Ask any small business owner what their greatest challenge is online and the answer will almost always be: Visibility.  Small companies often face this issue, as they do not have the well-established branding of large corporations nor do they possess national or global visibility offline.

Today, social media has become one of the most useful tools for small businesses.  Not only is it now possible to increase online visibility by utilizing popular brands such as Facebook and Twitter, but it can also help to increase sales and revenue, as well.

Building a Social Identity
The world’s largest social networks may have had humble beginnings, but they have grown into some of the most significant brands on the Web.  In fact, many smaller companies have actually used the popularity of those networks to expand into new markets and capitalize on E-Commerce.  In the first quarter of 2012, comScore reports that E-Commerce spending totaled upwards of $44 million.  This figure represents one of the highest single fiscal quarter online sales in history.  In fact, economists estimate that 2012 will be the most profitable year ever in terms of online sales revenue.

Using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and other networks to promote brands, products and services has been a crucial component of that online sales growth.  Many Internet marketing companies offer social media optimization and marketing services, but as social media becomes a more competitive market, it has also become more difficult for brands to get noticed.

The real key to building a strong social identity is quality.  To increase views, likes, shares and even sales, brands must offer users unique and relevant content.  Additionally, companies should deliver rich content whenever possible to help maintain user engagement.  Videos and images are more likely to be shared throughout social media than text and can be effective marketing tools.

From Social Media to Sales
Businesses with an E-Commerce platform should heavily promote it within the social space.  By directing users from network profiles to product pages, those pages gain more authority and the probability of sales increases.

Social media is undoubtedly one of the most valuable assets to small businesses.  Combined with E-Commerce, it can maximize the potential of virtually any company with an online presence.

Facebook, Google+, Twitter and virtually every other social network have become more than pastimes for the millions that use them daily.  Today, these sites are the product offerings of multi-national corporations and have not only changed many aspects of Internet marketing, but impacted popular culture around the world.

From Humble Beginnings…
The world’s largest social network now boasts over 900 million members.  That figure accounts for nearly 1/7 of the world’s entire population.  Not bad for a company that began in 2004 as a small project of then-Harvard student, Mark Zuckerberg.  While the story of Facebook’s origins and rise to prominence is well-documented (and has even won Oscars), the reason for the site’s success is not as obvious.  Like many social networks before it, Facebook was merely intended to be recreational.  It was designed as a platform for people to interact and engage online, while possibly (and hopefully) generating some ad revenue to keep the business afloat.  Fast forward to 2012; Facebook is a publicly traded corporation with global reach and more importantly, international influence.

…To a Global Phenomenon
The rapid expansion of Facebook goes beyond Wall Street.  The advertising and marketing industries have noticed the impact of social media in the wake of Facebook’s growth.  Even news journalism has changed on the post-Facebook Web.  In one form or another, social media is now incorporated into the business model of virtually every company with an online presence.

Jumping on the Bandwagon
Success breeds competition and Facebook is no exception.  Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn have arrived on the social scene in the years following Facebook’s emergence as the number one network and more are likely to come in the months and years ahead.  While none of the aforementioned sites are even close to Facebook’s membership, they are showing exponential growth.  In fact, Pinterest even became the world’s third most frequented social network while still in its beta phase.

Looking Ahead
However, like many industries, social media is not without flaws and is bound to change and evolve according to the demands of its user base.  Facebook’s IPO and the subsequent backlash that it has suffered have demonstrated that social networks need to assert their influence in the online marketplace and prove their value as viable advertising outlets.  Additionally, social media sites must strive to remain in the Internet limelight in order to retain their ability to attract potentially lucrative online marketing campaigns.  There is certainly a place for social networking on the Internet of tomorrow, but innovation will undoubtedly be the key to future success in the social space.

Twitter continues to assert its importance and as a result, it receives a great deal of attention from SEO agencies, social media experts across the board, and us here at WebiMax. All social platforms are evolving and responding to what customers want, but Facebook and Twitter seem to trying to stay ahead of the curve constantly pushing their offerings and what can be done on their platforms. Case in point – Twitter’s new partnership with Pepsi whereby the social platform is the medium for connecting customers to Pepsi’s “Live for Now” global music campaign.

This is a great move for both parties. For Pepsi, it is functional, great for branding as a hip music supporter, and delivers compelling content to their customers. For Twitter, it is a perfect use of their technology and gets them working with a big name player like Pepsi and also exemplifies the relevance of their platform, and surely will give a bump to the number of users on the platform. For Twitter, the glowing endorsement and assertion of the platform as the “quintessential ‘now-time’ media” by Brad Jakeman, president of PepsiCo.’s Global Beverage Group is a huge positive and barometer of its place in social and internet activity

The “Live for Now” campaign brings music to Twitter users through multiple means. First, a short-form video series being made available every Wednesday over a 52 week period will profile music, artists, and news that is trending that particular week on Twitter. Users will also be able to access free music downloads from Amazon.com’s MP3 Store each week by following @pepsi and using #PepsiMusicNOW as a hashtag in their individual tweets. Additionally, a Pepsi pop-up concert series will occur in the US during the summer and fall months. The concerts will have big name artists and will be announced on twitter streamed on Pepsi’s profile page live.

Takeaway
Companies large and small can learn from this partnership. They do not necessarily need to partner with such a large player to make a difference, but can use Twitter in much the same way as the “Live for Now” campaign will. They can schedule compelling content, using various media…video, photos, music, and written content. It is up to the companies themselves and the quality SEO vendors and social media experts that they work with to determine exactly the content and frequency of the posts. If partnerships are possible though, do them, if not for anything else other than the fact that the follower bases will be joined increasing exposure and cross-over follower acquisition.

Social media has tremendous potential to brands, we know this. But gaining increased exposure for a brand through purposeful engagement with their audience is a skill requiring a number of elements, among them a viable strategy, and is worth a closer look through the actions of a large social player, the NBA. The league has a powerful social media presence as it is with 260 million Facebook likes and Twitter followers spread around all the player, team, and league accounts – and they have significantly ramped it up for this year’s playoffs and their efforts provide a great global example.

Tumblr & Pinterest
As reported in a piece on Mashable, the NBA has launched Tumblr and Pinterest accounts and are running a campaignthrough their Twitter presence. Marketers for the league are looking at these two additional platforms to take advantage of their visual focus and ease-of-use for photo-sharing. Specifically for the tumblr account, NBA marketers will be displaying pictures depicting classic moments in NBA playoff history profiling famous match-ups and moments.

For Pinterest, they have two goals. First, they will promote retro and throwback team clothing linking it to their e-commerce store to drive more business in that regard. Pinterest is ideal for showing off product visual being able to create boards and pin interesting looks and combinations of the clothing. Secondly, they want to profile interesting “characters” that are in the NBA, looking at quirky styling, haircuts, and other elements.

Twitter Campaign
With the global reach of the NBA brand, marketers for the league are looking to engage fans from around the globe in their “Hoops Around the World” campaign. This effort spurs fans to document the places that they both play and watch basketball. They are pushing fans to tweet photos of where they shoot hoops locally capturing the actual baskets and where they watch their NBA games – mentioning @NBA and #hoops. According to Mashable, the NBA will retweet the ones they like the best and compile a world map of all photos before the culmination of the season with The Finals. If the NBA really wanted to push it they could engage fans on the social platforms of local markets, but I’m sure their reasoning in part is that they wanted to keep it unified.

Takeaway
Businesses can use this as an example per individual company characteristics and goals. WebiMax and other strong internet marketing and SEO companies help businesses to outline their marketing goals and strategy for social media campaigns and one of the primary factors with the new platforms in Tumblr and Pinterest is whether or not your company has visual relevance. Most all companies do, but it is a matter of how businesses can post images that relate to them and their operations in an interesting way to engage with them. The subject matter of the photos all must be interesting whether images taken by the company or shots of charts and infographics, facility or office pictures, and even pictures of relevant happenings in the industry.

For information on leveraging social media especially with an international audience, reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com or @ryanwbudd.

As we all know by now, social media empowers us all to become reporters of our own.  Oftentimes we discuss the news and major announcements, and even stimulate buzz for a particular product and brand.  President Barack Obama has grabbed the media’s attention after officially announcing his support for same-sex marriage on ABC’s Good Morning America.

While the media has gone in to a frenzy to report on this major evolution in his presidency, millions of other reporters surfaced on Twitter- that’s right, us.  Perhaps one of the most intriguing considerations is the fact that there is now an official “Retweeting President Obama” counter that states the amount of times the President has been retweeted on this topic.

Leave it to social media to cultivate a statement and generate its own buzz.  In fact, Twitter reported that there were greater than 7,300 tweets per minute immediately after the President tweeted “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

Twitter published the follow analytical graph showing the explosive growth in tweets per minute (TPM) that emerged shortly following the announcement.  Image is courtesy of Twitter, Inc.


The President knows exactly what he is doing by moving the conversation to Twitter.  Back in 2008, the President successfully leveraged social media while on the campaign trail.  The fact of the matter is social media now provides everyone a platform to stimulate buzz and snowball information amongst our contacts.  This move is a strategic decision by the President and it seems to be working in his favor.

As my fellow writers and I have recommended time and time ago, it’s a good practice for companies to use social media to supplement their other organic SEO activity. Due to the ever-increasing number of users found on networks such as Facebook and Twitter, many start-up or entrepreneur company owners are sharing their own original content effortlessly with the masses. Businesses that remain active with social media sites consistently see better traffic to their online properties than those companies that don’t retweet or post status updates. It’s an exciting time for small and medium-sized businesses to be sure, but many companies are finding that their success is somewhat limited and they don’t know why.
 

Although everyone touts the potential of a fully-engaged social media audience, there is also a general acknowledgement that knowing when to post a link can greatly determine the reach of one’s content. Obviously status updates about trending topics are most successful when people are not away from social media while celebrating a holiday or major event. In addition to paying attention to major events, getting a gauge on when social network users are likely online during the course of a given day is an important skill for any business owner or campaign manager to have. While developing a sense for user activity levels can be tricky, a new report released by Bit.ly can help give budding social media companies some help.

Traditional Social Media Posts Hit their Stride Early
Recent statistics from the popular link-abridging website show that popular social networks Facebook and Twitter actually see the most link activity during the earlier parts of the day. According to the site’s latest blog post, the two social media sites see their link click-through rates peak in activity starting in the morning and topping off sometime before 4 PM EST. In particular, Twitter link activity is at its highest levels between noon and 3 PM EST on weekdays, while Facebook does well during a similar timespan. Both networks see greatly diminished CTRs starting Friday and going through the weekend.

Image-Based Social Networks do well in the Evening
The Bit.ly report also states that image-centric social media site Tumblr sees the most users during the evening. From the end of the work day to around 10 PM EST, the CTRs for those links generated by Bit.ly often see their highest levels. According to the blog, Monday and Tuesday nights actually see strong activity. Friday nights are also great nights for posting on Tumblr, with heightened activity a result of the oncoming weekend.

Using these Reports Wisely
The statistics reported by Bit.ly provide more guidelines that anything else. SMB owners and social media campaign managers should always remember that the industry they work in and major events should be the prime indicators of when links should be distributed on social sites. On the average day though, the aforementioned timetables for posting should give those users who are unsure when to post their links a little extra direction.

For additional information about efficient link-sharing on sites like Facebook and Twitter, I invite readers to contact me at jwersits@webimax.com. I am more than happy to reply to any inquiries they may have.