Digital Storytelling Tips for Entrepreneurs

It’s not often Madison Avenue intersects with Main Street, but Doug Melville is aiming to bring the two together to spark growth.

The TBWA chief diversity officer says he is on a mission to help women and minority-owned businesses thrive. Melville, a serial entrepreneur himself, is working to bring more small companies into advertising giant TBWA’s supply chain.

Melville has seen firsthand how major companies like McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) get branding right. But he says one of the most common mistakes smaller companies make early on is trying to do too much.

“I think a lot of people try to do everything for everybody, when they should really just focus on one thing,” he says. “And be great at that one thing, and then build ancillary products and projects around that one thing.”

Getting branding and storytelling right from the start can fast-track company development, Melville says. As chief diversity officer, he has developed “Digital Breadcrumbs,” an A-through-H digital strategy for small businesses. Here is the breakdown:

A: Attend Events. Despite the endless ways to communicate with your audience today, Melville says in-person still trumps them all. “You have to get out there and attend events—show your face,” he says. “A lot of times it’s the same people showing up, too.”  This will help to expand your network, he says.

B: Blog. After you attend an event, or branch out into a new venture with your company, be sure to blog about it, he says. “Google looks at your freshness factor online, and blogging it’s a great way to keep your freshness factor up,” he says. “Get more involved with the conversation within the search realm, so your business can move to the top.”

C: Create case studies. Document the work you do and services you provide, Melville says. “One of the challenges for small businesses is that they will put logos on a sheet of paper with everyone they’ve ever worked with, but no one knows what you did for them,” he says. “What was the actual case study? That makes potential customers look more into the work you did, and maybe say, ‘that is exactly what I need.’”

D: Data is king. Small businesses need to be on sites like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Analytics, Quantcast and more, to keep track of their own data as well as their competitors’ information.

E: Everything counts. Due to the ever-growing popularity of the Web, Melville cautions that a small company’s every move matters.  “I think when you are a small business, a lot of times you may think something doesn’t matter, or it will only take you two seconds, so there is no big deal, but the reality is with search and the Internet, that everything does count,” he says. “You could lose customers if you do something a bit off-kilter, and you can gain customers if you do something right.”

F: Facebook and Foursquare. Social media is huge for small companies, but Melville says these two are at the top of the list when it comes to advertising and digital storytelling. “Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) has more than 1 billion users worldwide, and has great targeting tools for a small ad, so you can show up on peoples’ feeds,” he says. “And Foursquare, if you have a physical business location, you can check out your local ecosystem with meta-tagging, so that users can be really active on there.”

G: Google alerts. Melville says to set alerts for your own business, and also for your competitors’ businesses on Google alerts. “This is one of the most underutilized things on the web,” he says. “It’s the eyes of the Internet when you’re not watching.”

H: #Hashtag everything. Hashtagging different words on both Facebook and Twitter can help a small company show up on search and trend lists, and may even get you on TBWA’s radar, says Melville.