Monday, July 30, 2012

Top 5 Tips to Embrace Social Media

Is your small business ready to embrace social media? With all of the choices, tackling social media can be intimidating. It's best to start with a few sites to kick off your social media strategy. Here are some of the most popular and best for small businesses:

1. Blogs
Write them, visit them, comment on them. There have been 133 million blogs indexed by Technorati since 2002. They're a great way to engage with customers, learn and network.

2. Twitter
People constantly ask "What is Twitter?" Essentially, Twitter is a micro-blog where you have 140 characters to get your message across. The goal is to follow people and acquire followers. The best way to do this is by providing value through your tweets. Send your followers to interesting articles, products they may like or let them know what you're up to.

3. Facebook
What started off as a way to connect with old friends has quickly evolved into a way to do so much more. From promoting your business and products, to acquiring customers as fans of your Facebook page, Facebook is a great way to get feedback and interact with clients and customers in real-tiome -- plus so much more.

4. LinkedIn
More commonly know as "Facebook for grown-ups," LinkedIn is a business tool that helps colleagues connect. It's a great way to locate long lost co-workers, locate a new job or network your way to new clients.

5. Digg
This is one of the largest and most popular social news websites where you can learn about topics including politics, entertainment, technology and general news. In addition, you can comment -- or "digg" -- web pages you enjoy.

Speaking of social media, I'm on Twitter (allyjackson), LinkedIn and Facebook, so be sure to look me up. I'd love to connect with you.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Why Your Small Business Needs an Online PR /Social Media Assistant

Owning a small business means you wear many different hats, from marketing director to accountant, and everything in between. With the emergence of social media, including this type of promotion in your marketing mix is crucial to reaching customers. But how do you find the time? Enter the Online PR/ Social Media Assistant. By enlisting the help of a dedicated, knowledgeable resource, you can take your business to new levels. Plus, you ensure that you're leveraging social media to connect with your customers, improve your products and/or services and find new business.

The Role of an Online PR/ Social Media Assistant
Here are just a few of the responsibilities this position can assume for your company:
  • Write blog posts
  • Submit articles to online publications
  • Provide guest posts to other blogs or publications to help you gain exposure
  • Manage your Facebook account and postings
  • Monitor and post to Twitter
  • Create and post how-to or promotional videos to YouTube
  • Write and distribute press releases
  • Coordinate media interviews
  • Secure speaking engagements
  • Identify other social media channels your business should leverage
  • Participate in online forums within your industry
  • The list goes on and on...
What to Look for in an Online PR/ Social Media Assistant
It seems that everyone today is calling themselves a "social media expert" so it's important to find someone that's a good fit for your business. Here are the top 3 credentials an Online PR/ Social Media Assistant should have:
  1. Experience -- You wouldn't hire an electrician who's not familiar with electrical systems or wiring. The same holds true for working in online public relations and social media. You want someone who is familiar and comfortable with a variety of media channels. For example, do they have a significant number of followers on Twitter and/or fans on Facebook? Have they helped other businesses reach their social media goals? Can they create an online PR strategy and execute it?
  2. Online writing skills -- Writing for the web and social media is vastly different from other kinds of business writing. Online writing needs to be succinct, catchy and to the point. It must engage customers, use the right keywords and generate buzz.
  3. Networking skills -- You'll want your Online PR/ Social Media Assistant to be able to collaborate and network easily and seamlessly to ensure your company gets the maximum amount of online exposure. From joining and participating in the right communities, to building relationships with bloggers, this role needs strong networking skills to be successful.
Where to Find an Online PR/ Social Media Assistant
Since social media is still fairly new, it can be difficult to find someone with an adequate amount of experience. That said, you may be able to get a college student or recent grad, who most likely is well versed in social media, for much less than someone with a few years of experience.

Here are a few options to help you find an assistant:
  • Referral/word of mouth
  • Craigslist
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google
  • College boards/forums
This post wouldn't be complete without a shameless plug for A Communication Solution. One of our specialties is helping small businesses with their online PR, social media and marketing with the right experience and know-how to get the job done.

I'd love to get your thoughts. Do you think this is a valuable resource for your business, or would you rather do it yourself? Perhaps you already have an Online PR/Social Media Assistant. What has your experience been?

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Top 5 Reasons Your Small Business Needs a Blog

    Social media, and blogs especially, are all the rage when it comes to small businesses. Blogs offer a great forum to interact with customers, gather feedback and understand what customers like and dislike. In addition, there are additional benefits of a small business blog, including proving your value by providing engaging content, driving traffic through that meaty content and learning more than you ever imagined about your customers. Need some more reasons to start a blog? Here you go:

    Reason #1 -- Start a Conversation

    Having a blog enables you to build a relationship with your customers. The way the blog posts are written (light and fun or serious and formal) and the topics covered will help shape a small business' personality and style. As a small business owner, you will need to determine if you will personally write the blog posts or if you will outsource that work to a freelancer.

    Conversations invite feedback from customers, which can be vital for products and services that are offered. Engaging customers is a great way to build loyalty and provide customers with a sense of community.

    Reason #2 -- Become an Authority in Your Field

    You should be able to provide commentary about newsworthy items relative to your business. Was there a recent news story related to a key product offering? Provide a blog post outlining the small business' view. Giving opinions and comments begins to build a small business owner's authority. Blog posts allow owners to showcase their knowledge and expertise -- a great business builder!

    Reason #3 -- Provide Potential (and Current) Customers With a "How-to"

    What better way to showcase your knowledge and expertise than with a how-to blog post? Be sure to include photos (a picture is worth a thousand words) and even upload a short video. Customers will appreciate detailed instructions on how to use a product or how to order a service.

    Reason #4 -- Tell a Story (With a Happy Ending, Of Course)

    Everyone loves a good story, and including a personal story in a blog gives you and your business a personality. How did the business begin? Offer a great customer service story (what better way to highlight the importance of customers).

    Reason #5 -- Offer a Product or Service Review

    A blog post is a great venue to demonstrate why a product or service offering may be superior. While this isn't the time to bash competitors, it is a great way to highlight key differences and benefits.

    You can offer one type of blog or combine all of these to keep your blog posts interesting. Creating an editorial calendar can make the frequency and types of blog posts you create easier to monitor. For example, Mondays may be a product or service review, Wednesdays offer an opinion and Fridays have a how-to blog post. A great tool for creating an editorial calendar is Google Calendar.

    You'll want to create a blog that has your business's domain name attached to it. To get started with a small business blog for free (there are costs with a domain name and hosting), check out Wordpress or Blogger. It's that simple!

    Thursday, May 31, 2012

    PR Tips & Tidbits

    5 Tips for Radio Show Interviews

    1) Have a goal for the interview - the most common one today is to drive people to your web site.
    2) Have a web address that's easy to remember and spell - so listeners won't forget it after the interview.
    3) Call-in on a landline - better voice quality and more reliable.
    4) Listen to the show a few times before you get on - so you know what to expect.
    5)  Have a pencil and paper in front of you during the interview - so if a thought occurs, you can jot it down and be sure to cover it.

    Source: Fred Gleeck Insights, 8/27/09.
    Twitter Tip
    Perry Belcher, a successful Internet marketer with over 60,000 Twitter followers, uses this formula for successful tweeting:

    ** 30% anything funny (jokes, funny quotes, etc.)
    ** 25% compliments and praise for others (includes retweets)
    ** 10% information that keeps them informed
    ** 5% what you are doing

    ***What are they saying about you online?***

    Is your business being hurt by people who are trash-talking about you or your product on blogs and web sites?

    To find out what is being said about you online, do a full search using your company name, brand, and product names on Google, Bing, and Yahoo twice a month, advises marcom strategist
    Dianna Huff.

    On Google, open a Google account and set up Google Alerts. These are e-mails that Google sends you whenever a specific keyword or phrase you specify - like your name -- is used online. 

    Use the images, books, maps, and more links at the top of the Google search page to see how your company and product names are being used. Then click on "more options" to see online reviews, forums, and related searches. Plus: check for mentions of you on Digg, Delicious, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

    Source: Marcom Strategist, 7/10/09.


    ***4 ways to make Google love your site***

    According to Internet marketing guru Howie Jacobson, Google ranks "authority" web sites - sites that provide valuable information on a topic -- higher than ordinary web sites.

    Here are the 4 things you need to have an authority web site:

    1-High-quality content - valuable information that's free - and lots of it.
    2-New material added all the time - so Google sees the site is growing and staying current.
    3-Easy-to-use site navigation - including a site map.
    4-Inbound links to your site from other authority web sites in the same niche.

    Added bonus: having an authority website also helps position you as a thought leader in your industry.

    Source: Early to Rise, 7/1/09.


    ***7 reasons why visitors don't buy from you online***

    According to an e-tailing group survey, visitors don't buy online for 7 reasons:

    1-High shipping charges - 46%.
    2-Desire to comparison shop some more-37%.
    3-Lack of money-36%.
    4-Wanted to look for a coupon-27%.
    5-Wanted to shop offline-26%.
    6-Couldn't find preferred payment option-24%.
    7-Security concerns about ordering online-21%.

    Action steps: test lowering your shipping and handling charges; expand your payment options;  test coupons on your shopping carts; and make sure you have secure socket layer (SSL) security logos on your site's order forms and shopping cart. These include VeriSign, Entrust, TRUSTe, and GoDaddy.

    Source: eMarketer, 6/30/09.

    ***5 Ways to Write Better***
    1—Write what you know.
    2—Know what it is that you know.
    3—Make good use of details.
    4—Look for details in experience – yours or other
    5—Collect information. You never know what will someday be

    Source: Richard Lovett, Analog, 1/10/10, p. 55.

    This article appears courtesy of Bob Bly Direct Response Letter at

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    From PR to Work Overload, 8 Bite-sized Tips for Your Business

    Here are some fun tips for your business...

    ***To Get PR, Be Available"***
    Always provide the media with your cell phone number and other fast contact info, advises PR pro Annie Jennings. "If you are actively seeking PR, keep yourself instantly available," says Jennings. "Check your messages immediately so you don't miss a thing." If you are traveling to a location for a TV segment, ask for the producer's emergency contact information, but only use it for emergencies. That way, if you have trouble finding the location, you can reach your media contact immediately.
    Source: Behind the Podium, 1/10, p. 3.
    ***Who Will Buy From You?***
    The 4 groups of prospects more likely to buy from you are:
    1-People you know.
    2-People you do business with.
    3-People who do business with vendors their friends talk
    4-People who do business with people they read about.
    Action step: create and distribute more content so that more of your prospects fall into categories #3 and #4 above.
    Source: Patricia Fripp, The Podium, 12/09, p. 6.
    ***Handling Work Overload***
    When asked to perform yet another time-consuming task at work or at home, apply MaryEllen Tribby's "Triple D" principle:
    >> Ditch it - evaluate the task to see if it really needs to be done at all.
    >> Delegate it - is the task something that someone else can do?
    >> Dominate it - if you DO take on the task, give it your all.
    ***Do You Know These Facts About White Papers?***
    Are you skeptical about the value of writing white papers? If so, these survey results might change your mind....
    Some 84% of businesspeople surveyed find white papers influential in their purchasing decisions. And 89% of
    businesspeople pass white papers along to others.
    How long should your white papers be? The survey found that readers prefer white papers that are 6 to 10 pages in length.
    Source: WhitePaperSource Newsletter, 12/8/09.
    ***Affirmations for Success***
    Sales trainer Bill Caskey advises "travel the road to abundance through detachment." These affirmations can help:
    ** "It's OK if you don't buy from me; others will."
    ** "It's OK if you aren't a prospect for me; others are."
    ** "It's OK if you disagree with me; I am not my opinions."
    ** "It's OK if you fire me; I'll find better situations elsewhere."
    ** "It's OK if you don't love me; others will."
    ***Finding Your Best Customers***
    When segmenting your customer list, look for "RFM" - recency, frequency, and monetary.
    >> Recency - the customer who just bought from you is the most likely to buy again. This is why you get more solicitations from charities right after you give to them: the person who just made a donation is the most likely to donate again.
    >> Frequency - people who buy 2 or more times ("multi-buyers") are more loyal customers than those who have bought only once. Reason: they experienced your product and service, and came back for more.
    >> Monetary - the more money a customer has spent with you, the more likely they are to make additional purchases.
    ***Look Forward to Something***
    Having trouble keeping a positive attitude these dreary days? Think about one small, enjoyable thing you plan to do that day (eating a bagel) and one really fun thing you plan on doing soon (your upcoming fishing trip), suggests Allen Elkin, Ph.D., director of the Stress Management and Counseling Center in New York City. Reason: this helps your brain not obsess about what can go wrong that day.
    ***Quote of the Month***
    "Like most drudge work, thinking is an undertaking that Americans would rather subcontract to someone else."
    --Mattathias Schwartz
    Source: Harper's Magazine, 1/10, p. 28.
    This article appears courtesy of Bob Bly's ( Direct Response Letter.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Keep Productivity Up -- 5 Tips for Business Owners

    Being productive takes practice and a plan. But anyone can improve their productivity and get more done each day. Here are some ways to incorporate productivity into anyone's daily work day, from stay-at-home moms to small business owners:

    1. Keep Distractions to a Minimum to Improve Productivity
    Distractions are to productivity what kryptonite is to Superman. The first thing you must do is eliminate any and all distractions. This includes, but is not limited to, food, TV, phone, annoying noises (if possible) and anything else that could prevent getting work done.

    2. Improve Productivity By Checking E-mail Twice a Day
    E-mail can suck up hours a day. From opening and reviewing e-mails to crafting answers, researching and responding. By limiting the numbers of times that you check e-mail to just twice a day, enormous amounts of lost energy and time can be found and put to good use.

    3. Be Productive By Returning Phone Calls at the Beginning and End of the Day
    Check voicemail as soon as the day starts. If phone calls are the basis of your work day, add additional check-in times. But the key is to limit that time so the entire day isn't wasted answering phone calls. Pick one or two times per day to return all phone calls. However, it's important to customize this schedule based upon the number of calls received. For example, some focused on generating sales may need to allot 4-5 times during each day to return phone calls.

    4. Attack the Hardest Tasks First
    Procrastinators despise hard tasks. That's why they put them off. Tackle the hardest, most dreaded tasks first. Break them up into smaller tasks if necessary. Once the hardest job of the day is completed, a sense of accomplishment takes over. That's the best time to jump on the productivity high and start completing easier, smaller tasks. Over the course of a few hours, an entire to-do list can be completed.

    5. Be Productive By Making a Daily To-Do List
    It's difficult to be productive if it's unclear what needs to be accomplished. That's where the trusted to-do list comes in handy. At the beginning of each day, list every single task -- no matter how big or small -- that needs to be completed by the end of the day. As the task is completed, cross it off the list. Some tasks may need to be moved to the next day. However, having a list will improve productivity by outlining exactly what needs to be done.

    Improving productivity takes time, but anyone can increase their productivity. Take small steps and incorporate one tip each week to ensure your new routine sticks. Where there's a will, there's a way. Get on the way to getting more done today!

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    How to Keep in Touch With Your Customers

    As a business owner, understanding your customer's wants and needs is vital. Knowing what your customers like, dislike and how they feel about your business and its products or service is incredibly important. Having customer input can help you improve your business, its products, services and business processes. Keeping in touch with your customers is just one way to build those relationships, which is imperative to any small business.

    Here are some ways you can keep in touch with your customers:

    1. Stay Connected With E-mail
    To keep in touch with your customers via e-mail, collecting e-mail addresses is imperative! Building a comprehensive customer email list is a great way to send updates about new products, services, new locations and much more. Best of all, e-mail is two-way. You can also collect feedback on different ways that you can improve your business.

    2. Leverage Social Media to Get to Know Your Customers
    From LinkedIn and Facebook to Twitter and MySpace, small business owners are quickly learning that social media is here to stay. Plus, it's another avenue to keep in touch with your customers. It can seem overwhelming with so many options, but small steps are key. Getting involved and learning should be your top priority.

    3. Public Relations Helps Customers Get to Know Your Business
    Public relations is a great way to keep in touch with your customers, especially since customers may see your business in the local media, which builds credibility. Survey your customers on products and services and then publicize the results. For example, a travel agency may give their customers a survey asking for their favorite travel destination. Once the results are compiled, create a press release entitled "XYZ Travel Agency Finds Hawaii is Local Residents' Favorite Getaway."

    What are some other ways to keep in touch with your customers? Offer a monthly loyal customers event, create a special promotion that can be sent to them or just send a short hand-written note thanking them for their business. As a small business owner, you need to show your customers that you care.

    Better yet, take a step back and think about all the ways you like to be contacted by businesses that you deal with, it can help generate more ideas on how to keep in touch with your customers. Building relationships with your customers will help grow your business. What are you waiting for? Start building relationships with customers today!

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Consistency is Key

    Whether you're talking about working out, starting a business or achieving goals, one thing is certain -- consistency is key to success. With the New Year quickly underway (how are we almost halfway through January?!), what better time to evaluate where to focus your consistency efforts?

    I was cleaning out my Google Reader recently, since I'm not sure how I ended up following 50+ blogs with everything from green and frugal living (to stay abreast of topics for my other blog -- to fitness (did I mention I also have a blog called  Not to mention the blogs on small business, marketing and PR that I follow!

    As I went through each blog, I noticed that more than a third of them hadn't been active or updated anywhere from six months to more than a year. Wow! It's actually a shame because some of them were valuable resources and I thoroughly enjoyed the posts. So that got me to thinking? Part of success is just doing what needs to be done day in and day out. Could it really be that simple? For your blog or business to progress and grow, you need to give it attention on a regular basis.

    That's why one of my New Year's Resolutions is to dedicate one hour each day to my blogs. I don't want to end up getting deleted from someone's Google Reader due to inactivity!

    What are you doing to ensure your consistency?

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    5 Ways to Stay Motivated

    Many businesses can be all-consuming. Staying focused on a business day in and day out can wear on your motivation and productivity. Keeping motivation charged up and burning bright can be the difference between having a successful business and a failed one. Here are a few ways you can keep your motivation in check

    Get Motivated by Setting Goals
    It's hard to be productive and find motivation if your business does not have a set of goals. From the number of clients and amount of revenue to expansion plans and new products, knowing what your business needs to achieve in a set period of time will help motivate business owners to accomplish what needs to get done. Having a plan is essential to reach your objectives.

    Monitor Progress for Motivation
    Once the goals and time line are set, it's important to keep tabs on how many accomplishments have been reached. Reaching even the smallest achievement can have a snowball effect. It will stoke the flames of motivation. So on either a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, be sure to compare progress to the established goals of the business.

    Try Something New -- Or Do Nothing at All
    Sometimes a new activity, research or attending a conference will get even the most procrastinating business owner motivated. But sometimes doing too much can lead to burn out and de-motivation. What's the cure? Do nothing at all. Take a walk, read a book or meditate. Stepping away from work and the business can be very motivating. It can help recharge the batteries.

    Brainstorm with Family, Friends or Colleagues
    A lack of motivation can be due to a number of reasons. One way to get revitalized is to brainstorm new ideas with family, friends, colleagues or even clients. The best customers can offer some of the best ideas for how to take a business to the next level. Or, do some research, either by surveying customers or even doing some due diligence on what the competition is doing.

    Stay Focused by Thinking Outside the Box
    Innovation is the key to any successful business. It's imperative to constantly think of new ways to do things, new products to offer, and most importantly, how to differentiate from the competition. Doing a pulse check on the competition is one way to keep finding innovative ways to keep the business growing and evolving.

    In order for businesses to stay ahead of the pack, staying motivated and productive is essential. Remember to do what is necessary in order not to keep innovating. Here's to continued success...and motivation!