As more and more data continues to pour in about small businesses’ adoption of social media, a few things are becoming crystal clear.
The first is that no platform has truly set itself apart from another, despite which survey you look at and what type of small business you ask. Many would argue Facebook has, but others disagree. The second is that the adoption of social media platforms continue to grow, but at a disparate pace (i.e. sometimes fast, sometimes slow). Third, it’s very obvious that small businesses are (still) very much in the “feeling out” stage when it comes to what works and what doesn’t related to social media. Perceptions are constantly (and consistently) changing, value to the business differs and new platforms continue to sprout up each year. It’s no wonder small business owners are confused about where to start, how to make it work and most importantly, how to derive any revenue from it.FULL ENTRY
Think about your group of friends for a minute. Are any of them moms? Do any of them have a blog where they talk about the pitfalls, products, services and challenges that go along with being a mom or parent? Chances are you do, because right now there are an estimated 3.9 million people that identify themselves as "mommy bloggers" in the United States alone, according to research released last year by Scarborough Research.FULL ENTRY
It's the start of a new year, which means hope abounds for everyone.
January is the time for new ventures, new resolutions and renewed faith in all the things that you want to accomplish this year that you didn't get to last year. In fact, "starting my own business" is always one of the most popular New Year's resolutions every single year. For the most part, 2012 was a good year for small businesses. As a group it didn't grow as much as the government would have liked, but that's understandable given the economic challenges. Overall though, optimism was high and the numbers were good.FULL ENTRY
Depending on who you believe, Small Business Saturday was a booming success or fell flat of expectations. As I mentioned last week regardless of how much money was spent, how many mentions were made in social media or how many politicians decided to trumpet the day as some kind of American holiday, awareness for small businesses as a group is never a bad thing. It is important to keep in mind however, that this was first and foremost and without question a marketing campaign for American Express. Friend Gene Marks makes a very compelling and well thought out case for this in his Huffington Post story this week.
Knowing that however, can we realistically look at the numbers provided and suggest that it actually drove money (ultimately the most important thing) into small business owners' pockets?FULL ENTRY
Everyone knows Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. People wait in line for hours, in the wee hours of the morning, to get the best deals they can. Stores have started running promotions early, even turning Black Friday into a month long event, rather than a 24 hour sale. It's become so ingrained in American culture, people forget that the initial connotation for Black Friday marked the stock market crash on Sept. 24, 1869. In the 1950's, workers adopted the phrase to mark the day after Thanksgiving and the number of employees who simply wouldn't show up for work. Despite it's nuances, the day has become a national shopping holiday.
However, the transformation of the Saturday following Black Friday has been nearly as remarkable as Black Friday itself. In just a few short years Small Business Saturday has taken hold on November 24. It's the day that American Express, along with a slew of influential partners including the Small Business Administration, multiple professional sports organizations and some of the countries biggest corporations (including Facebook) want you to "shop small." I wrote about this last year, allowing real small businesses to weigh in with their thoughts.FULL ENTRY
A new survey from Vertical Response, an online marketing provider, recently took a look at small businesses and their use of social media. While the basic findings like Facebook still being the No. 1 platform, and time being an issue were not surprising, some things did stand out to me. As I've mentioned in the past, social is something small business owners should embark on carefully, and consider the time investment before jumping in.FULL ENTRY
Depending on what methodology you believe, a Facebook fan could be worth upwards of $100 or as little as $1.00. Some have speculated that fans are worth $10, based on brands advertising on Facebook and the number of impressions they get with actions taken. FULL ENTRY
If I had a dime for every survey that measured the activity level of small business owners in social media, I'd be a millionaire. Or at the very least, close.
The frustrating part about the survey process is that most come to different conclusions, focus on different small business demographics or have questions that aren't getting at the heart of the issue. Just because a small business is "using" social media doesn't mean they are succeeding with it, it doesn't mean they are making money with it, and it doesn't mean that they are going to elevate it to the primary marketing tactic in the next year plus.FULL ENTRY
Have you ever met someone that's actually won a small business contest?
Believe it or not, they do exist. With a flood of contests aimed at small businesses launching in the past few years, you've likely heard of at least a few of them. Contests can ask small businesses to do all kinds of things in order to win: enter a full business plan, create a video talking about a business or get the most votes in social media. Some require a lot of work, others are relatively simple and the prizes can vary in both size and impact.FULL ENTRY
With November rapidly approaching and the candidates for President finalized, it's clear that small businesses are going to be at the heart of many political messages in the coming months. Even this week Republican nominee Mitt Romney took President Barack Obama to task for his small business record. Citing the standard political playbook for small business messaging, regardless of party, Romney outlined his plan to help small businesses grow if elected president. He promised to "lower taxes, block health care reform and weed out cumbersome federal regulations." As I've written before, small businesses are a convenient group to talk about during elections, how much help they'll actually get is up for debate.
But, having the news spotlight on small businesses is never a bad thing, and there have been several interesting stories this week that are worth a read. These range from survey data around the growing number of immigrant owned businesses, how small businesses can use Pinterest if they choose, and how you can take the search engine temperature of your website in order to see how Google is ranking it.FULL ENTRY
Small business week is right around the corner. As the focus starts to pivot to small businesses at the end of May, topics like social media, marketing, investing, funding, credit, hiring, growth and jobs will also be put under a microscope. Each and every facet of the "small business life" will be examined as everyone takes a week to appreciate the small business owners in our lives.
A few of those topics crept up this week, including where small business hiring and revenues stand, how they are potentially using video to market their business and how they can better manage their finances. These are just some of the stories you should be looking at this week.
If you've been following the small business news this week, you know that at least one report cited that confidence was down among the group. As I've stated in the past, I'm not sure how much confidence levels actually matter when it comes to the overall success of small businesses, but despite that, the results are interesting. I've also included two stories below that I thought were extremely insightful, one around the basics of Twitter and another around how "tax friendly" states fare in attracting small businesses. I hope you find these interesting and as always, if you have others to share, please feel free in the comments section.
In case you haven't noticed, Facebook made some pretty significant changes to their overall look and feel that will impact how brands talk to customers, leverage content and even advertise on the world's largest social network. "Timeline" as it's been called, is rolling out to all Facebook pages on March 29. Some have already made the switch, but the lag between the announcement and roll out gives brands an opportunity to customize pages prior to launch.
The question is, what will you have to do as a small businesses in order to be ready for March 29?
Happiness is a tricky thing to measure. What isn't hard to measure is revenue and the number of customers a business has.
It's even easier when you're a micro business, with less than 10 employees and when every customer counts. While everyone else is apparently worrying about what the pending tax legislation will mean for small businesses, the owners on the ground every day are diligently working to improve their standing in the business community. The good news is, that hard work is clearly paying off.
If you look closely, nearly every social media property plays some form of follow the leader, or at the very least "follow the features." The latest installment of this game happened this week when it was announced that Twitter would be opening up it's advertising platform to small and medium sized merchants, allowing these groups to take advantage of opportunities that only Fortune 500 companies have had in the past year.FULL ENTRY
If you haven't heard, Pinterest is all the rage.
The statistics, depending on what you've read, are staggering. For example, the site received nearly 11 million total visits during the week ending December 17, 2011 and over 420 million pageviews in the United States in the month of October. That's a 2,000 percent increase since June. That's all well and good, but what does it mean for small businesses? It means that as always, a certain number of them will be able to capitalize and take advantage of its features, while others shouldn't bother even looking into it, because it will be a colossal waste of time. It all depends on what business we're talking about and what assets said business has to share.FULL ENTRY
When you look back over the past few decades, it's amazing how many products have been phased out or are no longer sold. Fads come and go, technology catches up and makes things obsolete. There is always going to be a "better version" of something that's more popular and pushes the old model out.FULL ENTRY
Facebook and Twitter have long been the darlings of the social media world. Pinterest is starting to gain traction, while sharing sites like Tumblr, About.me and others have carved out a specific niche of users. One of the sites that's often left off the list, but shouldn't be, is LinkedIn. That's because for the most part LinkedIn has been looked at as a networking site for consultants and job seekers only. And to some extent, that's true. But did you know that LinkedIn has 135 million members and is adding an average of two new accounts per second?FULL ENTRY
When examining the impact of Small Business Saturday, a "holiday" created by American Express as a way to recognize small businesses and promote the idea of "shopping small," there's no doubt that it has been a promotional success. The amount of exposure, both from a media and social media standpoint, it (and Amex) gained could only be described as overwhelming. Locally, nationally, within governments and across mainstreets, the buzz around SBS was palpable. But what did it actually mean to the small businesses who were targeted to reap the benefits?FULL ENTRY
There’s a very famous old saying, written by Mark Twain in his own biography: "There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies and statistics."
We’ve never been more inundated with numbers, data and statistics than we are today. The Internet serves as the perfect vehicle for content, meaning there is more and more reliance on unique data and numbers to stand out. Every few months it seems there is a new survey that comes out, but the topic that has been analyzed and dissected more than any is social media usage. How often small business owners are using social media and what platforms they are using the most is the subject of many surveys. Even I’m guilty of generating social media stats for micro businesses around social media.FULL ENTRY
Online review sites like Yelp, Zagat, and Citysearch have in many ways become too influential in determining the reputation of businesses everywhere, especially on a local level. With the increased importance of online search, review sites are consistently popping up in local searches. So are reviews on Google Places, which always shows up on a Google search. If you’ve got a website or established web presence as a small business owner, chances are it will show up in a local search query. But what happens when a negative review about your small business pop up?FULL ENTRY
Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email email@example.com.
This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.