Engaging Small-business Customers with Facebook Contests

Social media rules in terms of marketing options. And Facebook is the king of social media.

Okay, those are bold statements and many would disagree. Yet the numbers are continuing to show that these statements, if not true today, can well be expected to be the case within one or two years.

So how does a small-business owner take advantage of this trend?

While there are lots of options, GROW Nebraska connected with Connie Hancock and Jenny Nixon, UNL Extension educators, to provide this session on how doing Facebook contests can attract and engage customers.

In the webinar, you will learn about the basics of branding and establishing your online image. You are then walked through some of the key elements for having a successful contests as well as some of the things not to do.

Examples of contests are used throughout the presentation. The idea of messages and what makes a good message is discussed.

If you are thinking of Facebook contests as an opportunity, or want to expand your expertise in running such events, then pull up a chair.

Marketing is changing. Social media is growing. And there is a good chance, Facebook should be part of your mix.

Use of Online Marketing for Ag Enterprises

Online marketing tools and techniques are rapidly growing in use.

Yet the use of such tools among rural business owners and small agricultural business owners has not kept up with the national trends. These businesses tend to continue their use of more traditional marketing tools.

The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement at Kansas State University has taken a look at this issue among the green industry businesses including garden centers, nurseries, and landscape operations. In this webinar, they discuss their findings and offer ideas on how rural small-business owners can make the best use of online marketing. 

Take Control of Time Spent Doing Your Small Business Online Marketing

Online Marketing

Online Marketing Options

Developing an online presence is a necessity.

However, you hesitate because: you hear it takes a lot of time or you are not comfortable with technology or you know your customers won’t use it or they all know about your business already. Perhaps it a combination of these items and more. So why have an an online presence?

Yet if you are reading this, you are using that same technology. And if you look around, you will see mobile technology all over being used.

Let’s not hide the fact though that the time needed for a large online presence can be substantial. This article clearly points out that fact. Yes, it really does talk about 12 to 104 hours per week just for doing search engine optimization of your web site. Such time is not even available in your wildest dreams. Perhaps if you didn’t want to sleep…… And we haven’t even talked about your social media efforts yet!!

But are you at that level?  If so, then go for it.  If not, keep reading.

So what can be done to build an online presence and yet control the amount of resources it takes? 

These are my thoughts on the steps you might take. Others may disagree but this will get you started.

First, learn about the online world and the technology. Understand its place in a marketing effort. Then find a way to dip your toe in the water. Let me suggest the following steps:

  1. Learn about the online world and be ready to commit some resources. Take some classes about what this online world is at your Extension office, library, school, college, etc. Any time you are out, look at the people around you, they are probably online with a mobile device (and you may well be reading this on your mobile device). And ask how much you can carve out to commit to developing an online presence.
  2. Online starts off-line so talk with your customers. What are they doing online and how are they getting online? What would they like to see from your online presence? At the same time, see what your competitors are doing as well as other businesses in your community.
  3. Claim your bubble. You know, that little pin that shows where a business is located. Get listed in at Google business and other similar services. Correct inaccurate information. Google is the current big player but don’t overlook other sites such as Bing and Mapquest.
  4. Check out the review sites where your business might be listed.  Set up a plan for reviewing those sites on a regular basis. I would encourage at least a weekly review and a response to any negative reviews. A thanks to positive reviewers would also be a good idea. Now might be the time to consider how you can get more reviews. (15 minutes per week)
  5. Set up Google Alerts or some other means of getting an update, such as Twitter lists,  Feedly or Hootsuite, to know when your name or the name of your business is mentioned online. You may also want to follow your key products, trends, or key industry informants (15 – 45 minutes per week)
  6. It’s now time to take the next big step in your online presence. My recommendation is to build a website. The reason for that method versus something like a Facebook page is you control it. Social media sites are owned and controlled by others. If they decide to change, everything you worked for can disappear quickly. Your site can vary from something basic to very elaborate with shopping carts, etc. You can do it yourself or you can hire someone else to build it. Taking this and step 7 may require more help and training. This is also where your required time commitment will start to grow.
  7. Another big step – Now it’s time to add social media perhaps including a blog.

You have covered the basics (Steps 1 through 5, and have moved on with items #6 and #7. The first five steps require a reasonable (dare I say small) ongoing time commitment, maybe as little as 15 minutes per week although I hope that you are getting lots of positive reviews that take time to read. Just a reminder, though, there is upfront time being spent to get ready.

At this point, you can look at social media advertising, search engine optimization, getting ready for mobile, and tracking your metrics.

The bottom line is you can begin an online presence without spending the hours suggested by that first article. And you can do much of the work yourself, even with the long days your business takes.

Additional information:

What Happens to Social Media Upon Death?

Online Marketing

Online Marketing Options

The issue of one’s digital legacy currently does not receive a great deal of attention. That fact lies in the relatively newness of social media.

Preparation for one’s death is not a new topic with estate plans, wills, trusts, and other legal documents. And some of one’s digital assets such as pictures, video and text are covered in these.

Yet the online social media platforms bring a new set of challenges.

Lara Bowman, Mississippi State University Extension Service, has put together a fact sheet outlining the options available on various platforms. You can find the material at: http://msucares.com/pubs/infosheets/is2011.pdf

This fact sheet is a great place to start if you need to handle the social media accounts for a relative or friend, either business or personal.  You may also want to check to see if your state has any laws regarding such digital legacies.

This material should help you get started. You can also check with your local Extension agent to see if there is anything state-specific.

 

Dr. James Barnes Talks Facebook and Facebook Ads

In our December Friday 15, Dr. James Barnes, Mississippi State University Extension, discussed Facebook and Facebook Ads for your business.

In her introduction of James and the topic, Jenny Nixon, moderator and Extension Educator with University of Nebraska, mentioned that 50% of people online have a Facebook account. This means potentially great opportunities by having your business on this social media platform.

In his chat, James mentioned the need to have your Facebook page up and running well before you started using any ads. Some of the components necessary include fresh and engaging content, good images, and changing, diversified content. He said that a 30-day calendar, at a minimum, of planned content was important.

Once a business owner gets ready to run ads, he or she need to know their budget, should start small, set goals and monitor the metrics, especially impressions, reach, and frequency. Also, there needs to be a consistent core message

Finally, Dr. Barnes mentioned that a business Facebook page cannot just be sell, sell, sell. There needs to be a flow of information, tips, contests, and other items that will keep people engaged.

You can find more resources about the Mississippi “Bricks to Clicks” effort including a variety of publications at: http://www.msbrickstoclicks.com/pubilcations.html . One specific publication looks at the economic benefits of Facebook marketing.

Dr. Barnes mentioned that the rules and opportunities for Facebook, and other social media platforms, are always changing. For example, Facebook has just recently added the opportunity to add a shopping cart on your Facebook page.

Facebook and Facebook ads can be a great marketing tool for your business. But like any other tool, it must be done right and an integrated part of the overall marketing plan.

 

Cyber Security and Your Small Business – Part 2

Mary Peabody, Univ of Vermont, and Steve Hancock, Cornell, offer more tips on how small businesses can keep their online data secure. 

In this episode, Mary and Steve discuss how to protect your customers. Businesses need to build trust with clients. It is that trust which then allows the client to provide his or her credit card and personal information when you ask.

There are four strategies a small business owner can use to build such trust:

  1. Have and follow a privacy policy
  2. Know the data you are collecting. What is it? How will you use it? How are you storing it? Who has access?
  3. Keep what you need and delete what you don’t.
  4. Protect the information.

It is not uncommon to hear business owners express concern about the perceived cost of keeping data secure. That cost is made up of two things, software and time.

The software can often be obtained for free. Companies are increasingly will to share it as data security is in everyone’s interest.

As Mary identifies, there will be time involved. Yet the time spent upfront will be much less than what would be spent should a data breach occur. And it is not only the issue of fixing the data breach but the time and energy you will spend in re-establishing trust with your clients. Recovery is much more expensive than time up front.

Another thing business owners can do is to help their customers stay safe when online. A tip sheet was provided that business owners might share with their customers as a place to start.

As a business owner, you want your customers to feel comfortable in engaging with you and your website. Take the time and make the effort to ensure your work does not disappear because of an online security lapse.

Social Media: An Effective Tool for Rural Businesses

This week’s blog information comes from work done by Dr. James Barnes and Dr. Katlyn Coatney, both of Mississippi State University. They are working to look at how online marketing tools can be effectively used by rural, small agribusinesses. Part of the work of Dr. Barnes includes examining how Facebook ads can be included in the marketing mix.  All of this work is part of  the Mississippi Bricks to  Clicks program

social media channels

Photo (CC) by mkhmarketing, on Flickr
mkhmarketing.wordpress.com

It’s no longer should  you use online marketing, it is how soon can you start.

The idea of online marketing is not new to any business owner.  If the owner isn’t already doing it, they have probably been approached by someone encouraging them to start.  Just in their daily lives, business owners see the idea in action as they go online themselves or even pick up a newspaper or magazine and see advertisements directing them to an online site.

If you look at the data, more and more businesses have begun to include use of online marketing in their overall marketing strategy. Somewhat research finds that businesses in rural places and agribusinesses have been somewhat slower in instituting such practices. To encourage business owners, Drs. Barnes and Coatney have authored a case study, The Economic Value of Social Media Advertising on Mississippi Agribusiness: The Case of MG Farms, Inc. 

Through their work with MG Farms, it was possible to show the economic benefit of using Facebook and Facebook advertising as a marketing tool. Focusing on an upcoming sale, MG Farms made an effort to increase the number of people who liked their Facebook page and who became engaged users during a three-month period.

Such likes and engagement forms a valuable intangible asset for a business.  In the case of MG Farms, that value was worth around $122,000.

Yet Facebook and Facebook ads also had tangible benefits to the business. When the sale was held, attendance increased by 20 percent and gross revenues increased by 33 percent, both based on 2015 as compared to 2014. The social media effort was the only thing MG Farms changed during the year.

The cost for MG Farms for the advertisements was only $735 thus making for a strong return on investment.

The report from Drs. Barnes and Coatney provides a research on the effectiveness of social media marketing for rural businesses. If done with guidance on its effective use, it has the potential for substantially growing your bottom line. 

 

Cybersecurity and Your Small Business

If you have a small business, you are faced with a a cybersecurity risk.

Cybersecurity is not one of the catchy topics that small business owners often plan for in their business. Yet sixty percent of small businesses end up shutting the doors if they end up with a data breach. Think of all your hard work that is quickly lost.

Plus more and more of security breaches, now just over 70%, are targeted at small businesses. One of the reasons is,  unlike bigger companies, small businesses spend less time and money on trying to ensure such things don’t happen.

Mary Peabody, University of Vermont, and Steve Hadcock, Cornell, discussed these issues during the October Friday Chat, Why Hackers Love Your Small Business.

In the chat you will hear them talk about how a small business owner can protect themselves, doing business with other firms who might be hacked and how that might affect your business, and password software.

Mary shares two online resources:

It’s important that you plan your online security as well as how you will respond if it happens to you.

So grab a cup of coffee and take 15 minutes to protect your small business and your investment. 

PS – Next month we will offer more resources plus discuss how you can protect your customers information. Sign up at: http://powerofbusiness.net/ 

Being Effective Online

Online tipsHaving an effective online presence is as important as simply being online.

Being online will bring some likes and friends, but that  activity will come from people who already know you or from your family and friends. What you want is an online presence that creates awareness of your business, or educational efforts in our case, and keeps that customer coming back for more. The goal is to make your customer a lifetime ambassador for your business.

Part of our Power of Business effort has been to get first-hand experience on reaching those goals. This video is a first report on our initial efforts as we develop platforms and writing titles that sell. Examples of what we learned are shared plus you get a peek at the on-going effort where we look at the power of Facebook and the Facebook ad.

Online is huge and it matters. Getting found though is often the issue. Just today I read that 2 million blog posts are put online each day. Add that to all of the tweets, posts, pictures, and videos posted, you can see why you need to focus on being efficient and effective in your online efforts.

In the video various types of content formats are discussed. Here at Power of Business we curate content, offer videos, do our monthly chats, provide some short fact sheets, and, of course, our blog.

Admittedly getting online is a scary undertaking. This is where a team can help you out as can a personal learning network. Dipping your toe into the online world may mean finding people you can learn from. There is nothing wrong with lurking and learning.  In time, you can begin to ask questions.

An effective online presence means you need to write, think and act differently. People want information quickly and they are typically focused on one problem at a time. You also need to offer some fun and flair. At times you may feel more like an entertainer than an educator. You also need to be flexible and be able to change quickly.

So get online. Engage and network with your customer base. Enhance their online experience. It builds your bottom line!!

Find the Powerpoint slides here at “Are We Entrepreneurs?”

 

Mobile Devices and Safety/Security: It’s Crucial

We are a mobile world. Our lives are filed with mobile devices. They are so easy to carry around with us.

The ease of carrying the devices with you makes it just as easy for someone else to carry them away.

But there are many ways that you can protect your device and your data as well as your customer information.

Connie Hancock, University of Nebraska Extension Educator, guides you through some basic steps to keep your data and your devices secure. Take a couple of minutes to watch the video and download the quick-read tips.

Security is crucial. Take action today.