Using sites like Facebook or Twitter to connect with customers can narrow the gap between small businesses and large ones, but the challenge for small businesses is to focus on their primary line of work while dabbling in social media effectively.
A new educational site from email marketing pioneer Constant Contact, plus other online resources, provides tons of free getting-started information on social media, perhaps just enough to let a small business know it needs more advanced, paid services.
Constant Contact, with a heavy focus on SMBs, has just launched a new informational and educational site to help its small-business customers take the social media plunge. Its new Social Media Quickstarter site includes a deep series of content “chapters” on all the major social media sites, as well as related areas like location-based services, blogging and Quick Response 2-D barcodes.
Videos that feature small-business owners help visitors understand the social media basics: what social media is, how to build an online presence and what best practices their peers are using, said Mark Schmulen, general manager-social media at Constant Contact.
The company even offers a free social media monitoring service, dubbed NutshellMail (see Expert Insight, below, for more on this service), with users receiving a summary email of mentions sent straight to their email inboxes, vastly simplifying reputation monitoring.
Email marketing has become part of the mainstream for many smaller companies (Constant Contact boasts 450,000 customers), so turning to that same vendor for social media help makes sense. Constant Contact offers social media capabilities as an add-on to its core email marketing, event marketing and online survey products, Schmulen said. Those products start at $15 per month and are priced to help small businesses get started easily.
Constant Contact isn't the only traditional email vendor offering either free or paid help with social media. Other typical educational resources are good places for any marketer, not just those from smaller companies, to find tips, best practices and case studies. They include:
• Vertical Response Marketing Guides. This site includes an array of educational material, including a checklist for integrating social media and email marketing.
• Get Response Learning Center. Among its webinars and tutorials are videos on social media sharing and email/social integration.
Sometimes the best things in life really are free, especially for small businesses looking for a social media kick-start. At other times, those free things can be augmented with paid services that, relatively inexpensively, enhance small-business' capabilities greatly.