Build your Business Brand with Social Marketing
By: Connie Blaszczyk, Managing Editor, Monster Resource Center
Social marketing can be a goldmine for small business. But if you’re busy running a business day in and day out, it can difficult to land the right mix of marketing mojo and social media best practices for your company.
The good news, as marketing expert Jeff Korhan points out in his new book, Built-in Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business (Wiley, 2013) is that social marketing can leverage your current experience and expertise. In other words, you don't have to reinvent your business to make your business brand more likable, trusted and engaging.
In this interview, Korhan explains the ins and outs of social marketing for small business.
Monster: In your book, Built-in Social, you say that, “In order to get work these days, it is necessary to show that you want the work, you appreciate the work, and that you are easy to work with.”
Has social media become the best way for small businesses to demonstrate that they “want work”?
Korhan: Most businesses want more work, but not all of them are willing to earn that opportunity, and the amplifying qualities of social media tend to make that evident.
So, the best way for a business to use social media to earn more opportunities to serve its ideal customers is to be service oriented. This is accomplished with content marketing, typically using a blog or similar platform to provide relevant solutions for a defined community.
The value they derive from that content creates alignment with the business publishing it, thereby leading to new business opportunities.
Monster: You differentiate brands as “likeable” and businesses as “friendly.” What are the easiest ways for businesses to show that they’re “friendly” in the social media space?
Korhan: Likeable and friendly are both desirable qualities, but friendly is more intimate and personal, and that is what earns the trust that is necessary for buyers to step forward.
If a consumer knows and trusts just one person in a business, they will generally trust the business as a whole, especially if that person is one of its leaders. This is why it is essential for small business owners and their leading managers to be participating in the conversations on their social media channels.
The first step in accomplishing this is often being responsive to the comments that otherwise go unanswered.
Monster: Many small companies create a Facebook page that quickly languishes. What recommendations do you have to keep it vibrant and fresh?
Korhan: It is indeed challenging to keep a Facebook page vibrant, even when the business is actively making the effort to keep everything fresh.
My experience, and that of many others, is that you have to occasionally promote posts and use other forms of Facebook advertising to reach your fans and followers that are being filtered by Facebook’s EdgeRank formula (discussed in detail in Built-In Social).
It is also helpful to vary the content mix to determine what works best to get more folks tuning in on a regular basis.
Monster: You talk about the importance of social entrepreneurship. Can you explain what it is and how it can be useful for a company’s social media profile?
Korhan: Social entrepreneurship is hybrid business model that is not purely capitalistic or social, having a traditional profit motive while also making a contribution to community in some way. This may be the local community the small business serves, or it could be special interests or causes that transcend local to even include a global community.
The value of this model in terms of social media is the social or community focused efforts tend to get readily shared. This humanizes the business, thereby making it more approachable.
When all other things are equal, consumers will tend to favor those businesses with a higher purpose that serves the greater good of the community.
Monster: How should companies respond to negative online comments that are directed toward their business, an employee or the business owner?
Korhan: Negative comments directed at anyone in particular should be either deleted or edited to preserve both the intent of the message and the decorum of the community.
I did this recently on my blog and the commenter privately thanked me afterwards. One likely reason for this is that the two people having that somewhat heated conversation actually entered into a business transaction as a result of that discussion.
Every situation and community is different, but most important is to give people freedom of expression, even if it happens to be negative. If the business skillfully manages these conversations they will find they usually lead to favorable, or at least, acceptable outcomes.
Monster: You say that collaboration is the new marketing. What opportunities does this new model create for small companies?
Korhan: The value of collaboration is that it engages buyers with the business, essentially giving them the opportunity to prove their worth.
In a world that is commoditizing just about every product and service, collaboration is a means for any business to achieve differentiation.
What is necessary is a well-designed and orchestrated sales process that keeps the collaboration progressing toward desired objectives.
When a collaboration results in a customer getting something that exceeds what they had imagined, the business now has an advocate that will do their marketing for them. That is arguably the most powerful form of marketing today, because it travels well on the social networks.
Monster: You list a company website, blog and email newsletter as essential digital business assets. Are those in order of priority? Must the three platforms be interconnected to succeed?
Korhan: Email is without question the most powerful means a business has for quickly and reliably reaching its community and customers.
Most of us consider our inbox to be a special place — one that is by invitation only, and that we check obsessively. Thus, it is wise for everyone to honor that earned trust by using their email newsletter to deliver their very best work.
In regards to integration, what is shared in an email newsletter could certainly be a unique perspective on what is already published on a blog or website. The trick is to make it better, such that the subscribers feel they are getting additional value, not just a replication of old news.
These three digital assets do not necessarily have to be interconnected, but when they are, it can produce a deeper and more contextual experience.
Monster: How can a small business that operates within a niche market create a small business blog that turns into a social media hub?
Korhan: When a business operates in a niche market and thoroughly understands the needs of that market, it only needs to consistently use its blog to provide fresh perspectives that address those needs. The feedback that follows in the form of social shares and comments is invaluable for refocusing the blog content to make it even better.
While it may take months or even years for a community to develop around a blog, the business has to stay the course until it does. It’s a marathon – not a sprint.
Ideally, the business will want a self-hosted WordPress blog on a domain that it owns. They may have to pay a designer and developer to create it, but after that it is easily managed with basic technical skills.
Monster: Built In Social includes a chapter on selling. Has social media significantly changed the sales process? How so?
Korhan: Social media has literally revolutionized the sales process, and where that is going will very likely be the subject of my next book. Consumers now have access to abundant information resources that make them better buyers.
If the business is contributing to that body of information, it instantly becomes more attractive to consumers searching the web for solutions to needs and problems. If it isn’t, it may not even get the opportunity to engage its traditional sales process.
Several recent studies conclude that buyers make their decisions based on one of two criteria, referrals and online information. My personal belief is they use both, with one validating the other.
Thus, today the challenge is to both run a better business to earn referrals, while concurrently building a vibrant online presence that speaks to the strengths of the business.
Jeff Korhan is a marketing speaker, trainer and coach. Korhan helps small businesses use social media and Internet marketing to create exceptional customer experiences that accelerate business growth.
He is a former Fortune 50 sales and marketing executive who later founded a landscape services company that was twice named Small Business of the Year.
Jeff is a syndicated publisher and regular content contributor to leading business publications, and his New Media and Small Business Marketing site is ranked among the Top 100 Small Business blogs in the world by Technorati Media. He lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois.