A Top 100 Small Business Influencer Champion? Wow, Thanks!

cp_2013_smb_influencer_champion[4]Over the last 20 years, I’ve been blessed to not only run my own small business, but to work with hundreds of other small business owners, managers and startup founders. I’m fanatical about helping entrepreneurs to reach their career goals by starting, running and growing successful small businesses. Sometimes they grow into very large businesses – and that’s fun, too! But the crux of my career has been focused on helping to establish and promote companies in the early stages of their lifecycles, and I really enjoy those challenges.

That’s why I was so happy to be honored last week when I was named a Small Business Influencer Top 100 Champion and Expert in the 2013 Small Business Influencer Awards – produced by Small Business Trends, an award-winning online publication, serving over 6,000,000 small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, and SmallBizTechnology.com, a media company that produces online content and live events educating small and mid-sized companies on how to strategically use technology as a tool to grow their businesses. The awards honor those who are influential to small businesses in North America, through the products, services, knowledge, information or support they provide to the small business market.

I’m flattered to be in this list with some former clients (Brainshark, Constant Contact), companies I admire and use daily (Dropbox, American Express OPENForum, Evernote, Etsy, FedEx, Hootsuite, Hubspot, Plantronics, Vistaprint) and industry folks that I admire such as John Jantsch, Laurie McCabe, Dave Kerpen, Larry Kim and Aliza Sherman. Congratulations to all the other winners and honorable mentions, as well as the nominees. I fully support and cheerlead anyone who works in, and strives to help, small business. You can read about all the champions, here.

I simply wanted to say thank you to those who voted for me, the judges and most certainly my team at PerkettPR. They are not only a huge part of making our national clients successful through smart digital marketing and PR, but they are also an inspiration to me every day to keep my own small business innovative, fun and alive.

You can read additional details here, visit the award site or follow along on Twittter by searching #SMBInfluencer.

 

 

 

“Influencers Who Inspire” Our Latest Interview With Jason Miller Of Marketo

Jason Miller serves as senior manager, social media strategy at Marketo. He leads the company’s social media efforts, focusing on optimizing social for lead generation and driving revenue. He is a regular contributor to leading marketing blogs, such as Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today and Marketing Profs.

JasonMillerMarketo

Pick one: Beer, Wine, Soda, Juice, Coffee, Tea  or Water?

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Stella.

In addition to your social media strategist position by day, you are also a rock music photographer by night. What is the one band you haven’t seen live yet that you would love to photograph?

I have been fortunate enough to photograph many of my favorites including The Cult, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Keane, etc. But I am missing one, and that would be Cheap Trick. Their management company has ignored my requests for some reason, but there are two shows coming up here in The Bay Area that I will be attending so I am hoping they respond accordingly this time. It’s free PR for them, so I am very surprised to see them pass up the opportunity.

What parallels in skill sets can you draw from photographer & entertainment writer to the social media magic maker you are today?

Creativity, striving for perfection and the freedom to try new things. Social media marketing is all about how creative you can get while selling to your customers and prospects without selling. There’s a great quote from marketing mastermind Gene Simmons that I always go back to: “We need the people to like what we do. The more they like us, the more they will buy.” That’s been his philosophy regarding KISS and their worldwide domination, but it also applies very well to a company’s social media strategy. The mentality of ‘always be closing,’ needs to change to ‘always be helping.’

In your recent AMA webinar on the topic of Social Media for Lead generation you spoke about “getting out there and trying things.” What ‘things’ do you recommend trying first to increase engagement?

By ‘things’ I essentially mean trial and error. Social channels are simply another touch point between you and your customers and prospects. They move in real time and what works for one business may not work for the other. The idea here is to find success stories and strategies, then make them your own by adjusting the tactics to your audience. Many of your early social campaigns will indeed fail, and that’s ok. The key here is patience and not giving up too early.

How do you keep up with all of your different social networks ? What processes or tools do you have in place to make it easier?

It is challenging, to say the least. Hootsuite is essential for managing multiple social networks, but I really love reading blogs. With the looming death of Google Reader, I have switched over to Feedly to aggregate and read the blogs that I love. Flipboard is also a great option when I want a fully-integrated social feed in a magazine-style format, the only problem there is the filtering. But they are getting much better.

You talked a bit about LinkedIn as a critical social tool for lead generation, and it has certainly improved in the recent months. What do you see as the most valuable way for a business to use LinkedIn?

The most valuable way businesses can use LinkedIn right now is for prospecting, listening and building credibility. There is a cornucopia of insights within the platform, if you know how to set up saved searched-around keywords. There is also a tremendous opportunity to engage with super relevant conversations within the newsfeed and LI groups. I am really excited to see the new products that will be coming from LinkedIn for marketers in the coming months, as I believe they are just getting started.

You also mentioned Facebook as being an important lead generation tool no matter the kind of business you are in. Can you explain why that is the case?

The bottom line here is that if your business or brand, regardless of the niche you are in, doesn’t have a presence on Facebook, you are simply missing opportunities. There are more than one billion people on Facebook; if you think your customers, prospects and decision makers are not there, you are wrong. The important thing to remember is that in the world of B2B marketing, your customers and prospects are not on social to be sold to. Entertain them, tell them a story, give them something to share, help them along the way, and when it comes time for them to purchase, your company will likely be top of mind.

Measuring success is always important to any marketing initiative and tying our work with social back to lead generation is no different. For a small business that may not be able to afford a Radian6 or Marketo right now, what metrics do you recommend looking at beyond likes, shares and follows to determine campaign success. Are there any good free tools that go beyond the average vanity measurements?

That’s a great question. For a small business or anyone just getting started, I would recommend something simple but super effective such as Sprout Social. It’s a pretty decent all-around social tool and provides a nice foundation for anyone looking for a quick snapshot of the social-sphere around their business. Once you begin to get a bit more serious around your social measurement of lead gen opportunities, then you need to start tracking social as a lead source, along with referring traffic and conversions from social. You can do that with Google Analytics. The main thing to keep in mind is that when you start seeing leads come in from social, they are almost never ready to buy. You need to have a lead nurturing process in place, and that’s where marketing automation really shines.

We work some amazing and dynamic marketers and CEOs with fantastic ideas, but sometimes best intentions for writing don’t seem to happen. What is your best tip for inspiring busy executives to crank out the blog posts?

Easy. Go to lunch with them and ask them questions. Record the conversation, then have it transcribed via TranscriptionStar or a similar service. You can extrapolate from there and possibly even have two or three posts from one conversation.

As an aspiring comedian, would you please share the funniest social media update you ever posted or remember seeing across your networks? 

I don’t know if it’s as funny as it is disturbing, but I once tweeted that I woke up one morning still unable to forgive George Lucas for introducing Jar Jar Binks to the world. Somehow it got retweeted tens of thousands of times, and I ranked as the number one influencer for Jar Jar Binks on Klout.

Interested in learning more? Please leave any questions or comments for Jason below.  You can also catch up with him on the Marketo blog or follow him on Twitter.

Tell your story – Storify

storifyWorking in an industry that’s constantly evolving, it’s imperative in PR to stay on top of the latest technologies, tools, and services. Whether it’s a social network (we love LinkedIn for networking and thought leadership opportunities) or a social media management tool (Hootsuite is on the top of our list)—we’re always on the look out for new and innovative ways to improve efficiency and enhance our client service. Being open-minded to new ideas, testing out new processes, tools, and services helps PerkettPR remain in the forefront. Did you know in 2008, we were one of the first PR firms to join and find value in Twitter? So, it’s no surprise that when I came upon social media curation service, Storify, I was eager to explore this social network that allows users to tell virtual stories using videos, pictures, tweets and more.

In PR, storytelling is pivotal. Every brand has a story. And it is how a brand creates a story for its target audience—one that features compelling content and meticulous thought – that makes it relatable and engaging; however the way we tell the story has evolved from traditional mediums like newspapers to the concise art of 140 characters. Storify extends our “storifying” abilities even more. Being in PR, this network is especially enticing as it gives us the control to creatively tell our clients’ stories – on our terms. Whether it’s showcasing client coverage, sharing videos, or promoting an upcoming event there are many valuable uses for this tool. Storify makes stories more interesting and authentic—bringing together many voices into one story—allowing a brand to build more trust and credibility with its audience. This network proves to be both interactive and social—giving stories depth and resonance—qualities needed in today’s social media savvy age.

In fact, Storify recently launched Storify Business, a premium service that allows companies to spread story content more effectively while building their brand presence. Some of the new specialized features include the ability to make stories private, more accurate analysis of results, real-time updates, CSS styling with custom story display, and enhanced technical support. We’re looking forward to seeing how marketers and companies alike embrace this new service.

Do you use Storify? Is it useful? What are some of your favorite stories? What additional features would you like to see to further boost your story? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Looking for CoTweet Alternatives? Our Comparison of Social Media Management Options

If you are a standard CoTweet user, you have probably heard that on February 15, 2012, ExactTarget will be replacing the free service CoTweet with the premium service SocialEngage – with a free trial for 30 days. To help those of you that may be scrambling for an alternative, we did some leg work for you. Below you’ll find a comparison of features and functionality across SocialEngage and other popular social media management tools in the interest of deciding which  alternative is best for standard CoTweet users. The factors considered in this comparison include the ability to pre schedule posts, view messages and replies, as well as multiple user and team members support, and of course, pricing.

SocialEngage http://www.cotweet.com

Billed as the next chapter for CoTweet, SocialEngage has the same general interface (single column display with sidebar navigation) plus many new features. Pricing for SocialEngage is not available online. To find out more about SocialEngage you must provide an email to download a digital brochure and then speak with a salesperson for a price.

HootSuite http://www.hootsuite.com

Creating and scheduling posts are simple tasks with HootSuite. It features an intuitive interface using tab navigation for each profile, multiple columns for displaying streams (feeds, mentions, messages) and a side toolbar to access features. HootSuite also features custom analytic reporting and supports adding profiles from most social networks.

TweetDeck http://www.tweetdeck.com

TweetDeck is available as a web or desktop application and is very easy to create and schedule posts from multiple profiles. It features a simple multiple column interface and a top toolbar. You may add multiple columns and assign feeds, mentions, messages and more from unlimited social profiles. Unfortunately there is no team member support.

MarketMeSuite http://www.marketmesuite.com

MarketMeSuite has an interface that is very similar to CoTweet; and offers similar functionality with the addition of adding profiles from LinkedIn and Facebook, but currently not Pages. MarketMeSuite is in beta with some additional functionality still in development, including analytic reporting.

Roost http://www.roost.com

Creating and scheduling posts is not a quick process with Roost. The wizard-like interface walks you through 4 steps to create a message. The application encourages you to create a campaign for the an entire week and has a feature that recommends content based on sources you choose. Team members are not supported.

Seesmic http://www.seesmic.com

Seemic offers a plethora of apps for web, desktops, iPhone, Android and Windows Phone. The simple interface uses multiple column display and sidebar navigation – similar to TweetDeck. Seesmic supports unlimited social profiles, but there is no team member support.

Buffer http://www.bufferapp.com

Buffer is an interesting and different paradigm from CoTweet. The idea is that when you come across something you like, simply add it to your “buffer” – a queue from which Buffer publishes at established times of the day. Adding posts in Buffer is very straight forward, however, you do not have the ability to pick individual date/times for your posts. Adding posts from web or mobile device to Buffer is a snap, with browser plugins available for most browsers, Android and Google Reader.

Recommended Alternatives for Standard CoTweet Users
In consideration of all the factors used to compare these services, MarketMeSuite is the only service that offers all the functionality of CoTweet for the same price: free.  CoTweet users will find the interface to be very familiar, while offering some additional features.  MarketMeSuite is a beta service and some of the functionality is still in development, so some change is expected.  For more information, MarketMeSuite has provided a Getting Started Video.

If you would rather avoid using a beta service and are willing to pay a premium, HootSuite is the most affordable option.  It offers all the same functionality of CoTweet plus custom analytic reporting and support for most social networks including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc.

We hope this has been a helpful overview of some of the popular social media management tools available for those standard CoTweet users trying to decide on the best alternative.