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12/13/2011
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SMBs Get Tool For Social Campaigns

Constant Contact adds feature to let smaller companies easily create Facebook landing pages and run integrated campaigns across Twitter, LinkedIn, and email.

10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
10 Important Cloud Apps For SMBs
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Want one of those custom tabs for your Facebook Page that big businesses always seem to employ? There's a new tool for that.

Constant Contact, continuing its recent evolution from oh-so-old-school email vendor to modern online marketer, has launched a new application for creating Facebook landing pages and running social campaigns around them. The aptly named Social Campaigns feature is aimed at helping smaller businesses do more than just create a plan vanilla Facebook Page and hope for the best.

"If you look at any large enterprise or brand on Facebook, you don't just see the Wall--you see a beautiful, welcoming landing page," said Mark Schmulen, Constant Contact's GM for social media, in an interview. "We're enabling small businesses to create landing pages just like that, so that people have a more compelling reason to like them on Facebook."

[ Video also can be an effective marketing tool. Read 5 Tips: Make People Notice Your Online Video. ]

With no coding required, a business can create either persistent tabbed pages or campaign-specific content that expires on a certain date. Twitter, LinkedIn, and email integration increases the potential volume of your social megaphone. Pages can be "Like-gated"--meaning Facebook users must first like your Page before they can see the good stuff. That's optional, but Schmulen recommends it for SMBs with a modest current audience.

"As a best practice, especially if you're just building your social media following, it's a good idea to Like-gate your content," Schmulen said. That's the default in the application, but it can be turned off depending on your business objectives. Schmulen likens it--no pun intended--to the traditional tenets of permission-based marketing and said the Like-it-or-leave-it approach well-suits a variety of content types.

"It depends on what's on the other side," Schmulen said. "Asking people to like you for a coupon is perfectly acceptable; asking people to like you to download a whitepaper that you've invested a lot of time in makes a lot of sense."

Social Campaigns might appeal to SMBs that have long gone social but are frustrated with their Facebook presence--or simply not seeing any tangible return on the investment. Part of the reason why: The tool includes analytics for tracking results and measuring against campaign goals. That's key, Schmulen said, to help do away with the set-it-and-forget-it myth about social media, as is the ability to integrate campaigns across other channels. Just because you build it, doesn't mean they'll come--that only happens in the movies.

"I joke that Kevin Costner did a huge disservice to marketers because that's such a falsehood," Schmulen said.

For Constant Contact, Social Campaigns marks another evolutionary step from its Web 1.0 email marketing roots. Schmulen called it a "phased approach," noting that it began simply with adding the option for customer to include social media buttons in their emails. The company has steadily built out its menu from there, including a free crash course for small businesses and nonprofits in need of a social media primer. While the latest addition is decidedly Facebook-centric, Schmulen said that the platform's tremendous reach--and its API--made it a logical launch pad. For now, other social sites will play a complementary role, though that could change down the line.

"We wanted to make sure that if you're a small business using Twitter and LinkedIn that you'd be able to engage those audiences effectively as well. We'll see what happens with Google+," Schmulen said. "From a practical perspective, Facebook just made the most sense to do the deepest integration with."

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