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How One Businesswoman Embraced Social Media Management

Mashable.com is currently running a great story about Julie Smolyansky, who inherited the position of CEO at the company her parents started in 2002, and was responsible for deciding the company’s direction at the tender age of 27. Since then, annual sales have increased from $12 million to $80 million and Lifeway Foods’ product has never been more popular. Smolyansky attributes much of this success to her early adoption of social media management. So what is the trendy product that has been embraced by internet users? Kefir, an ancient fermented milk drink. Not exactly the stereotypical subject of online popularity.

The product is made by introducing special ‘Kefir grains’, which are really a mixture of yeast and live bacteria, into milk and allowing the liquid to ferment for 24 hours. The resulting drink is rich in protein and in bacteria, leading some to praise its probiotic effects on the digestive system. Kefir has been around for some 2000 years, and Smolyansky credits its popularity explosion to her adoption of MySpace, Twitter and Facebook at a time when businesses did not commonly use social media services: ‘Everything that we do, we make sure that it’s sharable. We become a friend and a trusted source of information’.

At first, the young CEO attempted to manage the accounts herself alongside her other duties at Lifeway. Having realised that she just did not have the time to effectively engage with potential customers online, she hired a social media management expert in 2009. Nowadays, Lifeway employs 5 social media managers, and Smolyansky seems to suggest that she wishes to expand this even further: ‘We want to do more and more of it. You have to be everywhere’.

Lifeway’s story is an extreme one – few businesses can realistically hope to turn over $80 million each year. This case study does, though, illustrate the potential power of active social media management. If you want to explore the possibilities that social media could hold for your business, give us a call.

Online Marketing – Was Christmas a Boon for Your Business?

All businesses will operate in cycles. Retailers of romantic gifts and florists will experience a massive sales boost in the run-up to Valentine’s day, whilst travel agencies can expect to take the most bookings when people start planning their summer holidays for the year. Across virtually all sectors, though, Christmas time is a busy period, as anything that can be given as a gift is being sought by someone, somewhere.

The E-Commerce Landscape is Changing

Providing you’ve got a good product, there will be no shortage of demand. The difference between companies with ‘good’ and ‘great’ Christmas turnover is that the latter are well prepared. Just as brick and mortar shops need to ensure that they have adequate stock on hand and an effective high street sales campaign, online enterprises must get their affairs in order before the rush hits.

John Lewis has been making headlines due to its massive sales over Christmas time. This strong performance was underpinned by a 44% increase in online turnover compared to the same period in 2011, reflecting the changes we all know are occurring in the retail sector. People are spending more money online, and this creates unprecedented opportunities for smaller businesses. The internet is a more level playing field; you don’t need so much initial investment to set up shop, and your growth isn’t held back by physical constraints.

Make an Online Marketing Plan

Of course, when it comes to online marketing, almost nothing is instant. Search engines take a while to process changes to your site, and social networks require time to germinate. Businesses have to get a strategy in place in October if they want to boost sales in December. Don’t start groaning – I know it’s too early to think about Christmas when it’s January! But try to bear in mind that a little investment into digital marketing during the autumn months can provide a great return, and plan your business year accordingly.

Why BJ Mendelson is Wrong About Social Media Management

As is my wont, I picked up a copy of the Metro yesterday during my commute in order to entertain myself during my lunch break. Can you imagine my horror when I read that social media management for businesses is ‘myth and hype… perpetuated by marketers all over the world’? U.S. comedian BJ Mendelson, who himself has over 760,000 Twitter followers, was loaned a two-page spread to inform readers of the great social media swindle. He would have us believe that any business investing in a social media campaign is throwing their money away. I might be biased, but I beg to differ – and I think that most will agree with me.

Social Media Management Isn’t Magic

It’s true that businesses can’t just set up a Facebook page, post a couple of boring company updates, sit back and watch the cash flow into their coffers. It doesn’t work like that. But, contrary to what Mr. Mendelson says, social media profiles are viable business tools. Instead of thinking of them as a way to plaster your slogan and product across a million screens, it’s better to see them as they were designed: as communication platforms.

The fact of the matter is that almost everybody spends a great deal of time online these days, and that for better or worse, social media has replaced more traditional forms of communication. It’s good to have a Facebook page because the majority of your customers probably use Facebook. You’re talking to them on their terms, through a platform that they have chosen. Twitter is excellent for keeping customers up to date with relevant news and for lending your company a distinct personality, due to its informal ‘pub conversation’ nature. From a more individual perspective, it’s hard to deny that Linkedin is a great way to find and engage with others in your industry – there’s a reason that even the least ‘trendy’ of professionals have a profile there.

Our Expertise Brings Real Results

Effective social media management won’t guarantee that your business will go viral and become an internet sensation. That isn’t to say, however, that your page or profile is an exercise in futility. It is possible to engage with existing and potential customers, stimulating sales or increasing brand loyalty – providing that you put out an appropriate message and respect the etiquette of that particular site. That’s where we come in. Our social media management services can provide your business with expertly crafted profiles, including professional graphic design, and the interaction that your customers will respond to. If you don’t believe us, ask our clients – why would they keep using our services, month after month, if they weren’t seeing a return on their investment?

Katie’s Top Tip for Businesses – Digital Marketing Services

Calling all entrepreneurs! Our very own founder and managing director Katie has contributed to an article on creative business site The OnRamp. When asked how she fought through the fear that entrepreneurs can feel during the infancy of a business, she cast her mind back to the founding of her digital marketing services company and replied:

‘When first starting out, if I was worried about the future of the business I would stay late at the office after everyone had left and take time to reflect. Often I make my best decisions at the end of the day when I’m tired, hungry or just want to go home, as this adds a sense of urgency to the decision making process!
So far all the decisions I have made this way have helped drive the business forward immensely.’

You can read the other 11 hints over at The OnRamp’s site.

Katie is able to offer consulting and mentoring as part of I Say! Digital’s full-service digital marketing services, so if you want to know how to get your new venture off the ground, give us a call.

10 Steps to Social Media Success for Business

Over the years of working with small and business owners, there are some traits that I have noticed in businesses who successfully use social media and I wanted to share them here.

  1. It doesn’t matter what size you are – you must commit resources to creating content and engaging in social media on a weekly basis.  if you are the business owner and you don’t have time then make sure to collaborate with someone else who does.
  2. Plan for and generate regular content using blogs, Twitter, Facebook or other social platforms.  If you are not sure what to write, do some research online or talk to a professional.
  3. Not every platform will be right for you.  Depending on how much marketing time you have and whether you are a B2B or B2C business, you may not need Facebook, a blog AND Twitter (or whatever else). Try and work out where your customers are and what will drive business.
  4. Measure your activity – make sure you have some way of understanding how social media activity had an impact on business results.  Try things like tracking keywords on different platforms to see what people are naturally talking about.  You can also find out who the main influencers are on Twitter.  This could be done for free via Google analytics, NutshellMail.com, MarketMeSuite.com, Hootsuite.com, Klout.com, Peerindex.com or for a small fee via Sproutsocial.com, Viralheat.com, Trackur.com
  5. Set clear expectations for customers regarding frequency and types of social media interactions that the company is willing to provide.  E.g. if you say you are going to past a series of articles on something, make sure you follow through, or make a posting schedule that is on the same day of the week, every week.
  6. Leverage social media to position the company as a thought leader within its industry.  By writing blog posts or articles on your area of expertise, it shows people how you approach business and inspires confidence in your product or service.
  7. Provide clear calls-to-action and opportunities to generate leads and new customers using social media.  E.g. if you are running a competition or giving away an e-book, make it really clear what people have to do to participate.
  8. Don’t forget that you can use social media to drive participation in offline events.  Holding an event is a great way to meet people & get new customers.  Social media can help build anticipation and provide opportunities for follow up.
  9. Use information and data from social media to drive business strategy.  Make sure you listen to your customers’ comments – for example, if people are really liking a new product then maybe you can push it harder, or if people are not happy with your customer service, you can fix it quickly.
  10. Balance paid and organic search engine traffic. My own feeling is that you will get a much better long term gain by creating amazing content that gets shared online and builds a community around your brand.  ‘Paid for’ search leads like Google ads are good to get things started, but could be expensive over time if you are in a very competitive category.

So, there we have it – a quick round up of strategies for your business.  Each one of those topics is a blog post in itself – however it’s good to have an overview. See you next time!

Thank you to Tim Rabjohns for this Guest Post.

The Social Insider – freelance support for online marketing.

mob: +44 7958 958 162
e: tim@rabjohns.org
twitter: @timrabjohns
Link with me on Linked In 

 

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