The Agni
Ultimate guide to startups and social media


August 31st, 2011

How to promote your small business on a shoestring

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Written by: Balaji
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Startups and SMEs don’t have a lot of budget for marketing and advertising, so they have to find ways to do high-impact promotions on a shoe-string. Social media has democratized things some what & a lot of businesses have grown through viral content. This post will go in detail on promoting your business.

Step 1: Understand your customers.

Find out who your customers are and where they hang out. If they are Americans or Indians under-35 then they are very likely to be found in Facebook. Typical profile of other social networks:

  • LinkedIn – Professionals, businessmen and white collar workers
  • Twitter – Voracious information junkies, marketers, media people, entrepreneurs.
  • Email – People above 35 and those who are not that social media savvy
  • Youtube – Teens and Tweenies

In general, business services and products work well on Twitter or LinkedIn, and consumer products/services work well in Youtube, deal sites and Facebook.

Step 2: Build your profile pages

  • Learn how to create your facebook profile page. Here are some samples.
  • Create a Twitter bio with a personalized background and a professional profile pic. Learn about Twitter marketing in detail. Periodically post links, and insightful tweets.
  • Create your LinkedIn company page. Learn how to do marketing on LinkedIn in detail with these videos:
  • Create your Youtube channels where you can create playlist of your favorite videos related to your business along with demos, interviews and promotions created by you.
  • Start your blog and periodically (every week or once a fortnight) post an article related to your business – market condition, tutorials, tips for using your product, your development backstory etc. Learn how to get started with business blogging.

Step 3: Engage influential people in your target domain

  • Identify important blogs in your domain and subscribe to their RSS feeds in your Google reader.
  • Leave insightful comments in the posts that you feel interesting (the comments need not be too complex, but it should not be too careless either) along with links to your site.
  • Setup meetings with the bloggers after you have engaged them through their site comments and email.
  • Offer the bloggers tips and new happenings in your business. If your news is significant and trustable, you will become a source the bloggers can trust and that could gain a lot of good PR.
  • Follow people in Twitter those who are posting a lot of intelligible tweets in your target area. Start conversations with them.
  • Use scores from Klout and PeerIndex to find out who among your friends and followers who are influential in the topics your are interested.

Step 4: Keep track of your mentions in social media

  • Use tools like howsociable to find out your product mentions in various social networks
  • Signup for Google search Alerts

When your business is mentioned in a positive tone, take time to thank the poster and offer to help them with further. If negative posts appear find out if they have a point, investigate what is the problem and come honest. People do understand that businesses can make a mistake and if you offer a honest reply then it is quite likely that posters and those reading will build a positive opinion of you. If the negative posters are mere trollers, don’t go attacking them. Be polite and firmly refute their points objectively. Most mature people can identify trollers and your maturity will make people see you in a matured way. In any case, try to use the mentions to further the awareness about your business.

Step 5: Produce great content

In social media content is the king. Either create yourself or hire good people who can create great content – writeups, tutorials, videos, market research etc. You can then post them in your blog and offer to publish as a guest post in major blogs.

Step 6: Use Social media for customer support

Social media is a great way to do customer support cheaply and effectively. Respond immediately and publicly to queries in Facebook and Twitter. Here are 26 tips to integrate social mediastrategy with your customer support. Be very aggressive about your customer support and soon good things can spread like wildfire. Without a great customer support, your social media spending is just spent down the drain.

Step 7: Stay in touch with your customers

Visit conferences in your domain and use it to meet your customers and take time to get their personal feedback on your product. Apart from this regularly have Twitter chat with your distributers, affiliates and key customers. Call up random customers in your list and schedule a call with them. Listen to them and understand how you can solve their issue. Send personal notes to your customers thanking your customers for staying with you.

Note 1: Don’t fret about numbers. In social media quality trumps quantity

You have successfully got started in social media and have got now 1000 fans in facebook and Twitter. Then you come across your competitors site and notice they have 50K followers. Don’t start panicking now. It is very likely that your competitors have bought their followers (many companies use blackhat methods to boost their follower count). Quality is very important and if your 1000 followers are quite real and engaged you can do phenomenal things with them.

Note 2: Reward your brand ambassadors the right way

Make your brand ambassadors feel special. Keep track of how many new customers you get through them (with special links or asking questions in your signup form) and reward them proportionately. The reward need not be money. For most people a mere recognition and public appreciation can make them feel special. If it is a blogger the ultimate reward is substantial information. If it is a regular customer, then a reward coupon on next purchase could be great gesture of appreciation. If it is another business, a mention on your blog or other public communications can be great.





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About the Author

+Balaji heads a consultancy firm - Agni Innovation Labs - that helps small businesses, law firms and political campaigners launch their brand successfully. The services include blogging, press releases, social media strategy development and email campaigning. Contact the author: balaji [at] theagni [dot] com for more details.


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