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Socializing Your Business

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Social media have helped small business level the marketing playing field with big business. Small businesses were the first to pilot creative ways to connect with their customers when this medium was new. But as the social media universe becomes more crowded and more complex, managing it in an efficient manner has become increasingly challenging.

In this interview with Nine Point Ten Marketing (www.ninepointten.com), co-founder Rich Patterson helps bring clarity to the opportunities and pitfalls of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Patterson – with co-founder Adam Kambeitz – identified the small-business market as one not being effectively served by social-media experts. They have developed tools and the know-how to help their clients drive more traffic to their websites and put more cash in their coffers.

What prompted you to get into the social media sphere?

I have another small business, in licensing and promotional products. It was hard to promote that business the traditional way. I tried out social media, and saw some interesting things happening. I got access to media people and key decision-makers whom a small business couldn’t normally reach.

So I thought I’d use what I’d learned to help other small companies, as well as non-profits, understand, strategize, and build networks within social media communities. That’s our mission at Nine Point Ten Marketing.

Can you define social media for us?

The term “social media” refers to online communites where organizations and people are engaged in conversation. It’s a big conversation – like a cocktail party. Social media are completely opposite to what traditional media have been, which is push type of media.

In other words, you take a message and push it out into the marketplace. You see how it resonates by noting the number of people who come to buy. Social media are completely different for businesses. Social media are about engaging with your customers, about communication. The end point is virtually the same: you want a sale; you want clients to be more loyal; you want their honest reactions so you can improve.

You want continued sales and you want people coming to your store. You want eyeballs visiting your website. That is social media.

Is there a comfortable coexistence between traditional and social media?

Yes, though for small businesses they don’t necessarily have to coexist. At Nine Point Ten we don’t do any traditional media. We don’t buy Yellow Pages ads. We don’t buy the backs of magazine covers. We concentrate on social media. We have a limited budget, so that really works well. I think the two media co-exist for big business, which will keep advertising in glossy magazines. A small or medium-sized business may still want to buy one page of glossy advertising a year. Their needs are same: they want engagement. They want to listen to customers. It’s just that the volume might be different, and whether they can hire additional resources.

What advantages do social media give small business?

You can reach people quickly – people you might not be able to otherwise. You don’t have to be trying to craft interesting news releases and faxing them to people, and hoping they call you back. That gives you a really low percentage of responses.

So there is an advantage to help develop relationships with people you otherwise wouldn’t?

Yes. Because of geography or some other reason, you might not be able to pitch certain people on ideas. You can meet them, however, through these social networks. The first thing we always ask clients is what exactly they want to get out of social media. Do they just want to play at it and see what happens? Or do they have some specific roles in mind like, yes, I want more site traffic; yes, I want more sales and feedback. Or do they want to build up their database?

Whatever the case, we talk to the person, listen for what they need, and then figure out how best to help them. We figure out which platforms make sense for them. Do they need to be on Facebook? Twitter? These are right for some organizations, not for others. LinkedIn can be quite powerful. Then there are all the various platforms that are specific to sharing some sort of video or picture formats, like Flicker and YouTube. At one time, Twitter and YouTube were very static. Now it’s all about posting your profile, rating them, you know, interacting with people. Facebook and Twitter seem like a giant black hole that sucks your time. How do you make them more business-oriented and efficient?

You can use these tools on a schedule. You can schedule a Twitter “tweet” so that you’re reaching out through it once a day rather than punching away at it all day long. You have to be confident, to know what your personal and business brand is. You keep that constant in all your communications. I try to make my own brand all about how professional we are, and how well we deliver. We deliver excellent results at great pricing, and we have lot of fun. My clients and I always have fun, and I want that to translate. When I use social media for a business, I try to inject humor. I want people to have a sense that this is a great person to do business with. You need to be confident, to know what your brand really is and then translate it. You don’t have to be all things to all people.

How can you make money using social media?

There are two sides to the same coin. When you go out into the social network realm, you are looking to make relationships, and to communicate with your online community. At the end of that communication, you will have one-on-one transactions. That’s primarily the type of transaction I have as a small business person. I have a broad community through Facebook, through Twitter. I engage, I talk, and at some point I actually get asked to help on projects. So, there’s business there. But, again, it’s one-on-one. Another way is to try and build your own online community and monetize. The best example is through blogs. Gossip blogs, for example, are trading on the volume of visitors who are coming to read and engage. The people who own those blogs monetize this. They sell advertising. They sell products. They sell their advice. They sell their time, or some combination of all these.

How can you monetize Facebook?

I’ve created a Facebook fan page. We’ve run contests on that page. Primarily, these activities are just kind of generic marketing activities to engage. Our hope is that, at some point, people will make a move from the Facebook fan page into a transaction mode. You can’t turn Facebook into a huge advertising campaign or you’ll turn people off. You want to tread lightly. I think you can experiment, and if you make a mistake, it’s okay. People are quite forgiving. If you try to pretend you didn’t make the mistake or gloss over it or be aggressive, that’s a pitfall.

Could you me give a good example of how to get traffic through Twitter?

To me, my response below answers the question “How can one monetize Twitter? It’s not really a good answer to how to get traffic, which is about building your network and sharing great content. Use the powerful monitoring features. Use Google Alerts. You can use Twitter to search keywords and find people or try to make a transaction in your industry. You can ask people if they would like to become customers of yours. Now, I’ve said that in a very plain type of way but that’s essentially what it does. You could find people who are trying to get a mortgage, or need a realtor, whatever the case is. You can get that information from the entire Twittersphere. You don’t need to just look at your feed. You can use a keyword to search your industry and your product. You can search geographically, just try to find people in your area. You could search for people who are just following certain tweets, or part of your industry or category. Or, you could look for people who are specifically talking about those activities, real estate, mortgages, delivery services, legal services, medical – whatever it is that makes sense for your business.

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