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.”

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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.

21 PR Mistakes

The following is taken directly from Business Insider magazine.  It encapsulates everything that I tell to clients.  While it’s nice to be validated by the larger agencies, sometimes it’s nice to hear information from other sources.  My personal comments are in bold.

Public relations is more important than most small business owners realize. But before you take a deep dive into PR, you should know: It’s not the 80’s – everything has changed. You may have built a profitable company, but with the right public relations strategy, you’re on the brink of developing a world-class “brand.”

Before you develop illusions of grandeur about landing on The Today Show or the front page of national news — you should be keenly aware of the mistakes that most small business makes when it comes to PR.  So many believe that they should instantly be at the top because of how superior they feel their product is.  In actuality, the superiority of one’s product is the foundation on which to build, not a free pass to the top.

We’ve tapped some of the nation’s leading public relations firms, run by entrepreneurs just like you, to uncover the number one PR mistake your small business makes. Are you, and your agency, doing PR right? Let’s find out.

1. Don’t discount relationships with bloggers. Keep media relationships at a happy and healthy pace with timely information – it works wonders! Heck, one of my clients will be on the Today Show because of it.  This is the foundation of my company.  Never underestimate your online presence.

Seattle: Jaime Palmucci, Founder/Digital Strategy Director at Debutante Media: @debutantemedia

2. Make your business newsworthy.  If you think editors should just write about your company simply because it launched – think again. Don’t leave out news value or potential news angles and ideas.  Your company might be brilliant, but something becomes newsworthy when there is an angle.  There needs to be a perspective that gets attention.

Chicago: Molly Lynch, Founder/Managing Director at Lynch Communications Group: @mollylynch

3. Trust your PR agency!  You hired us for a reason, so listen to us. If we suggest you need new photography, you probably do. If we tell you that you need to do this interview, you need to do it. Challenging your PR agency’s expertise is only going to defeat the purpose of hiring us.  We’re here to help you, so let us help.

NYC: Lauren Rich, Founder + Director at RICHPR: @RICHPRStar

4.  Include PR as part of your ongoing business model. If you opt for DIY PR, remember that sending a poorly crafted press release here and there and expecting it to bring you exposure won’t work.

Portland: Carey Powell, ACC, President/Owner at Fearless PR and Media: @FearlessCoach

5.  Invest in your company’s profile.  Invest your time, energy and budgets in building your brand through media relations, social media, speaking engagements and more. As a small business, it’s important to build a strong foundation for your brand, and in turn, your company will appear more credible and dynamic to target media and potential customers.

Charleston: Beth M. Cleveland, Principal at Elm Public Relations: @PR_Beth

6.  Choose the right firm to represent your brand. It is crucial that you and your public relations firm are on the right page, and definitely a part of the same industry. Don’t sign with a PR firm just because your friend owns it, you like the website, or because you can afford them. A PR agency should be the final missing puzzle piece and the right fit to complete your vision.  Agreed!  As the owner of a small agency I also have to be aware of my own reputation.  I focus on smaller businesses, individuals, and independent films because I know I can make a positive impact.  At this point my company will not entertain larger format companies or companies with an established brand.  It’s our job at JSM to build a brand from the ground up.

NYC: Jordanna Stephen, Founder/President at Touch of Pink Public Relations: @TouchofPinkPR

7. Random pitching is not a strategy. Don’t send poorly constructed, non-targeted press releases and pitches to random media outlets – it is a huge mistake. A large majority of business owners don’t take the time to understand how journalists and editors work, and in turn their press releases and pitches end up in the trash.  So many are under the impression that this is a numbers game.  Throw enough out there and something will stick. The reality is that if you throw crap out there you are damaging your reputation.  One good release does not offset 20 poorly crafted pitches.

NYC: Kristin Marquet, President at Marquet Media: @KristinMarquet

8. Don’t underestimate what it takes to make media magic. A tremendous amount of time and energy is required to make media placement magic happen! And once you land a major press hit, not using the placement for marketing is a huge mistake. A mention in Real Simple, a quote in the New York Times, or an appearance on Good Day New York should be a part of your credentials.

NYC: Andrea Samacicia, Owner at Victory Public Relations: @VictoryCom

9. Don’t hire an agency that doesn’t do research. Research is an essential component to any PR plan. Your agency should know your audiences, industry, competitors, relevant media outlets and appropriate contacts.  Post-campaign research is also necessary to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Though research is the most neglected, it is the most valuable aspect to ensure results.

Miami: Danika Daly, President/CEO at Danika Daly PR: @danikadaly

10. Get out of your own way. Don’t create your own hurdles by spending too much time on who you want to be instead of who you are. Finding your own voice is so important because PR will broadcast that, so that people can find you. This is the reverse of what a lot of small businesses and publicists do, which is to go out and try to change minds. You run a business, not a charity. Sell nuts to squirrels.

Chicago: Philip Chang, Partner at Carbon Publicity : @strongerbonds

11. Refine your media lists. Targeting big-name press and media outlets, just because they have name recognition and large audiences isn’t always the best way to go. There is far more value in a local and niche media outlets, where your audience will be more relevant and interested in your message.

Chicago: Ryan Evans, President at Bitesize PR: @bitesizepr

12. Maximize the momentum. Most businesses don’t know how to maximize the exposure they get with a public relations program. There is so much more you can do with an article, a news clip, radio interview or blog review after it airs or runs. And once you receive press, don’t rely on PR solely to move the needle with sales without any other type of marketing or advertising program.

NYC: Elyse Bender-Segall, CEO at PR Revolution: @prrevolution

13. Be realistic and give it time. You don’t give PR enough time to work effectively, and expect it to make your business flourish overnight. Many small businesses only utilize PR for a short amount of time and then abandon it quickly when it doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations.

Los Angeles: Steven Le Vine, President/CEO at Grapevine PR: @grapevinepr

14. Invest in your brand. Don’t underestimate the value of investing in professional photography, branding collateral and press samples. Presentation is everything when you launch a new brand and introduce your business to influencers, media and to the public for the first time. To get the most out of your PR investment, be sure to equip your publicist or agency with the proper tools to succeed.

NYC: Carla M. Nikitaidis, President/Founder at CMN PR @cmnpr

15. Understand your target audience. Small businesses sometimes shoot for coverage in outlets that are not relevant to their audience or end goals. When planning PR strategy, the intended business results should always be at the forefront — not coverage just to have “ink”.  This is extremely important.  The goal is to target those who are most likely to become your customers.  Again, “shoot-in-the-dark” PR does not work.  

NYC: Karen D’Angelo Hopp, Co-Founder/Partner at Bazini Hopp: @karenhopp

16. Hire a Firm that Get’s It!  Don’t hire a large PR firm for namesake that can’t cater to the unique needs of a small business. With a small agency or consultant you can, more often than not, spend a lot less money and get a higher level of work done. If you hire a consultant, you can gain 11 years of experience for the price of a junior account executive at a larger firm and know who’s handling your account.  This is exactly why I started JSM.  There was a need for talented individuals and quality small businesses who had only nominal budgets.

Los Angeles: Elizabeth Rosenberg, President at LOFT Marketing & Communications: @loftmkt

17. Learn what public relations really means. Many small business owners are extremely excited to be in business and assume the most immediate need for their business is public relations. PR is a component of Marketing, so it’s essential for you to have a clear understanding of your brand first and to set some long-term marketing goals prior to seeking PR.  With the internet many, including myself, are finding that the lines of market and PR are blurring a little bit.  The differences still exist.  Marketing establishes what your are and how you will be perceived.  PR makes sure that everyone knows about it.  However, I can release a marketing campaign online that accomplishes both tasks.  The lines have blurred.

Houston: Ashley Small, President/Digital PR Specialist at Medley Incorporated: @ashleyrsmall

18. Create a crisis management plan. A mistake or failure on the operations side requires fast mobilization to address the underlying issue as well as the resultant problems with key audiences. Too many small organizations don’t think it’s worth investing any time or capital in this area, and they frequently pay for it in the long run – because the margin of error drops to zero over time for any successful business.

Los Angeles: Brad Chase, Partner at Capitol Media Partners: @mrbradchase

19. Stop pitching the wrong media outlet. Too often small businesses (and some PR firms) don’t take the time to make sure a media outlet is the right fit for their publicity needs. Pitching to everyone is a waste of time and a great way to get blacklisted.  This goes back to my statement about thinking this is a numbers game.  Pitches must be strategic or ultimately we must go into crisis prevention mode to recover a company’s good reputation.

Austin: Shennandoah Diaz, CEO and Master of Mayhem at Brass Knuckles Media: @brasskmedia

20. Think beyond the press release. PR is a relationship between your company and the media. Nurturing that relationship is invaluable. Befriend reporters relevant to your business and make sure they know you and your company long before you have a new release or other press event. Then when the time comes you’re sharing news with a good friend and not sending a Word document full of press speak.

NYC: Sarah Kunst, Founder at whEnroute: @sarahkunst

21. Be prepared. Great, we can get you coverage but you need a call to action. Always invest first in a web site that functions before investing in media relations as part of PR. Also PR needs to be a priority; it is an investment in the longevity of your business so please make time for it.   !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There you have it.   PR can make a world of difference for your company.  Do not underestimate its potency.  But also understand that it builds upon itself and is not overnight.   For more information please visit http://www.jeffsteck.com.