Social Media Marketing Tips For Small Business

Social networking platforms build buzz, boost business and serve small businesses as low-cost/no-cost marketing tools. Small business owners need to understand how these tools strategically serve and support small business first so they best implement social media strategies to sell products and/or services.

Social Media, simply put, serves users and organizations in marketing in three ways:

1. Communication
Marketing is all about building relationships — relationships start with communication. New web tools like blogging, micro-blogging (Twitter), social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning), podcasting (BlogTalkRadio), video distribution (YouTube), event coordination tools (Meetup), wikis (Wikipedia) photo sharing (Flickr, Photobucket), and product review sites (epinions.com) allow small businesses to communicate, educate and share information directly with their current and prospective customers.

Content in the form of blog posts, audio, video, comparison/review sites, tweets and social network messages help share information in a less-formal way that builds the know, like and trust factors that influence decision making. Content is no longer just text. Small businesses can use audio or visual content for a “show me” and “tell me” to make communications a pack more interactive punch.

Social media’s direct communication distinction serves and supports small business as it brings the people you want to attract directly to you and makes direct communication possible. Social Media makes communication a conversation so small business owners can share, receive feedback and connect on equal ground with their target markets.

2. Collaboration
When small businesses empower their target consumers, they feel powerful. When your target market feels powerful, it trusts you, buys from you, and stays with you. Social networking collaboration transforms consumers into “prosumers”. In an era of social media prosumers, it’s people (not companies) who make, shape, or break purchase patterns.

Small businesses can ignite collaboration for marketing by creating their own communities and/or joining communities. By doing so, they can listen and connect to their target customers and build a free forum to bring their market together. Collaboration = Marketing Acceleration.

Social networking collaboration tools like review sites, video sharing sites, blogs, wikis and more allow users to self-serve, collaborate, and potentially serve as an endorser for your small business. Social media works as a marketing tool because people are more likely to trust peers rather than companies.

The power of mass collaboration serves and supports small business owners in a distinct way. Tapping/creating valuable collaborative options can bring people together to share ideas, exchange information, and help each other — and support relationship growth. Removing the “company/client” disconnect can break down elitism and boost marketing mind power.

3. Entertainment
The most important reason that social networking works as a marketing tool is simple — because it’s fun. People want to go where they feel they belong, have a voice, are listened to, and enjoy themselves. Small business owners need to be where their target markets are — and these days, the masses are on Facebook, Ning, Twitter, Linkedin, Photobucket, YouTube and more because it has entertainment value.

Remember the Will It Blend? campaigns by Blendtec? They were a perfect example of social media marketing in brilliant action. Videos were relevant as they showed the product, were entertaining (they blended an iPhone!), and they were viral! People could easily share the fun with friends due to the ease of social media sharing widgets.

You can’t put a dollar amount on free promotion. The way social media stores data as an “Interactive Rolodex” also has an entertainment factor. Sites like Facebook and LinkedIn are becoming the “new databases” because they are fast, easy, and fun. People are more likely to update their Facebook and LinkedIn information than a sterile address book because it is fun.

Small business owners use social media’s entertainment factor to build their online database of contacts and connections, be visible to prospective customers, and get the word out in creative ways like YouTube videos, blog posts, images, podcasts to make people smile and spread the word.

How Social Networking Helps Small Businesses Sell
Social Media Marketing helps most small businesses boost sales indirectly by increasing relationships. Understanding that social media marketing serves users for communication, collaboration, and entertainment is the first step to considering how to strategically implement the multitude of social media marketing tools and choose the ones that work best for your unique organization.

The key thing that small businesses need to remember when using social media to help sell is that efforts must have value. There has to be value to your content, community, and execution to get people to engage with you or your organization. Social media doesn’t sell things — people sell things. Engaging in social media marketing starts the relationship-building process. Start small and snowball. Social media takes understanding, passion, effort, and commitment to make it work. Give your small business an authentic voice with social media and commit to providing value and you will be off to a smart start.

Small Business Bookkeeping Software

In an increasingly technological world, many companies are turning to small business bookkeeping software to meet their needs. This software is tailored especially for small businesses, leaving out the extra features that only a larger business could use. It is also generally less expensive to purchase and maintain. This demand has lead to the development of small business bookkeeping software. Small businesses still need software that can handle sizable quantities of information quickly and accurately.

It should also be user friendly and have safeguards in place to reduce the incidents of handler mistakes. The expected final output, much like that of a human bookkeeper, is the generation of financial reports to help the business owner guide the business towards optimal growth.

Ideally, small business bookkeeping software should include the following features:

  • Standard bookkeeping operations. This involves accounts payable and receivable, price quotes, merchandise stock, orders, etc.. The format should be clear and easy to read and use.
  • Integration. Each function should work with and support the others. Data should never have to be re-entered into the system for different functions. This saves time and money.
  • Reporting Options. Information should be readily accessible to check accuracy and the feasibility of your business practices. The uses for the reporting function are various and flexible, and should be easy to use and access.
  • Audit trail. This allows the user to follow any information through the entire system automatically. Any changes that have been made to a transaction or software setup can be detected by this function, creating a sense of asset security for the business owner.
  • Software access. Many businesses require several people to access its financial information from a variety of locations. The software can be put onto individual computers, or might use a server. The internet is an increasingly popular option, which makes remote personal access easier for the authorized user and reduces the amount of time needed to install the program separately.

It is a good idea to ask fellow owners what business bookkeeping software they use, especially those who own similar businesses. Each industry needs different features from their software; certainly a small clothing boutique will use different bookkeeping features than a landscaping company. Many software developers diversify their products so that business owners can have a product customized to their needs. As the business grows which is the goal of any small business owner the software needs are likely to change.

The right software for your company will be able to grow along with you. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to selecting bookkeeping software. It must be reasonably priced and readily used, and equipped for a variety of uses. Investing in quality small business bookkeeping software is one of the most important decisions to be made to secure success and a competitive edge in the marketplace, and a business owner needs every advantage in tough economies like the one we face today.

Email Security and the Necessity of Security Education for Small Business

Email and document security is no longer just an option for companies, it is a necessity. Couple that with the costly user licensing of most enterprise software solutions and many small business operators can be locked out of taking advantage of Best Practice strategies that ensure the privacy of intellectual property and communication. Setting rights permissions to documents and encrypting email will be essential to future security practices for all businesses.

Common knowledge has been that the less sophisticated small business operates on a pricing sensitivity and is more apt to take advantage of promotions, whereas the more sophisticated make security decisions based on perceived business necessities. Overall, small businesses tend towards waiting to implement internet security measures until after suffering an email breach or informational leak. By this time privacy and accompanying monetary loss may have already done irreparable harm to a company’s intellectual property and reputation. Large enterprise solutions make it necessary to adopt complex IT infrastructures and processes that are usually dependent on an IT staff – a solution that does not fit well into the budgets of most small businesses.

According to published reports in PCWorld.com, there are nearly 70 million small businesses worldwide and over 20 million in the U.S. alone. Small business is a major part of the global economy – that means it’s time to replace a general passivity towards the possible threats from email and document theft with a look towards initiating security measures as a business standard. The increasing level of security risk due to email and intellectual property theft make it imperative for small businesses to raise their level of security knowledge and investment.

Recent studies show that although information security is a high concern for small business owners, lack of actual knowledge and awareness of the economic impact of security incidents is equally high. Imparting an awareness to the small business community of the real threats in regards to security vulnerability should be top priority. Through education in this arena, small businesses can better enable them to not only determine their own level of risk but also choose the necessary email and document security solutions.

The responsibility of raising awareness of security provisions needs to come not only from governing agency reports, but also from security solution vendors. Providers of business tool solutions are better equipped than any other entity to position themselves as leaders in educating businesses on not only the dangers but the appropriate basic security measures to complement a small company infrastructure. Especially here, being informed on which internet security products best suit a company need is important as the needs of small businesses are vastly different than that of enterprise businesses.

Look to numerous market survey and analysis reports that specialize in studies on information security and small business. A little research will show they repeatedly state the same warning to small businesses – they need to change their attitude towards security and begin adopting a security plan.

Taking the time to gather information on creating good internet security practices will lead to a decrease in the future cost of lost productivity, and by educating your workforce you create an even wider prevention of productivity loss.