As we edge into a new year filled with continued COVID fears and ever-changing protocols, it's hard for small businesses to feel optimistic about the coming months. Some have shuttered their doors forever. That's the very reason why we MUST create our own destiny and figure out how we can solve a problem for our customers and clients during this extended pandemic. Employees learned how to work remotely, fighting through new technology platforms. Students and teachers learned how to adapt to online learning.
While COVID has hurt many small businesses, it has also helped many discover how resilient and creative they can be. Small businesses took leaps of faith to retain their loyal customers by tracking ever-changing state and local protocols, embracing technology and thinking outside the box to serve their customers. Website overhauls now included e-commerce options as online shopping became necessary. Facebook Marketplace, Etsy, Shopify, Ebay stores and other auction sites replaced brick and mortar shopping. In-person workshops and events moved online using FaceTime, Zoom and other platforms.
I came across a social media timeline that brought back memories of joining LinkedIn shortly after it launched in 2003, then Facebook in 2005, Twitter in 2007, and Pinterest (still my favorite) in 2010. I joined Google+, but never liked it. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who lost interest in the platform as it was shut down for good in 2019. New platforms emerged - Snapchat, Periscope, Vine, and now TikTok. Two of these have already been shut down. An alternative platform to Facebook called Parler launched in 2019 and was forced offline by Amazon and Google.
So, what can small business learn from this ever-changing and fickle marketplace?
I spent many years facilitating educational workshops on social media and email marketing. At the beginning of most classes I showed a slide that featured a wheel. The hub of the wheel represented what we, as small business owners, controlled -- our website and our mailing list. The end of the spokes included all the various social media platforms. These are areas we cannot control and don't own. Now, more than ever, it's important to rely less on what we cannot control and bolster our relationships with our customers using our mailing lists which continually point back to our hubs - our websites.
I wish you much success in 2021.
December has always been a whirlwind kind of month. Long before I chose the path of self-employment in marketing, most of my employment was commission-based. Performance mattered. I was evaluated every quarter on the amount of business I produced, but no quarter mattered as much as quarter four. As many of my friends and family were enjoying holiday traditions, taking vacation time, or doing some shopping, my eyes were "focused on the prize" - meeting my annual sales goals, earning incentive bonuses, and helping my teams reach their goals for the benefit of the company. There was no time to stop and reflect and certainly no time for "self care".
I was at a WBOA meeting this week where we shared our experiences with holiday traditions, as well as special promotions we may offer through our businesses at this time of year. In all my years working as a public speaker and small business workshop facilitator on behalf of Constant Contact, I probably held over 40 "Rock Your Holidays With A Great Promotion" workshop heading into the last quarter of each year. Most small businesses make the majority of their income in the last quarter of the year, so learning how to reach new customers and value returning customers was important, and I knew that effective use of email marketing combined with social media would help them succeed. I still help many of my clients plan, schedule and execute their holiday digital promotions. I also shared that I seldom offer a holiday promotion for my own business.
This week I was saddened to learn that a non-profit organization that I have supported for many years was closing its doors. One of the reasons they felt they could no longer continue their mission upset and angered me. Right before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and the all-import Giving Tuesday for non-profits, their Facebook page was taken down with no explanation. This meant that all their digital advertising asks for donations that were scheduled to go during that time were held in the abyss of "Facebook jail". I have my thoughts on how and why this happened, but there is no way to change the outcome as Facebook makes its on decisions. They announced their decision to close to their newsletter subscribers this week.
We have become so immersed in social media that we forget about the power these companies can have over our lives, and our businesses. Between figuring out algorithms, paid vs. generic reach, and getting found in an overwhelmingly crowded space, maybe we are reaching the tipping point. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our dependence on social media.
Thank you for subscribing to my mailing list. I am grateful the many conversations I've had with subscribers who've attended my workshops and events, my clients who have worked with me through the countless changes in the world of digital marketing and the many small business owners I've had the privilege to get to know over the years.
Here's wishing you a very happy holiday season, however you celebrate. Take care.
The digital world doesn't stand still and finding ways for our businesses to be found online can be challenging. Google announced in December that Google+ is shutting down on March 7th following a data breach and low consumer usage. Each social media channel has a different appeal and demographic but among the top platforms based on usage are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Of all the channels, Facebook still has the broadest usage and widest demographic. However, small businesses are often frustrated with Facebook's algorithm which continually makes it harder to be seen in a crowded marketplace. The push to a "pay to play" model has made it difficult to use the platform without paying for Facebook advertising. Still, having a presence on Facebook makes sense for most small businesses in order to create brand awareness and relationships with potential users of our products and services. The good news is that Facebook is a quality not quantity network. Posting 2 or 3 times a week can be sufficient as long as the content is relevant to your audience.
Here are 5 ways to harness the power of Facebook for your business:
It's easy to let the lure of summer let us kick back a little, slow down, unplug, maybe take a well deserved vacation. This is a good thing, assuming we've let our marketing continue on auto-pilot, as I wrote about in my last post.
September is right around the corner, which means that the last quarter of the year also looms on the horizon. What you do NOW to create and maintain your marketing strategy and campaign execution can make a profound difference in your end of year numbers.
So, what can you do in the middle of August to prepare to hit the ground running when it's "back to business" in September?
The first thing to do is create a visual roadmap for September - December. This calendar will allow you to map out everything that may affect your business and marketing campaigns throughout the holiday season.
Begin by adding special dates (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday (if you sell online), Giving Tuesday (non-profit giving), etc. Look for special recognition days, weeks or months that are important to your industry and could be used in social media.
Will you be planning any special events, ie. customer appreciation day, a sales event, workshop, pop-up shopping day? If so, look at your calendar to strategize a date that is far enough in advance to be able to market sufficiently.
Once you know what event you will hold, break out the tasks that need to be done. You can do this on paper now and add it to a digital task list later, or an excel or Google sheet which can be shared with others. What is the task, who is responsible, when is it due? If you're depending on others to create print material, update your website or create a campaign online, be aware that they may be busier as well. Don't wait until the last minute to place the work order.
Your social media, email, and traditional marketing campaigns need to support your seasonal "offer". Timing is everything. Don't overlook the time needed to produce, print and ship marketing collateral. What can you pre-schedule and what must you do manually? Inboxes are inundated with offers at this time of year. Do you have a strategy for resending an email to your subscribers who did not open your offer?
It may feel a bit overwhelming now to think about fall and holiday marketing, but with a little planning now, you can reap the benefit of a fatter bottom line on December 31st. You can do this!!!
If you are a solo-preneur, finding time to do everything you need to do on a daily basis to market your business can feel daunting. When it's time to take a few days off, have you thought of how you will keep your business "running" while you're away? Ask yourself these questions.
How "unplugged" will you be?
1. Create a vacation auto-reply for your email.
You can use a basic out of office message, but why not toss in a little marketing when you have the opportunity. An out of office message that includes marketing goes something like this:
Hello and thanks for your email. I’m currently away until mm/dd with limited / no access to email. If your request is urgent, please contact [NAME] at [EMAIL or PHONE]. In the meantime, did you know I have a monthly e-newsletter? Yep, you heard that right! A monthly dose of all your favorite [COMPANY] content sent right to your inbox. To ensure you don’t miss out on all the good stuff, sign up for my newsletter here. [insert email sign up link] I’ll be sure to get back to you when I return on mm/dd. Thanks,
2. Create a voicemail greeting for your work phone.
If you use the same phone for work and pleasure, being away from the office can be a bit tricky. The best advice is to NOT pick up the phone and encourage callers to leave a voice mail.
3. Send an email to your mailing list subscribers.
The timing of this email may depend on your type of business. If you let people know you're on vacation in 5 days, you may get last minute requests for service just when you're trying to lighten your work load. I prefer to send this shortly before I will be unavailable for a period of time. The content for this message can be similar to a voice mail out of office greeting, Consider including support service contacts.
4. Pre-schedule social media content.
Just because you're away, doesn't mean that you can't be marketing. There are apps available to help. Here's a pretty comprehensive list of free and paid apps you might want to consider: sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-scheduling-tools/
If you are only posting to Facebook, did you know that you can schedule posts directly from Facebook? Just create a post, but instead of clicking on Publish, click the down arrow beside it and choose Schedule. You can choose the date and time you want the post to appear. All your scheduled posts will show up in Activity.
5. Pack the essentials.
There are times when you may want flexibility to do a little work. Be sure to pack your wall charger, solar charger, laptop or tablet. If you need wi-fi, know where hotspots are available, or better yet, avoid the public wi-fi network altogether and add tethering to your mobile phone plan.
Recently, Facebook announced that its algorithm is changing -- again. What does this mean for small businesses who devote hours every week to their business pages?
It's no secret that organic reach for business pages has been steadily declining over the last three years. Prior to the latest algorithm change, only about 5% of what you post is ever seen by people who have liked your page. Let's put that in perspective. If you have 100 people who have liked your page, you are posting for an audience of five.
It gets worse.
On June 29th Facebook announced the newest change to their algorithm and it's not good news for small businesses. Facebook will now begin to prioritize posts from user's friends and family in their newsfeeds (hey, it's what users want, right?). At the same time, content produced by businesses will decrease. Your 5% reach may now be 2%. Is that acceptable?
What's the answer?
It may be time to take a step back from your Facebook strategy, certainly re-prioritizing time spent on content creation and frequency of posting. In order to increase reach, Facebook is making it clear that you will need to advertise. The entry fee is likely to increase due to this new demand, so be prepared to pay more for that option.
What else can we do?
You might want to rethink your "list", you know, the list of email addresses you have been gathering from people who have asked to stay in touch. Devote your time to really learning how to engage with your customers, fans and supporters. The average open rate for email is 21% and if you use Constant Contact as your email marketing provider, you will enjoy a deliverability rate above 99%.
One last thought . . . . remember, you have no control over social media platforms. It's rented space. Go with what you own -- your website and your mailing list. That's where you can focus your marketing efforts for better results.
I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, especially Facebook for business. As a marketer, Facebook is a moving target, always changing to "better the user's experience", or so they say. Every change affects my clients and their ability to stay current in a marketplace that often feels uncomfortable.
One of the changes that has been most troubling is the downward spiral in organic reach (who sees your content) that business pages have experienced in the last couple of years. It may surprise you to learn that less than 6% of your content is being seen by your fans (people who've liked your page).
I know what you want to say right now . . . . "Forget it! Why waste my valuable time posting when no one's going to see it anyway?"
Before you throw in the towel and abandon your business page, let's look at what you CAN do in order to get more of your content seen. It all comes down to increasing engagement. Will your fans like, comment and share your post with others? Facebook rewards high quality content by letting it squeeze past their filters and right onto your fan's news feed. So what can you do to increase engagement?
Figure out how to get your social fans onto your mailing list and you won't ever have to worry about Facebook's next move again. If you need some help, let's talk.
The pressure to jump on the social media bandwagon is strong for small businesses. While small business owners are rarely afraid of taking on a challenge, learning how to create a sustainable social media strategy can be daunting.
Ask yourself these 6 questions to see if your social media plan is on the right track.
The Women Business Owners Alliance, an organization of which I am a member, is holding its 21st Annual Women's Night of Comedy on March 13, 2014. In order get the word out about this fabulous event, we chose Thunderclap to help extend our social media reach. When you and your friends join a Thunderclap, a message (our invitation to come to the event) will be sent at the same time, causing a wave of motion to occur on feeds, spreading an idea through Facebook and Twitter that cannot be ignored.
We need 100 supporters by March 7th to make this happen. Even if you can't come to the event, by lending your support here, you can help us reach our goal.
So, what do you say? Will you take a minute to help? Please JOIN our Thunderclap!
If you've attended one of my workshops, you have heard me talk a lot about today's relationship building marketing tools. I'm often asked.,"Which is better....email marketing or social media?" The tendency to view social media as being FREE can make it pretty alluring, especially for budget-conscious businesses.
So, what's my answer?
Creating a compelling email marketing plan integrated with the right social media platform(s) keeps you connected with your customers/clients and potential users of your products and services. Although it's not a contest, if you still are struggling with where to spend your time and marketing dollars, check out this infographic. It does a pretty good job of comparing both email and social media.
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Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.