Ever wonder if you should try Facebook ads? Looks like now would be a great time.

Experts agree that it’s time to start thinking long-term and move beyond just “Likes” and followers.

Could your online reputation hurt your business? A new report says yes!

All this and more in this week’s hot topics.

1. Facebook Launches Contest for Small Business Owners
Would you like to win up to $10,000 in Facebook advertising for your small business? Well, you’re in luck. If your small business’s Facebook Page has at least 50 Likes, you can apply to get $50 in free ads. Facebook will give you an additional $100 if you add 100 more Likes to your Page before April 1, 2012. If your business is one of the top 10 Pages to gain the most Likes, you could win $10,000 more in free ads. Sweet! Enter the Facebook Small Business Boost contest.

Bottom Line: If you’ve been wondering if Facebook ads could work for you, this is the perfect opportunity to find out for free. And you can bet we’ll be here to help you. Stay tuned for a brand new look to the blog and a bunch of tips to help you get more Likes, more shares, and more business with Facebook. How’s that for timing? Be sure to apply for the Facebook contest now.

2. Social Media Marketing: Measuring the Impact for Real
Social media marketing experts are pushing for results beyond just Likes and followers in 2012. A recent survey of over 700 marketers noted the long-term benefits of engaging with customers on Facebook: new customer recruitment, higher conversion rates, and more frequent purchases.

Bottom Line: The key to moving beyond Likes is thinking long-term and using social media sites such as Facebook to help you achieve measurable business goals. When you start with these goals in mind, you’ll find your actions take on more meaning. Those actions will help you to reach those goals more easily.

3.  Study: 69 Percent Access the Mobile Internet Daily
Google released a report indicating that 69% of U.S. mobile users access the internet on their phones daily. The report also shows that in every market studied, mobile phone penetration is higher than PC or laptop ownership. This confirms that mobile internet usage will one day trump PC usage. (Actually, that day may be today.)

Bottom Line: Mobile ownership and usage to access the internet is real. As you build your business, include plans that take advantage of this ever-growing use of mobile. How can customers use their phones to interact act with you? And if they do, will they be greeted by mobile friendly pages and applications? Let’s hope so.

4. Direct and Digital Outlook for 2012 Cautiously Optimistic
Things looked pretty good in 2011 as analysts saw digital channels continue to increase their share of marketing spend. Direct mail also experienced a 2% growth in 2011 and is expected to grow by the same amount this year. Marketing spend on social, search, and mobile are also expected to increase significantly this year. In addition, 52% of companies in direct and digital marketing plan to add staff in the first quarter of 2012.

Bottom Line: The digital space continues to grow and create new jobs. We agree with Bruce Biegel, managing director at marketing consultancy Winterberry Group, when he says, “Marketing challenges remain in [delivering] the right message to the right people on the right device.” This is the same challenge for small businesses as they compete for attention via email and social channels. Be sure to listen carefully to the feedback you receive from customers so you can form messages that connect with and engage them.

5. Why Online Reputation Matters to Small Business
A new report shows how important the online reputation of a company is to its bottom line. When consumers learn that a product they like is made by a company they have a negative relationship with, 96% of consumers took some type of action. These actions include:

  • 40% stopped buying the product
  • 18% told others not to buy the product
  • 17% made negative comments about the product or company to others

Bottom Line: As more and more people voice their opinions online through social word of mouth, online reviews, and other content, it’s important that you encourage customers to share their positive experiences with your business. As people turn to online search to help them make a decision, the things they find often become a deciding factor. By also participating online, you give customers a glimpse at the people behind your business. This helps increase the odds of people finding these interactions when they search, which in turn, increases the odds of people liking, trusting and doing business with your company.

What are your thoughts on this week’s hot topics? Share them in the comments below.