Small Business Social Media Marketing Strategies

Being a small business owner requires the ability to wear many hats and become proficient in multiple skills. Long before opening the doors, owners must develop strategic business and marketing plans to ensure required tasks are accomplished.

Perhaps the greatest challenge for small business owners is engaging in effective and affordable marketing strategies. While it is nearly impossible to build brand recognition without substantial marketing efforts, this venue can be cost-prohibitive for companies just starting out.

Social media marketing is a venue that is not only affordable, but can yield powerful results. This technique can be interconnected with other online marketing strategies to obtain maximum online visibility.

Most people are familiar with social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. Nearly every major consumer brand has implemented a Facebook business page. This venue is effective for interacting with consumers and offering private discounts or sales offers to subscribers.

Social media outlets can be used to promote company websites, blogs, marketing videos, podcasts, digital newsletters, press releases, and informational articles. Business owners can interact with subscribers to obtain feedback, build momentum about a new product release, and share company news.

Social media marketing also encompasses social bookmarking through websites such as StumbleUpon and Digg. Not only can companies promote their own marketing collateral, they can also share resources about other companies. This provides opportunity to build customer relations and expand business connections.

Another form of social marketing is publishing comments to like-minded blogs or websites. Many companies use this strategy to develop relationships with businesses that would be a good marketing partner.

For example, FoodBuzz.com is the #1 online foodie network. It provides a venue where food bloggers can meet other foodies and share recipes. However, FoodBuzz has numerous sponsors who reach out to food bloggers and provide incentives to promote their products. This is a prime example of co-op marketing that not only reduces time, but also costs.

Leaving comments on company websites and blogs is a good strategy for link building online. Link building is essential for boosting search engine rankings. While search engines utilize a variety of techniques to determine where websites rank, inbound links is one of the more important criteria. When hundreds of websites link to a specific website it signals the search engines that it is a popular site and offers information people are looking for.

The primary goals of incorporating social marketing into a small business are to develop customer relations, build brand recognition, and improve online visibility. There are many facets to social media marketing, so it can be beneficial to participate in a marketing training course to learn about available strategies and how to capitalize on each.

Small business owners often find it advantageous to outsource marketing projects to an online marketing company. Working with professionals eases burdens for entrepreneurs and frees up time for them to attend to business management.

Those who are new to operating a small business may find it helpful to visit the Small Business Association website at SBA.gov. The SBA provides a variety of training courses, business financing resources, mentors, and step-by-step guides for developing business and marketing plans.

Social Bookmarking for Insurance Agency Web Marketing

Let’s begin with a simple definition of social bookmarking, then discuss how this can be used as a component of your insurance agency web marketing plans. Social bookmarking allows Internet users (and insurance agencies) to organize, store and manage online resources, akin to marking pages in a book for use at a later date. Unlike the bookmarks of old, and as with all things on the Internet, these bookmarks can be easily shared and distributed. Descriptions can be added to the bookmarks, so users can peruse the content (from the succinct descriptions) without requiring a download. These descriptions can include votes (good or bad), comments or tags (metadata). Think of tags in terms of keywords, short relevant phrases germane to your target audience.

Use

Social bookmark users can save web page links they want to share. These links are typically public and can be viewed chronologically, by category or tags, or using a search engine. I liken social bookmarking to some elements of asynchronous collaboration solutions, which allow users to share topics according to a category, project, etc. Collaboration systems allow users to subscribe to an information feed, very similar to the social bookmarking services which provide web feeds for their lists of bookmarks and lists organized by tags. Arguably, social bookmarking is a simplistic type of asynchronous collaboration. The feeds or subscription functionality allow users to become aware of new bookmarks as they are saved, shared, and tagged by other users. Collaborating and managing these tags may be referred to as “folksonomy.”

What is Folksonomy

Folksonomy is a classification system created to manage tags to categorize content derived from a consensus of users. Insurance agencies can think of folksonomy in terms of the metadata and tags used on their insurance agency website and tag clouds which might be used on their insurance agency blog. Simply stated, tagging allows users to collectively classify and find information. For example, blogs often include tags, and their associated tag clouds as a way to help visualize tags in a folksonomy. Folksonomy also helps us in other ways. One of the inherent advantages of social bookmarking is the human factor, allowing users to determine content relevancy as opposed to deferring to search engine bots which automate the same process. By sharing, tagging, voting and describing content, users can better determine if the content is truly applicable to their needs, and computer error or misclassification can be removed from the formula.

Most Popular Sites

Top social bookmarking sites as ranked by eBizMBA include (monthly visitors estimated):

  1. Twitter: 200,000,000 Unique Monthly Visitors, Alexa Rank 9.
  2. digg: 25,100,000 Unique Monthly Visitors – Alexa Rank 139.
  3. StumbleUpon: 17,500,000 Unique Monthly Visitors – Alexa Rank 112.
  4. reddit: 16,000,000 Unique Monthly Visitors – Alexa Rank 135.
  5. delicious: 5,500,000 Unique Monthly Visitors – Alexa Rank 342.

Others include tweetmeme, FARK, Slashdot, friendfeed, clipmarks, newsvine and diigo.

Practical Use for Insurance Agency Web Marketing

Why should your business be concerned with Social Bookmarking? Social bookmarking offers several web marketing opportunities for businesses:

  1. Organize and distribute your relevant content
  2. Drive traffic to your insurance agency website
  3. Improves your Internet presence
  4. Improves Insurance Agency SEO
  5. Improves inbound link popularity (Backlinks)

Conclusion

As you consider your most important agency web marketing initiatives, there may be higher priorities on your things to do list, including the creation and maintenance of a Web 2.0 website, blogging, ePublishing, eMarketing, and social media marketing (LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter). That said, and when thinking about your social media marketing initiative, it’s fast and easy to add social bookmarking as an extra component for your agency web marketing plans.

The Difference Between Social Media and Social Bookmarking in Internet Marketing

It’s very easy to confuse between the social media and social bookmarking especially for those who are new in the online marketing platform. As a matter of fact these words mean absolutely two different things despite they both have the same prefix word. It is only wise for you to determine the difference so that you don’t use the services of bookmark when you intended to use media.

Let’s take a look at social media also known as social network. Just like you go to dinner, parties and meetings where you meet friends whom you have the same interest, social media takes it to a whole new level because interaction is not limited to your locality but you have the whole world at your disposal. You sign up, talk about your social interest such as hobbies, programs on TV and maybe music all in the name of building your profile. Popular sites which you well know about include Facebook, MySpace, Hi5 and Twitter.

Social bookmarking on the hand is just like what you do every day with your web browser where you bookmark sites that interests you and would like to visit later. The only difference here is that you do this online on social bookmark sites and the information you share is not only available to you but also other registered users who may be interested in your content. LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and Digg are a few popular examples of bookmark sites where you can share your favorite links or web pages and it would be better if you submitted your own work.

Online marketers use both social media and social bookmark sites to promote their products and services. Both methods are a good way of pulling traffic to your site and there is a stiff argument as to which of them is most appropriate. You now know the difference between social media and social bookmarking.

Stay Active: Social Bookmarking Marketing

For me, rule 1 on social bookmarking marketing is to stay active. Having an online presence on social media alone is not nearly enough. You need to give the users something, not just be happy with appearing on social bookmarking sites once in a while. That’s work you just do for yourself, not in a useful way, but so that you can say: my company is there.

But it’s not just about being there, it’s about getting something out of it. This can only be done by staying active consistently, by producing, posting, sharing and tweeting informative content, interesting images, and relevant videos.

And don’t keep it at that. Also complement this activity by responding to comments, sharing content on social bookmarking sites, commenting on other relevant posts and pages, using the “Like” feature on Facebook, and retweeting. By putting in a few minutes every day, and without making too much of an effort, you will be able to see very positive results for your site.

And not only that: by sharing your experience with other users, you in turn will probably learn lots of useful information. Years ago, businesses would have killed to get the kind of free feedback you can get with the Internet.

So, getting specifically into social bookmarking marketing, you’ll be wanting to share interesting posts from other websites, not only yours, and commenting on other people’s activity plus participating in communities which target your niche market. Try to present yourself not as somebody trying to make money, but as a professional willing to offer good advice and ready to hear feedback from both experienced and inexperienced users. Both can give you valuable insight to different things, from the layout or colors of your pages to things more related to your business. Keep your eyes and ears open and the time you spend on social bookmarking sites will be an investment. So even if you start out with few resources, the information you can gather from your users can set you ahead of your competitors.

Social bookmarking marketing, like any kind of Internet marketing, is all about the community, at least to me. If you depend on high volumes of traffic exclusively instead of having a loyal group of regular visitors, your income will dry out under any kind of SEO related pressure. Lots of companies went down in just a few weeks when Google last changed its algorithm. You can defend your business against algorithm changes by keeping a good base of followers who will go to you no matter what your position in Google is.

Social bookmarking can be one of the best ways to accomplish this, not only by engaging other users but by staying updated on the latest news in your business niche.