Most small businesses buy into the notion that they should spend at least some time on building at least some sort of online presence. But where should those activities be focused, especially given the resource constraints that most small businesses face?
Microsoft has an interest in helping SMBs figure this out, and it actually has teamed up with the founders of MyWebCareer to provide a service that helps small companies navigate this process. That service, called Brandify, is positioned as a way for small businesses to better understand their reputation across various online sites.
"The intention behind it is to help small businesses realize where they are showing up well or maybe not even where they are not showing up," said Carl Timm, group marketing manager for SMB Customer Marketing with Microsoft's U.S. SMB & Distribution Group.
Brandify works by combing various online sources for mentions about your company, and then providing a score that is very similar to an online FICO credit score. Those sources include Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local, Google Places, Twitter and LinkedIn, Timm said.
The service, which is currently billed as a beta version, offers recommendations about where your team might want to spend time on social media marketing or search engine optimization activities. It bases those recommendations on what similar businesses are doing and the effectiveness of those efforts. Right now, Brandify is free, but Timm said a premium service may be developed as feedback is gathered from early users.
ExplorOcean, a nautical museum in Newport, Calif., with about 10 employees, is using Brandify to help make the most of its one-person marketing team. Leslie Perovich, vice president of marketing and development for ExplorOcean, said she was able to improve her organization's Brandify score dramatically within three weeks by acting on recommendations that are emailed to her once per week. "I realize we're just not an organization that will ever get a top score and I'm OK with that," she said.
ExplorOcean began investing more deeply in marketing last year after losing some visibility in the community after it moved locations several years ago, Perovich said.
Among one of the specific actions that ExplorOcean has taken since using Brandify is creating more links to its social media identities with offline signage in the museum and in the local community -- which was one of the recommendations suggested by Brandify. This directly translated into more followers for its Facebook page, where ExplorOcean focuses most of its social networking and media activities.
"More engagement is what is important to us," she said.