I hear it time and time again from small business owners, “Who am I to create content? I don’t have anything new to say. People are overwhelmed with information mine won’t cut through the noise.”
And here are my replies:
YOU have a unique perspective on your industry and it’s among the reasons people hire you and buy from you.
YOU have a LOT to say about your industry and why your clients get exceptional results when working with you.
YOUR message will cut through the noise when it comes from a place of education, information and service.
When you focus part of your marketing endeavors on quality, useful content you are helping your SEO in big and little ways. Focus on what your customers and clients want to know and tell the story in your own unique way. It’s ok if it doesn’t land with everyone. Your marketing isn’t supposed to, it’s only supposed to land with your ideal clients.
Not sure where to start? Keep a log for the next week on the questions your current and prospective clients ask and note how you respond to them. This is the beginning of a content plan that you can turn into audio, video and written content that can be repurposed over multiple platforms from your website and blog to social media channels.
Not only will this help you from an SEO perspective, it will build a library of resource information you can share with clients, colleagues and prospects adding value and deepening relationships.
What will you do today to begin incorporating content as a key part of your marketing strategy?
For many women, small business ownership is the gateway to financial stability for themselves and their family. However, prior to 1988, a woman could not get a business loan on her own! In the 31 years since the passing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act (HR 5050), the United States’ landmark federal legislation which allowed women to take out business loans without a male relative as a co-signer, women have made great strides in the field of entrepreneurship and as business owners. This is affirmed by the impact of women-owned businesses (WOB) on the economy. Based on current data on business ownership in the United States, women business owners are closing the achievement gap with their male counterparts with the number of WOB growing at a rate five times the national average from 2007 to 2016. Women-owned businesses currently make up 39% of U.S. 28 million small businesses (Source: SCORE’s Spring 2018 “The Megaphone of Main Street”). There are an estimated 11.6 million WOB generating $1.7 trillion+ in revenues and employing almost 9 million people as of 2017(Source: The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2017, Commissioned by American Express).
Inspiring Facts about Female Entrepreneurship:
Women-owned businesses (WOB) have grown 114% versus the overall national growth rate of 44% for all businesses over the past two decades (1997-2017). (Source: The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2017, Commissioned by American Express)
Women owned approximately 20% of all employer businesses nationwide in 2015. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs)
Women-owned employer businesses increased to 1.12 million in 2016 (approximately 2.8% increase from 2015). (Source: U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs)
Women of color business owners accounted for 46% of all WOB and 25.9% of W-O employer firms. (Source: The State of Women-Owned Businesses, 2017, Commissioned by American Express).
Women’s early-stage entrepreneurship has increased by increased by 15.4% from the 2016 rate and 29.1% from the 2007 rate. (Source: Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship: Early-Stage Entrepreneurship in the United States, 2017)
As we celebrate the achievements of women businesses owners, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the trailblazing female entrepreneurs, business owners and advocates who contributed to the passing of the Women’s Business Ownership Act.
By: Sherri Daymon, Washington Small Business Development Center
Does your business employ minimum wage employees? If so, are you aware that effective January 1st, 2020, the minimum wage in Washington State is increasing 12.5% (from $12.00 to $13.50 an hour)? Holy schmoly, that’s a HUGE increase in costs (i.e. a GIANT dip in your company’s profits). Your business advisor at the SBDC is here to help you plan for your particular situation, but below are some general strategies to make this cost increase a little less painful.
When deciding whether or not to increase prices, you need to ask yourself, “Will our customers pay a higher price? Is our product worth this much more? Will our sales volume drop with a price increase?”
Are you sitting on a lot of inventory? Are there frequently a lot of empty seats at your restaurant? Are your landscaping tools or machinery often idle? If so, these are sure signs that you could use some marketing and sales assistance to increase the attractiveness of your current product or service. The SBDC can help you identify your target audience and tailor your marketing message to better reach potential customers.
Reduce Fixed Costs
Fixed costs are your monthly expenses, regardless of sales volume (examples include things such as rent, insurance, and debt repayment). Whereas increasing your prices can be done rather quickly, reducing your fixed costs can take some time. You may need to find another location, negotiate with your landlord for reduced rent, or find a symbiotic business to share your space. You may need to shop around for a more cost effective insurance policy. You may need to refinance or restructure your debt. Essentially, now is the time to go through every lineon your Profit & Loss financial statement and ask yourself the hard question, “How can I reduce (or even eliminate) this ‘fixed’ expense?”
Reduce Variable Costs
Your variable costs are the expenses directly related to your sales and/or production volume and ideally appear on your Profit & Loss financial statement as COGS or Cost of Goods Sold. Variable costs include items purchased with the intent to resell (in the case of retail) or ingredients that go into your dishes (for a restaurant example). Finding suppliers with lower costs and reducing waste are just two ways to reduce variable costs.
Examine Hours of Operation
Hourly labor can be tricky. On one hand, if business is slow, you can send an employee (or several) home to reduce costs (suggesting that labor is a variable cost). On the other hand, if you have set hours of operation, a component of your labor is fixed. Thus, it’s worth a serious examination of your daily and hourly sales to identify if you can and should reduce hours (or even full days) of operation to save on hourly labor expenses.
I worked through this analysis with one of my clients, who realized that he was consistently spending more in labor than he was generating in revenue the first and last hour his shop was open. By shaving 14 hours off his weekly hours of operation, he increased his annual profitably by over $17,000 (since a minimum of two employees are required in his shop at all times).
Reduce Labor Hours
If you don’t have daily and hourly sales data available to make the strategic decision about reducing hours of operation, but you want/need your total minimum wage labor costs to remain at the current dollar level (despite the $1.50 increase in the hourly minimum wage), here’s the formula to help determine how many hours to reduce, come January 1, 2020: Current minimum wagelabor hours x $1.50 / $13.50. For example, if you currently have one minimum wage employee working 40 hours per week, you’ll need to reduce the hours worked per week to 35.5 hours.
Consider Cutting your Losses
If your business is struggling now and you rely on minimum wage employees and the suggestions above seem unfathomable to help weather a 12.5% cost increase, you might consider closing your doors. Regrettably, it’s not uncommon for business owners to pour their heart and soul into an enterprise and exhaust their personal savings trying to keep a business going. If you are currently paying employees minimum wage and forfeiting paying yourself and exhausted trying to turn your business around, I encourage you to be honest and brave in knowing it’s only going to get more challenging in 2020. Treat yourself with kindness and consider cutting your losses.
Remember, your SBDC business advisor is here to help you grow (or at least maintain!) your level of profitability. Contact us today so we strategize a combination of tactics to weather the imminent spike in the minimum wage.
You can meet your local Washington SBDC advisor at the Resource Center at Biz Fair on Saturday, Sept. 21.
When you evaluate a business to buy, you don’t have to know everything about it at once. Richard Branson once said he mainly focuses on three measurements to monitor his business:
Butts in seats – or whatever your equivalent for “sales/consumption of capacity”
Customer loyalty and satisfaction
Everything else will just be details that can be ironed out.
As Steven Covey famously said, “The Big Rocks are your most important, so put them first. That way, you make the less important things (gravel) fight their way in.”
Apply this concept to your business evaluation. Your FIRST step is to understand DEAL-BREAKERS. What could KILL your business? What isn’t SUSTAINABLE? Then, determine the details of the expenses to ensure that overruns can be identified.
Below are some examples of LESS effective ways of evaluating a business. This comes from an exchange I had with one prospective buyer after I sent him the P&L for a business. Can you distinguish the big rocks from the pebbles?
“Thanks for the info. I have a few questions: How many estimators in the business? Do they also function as Project Managers? What is the role of the owner in the business? Was the large expense of entertainment the Christmas party? Costs of sales are high. Is there other ways to decrease this? Would they have a current Work in Progress report? What makes up the balance of the office staff? Do they have a breakdown of business by revenue – eg. government contracts vs industrial vs retail/commercial? “
There are some important questions in here, but the Christmas party probably wasn’t a huge priority in this early stage of evaluation.
One effect the All-at-Once approach has is that it discourages you from nearly every business you look at and the whole transaction becomes intimidating or you may walk away from a great opportunity.
Keep a realistic view of what’s important and what’s just sand and pebbles so you keep your eye on what really is going to lead to success or failure in your business.
Customer service isn’t just a good idea. It’s the force that drives business. Loyalty isn’t a fad. It’s a relationship that needs be cultivated.
Think about the purchasing decisions you make. Which brands or companies have earned your loyalty, and therefore more of your dollars? Your own habits should be enough to indicate there is something to be said for customer loyalty. You know from personal experience that being the cheapest or fastest option isn’t enough to earn your business and a great customer service experience is more than getting a thank you email.
Your customers and clients know it too.
So, here’s the question: What does your documented client retention and loyalty program include? If you’ve made big investments in marketing and advertising to get ‘em – how are you going to keep ‘em?
I’m going to hit pause for just a second and draw your attention to the word documented. I am a huge fan of having documented systems and processes. After more than 20 years in business, I know documented systems and processes help you maintain consistency and deliver results. If your customer service touchpoints and action items aren’t documented you don’t have a plan, you have ideas.
You need to turn those ideas into items you can execute on consistently if you want to grow your customer base and your bottom line.
Just take a look at a few of the numbers I shared recently when talking about the importance of Customer Loyalty.
20% of your customer base is made up by your loyal customers. Those customers will end up driving 80% of your business.
It will cost you five times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing customer.
68% of customer defection happens when a customer feels like they were treated poorly
95% of the people who have had a bad experience will never tell you.
Those numbers underscore the importance of customer loyalty. Give customers every opportunity to become loyal clients by including these five things in your client retention plan.
5 Ways to Increase Customer Loyalty.
Provide regular updates. Stay in communication with customers through newsletters, e-zines or email updates. Share important information, exciting news or resources they might find valuable. Commit to regular updates and stay in touch.
Under promise and over deliver. Manage expectations by clearly communicating what your customers or clients can expect from you every step of the way. Then surprise them by over-delivering on those promises. For example, if you say you’ll have a contract to them by Friday surprise them by sending it over Thursday.
Show appreciation. Handwritten notes, small gifts, or phone call just to say thank you can go a long way in showing customers how much they are valued and appreciated.
Acknowledge special occasions. Birthdays, work anniversaries and business milestones are all special occasions that can be acknowledge and celebrated in small ways throughout the year.
Remember what’s important to them. Make notes in their client profile of personal interests. Are they a dog lover? Football fan? Quilter? Make a note and use it to surprise and delight them through the year.
Here’s one last thing to consider, you need to develop a process to create customer loyalty whether you have five customers or 5,000 customers. It doesn’t matter which stage of business you’re in, get started and let it grow and develop with you.
Growing your business is easier when you’re not trying to grow it alone.
By: Kathryn Akeah, Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises
Small business owners ask us all the time. Should I get my business certified? What kind of certification is best? The quick answer is yes and all of them that you qualify for! Of course, the long answer has a few more details. First, let’s start with the foundation.
Why certify your business?
To verify certain aspects of the business. Certifications can be important to show who owns the business, where products come from, or how the business functions.
What does OMWBE certify?
OMWBE certifies that a business is owned and controlled by a person or persons who are minorities, women, or socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. A business can get state or federal certification through OMWBE. Most people call these certifications by their acronyms (MBE, WBE, MWBE, CBE, SEDBE, DBE, ACDBE and SBE). To learn more about OMWBE certifications, click here.
Should I apply for OMWBE certification for my business?
We think so and with that in mind, we recently released two new short videos interviewing business owners on how they were certified, what they have used certification for and what being an OMWBE certified business means to them. Don’t miss a chance to be inspired by these heartwarming stories.
There are three primary ways business owners use certifications.
To be eligible to participate as a DBE, ACDBE or SBE on federally funded projects. This helps increase visibility and prime contractors can count certified businesses towards their goals on projects.
For marketing and increased visibility to city, county and state government, colleges and private-sector companies that have supplier diversity goals. For example, the Governor’s Office has set aspirational goals and state agencies look for state certifications.
What is the difference between certification and self-identification?
OMWBE certification means that how a business is owned and controlled has been verified by our state agency. OMWBE is the sole agency that does state and federal certifications in Washington State.
Self-identification is when a business registers as a vendor in an online system and the owner checks a box to show that they are minority or woman owned. This may or may not be verified.
So which one is better? It all depends on what your business does and whom you do business with. Some government agencies and prime contractors don’t or can’t recognize self-identification.
Kathryn Akeah works in Communications for the Washington State Office of Minority & Women’s Business Enterprises. She is passionate about equity and excited that here she can combine her MBA with her experience in community health and community organizing to support diverse small businesses across the state.
“Proving” your business model to investors relies on being able to back up your assumptions about your market. Data about how people search or discover products brings you one step closer to making your case. Now imagine if you could get that information easily, quickly and at no cost — and create good looking charts and graphs to use in business plans, presentations and on social media.
Going straight to a search engine for market research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Imagine you’re creating a new line of products for pets, a highly competitive industry. A search for “pet products” yielded 3.5 billion results (yes, that’s a “b”).
Google makes it so much easier with a range of tools designed to mine their own mega-pile of information to understand what people are doing online. What better way for you to learn about your potential customers, than to go right to the place so many people start their buyer journey?
Three Market Research Resources in One
PEWInternet is one of my go-to’s for robust and free market research for learning about online behavior, with a section devoted to “Internet and Technology.” Combined with Google’s Consumer Barometer, you’ll get an even clearer picture about how people use the Internet to discover and purchase products and services.
Consumer Barometer includes Trended Data, Audience Stories, Curated Insights and Graph Builder — saving the best for last.
Trended Data compares Internet usage over time.
Let’s say you were wondering how many in your target audience used their smartphone to access the Internet, filtering by country and demographics. Here’s the result of a search for US aged 25-34 vs. US aged 45-54:
While there are differences as of 2017, it becomes pretty clear that everything is pointing in a mobile direction with smartphone and Internet usage becoming ubiquitous across age groups very soon, if it hasn’t already. This is useful, whether you’re creating a mobile app or wondering how important mobile access is to your marketing strategy.
With Audience Stories, Google segments Internet usage, exploring audience clusters like Brand Advocates, Digital Moms and Millennials.
For example, Google tells us the “how-to” video category is trending strongly. “1 in 10 internet users watch DIY or How-to videos in a typical session.” They go on to explain that, “23% of online videos are viewed in order to learn something new.” This means that educating customers and demonstrating your expertise can help you gain exposure, ultimately being a way to drive more traffic to your website.
When you’re wondering about a good length for your video, Google provides the answer, “How-to Video Viewers are also open to longer videos (5-10 minutes). As many as 75% of How-to Video users watched online videos longer than 5 minutes in the prior week, compared to just 60% among other users.”
Of course Google is in a great position to know what works and what doesn’t, since they own YouTube.
With Curated Insights, Google displays its own research in charts and graphs, going into depth about shopper buying and media behavior. It can be parsed by country, but there’s demographic data presented as well. Here are some particularly interesting insights:
The tools we’ve looked at give you Google’s point of view, but with Graph Builder, you can create your own graphs and charts based on their data. There’s a simple 6-step walk through to show you how to use it, which starts with selecting questions like these:
The Online and Multiscreen World —“How do people watch TV?”
The Smart Shopper —“How did people first hear about the product/offer they bought?”
The Smart Viewer — “What motivated people to watch their most recent online video session?”
Once you figure out which questions are most relevant to your research, you can drill down further by:
Most Recent Video Context
From there, you can investigate by a particular product category. You’d want to, because not every business is the same, and you’ll want data specific to your industry. Granted, the categories are pretty general, but selecting something even close can provide direction.
Unfortunately, it’s not particularly useful for my “pet products” example, since there’s no category for it — weird, not to offer information about such a huge industry. Oh well, even Google isn’t perfect. Stay tuned — their tools are always changing.
Another drawback is that product filters vary by the question being answered. It would be nice if you could choose your product category first, then apply the questions to it.
Moving on, let’s say you wanted to know if you should spend time using social media to promote hair care products to US consumers. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Online Information Sources, and then use the “product filter” link to select hair care under “most recent product purchased.”
Now, let’s say you’re thinking of offering a discount to encourage people to make a purchase. Here’s a relative comparison of how a discount influences a purchase by category. Go to: Smart Shopper>Research Behavior>Motivation for Purchase. Filter by product, as described previously. Then, you’ll need to hide all the other motivations to create this graph.
Unfortunately, there’s no information about services or B2B “business to business.” However, the tool allows you can compare filtered segments in one chart by selecting more than one at a time.
Now Put Your Information to Good Use
This is just a taste of what you can do with Graph Builder. Once you’ve created the charts you want, you can export as a CSV or png, or share, by selecting the 3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the graphic. That sharing option may be especially useful for creating a post to a social network.
No matter what product or service you plan to offer, the marketing of that product should be based on a good understanding of the industry and consumer behavior — and the Internet is a good place to start if you know where to look. These free market research tools are a good start, providing valuable insights you may not be able to find elsewhere. Plus, they can help you create and share some compelling graphics, whether that’s for a business plan, presentation or social media marketing.
Hucksters, con men, and scammers have been part of the American landscape since the country’s founding. From Wild West “snake oil” salesmen to modern day Ponzi Schemers, America has certainly seen its fair share. So, who holds the dubious title of the best con man in U.S. history? That honor goes to none other than George C. Parker. During his life, Parker “sold” a number of U.S. landmarks such as Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant’s Tomb, and even the Statue of Liberty. However, he’s most famous for “selling” the Brooklyn Bridge on a number of occasions to willing dupes. Eventually convicted of fraud, a judge sentenced Parker to serve a life term in prison. While he died in Sing Sing Prison in 1936, his legacy lives on. His antics gave rise to the phrase, “and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)
While modern day scammers might not have a bridge to sell you, they certainly have other nefarious ways to part you from your money. Did you know that every year, people posing as IRS agents scam millions of dollars from Americans?
Fortunately, the IRS has some helpful tips that can keep you from falling prey to a scam.
Tip #1 – Watch the mail
Most IRS contact comes via regular mail through the U.S. Post Office. If it comes from another source, be suspicious! In addition, if the IRS has to take official action, they will first notify you via letter through the U.S. Postal Service.
Tip #2 – Listen for threats and intimidation
If you get a caller on the phone and they claim that they’re from the IRS, be aware that an IRS agent will never do any of the following:
Demand payment via gift card, wire transfer, or a pre-paid debit card
Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to appeal or question the amount that you owe
Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers, or other law enforcement officers and have you arrested for not paying.
Threaten to revoke your driver’s license, business license, or immigration status
Tip #3 – Look for credentials
If you get an “in-person” visit from an IRS agent, they will produce two forms of official identification; a pocket commission card and an HSPD-12 card. If they don’t have these or refuse to produce them, you can assume that they’re scammers!
Tip #4 – Who gets the money?
If your caller or visitor demands money and they want the payment to go some entity other than the U.S Treasury, don’t pay because it’s a scam.
Tip #5 – Report them!
If you get a call from someone posing as an IRS Agent, contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. You can call 800-366-4484, or file an online complaint at IRS Impersonating Scam Reporting.
One of the earliest recorded cases of insurance fraud comes from ancient Greece. In 300 B.C., a merchant named Hegestratos took out a large insurance policy on his ship. He reportedly planned on sinking his empty ship, selling its cargo, and pocketing the insurance money. Hegestratos’s passengers and crew caught him red-handed, and he drowned as he tried to escape (Investopedia.com).
Aaron Hoffman works for the Department of Labor and Industries. Along with his duties as Contract Manager for the COHE Program, he regularly contributes to L&I’s social media campaign. He earned his BA and MBA from Pacific Lutheran University.
Sally recently left her 9-5 corporate job, and enthusiastically began a new event planning business. Sally’s friend, Larry, wanted to be one of her first clients. Larry wanted to hire Sally’s business to plan his wife Judy’s 50th birthday party. Sally found an event planning contract on the internet, and tweaked some of the language. The contract set forth that Judy’s birthday party would be held at the Gigantic Golf Club, with cocktails and dinner for 100 guests. Larry would pay Sally’s business $5,000 for event planning services, to be paid no later than ten days after the party concluded. Sally is thrilled to work with her friend, and to plan her first big event.
Larry and Sally signed the contract, and Sally then contacted Gigantic Golf Club to reserve the space. Gigantic Golf Club informed Sally that it required an advance deposit of $8,000.00 to lock in the reservation. Sally contacted Larry by email: “Hi Larry. I’ve reached out to Gigantic Golf Club, and they need an $8,000.00 deposit. Can you please send me a check for that amount, made out to Gigantic Golf Club? Then I can forward it over to them to secure the space. Thanks!” Larry responded: “Hi Sally. Our contract says I am supposed to pay for everything ten days after the party has concluded. I’d appreciate it if you could please pay the deposit, and then put it on my bill. Thanks.”
Sally is shocked when she receives Larry’s email. She reviewed the contract. The contract stated: “Larry is responsible for all costs related to the Event.” It also stated: “Upon conclusion of the Event, Sally will submit an invoice to Larry which will be due no later than ten days after the date of the Event.” The contract is silent as to whether Larry’s responsibility for the event’s costs meant that the costs will be paid up front by Larry, or whether Sally was required to initially incur the costs and then invoice Larry for those amounts. Sally doesn’t recall that they ever discussed this issue. Since Sally knew Larry personally, Sally wasn’t worried about getting paid and didn’t pay a lot of attention to the specifics of the contract.
Sally tentatively responded to Larry’s email: “Hi Larry. I’m so sorry for the confusion. Our contract doesn’t seem to address the issue of whether the costs will be paid up front. I’m afraid I cannot afford to incur an $8,000 fee, since I just started my business. Could you please pay it? Thank you for understanding!” Larry responded to this email within five minutes: “You have got to be kidding me! Don’t you remember that we talked about this? I told you that my son Charlie’s private school tuition is due shortly, and I’m tapped out. I won’t be able to make any payments until after the party. You better pay that deposit right away, because it’s too late at this point for me to fire you and hire a new event planner. If you don’t do right by me here, I’m going to go on Yelp and write the most scathing review possible!”
These types of situations, unfortunately, occur much more often than most business owners realize. A well written contract is the key to avoiding these types of “he said versus she said” disputes. Business owners need to routinely use thorough, well-drafted contracts that are prepared by an attorney. Here are seven tips for working effectively with your business attorney to develop a great contract:
#1: Explain any pertinent background information regarding how your industry works, and also set forth your goals for the agreement.
#2: Communicate your main concerns to your attorney about the proposed transaction (getting paid, receiving poor work quality, handling disputes, etc.).
#3: Provide a written outline to your attorney identifying the parties and principal terms of the deal.
#4: Think through how you’d like the contract negotiation process to proceed. Do you want to work through counsel exclusively? Or do the parties want to negotiate directly, and then go back to their attorneys with questions and revisions?
#5: Discuss the timing of the work.
#6: Understand the attorneys’ fees, and how you will be billed for the work performed.
#7: Be mindful of attorneys’ fees while negotiating contract terms. Some issues may be so minor that it’s not worth the attorneys’ fees to argue about it.
If there is a disagreement about the terms of a contract, rather than continuing an email or telephone “war” with the other party, here are some recommended first steps:
#1: Review the Contract Requirements Related to the Issue in Controversy: What does the contract say about the issue being disputed? Are you sure you are right and the other party is wrong?
#2: Review the Contract Requirements Related to Dispute Resolution: The contract may tell you how you have to proceed in resolving the dispute. Mediation? Arbitration? Litigation?
#3: Make an Initial Attempt to Calculate your Damages: Litigation is very expensive. In order to decide whether it’s worth it to pursue litigation, you need to know the monetary value of your loss.
#4: Call Your Attorney: Let your lawyer know your preliminary thoughts based on your initial legwork, and then discuss the situation and your options.
Stacey L. Romberg, Attorney at Law, focuses her practice on business law, estate planning and probate. For more information, please visit the firm’s website at www.staceyromberg.com.
An effective social media strategy depends on finding the right sites to reach your audience. Beyond the major social networks, which attract a large, generalized audience, there are plenty of niche sites which will help you build exposure and website traffic.
Benefits of Niche Sites
More targeted: Relevance trumps size
Buyers, not browsers: Leads to more qualified, convertible traffic
Big fish, smaller pond: Less clutter and noise, more chance to get noticed
More meaningful sharing and engagement
Be Where They Are
The point of using social media for business is to get in front of potential customers, which means you want to be where they are hanging out. Whether you choose major or niche sites, define your audience using the following and then match it to the sites that meet your criteria:
Geography: Neighborhood, city, regional, national, international.
Interest: Consider the site’s focus: i.e., design, games, business, etc. Drill down as much as possible to match your target audience.
Demographic: Easily identifiable stuff about participants, like age, income, education. For data about social sites, start your research at PEWInternet.org. For small sites, you may have to find out from the site itself. Look for advertising information in the footer (just for info, not to advertise).
Activity: What people do at the site, i.e., simply commenting vs. watching videos. Think about the kind of content that fits with what your business is about, i.e., if you have a visual business, Instagram and Pinterest may be a good fit.
Affinity: What participants have in common, i.e., people planning a wedding or those that like to invent things with Legos.
Many people participate in both major and niche sites, so select a balance of each. If you choose a major, join subgroups that match your audience, ie., a food related business in Seattle could join the Seattle Foodies group on Facebook.
Where to Find Niche Sites
The more sites seek to create interactivity and engagement, the more they’re likely to offer social opportunities to participate in. Start with the associations and groups your audience belongs to (ask them), then look for social opportunities in the following places:
Search Google like a customer looking for a product like yours and see what social sites come up.
Social site directories
Check competitors’ sites for their social badges
Look at your own referral traffic data
Vendors sometimes have their own social networks too
Search Google for “niche social sites” + your area of interest
Go local (websites, blogs, publications, etc. in your geographic area)
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of niche sites, finding the best match you can, prioritize them by highest amount of traffic. Then, start using them and track the referral traffic to your site, using something like Google Analytics to see if all that effort is paying off.