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Five steps to social media sanity

We’d like to welcome guest blogger Karen Leland. Karen is a freelance journalist, best-selling author and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses negotiate the wired world of today’s media landscape — social and otherwise. She has extensive blogging experience writing for a variety of websites including AllBusiness, WebWorkerDaily and The Huffington Post. Now every Tuesday right here you can read Karen’s insights into marketing, management and technology for small business.

Today on my morning walk, I spotted the cutest King Charles Spaniel intently chewing on a tennis ball. Suddenly the dog — who had previously been in a state of single-focus bliss — began to nervously shift his attention from the ball to the water bowl his owner was filling up at the drinking fountain. Then a bicycle blew by and the confused canine whipped around to take a look.

Clearly stressed and unable to make a choice, his head went from bike, to bowl, to ball and back again. I know just how that dog feels. So does any small business owner who is confronted with crafting a modern marketing strategy out of the vast array of choices presented by today’s social media landscape.


“I think small businesses are confused about what they should do and how they should do it,” says Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot. “They stick their toe in the water by tweeting once a week or creating a page on Facebook, but that really doesn’t work. What they need to do is jump in, ask questions, learn and fully engage.”

In fact, the recent 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, which surveyed 3,342 marketers, found that 48% of small business owners, who did engage, saw improved sales as a direct result of their social media efforts.

Mike Schultz, author of Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation (Wiley, 2011), says that there are benefits to marketing online but cautions that there are two social media paths a small business can pursue.

“Some people focus on the path of acquiring as many followers as they can,” says Schultz. “But the other path, which is much less sexy but leads to more money, is to focus on finding people that you could not easily find in the past and reaching out to them in the right way.”

Just what is that right way? While social media mastery has many layers, the experts all agree that the following five core steps are a good start to bringing social media sanity to your small business.

1. Generate an abundance of high-quality content. Be it blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, web pages, videos or webinars, the more substantial, unique and useful your content is, the more your potential customers will find you. Stuck on what kind of content to create? Ask yourself: What questions are my clients always asking me? Then write the answers.

2. Optimizing that content for social media. Research the keywords your potential clients would use to find you and integrate those into your blog posts, page titles, blog headings, website text and any other content on your site. Google Keyword Tool provides easy research.

3. Integrating your website/blog with your social media. Publish your posts on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. In addition, post links on your social media back to your website offering free downloadable content. Blog buttons such as LinkedIn Share and TweetMeme help integrate social media.

4. Using alerts to monitor the conversation. Google Alerts notifies you when your business appears online but also helps you find journalists and bloggers in your field. Schultz suggests using Twitter Alerts as well. “One company I know of got a $250,000 sale by following up with a potential client who tweeted a general industry question,” he says.

5. Measuring social media marketing. Google Analytics can give you instant access to where your Web traffic is coming from, how long people are staying on your site, which pages are the most popular and whether your overall website visits are going up or down.

In an era where participating in social media has gone from being nice to necessary, it’s critical to outline an overall plan for integrating social media into your marketing mix. Just remember to keep your eye on the tennis ball.

What are your greatest social media challenges? We would love to hear your comments and questions.

From the author:
“There has never been a better time for small businesses to build a recognized brand and expand their reach. The wealth of management information, technology tools, social media and software as service available allow today’s businesses to grow with ease and excellence. I’m delighted to be part of the Xero team, as we share a vision and excitement for helping small businesses make their mark.”

 

Read more about Business, Social Media

 

9 comments

David Kerr
23 June 2011 #

These are pretty basic tips, but I’m happy to see someone that is pointing out the obvious and getting back to basics. Too many organizations are committing to complex strateies that yeild very little ROI. This is just simple social media – doing the job.

Karen Leland
24 June 2011 #

David;

Thanks for your comment. It’s funny because as basic as these seem, I can’t tell you how many small businesses come to me asking for social media consulting and when I ask them about these they are not doing them! I think you comment about complex strategies and ROI is right on the mark. Sounds like a good idea for a post :-)

Mark Lafontaine
28 June 2011 #

A $250,000 sale? Seriously? Who?

Juan
30 June 2011 #

In my opinion keywords are over-rated when it comes to new world SEO or social media in general.

Karen Leland
1 July 2011 #

Mark;

The world of Keywords is changing as you said, but still has some value as part of the overall picture. Still, I think top quality, useful content is always the best bet. Thanks for weighing in.

Karen Leland
1 July 2011 #

Juan;

I said Mark, but I meant you! Sorry, mornings grrrr.

Karen Leland
1 July 2011 #

Mark;

I don’t think I am at liberty to share the company name, but I can tell you it was a US company in the telecommunications industry. Hope that helps. That was just one example. In my experience that door swings both ways. I’ve seen clients lose quarter of a million dollar deals over poor handling of social media and client communications and I’ve seen them close even larger ones by being smart about how they respond. It’s not the whole deal, but it can have an impact.

Shaun
7 July 2011 #

I love your writing style Karen. I follow your blog religiously, although I find this post not to be your best… I would like to see a follow up to this post, something more ‘advanced’.

Socksie
10 July 2011 #

This is helpful to answer some social media question I had (I’m such a newbie) thanks Xero team. P.S. great product you have here.

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