Small Business and Start-ups
How to Float Above the Competition
With Social Media.
Strategic Social Media Marketing E-Book By: Anna Osgoodby
Social Media Overview:
Social media has become an inescapable new step of
technology. It seems like every company is jumping on
the bandwagon to take advantage of free marketing to
You’re part of a start-up or small business and you’re
pretty excited about the new technology too, but are not
a company that has been around for decades or has
thousands of employees, How are you supposed to
benefit from social media?
I’m here to tell you that although you may not have the
resources that larger companies do, you too can benefit!
Social media has allowed for companies to interact with
their customers and build personal relationships. If you
follow my simple guidelines on the following pages you
can begin to start reaching out and build trusting
relationships online and reach potential customers.
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Why Should You Care?
Start-up and small businesses can actually
use social media to their advantage over larger
companies. Although resources may be
smaller, so is the audience base, which allows
you to interact more intimately with your
customers and meet their needs.
If you are a start-up company, then you are
probably pretty excited about your company
and want to make sure that everybody knows
how great you are going to be! It is this
enthusiasm that often drives small businesses
that gives you a one up on the competition.
You are also less likely to have a national
crisis that puts your brand in jeopardy, so you
can focus closer on relationship building.
There are a number of reasons why social media can benefit your company. Just like other
marketing techniques, social media is a process that does not happen overnight and there is a
process that needs to take place for effective management.
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Where do You Start?
Start Your Research:
The first part of your research involves figuring out your
target audience. The authors of the book “Groundswell”
came up with a ladder for social technographics based on
how users interact with social media.
The ladder breaks users into categories of creators,
critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives. You
can find detailed information about each category at
It is from these categories that you can then decide which
mediums would act as the best tactics to interact with
your audience. To find out where your target audience fits
within the ladder check out an application that the authors
created at http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/profile_
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After figuring out your target audience social
technographics you can see who they interact with social
Now it is time to decide what mediums you are going
to start to monitor the conversation with. You may have
found out that your audience is largely made up of
critics and that they actively read blogs, contribute to
online forums and read wikis. You would then want to
focus on managing different forms of these mediums.
There are not enough hours in the day to manage every
social medium so make sure you limit those that you will
be observing and interacting to a manageable number.
Monitor the mediums and decide upon the ones that
seem to have the most engagement to the audience you
want to reach.
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Guidelines and Ethics:
What are your objectives? What does your brand want to achieve by using social media? Do
you want to create brand awareness, build trusting relationships or reach new potential
customers? Make sure you are very specific in what your objectives are.
This is where you answer the 5 W’s who, what, when, why, where and how
•Who is going to be in charge of managing your company’s social media?
•What is your priority for responding to posts?
•When will you set aside time to be involved?
•Why do your guidelines support your objectives?
•How are you going to measure the results of your efforts?
Use detailed answers for each question so that you have a descriptive social media plan. Make
sure to be realistic with the plan as well. You cannot respond to every post so how will you
prioritize the most urgent posts? It is also important to decide how you will respond to possible
negative responses or crisis.
Form a set of ethical practices that your company promises to maintain with your customers.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) created a code that can be used as a
guide for your ethics. http://womma.org/ethicscode/code/
Authenticity and Transparency
These are two key terms in social media that need to be understood to make sure that your
company is a social media do and not a don’t.
This goes hand in hand with ethical practices. Follow your code of ethics and make sure you are
being truthful. If you say that the CEO of your company writes the blogs, then make sure that is the
This is the degree to which an organization shares with stakeholders publics: leaders, employees,
values, culture, business results, and business strategies.
This is critical in social media because it is not a choice. If you try to hide something online it will be
found out. So, it is much better to be honest on social media from the beginning even during times of
crisis. We’re all human and mistakes happen, but people are more forgiving of the situation if you are
honest from the beginning, than if a blogger exposes the truth.
You’ve picked the mediums you are going to use, written your guidelines
and ethics and now you are ready to move on to listening.
This step is critical to your involvement in social media because it is
important to understand the conversations that are already happening
about your brand and in your industry.
There are a number of free tools to help you monitor the conversation.
Some of the more popular are:
•Google Blog Search
Explore different tools for tracking your brand and pick a couple of your
favorites to pay attention to the tone of conversations.
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By listening to the conversation, you have
found that out of the sources your audience
use most, that mediums x, y, and z seem to
be the most active.
Now it’s time to decide if it makes sense for
your company to be involved in those
mediums. Ask yourself the following
•Will customers benefit from our brand
being on these web sites?
•How are we going to interact with people
authentically without pushing our brand on
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The time has finally come! You have spent all of your
time up until now researching, planning, and observing and it
is finally time to jump into social media.
The first step to being involved is to respond to conversations
about your brand and industry already taking place.
David Alston outlines 10 things to listen for when responding
1.) The complaint 6.) The crisis
2.) The compliment 7.) The competitor
3.) The problem 8.) The crowd
4.) The question 9.) The influencer
5.) The campaign impact 10.) The point of need
These are a good start for what you should be listening to
and reacting to. These questions can be used in conjunction
with your guidelines for priority of responding to posts that
you developed earlier
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Build a Community:
As you continue to respond to customers you
can also start reaching out on other outlets.
A good way to do this is to start reading blogs
that are of interest to you and your industry.
This is where a RSS feeder like bloglines
comes in handy! Subscribe to the RSS feeds
of blogs you enjoy and spend some time
Don’t just read, add to the conversations by
commenting on the content without pitching
your company. This will add to your authentic-
ity and show that you are genuinely interested.
You will also build your network of followers,
which will lead up to the next step
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You’ve started to build a following. You’ve built
trusting relationships with current customers
by responding to them and you have reached
out to people who may be interested in your
Now it is time to share your story. A great way
to do this is by starting a blog. Make this fun!
Show that your brand is personable and is
interested in best serving its customers.
This is your opportunity to talk about your-
selves and the goal of your company. Even
better, now that you have gained a following
people are going to be interested in what you
have to say.
Two easy ways to start a blog are through
Blogger or Wordpress blogging web sites
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You’re active in responding to your
customers, you are commenting on other social
media within your industry, and you’ve started
to share your own story. Now is the last critical
step in an effective social media plan,
You’ve spent countless hours building a
reputation in the social media sphere and now
is time to make sure you are actively maintain-
ing current and future relationships. Be relevant
to your customer needs and make sure that
your strategy keeps their interests in mind with
your objectives. How can you reach out to cus-
tomers and help them achieve their goals?
As your network grows you may have to revalu-
ate your original guidelines for time manage-
ment and involvement. Before you can continue
to reach out to new customers it is important to
make sure that you are still taking care of your
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J 412 Lecture http://strategicsocialmedia.wordpress.com/
Strategic Social Media Marketing E-Book By: Anna Osgoodby