Is your business follower friendly?  Consider Google Plus.

By Brittany Robinett

With so many online mediums being used by today’s consumer, establishing a footprint in this digital landscape has become more important than ever.  For a largely tech-savvy generation, social media networks dominate in an Internet-focused society where users have begun demanding easy ways to look up and connect with products and companies that they enjoy.  Simply put, having a website doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to making a business well-known and well-reputed throughout the online community.  For this reason, it is becoming imperative that small businesses establish an online presence through social media, and that those businesses familiarize themselves with those media outlets in a way that maximizes their presence.

GoogleplusFor a business trying to make a name for itself online, social media provides a way to not only advertise to your customers, but it also provides an opportunity to start a conversation with them.  Online networking provides an avenue to interact with customers by posting information about the company and updating the community and followers on its services and products.  Rather than simply “putting yourself out there” and hoping that people like what they see, networks like Facebook and Twitter permit you to gauge whether customers actually like what they see by giving you access to feedback, such as “comments” and “likes.”  Both of these forums allow user interaction, as users can voice opinions through polls, apps, and even be invited to “events.”

Many small businesses have realized the growing importance of not only building up a business physically, but building up a business digitally.  Those same businesses have recognized this trend and created Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts as a means to interact with a consumer-base.  Many businesses flock to Facebook, as it holds title as the dominant social networking platform.  (In fact, Pew Research Center recently released a study showing that Facebook is used by roughly 57% of American adults and 73% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17.)  Twitter, although lagging behind Facebook, has received growing attention from businesses who appreciate its short-and-sweet communication style.

Unfortunately, many businesses overlook an undervalued social media provider – Google Plus.  Sure, several of us remember all of the hype surrounding Google Plus before it went public in 2011, only to see that excitement quickly fade.  However, Google Plus has the second largest membership numbers for any social networking site.  (Given, it is used less, although by a more industry-focused user base.)  Although Google Plus might not be the preferred forum for personal networking, it certainly provides advantages that other media outlets do not.

First and foremost, it improves your business’s chance of coming up in search results.  Each time you create a new post, a brand new webpage is created.  With each post, there is a greater chance that your page might appear in a Google search.  Having a highly-trafficked or highly-followed page on Facebook or Twitter does not make your page more “searchable” on search engines like Google.  As explained by Google Webmasters, Google does not have any signals in its web search ranking algorithms that allow it to return “popularity-based” information (such as number of likes or followers) in its search results.

Further, it attaches a “person” to your business.  Unlike other sites, Google Plus allows business pages to be attached to creator profiles.  Particularly with smaller businesses, customers want to see the “man behind the curtain.”  The ability to link your business profile to your personal profile provides that avenue and can give an additional dimension personality to your brand.

Does this mean that services such as Facebook and Twitter should not be used to build up your personal business?  Certainly not.  There is undoubted value in each of these networks, as each is unique and can be tailored to advertise your business.  It is important to consider who your audience and customer base are and decide the best way to target that cohort.  These considerations may drive your business to focus on more “popular” media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, or more “focused” media sites, such as Google Plus.  Do not, however, discount your options based off of the idea that “one should be enough.”  The Internet’s bounds are endless, as should be the possibilities for your company’s growth.  When in doubt, you can never go wrong with being present in more than one place, so long as an earnest effort is made to maintain that presence well.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Google_Plus_logo.png

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Google_Plus_logo.png

Bexley Law Firm, LLC
http://www.bexleylawfirm.com

About the Author:  Brittany Robinett is a rising third year law student at the Georgia State University College of Law.

 

What can small businesses learn from Paula Deen?

I am an active user of Facebook. The site provides an easy to use forum to keep in touch with friends, family, and to help promote the things that interest you. It is also a good way to share ideas and to discuss the topics of the day with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. So, when a hot issue starts making its way around the country, it is inevitable that Facebook users will be there to dissect it in every way possible.

I do not want to be sued by Paula Deen, so here is a picture of a pound of butter.

I do not want to be sued by Paula Deen, so here is a picture of a pound of butter.

Case in point: Paula Deen.

For those of you who have been living on an island with a basketball named Rawlings, here’s what happened: Paula Deen, a celebrated chef that specializes in rich, savory Southeastern American cuisine, is being sued by a former manager of one of Deen’s restaurants for sexual and racial harassment.  During a deposition of Deen, she admitted to having used racial epithets in the past. Once these statements were made public, Ms. Deen clumsily attempted to apologize and ultimately made things worse.  Coupled with some problematic public statements Deen made on some television shows, several very prominent sponsors have chosen to either not renew her contract, or to dump her altogether.

In reading the various responses and replies, I noticed that many people were either dismissive of her behavior or were apathetic to the inane ramblings of yet another celebrity. The problem is that Deen is not just some television celebrity, but a restaurant owner that operates 2 locations and employs dozens of people (not to mention the crew that records and produces her show). Paula Deen is a celebrity business owner, and a business owner still has obligations to her employees and business partners. And Deen’s business owners are none too pleased.

To date, Walmart, Target, Kmart, the Food Network, Sears, Home Depot, and others have all dropped Deen.  Caesar’s Entertainment, which owns Harrah’s Casinos, will rebrand all four of their Paula Deen in-house restaurants. A spokesperson for Caesar’s Entertainment stated, “it is in the best interest of both parties to part ways.”

When entering into partnerships with another business, whether for advertising, endorsements, or for services, small businesses should always ask, “Is this in my best interest?” Due diligence is essential before chaining one’s business to any other entity.  Despite popular misconception, the Food Network did not “fire” Deen, but it did not renew her contract. A fine difference, but an important one. Had her contract not been eligible for renewal right as this controversy broke, then it would have been much more difficult for the Food Network to have terminated the relationship.

A business must sustain itself on the quality of its product or service and its goodwill within the community. Thus, regardless of the personal politics of the owners, to take unnecessarily controversial stances is to court bad publicity. Generally speaking, the best path to take as a small business owner is that of least resistance. Do not alienate your customers. Do not ostracize your business partners. Do not discriminate against your employees. Walmart, Target, Home Depot, etc. risk losing 100 customers offended by Paula Deen’s comments for every one of those who would stick with her to the gates of Hell.

Robert S. Bexley, Attorney
Bexley Law Firm, LLC
http://www.bexleylawfirm.com