Tag Archive for small business education

Product Review: Sprout Social

Here at NxtGen, we are always looking for affordable, yet effective, social media solutions that the everyday small business owner can use.  For the past several months, we have been testing out a few different Social Media Management tools.  Today I am going to share my thoughts with you on one of those tools: Sprout Social.

Review: Sprout Social is a social media management tool that allows businesses to efficiently and effectively manage & grow their social presence across multiple channels and turn social connections into loyal customers.  Overall, I really like this tool.  You can easily connect your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Gowalla accounts and manage them all from one convenient location.  They even recently added the ability to connect your Google Analytics account, which is a really nice feature.  For business owners that don’t have the time to waste checking and updating several different social media sites, and don’t have the budget to pay a high priced consultant or service, this is a great tool.  You can easily update all your social networks in one place, find new customers with their advanced search technology, monitor conversations taking place across the web either about your brand or your industry, and easily organize all your social media connections in one place, complete with history, notes and more, using the address book feature.  They also provide really great analytics that give you detailed information on followers, influence, engagement, clicks and more – all in colorful, intuitive charts & graphs.  You can review the data right from your browser, or you can create branded PDF reports with the click of a button (data can also be downloaded in CSV form).  But even better is the price!  For the average small business owner out there, who only needs to manage one account (one account handles up to 5 identities), the Pro Plan is only $9/month!  And for those businesses who need to manage multiple accounts, or are looking for a little more in depth analysis, their Business Plan is still an affordable $49/month. Both plans come with a 30-day free trial.  See graphics below for more detailed information on what is included in each package. Read more

Word of Mouth Is A Two Way Street

Two years ago I needed to have my backyard deck stripped of paint and stained.  I had been looking online and could not find any companies that wanted to do the work I was requesting.  A good friend of mine works for a home and door company in my area, so I asked him if he knew anyone that could do my job.  He gave me the name of a company that he worked with in the past that does decks.  I contacted them, and they were able to recommend a company who could fill my need.  The deck came out great, and I could not be happier.   A few months later I decided to have my front porch replaced.  I ended up using the same deck guy, and was very happy with how the front porch came out initially.  Actually the the front porch came out so nice that both my parents and my in-laws hired him to do work at their houses, thanks to my glowing recommendation.  Two years later, I have a leaking roof and two sets of unhappy parents.  Turns out he took a few short cuts, and while his work looked great initially, it did not last over time.  Now I have to constantly listen to both my parents and my in-laws complain about how the deck guy screwed them.  Lesson learned; word of mouth is a two way street.  In business, and life in general, you are responsible for the recommendations that you give, not just the service that you provide.

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Building An Online Community: Part 3 – Nurturing Your Community

Welcome back for the final part of our series on how to build an online community.  In our previous posts, we talked about Choosing the Right Platfrom and Growing Your Community.  Now we will            discuss the critical step of nurturing that community that you have worked so hard to build.

Have you ever seen the show “Yard Crashers” on HGTV?  It is a backyard remodel show, where the host waits at home improvement stores looking for the perfect weekend warriors who could use his help. People go in thinking they’re just buying a bag of mulch, but instead come home with the host and his team, who completely transform their landscape.  It happens to be one of my favorite shows on TV right now (and I don’t even have a backyard.  Go figure), however, at the end of every show, I am left wondering, “what now?”  What happens when the experts all leave and these people, who previously neglected their yard to the point of it needing a complete makeover, are left to handle it all themselves?  Building a beautiful, lush, garden is hard work, but it all goes to waste if you do not continue to care for, and nurture it.  Well, the same can be said about your online community.  You can put all the hard work, time, and effort in the world into picking the right platform and building your community.  But if you don’t continue to nurture that community, it was all a giant waste of time.  Here are a few key tips to focus on once you have built out your community.

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Building An Online Community: Part 1 – Choosing a Platform

I am sure you are sick and tired of everyone telling you that you need to start using social media for your business.  Hopefully by now you’ve read all the articles, seen all the numbers, and are ready to jump on board the social media train.  If so, good for you!  In order to help you get started, I have put together a 3 part series on how to build an online community.  This week, we are going to start off with maybe the most important element in your social media plan: Choosing a Platform.

I am lucky enough to have had the pleasure of seeing Scott Stratten, author of the book UnMarketing, speak a couple of times in the last year.  In his speeches, as well as in his book, he talks about the importance of picking one platform when starting out in social media.  Scott says, “Build a small stage-your platform-that you’re going to stand on and get people to come to.  Pick one place where you want people to find you and play your best “show” there for as long as it takes to build a solid following”.  This advice really stuck with me, and is something I always recommend to people who are starting out in social media.  Especially small business owners, who already feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything they need to get done.  The last thing they need is to have to commit to updating several different social media sites.  People tend to jump onto multiple platforms right away (whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, etc.), and then expect to have a huge following just because they are “on social media”.  The reality is, unless you are a huge, recognizable brand, this is not going to be the case.  However, if you choose one platform to really invest your time and energy in, you can create a really great, engaged, and interested community, that in time will allow you to expand into other platforms as well.  So, how do you know what platform to start with?

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Common Sense Social Media Etiquette

Over the past week, there have been a few incidents of poor Social Media etiquette by some famous tweeters. First Rashard Mendenhall shared is feelings about the death of Osama Bin Laden, then later this week, Reggie Bush made a comment about his time off during the NFL lock out, then when he was ridiculed by his followers, said it was a joke, and everyone should have known it. What is most troubling for me about these incidents are that I am sure that Reggie Bush and Rashard Mendenahall both have highly paid PR consultants, who should have given both a lesson on what is appropriate and what is not on Social Media. In today’s Social Media world, whatever information you put out, has the chance to be picked up pretty quickly, and could have major repercussions. So how does a small business walk the line between giving their opinion while not causing a bad public relations mark on the company?
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