Did you hear me? The career I’ve been in for 18 years — dead. Over. Toast. Done.
It’s evolved into something much more powerful and effective. Social PR.
I think that PR and social media are not separate anymore — and are in fact the same thing.
I’ve seen social media evolve over the past 30 years, from CompuServe to the WeLL to AOL to Craigslist to Ryze, then Friendster, MySpace, Tribe.net, blogging, and today, Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook is just another chat room. It’s all just a big virtual cocktail party.
But what has changed — dramatically — is how we influence other influencers today. And who those other influencers are. They’re not just press anymore.
You cannot separate “PR” and “Social Media.” They must be on the same page. The strategy must be interwoven.
Your social media, PR, marketing, web and advertising teams need to talk to each other.
Your marketing strategy must be a social marketing strategy.
Your PR strategy must be a Social PR strategy. You must evolve from the 1990s idea that “announcing to the media” is any different than “talking to your customer”.
You’re communicating directly to the public.
Your brand isn’t just B2B, or B2C. It’s person to person. Human to human.
It’s not a one way broadcast anymore. It’s a multichannel conversation.
Today you talk to everyone at once.
Your customer is there. Your investors are there. The press are there. All in the same room.
You must take social media seriously as the front line of your brand, pay attention to it, and stop posting lame, idiotic, poorly written, typo-riddled, boring dreck.
Social media is the front line of your brand!
Social media is marketing + branding + advertising + PR + analyst relations + investor relations + customer service rolled into one.
Why is Facebook worth billions — and newsracks are empty?
Today, a single Facebook post can easily reach 1 million people. That’s more than the circulation of most daily newspapers.
A Facebook ad can reach more customers for $5 than any other form of marketing ever devised in the history of mankind.
But you’re blowing thousands of dollars on ad agencies, PR agencies and print ads?
And you’re outsourcing social media to the cheapest possible, lowest level employee you can find?
Get rid of that 1990s idea that a newspaper article is more influential than a Tweet, a post or even your own blog.
You used to have to own a TV network to have influence. Today, a kid in their bedroom could have more viewers on YouTube than Oprah.
A musician or DJ who happens to have 100,000 fans or friends could be much more influential than a columnist or a journalist. (Many magazines don’t even reach 100,000 subscribers.)
Have you taken the train to work lately?
Do you see anyone reading a print publication? I don’t. This is what the train looks like on a typical morning in San Francisco. And these guys in t-shirts are your target audience.
Do you see them reading the banners on the bus? Billboards? Newspapers? Do they look like businessmen in stock photos?
And they’re probably not reading your website on that little screen unless it’s mobile-enabled.
You need to start taking Social Media seriously as the front line of your communications strategy.
It’s not an afterthought to be delegated to Interns, your receptionist, or “maybe I’ll get to it later”.
Social media is the front line of your brand.
Social media is where you get to tell your own story. Where you generate your own news. Where you build relationships with the media. And where you let your customers know about your press coverage.
But just social media isn’t enough. Because newspapers and magazines are still important. That’s because most readers discover the news on Social Media, and because reporters and publications have influential followings on social media.
Newspapers and magazines are still very influential –– they have high page rank and authority in Google, so getting mentioned in them does wonders for page rank and SEO. They drive traffic to your website — forever.
Social PR blends traditional mainstream print/TV/radio news media Press Relations with “content marketing”. (That’s a fancy word for: “photos with words on them.”
To do viral content marketing effectively, your messages must be created specifically to reach influencers who spread the word further. And you must include those influencers in your community.
This also means, simply, that your “friends” on your social network also happen to be reporters, freelance writers, columnists and editors and they “discover” the story ideas you share on their news feed. (This is kind of like sending out a press release only much faster.)
These days, instead of relying mainly on email pitching and press releases to announce news, I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to build relationships with press and influencers.
Try following and befriending every member of the media or influencer crucial for your product. You’ll be surprised how many follow you back. And they’ll follow what you say — so make it great content, moderated by a professional who is talented in storytelling, community building, customer support, relationship building and conflict resolution. (Hint: they’re probably not even close to entry level.)
They spread the word for you to their networks, which include their Fan pages, Twitter and the blogs and publications they write for.
Some of these influencers are traditional print or TV press.
Others are simply well connected on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — but have influence equivalent to or greater than that of traditional media.
Try discovering who among your followers and friends champions your brand and spreads the word most frequently. Reward them. Thank them. Give them free tickets and favors.
Over time, you create authentic, engaged communities who will be advocates of your brand. Who tell your story. Who spread the word for you.
Do Social PR. Because, social media is the new PR.
When I was in art school, my teacher, Mr. Nick used to constantly say: “Simple says more.” That stuck with me my whole life, and it’s my marketing mantra.
I’m constantly reminding my clients to simplify their message and branding and think small.
Now with the new Apple Watch and other smartwatches, social media marketers will need to shrink their messages ever simpler, bolder and smaller. We’re entering the world of the Dick Tracy two-way communicator and our messages will become both tinier — but they will also more aural, sensory and ubiquitous.
The time is now to prepare for wrist-top always-on marketing and Zen your brand so it’s wearable and portable.
1. Your website needs to adjust for multiple screen sizes. (Get rid of that old template and move over right away to a scalable, responsive template that can shrink and expand while keeping the fonts legible and readable.)
2. Scroll vs click. One long scroll is much easier to navigate on a small screen than a site that demands lots of clicks.
3. Can you touch me, can you read me? When the icons shrink down, your customer still needs to be able to touch them. Can they even see the words?
4. From poster to postage stamp. Your event poster needs to be readable on a smartphone–and you need both print and online versions. Get rid of all the small type and create bold, simple graphics.
5. Can your logo shrinky dink? Your logo must pop and stand out when it’s shrunk down to a tiny icon. Redesign and simplify right away.
6. Are you an icon? Your portrait photo should still be recognizable when it’s a 1 x 1 centimeter icon. (Think iconic — a consistent photo, consistent hair color and style and a consistent and memorable personal brand.)
7. Abolish serif fonts! Your content should have large, sans serif, bold type that’s easy to read when you shrink it to a cellphone screen.
8. Write in soundbites. Your Facebook posts should be Twitter sized — or even smaller.
9. Don’t annoy people with beeps and music. With notification messaging instantly available on a user’s wrist, they will see them far more often. Marketers need to be cautious about annoying the user with beeps and blips or especially websites with annoying music.
But what do we do when it all shrinks down to the postage stamp-sized screen of a smart watch in 2015? Now is the time to prepare for the ever shrinking, ever mobile world that your message will be seen in. No longer on a desk in a business setting — but possibly anytime, anywhere.
The funny thing about social networking is…we often forget that it’s just a virtual party. It’s not about amassing tons of “fans” so you can have the biggest party — it’s about inviting the right people and serving tasty snacks and drinks.
It’s about playful banter, music and laughter.
You know what happens when you talk sex or politics at a party — dead silence.
A cocktail party is NOT the place to pull out a gigantic billboard and say HEY BUY MY PRODUCT! (Unless you are a paid sponsor with a table or booth.) And imagine if you pulled up your shirt and showed off your appendix scar?
But people do this all the time on Facebook! They forget it’s a party.
A great Fan page is an authentically engaged community where you have a conversation — even better if your tribe cares about what you have to say and shares it with their communities. At a party this is called gossip and word of mouth. On Facebook it’s called sharing and viral marketing.
Remember — a great party is not about QUANTITY it’s about QUALITY. Be selective. Invite the right people. Dress to impress — or stand out in the crowd. Serve good spirits and keep the music upbeat and the conversation as bubbly as champagne.
We are not collecting fans or contacts for Ego — we are collecting real human beings and we should care about them as much as we hope they will care about us.
Think about the real world equivalent of your Fan page. How would you interact in these different real world parties or events?
50 friends or less = backyard barbecue, workshop, a drum circle.
150 friends or less = a tribe, a retreat, a big party, wedding, etc.
1000 friends or more = a conference
2000 friends or more = industry trade show, music festival
10000 fans or more = sporting event or concert
100,000 fans or more = gigantic stadium event
1 million fans or more = broadcast on television
And here’s a great metaphor for Fan pages from #socialmediamixology:
This down time between Christmas and the first week of the New Year is a perfect opportunity to give your personal branding a lift and start the New Year with a fresh image.
Here are eight ways you can use free templates and other inexpensive tools available on the web to give your business or personal brand a lift.
1. Reinvent your name for the new year.
Is your business name unique–or is it lost in the crowd? Consider finding a new name for your business and a unique URL — an identifier that people type into the browser to find your website. Do a little research on Go Daddy or directly from WordPress, and see if your business name (or your personal name, or the name of your book) is available. If your name is generic, hard to remember or hard to spell, change it today before you start…
Search engine marketing is about creating content with specific key words and waiting for it to be found by the exact people seeking it.
You do not knock on doors. You do not act desperate, begging for attention.
You simply be your best possible and most attractive self and calmly put that out into the universe … and wait.
In the “new age” movement, the work of Abraham Hicks and the blockbuster book: “The Secret” talk about this law of attraction in terms of thoughts. “What you feel or think is what you will attract.”
A few weeks ago, I was thinking of the exact client I wanted. This client was at an event I was present at but I missed the chance to introduce myself to them. The next day, they emailed me and sought me out. As Depak Chopra says: “There are no coincidences.” I drew that client to me. They pursued me.
Of course, I did not just “think” of this client — I had already spent my lifetime building the skills and relationships for the job. Months in advance I redesigned my website, my business cards, the description on my Facebook profile, the way I dressed in public, the photos I chose to show on my page. I was ready when they called.
On the Internet, in our marketing, we do not “feel,” we write.
What and who do you want to attract?
Who is your dream customer, your dream client?
You don’t ask for a job. They “get” to hire you … if they’re lucky!
You don’t beg for the customer to buy. They “get” to buy your product if they’re ready for it.
What are they searching for? What is their wildest fantasy? What solves their problems?
What does that person look like? Who are their relationships? Where do they hang out?
Tailor your communication. Be exactly that.
In your face to face communications, in your marketing, your website, your Facebook posts, use the “key words” and phrases, the clothes, the colors, the “search terms” and emotional cues, the graphics, images and colors that attract customers, clients and opportunities to you.
Here are some ridiculous profiles and titles of people who did not make the cut and get to be one of my 2,200 connections on LinkedIn:
Anyone who still hasn’t paid me yet.
Your title and every word in your profile is written in lower case.
Passport photo or driver’s license photo used as your LinkedIn profile photo. (No kidding.)
Scary, mug shot-style LinkedIn photo. (Against a wall, all black and white.)
Anyone not wearing a shirt. One woman PR consultant in my network is wearing a bikini top in her LinkedIn photo Seriously. Bikini top? Unless you’re a character on Baywatch, swimwear is not appropriate for business.
Someone who says she is an “orgasmic liaison”.
No photo. No description of what you do. (Who is this mysterious character with no shared connections? Why are you on LinkedIn? Why do you want to be my connection? How did you find me? Why? I’m scared. Help…)
Someone who calls themselves a “bliss expert.” (Maybe they’re connected to the “orgasmic liaison” but not me.)
Real estate agents. (Unless they are my boyfriend.)
Executive recruiters who are going to pelt me with requests for access to software developers. (Go away.)
Substitute teachers. (I don’t think in a million years a substitute teacher is ever going to hire me.)
A guy in a Scottish tam o’ shanter and ruffled shirt. (On LinkedIn? Are you lost?)
Insurance agents. (Yikes. Go away. I already have insurance.)
Anyone who is a “Career and Life Coach.” Unless you teach football, you’re not a coach around here.
Anyone who is an “Executive Coach.” Unless you coached Bill Gates, you’re not an executive coach in Silicon Valley.
Anyone with both the words “coach” and “cannabis” in their title. (I said “green business.” Not that kind.)
People who sell anything multi-level. Especially water filter distributors. (Oh, that’s impressive.)
Anything pyramid schemey. Especially if it involves something you blend in a smoothie.
Anyone who is a “meditator” in their profile title. (Or was that “Mediator” spelled wrong?)
Your NAME IS IN ALL CAPS you run a “HEALING MASSAGE SERVICE” and you live in another country.
Anyone with a creepy dark photo with a crooked smile.
Men who are not wearing shirts.
Men wearing Hawaiian shirts and a baseball hat that obscures their eyes. (This isn’t a virtual barbecue — it’s a virtual business cocktail party.)
Spells CEOs “ceo’s.” (Yeah, right. I’ll bet you are an “executive coach” too.)
Your LinkedIn photo is kind of dusty and it was taken at Burning Man. (Ok if you are Larry Harvey, a founder of Burning Man.) All others, “delete.”)
People who call themselves a “CEO” but run a home-based MLM business and have nobody reporting to them but their cat.
“Umbrella branding” is a strategy that huge multinational businesses use — it’s the umbrella that covers all of their smaller brands. For example, GE is really a defense contractor when you get down to it, but their brand focuses on light bulbs: “We bring good things to light.” GE’s umbrella branding tags include: “GE: Brilliant Machines,” for their hospital equipment and “GE: Imagination at Work” for industrial equipment.
Or consider Hewlett-Packard, (HP). Did you know HP makes LED light bulbs for cars, components and about 10,000 other products?
I know, because I worked for HP for several years and sat in meetings where we wrestled with this problem. Every one of those 10,000 product managers with a product at HP wants a press release and a press tour for their product, but only a few, select, “front runners” and stars get chosen to represent the overall brand. In other words, the products that are most interesting get the PR. When we think of HP, we usually think of the front runner products like: “Ink Jet Printers.” Or: “Innovation in the historic HP garage.” This was condensed ino one word, the HP brand: “Invent.” This is the HP umbrella brand.
Now if HP and GE can’t afford to be all things to all people in their branding, you, Joe Schumuckatelli from Pocatello, Idaho sure as heck can’t afford multiple brands.
But small businesses and start-ups almost always try to have multiple product lines, spin off new stores, create new catchy taglines for all of their offerings, address multiple markets and even have multiple websites and logos. What a mess.
If you can’t remember all of your brands, products and taglines — do you think the customer can?
In my personal experience, any business brand (or personal brand) trying to be too many things is doomed to failure. I have see this in the high tech industry where start-ups with less than $1 million in funding will attempt to brand multiple products and serve both the B2B market and the consumer right out of the gate–confusing the investors, press and customers alike.
To create a personal umbrella brand, the first step is to ask yourself:
What makes me tick? What is at the core of every major step I’ve ever taken in my life?
It will help to get feedback from friends, clients and family and step outside yourself to ask this question. Tap deeply in to your core life purpose.
When you clarify your life purpose and articulate it in a mission statement, you are on the way to creating a Personal Umbrella Brand that will work for your focus for years to come, even when it changes.
To start creating your Umbrella Brand, answer this question:
“Who is My Dream Client or Perfect Customer – and What Makes Them Excited?”
Case Study: A corporate organizational management consultant who now also does personal organizing and “downsizing” for individuals and small businesses.
Her business mission: “I create organizational strategies from Fortune 500 to the home office.”
Or, in a personal branding mission statement, “I simplify your business. I simplify your life.”
Focus your brand strategy on your website for better SEO:
In your website, build your overall brand that ties it all together as your summary statement, making sure to use key words that people will search for in Google when they want to find you. This “elevator statement” is the most important thing you’ll do so give it time and bounce it off friends and clients. These key words create Search Engine Optimization or “SEO,” so use them often in articles on your website.
Use pull down menus on your website to create sub-categories for specific lines of business.
If your businesses are wildly disparate, you should build a separate brand, website and Fan page community for each business — but trust me, this will seriously tax your time and focus unless you are Richard Branson or Jane Fonda and can afford teams of people to manage all of this for you.
(I got to visit Jane Fonda’s office once many years ago, and asked: “Jane, you’re incredible. You have exercise videos, produce films, run non profit organizations, raise a family — how do you do it all? And she said something so honest I’ll remember it for the rest of my life: “Are you kidding? I’m rich! I can hire people to do all these things for me.”)
So if you have the fame and resources of Jane Fonda, go ahead and build multiple brands. Otherwise, focus your personal brand.
Focus your bio on LinkedIn:
For many of us, especially if we’ve been working for two decades, our LinkedIn profile is all over the map. What do all these jobs add to? What is the ultimate focus that ties all this life experience together into your life purpose? Find the key words that clients or employers are searching for, and build those key words into your personal brand.
If your signature line or title says you have six careers, which one do I hire you for today in 2013? Which one is your primary revenue stream? Nobody is an expert in 6 things. Focus your personal brand.
When I see 5 careers in a LinkedIn profile, email signature line or Twitter bio I think: “She is less than 20% at each of these things.” I want to hire the person who is 100%, don’t you? Focus your personal brand.
I don’t want a floor wax that’s also a dessert topping — I want an eco non toxic wax for hardwood floors.
I don’t want a dentist who is also an auto mechanic — I want a cosmetic dentist with an office within walking distance from my house.
Use a clear mission statement in your signature line, and if you have multiple lines of business, add a separate URL for each one. Build a separate email address for each business–it’s free in Gmail.
Focus your personal pages on Facebook and Pinterest for hobbies that build your personal brand:
Most of us want more meaning in our life, and turning a passion or hobby into a business is everyone’s dream. Before you pour your time into building brands for all of your passions, though, ask yourself:
What is my business — and what are my passions?
Yes, like most people with a life outside of work, I’ve done a lot of things that I’ve been paid to do — this includes being a backup singer on some CDs, art curator, remodeling and flipping houses, stage manager and emcee for the Green Festival, art model, on stage storytelling performer, vegetarian caterer, producing events and yoga conferences, journalist, aromatherapist, writing a book about my “Eat, Pray, Love” journey in the south of France, etc. etc.
I took a stab at starting businesses in all of these areas but generally, I ended up investing more than I earned …therefore they are hobbies. My business is promoting things. I have found a happy medium that feeds my soul by promoting things that are my passions — technology that helps people collaborate, events that teach healthy lifestyles, solar energy and green ideas.
My passions, aka hobbies, however, don’t belong on my LinkedIn profile, my professional website or my email signature line unless I want to look like a flaky new age dilettante.
(Here’s an actual Flaky New Age Dilettante Twitter Profile: “Shamanic journeyer+travel.art.yoga junkie+wellness warrior+DJ+social alchemist. Some say l am an expert in Marketing, & Campaign Management.” Uh, yeah, not for personal branding I hope.)
I do get a lot of clients from the people I met while doing my hobbies, and they feed my soul, so I indulge in my hobbies on my personal Facebook page and Pinterest or by taking on volunteer roles or “pro bono” clients in these niches and highlighting them on LinkedIn in the volunteer section at the end of my profile.
Focus your thought leadership niche:
Examine your market niche and do research on the competition. For example, for one of my clients, a green talk radio host, she has discovered that there are no competitors at all for women representing the ecological and green movement. The door is wide open for her to take a thought leadership position and own that category as an author and media personality and we’re working on that together. For my business, I did a search in Twitter and noticed there are 181,000 social media gurus. But very few focus on the LOHAS, green or sustainable market — that niche is wide open for thought leadership.
Focus your photo and banner.
Choose your best portrait photo and use it consistently everywhere — it’s your brand. Same hairstyle, same eyeglasses, same hat or hair color. Think of celebrities that stand out eternally – Marilin Monroe and her platinum hair, Elvis and his sideburns, John Lennon and his round glasses, Groucho Marx with his big nose, moustache and glasses, Larry King and his suspenders — each has a style so distinctive that they are easily parodied. Find a unique look that defines your personal brand. One easy way to do this is to choose a consistent background for your photos — such as a redwood forest, ocean or city skyline or to wear a consistent color. Hire a designer to create a banner for every social and web page or use a cover maker — and make sure it is one in a million unique. (No cheesy stock photos.)
Focus your regional market.
Even though the Internet is “global,” few businesses really are. If your clients are from a specific geographical region, put that in your mission statement and build listings on Yelp, Yahoo, Google, and other local listing services to ensure you show up in local searches.
It’s easier to be a big fish in a small pond — so consider focusing your brand to a region with the least number of competitors, or even moving to a region you can own and dominate. That region is a keyword that is crucial to your SEO for your website, LinkedIn and your Twitter bio–be specific so customers can find you.
Focus and build thought leadership with content — and real world examples.
Thought leadership is a commitment to leading a category and curating content in that category until you are synonymous with that category. (Tim Ferris owns the “4 Day Work Week.” Don Miguel Ruiz owns “The Four Agreements.” What do you own?) Yes, it’s tedious. Yes, it’s not as much fun as being a dilettante — but it helps you stand out and build authoritiy, page rank and SEO.
Brand focus builds authority and trust
Another client is a river rafting guide and also a massage therapist. I convinced her to drop the massage therapy from her river rafting website and build a new site for that sideline. It’s distracting to think of the relaxation of a massage and the adrenaline rush experience of river rafting under the same brand.
Her new brand tagline is: “Life is a river — dance with it!” This reflects her personal passion in dance, and the fact that every river trip has live or DJ dance music, making them very different than mainstream river rafting trips. Other tag lines that spin off this theme will include: “Life is a river, flow with it!” and “Life is a river, dive in!”) The new card and website emphasize “flow” with curving fonts. There are hundreds of Esctatic Dance events and hundreds of river rafting trips — but she owns “Dance with the River”.
When you focus your brand, you will find that not only will your credibility with clients improve, but your SEO, website traffic, Klout and Peer Index scores will soar because these scores reflect the consistency of posting on a single topic area and building thought leadership in that category.
As your Klout improves, clients and customers will call, and you will be getting inquiries from the news media looking for authorities to quote in their stories, and speaking engagements.
When you focus your brand, you won’t have to search for clients — they’ll finally be able to find you!
Today there are at least 350 social networks. And thousands of smaller, focused and specialized social networks that have been built on Ning — like Etsy, which is now essential for craftspersons, and Architects of a New Dawn, a new age network of “positive and uplifting content” created by musician Carlos Santana.
How do you make your way through this mountain of potential sites and decide where to focus your precious time and marketing dollars?
1. Decide what your market niche is and choose the top 3 networks in that niche.
For example, if you’re a Yoga business, you might want to join the three largest, fastest-growing, or most heavily visited networks in the New Age and Yoga market — Yogamates, Architects of a New Dawn and Gaia. If you are a yoga non profit organization, perhaps you’d also add Wiser Earth. Keep an eye open for all new social nets in your industry and create a basic page on all of them if possible–you really never know where a new customer is going to come from.
The best and most active groups will soon become apparent and then you can start unsubscribing from the less popular ones. (It’s better to have an active page you’re paying attention to than a dead one that could be collecting negative comments or will make your business look stale and outdated.) But in this day of emerging media, it’s difficult to predict in advance who is going to be hot and who’s going to fizzle out. (Once upon a time, only two years ago, Facebook was just a niche network for Ivy league college graduates).
2. Add the Yahoo groups and Meetups in your marketing niche.
Do a search for Yahoo groups relevant to your market, and join the largest ones. These lists become valuable places to announce and promote your events and services. For example, as a Yoga business, we would join all of the Yoga and Vegetarian Yahoo groups, Google Groups and Meetups in our region. Your profile should always list all of your Facebook, Linked In and Twitter profiles, your website, blog and any other urls that relate to your business. This generates links and traffic back to your website.
3. Create a Facebook personal page AND a Facebook fan page. Then create Facebook Event pages for all of your events.
Why multiple Facebook pages? Because you will eventually want to separate your personal life from your busines. Also, fan pages offer the potential to send out news to your whole list with one click — whereas an Event page created from your personal identity requires tediously clicking on every single name in order to invite people. Trust me, you need both.
Again, link back to all of your other social profiles and URLs from your Facebook profiles. More about how to create a kick-butt Facebook fan page in a future article. There are both free and paid Facebook fan pages, depending on the number of friends you have and the features you want.
4. Decide if Twitter, Linked In, Myspace or Flickr are for you. They’re not for everybody.
Twitter is more impersonal than Facebook — I think of Twitter as where I can blast out news to the entire planet in my professional niche. But Facebook where I reach my closest community circle–real people I actually know. If your business does not need to reach the whole world, Twitter is overkill. For example, a local pet store probably won’t need Twitter, but a distributor of pet products would use it to communicate with stores, pet magazines, customers and fans.
Myspace is in decline, but is still one of the world’s largest social networks, and because it has music player features that Facebook lacks, it’s still essential for musicians, authors, festivals, nightclubs and entertainment venues. Myspace is not trafficked much anymore for other businesses. More about music promotion, which is a world unto itself, in a future article.
Linked In is essential if you’re a high tech executive and want to link up with your peers and business development contacts — but it’s fairly useless for a massage therapist.
Flickr or Photobucket are great if you’re a professional photographer, or if your collection of photos is somehow relevant to your business, and it will drive traffic to your other sites because these photos are tagged and will show up in web searches.
5. If you’re a local business, you absolutely need to be on Yelp!
Yelp is essential for all local businesses — whether you are a dentist, offer professional services or run a restaurant. You need to actively encourage your friends, family and best customers to write positive reviews on Yelp — because positive reviews will crowd out the negative ones. More about Yelp and review services like Epinions later in a specific article. One of my clients, a mover, says the majority of his business referrals now come from Yelp so he offers a discount to encourage happy customers to write a Yelp review.
6. Local businesses also need to consider local listing services, specific to their niche.
Proactively seek out the free listings first. The ones that are selling ads will seek you out and beg you to spend. Personally, I would hire a competent social media/marketing consultant first and foremost before I paid for any online advertising. For example, if you’re sending out invitations to events, you’ll want to pay for email lists that reach your geographic and business niche, and you may find value in highly targeted Google Ad Words or Facebook ads. For a local restaurant, for example, you’d want to get listed on Bing.com, Restaurants.com, Yelp, Urban spoon, Fodors, Zagat, Dine.com, Citysearch, Boorah and Gayot, plus you’ll need to pay careful attention to Yahoo and Google to make sure you show up on the local search maps.
More about restaurant-specific social media in a future article, as I start to work for a restaurant client and give you some real world examples.
7. Join video listing services, photo sites and podcasting communities, if relevant to your business.
Video communities like You Tube, veoh, Metacafe, Google Video and Current.TV let you host small video clips for free to promote your business or brand. I have a client who is a yoga teacher, for example, who has clips from several of her Yoga DVDs and cooking videos online and considers that an important part of her promotion strategy. Another client, with an Astrology website, uses podcasting networks to promote his online radio show.
7. Listing sites like Digg.com are important too…but you can deal with those later.
I’m going to save this for a separate tutorial, because listing sites like Digg and Delicio.us are a whole other social animal. These sites, which tend to appeal mostly to a younger audience, are where the community “votes” on the importance or relevance of a topic or article. Your blog is like the center of the wheel that is your social promotion strategy. Get started building your fan base on social sites and the listing services relevant to your business first, and develop a blog that links all of these sites together – before you worry about the listing sites.
The bottom line is — if you’re customers, peers, pundits and fans are there, you need to be on a social network. If they’re not, I’m sure you have better things to do with your time.