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The Monthly Resource Guide For Startup Businesses
Exercise Your Social Media Muscle
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the other social media only work if you exercise with them regularly. These four social media experts will pump you up and introduce you to the next level of communication muscle: Tyler Olson, Social Media Consulting; Dave Meyer, BizzyWeb; Alan Kremer, imagewërks MARKETING; and Jim Robinson, ITR Group.
Reprinted with Permission Courtesy of New Business Minnesota ©2009 – www.newbizminn.com
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only work if you exercise with them regularly. It’s All About Choosing the Best Tools to Reach Your Customers.
Time to Exercise Your Social Media Muscle
From the Publisher: siness is B2B or In thethere year all of us have experienced how fastLinkedIn Profile, etc. It will lay the from “What’s TwitB2C, past are ways with social meAccount, a new e-trend can arrive. We went foundaa to achieve business to “Yes, I Tweet” at lightning speed. Introductions are over. It’s now time to move from dabbling to full objectives, whether it’s through tion for what should happen next to drive your busiter?” ditional foot traffic, web traffic, coffeetheme of exercise and pumping up is appropriate. Social media is a new marketing appointments, ness objectives. implementation. The c. Sometimes that involves training of New employmuscle and if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. To examine this topic for our readers, your Business Minnesota Even though I approachedsocialteam of experts to write about the latest trends and strategies: Tyler Olson, Social Media work with this media every day, I ees and management. In many business models, TwitConsulting; Dave new form of comKremer, not make MARKETING; and Jim Robinson, ll enjoy the excitement about this Meyer, BizzyWeb; Alan ter does imagewërkssense. Sometimes LinkedIn will ITR Group. unication when another business owner chooses not provide much value. Ultimately, it comes down to make the investmentwill a social media campaign. a free interactive workshop from 3 where they congregate at the who your target market is and to 5 p.m. on January 14 They in share more information in ople are curious. People want to understand. People Business Minnesota will hold its monthly Startup Meetup networking online. Airport Hilton in Bloomington. New ant to be a partevent immediately following the workshop. For moreis a hot topic and todays andand RSVP go to: of it. It’s clear that social media is a Twitter information these register it has quickly www.newstartupmeetup.com. me changer technology. become the main competitor to Facebook. Should you StumbleUpon your Facebook? Do you Twitter started with the question of “What are you gg your Twitter? Is it time to finally learn about sodoing?” The premise was that you could Tweet out in al media? Education on social media is critical for the 140 characters or less what you were doing and your ccess of any social media campaign. These tools are friends and family could follow you.
Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? Which One?
It’s All About Choosing the Best Tools to Reach Your Customers.
By Tyler Olson Special to New Business Minnesota
ness Minnesota approached this team of experts to write about the latest trends and strategies: Tyler Olson, Social Media Consulting; Dave Meyer, BizzyWeb; Alan Kremer, imagewërks MARKETING; and Jim Robinson, ITR Group. They will share more information in a free interactive workshop from 3 to 5 p.m. on January 14 at the Airport Hilton in Bloomington. New Business Minnesota will hold its monthly Startup Meetup networking event immediately following the workshop. For more information and to register and RSVP go to: www.newstartupmeetup.com.
verybody is asking us: “What is social media and how can I use it for my business”? In a nutshell: social media is a new, low-cost marketing channel for small business owners, allowing them to communicate with clients, partners, prospects, and friend to further their relationships. With it they can complement their current business initiatives and communicate with those who know them, like them, and want to know more about them. By using tools such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, businesses are able to more effectively and affordably get in front of more people faster. Whether the business is B2B or B2C, there are ways with social media to achieve business objectives, whether it’s through additional foot traffic, web traffic, coffee appointments, etc. Even though I work with social media every day, I still enjoy the excitement about this new form of communication when another business owner chooses to make the investment in a social media campaign. People are curious. People want to understand. People want to be a part of it. It’s clear that social media is a game changer technology. Should you StumbleUpon your Facebook? Do you Digg your Twitter? Is it time to finally learn about social media? Education on social media is critical for the success of any social media campaign. These tools are new, they evolve quickly and sometimes are difficult to understand. Twitter and other social media websites can become overwhelming. How do you use them? Why do you use them? What can you get out of it and how will it help you meet your business objectives? To answer these questions, we typically engage with what we call our social media Assessment, which will guide clients through the basics of social media and how it could impact their companies. It also lays out the foundation of the go-forward social media Strategy. Having a strategy to answer these questions will give you guidance and lay out a plan to stick with. It’s important enough that we have staff to specifically work on strat-
egies and objectives. Based on what we’ve By Tyler Olson learned working with new and small business in general is to New Businesssingle most imthat perhaps the Minnesota Special portant aspect to using social media is to begin with a solid, well-thought-out approach. verybody is asking will define whether you This strategic plan us: “What is social media and how can I use for should be settingit up my business”? Fan nutshell: a Facebook In a Page, social media is a new, low-cost marketing chanCorporate Twitter Account, LinkedIn Profile, nel for small business owners, allowing them to cometc. It will lay the foundation for what should municate with clients, partners, prospects, and friend happen next to drive your business objecto further their relationships. tives. it they can complement their current business With initiatives and communicate with those who know Sometimes that involves training of your them, like them, and want to know more aboutbusiemployees and management. In many them. By models, Twitter Facebook, LinkedIn, and ness using tools such asdoes not make sense. Twitter, businesses are able to more provide muchafSometimes LinkedIn will not effectively and fordably get in front of more people faster. Whether the value. Ultimately, it comes down to who your target market is and where they congregate online. Twitter is a hot topic these days and it has quickly become the main competitor to Facebook. Twitter started with the question of “What are you doing?” The premise was that you could Tweet out in 140 characters or less what you were doing and your friends and family could follow you. In practice, people began to use the site more for what was happening rather then what they were doing. Companies realized that by joining Twitter they can interact with customers on a whole new level. You can obtain feedback; find out what people are say-
ing about your brand and your products and many other things. Recently Twitter has opened up to two major search engines, Google and Bing. Allow- Bes It’s All About Choosing the ing these two search engines to tap into the tweets for searches will change the way search business is works forever.B2B or B2C, therehappening live, meThings that are are ways with social dia to achieve business objectives, whether it’s through things that news outlets web traffic, coffee appointments, additional foot traffic, cannot possibly have up yet will begin to show up in Google search etc. instantly. though I work with social media every day, I Even This enjoy the excitement about this new form of comstill is huge for the search community. munication when opened up the owner Recently Twitter has another business people chooses to API the investment in a easier to find search make– meaning it will besocial media campaign. People are looking to follow to understand. those you are curious. People wantonline. Twit- People want to be a introduced the that feature, ter also recentlypart of it. It’s clear lists social media is a game changer technology. which Shouldthe use of Twitter to a whole new Do you takes you StumbleUpon your Facebook? level. your Twitter? Is it time to finally learn about soDigg Using the right socialon socialsites and critical for the cial media? Education media media is platforms is an importantmedia campaign. These tools are success of any social aspect of your business. There are many different sites with difnew, they evolve quickly and sometimes are difficult to understand. ferent advantages and disadvantages. Using Twitter and other social can be as importhe right platforms and sites media websites can become overwhelming. How doit allows you to most you use tant as having a strategy; you use them? Why do them? effectively What can youof your of it and how will it help get in front get out customers and you meet your business objectives? clients.To answer these questions, we typically engage with Which tools our social media Assessment, which will what we call you should use heavily depend on what industry the basicsin and how guide clients through you are of social media and your salescouldmarketing processes work. An out the how it and impact their companies. It also lays foundation of media consulting firm Strategy. agency or socialthe go-forward social mediacan Having a strategy to answer different sites help explain the differences in these questions will give you guidanceTheylay out a plan to stickinsight imporand platforms. and can also provide with. It’s tant enough that we have staff to specifically as to why your company might choose to usework on and objectives. Based on what we’ve learned one strategieswith new and small business in general is that over another. working The last the single most important aspect to using soperhaps thing to consider in your social media planning is your time. What is your cial media is to begin with a solid, well-thought-out aptime worth? Where should your time be proach. spent? This strategic time willitdefine whether you should How much plan is going to take to be setting up manage this Page, Corporate implement and a Facebook Fanonce you have Twitter your strategy to meet your objectives? Paying employees is expensive. Hiring an agency specializing in just social media can save your employees and yourself time and headaches when implementing and managing your social media. Tyler Olson, owner and President of Social Media Consulting and HelpMeTy.com, has consulted on many technology-related topics and has been a speaker at numerous events on strategies to help people achieve more through web technologies. He regularly writes for the business technology section in PCWorld magazine on social networking. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, smcpros.com or twitter.com/TyOlson
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Reprinted with Permission Courtesy of New Business Minnesota ©2009 – www.newbizminn.com
Integrating Social Media
What’s Next? Getting the Most Out of Your Online Communication.
By Dave Meyer Special to New Business Minnesota
• Search Engine Optimization – more links to your site equal higher rankings. • Your site’s visitors will be able to easily share your content with others. • Multimedia integration – video and audio are a snap to setup and share. • You own your own data (if LinkedIn or Facebook go down or decide to close your page, your data is gone). • Allow your visitors to comment on your articles (subject to your approval of course). Another advantage of WordPress is that it puts you in the driver’s seat of your site. You don’t need to call your web developer to make changes. You just sign in from your browser and with a few clicks you can introduce your latest product or announce a new special. Customers, clients and prospects expect to be part of a conversation with businesses – posting a press release and calling it a day doesn’t cut it anymore. Your customers want to ask questions and provide feedback. They want be the first to know when something new is coming. And they want to do it on whatever network they prefer. Spend the time to setup a system to communicate automatically to your social media networks, and you’ll slash the amount of time you spend crossposting to each network individually. A professionally designed website that is built to leverage social media and integrate your efforts will make generating buzz a lot easier. Dave Meyer is the president and owner of BizzyWeb, a company that creates WordPress-powered websites designed to integrate with social media. BizzyWeb also offers social media training webinars and consulting services. He is a frequent speaker on social media topics, and is currently the president of the Minnesota chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators. He can be reached at bizzyweb. com, or follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/ dave1meyer.
ocial media is an amazing tool for marketing a new business. Tools like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allow cashstrapped startups a way to generate buzz and engage their prospects and customers on a more personal level. But even with free tools, there’s always a cost. It takes time to connect with your fans, share ideas about your products, listen to what your customers are saying, or network with prospects and referral sources. Here’s the good news. There is a trick to consolidating your social media efforts. When it’s done right, updating your social networking accounts can be done through a single tool – your website. Just as it doesn’t make sense to force your customers to connect with you only one way – you probably wouldn’t limit customers to just connecting over the phone for example, or just through a contact form on your website – effective communication in today’s world requires you to be where people are. The companies who are best able to reach out and connect are the ones who are seeing real results. Social media tools each serve a slightly different purpose. Twitter is great for keeping up with experts in any given field and marketing ideas. LinkedIn is the go-to spot to find talent and network with professionals. Facebook is where 250 million people go to connect with old friends. Couple the confusion of which network does what with the tools your company already uses – emails, your website, traditional advertising and even in-person networking or sales calls – and it’s easy to see why so many are overwhelmed by it all. However, a well-designed website using a tool like WordPress can do much of your social media connecting for you. WordPress is an open-source content management system that allows users to
logon to their own website from any browser and publish news articles (or posts), manage pages and add multimedia content with ease. Since it was originally created as a “blog-
A well-designed website using a tool like WordPress can do much of your social media connecting for you.
ging” platform, the community of developers that created it built in the capability to interact with visitors in a personal way. Articles you post to your website can automatically publish to each social site using simple plugins, and search engine optimization is handled seamlessly. With every post you’re getting the word out effectively, and engaging your prospects at every step. Advantages of using a tool like WordPress to integrate your social media efforts include: • Automatically publish your news to LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook fan pages.
Social Media is For Real; Get Plugged In?
It’s Time to Include It In Your Marketing Mix.
By Alan Kremer Special to New Business Minnesota
munity. Develop quarterly content calendars. This systematically guides the subject matter, ensuring posts and conversation starters actively support the client’s primary marketing goals. Assign one person to have committed ownership. As the saying goes, if everybody owns it, nobody does. We encourage our clients to identify one person who can take charge of their company’s social media presence. Integrating social media with the overall marketing program. Social media should never be viewed as a Lone Ranger attempt at marketing a company. So we think about what links can be made between social networking efforts and a company’s other online/offline marketing initiatives. How can tactics be cross-promoted? I know social networking will continue to gain momentum as companies stop feeling overwhelmed – even frightened – by this medium. Without question, social media can be an incredibly powerful venue for companies willing to legitimately engage with their contacts and customers. As with any tactic, the results should be measured. But when it comes right down to it, the power and benefits of social networking outweigh its shortcomings, even for a skeptic like me. Alan Kremer is an owner and Vice President for Imagewërks Marketing, a company recently named among the 50 fastest growing private companies in Minnesota. Imagewërks identifies and solves its clients’ core marketing and communications issues, and offers everything from research and creative strategy to design, printing and fulfillment—all under one roof. He can be reached at email@example.com. www.iwmarketing.com.
’ll admit it. I’m a natural-born skeptic: A tire kicker. Not of the cynical variety, but the kind born of a desire to make wise decisions that maximize ROI – for my clients’ businesses, as well as my own. So when bloggers first started singing the praises of social media, I raised an eyebrow. And when the social media floodgates opened, I saw the potential, but still doubted. Why all the peer pressure to jump on the bandwagon? Where’s the proof? The value? The metrics? My inner cynic (who said that?) pushed me to investigate social media’s viability as a real, results-driven initiative, worthy of a place within a company’s marketing mix. My conclusion? Surprise, surprise: social media does deserve a spot at the table. Companies that have embraced the two-way, conversational format have gleaned valuable information, solidified brand loyalty and some have even monetized their social presence. Over the past 12 months, my company has increasingly provided social media services in response to the demand. Our customers have asked us to help them get up to speed…fast. In fact, one client referred to us as the “personal trainers” of social media. Beyond an initially unsettling image involving sweatbands and knee socks, I was able to catch his drift. As we work with companies exploring social media opportunities, we come across common desires and questions. First, they want to properly and intelligently plug-in to the right social media circles. They want to gain genuine access to – and develop strong, loyal relationships with – their most valuable contacts and customer segments. We end up kind of like “coaches,” working alongside them, helping them achieve their goals. So, here’s the million-dollar question:
Where do we start? Whether you’re a new business or an existing small business, we have found it best to focus on three areas: determining goals, developing a plan and aligning the social media strategy with the
Companies that have embraced the two-way, conversational format have gleaned valuable information, solidified brand loyalty and some have even monetized their social presence.
company’s big-picture marketing efforts. Determining goals Are our clients trying to establish thought leadership with a target audience? Drive traffic to their website? Test a new product idea? Nurture leads? Access an elusive niche segment? To start off on the right foot, it is imperative to identify and quantify their primary goals. Developing a plan This entails three key tasks. Choose a community. It’s important not to bite off more than can be chewed, so we typically recommend starting with one social com-
Why you need a Social Media Strategy?
You Should Hear What People Are Saying About Your Brand.
By Jim Robinson Special to New Business Minnesota
focused effort around the right people. Use the 80/20 rule – Find the 20 percent of your target market who are the creators, connectors, influencers who are creating 80 percent of the content/ buzz around your product/service. Use search tools to focus on keywords (e.g., hashtags in Twitter) to identify the most appropriate people to follow. Consider following your r top customers or product advocates, as well as the competition. If you are unsure where to look ITR can help identify those people with common interests… you could even create your own group. You can do this very easily in most online communities such as Facebook. LinkedIn and NING also allow you to create a group about anything. You can also create a blog, or your own online community but these take more time and resources. unhappy customers, disgruntled former employees, or disenchanted suppliers. If someone has a grudge or axe to grind, monitoring is your early warning system. Remember, Social Media is more than Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. The online universe is expansive and new applications and services are always emerging. If you limit your monitoring to these three applications, you are doing a disservice to yourself, your brand and your company.
ou never get a second chance to make a first impression. This has never been truer than when jumping into the Social Media world. Whether or not you’re engaged in social networking, your company and your brand are most likely being discussed and defined without you. It’s a common misconception that social media is the answer to all business and marketing problems. Social Media is simply a tool. It doesn’t replace marketing fundamentals. It needs to be implemented as part of a complete marketing plan and business strategy. When set up right, it is a dynamic, twoway media for real-time interaction. Social Media allows businesses to think of the web as being a place for “conversations” that they can monitor and join. That is a tremendous advantage when used correctly.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Develop a Strategy
Companies should look at Social Media as they would any other business tool or service. That involves investigating options, evaluating potential opportunities, planning how to incorporate it into their business, and having a sound exit strategy in the event the benefits don’t fully materialize. Without a strategy and constant monitoring, you can appear extremely foolish to your customers and prospects. Worse yet, one careless posting and a company can rapidly loose stature in their industry or trade. Keep in mind; the first people who will follow you online are your biggest fans, and your most agitated detractors. Without a plan and measurable goals, you could be risking market share. If you’re ready to formulate a Social Media strategy, remember that you want to get it right from the beginning. Take your time. Think it through. And ask for help before you need it.
Work with an organization that can help you establish a Strategy and Objective.
Monitor the Social Media arena to understand how you should participate. Social Media Monitoring allows you to identify people who might be interested in what you have to say or sell. Monitoring will help you in finding, connecting, conversing, and engaging with them. Social Media monitoring is one of the most reliable and fastest ways to identify
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. You need to understand why you are establishing a strategy and what you hope to get out of it. There are only four reasons to participate in social networking; risk management, brand management, customer intimacy and financial (Revenue generations and cost reduction). What are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to understand your customer’s requirements? Do you want to promote your products? Do you want to enhance your brand? Answering these questions will define how you use Social Media, which works best as a component of your larger marketing programs.
Gain confirmation that you’re focusing on the right efforts.
Use an established organization to help you identify your target market and create a
Once you zero-in on a target segment, listen to them. The beauty of Social Media is that periodic interaction with customers (individual business trips, focus groups, trade shows, etc.) has been replaced with real-time interaction. Take advantage of it. Work with your Social Media partner on monitoring and listening strategies. Work smarter and not harder. Accept that the market is changing. The most common complaint I hear is, “There is too much data. I can’t listen to every one of my customers!” Well, you can’t afford not to. If your customers are willing to talk to you, are you really going to hang up the phone? Trust me, your competitor wouldn’t. The key to successful monitoring is in the rationalizing the data brought in by the tools that look across all the Social Media sites, blogs, etc. With that data in hand, you can focus on key problems and opportunities. All of this is moving very quickly, as you have probably noticed. Now is the time for you to take action to become engaged with your customers and your community with the right dialogue and message. Jim Robison is the Social Media Capability Manager for ITR Group. ITR group is a national leader in Social Media Consulting, Business and Technology Consulting, and Mobile Development. He has provided technology and marketing solutions for many Fortune 500 companies such as Visa, Capital One, GMAC and Wells Fargo. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 757-4500.