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Social media mistakes small business owners should avoid

junior
Creative Commons License photo credit: notmpres

Today we’re going to talk about three mistakes that I advise small business owners not to make when getting into social media.

#1 – Don’t be a firehose

One of the easiest things to do – and most important to avoid – is the temptation to flood the place with automated messages.

For example, there are tools out there (like twitterfeed.com) that allow you to automatically post links to your blog to Twitter. You can do the same with Friendfeed and Facebook.

Using tools like this to send your blog posts to Twitter or Facebook is fine – unless that’s the only thing you post.

If you’re the Flathead Beacon, CNN or The New York Times, you can get away with that – even though we’d still like to see more interaction.

As a small business owner, your job is not to be a firehose.

Interaction is better. Note the first word in “social media”. It’s social.

It’s not you standing on a corner preaching to anyone who will listen – while you listen to no one and interact with no one.

#2 – Don’t treat me like it’s our honeymoon when it’s really our first date

One of the most common mistakes I see in Twitter is the “Hey, thanks for following, want to buy my product?” direct message (in Twitter lingo, a DM).

Look at it this way. If we meet at a Rotary meeting for the very first time, the first thing you say face to face after we are introduced and are seated across from each other is NOT going to be “Hey, great to meet you, want to buy my product?”

It’s the same thing. Don’t do it.

#3 – Don’t assume that everyone wants to listen to your politics or the F bomb all day

They don’t. Just because the environment is a bit casual on many of these sites, don’t assume for a minute that you are sitting in a bar in a strange town where no one will ever see you again.

Would you have those conversations across the counter with a customer? Would you have them out loud with a friend in your crowded business?

Didn’t think so. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace are also not the place to have them either.

Always remember that you’re taking the time to use these tools in order to better connect with the people who are interested in what your business does, or what you know.

EXCEPT…when it supports the nature of your business. Yes, Ian’s Catholic goods store comes to mind as the easy example.

That may seem a bit cheesy, but the fact remains that if your politics have no business out loud at the counter of your store, then they don’t have any business representing you on Twitter and Facebook (etc).

Finally, watch your online mouth just like you would your real one. It’s still a business conversation.

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Blogging Marketing marketing to the affluent Media Positioning Public Relations Rotary Small Business Social Media Strategy

Social Media: Time Waster or Essential Small Business Tool?

Polio outbreak campaign
Creative Commons License photo credit: coda

If someone threw a party for a big group of people who are interested in the products and services you offer, wouldn’t you want to be there?

Yeah, you would and social media can help you do just that.

Given that you’re reading this, I can’t help but assume that you know what social media is. Still, you may still wonder how it could possibly be of productive use for your business as opposed to another way to waste your staff’s time.

Note that last word in the phrase “Social Media”. Really, that’s all it is. A media.

What’s critical to understand is that it is a very different kind of media than businesses are used to dealing with.

It’s interactive and independent. It’s not controlled by a major media company, which likely keeps them up at night.

If you want to learn more about your favorite music, where do you go? If you want to hang out and discuss music with 100,000 fans of The Who, The Beatles or Miley Cyrus, you don’t go through a music industry gatekeeper to do so.

Social media enables you and those 100,000 other people to find each other. Easily.

I Leica cameras

Let’s say that I’m a big fan of Leica cameras, as Ed Dale is. (Sorry Ed, I’m a Canon guy).

If I want to have a conversation with someone about them or learn more about them here at home (remember, I’m in a fairly rural community), I’ve got a problem.

So how do I find others who are into Leica camera gear?

You can call a local camera store. You can visit your local photography club. If your community has a central web-based events calendar, you could check that out or subscribe to updates. You can visit a local photography exhibition and ask someone there. And of course, you could Google <your town> photography club.

Even after doing all that, you may find that there is a small number of people in your area who are interested in Leicas. On a photography social media site like Digital Photography School, it’s a different story.

Now imagine that your business specializes in Leicas in some way. Maybe you sell them, repair them or create accessories for them.

Wouldn’t you want to take part in the discussions that all these Leica enthusiasts have? Worst case, you’d want to listen in on them and get your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the community of Leica fans.

If you’ve taken my advice to heart here at Business is Personal, I’m thinking you’d want to be right in the middle of all those conversations.

Join the Conversation

Even if you don’t participate in the conversations (though you should), there’s a huge amount of value there. Because of this, social media is a great research tool.

It provides an efficient way to keep an eye on what people are saying about your products, business, industry and competitors.

It allows you to easily reach out to your customers and prospects and improve your relationship with them. The more responsive you can be to your customers, the more likely you are to keep them.

Social media allows you one more way (and one more place) to demonstrate your expertise to people who need it. People want to do business with the expert.

Robert Collier said to join the conversation already going on in your prospect’s head. That’s exactly what social media allows you to do.

Rotary rings

Social media also provides you with the ability to connect with people you might NEVER have met any other way – someone who can make a substantial difference in your life or business (or vice versa).

I follow the Cary (Kildaire) North Carolina Rotary Club on Twitter.

Why? They’re a large, successful club in a high-tech town. I’m (currently) our club President in a small, new club in a small rural town. I can learn a lot from a large successful club.

I have a Rotary search setup in Tweetdeck so that I can find people who talk about Rotary. If they’re interesting and helpful comments, I eventually follow them. That’s how I found the Cary Rotary Club on Twitter.

One of their comments earlier in the week said someone from Rotarian magazine (the monthly magazine that Rotary International publishes for their members) was looking for a source to talk about social media and Rotary.

A perfect fit

Gee, is that a good fit for me and my business? Rotary members are mostly business owners. I’m a Rotarian and currently club president. Marketing is my business. It’s a *perfect* fit.

The Cary post on Twitter included the email address of the reporter, so I emailed her and soon enough we had an appointment to speak.

The next day, we had a 45 minute phone interview for a story that will appear in Rotarian magazine.

We talked about the interaction of social media with Rotary and Rotary’s 4 Way Test, as well as social media’s use in business for marketing and other purposes. We also talked about common mistakes that people new to social media might make and should avoid.

I have no idea what will come from that, but it’s exactly the kind of publicity I can use, to the perfect audience for my business. For free.

In addition, it’s a pretty cool thing to be a Rotary member who is interviewed in The Rotarian, so that’s a nice bonus (and yes, I will likely have to spin the wheel when the magazine comes out).

Back to you

Enough about me, even if it was a good example.

As you can see, there are a number of benefits to participating in social media.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about some of the pitfalls to avoid and some things to focus on.

As you might expect, it’s personal.

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Blogging Creativity customer retention Customer service ECommerce Internet marketing Marketing Media Public Relations SEO Small Business Social Media Strategy Technology Twitter Web 2.0 Word of mouth marketing

Twitter just doesnt make sense for business

Or maybe it does.

See what Chris’ argument in today’s guest post, which is chock full of reasons why Twitter just might make sense for your business.

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Blogging Customer service Marketing Media Small Business Social Media Strategy Twitter Web 2.0

Insomnia and the Social Media Roadmap

Alternate

The other night, Chris Brogan twittered that he couldn’t sleep. Not too much later, he tweeted again to say that he ended up writing a blog post.

IMO, he needs to sleep less if this is the kind of stuff he creates when insomnia strikes.

Today’s guest post from Chris is a great getting started roadmap for businesses looking to stick their toe into the social media pond.

photo credit: Joe500D

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Blogging Small Business Twitter

Business is Personal blog featured at marketing.alltop.com

I’m pleased to announce that Guy Kawasaki‘s Alltop.com project has chosen to feature Business is Personal in the marketing area of Alltop, specifically at marketing.alltop.com.

Yoda's Playlist
photo credit: Orange_Beard

Pretty exciting, considering the company: Seth Godin, Duct Tape Marketing, Church of the Customer and Brian Clark’s Copyblogger are also included in a great group of marketing blogs at http://marketing.alltop.com

Marketing.Alltop.com is part of Guy’s Alltop.com project. I encourage you to slide over there and read the top content Guy’s team has assembled.

PS: If you aren’t familiar with him, I suggest you read this to learn about Guy. (Thanks again, Guy)

One last thing: This is a direct result of participating on Twitter, one of the social media sites I’ve been discussing with you lately.

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Advertising Competition Creativity Marketing Media Positioning Public Relations Small Business

Business owners: Do the math when putting on a promotional event

I ran across a couple of whining news stories recently that talked about paying celebrities like Paris Hilton or Donald Trump $10000 to $20000 to appear at a party or other event for 2 hours. In Trump’s case, it’s more like $250k per appearance, but it doesn’t really matter.

The news reporters don’t get the big picture because they aren’t looking at the economics. The bright shiny celebrities distract them from the business that is going on.

What Time Is It ??
photo credit: 708718

Let’s consider for a moment that you are having a small business seminar in Seattle, Dallas or Chicago. You plan to charge $3000 and you know for a fact that you are going to deliver far more value than that.

Your problem is this: demonstrating that you’re going to deliver $3000 worth of value.

Certainly you can do that, but look at what it might take to allow you to get Trump at your event – for free.

If his price is $250k, then you need to get an extra 83 people to show up at your event. In a city of 3-5 million people, are there 83 business owners, real estate people or entrepreneurs who would be interested in hearing Donald Trump speak, get a photo with him and have a brief word with him?

Sure there are. 83 people gets Trump at your business event for nothing out of your pocket.

People line up to pay $25k to have lunch with Warren Buffett every year. He donates that money to charity, but the concept is the same – and in fact, you could do this at your event with Trump (or whoever).

So when you read these celebrity stories (regardless of where they are – even in the WSJ), don’t gloss over them and think those people live in another world. Business-wise, they don’t. They are making hay while the sun shines. They know that you only need to get (for example) another 83 people there to pay their fee and they know what that does for you, your business and your event.

You simply have to do the math to make it easy to get someone like that for your promotional event.

What does this have to do with your small business? Lots.

Local businesses have promotional store events all the time. Anyone can do a live radio spot. Do the people in your market really want to talk to the DJ? Who in your market can you get at your store for a big event that will blow away your local market and position you as the only place to do business with?

For example, if you’re an attorney and you held a private event for your best clients, what would it cost you to get George Ross (Trump’s attorney) there? On the other hand, what positive can come of it? Be sure that you think that part through. Your guest needs to be strategic to your long term business goal, not just someone to ooh and ah over.

Think bigger and do the math to make amazing things happen when you hold a local promotional event.

PS: Don’t forget to record the event on digital video and put pieces of it (drip, drip, drip) out there on all the social media sites you use to promote and position your business (ie: Facebook, YouTube, and so on). Your event isn’t a one time thing. It should pay dividends for a long time.

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Blogging Media Photography Positioning Small Business Social Media Word of mouth marketing

Best Seat in the House shows why you should be blogging

It may not be clear from the things I talk about here, but I enjoy photography. I shoot some scenic stuff, like the photo at the top of this page and I shoot a lot of sports and community stuff.

columbiafallsfootball.jpg

When it comes to sports, I’ll shoot baseball, soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, football, etc – and I don’t really mind how young or old the participants are. I’ve been on the field to shoot major college football and basketball, and I’ve been on the field to shoot the Columbia Falls 6th grade football team.

As a result of the photography thing, one of my favorite blogs is Best Seat in the House by Seattle Times sports (mostly) photographer Rod Mar.

This post about golf, Caddyshack and the Dalai Lama’s visit to Seattle was typical of Mar’s fun and informative (to photographers) posts. I suspect that if you asked Rod, he’d say that he isn’t a writer – and that’s my point.

In order to blog, you don’t have to be an expert writer with 12 books under your belt (that’d be uncomfortable, much less unsightly).

Instead, you just have to have a conversation with your readers.

When you educate, annoy, incite and entertain your readers, you develop a personal relationship with them (more accurately, they develop one with you).

Isn’t that what you want your customers to have with your business and your staff?