Social media for small business in under an hour

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Small businesses are being stretched even thinner during the recession and must continue to innovate if they're going to thrive. The good news is that the National Federation of Independent Business' (NFIB) optimism index recently found that small businesses believe the next three months are a good time to expand, albeit at lower levels than desired.

One of the easiest ways for a small business to expand their customer base is to spend just one extra hour adding social media activities to an existing e-mail campaign. By leveraging social media tools such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Delicious and a businesses' corporate blog, small businesses can see huge returns on a small investment.

Make it easy for customers to connect with you. Small businesses should ensure that marketing e-mails include a side bar linking to corporate profile on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It's important that customers know that you have a presence on each of these platforms, so that they can find information regardless of where they look. Make it even easier for customers by including a "Follow Us on Twitter" link in all of your e-mail campaigns.

Entice your customers to join your e-mail lists and social networks.

A great way to build out e-mail lists and social media connections is to offer exclusive deals or special promotions through the e-mail and social media channels that customers join. For example, after they have joined Twitter, send a marketing e-mail to promote your e-mail list or Twitter-only deals.

Use social media cross-promotion to build your e-mail list. Customers might be more likely to sign up for your e-mail list if they see an opt-in form across all of your social media platforms. By spending just 10 minutes, small business can install an e-mail opt-in form on their Facebook fan page with the Static FMBL application. In addition, each page within its blog and Web site should also contain an e-mail opt-in form.

Tweet your e-mails. Take the subject line of each e-mail campaign, add in a shortened link of the hosted version of the e-mail campaign and Tweet about it. Small businesses should also use Twitter to research audience interests. Use free Twitter tools to shorten and track links. Using analytics, companies can see which Twitter articles, offers or stories are the most popular. The most frequently clicked links should be included in the e-mail newsletter.

By combining social media elements and e-mail marketing, small businesses can reach their customers almost instantly, in under an hour, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing.

Janine Popick is CEO of VerticalResponse. She can be reached at janine@verticalresponse.com.

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