Social media presents unique opportunities and challenges alike for small businesses. It provides an unprecedented way to amplify word-of-mouth marketing efforts, a bread-and-butter tactic for local businesses. But it can also feel daunting to compete with the social-marketing budgets of larger competitors.

A new mobile application called Perch is designed specifically for small businesses to better understand their social media presence. It lets them track customer reviews from across social networks, including Facebook, Yelp and Google, not just for their own businesses but for competitors as well. The app is from Closely, a company started by former MapQuest co-founder Perry Evans.

Perry EvansEvans has been helping small businesses use digital tools to improve their local marketing for years. We asked him for insight on how smaller shops can use social media to their advantage in today’s competitive market:

Is social media marketing the big equalizer between big brands and small businesses? (read more…)

Social media has matured into a mandatory marketing channel for brands. Today’s leading social networks have advanced advertising tools, social commerce features and mobile capabilities. The channel has come a long way toward proving ROI for businesses — and it still has plenty of untapped potential.

With all the shiny new tools and platforms digital marketers can use to maximize brand social efforts, the holiday shopping season will be a test of their ability to influence consumers and score a slice of the estimated $650 billion spent before the year’s end.

Offerpop analyzed data collected from more than 100 domestic and international digital marketers, and discovered marketing departments of all sizes are investing more in social media this year. In fact, 67% have already committed to a larger investment in social media than last holiday season.

But where is that budget going? What efforts, platforms, end goals does the increased budget support? (read more…)

Social data and analytics are all the rage these days, but what precisely should companies do with the information they collect? In the case of hotel chain Best Western, the answer was to engage with customers through social media. It partnered with SaaS customer experience management company Medallia to boost TripAdvisor scores for participating properties.

In this Q&A, Michelle de Haaff, Medallia’s vice president of marketing and a self-declared social media junkie, offer their tips for successful social media engagement with customers, advice on how to handle social data and thoughts on ways that mobile is reshaping how brands and consumers interact.

Companies are collecting more data about their customers, but making sense of that data remains a challenge. What are some best practices for marketers who are trying to glean insights from the vast trove of social data available to them?

At the most basic level, you need a system for organizing that data,Michelle de Haaff benchmarks to measure it against and a process for tracking it over time. (read more…)

At any given time, 40% of Americans are planning a move. “Peak” season for buying a new home starts with the Super Bowl in winter and goes through fall. With statistics like that, it’s no surprise that the real-estate space is extremely competitive.

Trulia, a mobile service that helps home buyers find their next house, has enjoyed success in this space. To take things to the next level, Chief Marketing Officer Kira Wampler aimed earlier this year to launch the company’s first ever national campaign. Doing so started with the numbers, she said during a keynote address at the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 conference on Wednesday.

Trulia conducted more than 900 hours of research on more than 2,000 people, including interviews and ridealongs as home buyers looked for houses, to better understand their customers before launching the campaign.

What they discovered is that the average Trulia customer tended to be a female who was slightly more affluent than the average American and had more money to spend on the next home than the average home seeker. (read more…)

Advertising Week covers a range of topics, but potty training may still seem like an unlikely one.

Still, toddlers and diapers were all the buzz as day two of the Mobile Marketing Association’s SM2 conference kicked off on Wednesday.

Melanie Huet of Kimberly-Clark and Dwayne Raupp of Organic discussed the implementation of and lessons learned from the Pull-Ups Time to Potty app, a mobile application that gives parents a way to reward children as they transition out of diapers.

Listening to user feedback was key to the app’s success, Raupp said. Initially, it required parents to scan a Pull-Up diaper to unlock the reward, but users complained that the additional step led to a cumbersome process. Eliminating that requirement led to a simpler app that more consumers used.

Such insights by brands that are embracing and experimenting with mobile featured big at the conference. The first day included sessions on the Internet of Things, real-time mobile marketing and case studies by companies such as Toyota Motors and Dunkin’ Brands on how they are using mobile to improve the customer experience. (read more…)