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March 26, 2009

Small Businesses Succeed by Listening To Customers: NYC Search Engine Strategies

By Kim (cre8pc)

This is the first time there is a small business track at Search Engine Strategies. For 9AM the morning of the second full day of sessions, the room is packed. This points to a genuine need for marketing and web design conferences to include and expand topics for small and medium business needs, particularly in view of a global depressed economy and in America, additional government assistance for small businesses and start ups.

The main topic for this session is social media marketing and how small businesses can participate and use this medium for promotion of their companies.  Especially of importance, of course, for small business are concerns over money, but also how to get the most benefit out of every dollar they spend.  It's important to target specific customers.  One of the leading takeaways from this session is that is not wise to cast a wide net to see what you catch.  Rather, start small.  Go narrow.  Work up. The beauty of social media is its foundation on the conversation. 

Session: Small Voices, Big Impact: Social Media for the Little Guy
Moderator: Stoney deGeyter, of Pole Position Marketing

Jennifer Laycock, SiteLogic and Searc Engine Guide
Amber Naslund, Radian6
Christina Kerley, ckEphiphany
Tim Kendall, Facebook

This session was a blend of two presentations, by Jennifer and Tim, who each brought brief power point slides, and an open mike question and answer between the remaining panelists and audience, led by Stoney.  Their goal was learn about the needs of their attendees and promptly address them.


1. Rather than calling it "social media marketing", it is really about social conversations.  Conversations are your chance to get your business involved.  This allows you to connect to your customers in a new way. 

2. Don't buy into the belief that social media is bleeding edge technology or this "new thing you have to learn".  In reality, social media has always been around, in the form of forums, for example.  (In the 1990's we had Usenet, AOL chat, listservs...) Social media marketing can happen ANYWHERE PEOPLE CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER.

3. When you get into a new social media site, there is a smaller community and you can reach more people.  This is nice for a specific niche. However, the drawback is that the audience smaller and you get less bang for your buck.  You may want to invest in whatever has taken hold and has proved to work.  In a recession, there is less money to spend, so rather than pushing out and promotion willy nilly, it is actually better to be looking for conversations. Smart companies go out and listen to discussions or online conversations to find out what's important to their target market.

Top places to look for affordable promotional opportunities are:

1. Flickr - Images are powerful.  This medium uses emotion to catch they eye.  A gorgeous picture with text evokes a better connection. The Flickr community will comment on each others pictures.  Users look for discussions on current topics.  For $25 a year you have unlimited photo and video uploads.  There is no search engine rank "juice", however, due to their nofollow links.  It's easy to use and you can access it and post from your camera phone and email client.  Adding links to photo descriptions is a nice way to lead people to conversations.  A good example is something like taking a picture of a recipe and linking the how-to.

2. Twitter - The immediacy of Twitter allows for instant feedback. It's like a giant wall with "post-it" notes, where there are little snippets of conversations.  You can narrow them down.  You can direct message people. For business, Twitter is a nice way to listen to your customers.  Are they talking about you? Are they tweeting about your company?  You can address them and their needs, which is great for customer service. Don't forget the power of a re-tweet. The "tweet" goes to who follows you in your network, then it is re-tweeted and shared with other networks.  Before you know it, you've reached a greater audience - into the thousands, very quickly. You can update by phone and its easy to get started.

3. YouTube - This site is second only to Google for places where people run searches.  It's great for getting your message out. When you upload videos, it offers options for optimization, tags, descriptions, titles and much more. Creative videos actually do take off and can be done inexpensively.

4. Linkedin - In addition to being than a place for business to business contacts, you can join in discussions by asking or answering questions.  Target discussions in your networks. Seek introductions to people.

With regard to social conversations (aka social media or social media marketing), the narrower the niche, such as a blog or article on a specific topic, the more exposure to your company or yourself.  Outbound links from blogs and articles tend to be less, and therefore less competitive with other sources that offer far more links, ads, and discussions.  Accordingly, you get more bang for your buck by making sure your brand is promoted in a less complicated space.  Social news web sites offer a wide array of topics, which means less attention on your ad, content or link. 

Consider the "value triangle" and use it wisely.  Content rises, which means you can utilize micro blogging, social news sites, search engine results, forums, social reviews (and user generated content), articles and blogs.  Use each of these, but aim for the top where you are more likely to be the main subject.


Facebook is in the advertising business.  They offer advertising to large corporations and small businesses, including targeted demographic PPC and of course, the ads in the right side column.  98% of revenue for Facebook is ads driven.  Free tools are available by Facebook to aid small business.  Listening

I asked, on behalf of start-ups and very small, budget conscious businesses, about affordability. I also inquired about a "what's in this for me".  Essentially, first you have the free profile, which is a great start.  You can keep everyone informed simply by updating your status and providing daily news. Facebook "page" are considered to be the most popular landing pages. You can cap the amount you want to spend.  You can Geo Target, which allows local businesses to stay localized if they wish to.  Facebook gets a 1/2 million new users a day. "Every keyword is a person," to them, which is in interesting and obvious user oriented approach.

Consider, too, that with Facebook you can add videos, which everyone who is affiliated with you can watch. Build a target base by searching on your city and state to find people.  Build a presence, introduce yourself, and above all, use Facebook to LISTEN to what people are talking about.  What is the local conversation?  This can help you with marketing and also writing Geo targeted content, setting product pricing, etc.

User feedback is a sweet spot for Facebook.  You can "fan" conversations and items with "I like it" clicks. Friends pass items along to their friends.  Very quickly, your item can be seen by several networks. 

Other insights from this session:

1. Negative publicity can be a favor!  When your company has suffered from bad comments in something such as a blog or forum, turn it around by respectfully and considerately responding.  Turn the experience into a positive customer service response.  With social media, your customers are asking you to listen to them.  They want to be heard. What can you do to fix a problem?

2. Social media didn't create criticism.  It's just easier to hear it today.  Information comes from customers rather than paid sales persons and is considered more credible.

3. Check out Radian6.com for brand monitoring services


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Hi Kim,

Thanks for being at the session, and for putting together a great recap. It's always awesome for me to hear the real, applicable questions that businesses have about social media. Since I breathe it every day, it can be easy to forget about the issues and questions cropping up for those that are just now getting involved.

Cheers and thanks again,
Amber Naslund
Director of Community | Radian6

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