Small Business Social Media Trends for 2014

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Small Business Social Media Trends for 2014

After reading a Forbes Magazine article on the trends of social media I realized that so much is geared toward the Big Box or heavily branded product (Nike, Coca Cola, Sony, etc.) so I am adapting its article to benefit the small to mid-sized business. With new social media outlets appearing everywhere, it can be hard to know exactly where to commit your resources.  We’ll breakdown what is out there and detail what will be important in 2014.

The following six items are predictions from Forbes Magazine as what will be in 2014.  Below each is my commentary on it affects the small business.

1. Social Media Will Become a Necessity, Not a Luxury

If you’re not currently utilizing at least two social media outlets then you are already behind the curve and whether you know it or not, your business is suffering.  The one element the small business had was it’s personal relationship with its customers.  Social Media is the new “personal relationship.”  In fact, it is quickly becoming the preferred way of communicating with brands and businesses.  The key is interaction and some of the biggest companies out there are doing it.  From personal experience I can say that Virgin America, K-mart, JCPenny, and a host of television networks and shows are masterful with their utilization of social media.  Social media is growing, it is another example of how businesses must grow with the times.

As businesses see measurable benefits, we’ll see a move away from assigning social media tasks to existing employees, and see more companies hiring social media strategists or full-time social media managers.

2. Google+ Will Become a Major Factor

While Facebook continues to lead the pack in terms of number of active monthly users (1.15 billion at last count), Google+ now has the second highest number of monthly users (343 million).

With Google using the platform to collect personal information (think demographics, location, etc.), Google+ should no longer be thought of as ‘just’ another social network. It’s increasingly proving itself to be an integral part of Google’s grand scheme in terms of SEO, social signals and providing a more personalized search experience.  I believe that businesses who are finding themselves spread thin with their social media efforts will increasingly turn to Google+ as the closest thing we have to a ‘one size fits all’ social network.

3. Image-Centric Networks Will See Huge Success (Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)

Visual content will increasingly become a critical piece of any solid content strategy, and social networking site Pinterest will continue to shed its reputation as a ‘women’s only’ network and become an integral part of retailers’ marketing strategies.  Pinterest is a social media outlet that I suggest all my clients be on if their product is a visual one.

For years we’ve been taught to protect the images on your websites to ensure they couldn’t be swiped or copied.  Now, we’re encouraging clients to make their web content sharable.  Other image-based social media sites like Slideshare, Tumblr, Path, and Mobli will continue to grow, and businesses must make content available for sharing.  The ability to make content sharable will derive significant benefit from their social media content marketing efforts.

4. We’ll Witness the Rise of Micro-Video

With the emergence of micro video apps like Twitter’s Vine and now Instagram’s video sharing feature, we’re seeing even more movement toward real-time video sharing. And not just any videos; with Instagram allowing 3-15 seconds per video, and Vine allowing precisely 6 seconds, users are even more likely to create and share videos from their smart phones.  Businesses should be doing the same thing.

It will be interesting to see if and how these bite-sized pieces of content will change the playing field when it comes to video-based social media.

5. Foursquare Will Decline Sharply

Did anyone know that Foursquare was still in operation?  With other more popular social media outlets allowing for “check-ins” Foursquare will continue to decline unless it can quickly come up with something new and dynamic.

6. MySpace, Love it or Hate it, Will Grow

MySpace is doing it’s best to make a comeback.  Doesn’t Justin Timberlake own a big chunk of it? It will not compete with Facebook, but don’t count out its innovations in 2014.  We may be reporting on it very favorably by 2015.

. . . Anyway,

Facebook and Twitter show no signs of decline in use, but it will be interesting to see how they innovate to keep up with the growth of Google+ as well as image and video-based networks.  Currently, I consider Facebook and Twitter the absolute MUST-HAVES for all of my clients.  In 2014, I am insisting that Google+ be added to that list.  While Google+ is the fastest growing, I still believe that Facebook and Twitter are more heavily used and seen.

While most business owners are aware of the necessity of having a social media strategy, I believe 2014 will be the year where a majority of businesses will finally understand the necessity to commit the necessary time and resources to their social media efforts.

Social Media is how big business is establishing personal relationships with their customers.  The personal relationships that were considered unique to small, local businesses.  Social Media Strategy is no longer a “fad” but instead a “fact of life.”

A Depiction of the Survival of the Jehovah’s Witness Religion

In 2012 Jess Black released an entire art collection about his experience in and eventually abandoning the Jehovah’s Witness religion.  An art collection of this kind had never been done before.  The live streaming exhibition with a 3-hour live chat resulted in people signing on from six continents, 25 countries, and 312 cities. The title of the collection was Leather Bound in Black or Red, which Black states is a reference to the color choice every time he was given a New World Translation Bible.  Black is now offering an affordable limited edition print to collectors from the Leather Bound in Black or Red collection.

One of the things that became evident is that the the price point of the paintings was out of reach for most of the people to whom the paintings meant the most.  People asked for prints or posters of some of the paintings, but offering any type of print program was not part of the business plan, at least at the time.  This changed when Leigh & Luca – New York contacted Jess Black to do a line of fashion scarves that featured his art work.  Some of the advance sales were to people who could not afford a $5000 paintings, but could afford a $300 scarf.  Black was sent several pictures of framed scarves that adorned people’s walls.  It was at this moment that the decision to make low quantity prints occurred.

The painting selected was Running From Grace.  This painting encapsulates 10 years of Black’s life, the two years leading up to him leaving the JW faith and the eight years in Running From GraceNew York living on his own.  He explains, “This paintings is not about religious oppression. It’s about freedom and truth.  Not “The Truth,” but the real truth that they don’t want you to know. It was difficult at first.  Being a Jehovah’s Witness means you are not given the tools to deal with or navigate the world outside that cultish bubble.  But once you figure it out there is no better life.”

Running From Grace is filled with subtleties and viewers of the piece will continue to see something new to which they will personally relate.  It is a 20×16 on archival paper.  Each piece is hand signed and numbered by the artist with a maximum edition of 25.  Each includes a certificate of authenticity and sells for $425.  For more details or to purchase a print please visit Jess Black’s website.

Print or Not to Print – The Dilemma of the Artist

For years I advised artists that once they commit to sell limited edition prints of their work they have set a course for their careers.  To some degree I still believe this, but now it seems easier to navigate the line of “Blue Chip Artist” and “Print Artist.”

First of all, there really isn’t a wrong decision as long as one is informed.  However, there is a wrong decision if your goal is to get into the finest art galleries worldwide while you are making a mark as an artist who derives his or her primary income from limited edition print sales.  In a nutshell, it wont happen.  Nevertheless, artist Jess Black has decided to sell prints of his work and remain on track to be tomorrow’s blue-chip artist.

Jess Black’s paintings are typically 48×60 in dimension.  They’re relatively large pieces on canvas and he’s fairly prolific.  The decision was made to release about four prints per year with each print being limited to 25 in the edition.  Furthermore, each piece will be Imageprinted as a 20×16 on paper.  There is no competition with the originals in both medium/substrate and price.  The most important factor here is that the exclusivity of the prints make them feel like a rare opportunity and he is not inundating the market with limited edition prints.  Furthermore, he is not establishing a reputation of being a print artist.  The latter being the most important.

Followers of Black have been asking for prints for a couple years now.  There has been reluctance to produce prints for reasons already discussed.  However, carefully managed we can open up Jess’ collector base and keep his work, originals and prints, exclusive. After all, several of his pieces have already been selected by Leigh & Luca – New York to become fashion scarves.  This collection is being released in June 2013 with 100% of proceeds benefiting animal rescue organizations.  People have lined up to buy the scarves with plans of framing them.  This led us to the inescapable conclusion that limited edition prints were in too much of a demand to ignore it.

Each of the limited edition pieces will be printed on high quality archival paper with a one inch border.  Jess will hand sign and number each piece as it is prepared for shipping or delivery. Each fine art print will arrive in a protective sleeve with a certificate of authenticity.  For more information visit his website at www.jessblackart.com

What Qualities Make Someone a Social Media Expert?

Is there anything that actually qualifies someone as a social media expert? Social media is complex. It combines the knowledge of how the social media platform works, knowing statistics of who utilizes social media, a thorough knowledge of marketing concepts, and most importantly an ability to understand “group-think” and to create a likable and persuasive online personality. So, do social media experts actually exist? Maybe. But most of the people who claim to be experts have no business doing so.

Many believe that because they are familiar with the functioning of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc. that this qualifies them as experts. This is equivalent to memorizing the vocabulary of a foreign language and calling yourself multi-lingual. You might know the words, but you’re clueless to context, point-of-reference, tense, idioms, etc. To be an expert there is much more to know than how a social media outlet operates.

Who is your target demographic? Which social media outlet has better penetration and at what times should you be posting? For example, the typical person is on Facebook 12-13 minutes a day. That’s a small window to get people to see fresh information. However, 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook as soon as they wake up. Therefore, if you’re going to post or advertise it would seem wise to do so between 7-9am M-F. Pinterest users, for example, are comprised primarily of women with plenty of discretionary spending budgets. If social media “experts” do not know the ins and outs of who/what/where/why of each social media outlet then they cannot be considered an expert because they’re not as effective as they should be.

Social media people need to understand the relationship between advertising, marketing, and sales. They need to be grounded in the science of selecting audiences and the art of persuading hearts and minds. This doesn’t mean that your social media “expert” needs to come from the marketing department. He or she just needs a healthy respect for the role social media plays in the overall marketing process. Social media should help the bottom line. Someone who makes you popular but can’t convert that popularity into sales may not be an “expert.”

The person who handle social media must be able to create a likable online personality. More importantly, if this person manages many individual social media accounts he or she must be able to tap into each client’s online personality and post accordingly. Social media is 80% psychology and 20% marketing. The best social media “experts” are students of human nature. They are fascinated by group psychology and love people watching. Social media professionals want to understand why certain people are influential or influenced and what makes them tick.

Finally, a lot is being written about Social Media Influencers. An influencer is someone with a large online presence and a great deal of followers. They influence people. Whether or not they are social media experts is a completely separate issue.

People have asked me if I am a Social Media Expert. I always state that I do not consider myself an expert really because I am always learning from others, but I definitely know quite a bit more than the average person and considerably more than most people who call themselves experts. The fact is that Social Media is changing so quickly that the best we can hope for is being a stellar student of Social Media. We take our hard earned knowledge and offer it to those less stellar or to those who are too busy being stellar at something else.

What To Do With Social Media Backlash (Our Company is Hated on Yelp)

(Inspired by and excerpts taken from an article written by Brian Conlin)

Some negative reviews are legitimate, but a growing number of hateful posts are more about the poster than the business being attacked.  Haters are attacking businesses on social media and customer review sites for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with a service or product.  At times it becomes adult cyber bullying.

It is happening all of the time and it’s more than a nuisance. It can hurt your brand, your reputation, and cause a loss of customers.  Depending on the severity it can adversely affect employee morale.

Here are eight steps for dealing with online criticism:

1. Know the troublemakers

– Trolls – Individuals who create havoc for fun and thrive on emotional reactions.

– Sock puppets – People assuming a false identity for the purpose of entertainment.

– Defamers ­– Users who spread false information as a statement of fact.

– Difficult people – People who act thoughtlessly or want to put you in your place, often using aggressive language.

2. Listen, listen, listen

When someone attacks your business and work, it is easy to become defensive. Give your full attention to what the person says without thinking of your response. If you craft a response while listening, you may miss the tone of the message.

3. Do you need to respond?

Just because someone publishes a negative tweet about your company or product doesn’t mean you have to respond. Use past experience to determine if it’s worth your time. If you do respond, consider what type of resources to use to address the issue.

4. Determine who to engage

When faced with multiple problems, you should perform triage and respond to the ones that have the greatest potential to damage your brand first.

Before responding attempt to summarize the problem as succinctly as possible, write down who is involved and examine the timeline of when the negative comments began. Organizing this will help you determine how to respond.

How to handle online criticism depends greatly upon where the criticism is coming from.

5. Ask open-ended questions

When faced with a perceived attack on your brand, you should suspend judgment until you understand the point of the other side. Get to the bottom of the issue by asking open-ended questions.

6. Know your anger triggers

By understanding what comments and topics make you upset, you will be more likely to keep cool and remain nimble and clear-headed as you handle the situation.

7. Research the troublemaker

Review the blog, social networks and any other information you can find about the troublemaker. This will help you determine that person’s conflict style and what type of outcome they want to create with their comments.

8. Look internally

Look at your company’s history to determine if this is the first time the problem has arisen or the group complaining. If your company has dealt with similar problems in the past it can show you what to do or what not to do when resolving the situation.

Sometimes complaints are recurring problem are a great way to identify issues within our company that need to be explored and corrected.  With these corrections we improve and grow stronger.  An important point to be made here is the we ALL have some kind of issue(s) that need to be corrected.  If you believe otherwise then I recommend a reality check.  Nevertheless, almost any attack can reach resolution or turned into a positive outcome.  A perfect example was a group of businesses that got together and formed an association “We’re Hated on Yelp.”  They evident sense of humor brought in new customers.

Just Because You Want Publicity Does Not Mean You Should Have Publicity

Everyone wants publicity for their products and services. But just because they want it does not mean they should get it. There are a lot of questions everyone should ask themselves before seeking publicity.

First, you must ensure that what you have really is as fantastic as you think it is. If it’s not and you get press coverage then the end result can be devastating. Secondly, you must have some kind of angle. What you do or what you have is not always enough. You must be able to position it in a way that explains how your product will make a significant different to the end-users (media viewers or readers). You need to start with a marketing plan so you know HOW to promote.

What aspect of your product makes it totally different from the competition, and focus
only on that when you talk to the press. You cannot promote price or quality as the differentiating factor. You have to have an angle the entices the media, which isn’t easy. Keep in mind that they receive press releases and pitches all day, every day. How are you TRULY different and how can you entice media in one or two sentences? Also, make sure you pitch to the correct media, do not throw it out to everyone and see what sticks. Determine what magazines, newspapers, and other media sources are watched or read by your potential customers and pitch to them.

Getting press coverage is not easy. There is a reason that publicists are among the best paid individuals in Los Angeles. You can leverage your chances by affiliating yourself with a nonprofit charity. The press are more apt to report about a commercial product if part of the proceeds benefit a charity. Find a qualified organization that matches the purpose of your product. Several years ago I was tasked with getting attention for a children’s art exhibition with the theme “A Child’s Dream.” It was fascinating to the children and their parents, but few others took interest. I had the idea to work with Starlight Children’s Foundation. We would create an auction that would benefit this organization. A quiet little reception became a red carpet event with Disney stars making appearances and posing for photographs with the young artists. It was an evening that neither Starlight or I could have put together without each other.

The lesson here is to ensure that what you’re selling truly is remarkable. When it’s time for publicity put yourself in the position of the press. Give them something to write about that will interest their viewers.

Five Tools Every Entrepreneur Should Master

The following is derived from an article in Forbes magazine that I have adjusted to apply to the start up entrepreneur.

1.) Passion

You better have some serious passion for what you do. This is no time to whip out the tiny tack hammer. You need a sledge hammer sized amount of passion. Think of it this way — passion is the fuel to keep you fired up about your idea, industry and business every minute of every day.  You will need to call on this passion during times of frustration.  What frustration?  Read my entry “Entrepreneurship is Not for Wimps.”

Let me give you an example: Bill Phillips, current CEO and Founder of Transformation, has earned a sizable amount of money over the years as an entrepreneur. The guy is some kind of fitness guru. Fully engaged in exercise, nutrition, muscular science and anything else to build a better body and live a more healthy life. A genius at what he does — and he’s got the bankroll to prove it.

But how has he literally earned tens of millions of dollars in the fitness industry? I propose to you because he has a fanatic passion about it. Yes —fanatic.

Lives it. Breathes it. Sleeps it. Eats it. He was a kid sneaking off to lift steel barbell weights in a dark closet next to the gym during lunch in junior high. Yes – over 34 years of fanatical passion.  This is a perfect example of my own client, Feel the Burn Bootcamp.

2.) High Risk Tolerance + Tenacity

Next up is a big dose of risk tolerance combined with tenacity. Are you afraid to step out? Fearful you’ll fail miserably as an entrepreneur? So scared out of your wits it stops you dead in your tracks from even trying?

Well, shake it off. Rise up out of your chair and grab risk by the throat. Stare it down and confidently press on with a tenacious glare in your eye. 

Take for example Clate Mask, CEO and Co-Founder of InfusionSoft. The guy is a fighter. Willing to risk it all in pursuit of his vision for a stellar company. But unwilling to quit in the face of adversity. His wife tells a great story of the early years of InfusionSoft and how they almost decided to throw in the towel. Clate was about to go find a job somewhere so they could feed the family. But guess what? He didn’t cave. He kept going. Shooting flames of tenacity from his nostrils. And the company he co-founded and didn’t quit on?  They just raised $54 million in capital led by Goldman Sachs.  It’s about perseverance . . . tenacity.

3.) Domain Dominance

Remember how fanatical passion is a must for your entrepreneurial toolkit? If you’re one step ahead of me — you’ll see the connection between passion and domain dominance.

If you’re truly passionate about something. Living, breathing and eating it every day, guess what happens over time? Yes — you become an expert in it. You gain absolute domain expertise. Again I will refer to both Mills and Phillips as examples. These guys both became so naturally immersed in their areas of passion they couldn’t help but become domain experts. When you and your business are looked to as the experts in your field — you’ve reached an unparalleled position of power and influence. 

4.) A Team

If you ask any successful entrepreneur about the reasons for their success — I guarantee you (unless they’re complete ego maniacs) they will mention their “team” as playing a major role. Ask Bill Gates. Ask Jack Dorsey. Ask Richard Branson.

But what if you call yourself a “solo-preneur”? Does putting together a team still apply?

Absolutely. You are not a one-man (or woman) band. Even if you think so.

The bottom line is every successful entrepreneur needs to build a team around them. A team motivated toward the same vision and goals. And no — it doesn’t have to be people punching time clocks on your payroll. Author Scott Fox (“Click Millionaires — Work Less & Live More with an Internet Business You Love”), declares that “today you don’t need all the physical infrastructure of traditional business — no storefront, office, furniture, parking or even full-time employees.”

With the availability through sites like oDesk and Elance — you can easily put together a team of players to help you reach your entrepreneurial goals.

And don’t forget — your vendors, contractors, mentors and partners all play a major role on your team as well.

5.) Mentor & Coach

Speaking of mentors — Jeff Walker, CEO and founder of Internet Alchemy,says “having coaches, mentors and role models is absolutely critical to success”.

The right mentor and coach can add value beyond anything you can imagine. Why? Because here is your challenge:

You are currently unaware of the things you do not know.

Basically, you have blind spots. But it’s okay because we all have them in different areas of our lives.

Basically, you have blind spots. But it’s okay because we all have them in different areas of our lives.

So just like every entrepreneur out there — you have a choice to make. You can either choose the path of the wise and get a mentor and coach to help you see those blind spots; or you can choose to go it alone. I would encourage you in the strongest language possible to get a mentor or coach. Just find someone you can trust; who knows what they’re talking about with business and is a good fit for you. Believe me — you’ll look back and see it was one of the smartest moves you ever made.