Hate Social Media? Here’s Your Pain-Free Plan for Success

Social Media Plan lady

Keeping up with your social media accounts shouldn’t make you want to pull your hair out! Follow our simple plan for pain-free social media success!

When you have nothing else to do, social media can be an excellent way to pass the time.

But if you’re a small business owner, managing your social media outlets, or even trying to come up with a social media plan, can feel like a drain on your short supply of energy, especially when your days are already jam-packed.

And like any relationship where you feel that you give more than you get, feelings of resentment are soon to follow.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Small business owners who view social media with a mix of annoyance and avoidance, and only use it begrudgingly, are probably not getting much out of it either.

But like the good Dr. Phil, we’re here to mend this broken relationship, and get you on the path to a happy co-existence with your social media plan.

Ready for our pain-free plan for social media success?

Make a Commitment to Post Regularly – and Stick to It

If you’re ready to get serious about social media for your small business, the easiest way to work it into your life is to publish a post every day that you’re open for business.

Whether that’s three days a week or seven, if your store is open, you must communicate that through social media.

If you aren’t at a schedule-making level yet, make it a part of your morning routine to post something within the first hour that you are open for business. And if you work from home, it’s even more imperative to be openly communicative with your audience.

For example, every morning you open for business, make your first post of the day about one of your items, and call it ‘Today’s Featured Product.’ This is an incredibly easy way to get on a regular social media schedule, and it’s in a format that your customers will appreciate. And always include a picture of the item.

Simple Tip

  • You can even use a free site like Hootsuite to schedule all of your posts in advance to make things easier. Set aside a couple hours on a Sunday to write posts for the week and then use a social media-scheduling tool to set the date and time and you’ll have pain-free posts sent out each day of the week to the accounts you specify. (You can choose Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. on Hootsuite.)

Get Busy Promoting Your Events, Sales, and Short-Time Specials

Second only to talking about cats, sales are generally the most popular topic on social media.

But wait, you’re thinking, I don’t hold sales and my next event isn’t until Christmas!

Oh, do I have a solution for you. Because of the nature of small businesses, any item you create can be turned into a can’t-miss-limited-supply-special. Unlike the boring corporate chains, most small business owners don’t order 50 million pieces at once. Instead, they fill stock as needs and demand dictate.

Therefore, when you are nearing the end of a certain line of product, it’s an opportunity to let everyone on social media know that this special item will not last long – in fact, you only have 5 left!

Creating demand like this might seem silly, but the average consumer will view limited-quantity items with higher regard, and it will give you a chance to cycle through a variety of styles and stock. This also means that you can feature different products at different times, allowing you more creativity and flexibility in what you make.

Simple Tip

  • When you find you have only a few of a certain item left, take a good picture of the remaining pieces, and use that same picture to post about the limited-time offer until all of the items are sold. You don’t have to post every day, but you can include an extra post every few days to promote it. This will help you measure how engaged your social media fans are, and how popular that particular item is.

Use a Schedule to Keep You Organized and On Track

If you’re ready to graduate to Jedi-level social media master, then start getting friendly with a schedule. Creating a simple spreadsheet with your upcoming events, featured items, and major holidays will help you manage your social media plan and brainstorm what you want to talk about on any given day. Additionally, you can give every day a theme in order to keep your content engaging.

Here’s our free, downloadable social media schedule template to help you get started.

This might seem like an excessive bit of scheduling to you, but I guarantee that it will remove a lot of the anxiety associated with trying to post on social media. If you are unsure of what to post on a particular day, simply refer to your schedule for a bit of inspiration.

Simple Tip

  • Setting themes for each day of the week will help make social media more manageable for you. For example, maybe Mondays you highlight a product, Tuesdays you talk about upcoming events or sales at your store/website, Wednesdays you feature a fan wearing or using your product, Thursdays you post something funny or entertaining that also relates back to your industry in some way, and Fridays you offer a helpful tip that is relevant to what you have for sale.

Don’t Knock It Till You Try It

These days, having a website is simply not enough. You may have all of the elements in place, but driving traffic to your site and people to your store is paramount to success. And that’s where a solid social media plan comes in.

Basically, you can think of social media as a way to engage with your fans on a personal, fun level that they will welcome, and become more responsive to over time. So stop knocking this marketing tactic and start seeing it as a way of not only connecting more deeply with your consumers but helping your business reach its full potential.

Share with us: Do you currently have a social media plan?

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Gettin’ in a Quickie: How to Promote Your Blog Posts (Fast!)

BizSugar blog promotion site

Sometimes a quickie is all you need. Learn how you can easily and effectively
promote your blog posts in under three minutes flat — satisfaction guaranteed!

I have a confession to make: Sometimes my blog posts can be a tad on the, shall we say, “longer” side?

But that is not the case today. No, today I’m in the mood for something that gets right down to the action without any unnecessary talking. (Or typing.)

Yep, that’s right, you’re about to learn of a magical place where you can effectively promote your blog posts in just a few minutes per day and I’m going to tell you all about it as fast as I possibly can. (Because sometimes quick and dirty is all you need.)

Ready to get in and out of this blog post faster than a two-pump chump on his best day? Let’s get started!

BizSugar: A Quickie Lover’s Best Friend

If you blog about small business topics for your business (how to offer great customer service, marketing tactics, success stories, how you got your start/found success, etc.) BizSugar will be the perfect spot for you to promote your blog posts.

Follow these steps to start posting:

  1. Sign up for an account.
  2. Wait for the activation link that gets sent to your email.
  3. Once it arrives, click the link and sign into your account.
  4. Click the orange ‘submit an article’ button on the upper right of your screen.
  5. Add the URL of your blog post where it says ‘story URL.’ (You will need to copy/paste from your own blog.)
  6. Enter your blog post’s headline where it says “story title.”
  7. Choose the category that best fits what your blog post is about from the drop-down menu.
  8. Enter a quick description of your blog post. (I always just copy/paste my blog post’s meta description.)
  9. Answer the security question (it’s just basic math, don’t worry).
  10. Hit ‘preview and submit.’
  11. Double check that you have everything right and then hit ‘submit story’ if it’s ready (if not you can hit ‘modify’ to go back and edit).
  12. And you’re done!

Don’t Hit It and Quit It

BizSugar

Oh, my… look at all those tasty sugars!

The twelve steps above are all you really need to get started, but if you can stick around for a bit longer, check out the tips below for getting the most out of this blog promotion site. (And if you’re still here in the morning, maybe I’ll even make you breakfast.)

  • Once you’ve submitted a post, other members of the community will begin “sugaring” it (although it’s not guaranteed) and it will take 15 sugars for your post to be made “hot.” If this happens, it’ll hit the front page, getting you more sugars and attention from other members.
  • People will also be able to share your blog post directly from the site to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., and there are visible stats for each so you’ll know how many times each has been shared.
  • One of the best things about this blog promotion site is that they don’t republish your content on their site like other blogging communities do. Readers will see your blog post’s headline and description on BizSugar (and can sugar, comment, tweet, and share from there), but when they click on the link, it’ll take them directly to your blog, which means you benefit from BizSugar traffic directly.
  • Always respond to any comments you get (You will be sent an email notification) and when you have extra time, be sure you sugar and comment on other bloggers’ posts as well, as this is how you can make real connections and build a strong presence on the site.

Wow, That Was Fast!

Isn’t it great when you can do something in just a few minutes per day and still see gratifying results from it?

Thanks to BizSugar, you’ll be able to get your blog posts a little more love without adding more to your already busy day. Yes, it might be fast and easy, but it sure aims to please. (And that’s the best type of quickie in my book.)

Will you use BizSugar to promote your blog posts?

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How to Turn Your Daily Routine Into Amazing Blog Posts

Lady writing blogs

Feeling frazzled? Don’t let it get you down… instead, use it as fodder to write a blog post others can relate to.

The best part of a long day is that moment when you finally get to call it quits.

Shutting down, heading home, and putting a rough day behind you are the moments all small business owners look forward to.

But don’t flip on the TV just yet.

As it turns out, those difficult days you experience as a small business owner are the key to writing blogs that are relatable and interesting.

So instead of zoning out, start keeping a record of your more memorable days and turning them into amazing blog posts.

Because let’s face it; coming up with original blog post ideas is never easy.

But one way to combat that is to incorporate different types of posts, especially those that speak from the business owner’s perspective and detail the ins and outs of owning a small business.

The ‘My Worst Day Ever’ Post

Small business owners are united by their similar experiences and goals, and highlighting stories from your greatest struggles will ring true with your fellow small business owners.

And if other small business owners read your blog, they’ll be relieved to find a small business owner who deals with the same issues they do.

Make it funny, poke fun at yourself, and be brutally honest. Sharing stories like this will make you seem human and relatable, and will encourage other small business owners to want to connect with you.

The ‘The Mistake I Could Have Avoided’ Post

As we all know, running a small business is the number one way to make mistakes on a regular basis. Testing out new ideas is a part of daily life, and something that other new small business owners might love to know about. So start sharing your stories on the wrong turns you made, and how you avoided them the next time around.

Every entrepreneur has to figure out the best way to run their small business, and capturing those moments of uncertainty when writing blogs can become monuments to your own growth as a businessperson.

The ‘My Most Memorable Win’ Post

Don’t like to brag? Don’t be ridiculous.

The life of a small business owner is a tumultuous one, so you must celebrate your wins when they occur. And what better way to do that than by writing blogs that celebrate your successes?

From landing the first lease on a retail space, to coming up with the perfect name for a hard-to-sell product, writing about your achievements is a must-do to remain positive and satisfied as a small business owner.

Now, you don’t have to write these all the time, and they don’t have to be written as hero stories with you cast in the lead, either.

Rather, simply recording the times you succeeded despite the odds — and sharing them with your readers will not only keep other business owners hopeful, but may enable you to pass on a bit of hard-won wisdom as well.

The ‘A Lesson I Want to Pass to My Child’ Post

If your child were about to open a small business, what lessons would you share? I’m guessing there are a lot.

If you’ve ever learned a business lesson the hard way, you know you’re wiser for the experience. Maybe you have a deeper understanding for the delicate art of negotiating, or have truly come to appreciate the small business owners whom you work with on a regular basis. These little tricks of the trade that you’ve picked up along the way are golden bits of information to the inexperienced.

So what would you call your biggest learning lessons of the past year? Whatever it is, this sounds like a great weekly or monthly article to start incorporating into your blog. Give it a try and see what your readers think!

Where Do I Start? 

Sure, these are all great ideas, but recalling some of your more traumatic moments can be somewhat difficult, especially when at the end of a long day you’d rather just forget all about them and knock back a few stiff cocktails.

The easiest way to start mining your daily activities for great blog post ideas is to take inventory of everything that happened during a given day with a small journal entry every night. It can be anywhere from a few sentences highlighting the main points, to a three-page diatribe concerning your feelings on working with small business associations.

Recording your experiences will make it easier to come up with blog post ideas when you’re ready to write, and help you connect with other small business owners through your words.

Although it seems like a high school English assignment, keeping a journal will help you not only when you’re writing blogs, but will provide you with a living history of your incredible life as a small business owner.

How do you come up with ideas for writing great blogs?

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Everything You’ve Ever Wondered About Facebook Contests

facebook contest app

Winning feels great, doesn’t it? Give your customers this experience by learning how to hold your own Facebook contest!

If you’ve been on Facebook recently, you’ve probably noticed more than a few contests being held by small business owners.

Seems like fun, doesn’t it?

But since contests can appear to be difficult to run and more than a little time-consuming, many business owners don’t consider them to be a viable marketing tactic.

Here’s the truth: Anyone can create a polished and effective Facebook contest. Even little ol’ you!

Believe it or not, a majority of contests found on Facebook were created in under 15 minutes.

From posting a simple ‘like to enter’ on your fan page, to using a Facebook contest app to get more crafty with the design, we’re going to help you create an engaging contest for your fans!

Ready to get started?

What is the point of a Facebook contest?

To generate interest in your business; give away sample products; build your email list. The list goes on and on.

Basically, you have to give your fans a reason to continue their interest in your business, whether they’ve already made a purchase, are still on the fence, or haven’t heard of you at all.

Contests do more than your average Facebook posts because they generate buzz and excitement around your business. Plus, who doesn’t love free stuff?

What kind of contest should I run?

First, think about the end goals of your contest.

If you just opened a physical store, for instance, you can give away a gift card to be used in-store. Simple yet effective, this type of contest will highlight the changes in your business while enticing visitors to sign up and come out to the store.

Or, are you just trying to show off new products or seasonal items? By giving away just a handful of products, you’ll simultaneously get exposure for your new items.

How do I set up a contest?

The two most popular ways to run a Facebook contest are by utilizing your Timeline’s posts to collect entries, or by using third-party apps.

Running a Contest on Your Fan Page’s Timeline

Social Media Examiner says running a contest on your fan page’s Timeline is a quick and easy way to boost engagement. Here are your options for setting up a contest this way:

  • Collect entries by having users post on the page or comment/like a page post
  • Collect entries by having users message the page
  • Utilize likes as a voting mechanism

For example, you can post a picture of what you’re giving away and ask your fans to ‘like’ the post in order to enter the drawing. You could even go further and ask them to write why they want to win that particular item. Be sure to ‘pin’ your contest to the top of your page to increase its chances of being seen.

Not only is this an easy way of encouraging engagement, but you can do multiple contests like this every month because the upkeep is minimal.

facebook contest app

This is a great example of using a regular post to run a contest. Small business Nest on Main earned an incredible amount of interaction, all from giving away just 5 gift cards.

Be advised that you do still need to follow Facebook’s rules for running a contest. Here is a list of things you cannot do, courtesy of Social Media Examiner, while running your contest:

What You Can’t Do With Your Facebook Contest

  • Require that people share a post or photo to be entered
  • Require someone to post something on their own personal timeline or a friend’s timeline to enter
  • Require people to tag themselves in a photo to either vote or enter
  • Have anyone who likes your page be entered to win (contest does not take place on the timeline)
Using a Facebook Contest App

Using an app has the distinct incentive of allowing you to collect email addresses to build your newsletter list. And short of becoming an actual developer, the simpler and more economical way to create a Facebook contest app is to go through a third-party app provider. (This is great to do when you have a bigger prize to give away.)

Running a contest using an app also lets you have more control over the way your giveaway looks, helps you grow your fans, allows for easy sharing for maximum reach, and should (if the app provides it) give you access to some good metrics that’ll help you understand what is working and what isn’t.

To get the most out of your contest, it should always require people to submit an email address to enter. And your entry form should have a pre-checked box to sign up for your newsletter, which people can un-check if they choose.

We’ve selected a few low-cost sites that provide great apps and keep the installation simple below.

ShortStack

ShortStack features a variety of templates for everything from voting, photo upload, to simple “click to enter” contests. The installation is a breeze, and the site offers a trial period so you can sample the product before signing up for a membership.

facebook contest app

Tabsite

While Tabsite offers a number of Facebook contest app templates to choose from, they also provide review apps, deal apps, and tracking tools to help you monitor how effective your contest is.

facebook contest app

Woobox

Want more options? Woobox wants to win you over with everything from polls, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest tabs, and of course, contest apps. This is another site that offers a free trial for new users.

facebook contest app

Once you’ve decided which site to use, you’ll be walked through the steps to finalize the contest with the images and text you want. After that’s complete and your contest is live, go to your Facebook.

facebook contest app

Make sure the most important tabs are on the top row.

Your contest will appear in one of your tabs on your fan page. Make sure the contest tab is on your top row of tabs.

If it’s not, click the down arrow to the right of your tabs to view all of them, find your contest, click in the top right corner of the tab, and swap positions with another tab on the top row. This will make it immediately visible to users on your page.

How do I get people to sign up?

Post about it!

Seriously, now is the time to get active. Don’t create a Facebook contest and expect your fans to simply migrate themselves on over. You have to actively campaign for people to sign up or ‘like’ your giveaway. Post about the contest three times per week (you don’t want to overload your fans!).

If you used an app, add a link to the contest in all of your outgoing client emails and newsletters, and link to it from the home page of your website. This is also a great opportunity to give Facebook ads a try. You can write a post that includes a link to your entry form and promote it to fans and non-fans easily through the Power Editor.

Give to Get

Think of a contest as the courtship between you and your future customers. Getting people interested and excited about your products with a giveaway is the first step toward getting them on your site and in your store!

What kind of Facebook contest app do you think is most effective? Share your thoughts!

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Free Guide: How to Use YouTube for Business

A Simple Way to Generate Amazing Blog Post Ideas

blog post ideas

I don’t have time for fetch – I’m blogging! How to come up with great blog post ideas in minutes.

Writing a blog would be awesome … if it weren’t for all the writing.

Trying to rack your brain for an interesting blog post topic can be incredibly infuriating. You know blogging is good for business, and you know it draws online searchers to your site. But sometimes you simply cannot come up with an idea.

Oh, we’ve been there. But instead of initiating an all-out bitch session on what sucks the most about writing, we’re going to share our secrets to coming up with blog post ideas, even when your mind keeps drawing a blank.

We’re not going to waste any time on sharing inspirational quotes or telling you to create an “idea tree.” Instead, we’ve listed the most helpful questions to ask yourself when trying to think of what to write about.

Any of these questions can be combined or answered alone and turned into a fantastic blog post. Also, no matter what online platform you use to publish your blog, write it in a word document first to make sure all spelling and grammar is correct.

First of all, who is the audience?

So you’ve started your blog, and the obvious answer to this might be “my customers!” But the point of a blog isn’t just to entertain your current fans, but also to attract new ones. So ask yourself:

1. What do they want to read about?

What is your most popular product? What type of questions do your customers usually pose to you? Thinking about what your customers are interested in will help you craft blog posts that are intriguing to your target audience.

What is the what?

First, you have to figure out what your post will be centered on, and to do this, we’ve listed a few narrowing questions that will help you decide. Also, when thinking of blog post ideas, try to make sure each topic only encompasses one major idea, in order to avoid overly long posts. If it starts getting too long, you’re probably writing about more than one central idea.

1. What do you think is interesting?

Dogs, hydrodynamics, shark week … many things pique your interest. But before you begin writing down everything you’ve ever researched on Wikipedia, try to contain it to topics that your audience will also enjoy.

2. What are you good at?

This is an easy one. What the heck do you make/create/sell? You are the expert because you’re the business owner. A lot of people would love to do what you do, which makes this question a great way to begin a how-to blog post, or simply share a few tricks of the trade.

3. What new things have you learned in the past 6 months?

What changes or new ideas have emerged within your industry lately? This doesn’t have to be limited to your exact trade. How has the small business community evolved around you?

Why should they care?

Once you have an idea that interests you, next decide how you can relate that idea to others, because the whole point of writing a blog is getting people to read it!

1. What can I teach you?

“How-To” blogs are immensely popular – just think of all the time you’ve wasted reading about DIY projects. And because homemade projects are difficult, keep it simple in your tutorials, and encourage your readers to email you with questions.

2. How can you learn from my mistakes?

One of the best ways to connect with your readers is to be open about your own failings. Would you rather learn from a stuffy know-it-all, or a humble business owner who keeps trying even when things don’t work out exactly according to plan?

When blogger Derek Halpern spoke at Social Media Marketing World last year, he gave a talk on the five content triggers that encourage people to talk about your products. According to Derek, one of the most powerful methods of relating to others is by telling stories of your own struggles or lessons learned, because everything should be personal and relatable.

3. What were the topics of your top 10 most popular social media posts?

When you’re really scratching your head trying to think of something to write about, use this nifty little cheat to find topics that your fans have already told you they love. And if you haven’t had a lot of interaction on your Facebook lately, think of this as your opportunity to get with it.

Ask a question twice a week on something regarding your products or the local business community, and you’ll begin to get a feel for what your customers want to read.

Put it all together.

Now, write your amazing blog post! Try to keep it under 500 words (longer is fine as long as you avoid rambling and keep it informative/entertaining/useful), use small paragraphs no longer than 3-4 sentences, and make sure it’s completely error-free.

Then, promote the hell out of it on this sweet, totally free, blog promotion platform.

Use these questions to plan out your next few weeks of blog topics so you don’t find yourself scrambling every week to find something to write about.

And don’t forget, a big part of blogging is watching for trends online and on social media, so don’t be afraid to exploit popular keywords within your field as much as you can.

If you create handmade furniture, and there’s a sudden burst of interest in ladder bookshelves, take this opportunity to write a quick pros-and-cons article on the usefulness of ladder bookshelves. Or write a how-to article on how to turn an old ladder into a decorative piece.

And there you have it! A simple, pain-free way to brainstorm some amazing blog topics. We seriously cannot wait to read your blog! Seriously – link to your blog in the comments.

How do you come up with blog post ideas? Share your thoughts!

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Grow Your Blog at Light Speed With This Website

blog tips

Bzzzzzz! Viral Content Buzz could be the blog promotion tool you’ve been looking for!

We love blogging so much that we tend to hand out blog tips likes they’re candy on Halloween.

A few post ideas here, some tips for fabulous headlines there – all in the effort to help you grow your small business.

But once you’ve written that amazing blog post, you begin an entirely different kind of battle: getting people to read your stuff!

Hang On, Why The Heck Should I Care?

Here’s the thing: Selling online requires people to visit your site, and getting people to visit your site means that you have to show up in search engines. And guess what? Running a blog on your website significantly increases your chances of being found in online searches.

But anyone who has written a blog knows how difficult it can be to get people to pay attention. However, for small business owners who are selling online or at a physical location, the work is worth the word-of-mouth promotion you will generate from a blog.

So in that spirit, we decided it was time to help you promote that blog post you’ve worked so hard to write by reviewing one our favorite blog sharing sites: Viral Content Buzz!

Review: Viral Content Buzz

Although the name sounds vaguely like a bee-related computer virus, Viral Content Buzz (VCB) helps you put your blog posts in front of people who want to read them. Getting your business exposure outside of your immediate circle can be a challenge, which is why it’s always a good idea to push your blog posts out to an entirely new crowd.

What Is It?

Viral Content Buzz is a content-sharing website that allows members to upload and promote their blog posts for free, with the option of becoming a paying user. This is done through a reward system, where sharing other articles on your social media outlets will earn you credits, which in turn allow your own articles to be shared.

The site offers an extensive category list to accommodate many types of bloggers. (There’s even a ‘blogging’ category where you can find more great blog tips!) Additionally, each blog can be listed under multiple categories, as long as they apply to the content.

How Does It Work?

blog tips

This is what success looks like! This is how your VCB posts will look when tweeted by other users.

First, set up your free account on VCB. This will include linking up your Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and StumbleUpon accounts.

(Note: While you don’t need a StumbleUpon account yourself to allow others to share your content, it’s a good idea to set one up. That way, you can earn credits by sharing other articles on StumbleUpon.)

After you’ve published your blog post on your own site, you’ll head over to VCB and upload the title, link, and description. You can select the categories it will be listed under on the site, and, here’s the best part, get it ready to be shared.

For Pinterest, you’ll need to include a link to the header image on the post.

You can do this by going back to your blog post, right-clicking on the image and selecting ‘Open Image in New Tab’ and then copying the url of the image, which should end in ‘.jpg’ or something similar.

The article will go into a queue where the site moderators will confirm it isn’t spam. While you are waiting, read through the different categories and start sharing articles you find interesting.

With every social share, you’ll see your ‘Credits’ increasing. Get to at least 30 credits (I’ll tell you why in a moment!).

Once your project is approved, go back to your ‘My Projects’ page and on the top right you’ll see an option to ‘Move any of your projects to the front page’ which takes 30 credits to do. Select this, select the article you want to move up, and hit ‘Add Credits’. And boom, your article has hit the big time!

The Good

Did we mention it’s free? But that’s not all.

  • Managing your social media outlets can get tedious, especially when you have a business to run. One of the best things about VCB is how it encourages users to share your content across four major social media outlets. Getting shares from users with big followers can give your small business a big boost in online traffic.
  • But it’s not just us who think this is a great outlet. Software developer and author of the blog BloggLess Ivana Zuber uses the site regularly to generate traffic back to her blog. “I would honestly say VCB is the best among its competition. I use various other promotional services on a regular basis, but Viral Content Buzz is my main source of social media exposure.”
  • Another handy feature can be found under the ‘Interactions’ tab. Here you can easily thank people who have shared your content, follow them on various social outlets, and check out the blogs they are uploading.
  • The site also offers a free tracking feature that lets you see how often your article is being shared. Head to ‘My Projects’ and next to each blog post you’ve posted on VCB, you’ll see a downward facing arrow. Click this to see the history of each post, including how many times it was shared on every outlet.
blog tips

Tracking made simple! Looks like Twitter was our biggest producer this round.

The Bad

The only real downside to VCB we’ve seen so far is the upkeep it takes to keep things running smoothly. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it tool. If one of your articles is getting a particularly high amount of shares, you’ll want to continue to add more credits to the article to make sure it remains visible to all VCB users.

“I always add 30 credits to each new project, and then add additional credits as they get spent. When a project is low on credit, VCB sends an email notification to the owner, but I usually increase my budget before VCB even gets the chance to send me that notification,” Ivana says.

This system does seem to encourage users to regularly add new content to the site, and gives you the opportunity to share a variety of content from your blog.

The Verdict

In addition to regular social media sharing on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, VCB will get your blog in front of readers who are not in your immediate network for no cost at all. At Scott’s Local Business Corner, we use a free account but experienced a jump in traffic almost immediately!

Overall, this is one of the better content-sharing sites, with enough categories to accommodate most topics, and is one of the best blog tips we can offer to help you get your posts read by more people. Without having to pay, you’ll be able to garner new visibility for your blog, ultimately drawing more online traffic back to your website, which is the first step in creating new customers.

What are your favorite blog tips for increasing traffic? Share below!

 Subscribe to the Scott's Local Business Corner blog!

blog tips

Clear the Social Media Clutter: What to Do Right Now

foursquare for business

With all the social media noise out there, how do you cut through the clutter and reach your customers? We’ve highlighted the best ways small business owners can get through to customers – right away!

It’s quite possible that the best time to be a small business owner is right at this very moment. After all, we live in the era of the great equalizer, the thing that unites people from across the globe: the internet.

It used to be that you placed an ad in a local newspaper, the Yellow Pages or a local radio station, and hoped that your target market saw it or was listening. Then you just waited for the phone to ring or for them to walk through your doors. Not anymore.

Because of the internet, the world of ecommerce is open to everyone who wants to sell a product, and the chances for success are that much improved.

Never before has the average business person had the ability to take such control of the their marketing efforts. You can now reach out and touch your potential customers every day with email, social media, and mobile marketing. The three of those combined are considered “digital media” and make up the road map to success in the world of ecommerce.

Getting the most out of Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Foursquare for business means taking advantage of the best features of each platform.

How to Get Social on Every Platform

What’s crucial to remember with Google+ is that it’s connected to the Google search engine. When you post something “public” on Google+, it gets indexed in the search engine immediately. Also, Google Maps and Google Places have merged into Google+ Local. If you have a local brick-and-mortar business and you want people to visit your place, it’s imperative that you a have Google+ business page.

  • Foursquare is a geo-locator service.

Using Foursquare for business encourages traffic to physical stores along with online interaction. A good strategy is to encourage your customers to “check-in” on social media, Google+, Foursquare, or Facebook. Your staff should be part of the effort. You should ask your customers if they could take a picture of themselves with their phones so they can upload it and tag your location to the social networks.

Give them something for their effort. Put posters and flyers in your business and have them show a staff member the check-in for the reward.

  • Facebook: because you can’t have a conversation about social media without it.

Encourage folks to “Like” your page for a discount or as part of a contest. Last October, my client, Metrocenter Mall, held a contest with a local radio station to help promote their 40th anniversary. To enter, people had to ‘like’ both the radio station’s page and Metrocenter’s page. The mall got over 2500 likes in the first week!

Check your page insights for demographics on your fans. These tell a lot: age, gender and location; plus your “reach” (how many people potentially saw your post) and which posts they engaged with, by liking, sharing, or commenting. This will tell you the best time to post and the type of posts that get the most engagement. Check these at least once a month.

  • Pinterest now has a “mapping” feature. This is huge!

Retail stores can post pictures of their products and encourage followers to repin them and put themselves on the map! Learn from larger stores Nordstrom and The Container Store to find out how they use Pinterest.

Making Email Work For You

Email is still the primary way to reach out to your current and potential customers. They still have to “opt-in” or approve a relationship with your business before you can send them an email. This tool can be used to promote your blog and specials through email newsletters, and entice people to go to your site and follow the buying path you want them to.

Social media can be used as a lead generator to drive traffic to your website. Once a person is there, it’s up to you to either convert that visitor, by enticing them to complete a purchase, or capture that lead by encouraging them to sign up for your email newsletter.

Social Media as a Customer Service Monitor

It’s amazing how people will sound off on social media about something good or bad. When they’re ticked off, they’ll rant, and when they find something wonderful, they’ll rave about it.

Monitor your social media for messages from unhappy customers and address problems as soon as possible. The unhappy customer expects a response right away. And always encourage happy camper customers to give testimonials and referrals like this great example. It also serves as a great way to get to know what you’re up against. Business owners can keep tabs on their competition through social media by following them across platforms.

Using outlets like Google+ and Foursquare for business can increase your business’ visibility online. With every new tactic you add to your marketing plan, you’re increasing your chances of being found in a local search, which will give your small business the recognition it deserves!

If you’d like to learn more, we offer a free 30-minute phone consultation and analysis of your current marketing efforts at AZSocialMediaWiz.com.

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Get Unbelievable Engagement With Facebook Power Editor

power editor

Take your Facebook posts to the next level by targeting them directly to the customers you want to reach. Follow our guide to become a proficient promoter!

When you set a piece of paper on the sidewalk on a hot summer’s day, nothing much will happen.

But if you take a magnifying glass to that same sheet, you’re suddenly focusing all of the sun’s energy into a ball of concentrated light, and pretty soon you’ve got a charred piece of paper on your hands.

The same principle applies to marketing.

Instead of blindly trying to market to the masses, targeting your marketing campaigns will yield concrete results in a much smaller amount of time.

And what better way to execute this rule than on the most massively used marketing website out there – Facebook.

It’s time to turn your social profile into a lead generator, and the best way to do that is to make the Power Editor your new best friend.

But before we get started, let’s get a major no-no out of the way: Don’t boost your posts.

Unless you like throwing gobs of money at your marketing problems while crossing your fingers that things will work themselves out, this is an inefficient waste of your money (and time!).

The process of using the Power Editor can seem intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quickly, and will be promoting the heck out of your posts in no time!

Pre-Step 1. If you don’t have it already, add the Power Editor to your personal Facebook

Log into your Facebook account (don’t switch the “Use Facebook As” at the top right just yet) and go here to add the Power Editor. Follow the steps, and you’ll be prompted to select which accounts, or fan pages, you want to use with the tool; select all.

This will be your gateway to laser-targeted Facebook posts. So now that you have the tools, let’s figure out how to use them.

Step 1. Write a brilliant post on your Facebook Fan Page

Go back to your Facebook page and switch to your fan page as you would normally do. Then, create the post that you plan on promoting. To make it perfect, include an image with little or no text and a well-worded status that includes a link back to your website or shopping site. Is it perfect? Great. Hit ‘post’ to make it live.

Step 2. Create a New Campaign

Now that the post is live, you’ll be able to promote it. Go back to the Power Editor, click on ‘Recent Campaigns’ on the left-hand side of your screen, click on ‘Campaign’ at the top, and then ‘Create Campaign.’

power editor

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the beginning! It may seem complex at first, but this is about to become your favorite screen on Facebook.

Step 3. Create a New Ad

Time to get down to business. Click on ‘Ads’ again at the top, then ‘Create Ad.’ You’ll first name the ad, then proceed with defining your target and budget.

power editor

And you’re off! Once you’ve named the post, identifying your objective will shape the rest of the campaign.

First, notice the three tabs in the middle of this section – Creative, Audience, Optimization & Pricing – these are the sections you’ll fill out to complete your ad.

For the objective, we’ve chosen page post engagement. This is the best way to encourage users to like, respond to, and interact with your post. Interaction is the top priority on Facebook, as it garners trust, builds your brand, and encourages new likes to your page. You’ll then scroll down to complete the Creative section, which will look like this:

power editor

Find the post you already created on your fan page.

Here you will select your Facebook Fan Page, and the post that you already created from the drop down.

power editor

Where do you want your ad to show up?

When targeting your fans, select News Feed (Desktop and Mobile), and set the ad to only appear once, as you don’t want to bombard your fans with your content. For non-fans, it’s a little more flexible. Test both news feed and right hand column ads to see which gets the most interaction.

For mobile devices, only use this feature if your website is mobile optimized, because you don’t want to direct someone back to your site just to have a bad experience on their mobile device. If it is, select the box at the bottom that will limit your ad to devices connected to Wi-Fi.

Step 4. Define Your Audience

power editor

Identify where your target audience lives and what they look like.

You’ll be able to target the ad in much more detail here than in a regular promoted post, and when you scroll down to Connections, you can decide whether you want to talk to current fans or make new ones.

power editor

While this stage will allow you to experiment with different targeting tactics, we recommend starting with your fans.

For targeting, we suggesting using this first ad to speak to your actual fans, as they already like your page and are familiar with your brand. Once you complete the ad, we recommend duplicating it and targeting it to non-fans, so you can attract new people to your page. This is a great feature if you have just recently started building your Facebook page and don’t have a lot of fans yet. You can target non-fans by a variety of interests, their location, and whether they like similar businesses to yours.

We don’t use the ‘Friends of connections’ section to seek out friends of our fans, because every fan of our page will have a diverse multitude of friends and we lose out on the ability to zero in on those who would actually be interested in our content.

Step 5: Optimization & Pricing

power editor

The default bids will let Facebook do the work for you.

Once that is complete, go to the Optimization & Pricing tab to complete the ad. We suggest using Optimized CPM to get the best bang for your buck. You will be able to set a maximum budget before you make it live.

power editor

Review your work!

You’re nearly there! Now you can review all aspects to ensure it’s exactly how you want it. When you’re happy with the ad, click back into Campaigns to set a maximum budget.

Step 6. Set Your Budget

power editor

How much do you want to spend per day?

Here you can set a daily budget and a beginning and end date for the ad. This will help with tracking purposes, and allow you to set ads to run during high-traffic times. You will also need to enter your billing information under the Billing tab on the left. Once that is complete, you’re ready to publish.

Step 7. Make It Live

At the top of the page you will see a green button that says Upload Changes – click it and your campaign is all set to run!

And there you have it – a mostly pain-free way to maximize the exposure of your Facebook posts. Remember to always respond to fans who engage with your posts, and try different times/types of posts to gauge which is the most useful to promote. Don’t you feel more powerful already?

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Social Media for Dummies: An Easy Trick for Staying on Track

Scheduling Tweets

Social media tools so simple even a dummy could use them! No offense to dummies.

OK, no one’s saying you’re a dummy. But it’s fair to say that most small business owners treat social media like a red-headed step child, and wish it would kindly put itself to bed.

Trying to handle social media on a daily basis, on top of every other responsibility you have, is enough to make your head spin. Thankfully, there’s a quick and easy trick for time-sapped business owners who want to maintain a social presence and provide excellent customer service. Welcome to the world of scheduling tweets and posts!

Scheduling tweets and posts is simple, convenient, and totally free. Plan a majority of your posts ahead of time, schedule them all at once, and you’ll be able stay relevant and social without sacrificing daytime work hours.

We’ve had enough of neglected Facebook pages and Twitter feeds – get back in the game and present a healthy social media profile to the world.

How to Schedule Posts on Facebook

So, you’ve got something amazing to say and you want to share it with your fans. Let’s get started!

First, write the perfect message:

Scheduling Tweets

Then, click on that little circle on the lower left-hand corner which allows you to schedule your post to publish at a later time. Select the date, then fill in the time you want your post to go out. scheduling tweets

At this point, you can select the ‘Schedule’ button at the bottom, and skip to the last step. However, since Facebook is a visual medium, it’s always a good idea to include images in your posts. Luckily, you can schedule image posts as well. Select ‘Photo/Video’ like you normally would when sharing an image. This won’t change your scheduled settings. Here’s what it will look like once you select an image:

scheduling tweets

Your image is attached, your post is error-free, and it’s ready to be scheduled. So go ahead and hit ‘Schedule!’

scheduling tweets

Voila! You have successfully scheduled a Facebook post. A little box will pop up with the date and time information. If you click on ‘View Activity Log,’ you’ll see all of your future posts:

scheduling tweets

Here is your scheduled post, with the final date and time below the image. You can schedule out multiple posts at a time, all from your profile page. And if at any time you want to view your scheduled posts, go here:

Scheduling Tweets

When you are using Facebook as your business, you will see these options at the top of your fan page. First, hit ‘Edit Page’:

Scheduling Tweets

Then select ‘Use Activity Log,’ to return to your scheduled posts. From there, you’ll be able to change the date or time of every post. However, you will not be able to edit the content of a post once it’s scheduled, so if there’s something wrong with it you’ll have to delete it and create a new post.

Utilizing this tool will do wonders for your Facebook profile, as regular posting is necessary to gaining more fans, and ultimately more customers!

How to Schedule Tweets

We get it. You don’t have all day to play on Twitter, crafting hilarious posts and following the latest trending hashtag. Luckily for you, a few great platforms exist to help you manage your Twitter presence and schedule tweets in bulk so you can get back to working.

Platforms like TweetDeck and HootSuite will allow you to schedule out multiple tweets, days and weeks in advance. Scheduled tweets should not be time-specific, but feature general information about your business, fun quotes and pictures, or reminders of upcoming events.

Since we use HootSuite, we’ll show you just how easy it is to schedule tweets and track your interactions with this platform.

Scheduling TweetsThe column on the left is all of our scheduled tweets for the day. In addition to these, we respond, retweet, and share other content throughout the day. However, if we only have a few moments a day to manage Twitter, having these tweets scheduled help us promote our content.

Scheduling TweetsOnce you write a tweet, you have a range of options from adding an image, including a link with the built-in link shortener to save space, and scheduling it to publish. Hootsuite also has the option to ‘AutoSchedule’ which automatically schedules your tweet during high traffic times in order to get maximum exposure.

Because Twitter moves extremely fast, using regular tweets to stay present in the news stream will remind your fans that you’re still there.

How to Schedule Blog Posts

Blogging is the most challenging piece of the social media puzzle for most small business owners. It takes time to craft well-written posts, and one of the biggest problems most business owners face is they have too much to say all at once. That can lead to long, drawn-out posts and frustrated readers.

So instead of trying to write a novel every time you open up WordPress, treat your blog posts as snippets of a larger picture, making each topic focused and specific to make blogging easier and more manageable for you. Take a few hours every weekend to write a couple posts, and schedule them to publish on your blog throughout the week.

Once you have a few polished posts ready for the world, schedule them out in a few simple steps. (We use WordPress, so if your blog is on a different platform, scheduling posts will be a little different than what is detailed below.)

Scheduling TweetsOnce your post is ready for the world, right above the ‘Publish’ button on the right side is an option to select ‘Edit’ next to ‘Publish Immediately,’ which will allow you to schedule your post to publish at a later date.

Scheduling TweetsOnce you’ve selected the date and time you’d like your blog to publish, hit ‘OK.’ And presto – your blog is scheduled!

Scheduling TweetsIf you make any changes to the blog after this point, hit ‘Update’ to save them.

And that’s it! Scheduling tweets, updates, and blog posts is the number one way to make these tasks fast and easy for busy small business owners.

And remember, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your Twitter and Facebook pages during the day to interact with fans and respond to questions, because you will still need to do both. But if you’ve been avoiding social media because it’s too time consuming, then this is a simple way to get back into the social game!

Do you think scheduling tweets and posts will make social media more manageable? Share below!

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Create the Perfect Social Media Contest, With Pumpkins

social media contest ideas

Gimme that pumpkin! Check out our fall marketing contest ideas to give your business a boost!

Fall is a special time for business owners. We can finally turn off the AC, open the windows, and rejoice in the fact that shopping is the preferred fall activity. And it’s exactly this atmosphere that makes it the perfect time of year for events, contests, and giveaways to engage with your customers.

And whether you have a physical location or are solely online, we’re brewing up some festive event and social media contest ideas for small business owners of every kind.

What Can’t You Do With Pumpkins?

We are a country in love with pumpkins. And why wouldn’t we be? There are so many fun, festive things you can do with these ridiculous orange blobs. From eating and drinking them, carving them, to launching them into the atmosphere, we have consistently found new ways to show our love for the ultimate fall food.

So it only makes sense that if we love something, we should try to use it for marketing purposes. Luckily for you, the pumpkin is as multifunctional in marketing as it is in the kitchen. From photo contests to in-store events, here are some of our favorite in-store and social media contest ideas for the fall season.

Social Contests: Tweets, Pics, and Comments

The best thing about running contests on social media is that they are prize-optional. On these mediums, simply being recognized as clever is prize enough.

  • How about a caption contest? These aren’t really seasonal, but you can give it a fall twist by taking a picture of an adorable baby sitting next to some pumpkins, putting your grumpy cat in the pumpkin patch and taking a few good shots, or catching your dog in the act of chewing up a nice orange gourd. Make this your weekly ritual, and begin posting these images on Facebook and ask your fans to submit their best caption. And if you have a sizable number of fans already, encourage them to submit their favorite pumpkin pics! While this is not exactly a contest, it can be a great way to get the conversation going with your customers. After all, the whole point of social media is to get social!
  • Want to try something really Pinteresting? Get your fans more involved with your other social channels by creating a Pinterest-based contest. These can be simple “respond to enter” contests, where each response or ‘pin’ is an entry. To garner feedback, you can create a board filled with your latest products and ask fans to leave a comment on their favorite product, describing why they love it. You could even go a step further and create a board that allows outside contributions and ask your fans to pin their favorite pumpkin-themed image to the board. The winner of these contests can receive anything from a free gift card to a specific item.
  • Giveaways! Not all contests have to result in a prize, but if you can spare a few items, this is a great way to inspire people to sign up and get to know your business. Because of Facebook’s recent adjustments to contest rules, fans can ‘like,’ comment, or share your post to enter your contest. As opposed to creating a contest app, this is a more informal way of encouraging interaction on your page.
  • Make it simple. You can simply ask for ‘Likes’ to enter a gift basket giveaway, or whatever item you decide upon. Go a step further and ask for submissions to name your newest product, and let the rest of your fans vote for a winner.
  • Keep it relevant. But even the best social media contest ideas won’t work if they don’t make sense with your products. So whatever type of contest/giveaway you decide on, be sure to tailor it to your business. If you own a small bakery, ask your followers to submit their favorite pumpkin-themed recipe, and bake it for free for the winner while featuring it as a limited-quantity item to the rest of your customers. This is your opportunity to get creative and get your customers involved in the process.
  • Build credibility first. And if you’re wondering what the point of a social media contest is, remember that buying decisions don’t happen overnight anymore. Consumers are more apt to trust and buy from a business they have built a relationship with over social media. Think of this as the first step in establishing lasting customers.

In-Person: Pumpkin Drawing, Throwing, Etc.

Formerly known as ‘pumpkin carving,’ pumpkin drawing is the safer, kid-friendly alternative that you can offer as part of an in-store or fall festival event. Whether you’re having an event, or just want to engage with your customers, having some mini pumpkins on hand for kids to draw on will go a long way in creating a welcoming environment for your shoppers with children. Create a “pumpkin corner” in your store with chairs for kids to amuse themselves while their parents shop.

If you do want to go further, determine when your high-traffic store hours are and plan out a kid-friendly shopping event, complete with a great sale, complimentary coffee and treats, and free pumpkins to occupy the little ones. You’re going to have to go out and actually buy some pumpkins (from the local farmer’s market, of course), but this is a perfect way to draw out shoppers with kids, and documenting the event can result in great pictures for social media.

Or your could try Punkin Chunkin. Not familiar? More popularly known as the state sport of Delaware, Punkin Chunkin is the act of chucking a pumpkin as far as you can, either with your bare hands or with the help of some slingshot-esque object, and watch as it explodes on the pavement. How can you do this?

First, find a great place. The best would be a public park that is close to your store. This might take a little more coordinating that your typical in-store event, but the final product will be well worth it. Either contact the city yourself to get a permit to use the park for the day, or get in touch with your local small business association to see if they have any thoughts or can get involved. And while you’re out there, you can set up a few tables with your products, and invite your fellow small business owners to join in. I guess planning a fall event isn’t that hard after all!

Get the Most Out of Fall

The common denominator to all of these contests is the promotion via social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are where your audience is, sharing pumpkin recipes and pictures of cats dressed as pumpkins. And fall is the perfect time to get more into social media – everyone is so thrilled about the change of the season that it’ll be easy to join in the conversation.

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