – using those websites, blogs, social media accounts, and more – are “Inbound” forms of marketing. Instead of interrupting, you’re inviting. You just go out and find where your ideal customers are already hanging out, provide them with some useful content (blog posts, articles, free reports, info) and ask them to come visit you.

When they do, you offer them even more content to link up with you – Follow, Tweet, Like, and subscribe. You get their trust, and their contact details. You send them more content – and then mention that you have paid resources available.

It is called a lead generation system, and every business should be using one.

I’m sure you’ve heard of lead generation before, maybe even using the internet – but it usually involved a form for a “free consultation” and some form of disruption marketing like banner ads, Pay Per Click, or direct mail. I’ll tell you…

Those leads will be 10x colder than those who found you on their own, in their “neighborhood”, and choose to give their information to you.

Want some proof before you start changing your strategy?

Let’s take a look at a report published by HubSpot.Some startling statistics for you :

Companies who allocate more than 50% of their lead generation budget to inbound marketing experience a 61% average lower cost-per-lead. The exact numbers? $84/lead for inbound vs. $220/lead for outbound. Can you afford to spend $220 per lead?

The same study found that for most businesses, even though marketing costs were lower for those who used inbound techniques, the inbound techniques accounted for more than 50% of all leads generated by all businesses (both inbound and outbound dominant.)

5 years ago, blogs were an easy tool to ignore. No one knew how to use the internet to generate leads and revenue aside from banner advertising (more outbound, disruptive advertising). MySpace and Facebook were competing for attention from individuals, and hadn’t yet figured out how to generate revenue from businesses effectively.

Today, ignoring the above statistics could mean a rocky road ahead for your business.

Even those of you who traditionally believe that social media is only for products geared towards young people are in for a real eye opener in the coming years. With smartphones permeating every last safe hold of society, small business owners are the fastest growing segment of Twitter users. The over 25 age group accounts for 50%+ of all Facebook users.

Think about this statistic from a recent Website Magazine advertisement : 20 million people visit WalMart stores around the world every day…

… and 250 million people visit Facebook in the same time period.

If you ignore a market that vast, that readily and willingly interacts with commercial interests – often seeking purchase information and reviews through those channels – then your business will eventually fall behind in “the new economy.”

So, we’ve described why you should pay attention to social media. We know why you need an online presence.

You know you need a website – now what?

Now you call us. We can take your business and develop a complete online branding and social media strategy, create a brand, website, blog, and social media presence based on those ideas, and help your business join the ranks of inbound-marketing dominated businesses.

The future of marketing is here, now. You need to stop trying to start your own conversation. People are already out there, talking about you and your business.

Join the conversation.

Social Media Is Supposed to be Fun, People!

I always laugh quietly to myself when I hear of a social media marketing expert trying to advise clients on a corporate social media policy. Isn’t that more the realm of human resources and legal departments?

Of course, any other similar issue would be. But social media is scary. People and companies want to use it for their own purposes, while eliminating the possibility that your company could have fun with it. No fun on company time, after all.

The problem with this mentality is that I have seen it lead to far too many failed social media campaigns.

For your company to really find a place online, you have to use social media properly. Begrudgingly spamming thousands of twitter followers with your url while dying a little on the inside is not what I would consider”proper”.

Instead, when you’re developing a social media strategy, think of how you use social media in your personal life.

Okay, so you might spam your Facebook friends with photos of your kids/dog/cat/lizard/whatever sometimes, but that isn’t what we’re talking about today.

When you use social media in your personal life, you engage people.

You tweet them back when they mention you on twitter.

You “like” that picture of them at their company retreat last year (that no one was supposed to see).

You meet someone new and tell them to add you, be your friend, like you, and follow you.

You tweet, like, blog, comment, stumble, ping, and add your way through everything your friend put out in the world, and your friends do it right back.

And why?

Because they’re your friends, that’s why.

And if you apply that same mentality to your social media, you may find that you have a lot more fun – and your results will reflect that.