Why your business needs an internal blog

Amid so many tweets, status updates, and SMS messages, it can be easy to lose sight that "social" doesn't necessarily mean "brief," especially when it comes to internal communications. It's hard to talk about financing, customer relations, or a complex manufacturing process in 140 characters, after all.

Why your business needs an internal blog
How can you encourage employees to share their knowledge and expertise throughout the organization in a way that invites collaboration yet doesn't disrupt the workflow? (I'm giving you the hairy eyeball, memos and emails.) One answer: An internal blog.

It’s not necessarily something your customers and competitors will see—and a public-facing blog is a different beast entirely. Given their nature, internal blogs aren't a great tool for managing the finer details of a project. Yet an internal blog, safe and sound on your company Intranet or behind password protection on a third-party service, lets employees bounce ideas around and disseminate their experiences rapidly and informally.

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'Lazy' Employees Can Fix Your Social Woes, Says Yammer CTO

If your organization's social media initiatives have fizzled more than fostered debate, don't despair: yours isn't the only one. Social media has taken the mainstream by storm, but its adoption in the business world has been more uneven. Why is the road to better internal discussion often so rocky?

Adam Pisoni, Yammer CTO
Adam Pisoni, Yammer CTO
Yammer is a freemium enterprise social networking tool with 5 million users across 200,000 companies, and a $1.2 billion sale to Microsoft under its belt. Company co-founder and CTO Adam Pisoni says that all-too-frequent communication issues stem from the predictable, hierarchical mindset found in many businesses. The solution lies in listening to "lazy" employees, he says--and applying "bring your own device" (BYOD) principles to software as well as hardware.

"I was speaking to a very senior IT leader at a large Fortune 500 company, and she was telling me that they had spent a lot of money on a content management system for their employees," Pisoni told me in a telephone interview. "They had this large, complex, difficult to use CMS, and for some reason, her employees were 'too lazy' to use it, and instead they were bringing in their own tools.

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Location-Based Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

Location-based Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses
Location, location, location: it's vital in property sales (and late-night comedy monologues). And if you play your cards right, location-based social media services can help you spread awareness of your business and drive customers to your door.

The check-in feature at Facebook exemplifies location-based social media use at its simplest. When you check in on Facebook, you're just telling your Facebook Friends "Here I am!" Google+ and Yelp up the ante by encouraging users to leave reviews.

Other social networks are completely built around location-based services. They turn the process of checking in at various locations into a real-world game, complete with points, achievement badges, leaderboards, and the ability to win rewards and discounts at participating locations.

Location-Based Social Marketing Campaign Ideas

Foursquare's Explore feature shows all nearby locations that are eligible for a check-in.
Here are some marketing tactics you might use to attract social-network-connected customers to your business:

  • Give customers who simply check-in a small discount or a small reward—say, 5 to 10 percent off the regular price of a particular item. Consider offering a slightly larger reward to customers who leave a recommendation for your business on the network. Foursquare, Google+, Scvngr, and Yelp all encourage users to leave reviews after checking in at a location.
  • Offer bigger discounts when a large group of people checks in together. For example, you could take 15 percent off the restaurant tab when a group of five or more check in on a social network, or 1 percent off the bill for every person in a group of ten or more. You could also give everyone in the group a free nonalcoholic drink.
  • Offer specials for nearby wanderers. Some location-based social networks, such as Foursquare, let you create specials that appear only when someone checks in at a location nearby. You'll need to give something away—typically a discount or a buy-one/get-one-free deal—to entice foot traffic, but the offer could spark sales that you might have otherwise missed.
  • Create Scvngr challenges designed to stimulate sales. This works best for entertainment venues and restaurants, but it works for all types of organizations. If you're a restaurant owner with a big burger challenge, for example, you could issue a challenge on a social network and award discounts to diners who eat the entire meal in one sitting. Scvngr also lets you reward people who earn a certain number of points by doing specific things at a location. Get creative!
  • Not every reward needs to revolve around money. Rather than offering a discount, you could reserve choice parking spaces or prime tables for users who check in. Other possibilities include letting them skip lines, sample new products, or order from a special "check-in only" menu.
  • Promote your check-in specials through more-mainstream social media channels, such as Twitter and Facebook, to generate more awareness.
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When it Comes to Social Networks, It's Not All About You

When it Comes to Social Networks, It's Not All About You
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?

Ben & Jerry's Twitter account shares behind-the-scenes insights into making ice cream.
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.

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The Top 5 Social Media Management Tools for Small Business

The Top 5 Social Media Management Tools for Small Business
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

Sprout Social offers comprehensive reports and an easy-to-use interface.
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.

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What the Heck Is Yammer?

What is Heck is Yammer?
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.

A Social Network for Your Business

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Facebook Introduces Advanced Post Targeting Abilities For Business Pages

Facebook Introduces Advanced Post Targeting Abilities For Business Pages
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.

You'll soon be able to send messages to specific groups of your Facebook fans.
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!)

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