Small Business

Simply sending out regular, interesting tweets that your target market might find useful or informative is a good first step, but in order to get the best out of Twitter it's worth actively searching for relevant users and content rather than sitting back and waiting for it to come to you. Increasingly, sites like Twitter and Facebook are used for finding services. Sure, you could trust Google to find a mechanic nearby, but most of us would prefer a recommendation from a real person. Either we ask friends, family members, and colleagues if they know a good one or we turn to social media. Tweeting 'Anyone know a good cheap mechanic in San Diego?' is the work of a moment or two. Monitoring Twitter traffic for queries relevant to your field and location is very easy. Tools like and TweetBeep can be set up to watch for them. A smart San Diego mechanic would get an email alerting them to an opportunity and if they're quick, they could pick up a valuable new customer with a simple, helpful reply. Industry-specific monitoring is also a great way to find sources of useful information and news that's relevant to your company. Other Twitter monitoring tools can help a small business figure out the effectiveness of their engagement. 

It happened. My digital footprint just kicked me in the badunkadunk. First of all, let's clear this up - I was never a WAITRESS at Hooters but I did write for the magazine for a few years. It was a fun gig - I had rodeo clowns flying over my head at the national PBR championships, I interviewed the WWF tag team champions and I even got to see the finals of the UFC. But a client just turned me down for an engagement because I didn't have an "appropriate" list of clients for them. For most people  my fun freelancing days with Hooters Magazine are an interesting anecdote. For these guys apparently not. So this is where we ask the much should we try to control our digital footprint?

Today we tap into the brilliant (if somewhat twisted) brain of Ayushman Jain, 20-something IBM engineer and writer from Bangalore. In the age of cosmetics, botox and anti-aging creams are we paying enough attention to our online "appearances?"  Is your website design just putting off traffic on a daily basis because it too is out of date? Simply put, do you come across like an old fuddy duddy on the Internet? These are just a few hard facts that need a reality check every now and then as one spends more time creating content. Internet standards have changed a lot in the past few years. So has the  of audience and the kind of content  they're looking for. The most important thing for a dope site has become the content quality and variety of your online presence. Your website will lag in rankings and traffic if it doles out advice that makes you sound like a crabby old aunt. Here are a few tips for keeping up that youthful attitude in your content:

In April I wrote about guest posting as a way to improve your online reputation and I think we all know why it's great for your traffic numbers.  (If you're not sure, here's a great post from that explains it in detail.) You may not be sure HOW or WHERE to guest post. And you may also be banging your head against the wall at yet another social media task that has no immediate ROI.  Just trust me, guest posting is an important part of your online marketing tasks. And it doesn't have to be a time drain. Here are some easy ways to find good blogs to write for, and tips on writing them:

If you ask me, consulting firms and services companies are missing the boat with social media. I worked in that industry for 16 years - the story of the "shoemaker's son" is never more relevant than in this one.  Most consulting firms simply don't put as much effort into things that don't have an instant ROI. I get it - margin is king in that business. I'm not talking about freelancers and solopreneurs here - I'm talking about firms with staff that are out there fighting the good fight every day - and missing a major weapon in their arsenal.  Let me tell you what that weapon is:

On Monday I talked about why agencies need to be better listeners. It seemed to spark some interest in readers and I found myself critiquing my own listening skills all week. Guess what? I think I'm pretty poor at it too and it's something I'm going to work on - I still interrupt people too much. (Especially after a bunch of coffee. ) We get so much inbound information from social media, email, regular media, etc that I think we've lost some of our ability to listen. (According to audiologists, we've also lost a lot of our hearing from MP3 players and concerts too) I found this great outline of "how to listen" from a rather obscure but well written blog by Michael Hanson. Michael, if you're reading this thanks! 

As many businesses grow, the hassle of managing employees grows along with it. Two of the hardest groups to manage for me were outbound sales and customer service.  In the technology industry in the 1990's (which is where my management career started and ended) had few processes developed for inbound and outbound calls. In a small business, your "super admins" end up dealing with most of these things and often get burned out. Many, many call centers existing in the United States that are affordable, well-managed and easy to integrate into your business. It's not all the stereotypical Indian or Malaysian call center that we've all come to dread. If you're overwhelmed because you've got more business than you can handle, you might want to consider outsourcing call centers as an option. But just what do they do?

I hear those who commented on last week's post on reasons NOT to do your own PR - it CAN be really expensive to hire a PR person.   If you're not living in NYC or LA (or even if you are) you'll find there are some really affordable agencies and freelancers that could make all the difference for your business. Before you pooh pooh the idea of hiring a PR professional, let's look at what your costs might be.