Matt McGee will be speaking about “Social Media Strategies & Tactics” at SearchFest 2011, which will take place on February 23rd at the Governor Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Tickets are available now. To purchase, please click the following link.

1) Please give us your background and tell us what you do for a living.

By day, I’m the Executive News Editor at Search Engine Land and the Editor at its sister site, Sphinn. Those are two sites with the latest news, how-to articles, and discussion about search engines and online marketing.

By night, I’m an advisor for a few small business owners who’ve hired me to help guide their online presence — from SEO to social media, blogging and content strategies, local search and more. I share advice on those topics at Small Business Search Marketing.

On weekends, I run @U2, the oldest independent site on the web for U2 fans. I’m also finishing up the second edition of my book, U2-A Diary.

Back before all of this, I was a TV and radio sportscaster. I’m married, have two awesome kids, and love coming to SearchFest. Thanks for the speaking invite and the chance to answer a couple questions, Todd.

2) How can a small business use social media effectively without devoting massive resources to it?

Every small business is different. For some, just listening to what’s happening in your home town and/or industry might be all it takes to use social media effectively. So that might involve spending 15 minutes a day keeping an eye on local blogs or on local Facebook and Twitter users. You might just be looking for opportunities to join a conversation, answer a question, or quietly learn what people are saying that matters to you. An accountant or general contractor might not need to do much more than this.

But a lot of small businesses will need to do more. First, you need to identify how important social networking is to your target audience/customers and where they are — i.e., which sites do customers/prospects use the most. You don’t have to be extremely active on every social networking site, but you do need to be visible where it matters most. That means you create your profiles/pages and you devote as much time as you can to keeping them fresh and current with company news, special offers, and customer service. You make yourself available to answer questions and help however you can. It might be that 30 minutes is all it takes for a real estate agent, for example, to be out there and visible and making new connections.

It’s mainly about knowing where you need to be spending your time; if you know that, you’ll waste less of it.

3) What proactive steps can a small business take for online reputation management?

At minimum, use Google Alerts to setup a simple monitoring system. Setup alerts on your business name, your product name(s), and other important industry terms. Setup alerts on your own name, the names of your company president, marketing director, and anyone else in your company that has regular public interaction.

The other thing I recommend, and so few business owners seem to do this, is to do Google and Bing searches for all of the above — company name, president’s name, etc. — on a regular basis. There are too many situations where the business owner didn’t know for months that there were some unflattering or incorrect web pages showing up on the first page.

And if you’re a local business, you also need to bookmark your profile pages on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, etc., and keep an eye on reviews that customers are posting. You have to get out in front and know what’s being said so you can respond accordingly.

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