In many ways, online phenomena like social media, interactive websites and mobile apps have really revolutionized the business world in the last decade. As more and more consumers move from perusing products and services in physical retail stores or on print pages to doing their shopping on a computer, tablet or mobile phone, businesses are adapting quickly. While many marketers and business leaders may think of this as a chore, or seem to find themselves scrambling to latch onto the latest trend, creative small business owners can often take advantage of the fact that there are many different ways to improve a brand through some of the new and most popular web sites and applications supported by an up and coming interactive user base.

Pinterest – The Power of Pinning

One new platform that many businesses are receiving a marketing benefit from is Pinterest, a social media interactive application based on ‘pinning’ resourceful and crafty ideas for home decoration, cooking, fashion, horticulture, and much more. As more and more users discovered that Pinterest is an attractive way to showcase something with visual or functional appeal, the idea really took off, and savvy small business owners started to take notice.

But, successfully engaging a customer base takes more than pinning images to your account. As a 2011 article from Inc. points out, usefully, it’s recommended that Pinterest-involved businesses make sure that what they are pinning is generally relevant to a Pinterest audience. In other words, where an oil company, construction company or mechanic may have a harder time coming up with an image to serve as an engaging pin to the majority of the average Pinterest users, a caterer, florist, or garment seller are likely to have an abundance of such images. Does that mean that the construction company owner should just ignore Pinterest? Not necessarily, it just means that a bit more creativity may be required.

With more and more businesses of all sizes getting involved in Pinterest, marketers of the future are likely to distinguish ‘direct’ Pinterest pinning, where a small business might actually pin its products, to more indirect forms of Pinterest use. For example, a small business that does not have a ready supply of “pin-worthy” product or service related images could choose to pin items that may not be for sale or part of its service offerings, but might instead represent creations in line with a business’s product approach or core philosophy. In addition, businesses have been known to use Pinterest as a ‘leader’ directing users off to another site with a host of branded content, or an online catalog.

‘Local Following’ with Foursquare

Another way that clever business operators can get more involved with customers and clients is by using the location-based Foursquare app. Foursquare allows businesses to emphasize their business assets, such as the location of stores, product offerings or anyone involved in the business, along with categorized search options and handy tools for posting updates or sending messages out to Foursquare-connected users. The company estimates that over 1 million businesses reach out to over 30 million total Foursquare users. A quick click can help get the word out about products and services, business related events, or anything else that might interest customers.

In some ways, an application like Foursquare can function as the ‘mailing list’ of the twenty-first century, allowing business leaders to quickly update a large number of people regarding interesting events or upcoming changes that are in store. But Foursquare also has the unique potential to connect customers in a real way, by actually telling them about something while showing them exactly where it is on a visual map. There’s something about this combination that has a big potential to attract more people, not just to a store, but to carefully planned public outreach events that can really give a business a bigger footprint within a local community.

Instagram – Looking Good on Camera

Instagram is an example of a platform that reaches out with great success to mobile-connected customers. Initially, users loved Instagram for its price, which was, and still is, zero. But, another reason that people are attracted to Instagram is that, while the average picture taken with one of the cheaper cameras embedded in many mobile devices is hit or miss as to quality and customizability, the available filters used by Instagram can really dress up one of these snapshots for immediate posting on platforms like Pinterest, Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter. Making this tool a great asset to a small business’s marketing efforts. Small business users can effectively follow in the footsteps of individual users: just as Instagram makes a photo of someone’s baby, pet or companion look great, these filters can do the same thing for quick shots of a store, product, or anything else that a business wants to show to its target audience.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

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