Hey, small-business owners: Have you ever considered being a plate-spinner in the circus? You know the people I'm talking about, right? They'll dazzle you with deftness, slay you with their sleight of hand. How do they do it? How do they keep so many balls…uh, I mean plates…in the air without having them smash to the ground?Perhaps you think I've gone mad--that the stress of the holidays has finally gotten to me and I've been reduced to a babbling buffoon. What does plate-spinning have to do with your business? Well, with the recent proliferation of social media sites, couldn't you say that managing them all has turned you into a plate-spinner of sorts…metaphorically, of course? I think it's an apt analogy. Alas, I didn't come up with it myself. A certain businessperson shared it with me just last week. It works, so I ran with it.
That businessperson was Jack Serpa, executive vice president of Engage121 (pronounced "one-to-one"), a company that recently joined the social media game with an eponymously named software solution. Engage 121 (the product) allows users to integrate all of their social media platforms and tools into a single application. Most important, Engage 121 uses social media to deliver tangible business solutions, says Serpa. "This phrase--'delivering business solutions'--is a much overused and abused one," he says. "It's tossed around like pizzas, so it's become cliché, like 'paradigm shift,' and rarely do products achieve the concrete results they promise. Ours does, and that's no cliché."
Here's a sampling of the solutions that Engage 121's social media management application provides, according to Serpa:
EFFICIENCY -Save time by centralizing all social media communications. -Discover and resolve customer complaints faster. -Enhance brand image through consistent social media messaging.
LOYALTY -Develop online customer loyalty programs. -Generate leads for new customers. -Increase foot traffic in stores by sending localized promotions.
PROMOTION -Distribute localized coupons to customers and prospects. -Target loyal customers with specials and promotions. -Find new topics to post about that are relevant to local communities.
PRESENCE -Attract more Facebook fans and Twitter followers. -Drive more traffic to local websites or blogs. -Draw more attention to news releases and company announcements.
RESEARCH -Survey customers and prospects for opinions and ideas. -Recruit fans and followers for impromptu focus groups. -Find out what customers like most and least about your products/services.
STAFFING -Attract new employees, suppliers, and investors. -Turn employees into social media brand ambassadors. -Draw new franchisees with local social media marketing programs.
Engage 121 integrates contact management and achieves the above with a tab-based design. Use the Explore tab to "surf" the social web and discover conversations that are relevant to your brand. With the Listen tab, you can see what key contacts, competitors, and influencers are saying about you on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., and respond to them or share their posts with the click of a button. Use the Speak tab to post to multiple social media sites at once and to post personalized/localized messages.
Want to see how well you're doing in Social Media Land? Click on the Evaluate tab for analytics--charts and graphs that show you how much buzz you're actually generating, how many fans and followers you've got, and how you're stacking up against the competition. There's a Library tab, too, for sharing press releases, graphics, logos, ad campaigns, etc., with your contacts, or "connections."
Serpa says about one-third of Engage121's customers are SMBs. He says the application is especially useful for franchises (for keeping local franchisees fresh and up-to-date), direct sellers such as Avon, retailers, independent agents (think real estate and insurance brokers), and charities with multiple local chapters.
Wanna quit the circus (or at least explore another act…like maybe fire-eating)? If your answer is yes, an application like Engage121 might be just the thing for you.