Social Media Explosion: A Guide

Editorial and Cover, Home Business Magazine, June 2011 

There are many ways to promote your business online, even when your budget is tight. However, the options you pick should be based on your audience’s behavior. From social media and online retail stores, to group buying sites and public relations, make sure you take advantage of most, if not all fifteen opportunities mentioned in this article. But before you begin your online efforts to market your business, focus on your own website, as it is imperative that your website is search-friendly
1. Your Own Website
    Your website is your company’s virtual face — a perfect location to promote your business. It is quite surprising how many business managers don’t pay much attention to such an important aspect of their company’s brand. Visitors often react negatively when they see poor quality content and clutter. A well-designed website provides content with the least amount of clicks and unnecessary pages. It also motivates visitors to learn more about what you offer as they navigate through the site. Make sure the content is relevant, clear, and direct to the point, as customers should be able to get their answers effortlessly.
    Products and services should have specific landing pages featuring photos, quality descriptions, and videos. Landing pages should be coded for search, including keyword-rich copy, header text, title tags, a unique URL, and Meta information that describes the product.
    For more information, read the article, How to Spring Clean Your Website: Freshen Up Your Site and Bring New Life and New Customers to Your Online Business, in this issue.
2-8 Social Media and Online Networks
    Social media is an amazing way to promote your business and receive immediate feedback from potential customers. It is perfect for small and mid-size companies as it facilitates your communication with thousands of targeted people easily, effectively, and quite inexpensively. It is a great investment to dedicate at least an hour a day to send appropriate messages, ideas, and comments of interest to your audience. They will get hooked on your postings, opening a key line of direct dialogue. It is a communication channel that allows you to develop branding and promotions. Social media applications give merchants opportunities not only to learn about their customers, but to connect with them in real time.
    Start with social media channels your audience is likely to use:
2. Facebook
    If your customers are composed of direct consumers, there is a good chance that most of them are Facebook users. Creating a business page on Facebook is a tremendous opportunity to announce promotions, product launches, and general information about your products and services. Research shows that promotions are one of the top reasons why people become fans of (a.k.a. Like) business pages. It is also a valuable tool to receive feedback. Because of Facebook’s informal environment, readers tend to react to postings, and their comments can give very important feedback to your company. You can manipulate your postings to receive specific insights. It is a perfect tool to develop relationships with potential customers and business partners.
3. Twitter
    Twitter is another excellent channel to connect with customers and followers, offering quick messages (maximum 140 characters) on product announcements and promotions. It is also ideal to develop business relationships with your followers and the people that you follow. What’s more, Twitter allows you to track industry leaders and stay current with the latest trends.
    In addition to creating your own stream of followers, connecting with social media influencers can be a very useful strategy. Find them easily by searching key Twitter players in your industry through applications such as Influencers already have a targeted group of followers that respect their opinions. Developing relationships with them may land you a recommendation. Actually, even a simple mention of your product or service may generate high quality exposure to potential buyers and business partners.
4. LinkedIn
    Are you maximizing your profile on LinkedIn? As a business owner or manager, you can take advantage of LinkedIn for your personal and business connections. In order to grow your network, search for people you know. Don’t be shy to ask customers and associates to post testimonials. It can be very valuable for networking and future connections. Use LinkedIn as an imaginary trade show. Update your status like you do with Facebook and Twitter. You may benefit from keeping your network up-to-date on your business progress. Your new products or services may be a solution for their personal or business needs. There are several forums and groups posting questions that your business may help answer. Post your comments and answers to business needs. Search on LinkedIn for industry-related groups and become a member to be aware of trends and questions from your business audience. It is your chance to post answers and promote your business.
    For more information, read the article, LinkedIn Profile Secrets: The #1 Reason Why Your LinkedIn Profile Fails to Attract More, in this issue.
5. YouTube
    YouTube is an exceptional channel to visually promote your business, and it doesn’t require expensive equipment. A simple camera will do it, along with well-planned content and production. You can create several short videos teaching how to fix or build things, or for product demonstrations. Develop a strategy with objectives. Create a channel with a series of episodes connected by themes. Viewers should be able to understand your message by watching just one video, but embed some sort of hook at the end of each episode to induce the audience to want to watch the next one. It is a great way to position your brand and build loyalty. If your videos are good enough on YouTube, viewers most likely will distribute them virally, multiplying the exposure without any extra cost.
    Take advantage of YouTube’s versatility by posting your videos on websites, blogs, newsletters, press releases, and social media.
6. Geolocation
    Geolocation services are becoming powerful marketing tools. If you have a physical location for walk-in customers, utilize geolocation tools like Offer special deals for your business’s mayors, and promotions for your best customers. It goes a long way in creating buzz for your new offerings and locations.
    Geolocation locally engages people by distributing rewards and combining friends and city guide elements with game mechanics. When they use the application within a few blocks from your business, a special offer can pop up on their mobile phones. Location-based services offer customer-relationship tools, rewards programs, social networks, games, business directories, city guides, and review sites. Other geolocation services include and’s platform offers a quite flexible rewards program allowing you to reward customers for specific action such as posting a picture, checking in, etc. Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and Google are developing location-based functions as well.
7. Blogging
Many businesses can greatly benefit from blogging. You can write about your industry, your products, and your services. Blogging is a unique channel for branding, and to personally position you as an industry expert. Blogs can also be part of your website, giving it a dynamic flare. As visitors read your postings regularly, they will visit your website more often, resulting in more exposure to your line of products. There are cleverly designed free platforms such as and available in the market, and you don’t need any programming skills to use them.
    Like Twitter, some bloggers can be hugely influential. They have thousands of followers that read their postings every day. Having your product or service reviewed or mentioned by these bloggers can be very valuable to your brand. Finding them is very easy by using online search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Make sure you have a good understanding of their editorial policies, styles, audience, and content before submitting your product or service. Your goal is to have them review and make a positive recommendation. Also, pay close attention to their feedback. It may be very insightful to your product development team.
8. Online Forums and Industry News Portals
    Forums and portals are great channels to get your brand and yourself involved in relevant discussions. You can unlock deals by posting solutions to business managers’ problems. You may also be able to visualize business opportunities or partnerships. What’s more, by placing your message and links to your website in comment strings, you will get additional significance in search engine rankings. Maximize your exposure, but make sure your comments are relevant. Follow at least the top two or three industry news websites on a daily basis.
9. e-Newsletters
    Another direct way to connect with customers and solidify your brand is through your own electronic newsletter. It is inexpensive (or even free depending on the size of your database), and you will be able to present first-hand your new products, service announcements, and a handful of useful information to your customers. E-mail platforms such as and are very user-friendly.
    Consider offering a sneak peek of your new product or service, exclusive only to e-mail recipients, or before it is available to non-subscribers. Rewarding your database will help you add and maintain subscriptions. Distribute your newsletter issues periodically, but do not spam your subscribers. Make sure your design is professional, and that your editorial follows some sort of guidelines with objectives. Your e-newsletter design and content should reflect your brand personality, which will help build your brand awareness.
10. Press Releases
    Issuing press releases is an important component of any effective communications plan. Embedding multimedia into your releases will enhance the reader’s brand perception and recall, and increase your chances to be picked up by mainstream media. There are multiple options of public relations services available for small and mid-size businesses. You can hire a service to write and/or distribute it online, or you can write it yourself and distribute it to your local media. Your distribution choices should reflect the geography of your audience. If it is a local business, distributing to your local media is as simple as sending your press releases to industry reporters’ addresses listed in the publications’ websites, via social media, and e-mail. Be creative and send journalists to customized landing pages. Embed YouTube videos with the announcements and demonstrations. The overall content should be succinct, avoiding wordy and long messages. If your audience is spread nationwide or internationally, it may make sense to hire a public relations agency. For text-only and multimedia options, you can use services such as,, or Less expensive services include and
11. Online Advertising
    Keyword search programs such as Google Adwords and other pay-per-click services are valuable tools for promoting products and services for a wider group of people. These targeted groups are composed of web users actively looking for your category of products but are not necessarily familiar or connected to your brand. It is a great tool for brand awareness, and perfect for small and mid-size businesses due to its flexibility to manage daily changes with limited budget. Other online advertising services that should not be overlooked include social media platforms such as Facebook. While the audience may not be actively looking for a product or service, social media paid advertising allows you to target users by location, age, gender, and specific areas of interest.
    All online ads should be clickable and linked to a high-quality landing page on your website or blog. Landing pages should have specific information about your product offerings, including description, prices, and instructions for making a purchase. Don’t expect visitors to navigate many pages of your website to search for information, because they won’t.
    For more information, read the article, Expand Your Ideas Using Google: Six Steps for New Product or Service Development, in this issue.
12. Group Buying Sites
    People are becoming ever more connected to group buying sites, attracted by their great deals. They are valuable tools for brand awareness, or to eliminate extra inventory while promoting your business. The audience is quite targeted, which means that they opted in to receive daily deals for a particular location and product category. Users sign up to receive daily deals. Since group buying sites allow you to target a group by location, they open up great marketing prospects for brand awareness, and customized geographical reach. You can benefit by providing aggressive offers to specific markets while keeping mature regions away from low margin deals. Group buying websites include,, and
13. Online Retail Sites and Aggregators
    Big online retail websites offer a range of services that small and mid-size businesses can tap into. By selling your products through websites such as,, and, you can reach nationwide customers that are already engaged in the search and purchase processes. You can also take advantage of their payment, fulfillment, and shipping programs, and benefit from their popular customer reviews. When using those services, you are providing peace of mind to potential customers that already trust these reputable online retailers or aggregators.
14. Quick Response Codes
    Depending on your audience, your company can hugely benefit from using QR codes in store windows, and product packages, posters, ads, and displays. A QR code is a matrix bar code with data and/or a URL encoded. Customers can access information by scanning the code with their smartphones. This technology opens up a wide range of customized promotional opportunities for brands. Basically, you can have a sign to guide customers to scan the code to access coupons, and product or contact information. It will be linked to a landing page with all promotional or demonstration details.
    Because QR codes are fairly new technology, you may need to help customers understand what they have to do to access them. For example, you can say something as easy as “Scan this code now using your smartphone to access…” Customers can download the scanner software for their phones’ cameras at i– and The software is free, and it only takes a couple of minutes to download. Since users will read your code’s landing page using their smartphones, it is important to create a mobile-friendly site.
15. Article Publications
    Lastly, as an industry expert, try to build your professional reputation by publishing articles online. You can indirectly increase your company’s brand awareness by adding to the credits a link to your website. Make sure readers can easily contact you to request authorization for syndication, and to obtain information about your company. Articles are an efficient way to spread your message and promote your company. Expert articles may vary from one to three thousand words, depending on hosting requirements and topic. Try to publish at least three or four articles a year to build your expert status and increase your company’s search engine rankings. Free portals include and You can also submit articles to industry magazines. Look for their editorial calendar — your topic may fit their needs.
Your Core Message
    Now that you are aware of the value of many inexpensive opportunities to maximize your business exposure, it is important to think about the core message you want to communicate. Elaborate on the concept and sentiment you want associated with your brand. All communications through all media channels should reflect that core message. You have to take the lead on how your brand is perceived. Once you have established your objectives, you can decide which channels are best suited to your business.
 The cyber world is quite dynamic, so promoting your business online requires daily maintenance. You must keep your basis fresh by posting content daily, answering questions, connecting to followers, learning industry trends, and developing relationships. Don’t just post your content on social networks and walk away. There are many tools available to help you manage multiple social media such as or
    Your master plan should be revisited at a minimum once a month. Your competitors change directions periodically, and you need to be alert to any movement. Realigning your strategies will allow you to maximize your marketing efforts. HBM
© Lima Lerch Consulting 2006-2011. All Rights Reserved. Renata L. Lerch is a recognized authority on strategic marketing and communications. She is the founder of Lima Lerch Consulting, and has worked with strategic marketing for over 18 years. Before starting Lima Lerch Consulting, she managed marketing and business development in large multinationals, covering the US, European and Latin American markets. Renata has developed and executed strategic consumer and trade marketing and sales plans across multiple channels, including communications, branding, market research, promotions, social media, online/offline advertising, partnerships and PR. Renata also has extensive experience with customer service. Lima Lerch Consulting ( provides leading marketing consulting services to small and mid-size companies in the US and Latin America. Contact us at, or logon to Renata’s direct e-mail address is