Friday, September 17, 2010

A Social Media Strategy

I was on the road with other developers this week and our discussion turned to social networking and how much time it takes. I don't claim to be and expert but I believe social networking should be a part of most businesses marketing strategy. As I work to market Stokes County, I spend 20-30 minutes/day updating the local facebook page and blog. With this in mind, please take a few minutes to read the article listed below. A Social Media strategy is important but doesn't need to be all consuming:

Social Media: 4 Steps to an Effective Marketing Strategy
September 14, 2010 · by Paul Chaney

Print Email 4 Comments Comments RSS ShareThis Many small businesses are experimenting with social media to market their products. Based on my observations, however, most are doing it in piecemeal fashion, without a coordinated, overall strategy.

In this article, I present a practical, four-part social commerce strategy that minimizes the time required and that recognizes the overall purpose is to grow sales. Because I am a fan of alliteration and use it as a mnemonic device, each of the four elements begins with the letter "C."

Think of social media as a form of content marketing, which is the creation of content for the purpose of engaging customers and prospects. The nexus for creating such content is a blog. I prefer to think of a blog as a social media "base of operations" from which content can be syndicated to digital outposts such as Facebook and Twitter.

One example of this approach is, a leading online jewelry retailer, which publishes Sparkle Like the Stars, a blog focused on celebrities and their jewelry. launched the blog several years ago and continues to leverage it to attract the attention and interest of consumers.

Screenshot of Sparkle Like the Stars blog.

Two factors are helpful for creating a cogent content marketing strategy: developing an editorial calendar and determining the frequency of the posts.

•Editorial Calendar. An editorial calendar is a listing of upcoming topics and features. For publishers, it is a helpful planning device and, for readers, it helps explain a publication's mission and content. For example, Practical Ecommerce has an editorial calendar that outlines articles to be produced on a weekly, bi-weekly and monthly basis. Similarly, merchants should consider what topics would be of most interest to customers and develop a calendar to address those.

•Posting Schedule. Once a merchant develops an editorial calendar, he or she should determine the frequency of the blog posts. For search engine optimization, daily posts are best, as search engines prefer frequently updated content. What's important, however, is to be realistic in terms of the time available, and then set a schedule and stick with it.

Because content creation can help with SEO, use essential keywords and optimize posts around them, using one in every post, both in the post's title as well as in the body.

I'm often asked whether a blog should reside inside the main ecommerce site or outside it. My answer is "it depends." In the case of Sparkle Like the Stars, it lives as a separate entity from the ecommerce site, but points to it via links within the main navigation and the post content itself. But a blog can reside within the main ecommerce site, and there are advantages to doing so. SEO professionals will say that, by having a blog as a sub-folder (or, sub-directory) on the main site and committing to make frequent updates, it will help attract search engine attention.

I think the choice comes down to the blog's purpose. If it has a unique topical direction, such as that represented by Sparkle Like the Stars, it should take up its own real estate. Otherwise, it could easily sit inside the ecommerce site.

To complete your content planning, determine which platform to use for the blog, and the personnel to write the posts. It's best to create content in-house, versus outsourcing it to professional writers.

Once a merchant develops the content strategy, he or she should determine which social media sites to syndicate the content to. This could include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and others. Whenever possible, I automate that syndication process using a tool called, which eliminates having to manually post updates to each of those sites. Read our review of at "The PEC Review: for Social Media Distribution."

Screenshot of, a content syndication tool.

Not all syndication should be automated, however. The merchant should add his or her own personal touch through direct interaction with friends, fans and followers.

For Twitter, this means using replies (@username), retweets and being "real." In Facebook, a merchant should respond to comments from fans and introduce attention-getting devices such as polls, trivia questions or games. Anything that will inspire engagement on the part of fans is useful to build brand-awareness, foster loyalty and encourage viral sharing.

To implement a conversation strategy, a merchant should determine who will be responsible for managing the conversations.

The purpose of any marketing plan, social media included, is to grow sales and otherwise get more business.

Social media marketing will help merchants grow sales by keeping their products in front of fans and followers. More direct conversion tools include the use of a Facebook-enabled shopping cart, or the use of discount coupons. We've addressed many of these direct tools in previous articles, including:

•"Six Facebook Applications to Sell Your Products;"
•"Social Commerce Spotlight: Payvment, a Facebook Storefront Provider;"
•"Social Commerce: Shopping Carts Extend Reach Into Facebook, Other Social Sites;"
•"Profile: Retailer Spends Little Money for Big Social Media Impact;"
•"6 Facebook Apps to Enhance Your Company's Fan Page."
Getting fans to subscribe to an email newsletter or blog RSS feed will help keep them connected, and will also drive traffic to the main ecommerce website, which should always be uppermost in the merchant's mind.

A merchant should address the following questions to implement a successful social media strategy.


•What topics would most interest customers and prospects?
•How frequently can content be updated?
•On which channels in social media should a presence be maintained?

•What blog platform should be used?
•What syndication tool should be employed?
•Which third-party apps might be useful?
•What analytics or measurement tools should be place?

•Who can write the blog posts?
•Who can manage the social network interactions?
•Should a team or people assume these duties, or should a social media management position be created?
•Should outsourcing of these activities be considered?
Social commerce is most effective when merchants develop an overall strategy. To help with this development, I've broken it down into four Cs: Content, Communication, Conversation and Conversion. By addressing each of these, merchants will be engaging new prospects, staying in touch with existing customers, and, ultimately, growing sales and profits.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

With Many Thanks

To all the people that made this years Stokes Stomp a success. I was able to attend Saturday and even a few showers didn't dampen the enthusiasm of the event. There were a record number of vendors present, lots of good food, crafts music and even a few politicians. I will have some pictures posted on facebook in a few days.

While on the topic of offering our thanks, I found a nice article on how to thank our customers. Hope your enjoy it, I did.

Thursday, September 9, 2010
Ten Ways to Show Your Gratitude & Grow Your Business
The fall season is here and we all know it will quickly transition into winter. If not now, very soon, business owners across the country will be thinking about…or should be thinking about…those year-end greetings to clients, vendors and friends. Most companies send off cards and goodies in December. But, in today’s politically correct climate many business professionals get stumped. Should they forgo any mention of “Merry Christmas” for a more generic, safer version of “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays”? Should they wait and send “Happy New Year” wishes instead? When the goal is to boost client relations, the last thing you want to do is offend someone who might be sensitive to the issue.

Well, this year, why not bypass the quandary altogether and tell everyone how grateful you are for their business and support during the time of year made for being thankful… Thanksgiving.

We all know it’s vital to keep in touch with clients, but sending them an email or post card about your latest offer or sale isn’t enough to keep people around for another order.

The best way to increase customer loyalty is to be grateful…just thank your clients for doing business with you. Think about this, for every month that goes by when a client does not hear from you, you lose 10 percent of your influence with them. And, when clients don’t hear from us, they assume we don’t care (even if they don’t consciously say it). So, that makes those annual greetings even more important…so we need to make the most of it.

By saying thank you during November…the month of Thanksgiving…whatever you do will stand out from the crowd. That’s because everyone else’s cards and gifts will get lost in the flood of December mail. So act now to get more bang for your buck. And, when customers are thinking kindly of you - you may even snag a year-end order or two to boot.

So, along with Tip Number One – send greetings during November, what else can you do to make the most of your thank you efforts? Here are nine more ways to show your gratitude and make an impact on your bottom line:

2. Customize your cards: Don’t just get cards imprinted with a message, your company name and signature…write a personal note. Sure, it takes a bit more time, but it will get read rather than tossed aside with little more than a glance. And, customers really do appreciate the time and effort it takes to write that little note.

3. Include special offers: Prices going up the first of the year? Let your clients know that they can lock in current rates for their first order in 2011, or extend a special discount if they contact you before the end of the year. Remind them why you’re so great to work with and give them a reason to give you a call.

4. Personalize thank you gifts to your biggest clients: Don’t get all your customers the same gift. If you’ve got ‘big clients’, treat them special. Do you have a client that loves sailing? How about a gift card from the local boating supply store or tickets to the upcoming boat show. Think outside the box and show those important people that you really ‘get them’. People love to work with people who feed, support and understand their passions.

5. Remember the support staff or team: If you work with more than just the owner, be sure to include all the players that make things happen. From the receptionist who always puts your calls through to the accountant who gets you paid in a timely manner – remember everyone who’s a part of your business with that company. When you have a team of fans…you’re more likely to keep clients.

6. Themed gift baskets: Create fun, interesting gift baskets. It could be themed for your local pro sports team, feature lots of homegrown local goodies, or connect to your business or your client’s business. Have fun with it and it will be remembered.

7. Support a local cause: It’s not about what you want to support; it’s about what they care about. Do a little research to find out if your clients’ support a specific cause or charity in the community. Do they always sponsor a little league team or donate to an annual auction? A donation to a cause THEY care about will do wonders in building strong business relationships.

8. Throw a mini-party: Stop by their office with goodies for a coffee break or pizza lunch (plan it with the receptionist so you’re sure everyone’s in). First, people love to get food – especially during the work day and second, you’re taking the time out of your schedule to visit. It’s win-win – especially if you can stick around and eat with them.

9. Host a night on the town: Provide tickets to see a game or event in town, pay for a night of bowling or miniature golf. This is a great idea if you want to get a group of your favorite clients together and thank them all at once. It doesn’t have to be expensive…as long as it’s fun. Plan this one well in advance so people can schedule it into their calendars.

No matter what, take Tip Number One and get your thanks and year end greetings out ahead of the crowd. Use the Thanksgiving holiday to say…THANKS! Then pick the other ideas that work best for you, your customers and your business and go for it. You may even decide to combine of a couple of these ideas! The only limit is your imagination, your time and your budget. Thanking customers in a real and personalized way will help you maintain great relationships and build a base of loyal clients. So show your gratitude and grow your business.

Author: Janice Malone, a marketing consultant and speaker

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

New Business in Stokes County

The Dance and Fitness Loft will soon be in operation in Stokes county. Joy Ackley, a lifelong Stokes County resident will soon fulfill her dream of having her own dance studio. The Dance and Fitness Loft will be opening in the old Vnable Brothers building located at 3172 NC 8 Hwy S, Walnut Cove. There will be an open house on Sept 11 from 10AM till 2:00 PM for prospective members. Joy will be offering classes in Jazz, Hip-Hop, Tap, Adult Aerobics and more. Classes will focus on the fitness benefits of dance.

Joy has many years of experience in dance and will bring a great deal of energy to the new venture. It is her hope to create a comfortable atmosphere outside the realm of recitals and competition, where people can meet friends, dance and have fun. If you would like additional information give her a call at 336-414-7238 or email her at Her new web site and business hours will be available shortly. Classes will begin Sept. 20. Please join me in offering her your best wishes for success and stop by to see what is going on.