Small business owners are probably some of the hardest-working people I know. Constantly pressed for time, juggling and balancing priorities, trying to figure out which strategies to implement to get them closer to success – it’s hard to find time to breathe. Add that in with the hundred other day-to-day responsibilities, figuring out how to implement all of the online marketing strategies out there can be quite overwhelming. That’s why we’re launching this series that’s dedicated to the small business to help you understand how to begin and implement different online marketing channels in the most time- and resource-efficient ways.
Rather than start off with a particular channel of online marketing and discussing how to integrate it into what you have already implemented, I feel it’s best to start everyone at the beginning. Launching into a marketing channel just because your competition is doing it or you read an article about it on CNN, doesn’t mean that it’s the best path for you. So how does a company get to know what’s best for them? Audience research.
Yes, it might slow you down in launching your strategy, but at the end of the day you’re going to be very glad that you invested the time to understand how to carefully and successfully implement your marketing strategies in the channels where you are going to get the “most bang for your buck.” There are several ways you can go about your research, and as a small business you won’t need all the bells and whistles that the enterprise-level tools offer. You just need the time and effort to understand the research to use it to your advantage.
Inexpensive but Great Listening Tools
Google Alerts. Google Alerts, if used and fine-tuned around the terms that matter most to your business, can be a great source of understanding multiple channels at once, not just social media. Google Alerts can give you an idea of what’s up-and-coming in the search results, pay per click, as well as social media. The caveat here is to fine-tune your search queries, and make sure you include negatives with your searches so that you get the most relevant results.
Twitter Search. You may or may not find that Twitter is the channel for you to be active in. For some businesses, the audience you seek just isn’t in Twitter. However, Twitter is still a great place to figure out the “pulse” of a topic whether it’s trending or one that’s evergreen. A lot of time utilizing Twitter can lead you to other more powerful and relevant social communities that you might not have been aware of.
Trackur. When you combine Google Alerts and Twitter Search with social media “listening tools” such as Trackur, you can truly get a great understanding of where you should be focusing your efforts. Trackur is great because it’s very easy to understand and utilize in a time-efficient manner for any small business owner who’s pressed for time. Looking at the results daily for about 15 minutes can help you keep an eye on changing trends and where the most relevant conversations are taking place and ensure your strategies are still in line with where the action is happening.
Viralheat. A step up from Trackur in price range is Viralheat. This tool does give you a bit more in the understanding of how influential both people and conversations can be. It can be a little bit harder to get to the meat of the data you’re looking for since it does have more bells and whistles, but if you have the time to invest, this data can help you get a step ahead in your research.
Understanding What Audiences Do in Social Media
It’s important to understand what your audience is doing in social media because that is what will determine the type of strategy you need to implement. If your audience is primarily consumers of media (i.e., they watch videos or read blog posts), then spending time in Twitter might not be where you need to be. To get an understanding of both the types of social media users there are and how your own audience fairs out, Forrester has a great tool called the Social Technographics Profile tool (commonly known as the Groundswell tool).
Last year Forrester revamped the profile ladder to include an additional group of “Conversationalists” in addition to Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives. The tool allows you to understand your audience’s potential areas for action in social media communities segmented by age, gender, and geographical location (by country). If you know your customer demographic, this can be a great tool to give you a head start in your research. The tool is free to use, but it is Flash-based and will not work from an iPhone or iPad.
Once you’re armed with your research, you can then start to build your integrated marketing strategy. In the coming weeks I’ll be writing about how to integrate SEO, PPC, email, display, content development, social media, analytics, and even affiliate marketing into your online strategy to help small business owners more efficiently launch successful marketing strategies.