Why Small Businesses Need to Adapt to Social Media’s Teenage Years

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Let’s be honest with ourselves, when you hear somebody say “I’ve never heard of Twitter,” or “I don’t tweet” you might double take – at least on the inside. The inner marketer in you can’t believe there’s someone out there who hasn’t heard of Twitter. Twitter has been around for …

That’s where you get sidetracked. You know Twitter’s old, but it can’t be that old. As it so happens, Twitter changed everything with its inception in 2006. And although it’s not even 10-years old in human years, being seven years old in fast moving social media years makes it an adolescent, roughly speaking.

Twitter, and Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube etc. are no longer a new-borns. You’ve been talking about them the same way you talk about your 16-year-old nephew – you hold your palm to your knee and say, “I remember when you were this big.” Similarly, the same incentives that worked for your nephew when he was “yay tall” no longer work on the teenage version. It’s the same with social media.

It’s time we really examined why – not how – today’s users are communicating across social networks, and why we as marketers cannot afford to limit our business efforts to just strategic silos. As Twitter and Facebook grow-up, the SMBs who approach their customers on common ground will enjoy the most success.

Here’s how SMBs can use Teenage Twitter and Teenage Facebook to enhance their brand:

Twitter

TWITTER AS A YOUNGSTER: The “mentions” landscape was fractured, directionless and often low-value. SMBs participated because the consumers were there, but they didn’t know why they were there or what they necessarily wanted to talk about.

TWITTER NOW: Twitter, as an adolescent, is a self-sustaining marketplace. Consumers engage the businesses they love because the nature of communication on social media is “out of the norm.” The veil of Internet anonymity mixed with the wonton desire for greater personal gain creates an environment through which consumers are entitled. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for small businesses.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES: The communication marketplace on Twitter is fluid and has a very short shelf life. The number of users on Twitter is far larger than you may imagine. Not all your customers engage on Twitter, but many listen. The best SMBs understand this and play with it. Here’s how you can present a better image to all: Follow your customers on Twitter. Read their posts (yes this takes time, but there’s a direct relationship between time invested and trust gained). Engage with them on their interests. Because it’s your customer, they need to know that your business is using Twitter to make them feel special. Do this for a few customers, and more will recognize the “special” value they can gain by meeting you there. Take Oreo for instance, they regularly meet consumers on the consumer level. This tweet provided only slim brand association, yet was still highly engaged upon due to the brand sponsoring its community’s interests. For some of the best small business engagement, follow @UnMarketing, @RamonRay and Anita Campbell of @SmallBizTrends and see how they conduct conversations.

Facebook

FACEBOOK AS A YOUNGSTER: The introduction of ads and privacy concerns initially put Facebook users and business at odds. Facebook took some time to fine tune its platform: traditional display ads made way for sponsored stories, sponsored accounts and higher values on visual content (more on that soon), Facebook has certainly been an up-and-down in its youth. Brands and businesses were in an arms race to gain more likes, without having a real-world understanding for what a “like” meant.

FACEBOOK AS A TEENAGER: Everybody uses Facebook (Moms, Kids, Teenagers, even cats and dogs). Your content may only be delivered to a certain percentage of your already-gained audience. BUT, your beacon of branding still exists as a landing page, and now it’s mobile. And as any parent will tell you, a mobile phone is a teenagers third hand.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES: Teenage Facebook tells us exactly what it wants. It wants fresh, visual content that looks great on that $600 smartphone. The emphasis is less about using it to post posts, and more about creating an environment where your consumers’ interests are sponsored and hosted on your Facebook page. Tactically speaking, this means SMBs should be focused on creating and posting more pictures, graphics, videos, videos of cats…For a good cue, go to MagCloud publisher BRINK Mag’s Facebook page. There’s tight integration with photo sharing, leading to more relevant and inspiring content. The key with strong visuals is allowing for a breadth of creativity, especially for SMBs. Create something memorable, and your consumers will be more inclined to participate, associate and share. For a great example of memorable visuals, visit the How to Market Your Horse Business Facebook page.

Have some ideas of your own? Agree/Disagree with how to treat Twitter and Facebook as they grow up? Let us know in the comments!

Improved Discovery and Sharing

MagCloud just got a bit more social with our expanded sharing functionality.  You can now like, tweet, pin, and share your favorite print and digital publications from our website or within the web-based viewer. We’ve also given our storefront a pretty little facelift making it easier to discover, read and buy MagCloud publications.

New Sharing Features

Our enhanced features allow you to share a link from the publication details page or the publication itself with most popular social networks or via email.  You can also like, tweet, +1 or comment on a page or publication.

Share publications directly from our web-based viewer and the latest version of our iPad app.  While reading from with in the web viewer you can share a publication to your favorite social network, send via email, or  grab a link and/or embeddable widget to include on your website or blog.

On the iPad you can choose to share a page or the cover and send via Twitter, Facebook or email directly to friends and colleagues.

Improved Storefront

We’ve also made it easier to browse and discover the tens of thousands of publications available publicly in the MagCloud storefront.

The redesigned storefront makes it easy to find and read free and purchased  digital publications directly from the website.  You can browse both print and digital publications by popularity, recommendation, category or search.

Let us know what you think of the new sharing functionality and improved storefront in the comments section below.

MagCloud’s on LinkedIn

As you may have noticed, we’re hard at work to make sure we’re meeting our community where you already live: Facebook and Twitter. But many of you are also working professionals with a presence on the world’s most popular business networking site, LinkedIn. So today, we’re excited to announce our latest online presence, Publisher’s Corner on LinkedIn. This LinkedIn Group was created to act as an additional resource for the MagCloud community. On the Discussions tab, you can share everything from your thoughts on the latest trends in digital- and print-publishing, to the design tips you find indispensable, to your distribution strategy. The Promotions tab can be used to share information about webinars, trainings and other promotions the community might find beneficial. There is even a place to list job openings and discuss opportunities you’ve heard about but want insight from other publishers and group members before pursuing.

We invite you to participate in any ongoing discussions or start one of your own. Connect with other members of the community and trade industry news. LinkedIn is an ideal venue for meeting others in your professional field, and we hope Publisher’s Corner will generate stimulating discussions to the benefit each of you. On that note, you will gain the most from this Group if other influencers throughout our industry join the conversation. Feel free to share the Group with your LinkedIn network and help us build a solid community of digital- and print-publishing professionals.

We hope you’ll visit soon and often. The MagCloud team looks forward to engaging in some great conversations with you.  See you there!

Engage with Your Readers on Social Media

Entering the world of social media can feel overwhelming at times. The networks and technology are changing on an ongoing basis and there are many opinions about what works best to engage with your audience. There are two things you CAN be sure of, YOU know your readers better than anyone else and your readership is involved in social networking in some capacity. So, if you’re ready to jump into the online world of social media and engage with your readers, here are a few simple steps to get you on the right path.

Find the right places to engage. Take the time to do a little bit of upfront research about your readers’ online habits. Pinpoint the appropriate social networking sites that your readers are engaged in. There are some great tools available to you to help you do this – even some free or low cost options. Research will take some form of investment of your time and/or money (depending on how much information you want), but what you put into this is what you’ll get out. It’s worth taking that extra few hours or spending that bit of cash upfront to be an informed participant. Of course, if you have the ability to personally ask a sampling of your readers, the first-hand information you receive would be immensely helpful. Also consider surveying your readership through a free and simple Survey Monkey survey.

Once you learn more about your readers and where they interact online, decide what your voice will be when you interact with your readership. Be strategic:

– Keep the tone consistent with your brand voice and encourage engagement.
– Stay upbeat, positive and relevant. Ask yourself, would I want to interact with a brand using this voice on social media?
– Keep the sales language to a minimum. Again, think of how you would react to a brand trying to constantly sell you their products and services.

Start off slowly with one or two social media channels. Feel out the response from your readers on these online channels and adapt to their conversations as you become more familiar with the type of content they prefer. One thing to keep in mind is that it takes time (just like with researching) to build your social media audience. Unless you’re Charlie Sheen or Eminem, you’ll need to nurture your social media channels and watch it grow with patience.

As you continue to foster your online conversations, stay updated on trend data and the latest, greatest social media tools. For this you can’t go wrong with social media resources like Mashable, Brian Solis and Steve Rubel.

Now for a few trends to keep your eye on:

– Use share functionality (such as ShareThis and AddThis) to spread your message across multiple channels and reach new audiences. Whether it’s a blog post or your digital magazine, make sure it’s shareable.

– Know when your readers are online and engaging in conversations. Research has shown that the most popular time of day that people are participating on Facebook is at the top and bottom of the hour. Meetings have just ended, and people return to their desks to see what’s happening online. Day-parting your messages is key to catching your audience when they sign on. Once you know more, use tools such as Cotweet, Timely, Hootsuite or Su.pr to schedule your messages to go out on time.

– Find ways to integrate online conversations into an offline setting and vice versa. In the weeks leading up to an event you’ll be participating in, share the information with your online community. If you’re going to be speaking at an event, ask your readers for ideas on what to speak on and offer ticket discounts to your connections if possible. It’s also important to record your speech and share it online. Videos are a powerful medium.

What social media tips can you share?