Promoting your business, especially if it is a small business and yet to gain prominence, can be a costly affair with no guaranteed returns. But that is true only if you do not consider the cost effective methods of using social media and local directories specific to your business. Let's get on to this with a few illustrations of how not too well known businesses are working on these marketing channels.
YouTubeCheck out the videos that Costello Builders, Demandmetric and First Choice ER have set up on YouTube.
The views are 14,493 for Costello Builders
A more moderate highest view count of 505 for Demandmetric but with over 647 videos to their name
And even more modest 367 highest views for First Choice ER with a total of 47 uploads.
The numbers can be deceptive. If you are a niche business with niche keywords, it is not likely that you will generate a large number of views - but your viewers will most likely be extremely targeted. At any event, you are making your presence felt and those that matter will find you sooner or later.
YouTube videos generate visitors when they click on your link (which should be below the video) and when they share the videos. This, of course, is the standard when you share any content on social media or video sharing sites.
However, if you do have time for Twitter, then the best way to go about promoting yourself is by creating a keyword rich (not keyword spammy) profile that lists out your details and objectives succinctly. And then, you should tweet regularly at least 5 to seven times a day to catch everyone in all time zones. You should make use of the chat facility and announce prizes for the most number of retweets to create a huge buzz. Twitter is all about the buzz. It is all about the latest news and happening stuff. There are a lot of young users who, while they may not actually buy your product, could very well end up retweeting and adding to the buzz so that you do reach your potential customers. Accordingly, you should create your tweets to catch particular user groups' fancy. This is something you need to devise carefully as a strategy, taking into account the user demographic and how you want to target each section (or if you are better off leaving aside an entire section).
Take a look at the Twitter presence of Costello Builders, Demandmetric and First Choice.
Costello Builders is specializing the hashtags most relevant to its business: #Home #Building #Architecture and they are twitting between 5 to 3 times per day. Their profile is clean and clear.
Demandmetric seems more set on invitations and events and it would appear that their strategy does not (yet) involve a lot of hashtags. Each of their tweets seems to be announcing something new, something that one can join in on. This is sound strategy and the focus, here, is on inviting participation.
First Choice ER is the most informal of the three and seems more like an individual than a company with respect to its tweets. This is probably in keeping with their USP of offering treatment that is patient friendly and in a comfortable and non invasive ambiance.
If you look at Costello Builders on Facebook, it would be clear that their strategy does not require regular updates. The last post is on Thanksgiving and that shows a desire to bond with their fans and visitors. This is adding a nice human touch to their usual portfolio style posts.
Demandmetric, on the other hand, is more aggressive with their updates and follows the same pattern as on Twitter. The desire to attract visitor participation is evident in almost every post and the cover photo displays a group photo of people who are presumably employees, shown as cheerfully smiling. Again, this goes to show that Demandmetrics USP is all about being friendly and welcoming and inviting to the prospective customers.
First Choice ER is also keeping to their Twitter mode of promotion and one look at them on Facebook and you feel good about being a patient with them! News and events are almost invariably with a personal touch and the ambiance is really homely. The updates are even more frequent than those of Demandmetric's.
Google PlusIt has been said that only about a few percentage of marketers like Google+ for promoting themselves. It has also been said that pluses have more impact than Facebook likes on SERP listings. And in any case, what is to say that that a few percent are not the best informed and most discerning of the marketers, not to mention the most farsighted as well? Given the kind of presence and control Google has over everything that is Internet, it really makes no sense to ignore Google+ just because a lot of other people are. We suggest you get busy while the crowd is not yet a crowd, and make headway while the competition is still less. The audience may be less in number as well, but that will not stop you from creating communities and circles of friends and fans who will later prove to be an asset to your business as far as word of mouth publicity is concerned even if they don't all of them turn into your actual customers.
A few tips about thriving on Google+:
Write something useful when sharing stuff - this is definitely not Twitter, and people want to see that you are interested in your own post before they decide they want to be interested as well. One liners will not cut it here. Tell them why you love something so much that you had to share it and chances are, they will take an active interest in it as well.
Form circles and join communities - strike up conversation with like minded individuals and don't bother to sell. That will come once you have established your credibility.
Keep your posts public - that way, any visitor to your profile will be able to view them and, if interested, invite you into their circles.
There's a lot more, of course, but this article is just to get you curious enough to explore the social and directory options. Once you find that you are hooked, do make an effort to look into information (found for free, as usual, all over the Net) regarding each of the social sites that catch your fancy and understand very clearly what works and what doesn't, for each of them.
For now, take a look at the Costello Builders page - it is clean and the contact details are repeated without it becoming obvious that they are being repeated. Their presence is announced very clearly, but without being spammy.
Demandmetric has really gone personal with Google+ and there's a very nicely designed cover image with the user's smiling face as profile pic. This profile is not high on public posts, but each to their own strategy.
First Choice ER - if you have to sum up their promotional efforts in one word, it would be consistent. The same friendly posts we saw earlier are here, too, and you get the very same homely and comfy ambiance.
Blogger/BlogspotBlogger may not be as popular as a blogging platform as Wordpress is but still, it has its advantages and staunch followers. The most important thing about Blogger is that it is owned by Google (plus we are also using blogger CMS). We are not saying Google is partial - everyone knows Google loves Wordpress, but certainly, whatever the limitations of Blogger as a CMS is outweighed or, at least, balanced by the fact that the Big G is watching over it. Much could be said about how to promote your business with Blogger, but like we said, this is just to initiate you into the area of social promotions and not quite the place for the nitty-gritty. Still, we would like to point out that a blog - any blog - if it is successful, has its own readership and subscribers and social shares. And the only indisputable point of having a successful blog is to have consistently good content which is also posted regularly (if not frequently, as well).
Let's take a look at what some small businesses have done with Blogpost.
Costello Builders is not high on post count, but the content is good, directed towards benefiting the visitor (providing value) and written in an easy to understand language. Links to other social media profiles are posted on the sidebar prominently.
In fact, instead of taking individual small business blogs let's look at what the small business as a whole thinks of Blogger.
We have the Global Small Business Blog
The UNF SBDC Blog and
The Small Biz Survival Blog with a really good article on how Blogger is still good for small businesses .
Remember, if these people did not actually have good reason to believe that Blogger works, they would have taken to Wordpress or some other platform, instead.
TumblrTumblr's demographic leans heavily towards the young and the restless, and while they may not always be your direct customers, if you can appeal to their sensibilities, you are assured of an enthusiastic measure of sharing of your content. Again, decide if Tumblr and its most prominent user group is appropriate for you - and if it is, it makes sense to design a strategy around them.
Tumblr also has blogs (which can be and are reblogged - much like you can share and retweet content) and what makes it confusing is also its greatest asset - there are no defined parameters for what goes on Tumblr and what doesn't. The fact that it is a virtual mixed bag ought to work in your favor since you are almost guaranteed to fit in, subject wise, in some place, and you are almost guaranteed also that there will be takers for you. The only thing you should take note of is that images dominate most of Tumblr, and unless your promotions can be made 'image heavy', you may be a fish out of water here.
A few examples to illustrate what we just told you: the Cure Thrift Shop is unique because it donates everything but to donate it has to make profit first, and that makes it an excellent role model to follow on Tumblr.
Birchbox is on beauty and grooming and in addition to the usual Tumblr friendly methods, it invites guest posts. Guest posting on other people's blogs and inviting guest posts on your own are evergreen strategies in the blogsphere and Birchbox has, so far, made excellent use of it.
The Brooklyn Kitchen has for its main strategy, video marketing. This is not unique to Tumblr blogs but they have borne in mind the image heavy side of successful Tumblr blogs and substituted images with videos. That is innovative, in the context, and they have had great success with this out of the box thinking (out of the box, again, in the context of Tumblr).
Directory ListingThere are directories, and there are directories. If you are a small business, your forte is being niche. Don't ignore that, eve. Try to find directories that will be most suitable for your kind of business. If you are environment friendly then search for directories that specifically list green businesses. Ideally, you should figure in a local directory related to your niche, a national directory and a state directory - and all of them should be prominent ones. There is no point in wasting your time over smaller directories since they will borrow listings from the major players, anyway. And it pays to be discerning while choosing your directories because a disreputable one will bring down your budding reputation as well.
The most important thing to remember about directory listings is that your business name and contact details should remain the same in all of them. You will also want to use keywords in the descriptive part to figure in search results. If you have the time to get yourself on just one directory, make it local, assuming that's where most of your customers will be coming from. Also remember to have a basic website, at least, and make it mobile friendly since mobile and smartphone searches are growing almost by the day.
To illustrate, let's take a look at Costello Builders' listing on Yellow Pages - they are being found for 'builders' and their location. That's how it works - and you should optimize your listings by skill as well as location, just as your prospective clients would want to search for a service or product in your locality.
If you look at First Choice ER's listing on Yellow Pages, again, you will see that they have a perfectly optimized page with all probable keywords, location and contact details as well as a small paragraph on what they are all about.
Highland Bakery has one image and several testimonials on its listings page as well as a post on its special offering in the news section.
If you make a search for 'beauty salons' with the location 'kansas city', the first result shows you The Salon with just one image and no description but several testimonials and a good overall rating. Our point ? You don't really need fancy stuff (although they don't hurt) - just list yourself clearly and provide service - that is good enough in most cases.
Well, now that you know all about using social media and local listings to promote your business, you will probably want to go deeper until you find your 'thing'. Once you are there, maybe you could write to us about your experiences. We hope to hear from you, about what is going to be a phenomenal success in small business promotion!
Featured image via: gettyimages - article contributed by Jason Smith.