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Social Media for Small Businesses – Is it Effective?

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Yesterday I was a panelist for the Salt Lake City Social Media Club. We talked about small business marketing and PR. Right before leaving I read my friend Chris‘s tweets from a SEMPO (a search engine marketing organization) webinar he was listening to:

  1. SEMPO: On average, companies expect to spend 43% more on SEO in 2010 than they did in 2009. We can help @seocom 🙂
  2. SEMPO: Most important trends in digital marketing: Video, local search, personalized search, and mobile.
  3. SEMPO: Most companies social media strategy consists of an FB page and Twitter account. 11% use myspace. 16% Wikipedia. 
  4. SEMPO: 50% of companies say social media has had impact on business. 27% report no impact. 10% report “huge” impact.
  5. SEMPO: 38% of companies have a hard time making business case for continued investment in social media. I think that number is low.
  6. SEMPO: 42% of companies surveyed have hard time measuring SEO ROI. Fail. SEO ROI is easier to measure than most marketing methods.
  7. According to SEMPO 62% using social media to measure brand awareness, which – IMO – is incredibly difficult to measure. Disconnect? ROI?
  8. SEMPO: Companies are struggling to figure out how to maximize their social media efforts. Most are confused over strategy. 
  9. SEMPO: 51% of companies use social media to increase brand awareness and manage reputation. 16% use it for lead generation.
  10. SEMPO: 53% of companies surveyed use Bing paid search network – stealing market share from Yahoo. Google Adwords still rules. 
  11. SEMPO: 30% of companies surveyed moving budget money away from radio advertising to SEO
  12. SEMPO: 69% of companies surveyed shifting newspaper and magazine print ad dollars to SEO budgets
  13. SEMPO: Only 13% of companies plan to double or more than double their social media budget in 2010 compared to 2009.

This doesn’t paint a great picture for social media, but it does for SEO. But I do have to note that the source is a search engine marketing company. I also work for an SEO company – OrangeSoda. We do social media consulting – because having active profiles on social networks is good for search results – because search engines look for fresh content.

What I pointed out yesterday is that the problem for small businesses is that social media is a HUGE time commitment. It’s an ongoing commitment. You’ve got to be consistently involved. Even though some purists say not to, I say use every tool available to make it easier. If that’s too much, then maybe working with people who are active may be a better choice than joining in.

In an article about social media for small businesses on CNN it says,

“Maintaining constant, and genuine, dialogue with customers who are on the Internet around-the-clock can be both time consuming and exhausting, requiring extra resources that small companies may not have.”

– Matthew Yeomans, director of UK-based social media strategy firm Custom Communication.

Stephen Leighton, owner of “Has Bean Coffee,” a UK-based Internet coffee-roasting business that has a worldwide following. How? with social media. But look at the time commitment for his results: “he spends up to 17 hours a day, seven days a week, updating his coffee video blog, talking to audiences on Twitter and responding to every email he receives.”

That’s several thousand $$ (I figure about $7-9k on the low end) a month in time spent. Plus it’s not good for relationships  to work those kind of hours (you’re probably sacrificing your family and social life). I wonder if it’s bringing that kind of return. Also, how much would that same business spend on advertising in a month? Does this replace that budget or is all the budget being spent on social media?

I’m not saying that everyone must contribute that much time – but it gives you an idea that it’s going to be hours. If you don’t have a lot to say, don’t know what you want to accomplish and can’t measure the impact, is it worth it? Probably not. But if you have a lot to say and need a platform to reach your customers and you want to engage with them or answer their questions, social media can be ideal. Whether it’s worth your time is a question every business must answer.

For some, social media is a silver bullet, but for most it’s another marketing tool (though a pretty fun one). For me, social media made my entire career. Without my blog and Twitter very few people would know who I am. But because of the exposure it’s given me I’ve built a reputation, gotten jobs, written a book, launched businesses, etc. Plus I’ve loved doing it. I found it hard to stop. Hours would fly by.

Social media can do the same for your business as it has for me – put you on the map and build your reputation and visibility.

If you are a small business how has social media helped you? Or, if you haven’t gotten involved, why not?

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PRNewswire on the Las Vegas Strip

I’m in Las Vegas for a vacation this week staying near the Fashion Show Mall. It has the huge rotating ad video screens outdoors. There are often iPod ads. I expected iPad ads – but haven’t seen any yet.

Last night as we left a show I heard the words of the ad mentioning PRNewswire. Then turning the corner I saw the ads. It rotated stories from press releases, along with news images. It was awesome. I know this isn’t the best picture, but you get the idea. I’m so curious if it’s worth the investment to advertise – since it’s usually consumer products not business that’s advertised there.

Incidentally we stayed at Treasure Island, then at the Wynn (what a view!!). I love the Wynn except for the $30 fee to use the gym and the prices on all food (mostly worth it but not every time – the $50 light lunch was ok). Generally speaking Steve Wynn has amazing taste and you can count on everything to be good (we should’ve skipped room service at Treasure Island & gotten it here instead). We’ve hopefully walked enough to work off the calories eaten.

Anyway, my point is we also got to go into the Fashion Show Mall to the Apple store long enough for me to play with the new iPad. It made me wish I’d skipped my Kindle (which I’ve loved) and wait for the iPad.  I think it could be a business expense (like the press releases I write), right?

On Giving Referrals

I like referring people to people who…

  1. Follow up with the contact right away –same day.
  2. Keep their word. Especially if they take money from the person I referred, they will complete the work and do it well.
  3. Treat the people I refer with respect.
  4. Refer people back to me (when it makes sense). For example, I referred some people who needed someone to help them learn LinkedIn to get business leads to Todd Colbeck. Then he taught them to go to me to send out a press release about the sales tools they built to attract new customers.

My husband is a financial planner who refers A LOT of business to a mortgage broker. The guy is so incredibly good at his job that he makes my husband look good for referring him. He’s one of the top sellers in the country for good reason. He knows so much in an industry that is so dynamic. But he also does something that I love. When he does a refinance and saves someone A LOT of money on their monthly payments, do you know what he does? Yes, he sends the same people back to my husband to invest the money they’re saving for the future. I love it.

I have recently referred someone who didn’t keep his word – not with me and not with a friend I referred to him. I have referred people to someone who was really good at what he does but treated people with mistrust. He could even be abusive. I didn’t realize that until after I’d worked with him a while.

Making a good referral can be difficult. People might be good at one thing and not another (so they may be brilliant and marketing but be flaky at showing up to planned events). So set yourself (and them) up to succeed by referring them only for what they are good at.

I’m reading a new book that I’m already going to say is worth getting. It’s from John Jantsch of “Duct Tape Marketing,” and it’s called, “The Referral Engine” and it’s a book that needed to be written. Referrals are important and should not be left to chance. I’ll tell you more next week when I review the book on OrangeSoda’s blog.

Smashburger’s Social Media Success

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I just wrote an article for American Express OPEN Forum about Smashburger and how they’re using social media to open new restaurants. They did an Eat & Tweet in Draper, Utah and a lot of my friends attended (@Paco_Belle @JoshSPeters @iGoByDoc).

I asked Alexis at PR firm Lola Red PR who planned the event some questions, here they are:

How many people attended? About 25 individuals from the Salt Lake City social media sphere attended the opening of Smashburger in Draper, UT.

How did you find/choose them?
For our Draper, UT opening we did extensive outreach to the social media community via web searches and traditional networking among local social media mavens. Smashburger maintains a Twitter handle for Salt Lake City (@smashburgerslc) and is daily communication with local social media circles.

Can you give me an idea of the results/how the new store is doing or what results you can attribute to social media outreach. (do you measure # of tweets, mentions, comments, blog posts, pictures posted, foot traffic, etc?).

The Twitter account for the Salt Lake City stores has received a large number of mentions comments and DMs since the event. There have been an extremely large number of blog posts with photos and many guests have mentioned seeing them. The social media community in Salt Lake City and in many other communities have embraced Smashburger’s use of social media which is evident in our followers and mentions.

Do you have a list of links to the grand opening event that I could include?

Smashburger has a Utah-only hamburger called the Beehive burger. How did people like the Beehive burger in particular?

The response to our Beehive burger was very positive. We also feature a grasshopper shake on the Utah menu. Our classic Smashburger is our #1 seller in the market. The Beehive burger is extremely popular is typically the second or third most popular on the menu.

Thanks Alexis!

I found out about the event after Nigel Swaby and I interviewed Josh Peters on about his book TwittFaced about Twitter. He told us about Smashburger on the show. (Listen at and find past episodes at – a weekly podcast for small business owners.)

What I like most about Smashburger is that they are social – they do participate and build social media into their marketing plan. It’s not an afterthought and it’s fully endorsed and understood by their founder Tom Ryan.They don’t have specifics on how it’s impacted their business – like many companies they are banking on the effort of reaching their customers and talking and listening to them will pay off. If it’s anything like this social media case study with a cafe – it does.

Thanks for your time Tom and everyone who participated. Now it’s time for me to stop writing about them and get there to try a Smashburger!

Janet Thaeler – Speaking Engagements

I wanted to let you know where I’ll be speaking next. I really should put out press releases for these, but there’s no time lately.

Every week at 2pm MST on Wednesdays I interview people with Nigel Swaby for our podcast called the Web Marketing Weekly Show. It’s secretly how I get to know amazing people. So if you want to be interviewed please contact us on the site. (

I’m speaking at the Mountain West Regional Public Relations Conference for PR students at Utah State University on Friday March 26. Then later that afternoon I’ll be off to Podcamp at Neumont University in South Jordan, Utah. I need to learn what they are teaching (because I’m podcasting).

Monday March 29th I’ll speak at the Utah Student Summit on a social media panel at The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. This is also for students.

This summer I’ll speak at the EVO conference for women in social media ( More details coming.

I’m speaking on how to pitch a search engine at this Ragan conference hosted by Cisco Systems June 9-11, 2010 in San Jose California.

See this is what happens when you write a book. I used to be petrified but now I’m pretty comfortable with it. I especially love the enthusiasm of most college groups I’ve spoken to.

  • Will your Press Release Lead to Press Coverage? (
  • Dramatically Increase Traffic by Adding a Photo to Your Press Release (
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Is Tweeting your News to Journalists on Twitter Effective?

I’m addicted to LinkedIn lately. I asked this question and got so many answers.

Have you ever found success tweeting your news to journalists on Twitter?

I was looking for people who have gotten news coverage because of a tweet. I also want to know if people had found success using a paid service like Muckrack. PR Newswire will tweet your press release for $75 and PRWeb will for free (at the $200 level and above).

Google now ranks tweets in search results and the higher authority the person who tweets the better it is for your rankings.

I’m also curious if anyone has ever used a paid service to reach journalists on Twitter. One service is Muckrack:

PR Newswire charges $75 to tweet your news. PRWeb does it free. Have you used these services? Is it worth it?

Google now ranks tweets in search results and the higher authority the person who tweets the better it is for you…

Here are some insights that I got back:
Mahr from Microsoft says they do short interviews of their CEO on Twitter that gets them coverage:

“we use at Microsoft twitter to do interviews (twitterviews) with our CEO and other specialists of the department and we often get a good coverage on newspaper or magazines.”

Kristopher who does PR for ARUP Laboratories has had some success pitching on Twitter:

“We got a product write-up in BusinessWeek online for a very big client last year. We built a twitter page for our product as it was launching at CES and then targeted the industry as well as media. Just getting that coverage in BusinessWeek was a success to me.

I have pitched other reporters through twitter with varying success, either outright ignoring my pitches or replying kindly that they weren’t interested. Robert Scoble has a friendfeed room designed specifically for pitching him, and he really responds…

It’s a good venue for reaching out to the media because it circumvents the gatekeepers, and in that light I think PR people need to understand how twitter and other platforms work. (Even so, when a writer takes a story idea, they usually still have to clear it with their editor.) But it’s not the place to build a strong, lasting relationship with the media, I think that it can be an ice breaker, but email or phone call or face to face are the best places to build lasting relationships.”

Tonya who is an adjunct professor gave a great tip – to set up keyword searches on Twitter:

“I’ve used Twitter to reach out to journalists and bloggers, schedule interviews, and follow up to their requests. I wouldn’t use a paid or automated service, but I do set up keyword searches on Twitter and follow relevant journalists. Then when the opportunity comes, I’m already there.”

Melissa, a wellness expert said a tweet led to an interview:

“I don’t personally tweet links to press releases but I have had editors from Better Homes and Gardens and Parents Magazine interview me because of a specific tweet that I sent offering a wellness tip.

I also always tweet out my media coverage – you never know who is watching!

I made a list of several national media members on twitter if you’d like to follow. It’s mostly lifestyle oriented.”

She has a Twitter list that includes journalists:

Now it’s your turn to answer – had any luck using Twitter to pitch stories?

New Small Business Web Marketing Podcast

Today was episode 1 of a new venture – the Web Marketing Weekly Show. It’s a 30 min. podcast every Wednesday – live. Nigel Swaby of SEO by Swaby is my co-host. Today we talked about online press releases and our successes with clients.

Here’s how it works: we discuss a web marketing topic with each other or bring in guests. Then we briefly talk about something in the industry – news. Then we’ll read IM messages, emails and take calls – basically answer questions or give advice. We hope you’ll join us. It’s not formal and we have a fun time.

Check out the web site which will materialize and include our schedule as we go: and check out our first episode about press release success stories and Superbowl ads – the ads that ran and the ones that didn’t.

  • Online PR Podcast Interviews Janet Thaeler (
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I’m a Reporter – Thanks to CNN iReport

I used to borrow my grandma’s video camera, put on her wig and wear her business suit and pretend I was the news anchor. I made my cousins cover sports and weather. Today I’m a reporter for real! (just like I’m a PR pro for real).

CNN has a feature called iReporter that lets anyone put up news stories. Not only is this good from an SEO or reputation standpoint – it’s fun. I grab my video camera and I’m making news. News that I tweet about and let reporters on Twitter know about.

So first I had to find some news. My first story was today and it’s about how the economy spelled doom for a troubled local bank. Barnes Bank Closed after 119 Years in Business. It was quite an event in this small town. I went to interview some folks. I must say that the police were super nice – which I needed to see about now.

I’m on the lookout for news now – hopefully I can get some at the Sundance Film Festival or even at Affiliate Summit this weekend.

Social Networking & Sharing a Collective Experience

I’m not trying to take on a cause but I pull for social networking sites to bring out our collective humanity. Really these sites just reflect who we are. If we’re jerks then we can be even worse because we don’t have accountability. If we hate, we can hate anonymously and be very cruel. But we can also reach out and be moved by people we otherwise wouldn’t have known. And impact far more people’s lives.

This card from @Postsecret is an example of how social networking sites can bring up painful memories. I wrote recently about how I experienced a mother losing her baby, almost in real time on Twitter. That’s another example of how social networking sites connect us in various ways on different levels.

It was my birthday this week and thanks to Facebook a lot of people knew about it and wished me happy birthday. I could think it was too impersonal but I didn’t — I just enjoyed it. It strikes me though that with all the automation – I could die and people would still wish me happy birthday, my ebooks & products could still sell, blog posts I’d written could still go live, tweets could go out, etc.

It’s sort of eerie in a way but also sort of immortal in a way too…notice this message below isn’t in past tense. I’m not sure how I feel about it. The internet brought us a global community & these tools only make it more intimate.


Crush It! Or a 4-Hour Work Week?

If you want a real trip philosophically, do what I did. Read Crush It! By Gary Vee and then read the 4-Hour Work Week. It will put you in a philosophical bind.

Crush It! Will tell you that to truly succeed with an online business you need to put your soul into it. You need to know everything and live your business. You need to BE your business. It’s going to take insane work and crazy hours to accomplish but to be truly outstanding is worth the price. Gary is very passionate about it and lives this. Watch a video of his work and you’ll feel it.

CRUSH IT! (Kindle Edition with Audio/Video)

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Now, watch a video of Tim Ferris. Just as passionate. These 2 are both maniacs. They are insane. They go to extremes in life and they absolutely love their lives. People become devotees of their style. People like John Jonas create entire businesses off the philosophy (teaching people how to outsource their business so they can spend a minimal amount of time on it and do what they love the rest of the time).

Perhaps the most extreme example is the Markus Frind who owns the dating site Plenty of Fish. He based his business on mathematical equations to determine how to match people up, made it free and makes millions. He’s covered in Inc. Magazine and he basically works almost never and plays the rest of the time.

To make it even worse for me I drove 2 hours to attend the Wasatch Business Community workshop and we have a guest speaker on publicity. Or on branding actually. Howard talked about how he is friends with his customers. He went into elaborate detail about the gifts and attention to detail he has when it comes to clients. His top clients get nice perks. I’m sitting there thinking, yes I like people but there is no way I’d want to be friends with all my clients (no offense – it’s just not practical and if everyone is your friend, then no one is your friend). I’ve seen disaster when that’s happened. But it’s brought him a lot of clients and it obviously enriches his life.

So as I’m transitioning to promoting ideas and other people’s products to having my own products, I’m at a crossroads. I need to outsource because I’m getting overwhelmed. I don’t want to outsource because I’m not sure what direction I want to take things. There are all sorts of pulls on me. Be a “guru” with a bunch of URLs with sales letters that lead to my products? Go B2B and partner with firms that have a good following (get my DVD into MarketingSherpa’s store, for example)? Both? What is true to who I am? If I go one way or another am I cheating myself?

All I know is just about every month we go on a mini vacation and a few times a year we go on a bigger one. So I can’t be a Gary. On the other hand, if I don’t outsource some things will just never happen that I need to happen (like getting an affiliate program running before Affiliate Summit).

So I bounce between these extremes. And I’m perplexed by them. And I’m trying to figure out what I want (which is pretty much the norm but I’ve gotten some things down – like I really like vacations but I also like coming home and working on my business).

Now it’s your turn. Have you read these books? What do you think? What’s your advice for me?