Want to Add the Google+ Button to Your Small Business Website? Not So Fast!

With all the buzz being generated around Google’s new social networking and information sharing tool, Google+, you could be planning to add this service to your web content in the form of the Google+ button (if you haven’t already). But, as the title to this post suggests, you may want to wait it out a bit.


Google+ is Google’s latest and, as many argue, perhaps its greatest, most solid attempt at building a social network. Several of the service’s early users who have been invited to try out the new tool have been quick to point out its amazing content sharing capabilities… and potential. Then there are those nifty social circles and the video chat “hangouts,” two features which seem both useful and, well, natural at the same time.

All very compelling… But before you jump on the Google+ bandwagon, keep the following points in mind:

  • Google is still working out the kinks. Officially, Google+ is still in beta mode, and that means there are plenty of wrinkles to iron out while the service is being tested. Some of the issues that have come up include: a temperamental blocking feature that sometimes works… and sometimes doesn’t; a significant slow down to a site’s load time when the Google+1 button is added; and finally a male-dominated trial group. Though Google says it is working hard to fix the performance issues, and eventually the service will be open to all Google users, it may certainly pay to wait for those things to happen.


  • Leave some time for the new network to “catch on.” Before the full potential of Google+ can be realized there has to be a critical mass of followers/users. Though the number of users of the service promises to explode once it is open to the general public, as of yet it is only in a limited trial run with a trial group that may not be representative of the eventual user pool.


  • Have you asked yourself: “Do I need to use this?” If you plan on doing more than merely adding the +1 button to your site, then realize that like any social network, the benefits of being on Google+ will be a function of the amount of time and energy you invest into it. Do you have that time and energy available? Though Google has said that it will roll out a business sites function that will be integrated into the network, you need to determine if it will be worth your while.


All in all, Google+ shows a lot of potential as a business networking and collaboration tool in a way that outdoes several of the current top dog social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. But, it definitely pays to wait a bit till both the service and your business are ready.

New Research Changes Rules of Business Communication

New research about possible hormonal reactions to social networking has big repercussions for small businesses. In a preliminary study (chronicled here), Dr. Paul J. Zak, aka “Dr. Love,” has found that levels of oxytocin, which creates feelings of trust, spike during Facebook, Twitter, and blog use. Businesses can capitalize on this finding to enhance customer satisfaction and expand their customer base.


Dr. Zak’s previous studies isolated oxytocin as the hormone that stimulates empathy, trust, and generosity. Humans typically release more oxytocin during positive social interactions, such as when hanging out with friends. The oxytocin they release increases their sense of trust, further cementing relationships.

Now, by taking blood samples before and after subjects’ social media use, Dr. Zak has shown that oxytocin floods the blood of social media users. His findings connote that feeling of connectedness and trust are equal in virtual relationships and actual relationships.

How can businesses utilize this research to communicate with customers?

1. Build up trust with existing customers. Businesses can use social media to interact with customers. Because people are more likely to trust those business that make information available online (thanks to oxytocin), businesses that communicate through Twitter and Facebook seem more trustworthy.

Frequent Facebook and Twitter posts to a customer base increase trust in your business, increasing the likelihood that existing customers will recommend your business to others.

 2. Build a fan base. Satisfied customers can spread word of their approval to hundreds of friends at a time via social media. Use Foursquare promotions to bolster customers to publicize your business. Campaign to have existing customers click “like” on your Facebook page. Creatively pursue venues, such as interesting blogs, that encourage customers to spread information about your business to their friends.

3. Monitor online image. Nowadays, disgruntled customers don’t just write letters of complaint to the CEO. They quickly and efficiently broadcast their discontent to all their Facebook and Twitter followers, and in some cases, their blog readers.

Companies, recognizing the extent to which clients trust social media communications, have to be on the alert for negative posts. Once they notice online badmouthing, they have to act quickly to resolve dissatisfied customers’ grievances in order to save their image.

What is Foursquare and How Can Your Business Use It?

For about a year now, the blogosphere has been abuzz about the virtues and possibilities of Foursquare. For those of you who are still unacquainted with the social networking app and how it can be used in your business, here is a brief primer.


Foursquare is a neat social networking application that allows you to broadcast your location to your friends. It uses your phone’s GPS to identify your physical location, which it sends to Foursquare, Facebook, and Twitter friends. It is also a game of sorts which awards points and prizes to frequent users. Tech-savvy business owners have been increasingly implementing Foursquare to promote their businesses.

Like Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare offers free exposure to an unlimited number of potential customers. Every time users visit a particular business, they can “check in” to Foursquare, advertising their location and the business. As of October 2010, Foursquare has more than 4 million users throughout the world.

Unlike Facebook, Foursquare encourages users to repeatedly mention businesses. Some businesses prompt Foursquare plugs by rewarding users with free gifts after a predetermined number of check-ins. Others promise freebies to customers who check in and add a public recommendation for the business. That recommendation pops up when friends use Foursquare within the vicinity of the business.

Since March 2010, Foursquare has allowed small businesses to arrange special offers and view the number of check-ins to their business. At least 10,000 merchants have taken advantage of the technology.

Should Your Small Business Be on Facebook?

Smack in the middle of all the social networking hype that has been generated over the past few years there is Facebook- a site that lets users add people as “friends”, designate themselves as”fans”of other users, send messages, and update their personal profiles. With more than 400 million active users, many, including this blog, saw Facebook as fertile ground for businesses to interact with their customers, establish their brand, pinpoint their target market, and in short generate a profitable buzz.


But today, numerous business owners who sought to heed the clarion call to all things social networking are now left wondering whether it was all worth it. It turns out that Facebook, though it may be a popular way to connect with other people, may nonetheless be the wrong platform for many seeking to increase brand awareness and drum up business.

Here is a breakdown of the three major problems and drawbacks small business owners may experience as they work on building their Facebook following:

1. No distinction between personal and professional use. One problem is that Facebook causes business owners to cross boundaries and identities. This is due to the fact that Facebook does not allow one user to have two profiles. This means that users must merge their personal and professional networking. Sharing ones personal interests and photos with business contacts may not enhance one’s professional standing.

2. More fans do not equal more business. Facebook users are focused on socializing. The site additionally provides many interesting distractions, which make users less likely to pay any meaningful attention to business offerings- even when they have labeled themselves as friends or fans. Bottom line: increased exposure within Facebook among users in no way guarantees increased revenue.

3. Advertising a business on Facebook exposes it to fraud. Hacking and spam are prevalent on Facebook. Business owners certainly do not want someone sending strange messages to all their Facebook fans. In addition, because the Facebook audience is so vast and non-targeted, anyone can easily contact a business. Business owners can easily waste time responding to people who never intended to become customers.

In sum, while Facebook may offer unprecedented exposure, it is not truly a business tool. Business owners still interested in social media should consider other mediums, such as LinkedIn or Twitter in order to generate business growth and get a decent return on investment.

How to Generate Cheap Publicity for Your Small Business

Generating publicity is a major part of any small business marketing campaign. But when tight budgets meet up with lack of know how, many excellent opportunities can go to waste. Small business owners looking to expand their marketing tactics on a shoe string may want to consider these options: 

  • Send out a press release. Expanding your business, launching new products or services, gaining new clients, or sponsoring an event are all examples of newsworthy events that can be the focus of a press release. You can send out press releases to local newspapers, magazines, or radio stations, who attract the attention of people in your target market. Alternatively, for a small fee you could use the services of an online news release agency such as PR Web or PRLeap.com. Not only will this help to get your name out there, but it will also temporarily help your website’s Google ranking.
  • Sponsor and/or host an event. Associating your company with a special event, such as a workshop, a lecture series, or some form of entertainment may generate positive interest in your business and drum up sales. You should try, however, to be involved with events that are both relevant to your business and directed to your target audience. 
  • Book yourself for public speaking engagements. If you are comfortable speaking in front of others, offering to be a speaker on a topic within your area of expertise can generate a lot of good publicity for your business- even if you are doing it pro bono. If you are having trouble finding places to speak, there are even public speaker brokers who can help hook you up with groups in need of a speaker. 
  • Get involved in community service project. Your company’s involvement with local charity or community service organization, such as a shelter or a soup kitchen, can generate a tremendous amount of good will and build up a positive reputation for your company, not to mention help those in need.
  • Conduct promotional events. Promoting events, such as giveaways, theme nights, special “value” deals, can generate a buzz among your customers, increase brand awareness, and encourage people to use your products or services. Keep in mind that creativity and planning are central elements to running a successful promotion.
  • Hold a contest. Holding a contest is another easy and fun way to promote your business. Here are a few examples: Have customers send in videos using your products; hold a contest for the best customer-generated t-shirt or logo design. Conduct a lottery for all those who patron your business on a particular day.
  • Create a viral marketing campaign. With a little creativity and know how, a well executed viral promotion can greatly increase brand awareness and generate an increase in sales. Viral promotions typically involve short videos, interactive Flash games, ebooks, software, images, and sometimes email or text messages that are quickly spread among the users of various social networks. To see some examples of the most successful viral marketing campaigns over the last decade, check out this post at Ignite Social Media.
  • Build an engaging online presence. In 2010, developing a business’ online presence can mean more than just maintaining a website and getting listed in local online business directories. It may also involve producing an engaging blog and using social networking sites, such as Twitter and Facebook as well as social bookmarking sites, such as Digg , Delicious, and StumbleUpon. Learning how to effectively integrate these sites into your marketing campaign can generate a tremendous amount of interest in your company and make your business known to people you would be unable to contact otherwise.
  • Build a useful and informative online presence. Aside from being engaging, if you consistently offer useful and valuable information, products, and/or services to those who reach you online, you can also generate a great deal of publicity. Writing articles to e-zines, offering a free e-book or white paper, and posting to or moderating forums are all ways to spread your message and generate leads to your site.

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Free Marketing Through Social Networking Sites

Did you know that you can use social networking sites to promote your business?  This is true whether you have a hair salon, a restaurant, a bar or an auto shop.  Social Networking sites (like MySpace ) are free and are a great way to advertise, build, and maintain your customer base.

A quick search on myspace showed eight salons in downtown Chicago and three bars.  Do a search of your zip code and see which of your competitors are on the social networking bandwagon.  Whether there are many, or none, it is in your best interest to try it out for yourself. 

You would be surprised to see how many people will connect with  you, especially if you have a sign on-site telling people about your myspace page.  You can use the page to post promotions, pictures and to chat with your customers.  In turn, their friends will see that you are connected with them.

Sign up to the sites and try them out!  If you have any customer email addresses, you can punch them in and see who is online.

Use today’s technology to help your business.