Here’s how small business owners can take advantage of the ever-expanding range of online tools to advance their marketing goals.

Here’s how small business owners can take advantage of the ever-expanding range of online tools to advance their marketing goals.

 

What emerging trends in online marketing are you watching closely?

 

Mobile, video, and social. Each of these has had a huge impact upon online behavior, and will continue to do so throughout 2011 and beyond. There are many opportunities right now to test and experiment, so think about how these might benefit your business.

 

What are three questions a small business owner should ask when formulating his/her online marketing strategy?

 

1. What am I trying to accomplish with my online marketing? If you simply want to provide location, hours of operation, and other information, you need to make sure all of this data is correct and available in all local listings and search engines. If you want to educate potential customers about your products or services, use your website to provide the content and photos.

2. Where to begin? Make sure customers can find you in local listings, then move on to your own website and promote your online presence through search engines or social media. Free options such as Tumblr or WordPress are a good way to get started on your website.

 

3. What resources do I have? Prioritize what you are trying to accomplish and align with offline initiatives to repurpose as much as possible. Think about your content creation in all the different ways it can be used—print ads, website, social media, etc. Promote your online presence in your dance school, and keep your marketing consistent across all channels.

 

What yardsticks are best for gauging the effectiveness of marketing via social media?

 

Size of the user-base – the number of people who like or follow you—is obvious, but it’s more important to monitor engagement. How often are the users interacting with your social media? Are you giving them a reason to interact? Many businesses have experimented with contests and giveaways to increase their user base, but then never engage with the group. Content as simple as fun facts related to your business can give those users a reason to interact or share with friends.

 

Is social media presence (e.g., Facebook) a must for every small business today?

 

For most small businesses, the answer is yes. Social Networking websites represented nearly 16% of all U.S. Internet visits in January 2011—up 20% year-over-year—so the size of the audience alone provides a huge opportunity. The relatively low costs and barrier of entry also help small businesses to easily establish an online presence.

 

How does the proliferation of mobile devices influence a small business’s online presence?

 

Mobile devices are hugely complimentary to a small business owner’s online presence because the consumer is likely to be nearby and ready to visit. There are great opportunities to capture the customer with mobile search, geo-tagging, and location-based services like Facebook Places and Foursquare when they are in the area.

 

Deal-sharing sites like Groupon have taken the business world by storm. Are there any caveats to getting involved with these services?

 

Do the math behind your offer. Along with the success stories for the deal sharing websites, there have also been plenty of horror stories. Make sure that you can afford the offer and handle the business it may drive. This can be a good opportunity to introduce your business to new customers so you want to provide a good experience.

 

What are some go-to resources to following ecommerce trends that will benefit small business owners?

 

Good sources for monitoring online trends are Internet Retailer (e-commerce), Mashable (social), Search Engine Watch, and ClickZ (online marketing). Also look for LinkedIn groups and Quora where members commonly share relevant stories and questions and answers.