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  • Aspire » Social Media

    05 Dec

    engagesm

    I was talking with a client of mine the other day and we were brainstorming ways she could promote a new white paper / product offering and one of the things we talked about was using Social Media as a way to get the word out.  Through the course of our discussion it struck me that there are 4 levels of engagement that small business owners are using when it comes to Social Media and business.

    You can find a lot of examples of each of these levels…especially the first one, which is unfortunately the largest of the four.  The remaining 3 tactics are all viable business strategies.  Which one you use will be driven by how much time you can invest in Social Business overall, what your personal style is and ultimately what you’re trying to accomplish.

    The 4 levels of Social Business Engagement:

    • Non-existent
    • Visible
    • Educate
    • Engage

    Let me take a shot at breaking this down into something more meaningful.  Here’s a quick diagram I drew up on my iPad.  The Y axis reflects the value a business owner gets from a particular tactic…higher is better.  The X axis reflects the amount of time spent on each tactic.

    Socialbusinesstactics500

    Level 1 – Non-existent

    Although it’s not a tactic it is sadly the state that most business owners are in when it comes to their Social Business approach.  If you have a half filled out LinkedIn profile or a Facebook page that never gets updated or a Twitter account that was started but only has 2 tweets from last April (one of those being “Trying to figure out what this Twitter thing is all about”), then you are at the  non-existent stage from a Social Business perspective.

    When you’re non-existent, you are not getting any value…in fact, you are potentially hurting your cause with an incomplete profile…but at least your not spending any time on anything.

    Visible

    The next level up is Visible, which is actually a viable tactic for a lot of small business owners.  This approach can provide a lot of value, especially relative to the small amount of time spent.  Being visible means that people can easily find you via search and get more information if they’re interested. 

    In order to be visible, you need to pick at least 1 of the major social media platforms and invest a few hours into creating a quality profile.  I’d suggest LinkedIn if you are Business to Business and Facebook if you are Business to Consumer.

    A quality profile includes a picture and a clear, interesting write-up on what you do and why someone else should care.  It should have at least a little bit of personality and include some personal information.  It should be easy to further engage with you and learn more – your profile should have a link back to your website.  You should also have a reasonable number of connections (say a couple hundred for LinkedIn…Facebook will vary based on what you’re doing) and you should spend an hour or so a week keeping it updated, posting status updates, answering questions, etc.

    Educate

    As a tactic, Educate includes everything on the Visible level and also includes regular educational updates across multiple channels. The best way to educate is to create great content…it could be blog posts, videos, podcasts or anything else that adds value to your target market.  With an Educate approach, not only can your prospects and partners find you, they also can see your enthusiasm and expertise – especially as you consistently share great stuff over time.

    This approach can be effective with as little as a 2 to 4 hours per week – that would be the time it takes to write 1 blog post and share it in multiple places (and interact as you would for the Visible tactic).

    Engage

    Finally the Engage tactic is the high end of Social Business strategies.  Engagement is when you immerse yourself into 1 or more social media platforms and consciously and consistently develop your own tribe of followers (Customers, prospects, partners, etc.).  Engagement strategies are often built on education, but there are other successful engagement strategies built on personality, customer service or just being part or leading a community.

    If you can successfully Engage in Social Business, you will create a fan base that can dramatically amplify your message and help drive word of mouth and opportunities your direction.  Done the right way, it’s extremely powerful and beneficial.

    However…Engagement takes a lot of time and presence (there’s an expectation of real time responses, so you need to be always ‘on’).  Additionally you have to genuinely enjoy the process of connecting with your virtual tribe – if you don’t have the right kind of personality you will struggle to make this work.

    How are you investing your time?

    Every business owner should at least be at Visible on 1 platform.  It takes a low investment of time, anyone can do it and it will greatly enhance the number of people who can find you…remember if they can’t find you, they can’t do business with you.

    Going beyond Visible is a choice.  I’m a big proponent of content marketing and Education, but there are a lot of small business owners who aren’t set up to make an Educate tactic work…and they certainly don’t have the time or effort it takes to Engage.  However it’s not all or nothing.  On the chart the levels show as discrete options, but it’s actually a smooth curve and you can scale your efforts up and down depending on your resources.

    Where are you on the Social Business Engagement spectrum?  Does this model make sense?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments…Engage with me in the comments below and let me know what you think!

    Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach

    Photo by JD Hancock

    25 Oct

    linkedin

    I’m a big fan of LinkedIn.  They have a clear focus on professional business networking and they’ve created an extremely effective tool that every business owner should be using.  In fact if you’re not using LinkedIn, now’s the right time to create a profile and start linking!

    One of the things I really like about LinkedIn is the steady pace of innovation they’ve had over the years.  They don’t score a hit with everything they roll out, but they are constantly improving and adding new useful functionality.  Considering LinkedIn is a free site that offers a ton of value for business professionals, that’s a pretty good deal!

    Just in the last year or two, they’ve made changes to groups, the advertising functionality and even some minor profile changes, but what you should really check out as a business owner is how they’ve been quietly adding stuff to the Company page functionality.  It started when LinkedIn added the ability to follow companies and more recently they’ve added several other worthwhile capabilities worth checking out.

    New Company Page capabilities from LinkedIn

    - A Careers tab that allows you to centrally post for jobs at your company along with lots of other customization and capabilities (some of which cost money).

    - A services tab which allows you to create detailed descriptions of the services you offer (and allows people to post recommendations / testimonials for those services directly.

    - An analytics tab that gives you a breakdown of page views, unique visitors, and a trend on followers.  (We would love to have more followers at Aspire…here’s what our page looks like.  We’re still adding some things to it).

    LI-company

    Finally – LinkedIn also just added the capability to do Company Status updates.  Note – you have to edit your company page and specify who is allowed to make an update in order for the field to show up.

    Kind of unrelated, but LinkedIn also just added a Classmates feature which helps you find anyone who went to your college at the same time you were there.  There was always a way to do this via search, but they’ve done a nice job giving you information and the ability to filter a lot of different ways.  Check out LinkedIn Classmates

    Have you created and updated your Company page lately?  People are looking for you and the more positive information they can find, the better off you’ll be.  What do you think of Company Pages?  Any success stories or concerns?  We’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    11 Oct

    socbusiness3

    As a small business owner, you have lots of people telling you that you MUST be on social media if you want to thrive…or even if you want to survive.  It’s not just Social Media anymore, it’s Social Business. 

    I’m sure you’ve heard the statistics:

    - 1 out of every 9 people on the planet is on Facebook (750 Million +)

    - Facebook now tops Google for weekly online traffic

    - People upload 3000 images to Flickr…every minute! (here’s my page)

    - 1 in 6 marriages are people who met online (nearly twice the number who met in bars)

    - Sadly 1 in 5 divorces is being blamed on Facebook

    The reality is that Social Media has arrived…and you do need to be doing something with it for your business…but it’s not a silver bullet.  You have to find an approach that makes sense, isn’t going to overwhelm the business, but still gets you out there.

    Here are 4 fairly simple steps that can help you make sure your Social Business efforts aren’t wasted.

    1. Recognize that Marketing has changed

    The world has changed in the last 10 years, and it’s no surprise that marketing (and sales) have changed along with it.  10 years ago, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube didn’t even exist.  Mobile?  You could kind of get to the internet on a mobile phone, but it sucked and it wasn’t really worth the time or the effort.

    Fast forward to today – if a consumer wants to buy something, wants to learn something, wants to get opinions, they will go online and search for it themselves, no matter where they are.  They don’t want and they don’t trust traditional advertising.  So where does that leave us from a marketing standpoint? 

    “Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t”.  Seth Godin

    If you want to market your business successfully, you need to be found online (because that’s where people are searching) and you need to attract potential buyers…not interrupt them.

    2. You have to have a plan

    Just being online isn’t enough.  You’re going to invest time and money to support your online marketing efforts (although probably a lot less than you would have had to invest in traditional marketing).  And since you’re investing, you need to be clear on a few things:

    • What are you trying to achieve (drive traffic, generate leads, educate, raise awareness, support customers – all of these might drive to different strategies).
    • Who’s your target (and where do they hang out)?  What are they looking for (keywords)?  What do they want?
    • What’s your message?  What benefit or outcome are you delivering?  What problem are you solving.  If you can’t be clear on this, you aren’t going to attract anyone.
    • What’s your call to action?  What do you want them to do next?  Call you?  Download a report?  Visit your location?  Buy something?  Be clear and keep it simple.

    On top of all of that, you need to have a quality website.  It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, in fact simple is probably better.  But it does need to be clean and professional.

    3. Develop a Social Media Presence

    Once you have an idea of what you’re trying to achieve and you have a sense of who your target is, you need to pick a starting point for where to go with your social media presence. 

    If you’re selling something to consumers and it’s visual or has an emotional component, then Facebook is probably the best place to start. 

    If you’re selling to professionals or other businesses, then LinkedIn is probably your best bet.

    Twitter is great is for engaging fans and supporting customers and there are lots of other choices out there that are smaller more niche plays (i.e. Lawlink for Lawyers or Bakespace for people who love to cook).

    Whatever makes sense for you, pick one site to start with, set up an account and start listening.  Listen for people who are talking about your industry, your product, your competitors…get a feel for what’s being talked about.  then start using that information to engage with the influencers.

    Use Google Alerts and tools like Tweetdeck to setup searches to help you stay on top of things without spending hours every day doing it.

    4. Develop Great Content!

    Finally – the real secret to Social Business success is to develop great content (and host it on your site).  Content that will especially appeal to the potential customers you’re attracting.  That content could be a Blog, it could be a series of reports or great emails, it could be videos (check out Will It Blend) or even podcasts or webinars.

    The point is that you need to create great information that will inform, educate maybe even entertain the people you are trying to attract.  They get to know you, they get to see that you know what you’re doing and talking about and they have enough information to decide if they want to take the next step with you.

    On top of all of that, Google loves great content because it drives backlinks to your site and builds out a lot of context for keyword searches…which just means that your Search Engine Optimization will be a lot stronger than if you didn’t have content…always a good thing.

    Bottom line – your prospective clients are looking for you online, so if you want a shot at them, you have to be found.  And when they find you, they want to get to know you and understand you.  They want to learn from you, they want to be sure you can solve their problem.  It’s not easy, but if you can do all of that, you will be in great shape in this new world of marketing and social business!

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    13 Jun

    Bullet

    photo by photos8.com

    A lot of people are looking at Social Media marketing as some kind of ‘silver bullet’ for their marketing woes.  As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, there’s good news and bad news when it comes to marketing for Business to Business opportunities.  The bad news is that Social Media is no more of silver bullet for small B2B business owners than any other single marketing tactic that’s out there.  The good news is it can be a very effective tool for helping you get found or established – especially when it’s used in conjunction with other marketing ideas.

    In Part 1 we talked about using new media tools as a great way to establish expertise by creating content.  Today we’ll look at couple of other ideas that might be a better fit if you’re not into publishing as much.

    Read More…

    05 Jun

    bullets photo by Tiago Daniel

    Wouldn’t it be great to have an almost sure-fire winner when it comes to marketing your business or yourself?  With all of the hype and discussion about Social Media, some people are assuming that they’ve found the answer.

    In fact, I’ve had several people ask me if Social Media really was the end-all be-all silver bullet that everyone is making it out to be.

    The answer obviously is NO!

    However the answer to whether or not business owners and professionals should be participating in Social Media is a resounding YES!

    The better question is what should you be doing and how can someone who’s an independent professional or selling Business to Business really use these tools in a meaningful way?  This is the first post in a short series to give you some ideas on how to use these tools.  Here’s the link if you’re interested in seeing the second post in the Silver Bullet series.

    Read More…