How the Small Retailer Can Use Social Media

Using Social Media for the Small RetailerAs a social media coach, it always baffles me when I hear the small business owner question how and why they need a social media strategy.  And I do hear it a lot.  Especially from retail owners.  As I was getting ready today, I picked up a bottle of Sephora lotion.  Holding it in my had, I looked at the name Happy Birthday Beautiful Vanilla Birthday Cake Lotion.  As I stared at the bottle, it hit me.  Sephora had it right.

The reason I had the body lotion was because my birthday is next week and I received my yearly, happy birthday e-mail from Sephora letting me know that I could come in and pick up my free birthday gift (the lotion).   I’m always excited to get a free (no purchase necessary) gift so this past weekend I braved the Christmas crowds, went down to the mall and walked into Sephora.  I’m not sure if you have ever been to Sephora but (for me, anyway) it’s impossible to walk in without taking way too much time to look at tall the new beauty products, creams, lotions, nail polishes and stuff.  So, before I went to the register to get my free (no purchase necessary) gift, I had a look around.  Needless to say I left the store with my free birthday gift, along with a big bag of other (not so free) goodies.  I had done well. But so had Sephora.

Retail use of social mediaThe Gap has it right, too.  I get weekly e-mail coupons from them ranging from 15-60% off products storewide. I use these coupons religiously when I shop. By incorporating social media as part of their marketing strategies, these large retail owners have made sure, through accumulating large e-mail lists and offering low and no cost incentives to those who frequent their store, that they are always on their customers minds.

But how, as a small business owner, can you compete with these retail giants? One of the benefits of creating and maintaining an effective social media strategy is that, with a bit of hard work and perseverance, it doesn’t need to cost a lot.  Whenever I go downtown, I make a stop at my favorite ice cream shop.  By using Foursquare to check in, I get 10% of my order.  By liking the Facebook page of an independent gas station in my area, I receive updates of when the gas is going to be offered at a lower price. I can print out online coupons from a pretty good (not the best – but the best offers no incentives) Chinese restaurant that range from 5-15% of my order.  QR codes can go a long way in getting your online and offline marketing strategies in synch. These are all concrete ways that the local small business can use social media to reach, engage, and capture potential customers.  Using tools like Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter and Yelp can increase your visibility both online and offline.  It seems silly NOT to use social media.

Now I’m not going to lie to you. Using social media, until you can find your footing, is time consuming and a bit scary.  Most business owners don’t really know where to start or think that if they put up a Facebook page, thousands of Fans will flock to their page and their business will increase overnight.  This will probably not happen.  Just having a Twitter account but not having anyone to tweet regularly and effectively will likely not benefit your business at all. However, with a well thought our strategy with a clear goal of why you want to be online, will definitely help propel your business in the right direction.

So today, as I use my free Happy Birthday Beautiful Birthday Lotion from Sephora, I am reassured again of the power of social media.  The lotion, to me, is proof of how well it can work.

Four Popular Content Curation Tools

content curation

content is king

As you may have read in past blogs, I’m part of an online community and resource for those wanting to use social media as a marketing tool.  The Dialing 8 project uses live Q & A, private forums, online video conferencing and one-one-coaching to help small business understand the nuances of social media. Members are always encouraged to ask any and all questions.   This week, one member asked:

 Has anyone ever tried this or seen if this is effective? I retweeted an article on Twitter and a guy put it in his “enewspaper” with credit given to me. http://paper.li/

While I believe his question was answered, I thought it worthwhile to explain Paper.li (and other curation tools) and how they can increase your social media presence.

Now we have all heard the saying that Content is King but with so much content out there, how do we make sense of it all.  In comes some effective and easy to use tools that help everyone make sense of the constant stream of information flowing out of the Internet.  While there are many curation tools out there designed to increase your visibility, generate followers and reach, I think these four are pretty effective, simple to use and a good way of broadening your reach.

  • Paper.li: Paper.li is a content curation service and micro publishing platform that enables you to become Editor-in-Chief of your own news site and publish newspapers based on topics of interest to you. Anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account can login and create a paper easily with your own content streams based on interest. You create these streams based on the Hashtags, keywords and users you want. Paper.li can be scheduled to tweet automatically and it will list those whose content was used, alerting them in the form of a mention. It’s a great way to gain new followers as it alerts others to your stream
  • Scoop.it: Scoop.it allows its users to create an information resource on any topic they like. It gives people a quick and easy way to curate content. You set up a Scoop.it page and begin gathering online resources, including ones suggested by the site. You can “scoop” or ignore articles, add pages found on the web and Scoop.it has a feature to invite others to share their content. Scoop.it makes it easier for users to show their expertise and interest in a subject and share it with others.
  • Twylah: Twylah is sort of like Paper.li but with your own tweets). Twylah examines your live Twitter stream and selects up to 20 topics that you tweet about the most. Twylah then selects which tweets will be published on your branded pages based on the frequency and recency of your tweets. Twylah is based on subject, so the more you tweet about one subject, the more likely it is to turn up at the top of your branded page. All Twylah pages within your profile include a Twitter bio, Facebook Like button and a tweet button for easy sharing.
  • Storify: Storify allows you to easily search, find specific content, drag and drop individual stories and create your own selection of content.  You can turn what people post on social media into compelling stories. You can collect photos, video, tweets and more to publish them in one spot and the stories can be embedded anywhere. Storify, they say, gives users a way to help their audience make sense of the stream of information flowing out of social networks.

Content curation is a response to the desire to become an expert on a specific topic of interest. Content curation can help people and businesses that want to either gain awareness on what’s happening in a specific an area or seek to become recognized knowledge experts for a specific topic, grow their presence and reach.  It takes a bit of work to set up profile, set parameters and start publishing but the time is well worth it.

How To Create An Online Inventory By Blogging

bloggingI was on a Google+ Hangout with some friends and colleagues this morning as part of the Dialing 8 project and the discussion turned to the necessity of blogging. Why did we need to blog? Who was going to read what we wrote and how would that help generate business? This is a question I think about a lot. Blogging is hard for many people. It’s time consuming, frustrating and a little nerve-wracking knowing that people are going to read what you write. And nerve-wracking to think that they’re NOT going to read what you write.

In talking about why blogging is so important to growing your audience and converting prospects to actual customers, it’s important to understand that, simply speaking, blogging is content marketing. Content Marketing, in the words of my friend Mike Sansone, is our online inventory. Without any online inventory, we will not be found. It’s as simple as that. Each blog post, each podcast, each video has its own unique web page. The more web pages with our names on them that are out there, the easier we will be to find (or for Google to help us be found).

When thinking about how to blog, or how to create content, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Basically, effective content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects. Research shows that content drives the Internet, and consumers are looking for information, rather than sales pitches. If you deliver material that enlightens, solves problems, informs and entertains your audience, you make them more intelligent.

But how do you create a business blog that people will want to read? How do you learn to write in a voice that people will listen to? The best blogging advice is to write the way you want to read. Create interesting relevant content in an authentic voice. Even in a business blog it’s okay to show people that you are human. Business blogs don’t need to be anonymous and impersonal. Write material that will engage your audience and elicit comments. Stop worrying whether people will read what you write. It’s unlikely that people will read your blog, at first, anyway. Consider the first two months a practice run until you start being found. Most importantly, be consistent. Develop a schedule that you can live with and stick to it. It’s better to be at the party and stand in the corner than not to show up at all.

Blogging is the core factor in developing a content marketing strategy designed to engage your audience and grow your network. While it isn’t easy to take that first step to start blogging, if you remember to be consistent, be authentic, add value and know your audience, it will undoubtedly help you develop a business blog that will create awareness over time and achieve value for your business.