Vesta Digital Blog

Archive for October 2010

facebookVitrue, a company that specializes in social media marketing and expertise for brands and companies, recently published a study that explored the depths of Facebook and its benefits.

The white paper, called “Managing Your Facebook Community: Findings on Conversation Volume by Day of Week, Hour and Minute,” analyzes Facebook posts from August 10, 2007 to October 10, 2010. The study used over 1,500 selected streams and observed over 1.6 million posts and 7.56 million comments. These data were used to show when Facebook posts and comments were happening.

This insight will give any small business owner the know how of when to engage with their consumers.

Here are some of the most applicable findings:

  • The three biggest spikes of user activity occur on weekdays at 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 8 p.m.
  • The biggest spike of user activity 3 p.m. on weekdays
  • Wednesday at 3 p.m. is the consistently the busiest period of user activity
  • Sunday is the slowest day of the week for user activity
  • Morning posts are 39.7% more effective for user interaction

What can you learn from this?

Essentially, posting comments and updating your business’s Facebook page in the morning is going to be more effective than posting at any other time. Vitrue also notes that publishing at the top of the hour (:00 to :15) sees more interaction and engagement than posts at any other time.

This makes perfect sense if you take into consideration who is looking at your Facebook posts. People in a working environment will most likely browse through Facebook quickly before some important obligation at the top of the hour.

So, as a small business, use your Facebook wisely. Post new information in the morning, on the busiest days (Wednesday is a huge day), at the top of the hour. Social media marketing is a great way to gain traffic and customers. If you use it the right way, social media can transform your revenue stream.

networking tipsI recently attended a seminar put on by ESPN and a few hiring managers. The team of people was invited by the University of Florida to talk to students about potential career opportunities with ESPN and ESPN affiliates.

One of the main questions that came up during the seminar was about networking. A student asked “what advice do you have for networking, what can we avoid, and what can we do to maintain good contacts with people in your type of industry?”

This question immediately had the ESPN representatives chuckling, and the Production Manager stood up and said that the idea of networking is plagued by several misnomers. Networking is not simply just collecting business cards for future referencing, but it is about building genuine relationships.

Networking for business

This idea really had me thinking because I consistently write about how social media marketing and scrupulous business practices have a tendency to revolve around the development of relationships. So I tuned in a little closer.

“Networking is about building long term relationships, not pestering a mentor, a client, or a potential partner all the time…if you are communicating with someone more than once a quarter, it may be too much,” she said.

I find this idea extremely interesting because due to today’s technology, it is so easy to communicate with people anytime, anywhere. So keeping in touch once per quarter seems like I would be easily forgettable.

It comes down to this: it’s not about how much you communicate with an individual; it’s about how you do it. What kinds of questions do you ask them? How much do you know about their field of interest before you ask your questions? Be honest, genuine, and professional. Networking is about building relationships, yes – but professional relationships.

What not to do

Don’t pitch too early. Whether you are looking for a new position or trying to sell a new product, the exchange of business cards is not permission to launch into an over practiced sales pitch. You lose the trust (and quite frankly the interest) of whomever you’re speaking to.

Don’t assume closeness. Relationships take time to build and nurture. Think about the relationships you have with your friends, although you may have felt an immediate connection, it took time to build trust and understanding. Trying to latch on to a connection too soon can send them running.

business websiteAll businesses need an online presence. The facts are as simple as that. Consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet to find resources about services and products. They can shop for the best prices, brands, and reviews.

Over 200 million people in the U.S. use the Internet. About 70% of these people use the Internet to shop online. If you are selling a product or a service, especially as a small business, it is a death sentence if you do not have a business website.

You have the opportunity to have access to 140 million American online shoppers. This is one of the best (and probably the only way these days) ways to fight your way into the national market as a small business.

What is a good website?

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, your biggest struggle will be establishing credibility and differentiating yourself from your competitors. Having an effective business website is one of the most powerful tools you can use to set yourself apart as a trustworthy and valuable business.

Use your website to share valuable information like your mission statement, company history, customer testimonials, and plans for the future. Your website should be the primary place for your customers to visit to learn more about you. By also having a presence in the social media world, you also give yourself greater opportunity to spread word-of-mouth communication between consumers. You can’t have a social media presence without having a professional website to send people to.

Your website and social media efforts can reduce your business and marketing costs. You give people across the nation access to your products even if you are a small standalone store, inaccessible to those who cannot travel to you.

How to use your website

Because your website is a source of information, it gives you the ability to answer customer questions and continuously improve your product or service. Have a blog or forum on your website where you customers can submit inquiries and you can answer them in blog form.

Having a website with as much effective and useful information possible will reduce the amount of time it takes to educate your target market about your product or service. Use your website as your number one sales person.

small business marketingAs a small business owner, you have already taken the steps you need toward financial independence and personal growth. Many people dream of being your position, of being their own boss and living outside of someone else’s cubicle. However, you are probably fully aware that owning your own business is not all stars and rainbows, it’s back breaking work at times.

You don’t want to be statistic. You don’t want to be just another small business that never took off. Here are a few ways to avoid letting your small business sputter out.

Make Your Deadlines

Generally everything tied to your small business comes back to you as a person. It is so important to keep your word when it comes to delivering promises to clients or investors. Even if something goes wrong and you can’t make a deadline, you need the initiative and integrity to admit to it, and solve the problem.

Aggregate Communication

As a new small business owner, you need to be in constant communication with your employees. The tasks they are assigned need to be completed according to your guidelines and if they aren’t, it comes right back to you, your image, and your business. By having tools like social media networks to set up conference communication, you can encourage your employees to work together and discuss ways to improve efficiency.

Set up a private Facebook group, Twitter account, whatever, to encourage fast and easy communication. By having access to your employees (and giving them access to you), you will save time and energy, as well as avoid expensive travels costs.

Use Marketing Tools

You may have set up a small business that seems like a phenomenal idea. Who wouldn’t want your product? However, you can’t just expect your business to take off without grinding away at making it exist in the bigger picture.

You constantly need to be marketing your business, but how do you do that without being immediately labeled as a spammer? Use social media. Use it genuinely. Ask your followers or friends genuine questions about what they would want from your product. Ask people who have your product, why they are satisfied with it and how you can improve it?

Genuine communication is the number one marketing strategy in the world of social media. There is no better way to spread viral communication than social media, and it doesn’t work if you are labeled as just another advertisement.

nasa twitterAs small businesses begin to incorporate social media into their marketing regimen, bigger companies and organizations are using entire teams of people to manage their social media marketing campaigns. NASA is a clear example of how this process has proved successful.

NASA’s presence on Twitter has exploded with followers. Even the news covered NASA when an astronaut checked in on Foursquare from outer space last week. As of today, October 25, 2010, NASA has 628,400 followers on Twitter. They had 626,000 only a few days ago.

Stephanie Schierholz, a social media manager for NASA stated:

“We are currently gaining 10,000 new followers on Twitter every week…on our website, we have a page dedicated to social media.”

Social Media Positioning

NASA is using their social media marketing team to reposition the NASA personality in the minds of the younger generation. There are two shuttle program voyages scheduled for November 1 and February 27. They are using social media to host contests to encourage younger people to become involved in the launch

This contest, dubbed “Tweet-ups” include 150 random Twitter followers that have been selected and awarded a press pass for the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery out of Cape Canaveral, FL. Schierholz said the prize-winners would have to pay for their own expenses, but would receive a tour and time with an astronaut.

Location Based Social Media

NASA is also using geo-social platforms like Foursquare. NASA also gives information to people who check in with Foursquare about their locations. For instance, a check-in at the agency’s headquarters will produce a message telling the user that a replica of NASA astrophysicist John Mather’s Nobel Prize is on display in the lobby.

NASA has reported that using social media will help with advertising costs mainly because the agency cannot conduct paid advertising, and because social media marketing only has costs in relation to time. The social media efforts have been paying off as younger people become involved and engage with the social media and geo-social platforms.

business adviceAs a small business, you need to focus a majority of your efforts on marketing your product or service effectively. By using low-budget methods like social media marketing (among other methods), you have a greater chance of gaining customer traffic and increasing profit margins.

Here are 7 effective ways to market your small business without spending the big bucks, as according to an article on Business Know How.

1. Don’t Advertise Like a Big Business

Big businesses advertise to create name recognition and future sales. A small business can’t afford to do that. Instead, design your advertising to produce sales…now. One way to accomplish this is to always include an offer in your advertising – and an easy way for prospective customers to respond to it.

2. Offer a Cheaper Version

Some prospective customers are not willing to pay the asking price for your product or service. Others are more interested in paying a low price than in getting the best quality. You can avoid losing sales to many of these customers by offering a smaller or stripped down version of your product or service at a lower price.

3. Offer a Premium Version

Not all customers are looking for a cheap price. Many are willing to pay a higher price to get a premium product or service. You can boost your average size sale and your total revenue by offering a more comprehensive product or service, or by combining several products or services in a special premium package offer for a higher price.

4. Try Some Unusual Marketing Methods

Look for some unconventional marketing methods your competitors are overlooking. You may discover some highly profitable ways to generate sales and avoid competition. For example, print your best small ad on a postcard and mail it to prospects in your targeted market. A small ad on a postcard can drive a high volume of traffic to your website or generate a flood of sales leads for a very small cost.

5. Trim Your Ads

Reduce the size of your ads so you can run more ads for the same cost. You may even be surprised to find that some of your short ads generate a better response than their longer versions.

6. Set up Joint Promotions with Other Small Businesses

Contact some non-competing small businesses serving customers in your market. Offer to publicize their products or services to your customers in exchange for their publicizing your services to their customers. This usually produces a large number of sales for a very low cost.

7. Take Advantage of Your Customers

Your customers already know and trust you. It’s easier to get more business from them than to get any business from somebody who never bought from you. Take advantage of this by creating some special deals just for your existing customers, and announce new products and services to them before you announce them to the general market.

social bookmarkingSocial bookmarking is becoming more and more useful as consumers turn to the web to find information on products and services. It is the process of saving web pages to a public web site and tagging them with keywords.

Any visitor can search for their topic of interest at a bookmarking website using keywords, names of people, popularity ratings, and so on.

According to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Report, social bookmarking is the number one social media tool marketers want to know more about. A reported 61% of marketers wanted to learn more about sites like del.icio.us and how they can be used to help reach their audiences.

Small business owners and B2B marketers were more interested in social bookmarking tools than others surveyed, according to the report.

Why does it work?

Social bookmarking is an easy way to aggregate and categorize resourceful information. It is also extremely effective for disseminating information about your product or service to your consumer audience.

Because the person who bookmarks the page has the authority to tag it with specific keywords, anyone who searches for those keywords will be exposed to that page. This is especially effective when distributing blog posts out to the web.

Also, once a person sees a bookmark, he or she has access to seeing the other bookmarked resources tagged by the person who created it. This allows for social connections, online conversation, word of mouth marketing, and the quick and easy dissemination of information.

Why should you use it?

If you are a small business owner it is important for you to at least experiment with social bookmarking because it is absolutely rising as a trend. Social bookmarking is an activity that allows consumers to express different, personalized perspectives on the information they are exposed to.

Consumers make social connections based on common interests. If your topic of interest is sailing, for example, you may read a bookmark tagged about sailing. You may find that the person who tagged that bookmark also bookmarked a page about boat repairs. This can take you into a completely new and potentially profitable direction.

The possibilities are endless.

business successAs a small business advocate always on the lookout for new advice for how to start and run a successful small business, I have found several “formulas” and “checklists” that promise the budding entrepreneur success and financial rewards.

However, there is no set path to financial freedom. Small business owners need to be creative, put pressure on the guidelines, and strive to be different from competitors.

I found an article on PowerHomeBiz that describes some survival tips for entrepreneurship, here are a few of the ones from the article I found to be the most helpful:

1. Follow Opportunity Instead of Savoring Security.

This is the hardest one of all. Most of us were brought up to seek out and cling to the security of the 9-5 job. What happens when you mention to your family that you want to leave the security of your pension and go out on your own. They will probably advise you to be sure, to step carefully, to take your time. Some may even advise you against it completely. Are they financially independent? Did they have what it takes to go out on their own?

Are they living the life that they want? One way to avoid getting caught up in this security trap is to set a confirmed time that you will leave your job. Real worth and wealth is generated from within you. It comes from being prepared, knowing how to spot, act upon and capitalize from opportunities.

2. Making a Profit, Not a Living.

If you are still an employee, you probably know how much you will be bringing home next week. But with your own business, you have to remember to focus on making a profit and that means high sales and low overhead. No one signs your check now. To survive you must be focused on how you will make a profit today, tomorrow and next week. You must find ways to keep costs down to the exception of affecting your profit making capabilities.

3. Look For Opportunity, Not Mistakes.

Success is the result of making good decisions. Good decisions are made from good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad decisions. This doesn’t mean you should try to make mistakes for experience. The key is to gain experience from the mistakes and success of others. Seek out others in your field. Study and understand why they are succeeding or failing. Don’t expect to make all the right decisions and don’t let the fear of making mistakes inhibit you from pursuing new opportunities. Those who never make mistakes are probably working for those who weren’t afraid of making them.

4. Know What People Want, Instead of Wanting What You Know.

What it all comes down to. Knowing the who, what, where and why of your target customers. The success of your business is not the sum total of the knowledge you have gained, it still is and always will be, the “sale”. Success is determined by what products sell and how well they sell. It isn’t what you know that counts, it’s what your customers want. If you lose sight of this fact, you are doomed to failure. Never lose sight of the fact that marketing your customers’ wants is your number one priority.

e-commerceIf you are a small business owner or budding entrepreneur, you probably already know how imperative it is to have a professional online presence. People generally see the Internet as a primary resource when researching information about products and services.

Research on the Internet is also transforming, it is transitioning from personal research to consultation with peers via social media networks. So how does this apply to you as a small business owner with a website? You need a website that promotes your product in the most effective ways.

Below are a few ideas to help your web development:

Sell Products People Want

Selling personal and customizable products is generally the smartest approach when entering the small business world. This will enable you to have control over the trademarks and copyrights. If not, be sure to research the most reliable wholesalers available. Buying wholesale from reliable companies is critical for your business success.

Research your target market and have a clear understanding of what your consumers are looking for.

Purchase a Domain Name

Your URL should always relate to your business. You will get buried in search engine rankings if your URL is something overcomplicated, and does not include the keywords associated with the product you sell. Search engines generally rank .com sites higher than .org or .net, if possible, purchase all three domain names and redirect the .org and .net pages to your .com site.

You should generally purchase a 5-year reservation. Search engines tend to rank veteran websites higher than newer ones. Having an effective URL will automatically boost your search engine optimization.

Build an Effective Website

Your content should be persuasive, credible, and concise. The website should be easy to navigate, easy to find, and easy to purchase from. Have real contact information and as much personal touch as possible. Use social media marketing by having a Social Media Platform in order to gain exposure online and event cut marketing costs.

Have Online Purchase Power

The fastest and easiest way to set up an online payment program is to use Pay Pal. Any individual with an email address can securely and easily send and receive payments online. Pay Pal has a well-known reputation of having a solid fraud prevention system.

Employ Search Engine Optimization

Relevant keywords are critical for your search engine optimization, or your page rank within search engines. Try Google Adwords or other keyword testing programs to see what kind of results you might get on search engines with the keywords you have in mind. Google your own company or product and see what kind of words show up the most often.

social media reportSo much has changed in the world of social media marketing. Businesses have been hesitant to use this marketing method until now. Now, the reality is that social media marketing is imperative for gaining exposure and credibility as a small business.

Social Media Examiner, an online guide to the “Social Media Jungle,” launched a market industry report in April. The report is called 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, How Marketers Are Using Social Media to Grow Their Businesses by Michael A. Stelzner. This report gives phenomenal insight and research results about exactly how social media is helping businesses grow.

Here are just a few of their study results:

The Benefits of Social Media Marketing

  • 85% of marketers reported that social media has generated exposure for their business
  • 63% reported an increase in traffic, subscribers, and opt-in lists
  • 56% reported social media resulted in new business partnerships
  • 54% indicated a rise in search engine rankings
  • 52% reported a rise in generated qualified leads
  • 47% reported that social media was the reason for an increase in sales
  • 48% reported a decrease in overall marketing expenses

The study shows significant increases in all of these areas (with the exception of business partnerships, which has stayed the same at 56%) since their 2009 study.

For example, 73,8% of marketers who have been using social media for more than one year reported it has helped them close business. This is a 12% increase from 2009. The study also says that over half of people surveyed who spend 11 or more hours per week using social media marketing have achieved the same results.

How You can Use Social Media

Social media is beneficial for even more ways than the ones described above. If these numbers don’t convince you that social media marketing is the best way to reach your customers in today’s market, at least take the time to consider the decrease in overall marketing costs.

The only financial cost of social media marketing is the time it takes to generate exposure and credibility in the social media world.


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