Jeff Cornwall, Belmont University entrepreneurship professor and longtime blogger (The Entrepreneurial Mind), recently invited Rex Hammock to appear on the video version of his blog — a show produced by the Nashville-based web video network, Talkapolis. In the 10 minute episode, Rex explains the customer media and content focus of Hammock Inc. — and our role in the context of today’s marketing landscape.
As many people know, Hammock Inc. is the developer of the wiki project, SmallBusiness.com.*
What you may not know is that my title on SmallBusiness.com is “Head Helper.” Being head helper for a project as big and complex as a 20,000-entry (and growing daily) wiki running on the same software platform used by Wikipedia has given me a few years of knowledge that is limited to a rather small group of people. (And, as I’ve attended one, I can even tell you where you’d find them.)
While Hammock is likely the only custom media and content marketing firm to create and grow such a large-scale wiki project as SmallBusiness.com, I predict others will enter the field as companies and associations become more aware of the hidden magic of the wiki platform. To be honest, if for no other reason than trying to figure out why Wikipedia shows up on the first results page of nearly any Google search, I’d be spending time trying to understand everything there is to know about Wikipedia, even if I wasn’t a wikimaniac.
Here are, in no particular order, some of the most important things you should know about wikis – straight from an official wiki “head-helper”:
It seems small business owners are mixed on the value of social media for business. Those who love it have seen an uptick in sales that they can tie directly to their social media efforts. Those who aren’t impressed say the time investment isn’t worth the effort, according to the Wall Street Journal.
But what effort were these businesses making? The article mentioned a few ways in which these companies used social media (customer service, direct sales leads). But nowhere was social media mentioned as a way to push out content.
At Hammock, we believe content plays an integral role in retaining and recruiting customers. But we’re not talking about just any old content. We’re talking about engaging content that people actually look forward to reading and experiencing. We call that content that works!
To compete a decade ago, a small business’ marketing budget had a great big line item called Yellow Pages advertising. Small businesses would spend hundreds of month on a tiny ad that got them nowhere compared to their competitors who spent thousands on the full-page ad.
But today, thanks to the demise of the Yellow Pages and the rise of content marketing, the game has changed, according to ContentMarketingToday.com:
“For a capital investment of $5-$10,000 a business of any size can build a credible and compelling website that integrates a blog, an eNewsletter and social media in order to compete effectively with companies that might be 10 or 100 times their size.”
An even better snippet from the post is this: “Although the website of a small business may lack some of the polish and pizazz of its giant brethren, it can be every bit as successful when it conveys content that is truly relevant and compelling for its ideal target customers.”
At Hammock, we call that Content That Works.
A new study reveals that small businesses are increasingly incorporating social media into their marketing strategies. In fact, usage of social media among small businesses has doubled over the last year: 24 percent of small businesses with fewer than 100 employees use social media versus 12 percent last year, according to the latest Small Business Success Index study performed by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
The study found that the most common social media methods among small businesses is creating a Facebook or LinkedIn page (75 percent). Only 39 percent of small businesses have a blog, and 26 percent use Twitter to share information about their area of expertise.
The study also provided insight into why small business owners are hesitant about using social media to market their businesses. Biggest barriers include longer-than- expected marketing results and the fear that social media channels give customers an opportunity to publicly criticize their business.
Hammock Inc. runs SmallBusiness.com, a wiki-based site designed to connect small business owners and their expertise with others. The site covers any topic related to running a small business, and the wiki format lets small business owners contribute their knowledge to the community, as well as learn from the expertise of others.
A long-time feature of SmallBusiness.com has taken on renewed importance recently. We’ve had a small business news wire on the site for some time — we tag the day’s biggest headlines for small business and pull them onto the site. It makes SmallBusiness.com a one-stop shop for small business news and information.
We also offer those headlines via Twitter and RSS. Recently, as businesses large and small have focused intently on the daily economic news, the SmallBusiness.com News Wire has given small business owners an easy way to keep up with the latest financial events that may affect their businesses.
We were delighted to have two websites we created receive “Standard of Excellence” recognition in this year’s WebAward competition. The Hammock.com site and the NFIB National Small Business Summit site both received this honor, announced last week by the Web Marketing Association, the WebAward sponsor.
The Web Marketing Association is a long-term player in recognizing excellence online — this year’s competition was the 12th annual. Sites are judged against other sites in their industry, on design, copy writing, innovation, content, interactivity, navigation and use of technology.
We’re proud of the honor!
When you want to share your organization’s story, a blog should be high on your list. Blogging is an easy way to share the inside scoop and help your customers feel like they have a relationship with your company that goes beyond the transaction. Before you rush out to get a WordPress account, make sure you are really ready with these tips.
[After the jump, read the 9 Rules of Corporate Blogging]
What do we do? Over the years at Hammock Inc., the way we’ve answered that question has changed. Back in 1994, we often described ourselves as relationship marketing experts. “Custom publishing” became a popular buzzword in the mid- and late-1990s. And sometimes, we’ve resorted to the shorthand: “We publish magazines and build websites for corporations and associations.” Simple, but for those in the know, it didn’t say nearly enough.
Today, we are a custom media company in the business of creating and managing magazines, videos and online media to help organizations build stronger relationships with customers, members and employees.
Recently, Folio: — the magazine and website for the publishing industry — interviewed Hammock Inc. President John Lavey in an article about the evolution of custom publishing. John shared his thoughts about how the evolving media landscape provides new opportunities for publishers, advertisers and readers — the kinds of things we’re working on every day.
Just a sample:
Customers are aware of the various [digital media] features and functionality that are out there, but are still relatively unsure how they can specifically apply them to campaigns, which puts the publisher in the fortunate position of educator. “We’re seeing a lot of questions about what they can use and what makes sense to use,” says John Lavey, president of custom publishing firm Hammock Inc. “At the same time, the pressures of the postal increases, increases in the cost of paper, and the difficulty of selling advertising without a robust package of assets to advertisers, are favoring bigger ideas and packages.”
Read the article on Folio:’s website.
From Rex Hammock:
Last week, I heard about the impact Katrina had on the publisher and staff of a New Orleans-based magazine and felt Hammock Publishing could reach out and help.
Romney & Charley Richard, publishers of Louisiana Cookin’ Magazine were flooded out of their home and office in New Orleans. (They still haven’t been able to return to either.) They are now living in an RV parked at their daughter’s home in Baton Rouge. Likewise, their staff are all direct victims of the disaster and are now evacuated across five states.
Committed to keeping Louisiana Cookin’ alive, yet consumed with the personal struggles she and her staff are facing, Romney sounded understandably dazed when I spoke with her for the first time last week. I told her that getting out a magazine is something we at Hammock Publishing know how to help her do…and that I know a lot of folks throughout the magazine publishing world will also love to volunteer to help out.
We’ve launched a weblog at KeepCookin.org. Please link to it. Please subscribe to its RSS feed. I know a lot of folks who read this blog are media-types, but we also really want to reach out to food bloggers, as well. Pass the word along to them.
Also, please purchase a subscription to the magazine. It’s a great magazine for folks who enjoy Louisiana cuisine or who have enjoyed the restaurants of New Orleans. Subscribing via the Louisiana Cookin’ website is perhaps the quickest and most-direct way that individuals can help support Romney’s efforts to get back up and running. (That, and advertising, which we discuss on the Keep Cookin’ blog.)
If you’d like more information regarding Keep Cookin’ or would like to volunteer your support, visit KeepCookin.org or e-mail: helpkeepcookin (at) hammock.com
Also, if you’re a blogger, as you make posts about this, please use the tags: magazines, louisianacookin, keepcookin.org