Using Instagram Effectively for Your Small Business

With over 300 million users, Instagram is a visual way for users, businesses and brands to connect. Need help getting started? Here are some tips.

Instagram is the most used social media outlet for millenials and teenagers. This presents a huge opportunity for small businesses on Instagram to create a visual connection to their brand. In addition to millenials, there are small businesses, artists and other organizations all utilizing Instagram and having success with the social network.

Harnessing Instagram for Business

Visuals are the main currency of Instagram. Small businesses should share and upload interesting content their followers won’t be able to find anywhere else. Think about the kind of visuals you like and replicate those ideas with the photos you share on your account. Worried you’ll come up sort? Here are ideas:

• Your office – Everyone loves seeing photos of how others work. Whether you have a brick ‘n mortar store or you’re in manufacturing, these behind-the-scenes photos give a glimpse of what others otherwise wouldn’t see.

• Events – Hosting an event or are you part of an event in your community? By all means, post photos! Even if your employees are attending events with community service, get visuals from these happenings.

• Celebrations – Many companies and organizations celebrate life’s occasions, from weddings to babies. Followers love happy photos and celebrating with you. It makes a human connection. Encourage members of your team to get involved submitting images and your Instagram should grow in popularity!

Twitter Dos and Don’ts

While you think social media may give you an instant boost to your business, without a plan of action or strategy, you’ll be shooting in the dark. If you market yourself correctly on social media, and Twitter, you can turn curious ‘googlers’ into loyal clients and customers, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Her are several tips to help make Twitter work for you.

1. Be easy to find! Choose a Twitter handle or name that’s close to your business name, and write up a clear profile that explains exactly what you do and where your clients and customers can find you. Utilize keywords that your customers might search for: your neighborhood, business focus and do link to your full website.

2. Do not shout. Don’t use all caps, people. It’s shouting, and it’s considered impolite. Consider your grammar, spelling, voice and tone as well. Even if you are trying to be casual, sounding professional on Twitter is paramount to your image.

3. Don’t repeat yourself again and again. Don’t tweet out a link to your Facebook page every day; people can find it on their own if you’ve posted links that are visible. Also, don’t tweet the same thing to a ton of people. It’s boring and very annoying.

4. Be timely. Let people know about specials you having coming up (whether it’s a special on a service, a limited-time only discount, or an upcoming event). Also, give a glimpse of what’s to come to garner excitement about what you’re offering. Invite your followers to get to know you!

5. Engage, engage, engage. Be a friendly word of advice, not anonymous. Share interesting article, news and catch up with others in your field! Network and respond. Twitter isn’t just about self-promotion, it’s about starting a conversation and building a relationship. Give your followers a clear picture of what you do, and share your voice in the conversation. Retweet interesting links by others, and aim for about half of your tweets to be non-promotional in nature.

6. Don’t auto-tweet or auto-DM. Think again before you put your account on automatic pilot. Don’t send auto direct messages to new followers. That pushes you farther away from them, and again, it’s just plain annoying.

Orlando Social Media Strategy

Social media tools for business

To put it mildly, social media tools are transforming the way we communicate. These days, people send a tweet instead of an e-mail and write on Facebook walls instead of dial phone numbers. So you know the best way to reach customers is to join these conversations, but how? Which platform will send the right message? Here’s a look at the top five tools and how can small-business owners can take advantage of this change in communication to boost their bottom lines.

Facebook: Best for engaging with customers

Every business needs a Facebook page, period. The social media giant is on par to reach 1 billion users by August, according to iCrossing, a media research company in the U.K. Translation: All of your current and potential clients already have an account. Once you fill out your page, Barbara Rozgonyi, founder of Chicago-based marketing firm CoryWest Media, suggests sending out updates at least three times per week to start attracting attention.

“Don’t just write about your business, take a community approach and talk about what is going on in your industry and your community,” she says. “It needs to be a good mix.”

Another tip: Don’t talk at people. Instead, engage them in conversation by asking questions and responding to their comments. If you don’t have time to watch your Facebook feed all day (who does?) commit a few hours per week to replying to every comment posted on your page, advises Rozgonyi.

Make posts semi-personal, too. Sprinkle in a comment about the weather with an excited note about your favorite sports team. (Note: Don’t write about what you ate for lunch; that’s too personal.) Conversation between you and your customer will not only help put a face on your company, but add to feelings of goodwill among your base. (Here are a few tips on how to get Facebook fans.)

Twitter: Best for sharing news about your company

“Think of Twitter as a news channel,” says Rozgonyi. “It’s a good place to promote your business, talk about things happening and connect with people.”

Unlike Facebook users who, generally speaking, want to feel warm and fuzzy about a company before being sold, Twitter users are open to the hard sell, she says. So use the platform to advertise sales and specials. There is a fine line, though. Too many sales-y tweets, and you will lose followers. Post about three times per day, and if you don’t have time to do that, download Hootsuite, an application that allows you to schedule your tweets ahead of time.

Need more ideas on what to tweet? Rozgonyi recommends searching for what your competitors and target demographic are talking about. Join the conversation and you will have followers in no time.

Another tip: Post statistics about your industry—“everyone loves numbers,” she notes—and recipes.

But what if you don’t run a restaurant?

“It doesn’t matter,” says Rozgonyi. “If you post your best recipes every Friday, people will start looking for that and pretty soon they will want to know what else you do.” (Here are the 12 most effective ways to engage on Twitter.)

LinkedIn: Best for finding new clients

Margelit Hoffman is obsessed with LinkedIn. As co-founder of Hoffman Productions, a video production company out of Allentown, Pa., she joins LinkedIn groups where her target customer is hanging out and strikes up conversations.

“I post discussions and lead people to interesting things we post on our blog,” she says. “I only post things that will help people. They need to get something out of it, or they won’t click.”

Her advice: Make sure your profile page is complete and your tagline explains what the company does, a good trick for increasing your search engine optimization, or SEO. From there, join groups and be active on them. In a recent post, Hoffman shared a video to an industry group and a man she didn’t know contacted her about a job.

“He ended up giving us our biggest contract to date,” she beams.

Not sure what groups to join? First, conceptualize your target market. Then click on the “Group” tab at the top of the page. From there, type in keywords that match your market, Hoffman suggests. When you find a group that sounds interesting and is open to the public, click on it to see what they are chatting about, then join. If the group is private, ask to be invited. (Get more tips on how to find leads using LinkedIn.)

Google+: Best for improving your search ranking

Google+ has similar characteristics to Facebook, but with one major perk: It has incredible SEO. The next time you do a Google search, check out the results that appear near the top of the page. See those tiny photos of people you know? Those are your friends already on Google+ who’ve posted a topic similar to the one you just searched. Ahh, the genius that is Google.

Hoffman uses Google+ purely as an SEO tool, so every time she puts up a new blog or tweet, she re-posts it to the site.

Rozgonyi recommends using the site for its Hangout function. This is where up to 10 different people can talk to each other on video. The function is very popular (check out President Barack Obama’s use of the tool) and can be used by small-business owners wanting to schedule free videoconference chats. (Here’s a look at some pros and cons of Google+ for small business.)

Pinterest: Best for increasing your visibility

Pinterest is the newest kid on the social media block, making a splash with more than 3 million monthly users. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest doesn’t encourage comments. It does, however, still encourage sharing—in the visual form. Users are able to “pin” photos of whatever they find interesting (i.e. videos, ideas, etc.) to their profiles and share “pins” with others.

“It is a good place for businesses with a visual element to hang out,” says Hoffman. “If you are a personal chef, for example, have a professional photographer take pictures of your food and post it on there. Then, when people share, it will increase your company’s visibility.” (Here are five tips on how to use Pinterest.)

Source: OPENForum

Rebrand with social media

Rebrand your business with social media

Let people know it’s coming.
Let your followers know that a big announcement is coming soon and to stay tuned. Telling them you have major news and that you want to share it with them will keep followers coming back and generate interest for your company. Then, when you do decide to relaunch your brand/business, make a big deal about it.

Give useful information.
Giving free information to your potential clients and customers is a must. You want to be seen as an expert in your field, and to be a market leader you have to give away something for free. Another tip: for every 10-15 posts with free, useful info, provide a valuable incentive offer that only your fans/followers will get. You can also intersperse testimonials from clients and customers as well.

Start a conversation.
Don’t be afraid to pose questions to your fans and followers! Engage them. If you have a retail product and want valuable insight about your new packaging, poll your customers! Ask for their opinion. They will give you valuable feedback. This is not only very useful for you, but will also attract new customers.

Utilize video.
Make a one or two minute video out of a recent press release. Rewrite the release to make it more conversational, then create a video and post it. Then, if you’ve rebranded, show customers your new logo and tell them about your new service offerings.

Make time to be social.
Set aside 5-10 minutes, twice per day, to join the conversation on other social media sites. If someone responds to a tweet, post or to your blog, comment back and by all means, thank them! Retweet other useful tweets on Twitter, and point out useful Facebook posts. Social media is all about engagement, impressions and awareness.

Social media tips for gaining fans and followers

With so much conversation and chatter happening on the Web right now, it’s tough to know how to get your business to stand out from the masses. Here are some tips that can help you learn more about how to gain fans, followers and friends and increase your business’ online presence.

1. Be authentic. Be honest and compelling, and professional. This is a core ingredient of social media success.

2. Make time! Yes, we are all busy and we have very full lives. Small business owners are no different. But as many highly effective people will say, you always have time for what you put first in your life. So make time and make it a priority.

3. Consistency is key. If you don’t participate on a regular basis, you won’t see results in the social media world. You don’t have to tweet 500 times a day, or even be on your computer 24/7, but a 24 hour response time is a good benchmark to have when answering to comments, questions or feedback.

4. Tell a story. People love glimpsing into the lives of others. We’re fascinated by it. Don’t share anything you feel uncomfortable with, but let people know the authentic you.

5. Plan, plan, plan. Think about what you want your social media goals to be six months, a year, even two years down the road. Formulate a plan of action and stick to it. You’ll be thankful you did.

6. Learn from criticism. Nobody likes criticism, even when it’s well intentioned, but many times this kind of feedback can help your organization or small business make changes for the better. Don’t ignore it completely — listen to problems and then make a decision on what to do.

7. Always listen. Be aware of what people are saying about your brand or business. An easy way to do this? Sign up for Google Alerts, so you can monitor what’s being said about you online on a regular basis.

8. Develop a social media policy. Formulate a policy for your team so they know what’s appropriate to talk about online, and what isn’t. Keep a document handy so that all your employees can be briefed on what’s expected.

9. Go mobile. With iPad sales skyrocketing, the demand for apps on the go shouldn’t be ignored. If you can, develop your own application now or put it in the works for the future.

10. Have fun! Social media is an exciting and fast-paced environment. Creative and original ideas often have the best chance of standing out, so there’s no reason not to have fun with it!

Social networking faux pas

We get a lot of questions about social media these days from clients. The buzz around social media is deafening, and it seems that “everyone is doing it.” Though, in more cases than not, businesses are still warming up to the idea.

When trying to come up with a social media marketing plan that works for you and your business, we can often learn from mistakes that others make.

Here are 6 faux pas to avoid:

1. No automated greetings. When you set up a 3rd party social media application to automatically reply to your followers, you’re basically being seen as spam. Don’t put your virtual foot in your mouth.

2. Put together a plan. Put together a strategy, and communicate that strategy to your employees. You’ll need a clear idea of how social networks can expand your company’s marketing or customer service strategy. You’ll also need to make sure you  have clear benchmarks you can use to measure how your plan is doing.

3. Don’t be a broken record. Repeating yourself over and over again on your blog, facebook wall or Twitter page is a recipe for disaster. It not only alienates current and potential followers, but it’s embarrassing. Come up with original content.

4. Engage more than sell. While shameless promotion is a good thing, too much of a good thing can work against you. Don’t be afraid to change things up by posting links to news in your vertical market or industry, or cite interesting things people in your network are saying. Give your audience interesting tidbits of information to keep them engaged.

5. Personality helps. Each employee who is posting to your account(s) should be encouraged to be themselves. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through — in your tone, message and voice.

6. No ghost tweeters. Many companies pay other companies or outside experts to run their social media strategy. Huge mistake. Put your best people on your social networks and educate them on how to respond to clients and customers… quickly and professionally. It’s minimal cost for maximum return.

Social media tips for small business owners

Engage in the conversation – An online conversation is taking place right now about your business, your industry or issues affecting your community. Inject yourself and opinions into the conversation by following opinion leaders on Twitter and social networking sites and commenting on blog posts. Whenever possible, include a link back to your content or website.

Small business owners often ask us, “What is social media, and how can I benefit from it?” Wading through the overwhelming amount of information and tips online can leave a small business owner with very little time to focus on their business. Here’s a “cheat sheet” list of tips to help get you started using social media in your business:

1. Offer a sneak peek.

Offering an inside glimpse of new products or services online can help foster demand and provide crucial feedback to help smooth a launch. For instance, John Doyle, founder of chocolate company John and Kira’s in Philadelphia, posts photos of new products on Flickr and invites comments from customers.

2. Share your experience.

Sharing knowledge you’ve mastered about your trade can go a tremendous way towards boosting your brand. You should be demonstrating expertise on Facebook, Twitter and your blog, and adding local context to your posts and tweets. In other words, what does the information you’re providing say about your specific region or city?

3. Offer value.

Gaining credibility with potential clients and customers is important. How can you achieve credibility utilizing social media? The answer lies in adding value. First, provide potential clients and customers with all the information they’ll need to contact you online and off, and communicate clearly what your business offers. Next, define what you’ll be providing customers for their attention and time. Special offers, promotions, giveaways and coupons are all excellent techniques for providing something of benefit. If your budget is too limited for coupons, etc., make sure the content you are offering is valuable to the people and businesses you’re trying to reach. In short, envision the need you are fulfilling by providing that content and serve the customer with useful information to fill that void.

When writing content, always have an appropriate and professional tone and use links to other sites, blogs, or news articles to help illustrate your point.  You can share this content on any number of places such as on your own blog, a community blog or even in Tweets.

4. Engage in conversation.

Join in! An online conversation is taking place right now about your business, your industry or issues affecting your local community. Inject yourself and opinions into the conversation by following opinion leaders on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, and do comment on blog posts. Whenever possible, include a link back to your company’s Web site.

5. Know your customers.

Your customers and clients are talking about you online whether you like it or not –– on their own blogs, consumer-focused Web sites and on review sites like Yelp, Yahoo! Local, and CitySearch. While you often can’t control the conversation, you can help steer it by listening, engaging with customers and working to resolve any problems.