The Power of Brand Storytelling and 24 Other Lessons to Grow Your Business

Bizapalooza StageMagCloud is excited to be part of the first virtual small business “rock festival”, Bizapalooza!  It’s a free 3-day on-line conference July 16-18 where business experts share their strategies, secrets and power tools that will take your small business as high as you want to rock it.

On Tuesday July 16 at 5 p.m. EST, I’ll be representing the MagCloud team and discussing the power of tapping into your brand story.  MagCloud publications are all about telling great stories through words and images in print and digital, so it’s a subject near and dear to our hearts. We’ll dive into how small and medium businesses can take a lesson from leading media companies to build brand awareness and create deeper customer engagements . I’ll also share how to cost-effectively develop a multi-channel content strategy that takes your brand story across print, digital and social channels to drive more sales and leads.

To register for Bizapaloooza or find out more about the conference click here: http://bit.ly/18BpHgn.

Follow us at on Twitter (@MagCloud) and join the conversation during the webinar using hashtag #MagCloudSMB. Join us!

Until then, check out some of these teaser lessons from the rest of the presenters:

  • Jon Ferrara– CEO of Nimble – Transform your shallow social media connections into thriving business opportunities.
  • David Fishof – Founder of Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp- Don’t let your fears get in the way of your success.
  • Donna Cravotta – CEO of Social Sage PR– A great media list is worth thousands of dollars (she’s going to give you one)
  • Brenda Horton – Co-Creator of ActionPlanr – Take the time to focus, plan and eliminate overwhelm.
  • Susan Payton –  President, Egg Marketing –  Press releases have SEO super powers.
  • Steve Wilkinghoff – Author of Found Money – First decide your financial outcome, then design a business that delivers.
  • Adam Byrnes – International Director of Freelancer.com – Freelancers will grow your business.
  • Jim Kukral – Speaker and Award Winning blogger – You can make more money and leverage your brand by self-publishing.
  • Tim O’Connor – CEO of Marcademy.com – If your online marketing expert or agency doesn’t follow these rules — ditch them.
  • Chaitra Vedullapalli – CMO of Meylah – 63% of small businesses aren’t online!
  • Sabrina Parsons –  CEO of Palo Alto Software – Your financials tell a story –that you write.
  • Erik Koto – CEO of QuestionPro – Run a survey, do nothing, make more money.  Really, there’s a study that proves it.
  • Deborah Kagan – Sensual Lifestyle Specialist – Mo Mojo = Mo Money = Mo Fun. Mo Life.  You get the picture.
  • Melinda Emerson – Smallbizlady – Talk to people on Twitter, do it every day grow your followers and influence.
  • Share Ross – Bassist for Vixen and Founder of Video Rock Star University – Stop being scared of video – and start attracting more clients and customers.
  • Shawn Pfunder – Godaddy – There’s no good reason for a bad web site.
  • Mariano Andres Garcia – Design matters even though content is king.
  • Bridget Weston Pollack – Marketing Director, SCORE – You can get million dollar consulting and experience — for FREE – why aren’t you?
  • Anita Campbell – Small Business Trends – Blogging is easier than you think.
  • Tina Forsyth – There is more to automating your systems and process than using technology.
  • Matthew Goldfarb – Corporate Renegade –  Stand for something – get more clients and customers who will pay you more for who you are.
  • Aseem Badshah – Founder & CEO of Socedo – Social media can actually make you money.
  • Anum Hussain – Hubspot – Inbound marketing is the science of turning web site visitors into prospects and prospects into customers.  Hubspots power marketer, Anum Hussain takes you through the basics and gets you headed on the pathway to profitable customers.

Lots of great speakers on tap so I hope you’ll join the conversation.

For the full agenda and to register visit the Bizapaloooza website.

If you do attend we would love to hear about your experience and favorite sessions in the comments section below.

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!

A Pinterest Q&A With MagCloud Publishers

Pinterest LogoBy now, you’ve seen some of the investments the social media community has made in Pinterest. The visual inspiration engine resonates with communities in such a natural way it’s no wonder that the little network that could is on a meteoric growth trajectory. But as Pinterest usage and prevalence increases, marketers are beginning to ask themselves how best to leverage the platform to get its message out.

MagCloud publishers have been using Pinterest for some time, with good success thus far. We’ve reached out to some “Pinteresting” publications to understand more about Pinterest’s benefits: Cory Ann Ellis (Pinterest page here)– of AC Ellis Photography, SD Wedding Style and The Cake Lady Bakery – and Trey Hill – who uses both MagCloud and Pinterest for Square Root of Nine, a story telling agency.

Have some thoughts, tips or ideas of your own? Let us know in the comments! And as always, if you’d like to respond to us or the authors, the comments section is the place to be.

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MagCloud: Have your publications used Pinterest for promotion recently? What have you seen from the platform that made the promotion unique?

Cory Ann: “We actively use Pinterest to promote our print and web publications. Pinterest is the fastest growing social media platform, and the viral exposure a company can receive through pinning is an important component of our marketing strategy.”

Trey Hill:  “As the owner of a storytelling agency, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what I do for myself and what I do to further our story. At some point, I just embraced that the line is blurry. I do use Pinterest regularly to bookmark images, stories and styles that I find appealing. I try to temper promoting my business, but do have a few boards that highlight my work.”

MagCloud: What do you think Pinterest might offer publishers that is unique to publishing (as opposed to the advantages for other small businesses)?

Cory Ann: “I think Pinterest offers publishers an opportunity to generate continued support and readership of past publications. When your publication is long off the shelf or not at the top of your promotional efforts, you have the ability through Pinterest to promote past issue sales, articles and advertisers. What a great way to stretch your reach and create a good use of past content rather than collecting dust in a lost folder on your hard drive.”

Trey Hill:  “I’m certainly no publishing expert, but I think whether you’re a publication, small business, non-profit or sports team, Pinterest offers you the ability to curate tangible expressions of your brand’s story. You can craft a character and associate yourself, powerfully, with ideas, imagery and products you admire. However, most brands I interact with on Twitter aren’t taking advantage of this aspect of Pinterest.”

MagCloud: What are some tips that may help other publishers to get started on Pinterest?

Cory Ann: “Try not to only pin promotional pieces for your own business, but also images, services and products that supplement your business or life. For small businesses, Pinterest offers an easy method to allow your customers and readers to get to know the owners and employees by creating personal style boards. A personal connection is so important to brand and business loyalty, and this is a great easy way to reach out to your customers and share in a subtle way, without taking up vital print space. Pin images directly from your site or blog. Be sure the link back on Pinterest leads to a specific post and not just your home page. Use simple clear descriptions and hashtags on the images you pin. Make it easy for viewers to find your pins when they search.”

Trey Hill:  “Don’t be scared to pin things that might not end up in a click back to your website. People respect organizations that are secure enough in their own identity that they are free to applaud the efforts of others. And, when you begin to point people to the things you admire, more often than not, the favor is returned.”

MagCloud:  Pinterest is a highly visual social media platform, how can you use that style to promote your publication? 

Cory Ann: “We are visual people and the use of good images and design can draw a viewer in and entice them to read a full article or publication. We like to post images of our publication that link back to our sale page on Pinterest. Also a board can be created for each article or issue to supplement the publication and drive traffic back for a full purchase or download. Behind the scenes and extra images that don’t make the article are great to draw the viewer in without compromising the distribution of the original content. Most publications are driven by advertisers. By pinning the ads, websites and products of your advertisers, you create an increased value to your ad sales.”

Trey Hill:  “First, let me start with a warning. Self-promotion in social media of any kind needs to be tempered. Heavily. Make sure you’re pinning 15-20 items that have nothing to do with you directly for everyone that points back to you. If you can make that ration even larger, do it. As Brian Regan so appropriately warned, ‘Beware the Me Monster.’ I am continually impressed with Warby Parker’s strategy for pinning. This past summer they launched a Blue Mirror sunglass lens & created a board that featured pins with that shade of blue. Of the 39 pins on the board, only one featured the glasses themselves. That was an interesting idea and could apply to publications as well. Does your current issue have a theme that you could pin from? What about doing boards inspired by the various stories? That kind of thinking gets people excited and generates repins and conversation, which in-turn builds loyalty to your brand and the larger story you’re trying to tell.”

Vote for MagCloud as a 2012 Small Business Influencer Champion!

It’s great to have more reasons to keep celebrating MagCloud’s birthday this month! We’re thrilled to hear that we were nominated for the Small Business Influencer Award this year.  As you may remember, we were selected as one of the last year’s Small Business Influencer Champions and hope to repeat that distinction again!

This prestigious recognition honors companies, organizations and people who have made a significant impact on the small business industry. We remain committed to improving our services and offering new products to assist small businesses with their marketing efforts. Over the last twelve months, we’ve rolled out Digest Landscape, new Flyer options, Square Format, Large FormatPremium Paper and Shipping Options, and still have more to come!

We would love your votes to help us reach the Top 100 by August 5. Have we made a meaningful and lasting impact for your business? Place a vote! Yes, you can vote every day. :)

For more information on the 2012 Small Business Influencer, be sure to follow @SMBInfluencer on Twitter or the folks behind this initiative – Anita Campbell (@smallbiztrends) and Ramon Ray (@ramonray). Let us know that you voted by leaving a comment below and thanks for your support!