It's no secret that new and social media are important marketing tactics for small businesses in 2013. While new media encompasses video, podcasting, blogging and mobile media, social media is about the conversations that occur in comments and updates on these platforms and others like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. Businesses that want to stay relevant and be seen as leaders in their industries in 2013 must have an active presence in the majority of these platforms, but many are still dragging their heels.
Brian Moran is a small business advocate and consultant with a background in publishing at Entrepreneur Media, Inc. Magazine, Success Magazine and as the Executive Director of Sales Development at the Wall Street Journal. Over the past 20+ years, he has helped entrepreneurs to realize their business dreams by giving them practical advice through interviews on social and traditional media and by speaking at conferences and networking events. In this interview, Brian shares his thoughts on what small businesses need to know about new and social media in 2013.
1. As small businesses begin the year with a clean slate and new opportunities to increase brand visibility via social media, what is the most important strategy all businesses should employ in their marketing campaigns?
Small business owners need to stop complaining about having little or no understanding of social media and no time to learn it. One of my favorite quotes is "If you don't have the time to do something right, when are you going to find the time to do it over?" The haphazard attempts at setting up a Facebook page, Twitter account or LinkedIn profile will have a negative impact on a small business brand because it won't reflect the superior quality of the company's product and/or service. The horse has left the barn with social media. It's not a trend but a catalyst in the changing way that the world chooses to communicate. Small business owners need to take the necessary time to set a proper foundation for the role that social media will play in their company moving forward.
2. How do you see the role of brand partnerships and collaborations in business? Do you think small businesses dilute their brand messaging by collaborating with other brands?
Brand partnerships and collaboration are excellent opportunities for small businesses in 2013. They can open up new markets and introduce a company's product or service to new groups of customers. The best part is they already have a positive feeling about the partner's brand. It's akin to getting a warm introduction on a sales call.
The only time brand messaging gets diluted when collaborating with other brands is when the partnership seems like a forced marriage. There should be a natural fit between the two brands and their messaging. That is the best possible partnership. For example, if you were visiting your dentist, you don't expect him or her to have collateral material in their waiting area on smartphones or dishwashers. However, if they had information on new oral care treatments it would make total sense to the patient.
3. With your background in publishing and media and your history of small business advocacy, I am sure you are well aware of the necessity for businesses to create content in order to build the know, like and trust factor. Can you share some of the mistakes that you see small businesses make when it comes to content creation?
Many small business owners don't understand how content has changed over the years. Fifteen years ago, content was a monologue. People received their content from experts in newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and other media. Today, content is a dialogue; it's all about conversations, engagement and sharing information. Content, for small business owners, is also a "means to an end." Business owners typically have a wealth of knowledge about certain industries or markets. They have a bank of content in their heads that, with the right social media tools, can help position them as experts to customers, potential customers, partners, vendors and other industry experts. When business owners share their content using social media, they are entering the conversations that are taking place in their respective industries. The better the content, the more people go to them as a "source of information." When business owners view content in this manner, they will then see the value it has in helping them achieve their objectives.
4. The one complaint that we hear over and over from small business owners is that they simply do not have the time to put into learning and implementing social media tactics. Is social media optional for small businesses? How do they decide what platforms are best to reach their audience?
As I said earlier, "If you don't have the time to do things right, when will you find the time to do them over?" Business owners should treat social media like it's college. They can't take 128 credits in one semester and they won't learn social media overnight. Hopefully that eases the burden they feel whenever the topic comes up. For most small businesses, social media really isn't an option. They will eventually go out of business from too many missed opportunities and lost sales.
As far as deciding which platform works best, it's a simple matter of asking their customers "do you use Twitter? Are you on LinkedIn? What about Facebook?" Business owners cannot be afraid to ask their customers how they would like to communicate with the company now and moving forward. If it's a new business or a company looking for new customers, start with creating a LinkedIn profile. Then, join groups that have similar interests or connections (e.g. Exporting Group, Pest Management Network) and start asking questions about what works and what doesn't work. I think business owners will find that most people are happy to share advice about business. They recognize that it's a give-and-take world. Additionally, by replying with a smart answer, it enhances their profile as an industry expert.
5. Some experts believe that the numbers of followers, comments and impressions are the most important indicators that social media is working. How do you measure success in the social campaigns of your clients and will this change in 2013 from what you have done in the past?
Those are popular metrics in social media today. The assumption is that, if you're covering topics on small business, then the people following you and leaving comments are probably small business owners. In terms of measuring success for a specific client campaign, we always determine, in advance their objectives for the program. We have to be in alignment BEFORE the campaign launches so that all our efforts are pointed at the right target. I think in 2013, the process of measuring campaigns will continue to evolve. There are data mining and analytics tools in beta right now that will provide marketers with even more detailed information on their customers and potential customers.
6. There has been some speculation that branded content and new media content creators are going to move into the trend spot in 2013. How should businesses go about getting connected with branded content opportunities? Are there some types of businesses that benefit from this type of partnership more than others?
Here's what businesses need to know about content: (1) Quality content is king. Think of it as platinum. (2) Content is a means to an end. It's only good if it helps you achieve a specific, measurable goal. (3) You probably have the mother lode of quality content inside your own brain. The key is to find someone who can help you tap the source. (4) Most businesses can use social media as a vehicle for their content to connect with customers, partners, vendors and industry experts. (5) One way to find the right person to help you mine the content is the next time you read something that resonates with you, see who wrote it and either email them or give them a call. If they can't help you, maybe they know someone who can.
7. What are your top business goals for 2013 and what have you done to prepare yourself to reach them?
My top business goals are to add four to five major accounts to our growing roster of clients, host a major conference on small business and entrepreneurship in America and hit a certain revenue number which we've set. These are our three main strategic goals. Our operational plan, which acts as a GPS system, will take us from where we are now to our intended destinations. The key to our success will be not to lose focus on the plan we've created. We will review our plan on a monthly basis with partners, vendors and advisors to get their input and to see if we've missed anything, good or bad, that is coming up in the near future.