Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Cathy Larkin. Founder of Web Savvy PR, Cathy add social media tools to the traditional Public Relations toolkit to help small businesses and entrepreneurs; non-profits and speakers; bloggers and authors build their businesses, and expand the reach of their brands. She excels in explaining geeky things in a non-geeky, easy-to-understand way. For more information, visit: www.websavvypr.com.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE 4 MAIN WAYS A BUSINESS CAN INTERACT ONLINE IN WAYS THAT BUILD TRUST?
Cathy Larkin: Being helpful. Solving customer issues or soliciting customer feedback. Interacting in positive ways with colleagues and competitors. Being real, human and showing your brand’s personality weather it is serious or sassy.
SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ONLINE INTERACTIONS FOR YOUR BUSINESS?
Cathy Larkin: The purpose of online interactions is to build trust. Each interaction is an opportunity to bring your clients a step closer to choosing your brand when they need help and a product like yours.
Start with online activities where you provide useful tips or links to actionable info that help people solve problems (your links AND other’s links). You can also directly answer #CustomerService questions/issues or get customer feedback. And engage with customers in ways that let your brand’s personality show through, that make your business real, not just a “bot.
When you engage with colleagues and competitors – you look professional, trustworthy and puts you more on a level playing field with some companies who might be larger than you are; it can also lead to referrals over time.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO I KNOW WHAT ONLINE ACTIONS WILL WORK FOR MY CUSTOMERS?
Cathy Larkin: First, ID your ideal customer: who already buys from you or who has the highest potential to buy? Also identify your secondary customer – who else might use your services?
For example, when we launched @SmallBizlady’s Twitter account in 2008 we knew that people WANTING to start a business were her main customers. But we also knew that existing #SmallBiz owners were also customers. Eventually her market also included companies that want help reaching new #smallbiz owners.
SmallBizLady: WHAT’S NEXT? IS FINDING OUT MY IDEAL CUSTOMER’S DEMOGRAPHICS IMPORTANT?
Cathy Larkin: Secondly, once you’ve identified your primary & secondary customers, get to know their demographics. Who they really are (age, gender, income, location) is important; you don’t want to just guess, AND it is also important to find out what online/social sites they use.
How do I find this? Check out these folks: @Forrester, @PewInternet, & @PewResearch. Here is a link to my Twitter lists for trends research: https://twitter.com/CathyWebSavvyPR/lists/research-n-trends/members.
SmallBizLady: THEN WHAT? WHAT TYPE OF CONTENT/INTERACTIONS WILL ATTRACT MY IDEAL CUSTOMER?
Cathy Larkin: Third, with research from the above in-hand, brainstorm 3-5 topics that your customers need help solving or are interested in. What makes them happy, what frustrates them? Then develop your website content, blog posts, email blasts/newsletters and social media activities to focus on those topics.
For a math, language and #STEM kids tutoring client – we rotate the topics of Math, Kids Reading/Books & Writing/Grammar, Cool Science Stuff, Studying tips and info that Helps Parents.
SmallBizLady: IS A WEBSITE AND BLOG AN IMPORTANT PART OF BUILDING ONLINE TRUST, CAN’T I JUST HAVE A FACEBOOK PAGE?
Cathy Larkin: A website and blog are crucial pieces of the online trust building puzzle. You control the content here, and how much activity and the email outreach you do. It also makes a business look legitimate, and the tone of the content on your site can convince people to work with you.
Facebook keeps decreasing the reach of their business pages – they are in control there, not you – they can be an important site for your business, but don’t put your eggs in one questionable basket.
SmallBizLady: HOW DO I CONNECT TO MY #SMALLBIZ CUSTOMERS ONLINE – HOW DO I FIND THEM?
Cathy Larkin: You should have an idea of what sites they use from your demographic research. Survey your existing customers too. Post engaging stuff on those 3-5 topics you researched, start on the 1 or 2 sites they use most.
#Hashtags work on some sites of used selectively to help spread your content (on other sites – No: Yes on Twitter & Instagram, no on Facebook). Some sites you can look people up and follow them – like on Twitter, just don’t follow too many at once.
Mom’s were 1st on Pinterest but the audience is broader now. Foodie sites do really well there. LinkedIn is still great for many businesses, and Twitter still works for many small biz folks – especially service businesses. Instagram and SnapChat are popular among younger audiences. Video can also work for many businesses.
SmallBizLady: I’M OVERWORKED ALREADY, HOW DO I HANDLE ALL THIS ONLINE INTERACTION STUFF?
Cathy Larkin: Realize that online activities like blogging & social media CAN connect you to customers whom you would never have had access to before. I got a $500- $1000 a month client in Canada from a twitter chat (I’m in the US), and a $3K/month 3-month gig from another connection I met on Twitter.
Get up a little earlier, schedule posts using @Buffer or @Hootsuite while you watch TV, hire a Social Media Consultant or a Virtual Assistant (VA). Find out who likes/is good at social media/blogging on your team, reassign a % of their tasks to others, then create a strategy with them, monitor & adjust. They CAN also be a distraction – creating a strategy is crucial.
SmallBizLady: THERE ARE ALWAYS NEW SITES POPPING UP. DO I HAVE TO BE EVERYWHERE?
Cathy Larkin: No, only consider them if your customers are new-adopters and likely to be active on new sites. But do dabble a bit and set up a page, as you never know which new site might be the next Twitter or Facebook. If your customers start using it, or you start reading on those research sites I mentioned that your customers are being active then consider the site.
We got @SmallBizLady active on Twitter during its upswing in popularity with small businesses and catching that wave helped her to grow her business. Pay attention, but only jump on board if it really provides new functionality that will really help you reach your ideal customers. But don’t stick your head in the sand either.
SmallBizLady: WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO MAKE THIS ALL WORK?
Cathy Larkin: Having selective CTA’s or Calls To Action – if done well, can really drive activity and even sales. My tutoring client is launching a #STEM (science, tech, math & engineering) program for kids 10-14. Once it is up on the website (with a CTA of “call to find a center near you”) I will promote it by tacking on a link to that promo page sometimes when I post my “cool science” links to articles from NASA or about some cool thing a kid invented. Finding the right CTA and posting it at the right time, or placing it in the right place on your site, with the right incentive (coupon, white paper, free book chapter etc) can help.
SmallBizLady: WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THE ACRONYM “S.T.A.C.K” THE DECK IN YOUR FAVOR MARKETING?
Cathy Larkin: Strategy and Tools: Don’t just jump in, create a plan. Figure out what tools and resources you need.
Audience: As noted above – define your audience/customers
Content (& Contact): Create website, blog and social media content that meets the needs/interests of your audience. Contact them and engage.
Keep it Simple & Karma: Don’t try and be everywhere at once, and be the good guy – be helpful and create good karma that will send them to you when they need your service.
SmallBizLady: YOU TALK ABOUT BUILDING TRUST – HOW DOES THAT TRANSLATE INTO SALES?
Cathy Larkin: With social media, your website and blog you are trying to create a series of “dynamic touches” between your brand and your customer. They may not buy right away, but your goal is to get them to take one or more steps closer to your brand.
This post lists 10 types of responses/engagement you can hope to get from clients that can lead them to buy: http://websavvypr.com/content-marketing-should-make-your-customers-take-a-step-closer-to-your-brand-using-dynamic-touches/marketing-pr-and-social-media-strategies/admin/2015/02/#more-667.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz