Don't listen to the songs or pay attention to the sassy, meme-y images floating around Facebook; when it comes to chatting people up with your business's social media accounts, it's definitely not all about you.
A person who follows your business's blog or Facebook account understands that he's opening the door to receiving the occasional pitch, but nobody enjoys being banged over the head with advertising day in and day out. When someone follows your business, it's because they want to engage your business, not be spammed by it. What's social about shoving the equivalent of a billboard in front of someone's face every half hour on Twitter?
So what is a traditional social media presence good for? Successful social media communication efforts are often based around building your business's brand by creating and nurturing a relationship with your customers. If you want your soft pitches to convert—hard pitches are a hard sell on social networks—you'll need to earn your followers' trust, first.
Managing your company’s social media presence is becoming an increasingly complex task. Small-business owners who used to rely on Twitter to post updates to LinkedIn, for instance, no longer have that option.
Fortunately, other tools allow you to manage your business’s assorted social media accounts from a single dashboard. We've selected the top five that are specifically geared toward small business. To make our list, each tool had to meet several criteria.
Affordability: The tool is either free or priced low enough to meet the budget of a one- or two-person business.
Scalability: The tool grows with your company's needs, even if you start with just one or two accounts.
Support for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter: If a social media management tool doesn’t post to all three networks, it’s dead to most small businesses.
Update posting assistance: The tool allows you to schedule posts in advance.
Sprout Social's major advantages over other social media management tools lie in its user interface and in its detailed but easy-to-understand reports. I also like its ability to assign tasks to team members, as well as its "Smart Inbox," which collects all your social media messages (Twitter mentions and direct messages, Facebook mentions and messages, and LinkedIn messages) in an organized inbox that you can manage from one dashboard.
Sprout's feedback is also extremely useful. After you set up your account, it pulls together your follower demographics within 24 hours, and it tells you what you could be doing better. As an analytics junkie, I find this feature to be my favorite part of Sprout Social by far, but other users will appreciate how easy to navigate the Sprout tool is. Sprout's lack of a tie-in with email marketing is notable, especially if you've tried out VerticalResponse's tool.
Social media professionals have no doubt heard about Yammer, the corporate-friendly social media darling that Microsoft snapped up in June for a cool $1.2 billion in cash. But do you really know what Yammer does, or more importantly, what Yammer promises it can do for your business?
The phrase "Facebook for business" was tossed around when the company was acquired; but in reality, Yammer does much more than Mark Zuckerberg's baby. Here's an overview of what everyone is Yammer-ing about.
The effectiveness of Facebook's mobile ads may get all the headlines, but once you've convinced a potential client to Like your Page and engage with your company, it's up to you to keep them engaged and coming back for more. Currently, interacting with your followers requires more of a shotgun approach. Basic options for filtering posts by your fans' language and location filtering options are in place, but for the most part, posts go out to your followers indiscriminately.
That will change soon, however. According to TechCrunch, Facebook is rolling out a bevy of new targeting options that will allow Pages to send posts to the News Feeds of specific followers based on very granular profile criteria, including the fan's age, relationship status, interests, gender, workplace, education level, and schools attended.
Imagine the possibilities: Facebook Pages will soon be able to send laser-targeted messages—and special laser-targeted promotions, if so inclined—to unattached followers on Valentine's Day, or to local University of Alabama alumni in anticipation of another Iron Bowl matchup against Auburn. (Go Tide!)
The answers to one of Neilsen's ongoing surveys of mobile shoppers in the US are very helpful to small businesses: Shoppers feel most secure making purchases at brick-and-mortar stores, and very insecure about buying products on their smartphone. But they much prefer the convenience of online shopping over shopping at a retail store. How can you use this data to help your business?
Even in 2012, only 22 percent of respondents stated that they felt that online shopping was the safest, even though there is just as much likelihood that your credit or debit card can be used for fraudulent purposes at a retail location as there is of your data being hacked or stolen by an online fraudster. The three times I personally have been a victim of fraud, each incident happened at either a retail store or a gas station and involved my debit card being copied.
Media reports of retail giants being hacked don't make consumers feel any more secure, but there's nothing you can do about that. You can look at security certificates for your website that assure the customer that you are doing everything you can to protect their data. McAfee's Web Security Seal is one of the more recognizable and trusted brand names, but there are many more out there. McAfee will ensure that your protocols meet the rules for PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance for credit-card acceptance, and it will continuously scan your website for vulnerabilities.
Robert Strohmeyer is a veteran journalist and entrepreneur who has been writing about business and technology since the tech boom of the mid-1990s. More by Robert Strohmeyer
Making the leap into social business isn't easy for any organization. So we like to ask our colleagues in the field for their insights from time to time. This week, we pose five tough questions to Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim, co-authors of Social Business By Design.
1. Concepts in social media are constantly evolving, and it's often difficult for business leaders to get their heads around social tools in the workplace. What do you mean when you use the phrase "Social Business"?
Social business is the intentional use of social media to drive meaningful, strategic business outcomes. Social media isn't a technology fad or a means to free online marketing impressions -- it can be used for significant, sustainable, transformative value creation. By intentionally designing new social business models with customers, employees, and value chain partners, any forward-thinking organization can direct and guide social business efforts to drive high value, high scale, cost effective business outcomes.
As giant retailers such as Gamestop, JC Penney, and Nordstrom opened--and quickly shuttered--Facebook storefronts over the past six months, many analysts declared Facebook’s e-commerce effort to be a failure. People come to Facebook to catch up with family and friends, they reasoned, not to shop for goods and services.
But recently published statistics from e-commerce software developer Ecwid indicate that either those analysts’ conclusions were premature, or Facebook commerce is merely better suited to smaller businesses right now. Among its more than 35,000 clients that run both stand-alone online stores and Facebook storefronts, Ecwid reports that nearly 18 percent of those clients’ Q1 2012 revenues were generated by their Facebook stores. Meanwhile, Wishpond, another company focused on helping retailers build Facebook storefronts, recently reported an uptick in interest in its products following the debut of the Facebook Timeline profile earlier this year. If Gamestop, JC Penney, and Nordstrom had held on for just a few more months, would they also have seen an increase in their Facebook store sales?
Building a Facebook storefront is relatively inexpensive--or even free, if you already have a fan page and a PayPal account--so small businesses with the patience to stick it out for a few months might wish to give it a shot. Here’s a look at some of the related products and services on the market, most of which promise seamless integration between your online store, your inventory-management software, and your Facebook page.