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  • Small-business owners should analyze their social media prowess

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    It's never a bad time for small-business owners to reevaluate where they stand when it comes to their online marketing campaign. Three of the best ways to attract prospective consumers through the Web include social media, blogging and email marketing campaigns.

    "If your small business isn't using social media, it's time to start," Mike Volpe, CMO of inbound marketing firm HubSpot, told CIO [1]. "Social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing or direct mail."

    But where is a good place to start?

    Volpe said it's important to pick the one social media platform that customers and other industry leaders use the most. So do a little research. Find out if a particular industry is hot for Twitter, Facebook or Instagram and then start building a social media presence.

    "Once you've set up an account, start connecting, sharing your original content, joining discussions and engaging with the community," Volpe said. "Keep your social efforts frequent, but above all, relevant and helpful to your audience."

    Once a business has established a presence on one social media platform, it can start building up its presence on other platforms and then cross promote one another.

    Crafting strong content
    According to USA Today, the single biggest ingredient to any type of social media marketing success comes from creating strong content that hits home with friends and followers [2].

    When a business creates strong content that is well-liked by its followers, the more likely the post will be shared or retweeted, which greatly increases the number of eyes that see the post. In turn, this will help a company boost its awareness.

    "Americans spend one out of every seven minutes on social media, providing a huge opportunity for small business owners to build a relationship with fans by sharing relevant content and interacting by commenting and liking fans' comments," Tori Hoffman, social media strategist at Potratz, told CIO."The more a user interacts with a page, the more likely their friends are to see it, increasing awareness."

    USA Today gave a few tips for those creating new posts: use the active voice, be brief, ask questions, post links and encourage conversation.

    It's important for businesses to respond to questions from consumers on social media, because potential clients might be examining the social media channel and be more inclined to ask questions or visit a store in person if they see prompt responses and friendly banter.

    And don't give up on posting. If posts aren't garnering much attention in the way of likes or shares, providing updates, new products or discounts will keep customers interested, according to USA Today.

    Good content and promotion investments
    Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick recently co-write "The Art of Social Media," which takes a look at how people create content to engage audiences through digital storytelling platforms [3].

    The authors maintain that strong content can be divided into four different parts: news or basic information; analysis of the news; a service or assistance; and entertainment.

    Kawasaki told the Financial Post that a good rule of thumb is providing enough value to readers or followers that they aren't bothered with a sporadic promotion or commercial pitch.

    Don't forget about email marketing
    If a company is already established on social media and would like to improve it's email marketing campaign, Ron Cates, digital marketing director of Constant Contact, told CIO email marketing provides a way to reach a lot of different eyes.

    Cates said small-business owners should try to integrate their email campaigns with their social media channels to reach the greatest number of people.

    "If you're running a Facebook contest, increase the number of people participating by notifying your email subscriber list of engaged customers," Cates said. "If you're running a time-limited deal or special offer, send a reminder via email."

    [1]. 8 Expert Online Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

    [2]. Strategies: 5 keys to holiday social media success

    [3]. Guy Kawasaki's 7 tips for better social media storytelling



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