Your business is feeling the crunch this year — and your marketing budget is dwindling as a result. We’ve asked some of the most experienced public relations professionals to share their secrets on how to market a company on a small budget. Here are some of the best ways to use social media and word-of-mouth marketing to gain a competitive advantage in this tough economy.
Form relationships with other local businesses that cater to your customers. Ask them to offer a discount to their customers if they mention coming from their store when they purchase from you. Feel free to reciprocate.
Make a realistic list of the top five targets (news/media outlets, blogs, or social media) that you feel your business would benefit most from being mentioned or featured on. Research and get to know each of these targets and their influencers by reading their articles, following them on Twitter, watching their segments, etc. Use a relevant article or blog post of theirs to reach out to them to introduce yourself via the comments section or through email. Taking the time to understand their coverage area, as it relates to your business, can help you position yourself as an expert resource for their next piece.
The key to Twitter is thinking of it as a dinner date, rather than an opportunity to promote your product. A dinner date (or at least a good date) means a dialogue between two people, who share thoughts, ideas, and interests. Twitter is not a monologue or a place to simply post thoughts. Networking, engagement, and responses are required. While promoting your product or company is important, successful Tweeters do not simply post sales or information. Talk with your followers, engage them, and learn from them. Then, they’re more likely to take an interest in your brand. Make it a two way street and make it a great Twitter-date!
We have found that having multiple staff members “co-tweet” about our organization has increased our audience diversity on Twitter. Each person highlights different aspects of the museum. For example, a marketing professional might tweet factoids about an upcoming exhibition while a curator may add an artwork to Flickr and tweet about its meaning.
Use Twitter as a Social Media Newsroom. Twitter allows a brand to quickly release multimedia news or information about their company. To create more unified stories, I use a free-service called Pitchengine to create social media news releases that I upload via my/clients twitter account(s). Pitchengine allows me to track how many views my article has received.
One of the primary complaints about social media is that it's time intensive, however, there's really no need for that. By using tools such as TweetDeck, it's easy to take Twitter remarks that are appropriate for your Facebook and/or LinkedIn audiences and simultaneously post to those accounts as well, while omitting remarks that may not be a fit.
We use games. Currently we’re rolling out a Haiku contest for students and teachers. Our newest metaphor in use here at NTFB is that the number of hungry children in our 13-county, North Texas region would fill the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium two-and-a-half times. Using that, we’re engaging our contacts at local public and private schools to get teachers on board with the theme “Haikus for Hunger.” We are using that as our hash tag too (#haikusforhunger). We think it’s a fun way to open up the discussion of hunger in the community, teach kids a little something about poetry, and have fun. The numbers aren’t in yet, but meme games like these are always a ton of fun to play, no matter the age.
My advice for marketing strategies: use it all, use it consistently, and use it properly. Don't just join Twitter or Facebook and only post about your products. Be a part of the online communities and really participate. Reply, comment, and give back...don't just take. Also, it’s clear all you're doing is marketing when you join a site and only post your business info, and no profile photo as well as not a single blog written or comment given — this is the fastest way to be forgotten or bypassed by visitors. Fill out profiles completely, and post up some helpful blog posts.
Become a voice in your area of expertise, and utilize the comment posting sections of blogs and online publications. These comment boxes can allow you to link directly to your web site and boost traffic. Follow those writers who cover you space and offer opinion, personal experience, and complementary comments relative to their stories. Be transparent with who you are, put your name/title/business/website after your comment which will help get you and your business name out there. (However, it’s very important that you do not do a straight product or services pitch, as these types of comments will often be removed by moderators as being too marketing-oriented.)
Small businesses have an advantage over big businesses: a unique voice. That voice is the result of a tight-knit culture and typically one of a visionary leader who has an inherit brand strategy because her or she is the brand. To me, that's attractive. I think that small businesses should capitalize on who they are and what makes them special by letting the dreamers and do-ers share what’s going on behind the scenes.
One huge marketing tactic that attains a lot of followers on Twitter or fans on Facebook, are giveaways. Whether it’s for a free cupcake, free web-hosting for a year, free Mac book (or whatever product/service your company provides), creating a contest where fans/followers must tweet about your company in order for a chance to win something free not only expands your brand awareness via hundreds-thousands of people’s Twitter or Facebook accounts to their fans/followers, but it also keeps these followers listening to what you have to say moving forward.
Become familiar with Google Place Pages for local businesses. Google now provides in-depth information when available for local businesses and places, offering information from customer reviews, to menus and selection notes, to basic information like store hours and an image of the location. You can visit the local business center page to make sure your business is represented with up-to-date information and to receive insights for how local users are finding your business’ listing. Other sites like Yellowpages.com and Superpages.com allow businesses to post free listings under industry headings that are searchable to consumers. You can also promote your listings on these free sites through your social media tools.
Be a name dropper — find out the most INFLUENTIAL influencer in your arena and impress them with your brand. Once you've won them over, shout it from the Twitter rooftops — employ Twitter lists and tweet like mad. It takes a human machine, but the branding will put you over the top.
Internet users are already talking about your product, service or industry with their social networks on Twitter. An active role in this conversation positions your company as an expert on the topic — whether you’re selling vacuums or writing services. Twitter allows small business and consumer to connect and interact directly. Use www.search.twitter.com to find conversations about your industry or product using key words — then answer the questions your consumers have! Resolve the issues! Retweet the glowing reviews! All of this adds up to you participating in the social conversation.
Use our free news optimizing toolbar to help you to make your content more visible and get it found in search engines and social sites. It has instructions and tools you can use to improve your online visibility. http://www.press-feed.com/toolbar.
Social media tools are created for gregariouscommunity-building, and nobody likes the self-infatuated person at the bar who cannot stop talking about her/himself. Social media users should have to affirm a Hippocratic cyber-oath; first and foremost listen and understand the needs and pulse of the community, and only then start to think about how you can be of use to fellow members, and how they can be helpful to you. (And in case there is any confusion, turning your Twitter feed into an RSS feed of your news releases violates "do no harm.")
Create a list of staff, clients, client-related people, and journalists on Twitter. This helps with generating #Follow Fridays and keeping up to speed on client efforts. Send personalized direct messages to people when they follow you. It’s rare, and it helps you stand out from the crowd. We currently send an automated DM to all followers, but I follow up with a personalized message later.
Create brand ambassadors by hosting free events and providing special coupons and offers especially for your Facebook fans or the readers of your blog. This a fun way to show customer appreciation and show customers the value for them to interact with your brand online. When a customer posts positive comments to your Facebook page, blog or other social networking site, send them a coupon, discount, or even something as simple as a branded tchotchke. Consumers like to know that companies are listening to them and they love to be acknowledged for it.
One of the items that we find missing from most small business marketing plans is analytics. A free tool for tracking site traffic isGoogle Analytics. Before any business can access a guerrilla marketing tactic they need to understand their baseline to gauge whether or not the effort is working. Analytics is free and easy - there is a great tutorial on the Google site and a bunch of YouTube "how to" videos that can help a small business owner understand how to use it.
You can gain great value from volunteering your small business for a University class as a “working-study.”
Always remember to engage your retail location customers in the conversation also on Twitter by displaying your twitter account proudly in your location — as simple as “Follow us on Twitter” and your Twitter handle printed in a piece of paper will do the trick. Same goes for online businesses; remember to make your Twitter account visible for your customers.
A twitter handle or screen name is one of the most important aspects and something that is in short supply. Get yours now!
Post local events on MeetUp.com. If your business is hosting an event or summit, post the information publicly on MeetUp, where users can browse for local meet-ups in a number of categories, both formal and just-for-fun.
Anything you share on Twitter must be authentic and should sound like your voice as opposed to and advertisement. The best Tweets have a call to action, or a link that includes an interesting Twitpic (photo), website (content). The objective is to have engaging conversations, not to drive more followers. Followers follow interesting dialogs.
Do not follow more people than are following you on Twitter. Have a bio that is informational but shows personality.
We use Twitter to allow “backstage access” and a behind-the-scenes view to show, rather than tell, our followers and prospective clients what it is that we do so well and how it is that we put it all together for our branding efforts. This includes everything from photo shoots and runway shows, to exclusive interviews with our designers, editors, and publishers. We take it one step further by re-tweeting interesting articles as they relate to our industries, which in itself gives great tips to our readers, and also positions us as experts in our concentrations; however, we very rarely use our Twitter feed to directly promote our clients. They each have their own Twitter accounts (created and managed by us) which we use to shout each other out from time to time, and otherwise operate independently of each other.
I manage a host of profiles, so I can more accurately and effectively target audiences based on interest or point of initial contact. I syndicate my primary profiles to Facebook and my professional profile to LinkedIn, to extend the reach and value of my tweets. I utilize HootSuite, TweetDeck, TweetBeep and Ping.FM to streamline research, monitoring and tracking. From Twitter, I’ve been able to generate prospective clients, partnerships, volunteers, sponsors and speaking engagements.
Think before you post — only post what you would say at a cocktail party in front of a room of strangers. Ask yourself before posting, is this relevant? Sell thought leadership, not services or products.
Use words in your profile that will attract your ideal client to you. Treat each tweet received and given as if they’re love notes. Use Ping.fm to cross promote your tweets through all your other SMS platforms (Facebook, Brightkite, etc,) and have DMs sync to your Smartphone so that you'll be available to nurture your relationships and respond as soon as they need you.
Look out for opportunities to “trend” locally on Twitter. Twitter just launched an initial version of local trends, which will allow local brands the opportunity to run coupons through Twitter, or other campaigns that can drive discussion on Twitter and “trend” for that area.
One of the most unique ways that I’ve benefited from Twitter in recent months is by saving my clients money. I scheduled an editorial visit for one of my clients to host a lunch and to do a presentation at a popular national magazine. To cut the cost, I sent out a tweet to other professionals who represented a local restaurant that might be interested in co-sponsoring the lunch. I used several key hash tags, retweeted a few times, and within 2 business days, I received a bite from a family-owned Italian restaurant. They agreed to comp half the value of their catering for the opportunity. My client was thrilled that I was able to save them money and found a credible restaurant willing to deliver more than pizza, sodas and sandwiches.
We first started using Twitter early last year when we noticed that many of our users were posting unsolicited “Tweets” about LogMeIn. They would post things like “I love LogMeIn” or “LogMeIn saved my bacon today”. We knew we had to start engaging with our users, and the results have been great so far. Today we use the Twitter channel to really keep our users in the know by Tweeting exclusive product sales, answering product questions and sharing news as well as best practices and helpful tips for remote working.
Follow key reporters on Twitter to get a better sense of their personality and interests. Don’t be afraid to pitch reporters — as long as your pitch is timely and on topic. Ask questions and get real-time feedback. Share useful information (plus your own perspective/personality.) Be an active part of the dialogue.
Through Twitter, we realized that many of the conversations about us were complaints about customer service wait times or issues with the product. We began reaching out to these people and changed their negative tweets into positive product affirmations. Recently, we created a second Twitter account solely for customer service. This provides our users an alternative to waiting on the phone, especially when they have easy to answer questions. By using Twitter to interact with customers, we have inserted our brand into the conversation and help shape customer attitudes towards our company and products rather than just sitting by and observing the conversation surrounding our brand.
When monitoring a particular brand or client — Twitter’s search feature allows me to scan real-time feedback. Some innovative Twitter-supplemental services like Topsy have made the experience even more innovative.
We use Twitter tips to discuss government issues to which our 160,000 EAA members can react, such as the FAA requesting comments to an aviation rule change; Aviation community building, such as a link to EAA members doing something cool or some new innovation in the flying world; and to generally build excitement for our association and its activities and programs. Use Twitter to respond to issues that are important to your followers!
If you plan to distribute offers via Twitter and send out informational tweets, set up two accounts. And define what each account will be doing in the profile and through periodic tweets: One will only send offers and the other will provide category information, general "behind the scenes" info on your company, etc. You can use the second account, however, to drive traffic/interest to the offer account — but do it sparingly. Many people don't want relentless sales offers coming through. For the "offer" account, create offers that are specific just for the channel you are distributing them on. If you have a link back to a page, make sure the page addresses the offer immediately, don't make people search through your site for it. Make it special — only offer it to your Twitter followers, Facebook Fans, etc. This will increase conversions!
When targeting selected media or bloggers with a pitch letter or press release, be creative and find them on Twitter. Instead of a traditional letter or press release, create a social media news release/media advisory that gives a more vibrant perspective of your company’s story and personally address them on Twitter.
Look to “linkshare” with other local businesses. Work to build partnerships with other local businesses, who would agree to post a link to your site in exchange for promotion on your own.
I've secured business via Twitter. It's been an awesome tool in reaching out. Recently, we saw a tweet from probably the most followed pr person on Twitter, and she was looking for someone to help her with a new product launch. It was an industry in which we are well known for: restaurant/food/hospitality. I responded, she responded. We tweeted. We talked. She hired us! We are also getting business through Facebook. All of our social networking sites are networked so my tweets appear multiple places.
Test your messaging. Social media and online marketing is the PERFECT place to test your outreach plan to observe the impact. Online is measurable. Is it A, B or C that people respond to and is the response what you wanted? Before moving into a big PR or marketing push with a huge expense, test the waters in a free space.
Offer real value. I have hunted down and offered sources and links/articles for journalists even when it doesn’t immediately benefit my clients.
From our personal accounts, our employees retweet agency and client tweets and add further value — and personality — by offering reactions, personal opinions, anecdotes and humor.
The most important way for small business owners to market their products and services for free is to track, monitor, and engage in conversations about your product or area of expertise on Twitter. For example, if your business makes wedding cakes in Wisconsin, you can monitor tweets from brides, wedding planners and other vendors in that area. You can set up alerts for people who include the words "engaged" or "wedding planning" in their tweets, and@reply with a “congratulations!” This is most effective when you engage and are genuine with people, as opposed to sending a generic message marketing your product.
The easiest way to monitor for Tweets related to our business is by using TweetDeck to set up search terms based on your business. If your business has a Facebook page or account, you can also set that up as a column, so that you can see if anyone posts to your page. We’ve secured several sales leads based on Tweets we’ve seen from setting up various search terms. Someone once Tweeted that their network was infected with a virus and they needed help. We were able to look at the person’s profile, figure out who they were and get our appropriate sales person on it. TweetDeck is free, and there’s even an iPhone version
Keep your Twitter lists clean. I periodically use TwitCleaner to weed out feeds and MLMers in disguise, so that I know I have real people.
On using Twitter for the first time: Like exercise, walking your dog and drinking water, it takes time to add anything new to your already busy schedule. That’s why it’s important to make a concerted effort to tweet at least three times a day during the week. Add extra value to your tweets by using hashtags (a word preceded by a #). It’s a little bit like using a zip code because it directs your tweet to people who are interested in a particular topic.
Online marketing and social media is real — no frills. Take the budget from a direct mail piece or TV spot with the media and put it back in your pocket. Or maybe you didn’t have a budget to begin with — develop a plan and strategy (very important) and try going “au natural” with a flip cam video posted to You Tube, linking to Facebook, and then Tweet out the link. Then do it every week for 16 weeks and measure responses, traffic to the website, and whatever your actionable goal was to be accomplished.