As a minority-owned/small business we struggle with creating brand awareness. Like many other companies in our situation, we can’t afford big marketing campaigns with TV ads and fancy events. This is why it’s important for us to utilize inexpensive forms of promotion. Every year more and more businesses are joining social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. A recent study concluded that nearly one in five small business owners are integrating social media into their business processes. The question is why aren’t more small businesses taking advantage of this virtually free form of advertising?
It’s important for Small/minority/women-owned businesses to invest their time not just in building a website but also building a presence on social media websites. Small business websites rarely turn up on the first page of Google. Large companies typically are on the first page, and searchers rarely make it to the second page of their search.
The fact that the large traditional media companies have this advantage does not mean that all of their Web properties are working well. These large media companies move much slower, have bottom-line oriented management, have impatient shareholders, and frequently view their interactive, Internet, or new media divisions as experiments rather than start-ups. Smaller, minority owned companies should take advantage of this, and build a more personal, interactive experience with their consumers.
Here are simple steps to increase visibility for a small, minority-owned or women-owned business.
- Register your company name on every social network. That way when it comes time to actually building your network, you’ll have a name reserved. It will also increase your visibility in search engines.
- When adding a bio to Twitter or Facebook, make sure it includes industry keywords. Diversity, minority-owned, women-owned, small business, inclusion, MBE, M/WBE, CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and supplier diversity are all good words to include that will improve your search-ability.
- Add your business to directories under small business/minority and or women owned categories. Some good directories to add your website to are The Minority Directory and Yahoo Directories. Once you add your business’s website to these directories, you can add your Twitter account to directories like Listorious and WeFollow.
- Be sure to register your business with location based websites. Your business is more likely to show up on the first page if it is registered with Google Maps and Yelp
- Connect with people you normally wouldn’t be able to connect with. As a minority/women-owned company, you have access to some powerful decision makers once you join networking sites like LinkedIn. Take advantage of introductions – if you know someone who is connected with someone that you want to do business with, just ask for an introduction! It’s a great way to do business because once you get through the introduction it’s kind of like a mini-referral. It’s like the introducer is saying, hey, he/she is okay in my book. I would look out for people with supplier, diversity, procurement, and inclusion in their job title.
- Find people in your area that could benefit from your business. Sites like Locafollow allow you to refine Twitter users by location. Local support is extremely important for small businesses. A lot of people also prefer to support their local community, so don’t be shy about connecting!
- Social media is a great way to get feedback from your consumers. Learn what people are saying about your company, industry and competitors. If you see someone is saying they’re sick of the Starbucks down the road, now is your chance to swoop in and let them know about how amazing your unique, fair traded, homemade coffee is. It’s also a good way to meet brand ambassadors – is there someone always ranting and raving about your product or service? Give them an opportunity to really express themselves (perhaps on Facebook?), and be creative. Word of mouth is the most powerful selling tool.
- Encourage people of the same ethnicity, background, and/or gender to support your business. Minority owned companies pump wealth into their community by providing jobs and contributing to its overall vitality. Quid pro quo – they support your company, and in return you support them. How can you get in touch with these consumers? Join groups on Facebook or LinkedIn. If you’re a woman-owned company, find out where the women hang out, on AND offline! Check out these LinkedIn groups that are specifically for women entrepreneurs: Women 2.0 and Women for hire
- Promote your business with location based promotions – here is a great article from Mashable – Location Based Small Business Deals/
- Become an expert on LinkedIn – when you answer a relevant question on LinkedIn’s Question and Answer section, people interested in the topic are most likely going to explore your website. They may even be in the market for a company like yours!