A report from eMarketer shows that 260,000 small businesses in the US and Canada are using some form of social media in their marketing activities. That’s only about 1% of all small businesses in those two countries.
Yet there are many stories of how small businesses that are involved in social media are getting great results. Even local businesses.
One is Boston Court Theater in Pasadena, CA. They are interested in building a community of art and theater lovers in the Pasadena area and they’ve used sites like Twitter to build that support. They tweet the back stage “insider stories” that let people get a glimpse into the world of the theater. They’ve built up a loyal following of over 600 local folk.
Another is Naked Pizza in New Orleans. Reuters reports that this small company has 4,300 followers on Twitter and a recent online promotion brought in 69& of their business on that day. They’re now seeing a sustained 20% of sales volume coming from their social media marketing.
There’s an excellent post about how small businesses can use social media at Search Engine Land
Start a blog
Comment on other blogs that talk about your industry or subject
Get active on Yahoo Answers
Make and share videos
Take and share pictures
Try the social news aite StumbleUpon
Find and join relevant groups
4, 5, & 6 are particularly good ideas. However, if you want people to share your content you have to make it easy to do so. That means #8 should be ‘add your content to feeds.” Feeds are the blood vessels of the social web - they keep all this content flowing.
Microsoft’s new search tool Bing has a travel section (http://www.bing.com/travel) that makes it less complicated to navigate through booking a vacation or business trip. They offer flight bookings, hotel selections and comparative searches.
Since Bing calls itself a decision engine they strive to offer the searcher as many pieces of information as possible to help the person searching find all they need to make that decision.
If you are a travel website you’ll want to make sure that you have these kinds of content available to Bing so they can display it to their searchers.
Companies looking for better travel PR should look into their online footprint.
Add new content about your destination with images and video. Encourage comments and reviews on your site. Syndicate this content a feed. That way more people see the content, they can add it to social sites and search engines like Bing can easily find and index your content.
The Cluetrain Manifesto, published ten years ago, has 95 theses. With not a lot to go on the authors predicted how they thought the Internet would change our lives: the way we communicate, connect, find news and information. All of which of course changes the way businesses need to operate.
Starting today 95 bloggers are writing their take on how each thesis has made an impact on our world. And big news – original author Doc Searls has just been added as one of the contributors.
You can follow the posts by subscribing to the #cluetrainplus10 Twitter feed.
Chris Noble of WorldNomads.com has a great article in EyeforTravel today. While others are focused on the value of advertising in social sites, Noble says the value (particularly for travel) lies in engagement.
These are his key points:
Show the world the human side of your company – let them get to know the people who work there. “ You’re a trekking company looking to ‘engage’ with those consumers interested in trekking. You have a staff member who happens to be passionate about photography and sharing their pictures. Why not encourage that staff member to manage your company Flickr account, upload their photos and build a community around trekking photography.” This is a great example.
Get ideas from your users. Dell has done this superbly with IdeaStorm. World Nomads did it with their audio language guides, born out of a debacle caused by using the wrong phrase. Listen, learn and respond says Noble.
Be part of the conversation. Positive word of mouth in discussions has led to influence and sales. They’ve seen more sales through Facebook as a referring site than any Ad Network they’ve used – and they’re not running ads on Facebook.
Tie social media into your corporate social involvement. Sites like KIVA have shown just how effective online giving and involvement in other communities can be. WorldNomads.com encourages their travelers to donate to sustainable community development projects around the world when they buy travel insurance. 180,000+ donations later, 35 projects funded and a 90% donation rate shows that their users share their values.
Building business relationships with social media. Many people still see Twitter as a waste of time, but Noble has found it ‘shockingly effective’ in building relationships with like minded peers. He’s done several successful partnership activities and promotions as a result of Twitter conversations.
Listen, learn and respond is indeed the mantra. It’s about what they need and want, not what we want to tell them.
Get started by using tools like BlogPulse to find conversations about your brand or niche. Subscribe to their RSS feeds with Google Reader. Search Twitter using your keywords. That’s the listen part.
Then comes the learn – listen for things people are interested in, what they like and dislike, what could make their lives easier. Do an evaluation of what you’re finding in these conversations. Be open ofr AHA moments,
Now you can formulate a content strategy. Create content that will resonate with your audience. Listening gives you ideas that align with their interests and values. Create something that really helps your users.
Word of mouth and engagement follow naturally when you create the right content. And pPeople link to excellent content. That helps your search visiblity too, so you win on both fronts.
Predictions for 2009 are that despite uncertainty about the future, people are still going to be traveling. Milions of Americans plan to take a vacation newxt year – but they are counting their pennies.
“Consumers are responding as we might expect in troubled times,” said Suzanne Cook, research vice president for the Travel Industry Association in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. Cook’s forecast is based on interviews with 2,291 adults in October. 7 out of 10 respondents said they intend to take an overnight trip of 50 miles or more in the next six months. Nearly half of those surveyed said they did not plan to change their future travel plans because of the financial turmoil.
The study predicts only a 1.3 percent decline in leisure travel next year from this year.
Some key findings:
76 percent of travelers expect to book a packaged vacation (air, hotels, meals and sightseeing) to save money.
58 percent plan to comparison shop for prices and rates specifically on the Internet.
How can you use this data in your 2009 marketing strategy?
Get your destination, resort or hotel very visible online.
Offer great package deals to prospective travelers.
Concentrate on markets close to you.
Create articles and interactive videos about your destination.
Show them the attractions they can see, and the experiences they can have, while staying with you. Syndicate this content in RSS feeds, so you show up higher, and faster, in the search engines and YouTube. YouTube is now the second largest search engine after Google!
Not sure what RSS feeds are and how they work? Read What is RSS?
The Pew Center for Research for People and the Press published figures December 23 that show online news got a huge boost this year. It’s jumped from 24 to 40 percent as the main source of news across all age groups. And in the under 30 age group it’s way higher – equal to TV.
One easy and affordable Internet marketing strategy you can employ right away is to add news content to your site and syndicate it with an RSS feed. If your news makes it to Google News – number 8 on the top ten list of news sites online – you’ll be way ahead of the pack.
What is RSS? Read our tutorials and case studies. You’ll see why RSS is an excellent SEO strategy too.
“Zeitgeist means ‘the spirit of the times,’ and we strive to capture this spirit through exploring the year’s new and exciting search terms,” a Google spokesperson explained to Thomas Claburn of Information Week.
Many of the search terms were phrased as a question – what is….?
What is RSS? is on that list at #5! Nice to know that more and more people want to know what RSS is and what it can do.
If you are one of the folk who needs help with understanding feeds, read the RSS tutorial or What is RSS on the PRESSfeed site.
A recent study from Forrester Research found that blogs drive more business than social networking sites do. ” While social sites are great for making connections that may lead to new business development projects, purchase decisions are far more influenced by blogs and content based on personal and business expertise,” says Bill French of MyST Technology. ”Continue to expand your social media strategy, but focus on rich content that helps your prospects and customers understand your businesses’ expertise.”
When asked about specific types of interactions, Americans who use social media believe:
Companies should use social networks to solve my problems (43%)
Companies should solicit feedback on their products and services (41%)
Companies should develop new ways for consumers to interact with their brand (37%)
Companies should market to consumers (25%)
Men are almost twice as likely (33%) to interact frequently with companies via social media than women (17%.) Of younger, hard-to-reach users (ages 18-34), one-third believe companies should actively market to them via social networks, and the same is true of the wealthiest households (household income of $75,000+). Two-thirds of the wealthiest households and the largest households (3 or more members) feel stronger connections to brands they interact with online.
This is very good news for marketers. If you don’t already have a social media strategy in place, now is the time to get started. One of the easiest ways to get your content into social media sites is to make your content available in RSS feeds and make it easy to save and share.