With companies like Best Buy “setting up shop” on Facebook my clients are in somewhat of a panic to compete. First of all, as I’ve said since the beginning, you cannot compete with big business on their level. If you could you wouldn’t be a “truly small business” any more – and wouldn’t need my advice.
Instead, be the best you can be and win because you are a small business that knows people buy from you because you offer better service and truly care about each individual customer. (We all know that at Best Buy and other stores like them we’re just a telephone number :-D). People shop at big stores because they are looking for the best deal. As a small retailer you are not going to have that. Instead you will have the best selection for your customers!
“Social Commerce” is going to happen – there is no way to avoid it. But instead of using the tools that are provided to “make you dependent” on Facebook (or any other social site) do the work yourself and drive your customers to your website to browse and then encourage them to “chat you up” on FB via their own profile. You can also put a “post a review” link on your site that takes them to your Google Places page and lets them post a review. Where else are you listed where people can post reviews? There are tons of local shopping sites where you can have a free listing and people can comment on your service etc – make sure you’re leveraging these free services. Granted, your site may not yet have the “rate this product” feature but you can still generate buzz on Facebook and other sites about it by introducing it as a post on your Fan page – people can still comment on Facebook about it but the link takes them to your website and doesn’t keep them on Facebook like the FB “shop” tab is designed to do.
Again, I’m not saying ditch FB – just don’t let them own you.
As always, although I love making money doing what I love, I want to always hold true to my core values. I started this business with the goal of empowering other small businesses by helping them navigate the (sometimes overwhelming) information highway and find their place on the World Wide Web. Yes, I sell the services to do this for you – but I try very hard not to offer a service without reminding you that you can do what I do for yourself if you are willing to. So I generally don’t announce a new product or service without first putting together a “how to do this for yourself list”. So, here is my answer to the latest trend in search engine marketing (we have branded this Search Engine Dominance):
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Social Media refers to sites where visitors can interact with each other in one way or another. Also referred to Web 2.0 (a term I still haven’t seen fully embraced), Social Media is not a new product, in fact it’s been around longer than I’ve been on the web (and that has been since dinosaurs roamed the lands and AOL was the be all and end all of “you’ve got mail” connections.
I actually gained the foundation of the knowledge that has allowed me to make a business out of my love for technology from a guy that my Mom met in an “online forum”! She posted a question about something and this guy had a great answer – so she emailed him and thanked him. They started “chatting” via EMail and he introduced her to ICQ – this was pre-Instant Messaging from AOL.
So, social media is definetely not “new”. What is “new” is the attention it is getting from the search engines and the hype it is getting from the media – all of this is driving traffic to sites like FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twitter and, oh, let’s not forget MySpace (although oddly enough I haven’t heard MySpace be mentioned in the media outside of cyber bullying in almost a year!).
What you may not know is “social media” also refers to things like Blogs, Forums and other online communities. When you are getting “hyped” about the importance of Facebook and other social marketing sites, keep in mind, Facebook wants you to be hyped because they want to sell ads to people that want to know everything about you (which you provide when you set up your profile). Facebook is not your “friend” it is a business designed to bring traffic in so that they can provide statistics to potential advertisers that say “Hey, I want to sell to 50 year old women – can you help?”.
Do I still think you need a Fan Page – absolutely – but don’t think that a FaceBook Fan page is going to give you long term success. View it as only one tool in your tool box. Especially keep in mind that if you are making money off of that fan page and Facebook isn’t getting their share of it – the program will change.
When I “sell” a client on an SEM (Search Engine Marketing) program I do the things listed in my post Steps to Search Engine Dominance – but you can do these things for yourself!
One of my clients called today because his “boss” just got back from a Search Engine Marketing seminar and this prompted a lot of questions – of course – I LOVE these phone calls because part of my goal with my business is to empower each client (all small business owners, most like me struggling to make a living doing something they love). We did a quick review of his website and I gave him some instant homework that, if he does it will make an immediate impact on his “search rankings” – basically I walked him through the points I list on my Search Engine Dominance article on my website.
But what prompted me to write this post was his question – “are there any books you can recommend to help me understand this?”. My answer was, yes there are thousands. Then I followed up with an email stating the following:
As you read the books and articles or even websites you will find on this subject, keep in mind that 9 out of 10 sites that are telling you how important Search Engine Marketing and Social Media have become are really “selling” their services. I guess in a way I am too but I have a different take on the whole thing – my perspective is that the only thing a site owner can be 100% sure of is that the search ranking criteria WILL CHANGE – so the “quick fix” that works today may not work in 6 months or a year – therefore, the most important thing any website owner can do is make sure their site says what it does and does what it says.
Today it’s “social media” – the concept of using online communities to hype your website, filling your profile and fan pages with “key word links” and tons of borderline useless content and links back to your website. But bottom the reality if you tell the search engines your site is about Purple Widgets and you put enough key words in your page titles etc to come up number one for Purple Widgets but then Purple Widget shoppers get to your site and find out you really offer only Green Widgets – you’re going to lose in the long run.
Moral to the story – do the right thing, provide the information that people that you want to be your customers are looking for, edit that content to include the phrases, page titles and key word links (to pages within your site as well as quality complimentary sites) that they will search for and you will have success.