The latest in Facebook rumor land is that the social media giant is going to start charging users to read news content.
Go ahead and Google "Facebook charging users" and see all the hits that come up.
Before you start telling members in your business networking group, or tweeting or posting this "breaking story", understand that the story is not entirely true.
Here is what Facebook, along with publishers, are exploring:
Facebook is planning - PLANNING - on testing - TESTING - a news service that may, after several free readings in a month, ask the reader to signup for a digital news subscription.
This planned testing revolves around Facebook's Journalism Project and Instant Articles service, using a paywall approach, that is already being used by news media companies.
Obstacles to full implementation are if or how revenue may be split between the social media company and publishers, and whether or not the news industry's peition to Congress for a limited anti-trust exemption allowing them to collectively negotiate with companies like Facebook and Google will be granted.
The other big obstacle will be, of course, market acceptance.
Regardless of Facebook's direction, the news industry has been and continues exploring recapturing lost revenue from print in the online space. So, even if Facebook scraps their plans for news subscriptions, the news industry will forge ahead. What this means is that even if you or I copy and paste an article's headline in Google, the publisher may still ask for a fee - "may" being the operative word.
Today, there are newspapers already charging for their online content, and the industry has yet to figure out how to make up for lost revenue since the internet and social media explosion.
The other part of this story is big media. Small media and "alternative media" will likely continue offering content for free consumption as they rely mostly on site advertisements.
Facebook and Google are, as of yet, not without competition. Google has an alternative to Facebook, Google+. Both Google and Facebook are targeted by WeMe. Microsoft's Bing search tool is also targeting Google. What this means is that one major misstep by any of these companies can change their fortune and their future.
So, keep on posting what you post, and read, ignore, like or "WOW" other's posts. You won't be forced to dish-out any of your hard-earned coin on Facebook to stay current.
If you want to glimpse into a possible other challenge for the news industry? Google "Facebook working on way to charge for reading news articles" Just read the snippets for each search hit. They all read the exactd same way. Think about that and ask yourself why that is. Is it a result of independent reporting, or republishing one source?
Sources: Fortune Magazine and Forbes
Many small businesses today should stick to classic rules of growing their business and avoid getting sucked into the latest and greatest in digital marketing fads.
You probably often hear your business should be doing this or doing that, or you should sign up for this service, or you should be using that app, or why aren't you on this social media platform - SEO, blogs, ads, listings, etc, etc, etc.
There is no shortage of where your business can be or what your business can be doing with regardings to growing its sales and customer base.
Take a deep breath. If you heed the following advice, it will help ease the burden on your already limited resources of time and money. Besides, it's not new and you already know it - You just need to be reminded of it.
First thing's first - Average Lifetime Customer Value.
How much is a customer worth to you? "A lot" is not an quantifiable answer. I'm talking about a dollar value. Figure this metric out because it will help with just about every marketing decision you make.
For example, if an average customer has a lifetime value of $1000 to your business, then any investment under that amount is worth considering. If you spend $500 to acquire a customer then you win. Think of the lifetime value being lifetime profits from an average customer.
Knowing this value also gives you a benchmark for increasing that value - How can you sell more to your customers?
You may do a deeper dive into this topic in the Entrepreneur article, "How to Calculate the LIfetime Value of a Customer"
Get really good at using one or two marketing/sales channels before moving on. Getting really good at it means being able to measure the results.
No. You don't need to be on the latest social media platform.
No. You don't need to be using the latest app.
No. You don't need to be doing this and that.
Stay focused. You are a small or new business with limited resources, the most valuable is time and you, the owner. How many hats can you possibly wear, effectively?
Once you are able to systematize your marketing efforts and channels, meaning you got a good handle on it, it's as efficiently managed as possible, and you can possibly hand it off to an employee if you had to, then investigate other channels, apps or services that are - and this is critical - appropriate for your business at whatever stage your business is in.
Old-School Still Rocks
Here is where hard-core online or digital marketers are going to freak - Your best marketing approach just might be to engage in old-school sales and marketing. Business networking. Social events. Shaking hands. Finding earned media opportunities. Personally connecting with your customers and prospects. Maybe simply investing in some door hangers or postcards..
Let's start with 101 Sales & Marketing
You just completed a sale or project with a customer. You, the owner, should send them a personal email thanking them for their business. While you're at it, ask them how their experience was, or if there are other products or services they would have liked available to them.
This conversation can easily lead into a add-on sale, just keep it personal and non-salesy. This is about establishing a relationship with your customer, who just might tell everyone about how the CEO/Owner of company X sent a personal email and how this is the way all businesses should operation, etc.
Network with other businesses, but do it right. What is "right"? Approach each relationship with another business with the attitude of helping them, not you. Find out how you can refer business and customers, or find them a resource, or whatever. Make making new business relationships about the other party. You will be seen as a valuable resource and the theory of reciprocity will likely kick in providing you with unsolicited leads and business.
What if I literally have no time to figure any of this out?
If you are stuck, and it's OK if you are - It happens to many business owners - then you need to ask for help.
Avoid well-intentioned friends, family and neighbors. Seriously. They can send you down wasteful paths.
Avoid marketers who offer to do anything for you and your business without first learning about you, your business and your customers. Your business is unique. It may be in a popular industry, but it's still unique.
Your marketer should consider the following:
Some closing tips:
The bottom line is this - Business is not B2C or B2B, it is person-to-person. Marketing is a strategy to help your business grow and it helps prime the sales pump. Social media, websites, apps, listings, postcards, ads, etc are tools in your business's marketing toolbox. Pick your tools wisely and use each for it's respective application. You wouldn't use a hammer to carve a turkey, so don't use a robo-call service to develop a strong relationship with customers.
The bad news is that small business owners are overwhelmed by choices for traditional marketing and digital marketing. The good news is that small business owners have a plethora of choices for marketing and all that is required is choosing the right too at the right time for the right application. So take a deep breath. Stick to fundamentals and proceed mindfully.
Feel free to add your thoughts and ideas to this discussion by leaving a comment below.
Musings, thoughts and perspectives from the Digital Marketing Partner team
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