4 Tips for Marketing to Millennials

It’s not surprising that millennials (currently, 18 to 35 years old) are the biggest spenders in the country. They love experiences, traveling, and anything that will make them feel good about their lives. According to the Census Bureau as of June 2015, they outnumber the baby boomers with a total population of 83.1 million compared to 75.4 million boomers. It’s hard for companies to ignore this generation, but some may have a hard time marketing to millennials because they are the most diverse. Their access to companies across the globe far outreach previous generations. If a company is not making an effort to reach them, then they’re missing out on millions of potential profits. With $1.3 trillion in annual buying power, millennials’ resistance to traditional marketing may deter a company’s marketing efforts.

So, what can a company do to grab the attention of this generation? How can you start effectively marketing to millennials?

Here are 4 tips I’ve learned along the way to improve marketing to millennials.

Get Social

It’s hard to ignore the various types of social media platforms available today. Of course, there’s Facebook, Twiitter, Pinterest, but platforms such as Instagram, Periscope, and Tumblr are coming on full force and millennials are hopping onboard like crazy and are sharing almost every aspect of their lives. They expect the same thing from the brands they love. They want companies to be social and to find out what’s happening right now and in a hurry. That’s where a strong social media marketing plan comes into play. Companies can share their latest products, behind the scenes with employees, or even show support for other organizations or local events.  Millennials want to feel that social connection and you have to give it to them.

Engage, Engage, Engage

Millennials are the most fickle when it comes to brand loyalty. If there’s something newer, better, or more affordable, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are willing to give it a go over the brands they’ve been using for a couple of years or that their parents chose for them growing up. They’re also very opinionated and outspoken. So, if you’re engaged by a millennial, whether on social media, in forums, or through your customer service form, you better engage back. Millennials will let others know if they love or hate a product, so if you receive feedback (positive or negative) it would be in your best interest to acknowledge and respond. You’d rather get a review that says great product and great company/customer service or sucky product, but great customer service over sucky product, sucky company/customer service any day.

Don’t Sell

The traditional idea of selling is out of the window when it comes to millennials. Millennials don’t want to be told what to do or how to do. They don’t want to be inundated with ads all day. They definitely don’t want to be told how to spend their money. Everything is done on their own terms. The best way to reach this generation is through organic marketing or inbound marketing. You’ll bring the customer to you through blog posts, seo, social media, landing pages, etc. You’re not directly selling to them, but you’re giving them the information they need about your company and products so they can make an informed decision before making a purchase.

Understand the Diversity

Millennials grew up in difficult financial times, so where and how they spend their money is important to them. Keeping that in mind, a company shouldn’t have a blanketed marketing plan for this diverse generation. Companies must understand that they cannot market a product to an 18 year old millennial the same way they do to a 35 year old millennial. The message will get lost on one or both of them. The burden of debt may be different for 18-24 year olds who only have a car and rent to pay (unless they’re being fully supported by their parents) compared to 25-35 year olds who have mortgages, insurances, and families. Of course, there is some overlap with the ages, but some have higher incomes/discretionary income, therefore they have higher spending power for bigger purchases.

Building a Solid Social Media Marketing Plan

Social media is hard to avoid these days, unless you don’t have an internet connection or truly hate social media so much that you take every single measure to avoid its existence. The fact is that it has inundated our everyday lives. No matter how much we don’t want to admit it, we need it to immediately keep up on current events, stay in the loop with friends and family (besides picking up the phone or sending a good ol’ letter in the mail), and even gaining leads for our businesses. That’s why almost any business, whether a startup or mature (unless you’re Apple), must start building a solid social media marketing plan.

Where to Begin with your Social Media Marketing Plan

A business without a solid social media plan is like going on a 200 mile flight, but taking off with only 150 miles worth of fuel. It’s going to be a crash and burn situation. There’s no way a company can get on a social media platform and start tweeting, instagramming, or facebooking and expect to have good returns if its just posting about the company and what it wants to sell. Social media is about building valuable relationships with the public and not asking what they can do for you 24/7.

There are a few things a business must consider when making plans. The first should always be what type of audience does it want to appeal to. That will determine the type of language used. Are you targeting hip millenials, Ivy-leaguers with above average incomes, or aerospace engineers? You definitely will not use the same verbiage or graphics for these different groups. Your target social media followers most likely will be determined by the product or service that you’re offering.

Goals and objectives of Social media

Goals and objectives must be established before the plan can be fully implemented. Each social media platform does not operate the same, so posting times and the amount of posts should be decided on a per platform basis. Should you post 6 – 8 times a day on Facebook? Is tweeting every hour on the hour too much for your followers? Do you even know what time your followers are online for you to get the best reach for your posts? Utilizing social media analytics can help you determine when your followers are online and how they’re engaging with your content.

Being able to measure your success on social media can help you decide if any changes need to be made with your marketing plan. Success can be measured with likes, shares, and comments, but those don’t actually help your ROI.  They just tell you how popular you are. You want to be able to track metrics, such as leads generated, website traffic, conversions, and sales.

2-way Conversations

Social media is all about being social. Being social doesn’t constitute a one-way conversation. Your plan needs to include engaging with your followers. If people wanted to find out all they want about your company with no interaction from you, then they can check out your website. I bet you have more than enough information there for them. The reason people visit companies on social media is because they want to be connected to them on a more intimate level. They want to get to know what drives the company, learn more about the company culture, and want to be acknowledged. Your posts should include conversation starters and once you start that conversation, make sure you continue it by replying to any comments or concerns. Remember, always stay social!

5 Key Components of SEO

There’s a saying, “Content is king.” There’s also an old saying, “Behind every great man stands a great woman.” So, if content is king, search engine optimization (SEO) is definitely queen. Companies know that having a blog attached to their website is very important when it comes to driving traffic and converting leads. Great content on a blog can also define placement as an industry leader. However, no matter how great the content, if no one is finding your blog then what’s the point, right? You need the traffic to bring in readers, to turn those readers into leads, and to turn those leads into buyers. Without SEO supporting your blog’s content, you’d be missing out on thousands or millions of dollars just because you weren’t easily found in a simple web search. In order to not be overlooked and to increase your search engine ranking, here are a few components of search engine optimization that you must include when writing great content for your blog.



Keywords are the foundation of SEO. They’re what people type into their search engines when they want to find information. You need to be able to understand which keywords people will use when looking for your type of business. When writing blog posts make sure to research which keywords you should use and only choose relevant and effective keywords for your post. If you’re not sure where to start with your keyword research, there are plenty of free SEO keyword research tools available online. Make sure to use the keywords in the title, url, image alt text, body, and headers of your posts.

Social Media

All SEO doesn’t start on your blog. If you write a great post, why not share it on your social media platforms? Social media sharing is the backbone of a great blog post because it allows you to include backlinks to your blog, images, and even receive immediate interaction from potential leads.

Link Building

Search engines determine the ranking of websites through how popular they believe the sites to be. The more links a site has coming in, the more popular the engines believe it to be. That’s not to say that every link into a site is a legit link. In fact, if there are links from spammy or untrustworthy sites then it may hurt your sites ranking. In order to help your ranking there are several ways to build links to increase your sites popularity. The easiest way to search engine optimization is to link to your own content. If you have a blog posts talking about content management and you mention content management in another posts, you should link to it. Internal links count just as much as external links. For external linking you can guest post on other websites, be interviewed by somebody, have your company mentioned in an online newspaper, submit your site to online directories all with links back to your website.

Meta Data

When your website does show up in search results, you want your post’s title and description to be as relevant as possible to the searched keyword. You can name your post something entirely different in your meta title from what’s on your blog. You can also tailor your meta description and add relevant keywords. Be as descriptive as possible because you only have a few characters to use that will show up in your description.


People are performing web searches, but they’re not only reading the descriptions from their searches. They’re viewing images attached to the content from searches. Include images with your blog posts. With those images, make sure that you’re adding alt text. Adding alt text will allow you to choose the description of the image. This is important with certain platforms, such as Pinterest. If you pin your blog’s image, the description you add will be available on the pin. Adding your post’s title and your company’s name will help your search engine optimization.

What is Influencer Marketing

You’ve probably heard of influencer marketing, but always wondered what is influencer marketing. You’ve heard others say they’ve used influencer marketing to increase brand awareness and sales and you’ve wondered how it can help you. There’s no denying it, influencer marketing is here to stay and it’s proclaimed to be one of the most effective forms of marketing around. People trust their peers more than they trust big brand advertisers, so it’s easy to see why it’s taken off in recent years. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, and companies, big and small, are hopping onboard with using influencers in their marketing campaigns. For those of you who aren’t in-the-know, here is a quick rundown.

What is Influencer Marketing?

Some believe that influencer marketing is hiring people with a large social media following to talk about a company’s product. This is partially true. An influencer can be anybody (celebrity, online personality, mom blogger) who accepts some form of compensation (free products, cash payment, etc.) and in turn persuades others to use/purchase/become more aware of a brand, product, service, etc. These key influencers can use tools such as social media or even blog posts to get your message out to your target market.

The Best way to Find Key Influencers

There are several ways you can find key influencers in your specific niche. You can hire an agency to reach out to your target influencers. Be specific about the influencer’s reach (how many followers they have on their social channels, number of email subscribers, unique monthly views to website), demographics (male/female, Gen X/Millennial, household income, age), and of course the topics they mainly share (fashion, crafts, food, celebrity gossip). Another way to find influencers is to use websites such as Klout to find influencers who are passionate about your industry. Keyword searches in Twitter and Instagram can also direct you to key influencers on those platforms. Joining groups on LinkedIn and making connections is another way to find influencers.

Benefits of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is beneficial when creating marketing plans to push traffic towards a specific product, website, or even an event. If influencers are including links back to your website from their blog or social media posts, this can increase your SEO. You’re also able to have a more targeted audience because you are tailoring your campaign to the influencer’s current audience. When influencer marketing is implemented, your target audience may view your company as more credible because one of their peers love your product.

What do Influencers Expect in Return?

From compensated hotel rooms to makeup samples to cash payments, most influencers won’t work for free. That’s completely understandable. Would you want to use your influence to help promote something and not get anything in return? Other things that influencers may expect are promotion of their blog posts on your social media channels, as well.

Have you considered using influencers in your next marketing campaign?

How to Use Hashtags for your Business

If you’re not using these free, searchable, marketing boosters then you don’t know what you’re missing out on! What am I talking about, you ask? What’s this elusive thing that can help increase your brand’s awareness and sales? Hashtags, of course! If you don’t know how to use hashtags for your business, then there’s a lot you need to know. There are several ways to incorporate hashtags into your marketing campaigns that you may not know about, also. Well, I’m here to give you the skinny on how to (and how not to) use them to your benefit.

Know Hashtag Etiquette for Each Social Media Platform

Using more than ten hashtags may be acceptable on some platforms, but can be downright annoying on others.

Instagram just loves hashtags. You can include up to 30 hashtags in a single post. People use hashtags to search for photos on Instagram, if you use relevant ones for your business you’re likely to get more followers.

If you’re a B2B company and use LinkedIn for your marketing, then you should know that LinkedIn doesn’t support hashtags. It did in the past, but completely gave up on it in 2013. So, if you decide to use a hashtag in a LinkedIn post, it will not help you in any way and it may be annoying to others.

Twitter only allows 140 characters, so you must use hashtags sparingly. You wouldn’t want to waste a whole tweet on hashtags and not give relevant information or even a link back to your website (eek!). Luckily, it’s easy to use the hashtags directly in your tweet to be considered part of your 140 characters. Keep in mind that hashtag symbol is also considered a character.

Facebook does allow its users to add hashtags to their posts, but I’ve found that they’re hardly every used or when they are, they don’t add any value to the post. For example, your friend can say they’ve had a bad day at work. Then at the end of their post you’ll see #iwishthisdaywouldendbecauseiwanttogohome. Since hashtags were initially misused on Facebook, people don’t even consider to use them for their search functionality.

Every company should be using hashtags on Google+ profiles. Google is the main search engine that indexes pages and helps increase your company’s SEO, so why not get some juice from hashtagging (is that even a word?) up your post? I don’t mean go crazy, but like with the other platforms make sure you use relevant hashtags. If the hashtags you want to use don’t flow directly into your post, you can add more relevant ones at the end. Hashtags on Google+ also allow you to be found by people not in your circle.

Make Unique Hashtags for your Campaigns

You’ve seen it everywhere. Companies  using hashtags to increase their overall brand awareness or awareness of specific products in their social media marketing. For example, Lindt Chocalate USA hashtags its own name (#LindtChocolate) in its posts and asks followers to use a specific hashtag when sharing pictures or stories of its products (#LindtLove). Hashtags can also be used to bring awareness to an event that’s happening now or scheduled in the future. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival uses #SOBEWFF in all of its social media marketing. When you search the hashtag, you’ll find famous chefs talking about their appearances at the event this year and you will see posts from the event for previous years. Try not to use generic hashtags (letsworkout)because they may be used my hundreds of people and your business can be drowned out in the crowd.

Use Trending Hashtags

We all know that it’s okay to have a little fun in business. Your social media posts don’t always have to directly apply to your business. You want potential customers to see your business as more than a money -machine. You want them to see the personable side, as well. That means sharing stories/photos of the office and your employees, you being out at a social event, or even talking about the latest celebrity gossip or breaking news. These are times when it’s alright to use hashtags not really relevant to your business. For example, it’s National Doughnut Day and you bring dozens of gourmet doughnuts to the office. You snap a photo and want to share this on your social media. You can use #NationalDoughnutDay and you can also hashtag where you bought them from. Twitter makes it easy to find trending hashtags by having them directly on the left side of your Twitter newsfeed. You can also change the location to find specific hashtags trending in an area.

Do you use hashtags for your business? In what ways have you been successful?

3 Ways Inbound Marketing Battles Ad Blocking

In the marketing field “ad blocking” is one of the scariest terms out there. After a company spends thousands of dollars on banner, video, embedded audio, popup, and text ads people can now easily block them all with just a click of a button. Some digital marketing campaigns can be killed in an instant and that’s money lost for the company. These companies now need to find a way to reach their target audience without wasting money and missing out on potential sales. These tech-savvy, forward thinkers are who companies want to reach, so they are using different tactics such as inbound marketing to battle ad blocking and to get noticed.

So far this year, ad blocking has contributed to an estimated loss of global revenue of $21.8B (PageFair, 2015). That should alarm any business that is not using inbound marketing to close leads. Instead of reaching out to potential customers and getting their hands virtually slapped away, companies can utilize search engine optimization, blogs, e-books, landing pages, and social media to entice people to seek them out.

How Inbound Marketing Wins the Battle

  1. Builds Relationships

    Inbound marketing isn’t just about a pitch and a sale. It’s not about throwing products in someone’s face and hoping to get noticed. It’s about building relationships with potential customers, no matter where they are in the buying process. People want to get to know the brand and all it has to offer before making that decision whether to do business with the company or not. They don’t need unwanted ads flashing in their face from a company they have no clue about.

  2. Drowns Out the Noise

    When someone visits a webpage and an embedded video clip automatically plays, they may choose to block the ad and the company’s message would never be received. When inbound marketing is implemented, a person is usually seeking out information and the company’s message is received loud and clear.

  3. Assists in Every Step of the Sales Funnel

    Most people ad block because they don’t want to get inundated with unsolicited digital information. Once that ad is block, there’s no getting through to the potential customer and there’s no way to enter the sales funnel. The top of the funnel is where people are looking at different solutions to their problems, but are not ready to buy. Ads can be blocked at this stage and potential customers will never make it to the middle of the funnel (actively shopping around) or the bottom of the funnel (the buyers).

Do you want more information about inbound marketing? Contact us for a free consultation, to see how a new inbound marketing strategy can help you.

Does your site look like it belongs on the 99 cent value menu?

We’ve been doing an awful lot of web design and redesign lately. Seems in everyone’s rush to get the cheapest and fastest web site up and running, they’ve chosen graphic designers (and I use that term loosely) who just don’t understand layout, voice and calls-to-action. Frankly, we’re both pleased at finding a niche in copy writing and web site layout improvement as well as mystified that such horrid pieces of branding and communication were somehow approved as perfect.

Today, we’re going to talk about the first of three issues we see wrong in most down-and-dirty, quick-as-you-can web site design. This article is about a web site’s layout, visual presentation and how it is used to communicate with current and prospective customers or clients.

Too often we see client web sites that were simply a cheap template where a logo was plopped in, a few bad stock photos (or, worse, tired 1990′s-era headshots of the company owners or salespeople) dropped here and there and some completely unconversational copy is pasted in without regard to how it appears or reads on the screen.

This isn’t your web site, is it?

We understand that most new companies just starting out are hesitant to spend a lot of money on their web site. After all, they’ve probably already spent a small fortune on their business cards and stationery, signage for their storefront, office furniture and computers, cost associated with incorporating and bookkeeping and some snazzy newspaper ads or maybe a trifold brochure.

There are indeed some nice web site templates available online at reasonable costs. But think of how you — as a consumer — feel when eating a simple McDonald’s Value Meal (do you really remember what the hamburger tasted like?) versus a more expensive steak dinner at a fine restaurant. Yes, the cost is more at the restaurant. But you probably remember the meal in detail and look forward to returning again. Can the same be said about the barely-warm, mass-produced hamburger, overly-salted french fries and bland soft drink?

It’s the same way with your web site. Hiring an experienced and creative graphic designer to create your web site is like putting your dinner choice in the hands of a culinary chef. It’s something your customers will remember. They’ll enjoy their time on your web site. It will be easy to find what they are looking for. And they’ll remember it above a competitor’s.

A web site’s layout — or design — should reflect the character of your company or organization. Are you contemporary or traditional? Straightforward or rich in history and with a story to tell? Do you have rich visuals, either in your products, people or location? Is your logo professional and something you’re proud of? Are your current — and prospective — customers use to an expected interaction with you?

There are three main reasons why templated web sites are a bad idea:

Poorly represent your business

Template designers design their template web sites to appeal to business owners, not the specific and identifiable needs of your customers. A web site not only has to look good, it has to look unique. If your potential customer, in their online search for your product or service, has seen your template at a competitor’s web site, what’s to differentiate your company from theirs?

Designed to be appealing to YOU

Most web site templates are packed with Flash movies, sounds, snazzy and often outdated graphics, icons, bullets and a dizzying array of fonts in all sizes, colors and types. What you need is something that immediately brings to mind your company, its culture and brand. Most of the time, all of that other junk should be left to your poor, unknowing competitor’s web site.

Highlight your logo above all else

We know you like your logo and want it screamingly huge. We get it. But a better designed piece of visual communication has the logo integrated into the design in a simple and distinct manner. Most templates look like the logo was dropped in as an afterthought.

All of these questions and issues can help a graphic designer to determine your unique online personality. Without these answers, your web site is no better than the 99 cent value menu McDouble (sorry, McDonald’s).

Psst. Did you hear what they’re saying about you?

Information gathering is one of the most basic uses of the web and often the first step when a consumer is ready to make a purchasing decision. For sure, who hasn’t fired up Google and type in the name of a product, brand, company or organization, especially one that they may not be too familiar with? And while there’s great weight put behind word of mouth and a referral from a trusted friend, one’s reputation online is a critical asset few are monitoring.

“There’s nothing you can do about someone with a gripe or an axe” to sharpen,” you say?

Well, while you may not need new business now, do you really want to risk the chance of losing business when you need it three or five years from now? Indeed, bad news travels fast on the Internet. There are no secrets anymore and practically everything lives on forever. And online reputation becomes even more of an important consideration for family businesses. Any business owner planning on passing on their company to the next generation has an obligation to ensure that the next owners benefit from a solid reputation left behind for them online.

Realize that blogs, forums and online conversations can make or break a company or organization’s reputation. Focus on combating the damage caused by unchecked, unmoderated user-generated content web sites and blogs. These sites are ripe for competitors, disgruntled employees and mean-spirited bloggers to air a personal vendetta.

Online reputation management

The Internet can be used as an early warning system to alert you if your brand names and reputation are at risk. The ability to control your online reputation is mostly a matter of learning effective search engine optimization. The strategy is to push favorable articles, blog posts, consumer rankings and message board posts higher in the search results, while at the same time pushing unwanted and unfavorable links down the Google page.

But what is online reputation management, exactly?

It’s the process of tracking online references to a brand, company, product/service or person and then having a plan in place to deal with negative feedback and even positive opportunities.

There are typically three steps in this process:

  1. Monitor. Establish and maintain a system for researching and keeping track of public perception. Watch for both public attacks on character, reputation, work ethic and/or values as well as those who advocate or champion your cause.
  2. Evaluate. Consider the source, reach timing of the comment or feedback and evaluate it for risk and opportunity. Today’s age of citizen journalism can yield brutally frank criticism — as well as unsolicited testimonial.
  3. Act. It’s all about damage control. Comment, rebut or ignore what has been said, based on the evaluation, or, if the content is positive, see it as an opportunity to enhance and steer the conversation. Be aware of what’s said about you, to whom and why.

Negative comments or postings made on blogs or web sites with a fan base might be supported or affirmed (even if there’s no real connection) simply due to the author’s popularity. Impassioned readers are more likely to join an attack rather than counter it.

How content affects search engine results

Comments or postings can affect online search engine results due to their timeliness and potential for being viewed by a large audience, linked to, rebroadcasted, etc. Very few web designers, design boutiques or advertising agencies truly understand how to make a company or organization’s web site search engine friendly. What’s almost comical is that the gaudy and unattractive free WordPress template blog will often blow away a sharp-looking web site merely because installed from the beginning with all the right tips and tricks to make it quickly searchable and available worldwide. That same blog generating bad press for you is likely inherently overtaking the search engine ranking once enjoyed by your high-budget web site.


People want to have a sense of control over their information, but they often take the past of least resistance when making choices about how to manage content connected to their name online. Here are some simple strategies to consider when formulating your reaction plan:

  • Optimize your exposure. Publish continually to show you are a reputable and aware Internet citizen.
  • Transparency is paramount. Do not misrepresent yourself through profiles, user ratings and feedback.
  • Be open to the idea that new, location-based awareness in mobile devices adds another of information that can be accessed.
  • If in a negative, but professional situation, appeal to the publisher of the damaging information, explaining the challenges that the objectionable content is creating. Having a conversation that includes an appeal for common decency can often be effective.

In conclusion

Remember, you can’t always avoid a situation, but diligent online monitoring can help to defray some of the damage. It’s important to have a plan in place when action is necessary. If things turn negative, be prepared to counter heat-of-the-moment negativity and offer a constructive, counter point of view. Turn negativity around to reflect positively on your business. And in positive situations, be humble and, if appropriate, use your expertise to enhance the conversation.

Why hiring PartyBoy1992 to be your online marketer may not be the best decision

First off, let me start by apologizing to every college student who reads or hears about this blog article — it’s not that I don’t think you understand social media. Far from it. In fact, because social media is so prevalent in your lives I don’t think you can comprehend a world without it. Which leads us back to “the rest of us.”

For many business owners and business professionals that find social media marketing now their responsibility, the knee-jerk reaction is to find a college-aged adult to handle their online marketing. After all, who better to navigate the world of Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets and Foursquare check-ins than the same age group that texts an average of 3,000 times a month?

Certainly, it would seem college-aged adults have the upper hand in helping get a social marketing strategy started. Consider:

  • The average college student’s social sphere encompasses 87 e-mail contacts, 146 cell phone contacts and 438 friends on social networks
  • About 95% of adults, age 18 to 29 are online
  • Facebook is positioning itself as the communication tool for the coming year, combining e-mail-like communication, online conversations between friends and acquaintances and chat and text interactions into one generic conversation
  • Facebook boasts more than 500 million active users with 50% of active members logging onto Facebook on any given day. The average user has 130 friends on Facebook.

So it may make perfect sense to enlist the help of today’s younger generation to handle a company or organization’s social media implementation. And college-aged adults are more than happy to oblige — after all, posting status updates, tweeting and uploading pictures is second nature. They do it all the time.

And therein lies the trouble.

Would you hire an accounting student to do your corporate taxes? What about 20-something to represent you in a serious legal matter? Or set-up and manage your company’s employee investment plan? Now, we’re not suggesting social media marketing is equivalent to knowing the in’s and out’s of tax legislation or litigating a complicated lawsuit or being able to manage a large portfolio of investments, but it’s probably nearly as important, especially when you consider that social media — and the circle of trust it plays in — is likely where consumers will first experience your brand and your reputation.

Very few college-aged adults have experience with today’s social media beyond that for their own use. We see it all the time — it’s a no-brainer to set-up a basic business Facebook Page, but you’d be amazed at how many are just that — basic. Ask them what to post or update and most 20-somethings will look at your blankly — it’s the marketing strategy and know-how they lack.

No offense again to our younger generation, but perhaps a better solution would be someone who has time-tested experience with plain old vanilla marketing but with a comprehensive understanding of just how today’s online media, interactions and conversations can be used to your advantage. Maybe a better choice is someone who knows how public relations works, has experience with real-world business problems and has been on the end of angry client calls, put out the fires that inevitably creep up in everyday business and has dealt with the business politics of owner’s egos, employee’s ambitions and client’s impatience.

In short, if you’re serious about social media marketing, resist the impulse to take the quick and easy out by hiring someone without time-tested marketing experience. You’ll find your online marketing more positive when viewed through the eyes of someone who’s made a few mistakes (and learned from them), can take their offline marketing experience online (and with a few twists) and who can draw upon networks of business parters, advisors and other professionals (that they’ve connected with over the years) — something the soon-to-be-grad hasn’t had the time to cultivate.

Score some exposure for your small business

Mashable.com’s Business section had a great article today on tactics for inexpensive online exposure for your small business. Now, these are for those of you who “get” social media marketing, at least a little. We’ll assume you have a fairly good web site and even maybe a blog, that you have presences on Facebook and maybe Twitter and Yelp and that you have at least some idea of what you hope social media marketing might do for your business.

Setting up your online presence isn’t hard, though there are some tricks of the trade that can elevate you beyond a simple Facebook Page or reserving that unique Twitter handle. What most small businesses struggle with then is getting the word out and generating a little buzz.

With that in mind, here’s how to market like a Madison Avenue PR pro:

Be a good resource. Journalists and reporters are always looking for a good story and more so a trusted, reputable resource to provide and verify facts, give a qualified opinion or be the go-to guy when they’re pressed for a deadline and need a quote or a little insight into an issue.

Make friends with local reporters (hey, you follow them all on Twitter, right?) and don’t be afraid to pitch your own perspective now and then, especially if you see a relevant topic or piece of news breaking and have a local perspective.

Be a good “Day Two” source. Bloggers and reporters — especially those in smaller markets — are often playing catch-up to larger, national or worldwide stories. They’ll be looking for someone local to have chime in and give them a jump start on a follow-up story.

Keep an eye on breaking news (using an online monitoring tool like Google Alerts is perfect for this) and then be sure to use the combined power of your experience and perspective with an online publishing tool like your blog. And by commenting on news stories as they happen, you become that local expert reporters may find from online searches.

How do you make sure your blog entries get found? Well, choosing smart tags to describe your postings is one way. There are a host of other techniques to keep your blog search optimized. And don’t overlook commenting on other’s blog articles as well as online news articles. Again, a smart Google Alert strategy is key here.

Get the word out. We’re going to go old school here (but with a new school twist) and stress the importance of time-tested press release. While you might be tempted to simply e-mail out a PDF of your release to the local newspaper — and that may still be a good idea — using a service like PRWeb will (for $80) allow you to get much greater exposure (and have your press release optimized for the best search engine results).

Help someone else out. If your own blogging efforts aren’t quite bringing in droves of new customers yet, try being a guest writer on a blog or other online publishing network that has a bigger audience.

And if there’s an industry web site, journal or blog that you follow, approach the publisher with an interesting story or take on a topic and request a byline with information about your company in exchange. Avoid sales pitches for your company, however, and stress key takeaways for the publication’s readers instead.

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