Facebook’s Aging is Great News for Small Businesses

[Re-post from August 7, 2009]

Recent headlines like “It’s SO over: cool cyberkids abandon social networking sites” and Facebook ain’t cool with the kids no more imply that Facebook is going to go the way of Friendster and MySpace – increasing irrelevancy and a declining user base. However, that is far from the case. Facbook is now the fourth most visited website on the Internet (after Google, Microsoft and Yahoo), and keep in mind that it has only been open to the general public for less than three years (since September 2006).

In addition, Facebook has experienced a surge in the past year in usage by people 26 years old and older. As of the end of July 2009, there were nearly 44 million people on Facebook who are older than 25, compared with 29 million who are between 13 and 25 (InsideFacebook.com).

Unless your target market consists of tweens, teens and college students, this aging of Facebook is great news for small businesses, particularly those that are focused locally.

Think about it this way – if you are a CPA, attorney, real estate agent, florist, day care center, veterinarian or any other locally-based business, your target customers are most likely over 25. And, now that more and more of them are on social networking sites like Facebook, you have an opportunity to establish a connection and dialogue with your potential and current customers that simply is not possible with a listing in the Yellow Pages book, a radio spot or a newspaper ad.

Social media is about listening, sharing experiences, and showcasing a presence. It can be a very powerful tool for branding, lead generation, and customer support.

If you don’t yet have a page for your company on Facebook, set one up today at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/pages/create.php. Then, start to regularly post content that your customers would find interesting and useful. Let people know that you have a page and ask them to become a fan (send out an email and add a link to your Facebook page on your website). Above all, be authentic, personable and responsive.

As they say in real estate, it’s all about “location, location, location”. Well, nowadays on the web, the location is Facebook (as well as Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube). Go where your customers are and where they can find you.

How Your Company Can Use Twitter

[Re-post from July 28, 2009]

Yesterday, I read about a company called Thymer.com that has developed a web-based application for “project management and task planning for people who hate project management and task planning”.

I was eager to try it out, but it’s in closed beta, which means you can only sign up if you have an invitation code. I did a quick search online to see if I could find any, but came up empty. I then decided to post a tweet asking if anyone had an extra code:

CivicLink on Twitter

This morning, I received a reply tweet from the company itself, @stunf, with my own personal invitation code:

Tweet

Talk about customer service! The company most likely monitors any tweets that contain their company name or website so they can know what people are saying about their product and to respond to questions or requests such as mine.

If you’re not on Twitter yet, set up an account today at http://www.twitter.com.

I use an application called TweetDeck to view updates from the people I follow, send out tweets, and track mentions of our companies’ names and websites. You can also set up searches for key words or phrases (such as “accountant Orlando” or whatever your business industry is) and then respond to tweets from people who are looking for those products or services. This is a great opportunity to market yourself in a personal way – just be sure to be authentic and helpful. (Here’s a great article on Twitter etiquette.)

You can follow me on Twitter at @CivicLink.

Happy Tweeting!

Update on Tuesday, July 28, 2009 at 12:52PM by Registered CommenterCarol Cox

A colleague just passed along this article to me about one company’s success with Twitter – http://www.sugarrae.com/commercial-twitter-case-study-revisited/

I’m an evangelist (and didn’t even know it!)

[Re-post from April 9, 2009]

In my last post, I asked if you had evangelists for your product or service, like Netflix has (and Blockbuster does not), and what you could do to generate enthusiasm for your company so that your customers start evangelizing for you.

Today I had lunch with Julie Swatek, Founder and CEO of ScrapYourTrip.com, a multi-million dollar e-commerce company in Orlando that she founded in 2002 out of a spare bedroom in her house (if you like to scrapbook, then you probably have already been to her site; if you haven’t, be sure to check it out!). Julie’s company is the epitome of one that has benefitted from customers who have become evangelists for her.

While we were having lunch, I mentioned to Julie about the “Clean Eating” regimen I started following last year and how much I love it. I told her that I would send her an email with a link to the book on Amazon so she could buy it if she wanted to. After I got back to my desk after lunch, I realized that I was an evangelist for the Clean Eating products and I had not even thought about it that way before!

Since the time I had read the book last August and started using the recipes and following the guidelines, I have told many of my family, friends, and co-workers about it, as the subjects of health, energy, food, and diet have come up in the course of regular conversations. I have even purchased copies of the book for family members and several co-workers have bought the books themselves.

I then realized that the success of the Clean Eating books was probably due in large part to people doing what I have been doing – spreading the word because of their love of the product. There is no financial benefit for me; I don’t make any money if someone I tell buys the book. But, that’s not the reason I tell them. I do it because I sincerely believe that they could benefit the way I have.

That is the key to understanding whether your product or service can generate evangelists – do your customers think that what you offer is so good, unique, and beneficial that they will naturally tell the people they know about it and encourage them to try it? It doesn’t matter if you are an accountant, attorney, doctor or other professional, or if you sell software, cars, or t-shirts. How many Prius owners have rhapsodized about their cars? How did you find your current doctor or dentist? Did someone you trust tell you which one they went to and really liked?

On the Internet, having evangelists is even more important because it can help your company’s name spread like wildfire, at no cost to you. You can’t even buy that kind of advertising.

Thus, as you set out to build your company, your first priority should be to create an outstanding product or service that resonates with your customers – one that is so good at solving their problems that they’ll naturally want to tell others about it.

The Beauty and Power of Twitter

[Re-post from March 30, 2009]

I signed up for a Twitter account sometime last year for my business primarily because I wanted to reserve the name before someone else did. I didn’t see much value in using Twitter, so I didn’t post any tweets or even sign up to follow anyone else. Then, within just a few days, I started receiving requests from other people to follow me. And, what really surprised me was that most of the requests were from people I did not know but who were in a related field and thus were people I should know. I was intrigued, but still did not truly understand the beauty or power of Twitter, so my account remained dormant – until last week.

Last Thursday, I went to a workshop on using Twitter that a colleague of mine at Full Sail University conducted (his Twitter handle is “dangorgone”). He showed us how he uses Twitter for conducting research for his courses, reaching out to others in his field (web usability), and in general just posting his thoughts and links to articles he finds interesting.

He also showed us TweetDeck – an incredibly useful application that you download and install on your computer. It organizes your Twitter streams and allows you to easily tweet, re-tweet, and reply.

Best of all, you can put in a search term (such as “business model” or “website usability”) and every time anyone in the Twitter universe posts a message with that term in it, you will see it in your TweetDeck. Now, take a moment and think about that. Here is a real-time search engine that will inform you at the very instant when someone anywhere in the world is thinking about that topic or is asking for recommendations for companies that supply a particular product or service. How much would you, as a company, pay for these types of leads? Well, you don’t have to pay anything because they are completely free. Just be sure not to abuse the system. Here is a good article on Twitter etiquette that I highly recommend reading before you get started.

Twitter is also a great resource for seeing what is on the minds of the leaders and influencers in your industry, so look them up and start following them!

You can follow me on Twitter under my handle “CivicLink”.

Happy tweeting!