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Making Facebook Work for Small Business

MerchantCircle is reporting that 70 percent of small businesses surveyed are now saying that they are jumping on the Facebook bandwagon in 2011. This is compared to 50% for 2010. That puts Google (66%) behind as an online marketing channel for the first time in this annual survey.

The fact is that Facebook (once you familiarize yourself with it) is cheap and easy to use. Although with the recent changes taking place there have been cries of despair with people begging Facebook to bring back some old features. (Chronological wall posting is a big one).

So how do you make this work if you are challenged with time and budget as all small businesses are?

First, decide how you want to use it. Don’t just get into it without thinking about what you want out of it. This is way way easier said than done. You actually have to stop and think. Just ask yourself what the best possible outcome could be and work from there.

Second, decide if you have the kind of employees or support system to make it happen and build some momentum. You can get started by attracting friends to your page but the problem with that is they are not your customers. If you have a decent email list you can put a link to Facebook on every email you send and ask for a Like. This may also be the time to consider Twitter and a blog. Twitter is a different animal for customer acquisition and you can leverage it to push those people onto your Facebook Page. The blog matters because it gives you another outpost for content and allows you to go beyond short messaging. Anything that can help your customers in terms of informing, inspiring and entertaining is what you are after. You have to think like a media company. That is what we all are now.

What About Facebook Ads?

We know for a fact that they work very well for the right business. If you are in a business that is driven by relationships, like the jewelry business (think weddings, valentines day, anniversaries), we know it works. Because you can drill down into a target group within your buying radius that is either engaged or married, you can advertise to them very effectively. We have seen jewelry stores generating on average 80-100 qualified leads per month using Facebook ads. And sales are coming with those leads.

Managing a Facebook ad campaign is simple, affordable and flexible. You can turn the ad on and off at any time and set a daily budget.   Creating an ad is easy too.  Although it does require some creativity and some things work better than others.  If you have the right business you can make it work.  If you need help with Facebook or would like more information on how you can leverage social media to build your business click here.

It’s a Facebook Amazon Google Apple World

…and we all just live in it.  The sooner small business owners accept this the better.  Block out every other brand except those four in the picture above.  It’s the fastest way to grasp what is happening. You must adapt or it’s going to be a constant struggle.

Your Competitive Advantage

Know that you have something to offer that your competition doesn’t.  Even if that competition is Amazon.  Namely, that you are local and live and probably have a huge amount of goodwill built up in your community.  If you can leverage that on Facebook and Twitter and start building up your online community you are going to save money on advertising costs and eventually increase sales.

Commit Like a Spartan

But you have to be committed to getting up to speed in the new and changing world of online marketing.  You can not just put a toe in the water.  Every day we see small business owners abandoning their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, sending the message that a) they did not see an immediate benefit  b) could not devote the resources to maintaining a presence or c) did not know how to be effective at engaging customers online.

For whatever reason, it’s a mistake not to make this transition.   The world is moving into a mobile social universe and you need to move with it.  Check out Digital Nation, a documentary on Frontline (PBS) that came out this week.  Read the latest statistics on email usage for the population under 20 (down last year 56%!).  Kids don’t use the phone to talk any more and they don’t use email.  You need to be where they are.

Facebook or Google May Buy Twitter

The big rumor yesterday was that both Facebook and Google were in talks to acquire Twitter. Twitter is being valued somewhere in the range of $8 to $10 billion.  Twitter, like YouTube and others is just going to become part of the Google stable of companies or Facebook is going to grab it.  So one of those Big 4 we mentioned in the title just got that much more powerful.

What Can You Do Today?

Take online very very seriously.  Don’t just hand your website off to your nephew and let the intern manage your Facebook Page and determine your social media strategy.  Drop the notion that you can just throw anything up online and that a long as you are there, that is all that matters.  We call that shovelware.  And the term has been around for 10 years.  This is not a magazine online or a book or a press release.  It is a game of engagement and community building and becoming a master of media and creating engaging content.  Every company is a media company now.  It’s become a much tougher game.  But you can win.  Just accept the world as it is and get moving.

Mashable Article – Facebook Ads 5X Better Than Banner Ads

Mashable cited a study today by Webtrends that confirms what we already know.  That Facebook ads (if done right, and for a small business that is a big IF) outperform banner ads by a factor of 5.  It’s important because there has been a massive backlash on Facebook ad effectiveness because the click through rates can, at times, be abysmally low.  But you have to create a great ad and target correctly and have a proper landing page to make it all work.

Alexa Rankings and Your Small Business Website

AlexaIf you are going to invest the time and money into building a decent website for your small business, then it makes sense to monitor its performance.

Even if the tools you use are not perfect.

Alexa is Amazon’s web site traffic ranking tool and while it is debatable how truly useful its insights are, people pay attention to it.

Alexa ranks the traffic of a website and is based on three months of historical data collected from users of the Alexa Toolbar.  So unless a visitor to your site has the Alexa Toolbar downloaded, they will not count in your ranking.  And who tends to have the toolbar? Internet marketers mostly and webmasters.  Techies don’t really care for it as they see it as a kind of spying and a bit outdated.

You can also check out Compete and Quantcast as alternatives.  Compete gets positive reviews while Quantcast attempts to combine various data sources to get at their rankings which includes demographic information.

At the end of the day you can’t go wrong just using Google Analytics.

But while you can see what your competition is doing with the others, Google Analytics is for your eyes only.

What I find is that Google Analytics works great for most small business websites and if you combine that with the Google Chrome SEO toolbar, you’ll be able to see how well your competition is doing too.

Should You Climb on the Groupon Bandwagon?

GrouponThe success of Groupon is staggering.  40 million subscribers in 150 cities around the world.  From startup in 2008 to the recent offer price of $6 billion by Google.  It’s no wonder that Forbes declared Groupon as the fastest growing company ever.

The PR message they push is that they care deeply about two things:

a) giving people a new reason to rediscover or be introduced to interesting local vendors

b) helping small businesses

In fact, if you caught the ever eccentric, never-a-dull-moment Andrew Mason (Groupon CEO) on Charlie Rose recently, he flat out stated the Groupon was “a savior for small business”.

This is chutzpah and quite likely a sort of unspoken mission statement for the 3,000 Groupon employees, many of whom are cutting deals with local small businesses every day.

But let’s be honest.  You don’t get to $500 million in revenue in two years without a pretty healthy focus on making yourself a truckload of money.

In fact, one of Groupon’s founders Eric Lefkofsky, states on his blog that “for most people who are interested in business or attend business school, the primary motivation is simple – to get rich.”

And even though Groupon is “get rich quick” for it’s founders, they sort of stumbled onto the “quick” part and it’s not a fad.

Groupon is not going away.

So what is a small business to do?

First you’ll have to get in line.  Some cities have a six month waiting list.

Then, once you get over the intoxication of the new car smell, just know that you are dealing with some pretty savvy characters and it’s caveat emptor all the way.

Results for small business have been mixed.  Entrepreneur has an article about that here.

A general rule of thumb seems to be that if you have a service business you are more likely to end up on the net positive side of the ledger than if you have a product-based business.

This is because you split revenue 50/50 with Groupon.  And because Groupon encourages offers that are at least 50% off.  And we all know that margins are bigger in service businesses.

Groupon also runs the transaction so you can guess who gets paid first. So they have no receivables and they get to manage the float which brings them more revenue.

Groupon is smart and backed by smart money.  There is nothing else out there right now that has the potential to turn on a firehose of customers like they can. You just need to negotiate yourself a good deal if you decide to use their service.

PS: Another great local service that is similar but has a philanthropic bent is DealGooder.  We wrote about them recently.

DIY Themes on Small Business Website Best Practices

Thesis

This blog runs on the WordPress platform with the incredible, amazing, SEO blazing Thesis theme.

And that means that we subscribe to their blog over at DIY Themes.

And today they posted a great article on small business website best practices.

It was written by Chris Johnson who runs Flat Rate Biz, a company that “specializes in low-cost, highly effective websites that include coaching, support and training.”

Chris Johnson of Flat Rate Biz

We thought we would share it with you because it is so spot on in terms of what small businesses should really be doing online.

You can read it here.