How to Make Your Company Social Media-Friendly

Initiating social media communications with existing and potential customers require some thoughtful planning. You have to be non-obtrusive and engaging. Otherwise the conversation will fizzle out even before it begins. Practice the following when opening up social media talk:

1. Observe and listen.

Monitor the social networks for ongoing online communications about your product, brand or niche. You can do this manually, by hanging out at social networks, blogs and forum communities. Or you can use monitoring tools like Technorati, TweetDeck, or Google Alerts to filter and track online communications. After a while you can get the pulse of what people are talking about and how they are talking. You can also conduct market research on your niche, industry or competitor. When you eventually join in conversations or open up a new one, you are knowledge-equipped and ready for fruitful conversations.

2. Know when to talk, and when not to.

Tasteful conversations are appropriate and perfectly-timed. No butting into people’s conversations. No off-center remarks, incessant gabbing, nor aggressive behavior. People find it annoying to be a target of a marketing pitch in one-on-one communications, direct tweets, wall-to-wall posts, or blog comments. Expect a major freeze when you exhaust people with talk about you and your product. When you run out of things to say, a simple “thank you” or “we care” is enough.

3. Really talk.

Vary your topic of conversations. Intersperse casual and engaging talk with your product announcements, event promotions, or company advertising. Be relevant without being rude or arrogant, making sure that people get useful information from conversing with you. You can bring users industry news, or dish out informative or instructional articles. When you really have to push your product, do so with third-party product reviews. When you stimulate two-way communications, you can also gain useful feedback about your business from others, and address customer complaints effectively.

4. Balance casual and corporate communications.

The challenge of social media marketing is infusing both personality and professionalism in each message sent. A right dose of personality keeps conversations interesting, charming fans and followers alike. But too much of it may turn off costumers away from your brand. A professional tone should also be maintained to preserve the company reputation.

5. Remember that people — not tools – market.

People are unaffected by system-generated emails. Real people are behind successful social media communications. They may use tools for effective marketing, but the wit, intelligence and the warmth infused behind every message, are what’s keeping customers engaged.

6. Build a social media culture.

All of your social media talk above is geared towards creating the perfect mindsets and motivations that will encourage your customers to keep coming back for more conversation. People should rally to a theme or concept that you propose for your product or business. They should be transformed from skeptics to loyalists, from lurkers to active participants of your social media culture. They should be empowered to speak out and feel that their voices make a difference. A quality-crafted message sent out in multiple channels like blogs, forums or tweets; a call to respond; plus a social media policy that upholds security and privacy, will keep the culture going for a long time.

Remember that a social media culture is not grown overnight. It takes a lot of patience and commitment to cultivate. In the end, your culture transforms into one associated with reliability, trust and transparency, making for loyal and satisfied social media participants.

5 Steps to Get Started on Social Media

Surprise, surprise – social media is becoming mainstream for business. The great social media success stories David Meerman Scott, Chris Brogan and Seth Godin have shared with us in their books, blogs and videos are getting noticed, it’s making sense. In a new series of survey reports covered on Social Media Examiner, small business owners are growing their investment into social media quickly.

So you ask, how do I go about it?

Here’s the key…are you ready? It’s an investment. You have to be ready to commit yourself. It is the complete opposite of the passive art of advertising. You have to engage, be forward-thinking, offer something of value in exchange for a more loyal clientele. I’ve been there, just like you – here’s what has worked for me.

Start With a Plan – What do you want to accomplish? What role do you want to serve? How will you schedule and support your ramp-up? Know the answers and be ready to commit to it before you start down this road.
Create Your Accounts with NEW Profiles – Before you sign-up with Facebook, Twitter or the social network of choice for your customers, rewrite your profile descriptions and post them the day you sign-up. Start by removing superfluous words in your company’s boilerplate description or marketing brochure copy. Who are you? What defines you? What do you do for your customers that is better than anyone else? Now, put that into as few words as possible. Twitter only allows 160 characters for your profile…that’s right, characters, not words.
Listen and Learn – Find out what everyone is saying about your industry and even your own business by doing searches on Twitter. Then, follow the key players in your industry. Follow brands on Facebook that you find enticing. Notice the things that interest you – maybe it’s the images, the promotions, the discussion boards. What are the standouts? Take notice of the chats, tweets and wall postings for great ideas for your own entry into social media.
Socialize -Put a face on your profile – your face or an image that speaks to who you are. Start informing your contacts of your profiles and be present, don’t just post it and forget it. Make a mention on your website of your new profiles. Thank people who follow you and follow them back if they’re interesting to you too. Respond to questions, give FREE advice and ask your own questions. These new ‘friends’ you meet on social media are receptive to learning from you. Isn’t that amazing? If you find an article that’s valuable, tweet it or post it to your wall. You’ll soon find that your customers who may find you tweeting or posting will start to appreciate you as an expert who cares – humanizing your brand.
Assemble Stories – Think about your target audience’s personas first. What matters to them. What humors them? What do they care about most? What about your product or company is interesting enough to be “share-able”? Publish these once a day, once a week, or whatever timeframe works best for you. Very important that you mix sincerity and accessibility with the promotions and announcements. Social media rewards those who are relaying truly relevant information to its audience – it’s not a billboard that’s static – it’s a realtime exchange of information.

This is a community that’s forming online. Your competitors may already be the 1 in 5 business owners who take the time to listen, post and tell their stories. You should not only be monitoring that, you should be part of it. Social media allows your own ideas, stories and value to attract customers, rather than detract them like old media has.

Excellent references for this post included Melissa Galt, Joe Pulizzi, Mari Smith and Mike Johansson.

Three Ways to Engage Your Customers

There are many ways that marketers reach out to customers, among these are the timeless methods, and those that come and go with the rise of new technologies. For example, good customer service most often involves personal interaction with knowledgeable people who assist the purchase journey. However, another traditional but perhaps winding-down method includes print advertising. Printed signs have lost ground this decade to newer methods, including cloud-based technology that makes use of digital signage, which instantly publishes over an IT network all kinds of eye-catching media directly to LCD signs, digital reader boards, and video walls. Let’s look at these examples and how they compare.

The Timeless People Connection

Most often, customers of any business would prefer to interact with a knowledgeable representative in person rather than with an automated system. For example, a customer who has purchased a high-end Android phone is likely to try and stay in touch with the agent through whom he purchased the device. The reason behind this, is that every good salesman attempts to build a good rapport with his customers. Thus, creating a personal bond that helps the customer come back to the same retailer or at least to the same franchise for after-sales service, feedback, or another purchase.

New Technology – Digital Signage

Today digital signage does not simply imply having an LED screen that can display a fixed slide-show or play a couple of pre-decided adverts. It has evolved into a much more interactive and engaging phenomenon through cloud technology using a plethora of screen layouts that span from useful information to artistry. The best digital signage today can be personalized through the use of IoT. Furthermore, customers strolling through a retail store can be come across an interactive digital signage screen or wall which can not only help them in their shopping experience, but also can deliver the elusive ‘wow’ experience to the customer. Digital signage is effective in a wide range of locations such as a bank, a retail outlet, at the theatre, healthcare centers, gas stations, restaurants, or travel stops such as airports, subways, and bus stations. Interactive digital signage empowers customers by giving them the freedom to choose the content they see. This is particularly helpful when the customer is seeking specific information.

Traditional Print Adverts

For non-marketing purposes, permanent architectural signage makes sense when customers need to find their way around a store, a complex, or a campus. However, traditional print ads are losing ground to easy-to-change digital signs for many marketing purposes. Of course, a simple print ad does do its part when placed at point-of-purchase counters by eliciting enquiries from customers or informing them of discounts and other promotions-like that nifty app your company just launched! With that thought in mind, it’s really important to consider the psychographics of your customer as to the best way of engaging them. For example, you might consider hosting contests through social media channels, which may be more relevant today for the majority of shoppers. Well crafted campaigns have proven to be a means by which businesses collect a great deal of customer data while also providing digestible marketing content without much ado.

Using new technologies via digital signage enables a business to successfully engage its customers and build customer loyalty. Adopting this technology can add relevancy to your marketing plan, provide useful self-service that enhances customer service, and if executed with acumen, may generate a wow experience that will in some way engage your customers, encouraging them to keep returning to the awesome experience you provide.

Of course, you can do nothing and play “wait and see”, but whom are you going to complain to when your customers drift away from your business? Hence it is crucial for every business to adopt the best digital practices for an engaging customer experience.

Social Media Management Tips

You’re using Facebook every day. You waste time on YouTube. You have a LinkedIn profile worthy of envy. You get it. Or, at least, you think you do. You seem to be leveraging social media to the max, but, like for many people, the return on investment just isn’t there. Too often, guides for how to use social media effectively don’t go beyond the basics. This leaves people to be constantly hunting for specific, actionable steps to transform their Facebook page from a ghost town to a thriving metropolis. Here are a few of my favorite strategies that the pros love to use:

Don’t Hide the Bad Stuff: So, if somebody posts a complaint on your Facebook page, what should you do? A lot of companies immediately delete the post and hope that not that many people had already seen it. This is never a good idea; even if you watch your social media pages religiously you’re probably not going to catch every post before the general public sees it. In addition, hiding the post is a lost opportunity. Unless the complaint is a malicious lie, you should do what you can to rectify the situation online. Studies have shown that if you do everything right, people will not be anywhere near as happy as they are when something goes wrong and you handle it correctly. Handling customer service over social media might seem like an odd idea, but it really is a great way to show how much you care about your customers.

Be Sarcastic: In case you’ve been living under a rock, most people are a little mean on the internet, you idiot. We have come to accept this and-for many of us-even like it. Whereas you would probably want to be very formal if you were getting interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, internet denizens love a bit of controversy. So if you were a beer company and you were to tweet about how a starlet would be classier if she got drunk off your brand, you’re not being crass or inappropriate; you’re creating fun, sharable content that every social media user loves to see. Of course, you should never be sarcastic to your customers; people don’t mind jokes at a celebrity’s expense, but they don’t want to be insulted.

Be Nice: Now, before you say that I’m contradicting myself, let me explain myself: by nice, I mean, charitable. Charities tend to have large social media presences, and, if you were to volunteer your time, you can always ask them to talk about you on their social media pages. This could get your name in front of thousands of users.

Cast the Spotlight on the User: Social media is a conversation between people, and, as everybody who has been to a singles bar can tell you, people love to talk about themselves. Therefore, every single social media post should contain a way that the user can interact with it. The easiest way to do this is to ask for opinions, but you can get more creative, like inviting them to post an anecdote on your wall. People want to feel they’re being listened to, so go out of your way to make them ask you questions.

Run a Contest: At the company I work for, we just ran two different online contests for two different brands, one of which went extremely well while the other one fizzled. For one we included a link on Facebook to a form a user to could fill out for a chance to win fifty bucks, and for the other we asked users to go through the client’s webpage and find a product which fitted a certain theme. Users clicked on the link for the first contest, filled out their entries, and then immediately left the site; the client got almost zero extra sales from it. The other client, however, saw a massive spike. Since the first one was so general, people had no reason to look around, let alone buy anything. Our second client, however, had users look at dozens of different products, which piqued their interest and resulted in them converting from lookers to buyers.

Of course there’s a lot more you can do with social media, whether it be creating targeted Facebook ads or something a bit more creative, like online meetings. However, the most important thing to remember with social media is that you’re not talking to a mass of people; you’re talking to individuals who happen to be grouped together. The best social media strategies are geared with that in mind.

5 Ideas to Use Social Media Marketing for Small Business

According to the statistics published by Nielson, a leading company facilitating global view of market trends in specific industries, social networking and blogging are the 4th popular online activity. In fact, the Nielson reports claim that these are better liked than emailing. In the present competitive world, online presence is a must for any business. Social media marketing for small business is a new revolutionary concept that takes advantage of online advertising campaigns to promote a brand name. All you need to succeed in this campaign is the knowledge about the right kind of marketing strategies and tactics.

How to Leverage Social Media Marketing for Small Business Promotion

An entrepreneur can get a large number of visitors by leveraging social media marketing for small business. In order to convert these visitors into sales, you can do the following:

Create videos: People often search YouTube for quick information on products. Create interesting video clips demonstrating your products, their usage and customer testimonials. Post these videos on YouTube with a link to your original website. If people find your videos interesting, they are sure to follow the link. These people might end up getting converted to your customers.

Use Facebook profile: Whenever you launch a new product or undertake a specific business activity, make a relevant wall post on your Facebook profile. For instance, you own a business of energy boost drinks and you have recently launched a new product in the same category for people aged above 50. Catch the attention of your target audience with a crisp wall post, such as, ‘Feel like 30 with our new Re-vital 50+ health drink!’ Do not forget to add your website link for driving interested audience to the product page.

Use Twitter: Tweet links of your product videos, articles, blogs and press releases on Twitter. A large follower base on Twitter is likely to click the links and visit your website. If a customer posts feedback regarding a product, make sure you retweet. This will engage more followers into your business.

Get involved in online discussions: Online forums are a great place to spread your brand name. Get involved in online discussions and tell people about your products. This is also a platform where you can get to hear about your customers’ likings, grievances, appreciations and rejections. Whether positive or negative, you should handle every customer reaction wisely as it may affect the mindset of other people on the forum.

Post search engine optimized content: Driving traffic to your website is all about employing the right keywords. So, never undermine the importance of SEO techniques and employ highly searched keywords. However, never misuse the power of optimization while doing this

Facebook: A New Option To Social Media Marketing

Nonetheless, there is no denying its impact. An essential tipping point with regards to the way the entire world interacts has been passed. Online social media is now mainstream. Almost everybody has some means of social media be it Twitter or Facebook. Facebook as well as Twitter have definitely become the primary tools by which small enterprises as well as the upwardly mobile engage the outside world.

Right from the rise of Facebook, a brand new method of marketing and advertising has developed. Social media marketing has become one of the prime strategy of relating new products and services to the world. Social media is ideal for getting the word out. It’s innovative, fast as well as free. Of course, there’s some effort to it after all, you have to tweet or write on your wall several times daily, yet it’s free. Let’s mention it once more. Free. Facebook lets you freely contact your friends, loved ones, future employers and potential clients. You are able to advertise yourself or business by establishing an appealing online profile. You have the potential, if you’re ingenious and knowledgeable, to reach out to as well as sway a wide customer base. Locate men and women, write on their walls, create events that will post to their walls, provide feedback on someone’s status, review a motion picture, play games. Having a great time is now work. Just how awesome is that?

Games and Pay Per Click

Companies make games at present as a way of marketing their product or service. For a grand and a half, you can make a viral game that actually reaches literally millions of potential clients. Users may likewise opt to make use of affiliate sales links to generate a little extra money from Facebook.

You also have the option to make a Facebook PPC campaign as well as make an advertisement which will be run based on keyword searches. Facebook provides you with the chance to advertise to a broad market, as well as make a series of social actions which will enable you to improve your business across the community of millions. Facebook makes it simple enough for a newbie to set up with its easy walk through and tutorial. However, in case you are apprehensive regarding starting a marketing campaign yourself, there are firms that are going to help you choose the suitable key phrases as well as demographics.

Pay per click is an effective marketing method because you only pay per click, not per view. This is a completely different approach than say a commercial that people could forward past or leave the room during. You pay money for the direction action, or interest, of your web user. Whether you want to make use of Facebook in order to stay in touch, get a new job, or improve your business customer base, Facebook has the capacity to satisfy your necessities if you can just learn your way around a few kingdoms.

Can You Handle a Complaint on Your Wall?

Within the last few years, we’ve watched social media change the way we deal with customers. Such channels like Twitter and Facebook have allowed companies to interact with their audience on a more intimate level, bringing both companies and their clients into a closer relationship in which conversations take place publicly.

A social opportunity presents itself

For the moment, social media is an almost absolute window into the world. Here we can talk, listen, and watch what our potential audience is doing. More importantly, we find out what it is that they want from us.

Social media provides not just an avenue for our customer to reach us it also give us a window in which we can see our customers likes, dislikes and associations/networks.

Many customers have turned to social media for customer service – asking questions on “walls”; leaving comments (the good and the bad) on twitter tweets and even sharing their contact information openly.

Conversations becoming confrontations

The best way to handle a customer complaint on a public venue is to acknowledge it. People want to be valued and they want to be heard.

Social platforms provide a channel for that if they are managed properly and the purpose is kept in the forefront.

It’s not the place to blast policy or use the tool to explain “your side of the story”.

First acknowledge their concern. This is for actual legitimate concerns not just for people who troll pages hoping to spam.

Then, do not delete. Remember, people are watching your interactions on your platforms. If you delete a comment you dislike, then it speaks volumes that you don’t value what someone says if it’s negative, a concern or not in line with what you want to chat about.

High tech – high touch

Be human and now offer them opportunities to take the conversation offline. When you do this, everyone ‘lurking’ and observing the conversation sees that you care and value your connections and clients.

Offering to connect with them offline, also keeps their private information private and takes any potential negative comments or stories off of your social platform.

While the social customer is a powerful source of information and transformation, it is up to us to engage with our social world. We can’t wait for those around us to start up a conversation. We have to be prepared to engage the customer. This means that the information that you gather from your client isn’t just a file in your desk, it’s a resource that lets you become more intimate with your client.

Do Your Social Media Analytics Give You The Big Picture?

There is no doubt that social media is a vital part of e-commerce today, and a powerful tool for marketing goods and services to a targeted audience or demographic. There is an ever-increasing number of ways that you can reach your audience through this medium, including the major sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others. Online businesses now spend millions of dollars on ventures that will introduce them to new customers, raise their brand profile and increase sales. For this reason, social media analytics are crucial to testing the business model and ensuring that your investment is getting good returns and generating new opportunities.

It can be difficult to justify social media in terms of ROI (return on investment) because, unlike other marketing ventures, evaluating its efficacy for your business is not a simple process. There is no straightforward correlation between how much you spend on social media and an increase in e-commerce; and finding useful indices to measure this impact can be difficult. Many current models of business analytics are inadequate for the evaluation of social media’s impact on your customer base. Analytics can often be crude or fail to take into account more complex results.

Social media analytics take into account the fact that any social media site gathers data in more than one way. For example, Facebook registers the number of ‘likes’ achieved by a brand or celebrity – this interaction is one-way but demonstrates a listening audience. When a user leaves a comment on your Facebook Wall, this initiates two-way interaction. If this user posts your content to their wall, or forwards it to their Facebook friends, this increases your potential customer base. The ‘like’ system in particular enables you to gauge not only whether the volume of your posts is appropriate but whether it is producing a positive response in your audience. The number of ‘friends’ that your profile accumulates is a good index of brand popularity and influence. This model does not, however, transfer to Twitter, where the number of followers does not simply correspond to how influential your e-commerce venture is – your followers may pay no attention to the content you are tweeting. What is more crucial is the number of ‘retweets’, when a user registers your content as valuable or significant.

It is clear that this is a complex phenomenon to measure, making analytics increasingly vital in any e-commerce organization.

2 Approaches to an Effective Social Media Strategy

So you want to dominate social media? Engagement is your livelihood, but there’s no silver bullet. Unfortunately, nor can you leave it all up to an intern just because they seem “with it.”

Go Small to be Big
To ramp up the reach and efficacy of our social media marketing, one idea might be to run a campaign for each contest, applying to each the principles that apply to the whole. As we all know, social media is not an end in itself, but the means to our end. Remember that the power of social media is in just that – social networks built on relationships.

First Things First: “Like” Your Partners
The best place to start promoting something is within an existing receptive market. If you’re selling hamburgers you don’t go to a vegetarian conference, right? So first thing first is to “like” and engage our partners so you can tap their network. With that in mind, for a recent client running promotions for retailers, I “liked” StreetJeans and poked around a bit (names changed for privacy). A great way to make partners “like” you back and pay attention is by sharing their content. So make sure you’re liking and engaging the audience of whatever you’re doing. This has a number of powerful implications:

Have @ it! – Our Network is Their Network
Once you “like” or “friend” something or someone, respectively, you can use the @ sign to tap into that entity’s network (ex: @StreetDenim) You supplement that post by also tapping into a personal network, namely, a “friend.” For example, take this post I put up on my client’s Facebook fanpage:

Looks like our friend Karen Smarts is heading to NY today- I bet she wishes she had Manhattan-ready Street Denim jeans to wear- for FREE! Join our contest! (maybe next time, Kate!) Street Denim: always in Fashion!

Note the personal connection to this DCN “friend” Karen. In about 8 seconds of looking through the client’s “friends,” I saw that she was a) going to NY that night and b) had engaged the client in the past (and thus would be more likely to play along). So not only did it alert her to our promotion, notify her friends through her wall, and encourage her to spread the word, it also shows everyone else that we’re at a human level listening to our audience. People love when you listen, right?

I also “liked” the other words in blue. Everyone that puts “fashion” on their profile as an interest, they become part of that group. If you “like” that group, when you post a reference to it your message shows up in their feed. If I had left all those @’s out, our post would have pushed out to an audience of 156 people. Tapping into all those networks, however, pushed the message out to a first-level audience of NEARLY A QUARTER MILLION PEOPLE:

742,706 @fashion
3,056 @denim
382 @Gridlock
1,137 @kateshiers
156 Client
747,437 first level post audience <--neat, eh? This doesn't even include sharing of content, which rapidly increases your messaging power. Don't Abandon the Profile Page A Facebook fanpage is great because it lets clients contact members in bulk, provides invaluable data, more easily engage customers, and "suggest" your page to friends. The profile page, though, still has its merit as the face of the account. To that end, it's a great lead generator for the fanpage. The profile page lets clients share other people's stuff that's relevant to their stuff. For example, I shared (posted to client's profile) Street Jean's own photo album (noting our contest, of course), which someone at Michigan State promptly posted to her wall. Audience from that? 2,037 of her friends plus our 91 friends = 2,128 people, accessed by repurposing other people's cool content. You don't always have to create content to benefit from it. Meanwhile, I asked the creator of the album to become our friend. Isn't this fun!? Know Thy Friends The better you know your friends and fans, the better you can reach them with information that resonates. It's best practice when you get a new friend request to note the interest of that person. It's not stalking, they've publicly posted information to share a bit about who they are and what makes them unique. Music? Media? Sports? This information should be noted and segmented so you know how to position your offerings to increase conversion activity. Doing this proactively means you're providing information to the right people who will on the whole value your customization. Remember, it's not spam if a person values your content and senses your credibility. People express themselves through brands all the time. Own a Polo Shirt? North Face jacket. You get the picture. Those are some Facebook basics (i.e. low-hanging fruit), so I won't at this time go into more specific strategy concepts. There is still, however, Twitter. Relationships are King Though many organizations successfully treat Twitter as a convenient press release service (@nytimes, @WSJ, @BarackObama, etc.), it's really about relationships, and building those relationships into a receptive audience. Golden Rule - promote others before thyself My golden rule of Twitter is to share other people's content, by re-tweeting their blog post, clever comment, or cool link -anything- at least 5 times before you share your own stuff. 5:1. Intuitively, people are much more likely to pass along information to their followers if you have supported them in the past. Find Influencers and Engage There are tons of sites that let you find people based on their expertise., for example, categorizes top tweeters. lets you search for keywords in real time (more on that in a second). goes further and lets you track multiple keywords, sort of like The Matrix. Not everyone is on Twitter, compared to the near ubiquitous Facebook, but the people that are essentially control your brand. Plus, you never know where your efforts will lead. I used to query "jeans contest." I quickly found out that something called Urban Denim was also running a promotion. Tons of people have tweets just like this: @sarahowdy: I want to win the @UrbanDenim #contest! That search provides two valuable pieces of information: Retweet (RT) campaigns work (typically a person who RT'd the message is randomly selected as a winner, or performed some act), since loads of folks retweeted what Urban Denim told them to. There's people on twitter, some of who probably would like the client's jeans, and wouldn't say no to a free pair. Hence my response: Client: @sarahowdy Or U could win @StreetDemin jeans instead! We're giving away pairs, & chance 2 star in our commercial! [link to offer] Pls RT! A funny thing happened- she did retweet to her followers! @sarahowdy: RT @Client: @sarahowdy Or U could win @StreetDemin jeans instead! We're giving away pairs, & chance 2 star in our commercial! [link to offer] Audience reach? Our 457 followers plus her 1,532 followers- this from a lady whose Twitter bio literally says she "Lives for jeans"! You can't buy that kind of access. Finally, Niche Marketing is Powerful - Building a Receptive Audience Obviously, you don't want your Twitter account to be clogged with advertisements. Don't be afraid to start different accounts that link to the primary account. This will allow you to focus on niches, or segments of your customer base, that are exciting to them but boring to others. Engagement has a lot to do with encoding and delivering your messages to specific people, while not bothering the rest. The moral of the story is use freely available social technology to tap into existing networks, build relationships, and spot opportunities.

Knowing Whom to Call is Key to Media Relations Success

If you’ve got breaking news to share or a compelling story to pitch, knowing who to call is as important as the story you want to tell.

If you are a small business owner with other equally pressing deals to close and operational issues to address, chances are compiling a targeted media list isn’t high on your priority list. The good news is that affordable resources are close at hand to make media list building easy and time efficient for even the most time starved business owner.

Before you invest in media list resources, however, remember that knowing your own “top ten” list of media outlets that represent the best potential media placements for telling your story to the right audiences is always a great place to start.

When you are familiar with the reporters who write about your business, industry, or expertise, you can demonstrate familiarity with their work as you make your pitch. That is always a winning way to start a conversation, capture attention, and earn editorial consideration.

For example, a story ran in the February 22, 2006 Wall Street Journal that addressed the challenge working couples face when returning home after a tough day at work. They find themselves in “the dead zone” and can’t reconnect. Alice Cunningham, co-owner of Olympic Hot Tub Company (, identified the Wall Street Journal as a priority media placement for her company and products for 2007. When she read this story, she immediately invited one of her best customers to respond to the Wall Street Journal reporter to suggest a Hot Spring spa as a good solution to help spouses get together. The reporter liked the suggestion and wrote a follow-up column a week later that offered a variety of reader ideas to solve this common lament, including buying a hot tub. This example proves that following up with reporters about current stories with supplemental ideas can be an effective way to earn the media placements that matter most to you.

If you are too time strapped to read every local newspaper or magazine and watch or listen to your targeted radio and television news programs, let the Puget Sound Media Directory make the process of identifying the right editors and reporters for your story easy and time efficient for you. My own copy from 2005 is well used and well worn, and the newly updated 2007-2008 edition is now available for purchase. Visit to learn more.

If your company has news of interest to reporters and editors across the state of Washington, the Washington State Media Directory is a useful resource. Visit to learn more.

If you need to take your message beyond Washington State, consider This service is built for publicists with only occasional needs for media contact lists. MediaLists Online allows you to generate basic media lists in a matter of minutes without having to invest substantially in software.

And, if you sell a product or service that is well targeted and well timed for national holiday gift guides or stories relevant to moms, dads, and grads, take a look at Be sure to allow plenty of lead time to pitch your stories because some national publications make decisions about holiday stories as much as six months in advance.

Now that you know about some of the useful tools available to help you share your story with the right decision makers, invest wisely in the ones that will best serve your story. Then, get into action to bring your business and expertise out of obscurity and into the media spotlight today.

When your ideal customers read about how your product or service is making a difference for others, taking advantage of a timely trend, or making news or solving problems that matter to people here and beyond, you’ll earn new Website visits, inquiries from qualified potential buyers, and new engagements. With such wonderful benefits waiting, my only question to you is this. What are you waiting for?