Tips for SMBs Taking Their Brand Online

It’s been the season of outstanding webinars the past few weeks and yesterday’s chat on How To Take Your Brand Online was no exception. The incredible minds of Chris Brogan, David Meerman Scott, Guy Kawasaki and John Jantsch were brought together on one virtual stage to give small businesses tips on how to use the Web to grow their brand and their business.

Here’s a bit of what attendees were privy to in cause you weren’t able to make it.

Learn the New Rules of Marketing

One mistake small businesses make when they take their business online is that they try to play by old, offline rules. The social Web has really changed the rules for marketing. David noted that in the olden days, you’d have to contact the media and ask them to cover your business or event. Now, the media is tuning in and following what you’re doing so that they can reach out to you for a story. It’s a cultural shift that business owners need to be aware of. It’s less about asking for attention and more about demanding it.

Guy called life “very good” for marketers right now because it’s about finding how much you can do for free. The blinders have been taken off everyone eyes and everything is wide open.

Chris was quick to note that while the tools are free, the strategy needed to run them is not. Small business owners can’t simply jump in because the cost to entry is low. You have to build a strategy first. Otherwise it’s like walking into a print shop and saying, “I want to market my company!” Just because you have the tools doesn’t mean you know how to put them all together. That’s the challenge.

Create Content That Will Get Noticed

We all want to create good content that will get the attention of our customers and make the media big dogs take notice, but how do you do that? How do you get the New York Times to write about you? David says that if you’re creating interesting things, the media will find you. His biggest media hits over the past year have always come from journalists reaching out to him in regards to a blog post or book he’s written. Guy agreed, noting that the new way to get media attention is to create buzz with your customers. If you get people excited and talking about you, then the media is going to want to know what’s going on. And they’re going to contact you for a story.

If you are pitching to investors or media connections, personalize it. Chris is a fan of charities and he likes companies that make it easy for people to donate. You’re more likely to get his attention if you pitch him a human interest story. Guy likes stuff about venture capitalists. Everyone has their niche. Do your research and know who you’re pitching.

Find the Social Media Platforms That Work For You

When asked if every small business should have a blog, the panelists agreed the answer was no. You should do what makes sense for company. David also cautioned SMB owners from blindly hopping on the Twitter bandwagon. You don’t have to be everywhere. It’s better to have a handful of meaningful presences online than a bunch of half-empty conversations.

As a small business owner, you need to understand the people you’re trying to reach. Too many small businesses don’t do that. They use their jargon instead of the words and phrases that their customers are using. If you want to understand your audience, poll 15 people on how they would search for a house remodel. What terms do they use? How would they search for it? That’s the kind of understanding that helps you learn what your customer wants and where you should be hanging out online.

Know what sites your customers are naturally hanging out on and then use social media to humanize your brand and as an outreach tool. That’s how you build your online brand and your business.

More in: 11 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

11 Reactions
  1. Bummer, somehow I missed this one. 🙁 Good thoughts on getting content noticed. I’m constantly battling with creating interesting content.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to share the notes of our call. It was a fun discussion.

  3. Travis Campbell


    Thanks for putting this recap together, sounds like it was a worthwhile discussion!

  4. Martin Lindeskog

    David Meerman Scott:

    Did you record the webinar? Do you have an URL?

  5. Hi Lisa,

    Excellent article. I fully agree and understand first hand why getting involved in a unfinished conversation can be a real time waster.

    It can be a difficult process of weeding out all of the social media outlets online and finding where your customers hang out.

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about surveys and asking your readers to fill out a poll.

    I have recently put together a short article on some simple ways to build a list for your online activities and asking your readers to fill out a survey was one of the tips that I suggest you try, with the lure of a free report or qoute etc..

    I do disagree with the comment about using a blog.

    One of, or my main business that I own,has a website using WordPress as the CMS and allthough I don’t write my content in a blog style or conversational manner I do get the bennefits of being quickly indexed and found by the search engines, there fore increasing my exposure every time I add a new peice of content.

    None the less you have pointed out some really useful and practical information Thanks.

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  7. You seem to have attended a lot of really good webinars lately, Lisa. It must have been really good listening to this renowned entrepreneurs you mentioned above. I hope I could join too next time.

  8. @David — glad to see you here! We need more ideas from your book and from you. Come back often.

    Lisa, what I took from some of your post was that the SMB owner needs to do offline things, too. Poll their customers. They might do that via email, but in person would work great and give you the chance to engage.

    Chris Hughes, the guy on the cover of Fast Company or Inc this month, talked about if you’re doing stuff only online you’re missing the point of building communities on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. And that point is to help you build stronger relationships with the people you serve — customers, members, voters.

    I’m glad for your summary as I knew about this webinar, but couldn’t make it. I was meeting with one of my online connections, in person all afternoon!

  9. Miles Technologies

    “One mistake small businesses make when they take their business online is that they try to play by old, offline rules.” – This is an understandable mistake. Successfully building your online presence requires a knowledge of the online marketing industry which is constantly changing and very new to many business owners. Employing the help of industry experts could save businesses who are unfamiliar with online marketing from wasting time and losing productivity on fruitless efforts.

  10. Great post. I find all the pressure to participate in social media overwhelming at times. I like the idea of having a “handful of meaningful presences online than a bunch of half-empty conversations” – it takes the pressure off! And means the online conversations are more authentic.