A few weeks ago, I attended The Southern C Summit in Athens, Georgia. The Southern C Summit is a one-day event put on by The Southern Coterie, dubbed “The Social Network of the South.” The day was filled with presenters from Athens and all over the Southeast talking about topics that ranged from blogging to photography to how you can build your brand like the Kardashians have. There also was some wonderful food provided by local restaurants, and ample networking time.

The Southern C Summit was mostly tailored to small businesses, and since many of our clients here at JH Media Group fall into that category, I wanted to pass along some of my major takeaways from the presentations.

1. Believe in your brand (and know what it is!)

It seems obvious, but unless you believe in your brand, truly believe in your brand, no one else is going to believe in it either. Hopefully you got into the business you’re in because you believe you’re good at what you do. Sometimes when business is tough, I think we tend to forget that bit. It can certainly be difficult to remember when competition is fierce, but how can you convince your target market that you and your brand (or company) is worth their time and money if you don’t believe it yourself?

If you feel like you may have lost focus of what exactly your brand is, put yourself through this little test: Describe your business in 15 seconds. Can you do it? If not, it’s time to refine and refocus! How do you do that, you ask?

2. Find the void

I touched on competition and reaching your target market in the last point, but here’s a tip on how to get there: find a void. Look at all the people you could possibly serve and all the services you could possibly provide. Then take a look at the little nooks and crannies in that large market – who isn’t really being served well right now? Often times those niche markets are a great place for a small business to settle in and put all their focus into.

For example, our sister company, Map Dynamics makes interactive maps for trade shows. Rather than trying to market to all trade shows everywhere, the team noticed that associations generally did not have a good system for mapping their annual shows. Since they’ve now been laser-focused on associations, they’ve been doing very well!

3. Plan for growth

One thing that can happen to a business that can make or break it is suddenly getting a whole lot of business. Since the day to day life of running a small business can be so difficult, we often forget the possibility that things could suddenly really pick up and business could be booming! Do you have a plan for what to do if that happens? Will you be able to serve all your new customers with the resources you currently have, or be able to quickly get some more help?

Sometimes we spend so much time planning for the worst case scenario that we forget to plan for the best case scenario – don’t let that be you! Figure out a plan for if things suddenly pick up,

4. Social media is more like facilitating a discussion than giving a lecture

If you’re using your social media accounts the same way you’re using your email newsletters and mailers, you’re doing it wrong.

Social media is meant to be a conversation, not a set of announcements. It is there to engage your customers and be among them. It’s no lie that it’s a lot of work to do it properly. The companies who use social media the best are the ones who facilitate conversation, rather than simply talking at their followers. Those companies find out what their followers are already talking about and engage. They ask questions and respond when they get great answers. They don’t ignore the unhappy customers who are there to rant – they address them and help them. The general rule is that your social media posts should consist of 80% conversation and 20% selling. Go take a look at your last few months of social media activity – how does your history measure up?

When you’re presenting your business via a newsletter or a mailer, or even your website, you’re presenting a company. When you’re engaging on social media, you’re presenting you (or your people). You’re engaging with your customers on a personal level, and that is much more effective.

One thing that people love to see on social media is the behind the scenes peeks. Was there a huge mess left after the most recent company party? Post a photo of it. Did someone bring in a birthday cake for a coworker? Post it, and wish them a happy birthday! Have you been redecorating the office? Show some before and after shots. Reminding your customers that you are human and live a life that is in some way similar to their own will help them feel more connected to you.

5. Get people talking about you (even if you have to pay them!)

No matter how many wonderful and true things you have to show and tell your customers about your business, your customers are going to believe what someone else says about you far more.

So what to do? Getting some long-time customers to write testimonials about you is one way, but another way you may not have tried yet is getting bloggers to write about you. Find some blogs about your industry and ask the blogger if they will try your product/service and write about it. Sites like blogdash are made to help businesses find bloggers in their target market, but you can also do the work yourself. The price to get someone to write about you varies widely, but at any price, be sure to take a look at the blog’s traffic and analytics to make sure it’s going to be worth your money!

Of course there were lots more tips and tricks the presenters shared at The Southern C Summit, but these stuck with me the most. Many of them are things you may feel like you already know, but it never hurts to be reminded now and then. There is so much great information out there about social media and internet marketing, so if this piqued your interest, start searching! And, as always, let us know if we can help!