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Social Media Q & A: Expert Ed Gazarian Talks About First Steps for Small Businesses

Social Media Q & A: Expert Ed Gazarian Talks About First Steps for Small Businesses
by Sherron Lumley.

Ed Gazarian is a native of Boston, a graduate of Northeastern University and Harvard, who works for Pandemic Labs in Boston, one of the oldest social media marketing and analytics agencies in the U.S. He took some time to talk with writer Sherron Lumley about what’s new in social media and the first steps a small business can take when creating a social media strategy.

SL: Tell me about the business of Pandemic Labs.

EG: Pandemic is a 100-percent social media agency; we are not in print media at all. We’re all about customizing for actual customer needs. Rather than be tied to a specific set of platforms or technologies, we’re an agency committed to the notion that marketing is a dialogue, not a monologue. Our client roster runs the gamut from top-tier luxury brands (The Ritz-Carlton), to global retail chains (Au Bon Pain), and to regional groups (Fairmont Parks Art Association and The Roaming Boomers). We’ve also run campaigns with Dunkin’ Donuts, Puma, Canon, and DIRECTV.

SL: What are the basic social media steps that you advise your clients to take today?

EG: First, identify whom you want to communicate with. Based on who a brand wants to engage, the platforms, technologies and strategies we deploy will vary drastically from client to client. Knowing your audience is the absolute first step.

Next, figure out where those people are. If it’s Facebook, you know that’s a crucial part of your overall strategy. If your consumers are more active on something like LinkedIn, or social media’s latest darling—Pinterest—then focus your efforts there. There’s enough demographic info about the major channels out there, to make an informed decision about which channels to operate on. Depending upon what platforms you choose, your methods of engagement will differ. Understand that you will have to commit some time—and money—to these endeavors.

The last of these basic steps is identifying metrics of success. Yours will not be the same as those of other brands operating on the same platforms. Don’t get bogged down in things like “The Top 3 Metrics In Social Media”—lists like that are a dime a dozen. Don’t be dazzled by ‘The Next Big Thing’—does anyone still think Google+ is at all relevant? You know your brand, and you know who you want to go after. Be thoughtful in how you define what success means for you.

PQ_QAedgazarian.jpgSL: How has this changed in the last few years?

EG: Mobile and touch-based technology are easily the biggest game changers over the past few years. The ubiquity of devices like the iPhone, iPad, and their ilk have made social media campaigns based on these things extremely easy—and extremely cost-effective—to deploy on a large scale. Foursquare is a great example of this.

SL: Why is online marketing important today and looking forward?

EG: People are increasingly connected through social channels like Facebook and Twitter. We know, both anecdotally and through vigorous research, that people’s purchase decisions are more significantly influenced by recommendations/reviews/suggestions from their personal connections, than by any brand messaging. This is never going to change. Brands that capitalize on that fact through active engagement on social channels will reap the rewards.

SL: What are some examples of niche areas or groups in social media marketing?

EG: The B2B crowd is definitely one. In the small businesses world—from mom & pop storefronts, to local restaurants, and even 15 to 20-person niche service firms—opportunities abound. Just about every eatery near our office participates in some form of social campaign, such as group buying (through services like Groupon or LivingSocial), and they’ve enjoyed success using those channels.

SL: What are the benefits of targeting small audiences in social media?

EG: The more detailed you get, the more effectively you can tailor things, from the images and copy used in a Facebook ad, to strategically timing your tweets, to the text used in your Tumblr posts. The next evolution of this would be identifying your most engaged audience members. Solutions like Offerpop and Foursquare give small brands a way to compete with the Coca-Colas of the world, without being priced out of the market.

If you’re a local clothing designer with a single storefront, and you want to spread the word about your label to women around 35 years old, that live near your city, and that are interested in fashion—then there are channels (like Pinterest and Instagram) that are uniquely suited to that demographic. The people are already there, and the conversation already exists. Your job—and what will set you apart from the novices—is to find the relevant conversation, and take part in it. Anytime you can mix the value of in-person communication with the reach of social media, that’s a win.

The Critical Importance of Establishing Social Media Policies for Your Business

The Critical Importance of Establishing Social Media Policies for Your Business
Sign of the times: When I first wrote my book, The Small Business Bible in 2003, I never mentioned the phrase “social media” – because it didn’t exist at that time. When I wrote the second edition in 2007, I mentioned it once and, even then, the only site I touched on was MySpace because it was the most relevant site.

But the book kept selling, so when my editor asked me last year if I had anything new to say if we did a third edition (just published), I jumped at the chance to add 10 new chapters on, you probably guessed it, social media. I also cover apps, Groupon, technology – the whole gamut of new ways small businesses are changiSteve-Strauss–in-article-Medium.pngng and growing.

The moral of the story is that business these days is changing, as Bill Gates so aptly put it, at the speed of thought. Things that were not important a few years ago are critically important today. Not surprisingly, the issue of most relevance is social media – how you will use it and how to prevent your employees from abusing it.

The answer in this e-world, and as boring as it may sound, is that you simply must have a social media policy for your small business. Indeed, social media policies are now as important in the workplace as harassment and non-discrimination policies.

Consider the story of the employee who was on her company’s Facebook page last year. While adding content and checking out new likes, she received an invitation from a fan to view a video. Thinking nothing of it, she clicked over to it and was directed to a page that said she needed to update their Java software in order to watch the video. She did, and then Bam! their Facebook account was instantly hacked and hijacked. It turns out that what she downloaded was not a Java update at all, but a virus.

That is just one reason why you now need social media policies.

As you would with any new policies and procedures you adopt, you should begin by thinking through what you are trying to accomplish by implementing them, what unintended consequences may result and how they will affect your staff’s workflow.

When it comes to social media, most companies adopt policies that are intended to:

Safeguard accounts
Protect the brand
Build reputation
Prevent idleness and distractions

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

Among the different policies that you might want to consider and adopt are:

Internal standards for tweets and posts: What is your culture and brand? These must be reflected in your social media presence and, therefore, the employees who are authorized to post for you must be made aware of what is and is not acceptable posting. Offensive or off-color posts must be outlawed. Be specific as to what you consider off-limits posts, and conversely, what types of posts are appropriate, encouraged and will further build your brand and reputation.

Forbid the sharing of non-public information: In order for this to be successful, employees need to know what is considered confidential. Be sure to clearly spell it out for them.

No fighting: When employees blog and post for the company, all efforts should be made to avoid negative interactions with the public.

Standards for the personal use of social media on company time: This is a big issue for many small businesses. You may want to have a fairly relaxed rule and have it say something like “use your common sense,” or you may need to be more descriptive, limiting social media to a certain number of hours a day, or none at all, depending on the circumstances.

Private Pull Quote.pngmentions of corporate policies/behavior: By the same token, remind employees that the Internet is a public forum, and they should be careful of making disparaging remarks about the company or sharing proprietary company information. This should also apply when they are posting under their own social media channels. It is similarly wise to have employees understand that their personal posts about the business in off-hours must be labeled as such, and is not being done as a representative of the business.

Requiring that all updates be done in accordance with your IT folks: As the story above shows, social media fraud is exploding, mostly due to the unauthorized, inadvertent downloading of viruses.

Above all, encourage your employees to use their best judgment. That will often trump everything else.

Lastly, once these policies are adopted, they must then be disseminated via email, employee handbooks and posted visually where appropriate. Adopting them and then sticking them on a shelf to gather dust invites problems

Social Media Q & A: Expert Ed Gazarian Talks About First Steps for Small Businesses

Social Media Q & A: Expert Ed Gazarian Talks About First Steps for Small Businesses
by Sherron Lumley.

Ed Gazarian is a native of Boston, a graduate of Northeastern University and Harvard, who works for Pandemic Labs in Boston, one of the oldest social media marketing and analytics agencies in the U.S. He took some time to talk with writer Sherron Lumley about what’s new in social media and the first steps a small business can take when creating a social media strategy.

SL: Tell me about the business of Pandemic Labs.

EG: Pandemic is a 100-percent social media agency; we are not in print media at all. We’re all about customizing for actual customer needs. Rather than be tied to a specific set of platforms or technologies, we’re an agency committed to the notion that marketing is a dialogue, not a monologue. Our client roster runs the gamut from top-tier luxury brands (The Ritz-Carlton), to global retail chains (Au Bon Pain), and to regional groups (Fairmont Parks Art Association and The Roaming Boomers). We’ve also run campaigns with Dunkin’ Donuts, Puma, Canon, and DIRECTV.

SL: What are the basic social media steps that you advise your clients to take today?

EG: First, identify whom you want to communicate with. Based on who a brand wants to engage, the platforms, technologies and strategies we deploy will vary drastically from client to client. Knowing your audience is the absolute first step.

Next, figure out where those people are. If it’s Facebook, you know that’s a crucial part of your overall strategy. If your consumers are more active on something like LinkedIn, or social media’s latest darling—Pinterest—then focus your efforts there. There’s enough demographic info about the major channels out there, to make an informed decision about which channels to operate on. Depending upon what platforms you choose, your methods of engagement will differ. Understand that you will have to commit some time—and money—to these endeavors.

The last of these basic steps is identifying metrics of success. Yours will not be the same as those of other brands operating on the same platforms. Don’t get bogged down in things like “The Top 3 Metrics In Social Media”—lists like that are a dime a dozen. Don’t be dazzled by ‘The Next Big Thing’—does anyone still think Google+ is at all relevant? You know your brand, and you know who you want to go after. Be thoughtful in how you define what success means for you.

PQ_QAedgazarian.jpgSL: How has this changed in the last few years?

EG: Mobile and touch-based technology are easily the biggest game changers over the past few years. The ubiquity of devices like the iPhone, iPad, and their ilk have made social media campaigns based on these things extremely easy—and extremely cost-effective—to deploy on a large scale. Foursquare is a great example of this.

SL: Why is online marketing important today and looking forward?

EG: People are increasingly connected through social channels like Facebook and Twitter. We know, both anecdotally and through vigorous research, that people’s purchase decisions are more significantly influenced by recommendations/reviews/suggestions from their personal connections, than by any brand messaging. This is never going to change. Brands that capitalize on that fact through active engagement on social channels will reap the rewards.

SL: What are some examples of niche areas or groups in social media marketing?

EG: The B2B crowd is definitely one. In the small businesses world—from mom & pop storefronts, to local restaurants, and even 15 to 20-person niche service firms—opportunities abound. Just about every eatery near our office participates in some form of social campaign, such as group buying (through services like Groupon or LivingSocial), and they’ve enjoyed success using those channels.

SL: What are the benefits of targeting small audiences in social media?

EG: The more detailed you get, the more effectively you can tailor things, from the images and copy used in a Facebook ad, to strategically timing your tweets, to the text used in your Tumblr posts. The next evolution of this would be identifying your most engaged audience members. Solutions like Offerpop and Foursquare give small brands a way to compete with the Coca-Colas of the world, without being priced out of the market.

If you’re a local clothing designer with a single storefront, and you want to spread the word about your label to women around 35 years old, that live near your city, and that are interested in fashion—then there are channels (like Pinterest and Instagram) that are uniquely suited to that demographic. The people are already there, and the conversation already exists. Your job—and what will set you apart from the novices—is to find the relevant conversation, and take part in it. Anytime you can mix the value of in-person communication with the reach of social media, that’s a win.

Three Ways to Create Great Social Media Content

Steve StraussWhat is it that separates those small businesses that are very successful with their social media efforts with those that are not? Let me suggest a one word answer: Content.

The phrase is not “Content is prince” or “Content is duke.” No, they say, “Content is king” for a reason. Because it is. Offer your folks great content and they will pay attention to you. Don’t and they won’t.

So what is great content and how do you create or offer it for a small business?

The first thing to understand in small business owners about social media content is that it has to be far more about your audience and much less about you. Your job is to become added value to their day – you do that by posting content that your targeted audience finds interesting and useful. On the other hand, if all you do is post what you have on sale that day or “company news,” you will not go far.

A study by the technology company Roost looked at how small businesses can best engage their social media audience. The survey found that the following types of content offer maximum social media value:

Photos: Publishing photos on your Facebook page generates 50 percent more impressions than any other type of post. Photos are great because they are friendly, engaging and easy to upload. Pictures of your business, your products and your employees would all work.
Questions: Posting a question on Twitter, Facebook or your LinkedIn page is an excellent way to engage people and start a dialogue. The survey found that questions generate almost two times as many comments as any other type of post. Added bonus: Questions that foster discussions equal comments full of keywords that can boosts search engine optimization (SEO). In today environment, smalll businesses need to engage, understand and invest in SEO – this is a small business friend.

Quotes: The study found that quotes drive an average of 54 percent more retweets than any other type of tweet.

This is just for starters. Other things to post: Articles of interest, free e-books, resources, links and contests.

Let’s drill down and take Facebook as an example since that is the social media site most small businesses use. One of the easiest ways to get more people to “like” your page and engage with you is simply to update your status consistently. Share tips, ideas, post pictures and hold contests.

Another way to make your Facebook site valuable is to offer specials. But the secret here is not to offer just any old special, but a special that is only available to your Facebook friends. This serves two purposes.

First, it is a way to reward them for liking your page.
Second, it is a very specific way to measure the success of your page and plans. One challenge with social media is that it is often difficult to quantify the return on investment of your social media efforts. By creating and offering a unique special only for your Facebook fans, you can very specifically quantify the success (or failure) of your page. You can measure how many people respond to the promotion and how much money it makes you.

Additionally, remember that on Facebook, your content should be light, breezy even. Videos especially are a great way to engage this audience. Now, why is that? Well, think about Facebook for a moment. Most people who go there are going to connect with friends, see what is going on, that sort of thing. It is a casual place, a friendly place. So you have to be casual and friendly there too if you don’t want to be ignored. As such, videos and other easy-to-digest content fit the bill; they dovetail with the tone of Facebook.

Of course it also works to post articles that you think your audience will find interesting, funny, useful or otherwise worthwhile. Posting those things you find on the Web that you think people will like makes you a valuable resource.

Finally, a blog or articles written by you in your authentic style is another, and important, way to get your voice heard. Don’t think you have to be some type of wordsmith to succeed – you don’t. All you need to do is share your knowledge and passion in a friendly way and before you know it, viola! You have created great social media content. How do you go about creating social media content? What have you found that works well? Or, what doesn’t work so great?

Here is a great internet radio show to listen to about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Here is the link! We at Apple Capital Group will give you the tools and knowledge to help you launch your small business successfully.

Thinking of a small business loans, check out Apple Capital Group, Inc. Give us a call! This article is a courtesy of Apple Capital Group, Inc., if you like the articles, please share it to friends and PLEASE click the google+1 so we can measure how it is helping this small business community! Thank you!

Is Your Small Business Digitally Dressed for Success?

Make sure your website and other digital tools are as effective as possible

By Sherron Lumley.

Nowadays, the morning commute may be a sideways roll out of bed, then a flex of the index finger to power on the computer. We can attend a conference call in pajamas and chat online with a client over a bowl of cereal.

So what does it mean to be dressed for success when we don’t necessarily have to get dressed? The nature of interaction between businesses and customers has changed in the digital world, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is the power of a first impression, a three-to-seven second event. A typical website visitor stays about 44 seconds then moves on unless this first impression presents a reason to stay longer.

“I call that short attention span theater,” says Stephen Goebel, Creative Director and owner of ToeShark Visual Communication in Henderson, Nevada. “Marketing must be crystal clear to engage people instantly and keep them around long enough to continue the conversation,” Goebel says. ‘
Know Your Netiquette

In the 1975 bestseller Dress For Success, author John T. Molloy popularized the concept of power dressing to convey authority and competence. Today, this competitive edge is just as relevant as it was then. “Your site can help position you as an authority—and you should aim for that,” says Drayton Bird, author of Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing. “Since most people seek information on the web, those who seem better informed are seen as better.”

Although content is fundamentally important, the brevity of website visits means that the visual element is crucial. An effective website is visually digestible, clean, simple and clear. It is focused and includes a value statement, so people know what the message is. “The human mind loves order,” says Goebel, who holds a masters degree in Visual Communication from the Pratt Institute in New York.

Beyond the Website

Although a company website is usually the most significant element of the digital marketing mix, as in all marketing plans, the medium should fit the objective. “I am all about results and top line revenue, more people through the door, more calls on your phone,” Goebel says. However, not all of his clients need or want a website. There are other digital resources available that are increasingly mainstream and easy to use.

“Social media is imperative now. I drag my clients into it. Setting up Facebook and Twitter is a must, and then you have to use these tools,” Goebel says.

Charles Hobson, founder of Vanguard Documentaries, has seen numerous technology changes come and go over the last four decades, but that has not changed his underlying love for documentaries and storytelling. His award-winning company has launched a website, Facebook page, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and he regularly uses Skype for phone calls and videoconferencing and Google Docs for digital document sharing.

“I was always into technology,” Hobson says. “I’m what’s known as an early adopter.” Nowadays, he uses Skype’s free videoconferencing and Google Docs to communicate with colleagues abroad and he currently has about 1700 followers on Twitter. “My phone is always beeping,” he says. Twitter is a viral marketing medium, the modern day word-of-mouth, so it’s important to keep in mind that digital communication is not a one-way street.

Encourage feedback

In The New Handshake, by Joan C. Curtis and Barbara Giamanco, the authors talk about how to properly toe the netiquette line. “Do not talk constantly about yourself or your business,” they write. “Online, you listen by responding to other people’s Tweets and by joining a conversation in the LinkedIn discussions,” they say. Being able to listen to customers is one of the most useful aspects of interactive media. A company can know, practically instantly, customer response, and from this a business can learn and improve.

This consumer participation is what makes digital marketing so revolutionary. Therefore, providing an opportunity for interaction is going to be a top desire of a successful web strategy. The Vanguard Documentaries Facebook page features a preview of a work-in-progress documentary about the Flat Iron Building in New York. Visitors can watch the short film, make comments, send a link to others, and if they want, become backers of the film for as little as five dollars. The page is linked to Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects.

Figure as a rule of thumb that the annual marketing budget for a small business should be ten percent of the gross revenue for the year. To get in the game with a professionally designed website of eight to ten interlinked pages will cost about three thousand dollars.

When hiring a professional to design a website, it pays to shop around. To check credentials or find a website designer, head to the American Institute of Graphic Arts website.

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