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5 ways to make social media work for you

By Virginia Bridges
vbridges@newsobserver.com
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Liz Condo - Liz Condo
Jim Tobin, left, of Ignite Social Media talks with participant Don Bode, center, while Valerie K. Fields of V.K. Fields & Co. PR Pros talks with other business owners at a panel discussion last month in Raleigh on social media and marketing for small businesses.

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  • Common small-business marketing mistakes shared at a recent panel:

    • Just winging it. You need to create a focused marketing plan that starts with considering your customers’ wants and needs, the desired objective, effective strategies and appropriate tools.

    • Not listening to your customers and thinking you know it all.

    • Trying to do everything and doing nothing well.

    • Setting unrealistic expectations (such as thousands of followers or a viral video) for goals that don’t correlate with your objectives.



Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. Websites. Don’t forget Tumblr, Pinterest and Snapchat.

Modern-day social media marketing can be tricky for small-business owners trying to understand the ever-evolving channels and opportunities.

At a recent panel discussion sponsored by ShopTalk’s sister publication, The (Raleigh) News & Observer, marketing and public relations professionals offered tips on how companies can build their business by using social media and other marketing channels.

To get started, the panelists said, small-business owners need to step back and create a larger marketing plan before worrying about social media strategies that include Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s more of what the panelists had to say:

Ask the right questions: Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media, a social media marketing agency in Cary, said the POST approach suggests a framework that starts with “people” and transitions to “objectives,” “strategies” and “technologies.”

That means owners need to understand the people they are trying to reach and establish campaign objectives such as sales, leads and partnerships.

“If you do a lot of work on the (people) and the (objectives), the strategies become sort of self-evident,” Tobin said.

Karen Albritton, president of Capstrat, a full-service marketing and public relations agency in Raleigh, said companies should start by asking themselves why they are in business, before they start talking about what they do and how they do it.

Take your message online: A website is an affordable tool that will help most companies, the panelists said. It offers businesses the opportunity to tell their story, communicate with customers, monitor activity, and sell products 24 hours a day.

“It is the cheapest employee you will ever hire, and it’s always on. It’s always telling your story,” said Valerie K. Fields, chief PR pro at V.K. Fields & Co. PR PROS, a full-service public relations and copywriting agency in downtown Raleigh.

Tobin suggests that companies have their own websites, and not rely on sites such as Facebook as an alternative. It’s not smart to depend on a domain that they don’t own, he said.

Manage your reputation: If owners don’t use social media, it doesn’t prevent others from talking about their companies on those channels.

“The consumer has chosen to participate,” Tobin said. “They don’t need you, or your Facebook page, or your Twitter account to talk about your brand or talk about a positive experience or a negative experience with your brand.”

Owning those channels, Tobin said, gives a company more control of their message.

Small-business owners can protect their company’s reputation by monitoring activity on the social media platforms they are using; setting up Google alerts for their companies, industry and competition; or paying for tracking services.

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