In this presentation on marketing strategy for small businesses and nonprofits, we’ll talk about how any person or organization can leverage their expertise and use the power of online search and social media to “play much bigger than they are.”
In today’s environment, everyone is a publisher and anyone can establish himself or herself as a thought leader. So, you can level the playing field considerably, regardless of annual sales, or even headcount to a very significant degree.
You manage the perception of your brand by creating and sharing valuable content and promoting it in ways that can ripple out exponentially beyond your existing circle of influence via social networks and an über level of customer who becomes so enamored of you that they become, actually, “ambassadors” for your brand (spreading the word about their extraordinary experience with you, recommending you to others).
What does that mean?
That sounds good. But what does it look like?
Here’s an example using Starbucks, a ubiquitous, global brand. Here, I’ve lined it up directly alongside a “competitor” – a much smaller, regional brand of coffeehouses.
Comparing their Facebook pages, is there much perceptible difference? If you look at statistics, maybe yes. But not per the presentation itself.
And not just in terms of branding and images. There’s valuable content being shared by Community Coffee. And their fans respect them, and reward them, for it.
Small business marketing strategy using content marketing & social media:
So, let’s see how you go about creating that kind of presence and, subsequently, stature, image, trust, goodwill… Not to mention, real business results in terms of customers and sales!
#1 Take stock
The bullet points here are pretty self-explanatory.
Look around your office. Think back. Consider your institutional memory and staff expertise.
What resources have you already created or gathered? Perhaps some statistical information based on your own client base or industry? Any collections of research that could be packaged into an interesting report, maybe something at year-end, or forward looking, projections you could make?
All of this effort is toward creating a body of content – we’re talking mostly online for this purpose – that creates greater exposure and brand authority for you and the products or services you offer.
#2 Claim your spot
Deploying a content marketing strategy requires some preparation.
First, if you haven’t already done so, set up accounts on the social media channels that might be best for you. You’ll decide that based on where your customers are active (ask them if you don’t know); more obvious is where your competitors are active.
Doing that initial setup will require that you have your hands on some basic image files – your logo, for one (jpegs or png files are best, generally); a little bit more challenging are custom banners, which should reflect your branding and maybe have a bit more messaging incorporated into them. It’s easy to find cheat sheets online that tell you all of the optimal sizes per each social channel. (Of course, they’re all somewhat different! Having someone who’s fluent in a photo editing program is really helpful.)
If you have other related images – of your products, workplace, employees, etc. –those could be really useful as well. If not in the initial setup of your social presence, then later to accompany specific posts.
Following best practices in content marketing and social media requires a commitment to regular, consistent posting.
If you just set up a Facebook page, for example, and only post occasional news releases or holiday greetings, you’ll never get any traction. That’s neither often enough nor valuable enough in a “what’- in-it-for-your-customer” kind of way.
Brainstorm ideas that would be more meaningful to address for your constituency/s. Think about timing. Start to plot things out on a calendar, literally.
#4 Find the influencers
One of the ways to amplify your voice and your efforts is to identify and leverage the “influencers” in your field.
If you’ve been in your position for a while, you probably know the “who’s who” list. Do you read their columns in a trade publication? Have you seen them speak at relevant conferences? Track them down digitally: Are they active on social media? If so, follow them. See what it is they’re talking about. Make a regular practice of checking in on this scene – to stay abreast of news and emerging trends.
This will help inform your own commentary and content marketing plans.
Those influencers we just talked about will be among the sources you’ll find yourself using when you want to Tweet, or to create more of a long-form blog article or traditional report, or… You’ll find that this process will spur lots of ideas – for future blog articles, perhaps more ambitious projects such as in-depth reports on related topics, etc.
If as you’re researching online you use a tool like OneTab (a browser extension that rolls up all of your open tabs into a savable, shareable list) or just manually collect link details for resources you’re finding and consulting, consider compiling and presenting those in a Resource Center on your own website. If they’re of interest and value to you, you can be fairly certain they will have appeal for others in your field as well. Such a resource will bring more visitors to your site, and introduce more prospective clients to you, your brand and your offerings.
#6 Be precise: Words matter!
Part of your deeper research will be to find out what specific words or phrases people are using to find answers about products or services you offer.
This isn’t necessarily something you’ll know from your regular day-to-day, on-the-ground interactions.
Picture this: Even when you do a simple Google search, typing a word or phrase into the search box, Google shows you algorithm-based suggestions based on actual previous search activity. Those suggestions appear two ways or places on your screen: as a pop-up under the search box itself and in a list at the bottom of the first results page (i.e. “Searches related to ….”)
Then there are tools built specifically for this purpose – that delve deeper and show you relative data such as how many monthly searches are performed on a particular word or phrase. Many of these tools are free. Some are free with an optional for-fee level. They aren’t difficult to use or understand.
Once you get your list of primary keywords or keyword phrases, then it’s important to incorporate them into topics you follow and Tweet about, ideas you write about in blog articles and on your website in general.
This is important foundation work towards building a body of content on your website and social channels around select keywords and ideas – in order to keep growing your reach or exposure, as well as your authority and prestige. But this is starting to get into a related topic called SEO – or Search Engine Optimization – a subject for another day!
#7 Be your own source
As mentioned previously when we talked about resource gathering, consider proprietary projects you might be positioned to create and promote. A report. A presentation at a conference or trade show. A unique infographic that explains an important concept in your field. (Visual information is highly sharable.)
These can be precious in terms of generating publicity – through online shares and traditional press pickups.
“Earned media” (or, publicity you haven’t paid for) is hugely valuable in terms of building your credibility.
It’s that objective third party weighing in on you, your value. It’s not you saying you’re great. It’s others. It’s a quiet, implicit endorsement. And when it comes from a recognized authority, you essentially get to borrow on their authority and credibility. It’s a real win. And this is all unpaid media. You’re spending nothing but your brainpower, time and effort.
One more criteria
All of the activity suggested here is about demonstrating your expertise, building your authority and your online reputation. You’ve gotta believe in yourself to act and “speak” authoritatively.
It’s one big, self-perpetuating circle of belief.
Belief generates trust.
Trust creates engagement.
People gravitate to other people they like and trust – in the business world, as in their personal lives. We’re not talking about Like “clicks” here but genuine admiration that comes from you expressing your brand in a personable, authentic, approachable and helpful way. Everything we’ve talked about here – the planning, the branding, the research and curation, the writing and publishing process – is designed to create such energy and synergy.
for digging in to this idea with me.
It would be understandable if you feel a bit overwhelmed at this point. To make a practice of this requires skills and resources. If you don’t have the time or expertise on-staff, call an expert. Feel free to shoot me a message! No-obligation. Exploration is good!
This presentation is also available in My Presentations on SlideShare.