Tag Archives: small business

Want to Hedge Your Bets? Invest in Social. (Pt.2)

In part one of this series we looked at social media as a means of hedging your traditional advertising “bet”, using it as a tool to protect against potential losses brought about by unprofitable, outdated, traditional advertising methods. While it can certainly be used in a microenvironment like a small business’ marketing campaign, social can also act as a traditional hedge.

Sure investing in social startups, or in this case, launching your own, is far from a traditional investment vehicle, but it could very well be the safest investment you have ever made. Everybody has some “great” idea for a new website that will change the world and allow them to retire early somewhere on the Italian coast, and while the odds of you becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg are more than his net worth to one, that doesn’t mean you can’t generate a decent return on your money.

You’re a mid-level executive, you bring home $100,000 a year, of which you place 5% in an ultraconservative 401K, save 10% for a rainy day, and invest an additional 10% in traditional vehicles, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. Using 2012 as an example, which in a reality was a phenomenal year for the market, we can assume that you made 13.4% (S&P 2012 gain) on your 10,000 investment, bringing home a pretax profit of $1,340.

While that 13% return is certainly nothing to scoff at, and most (smart) investors would take that every day of the week, there is some semblance of a risk taker in all of us, and sometimes that SPDR ETF just doesn’t cut it. Fortunately for you, you just got off the phone with your broker and Direxion just unveiled 3X leveraged ETFs! That’s the risk you were looking for, it has high earning potential and because it’s regulated by an American institution it retains some degree of safety, right?
Now, let’s pretend you invest half of your yearly $10,000 into the 3X leveraged ETF, day one rolls around and unfortunately the market opens down 1%. While normally that would not be such a big deal, that 1% is really a 3% hit for your leveraged fund. The bell rings, and at the end of the day you’re only down $150 which brings you to $4,850. No big deal, the next day comes around and the markets surges 1% on a good jobs report. But wait, a 1% gain only brings you to $4,995, you’re still down $5. Unfortunately for you, since your lost 3% on $5,000 day one, day two’s bump couldn’t get you back to par since you were working with a depleted capital supply. Although this happens daily with traditional investments, you’re not a day trader, and it takes very little time for your investment’s working capital to be exhausted.

However, this is 2013, you decide to hop on the social bandwagon and put that freshman level computer science class to the test. Instead of investing $5,000 into some volatile fund or note that is based on an index that was created by an overseas investment bank, you decide to leave $9,000 in traditional vehicles and invest the remaining $1,000 in your very own social startup. You go with something niche, in this case, Fiesta Campus (www.fiestacampus.com), a photo sharing website for college students. You register the domain for $12.99 on GoDaddy, use Wix or the like to design and host your website for and additional $9.99 a month and boom you’re up and running. Of course you have to make it legal and your business formation costs you an additional $250. From there, you begin to build a user base and generate some web traffic, and since your business model is based on advertising revenue, you can’t make money without them. You market on Twitter, Facebook, and the like but you decide to expedite the process and spend your remaining $600 on advertising space in a local college newspaper. Fortunately, their print advertising is very cheap and $600 gets you a front page ad in 10,000 papers. That being said, only 75% of those are read by college students, and of those, only 5%, a total of 375 people, go to your website and become users. A week later, the flux in web traffic causes the value of your $13 domain to skyrocket, it increases in value tenfold, and thanks to GoDaddy’s free valuation tool, you realize your domain is now worth $130.

So, 6 weeks after your website went live your domain’s value has skyrocketed, but your domain is not your most valuable asset, your 375 users are. When Facebook went public, they were given a total valuation of $101 billion and had 845 million users, giving each a value of $121. Since we cannot reasonably assume that after 6 weeks your users are as valuable as Facebook’s, we’ll say that they are worth only 10% of what theirs are, $12.10 a user. If we then multiply that out 375 times and add in the $121 domain valuation, your social startup, which only cost you a $1,000, is now worth $4,658.50, quite a hefty return for a 4 month period.

The good news for your aspiring entrepreneurs, it only gets better. As you gain more and more users, they actually increase in value, as does your domain. However, once you hit a certain threshold, gain a solid user base, and hit traffic benchmarks, advertisers will be knocking down your door to place their banner ads on the side of your website, that fortunately for your wallet, boasts a very specific group of users and allows for highly targeted advertising.

Finally, let’s look at the potential downside, remember, gone are the days where starting a business took countless hours and tens of thousands of dollars in capital. While launching a social startup is by no means easy, nor are there any dividends or guarantees, it does provide a high potential, low risk investment that cannot be mimicked by traditional vehicles. What’s the absolute worst case scenario? You lose $1,000, less the $12.99 domain which will only increase in value over the long term, as relevant domain names are become increasingly scarce as startups and speculators purchase thousands a day. So, when you’re analyzing potential investments, ask yourself, what do you have to lose? Can you afford to take a $1,000 risk and give up some free time? If so, its time you reallocate your risk into something far more profitable and launch your very own social startup.

While I was forced to make a lot of educated assumptions regarding returns, pricing, and costs, social’s potential as an alternative investment, or hedge on traditional vehicles, is undeniable.

Don’t forget to subscribe via email and follow me on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Readings:

How Much Is Each Facebook User Worth? – http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2012/03/31/how-much-is-each-facebook-user-worth/

Stock Market Performance By The Numbers – http://www.wyattresearch.com/article/2012-stock-market-performance-by-the-numbers/29185

Top 5 Niche Social Networks – http://computer.howstuffworks.com/internet/social-networking/information/5-niche-social-networks.htm#page=0

Advertising Rates – http://www.cavalierdaily.com/page/advertising-rates

S&P Charts

Why Social Thought Leaders Are the Most Important Part of Your Executive Team

Most of us spend a good chunk of our day online in some capacity. We’re constantly absorbing content from various sources, analyzing and building on pieces of information, and learning from thought leaders who consistently push out high quality material.  Genuine thought leaders tend to do the same. They take in new ideas, compile them, and push out an even greater idea, continuing growth and fostering the cycle. This progression, and the development of thought leaders as individual experts, is contingent on the cultivation of new ideas.

In recent years, with the evolution of social networking, this notion has been injected with steroids. Gone are the days when thought leaders attended conferences and chatted behind closed doors with peers, discussing their apparent stranglehold on relevant creative thought. I repeat, those days are gone, and if you’re management teams still think that way, walk in to their offices and fire every single one of them.

Now, successful thought leaders, especially business people in positions of power, have realized the importance of the social web in fostering ideas, developing talent, and ultimately growing their businesses. By utilizing social media, thought leaders can recruit potential employees who demonstrate a complex understanding of a specific piece of subject matter, increase the number of quality ideas they see each day, and bolster their company with innovate thought, keeping them at the forefront of their respective industries.

Here’s a brief personal example – I now work for a Fortune 50, one of the largest companies in the world and a leader in our industry. Prior to coming aboard, I ran my own, rather successful digital marketing firm, Brandt Social. Although my current company has a network of literally thousands of recruiters across the country, I was contacted by a gentleman who is now my boss, and an executive at our company. While at first, I had little desire and certainly did not intend to go work at some giant firm where my talents would go unnoticed, I quickly learned that the gentleman who reached out to me was in fact a thought leader, who clearly used social as tool to stand out amongst his peers, foster talent, and cultivate new ideas. This differentiation was a major draw in my decision to come aboard.

Unfortunately, if your organization is lacking a genuine thought leader, your time frame is finite. Many managers, claiming to be thought leaders, whether they be a business person, an online personality, or an author, have been doing just the opposite, seemingly afraid of both new ideas and the talent that sprouted them.  This oppression not only hinders conceptual progression, but can ultimately burn out and deter top talent from fully developing.

In a business setting, whether you attribute it to jealousy, lack of adaptability, or narrow-mindedness, it is undeniably toxic. When managers, usually, self-described as thought leaders, prevent new ideas from spreading, regardless of their source, they are in a word, crushing the future of your business. New ideas are the foundation of not only the new “startup” business model, but of capitalism as a whole. When ideas get suppressed by a higher-up within your organization they force them one direction, out. As in, out of your entire organization. When this happens repeatedly, more than just ideas run for the hills. Top talent, potential recruits, and cutting edge clients want nothing to do with your business, regardless of your previous success. Remember, ideas are temporary, if you cannot adapt to innovative concepts or develop new ones, your days are numbered.

 

Don’t forget to subscribe and follow on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

 © 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Reading

Thought Leadership 2.0 – http://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/how-to-become-a-thought-leader-online.html

True Professionals Don’t Fear Amateurs – http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/12/index.html

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2 Real World Resolutions and Their Social Applications

We’re officially one week into the New Year and resolutions are in full swing. From weight loss to dietary alterations, we all attempt, regardless of sincerity, to alter our lives for the better. Fortunately for us, these common resolutions are not only practical in the everyday, but digitally applicable and can change our online image, better our reputations, and bolster our brands.

1. Be Punctual

Everybody’s rushed, we all oversleep, and sometimes, possibly often, we run behind. That being said, timing is everything, especially when we’re talking social. In a digital world where a Tweet sent 30 seconds ago is obsolete, business owners and professionals alike must be acutely in tune with the timing of their posts.

So, when is the best time to publish your content? The short answer, weekdays around 4pm. The long answer, it varies greatly between networks and target market. If you’re shooting for the highest number of active users, Monday through Thursday 1pm to 4pm is your go to, but, if like many, you’re shooting to reach educated, employed, professionals or business owners, you’ll need to post with a bit more precision. Professionals utilize social media during the workweek, early (7am-8am), at lunch on their smartphones (11am – 12:30pm), and when they head home (4pm – 5pm). Of course this is by no means an exact science, but by remembering the importance of timing you can significantly increase the visibility of your content.

2. Consume Less

Regardless of the product; alcohol, tobacco, food, etc., many resolutions involve the practice of moderation. While consuming “too much” social content may not have proven adverse health effects, it can certainly be detrimental.

While many talk about a “work / life balance” few actually practice what they preach, and of all professions, social entrepreneurs are they absolute worst. Think about it, I mean actually think about it, how many hours a day are you active on social media? For most, 2, 3, 4 hours, or even more when taking into account mobile usage, is not uncommon. Not only does this leave little time for you to focus on other, probably more important areas of your life, family, friends, etc., but it actually inhibits your ability to differentiate between high quality, important information and the irrelevant opposite.

The people you follow and subscribe to generate a multitude of information, while not all of it is relevant or quality, much of it is. However, after being connected for hours, witnessing a constant stream of information, you begin to monitor for certain keywords or topics, usually extremely niche, that pertain to your immediate goal or problem rather than foster creative thought and enhance logic. Occasionally you may hit the jackpot and read that perfect article or blog that sparks a revelation, but far more often than not, by zoning in for hours on end and unintentionally filtering out content, you risk missing hundreds of pieces of slightly less relevant information that when compiled, could have solved your problem or helped you reach your goal in a fraction of the time. It certainly seems that the old adage holds true, less is more.

 

At the end of the day, any resolution, socially applicable or not, is more than likely a good one and is well worth attempting. I wish you all the best as you strive for personal improvement in 2013!

 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow on Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

 © 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

Additional Reading:

Best Times To Post Social Networks (Infographic) – http://socialtimes.com/best-times-to-post-social-networks-infographic_b104584

Maybe Using Less Social Media Is The Path To Online Success – http://www.businessesgrow.com/2012/05/30/maybe-using-less-social-media-is-the-path-to-online-success/

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3 Social Tools Smart Entrepreneurs Use and Why

While many understand that social media is an invaluable marketing tool for businesses, smart entrepreneurs see the true value in social and it has nothing to do with advertising. Here are 3 tools intelligent business owners use to grow their businesses.

“If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin

1. Twitter Search

Sure we all know how to use it, but Twitter’s search bar is wildly underutilized. The social network has quickly become the most powerful news and information aggregator in the world. Rather than browsing Inc., Forbes, etc. for news, try searching Twitter to see what you customers / potential customers are saying. Learn from their complaints, wants, wishes, and praise to prevent your business from making the mistakes of those before you.

After taking a look at your customer’s preferences, search your competition, see what they’re doing, what they’re not doing, and what people are saying about them. Taking into account your findings, adjust your marketing strategy accordingly, if they’ve seen success with a contest it might be in your best interest to do a bit of gamification, if they hosted a conference and it was a flop, learn from their mistakes.

2. LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Answers provides a forum for users to interact and find solutions to problems of all sorts. If you’re a small business owner LinkedIn Answers is your personal support center. Have an IT issue? Try LinkedIn Answers. Have a question about SEO? Try LinkedIn Answers. Bottom line, you have a question, they (users) have an answer.

To take it a step further, make sure you provide insight and help solve other people’s problems anytime you can. Not only will this ensure your questions are answered in a timely fashion and receive multiple responses, but it will help to establish you / your business as a thought leader and valuable resource within your industry.

3. LinkedIn Groups

Similar to their counterpart (Answers), LinkedIn Groups provide users with the ability to learn, teach, and share information of all kinds. Join groups in your industry and actively participate, share relevant articles, and learn from others. Groups’ real value lies in the fact that they are filled with like-minded people. If you own a hotel and need advice on staffing and payroll you probably don’t want advice from a SEO expert, fortunately your Group is filled with thousands of hospitality professionals, most of which are willing to help in any way they can.

While these are by no means “new” tools, they are certainly underutilized. As “social marketers” we often fall victim to tunnel vision and only look at intrinsic marketing value, however, it is important to remember that social provides an enormous wealth of information and at the end of the day knowledge is the most valuable tool anyone can have.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow on Twitter!
@BrendanBrandt
http://www.brendansbrainstorms.com

Additional Reading

7 Epic Marketing Uses of LinkedIn Answers – http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29581/7-Epic-Marketing-Uses-of-LinkedIn-Answers.aspx

LinkedIn Groups Add Marketing Power – http://mashable.com/2009/03/20/linkedin-groups-marketing-features/

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

3 Ways To Promote Post Virality

Across the board, influencers are relentlessly attempting to differentiate themselves from the sea of 1,500,000,000 (1.5 billion) combined tweets and posts per day. While everyone wants to be the next Red Bull and blow up with half a million shares, virality is rarely ever achieved. Here are 3 tips to remember as you construct your next campaign and push for social infamy.

1. Want to go viral? Remember the basics.

When constructing a post remember what your audience, in this case anyone who consumes social content, is looking for. Make sure your wording, including a call to action, is interesting and concise. Chances are, if your introductory verbiage is bland, so is your content.

Avoid blocks of text. A few paragraphs are perfectly fine but nobody wants to read a wall of text. Break it up, use bullets, indents, and alter font (bold / italics) to create some visual relief.
Always include media. Let face it, we’re lazy and it’s much easier to glance at a picture or watch a video than it is to read, even if your text is short, say 140 characters, a picture or video brings a missing aesthetic element that will help your post standout.

Post on multiple platforms. Promote your content and make your call to action visible wherever you can. Publishing your information on various different sites will boost cross promotion, that is, a retweet on Twitter could ultimately translate into a comment on LinkedIn. At the end of the day the old adage still holds true, any publicity is good publicity, it doesn’t matter where that comes from. Fortunately, multiplatform integration has made simultaneously publishing one post to multiple sites extraordinarily easy.

2. If you want something, ask for it. Better yet, require it.

Unfortunately, you cannot expect your average social media user to retweet, reblog, or share something just because. While there certainly are some that do, it is important to remember that they are the exception and not the rule. However, by simply including a purposeful call to action within your post, you can often incite social consumers who typically remain on the sidelines into promoting your content. That being said, when aiming for virality, content creators should head in a different direction.
At risk of getting too far into gamificaiton, by hosting a contest, i.e. “Submit an offroad picture of you and your Jeep. The owner of the photo that receives the most likes wins a weekend at Jeep Adventure Camp! Users must share this post to win.” , influencers can directly drive virality.

For instance, the above post, includes not only a call to action “Submit an offroad picture of you and your Jeep”, but promotes sharing on 2 levels. First, and more overtly, the forced share – “Users must share this post to win.” The second tier of sharing or subshares, occur when uploading users (users who posted photos of their offroading Jeeps) ask that their friends, followers, connections, etc. interact on the host page, in this case Jeep’s Facebook, because the uploading user needs something (in this situation likes on their uploaded photo) in order to win the contest. This creates multiple waves of activity that drives traffic, prevents your content from going stagnant, increases total reach, and ultimately gives you a shot at virality.

3. Timing is everything.

Remember, social networks utilize the feed system, until a post starts seeing some activity, the playing field is level – the newer the better. With that in mind, it becomes clear that attracting shares and retweets immediately is the key to your dreams of virality. If you don’t see some activity almost immediately upon posting, there is a good shot your content will plummet into oblivion. In order to avoid this, influencers must time their posts properly. Social networks see a spike in activity early in the morning (8am-9am), late afternoon (3pm-4pm), and late night (10pm-11pm). While posting in these windows by no means guarantees activity, they gives content creators the best shot to attract users.

A word of warning.

The odds of achieving virality are certainly against you. Remember that it takes time, potentially multiple posts, and is much easier if you already have a substantial following. However, it can be done. That being said, if you’re a small business, make sure you can handle the traffic. Just because you can handmake 500 cupcakes a week does not mean you’re ready to handle 5,000 a day, no matter how delicious they are.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter!
@BrendanBrandt

Additional Reading:

37 Viral Post Ideas You Can Use Today – http://www.skelliewag.org/37-viral-post-ideas-you-can-use-today-103.htm

How To Create Facebook Posts That Go Massively Viral – http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-create-a-viral-facebook-post-2012-8?op=1

Viral Digitial Marketing

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

2 Easy Ways to Measure ROI on Social Campaigns

If you’re familiar with the Rodger’s adoption curve, you understand that the innovators, early adopters, and early majority have already hopped on the social media bandwagon, are marketing online, and are reaping the benefits. Unfortunately, these marketing trends have not yet taken hold with the late majority and laggards. Many of the business owners residing in the latter two groups cite various, valid, reasons for holding out, most commonly, their “inability” to track the return on their social investment.

However, by leveraging tools like SocialBro and Google Analytics, diligently monitoring, and properly tracking your campaigns, you can measure ROI with relative ease. Here are 2 things you should take a look at when considering your return.

1. Have your marketing costs decreased or sales increased?

At the end of the day it’s about dollars and cents. Social media, and digital marketing in general, is far less expensive than traditional means. A Facebook business page and user generated content is free, a month’s worth of billboard advertising is roughly $1,000, you do the math. When working with business owners this is an easy idea to pitch, option 1, we save them money by cutting back, not eliminating (I would never recommend that – a topic for a different day), on traditional advertising and in turn decrease their marketing expenditures, or, option 2 add free digital marketing to their current traditional campaign and increase revenue, either way, we put more money in their pockets.

2. Has web traffic increased?

Not only is this an easily translatable, tangible piece of data that makes sense to business owners, it is by far, the easiest metric to track in the history of metrics. It really is a no brainer, by simply tracking the number of hits month over month, you can easily determine whether your social media campaign has seen some “success” or needs a bit of tweaking.

A side note on this – while increased traffic is great, it can certainly ruffle some feathers. If traffic increases 50% and sales don’t increase at all, you might reveal some underlying issues related to conversion, management, etc. that business owners may shy away from.

One final thought – at the end of the day, it is important to remember and relay, that although it does need to be leveraged correctly, social media is FREE, and any return puts you in the black.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter: @brendanbrandt.

Additional Reading:

Calculate the ROI of Social Media – http://www.briansolis.com/2012/10/calculate-the-roi-of-social-media/

5 Simple Steps to Measure Social Media ROI – http://socialmediatoday.com/node/463590

Rodger’s Adoption Curve – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle

Rodger's Adoption Curve

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

How to Market Like a Drug Dealer

Across the board, marketing efforts are becoming increasingly digital with every business trying to push out the next viral advertisement in hopes garnering millions of likes, shares, and retweets. Unfortunately, not everyone is the creative genius type, and enlisting the help of a Don Draper can break even the biggest of startup budgets. Thankfully, you don’t need to, instead, stick with what you know, generate your own original content, and market like a drug dealer.

Content marketing has grabbed the limelight as of late and has seemingly become digital marketing’s golden goose. In reality, content marketing is not a new idea, for all intents and purposes, a business that participates in “content marketing” is giving away something for free in hopes of hooking the would be customer to their product or service, forcing them to come back for more, at which time they will be forced to pay for the previously free product or service.

So, that coffee shop down the street that is giving away hot chocolate samples for free, is participating in content marketing. The lead aggregator company, that gives you a one month, no risk trial is no different than the digital marketing firm that publishes weekly whitepapers. In every situation, the premise is the same.

The easiest way to understand content marketing, and realize how, why, and where it occurs is to relate it to…a drug dealer. Often, dealers will give a “prospect” the first dosage of a hard drug for free because they know, that the user will quickly become addicted to what the dealer provides and will continuously return, as a repeat buyer, to purchase the drug that had been given to them “just to try”.
If we apply that to content marketing. it’s easy to see why firms invest so much time and money into publishing unique, quality content when a few good articles are no different than bag of meth.

Ready to start?

1. Publish unique, original, addicting content that is related to the product or service that you are selling and leaves your would be customers wanting more.

2. Be consistent, but don’t overdo it. Think supply and demand, if you flood the market with your product, its value goes down. You want your customers to anxiously await your next freebie until they become so hooked on it that they have no choice but to buy what you’re selling.

3. Make it visible. Publishing a good blog post with a few relevant tags is no longer good enough. Post and repost your information on every social network at your disposal.

Additional Reading

10 Content Marketing Tips You Can Employ Now

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/10-content-marketing-tips-you-can-employ-now/

Your Publishing Content Has a 72 Hour Shelf Life

http://mashable.com/2012/09/28/content-shelf-life/

Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

Content Marketing

Content Marketing

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

The ideology of a college startup

In the rapidly evolving world of micro blogs, social media, and html5 the college startup has become increasingly common. While many economists advise against starting a business in a recession and financiers are reluctant to provide small business loans, a new breed of entrepreneur is emerging. With minimal expenses, little responsibility, and plenty of free time, intrepid college students are going into business for themselves. In theory, college provides the perfect climate for launching a new business, but what are the motivating factors that drive students to become more than just that?

 

When launching my first business at 19, it boiled down to three things.

 

Boredom- Sure I took classes on everything from fine arts to ethnic conflict, stayed involved in campus activities, and made time for friends, yet I somehow remained dissatisfied. For many young entrepreneurs like myself, launching a business is an opportunity to channel personal talents in ways that academics cannot.

 

Fear- I have always been somewhat of a news junkie but even students who remain completely uninterested find it impossible to remain uninformed. Between the classes, flyers, and dorm room chatter students are immersed in a world of knowledge. While for many this results in a spot on the dean’s list, for me it translated into fear. Sure I was intelligent enough, got good grades, and had a respectable internship, but constantly hearing about a turbulent job market scared me. Was I really going to be able to land a decent job upon my graduation? Starting my own business seemed like a win – win, either my business would succeed and I would be financially secure entering “the real world” or  the endeavor would fail and I would walk away with an improved resume. Regardless of the outcome I would be better off than I started.

 

Opportunity – College is an incubator for creativity. Of course there are countless hours spent studying, but free time is plentiful. This, coupled with bountiful campus resources; mentors, technology, and most importantly other students, creates an ideal environment for young entrepreneurs. While both are potentially available in countless other scenarios outside of college campuses, I found the collegiate environment to be one of a kind, a sort of all in one think tank, test market, and mentorship program that provided everything necessary for me to launch a successful business.

 

So what really motivates young entrepreneurs? Are they, like me, motivated by fear, boredom, and opportunity? Or is there another force driving them to succeed outside of the classroom?