Small Business Trends was a start-up launched by founder and CEO Anita Campbell back in 2003. Over the course of the last ten years, SMT as an online publisher focusing on small business issues now serves over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually throughout North America.
In 2011, SMT partnered with Small Biz Technology (founded by Raymond Ray) to introduce the first-time "Small Business Influencer Awards" program to celebrate those who've made a significant impact on the small business market.
Raymond Ray & Anita Campbell at 2013 "Small Business Influencer Awards" Ceremony in NYC
A small business influencer is a person, app, company or organization that has made a meaningful and lasting impact on the North American small business market.
Impact is determined by those that provide products widely used by a significant numbers of small businesses or influencing them by being a thought leader. For instance, this year one of the Top Champion Awards went to College Works Painting who impressed the judges with their mission to help young people become business owners. "Before this year, I didn't even know that company existed, but clearly they are doing something to encourage thousands of young student entrepreneurs -- and the judges recognized that," noted Campbell.
L to R: Andrew Kennedy, GM; Jason Reid, CEO; David Franco, VP; James Hippolyte, GM
Community Choice Honorees & Top 100 Champions
Community Choice Honorees are determined democratically by votes on the site after they first pass an administrative approval process to ensure they meet the basic eligibility requirements. "We get quite a few that do not qualify for one reason or another -- they were not based in North America, don't have a significant presence here, not enough connection to serving the small business market, or a similar reason," indicates Campbell.
The Top 100 Champions adds a judging component to determine the cream of the crop, where the judged portion counts for 60 percent. Campbell notes, that when "community votes make a difference in determining the Top Champions winners is when there are (judges') ties.
Social Media Marketing Tools
Campbell believes in promoting the "Small Business Influencer Awards" program by using today's latest marketing tools, namely social media. "We heavily focus on Twitter to promote the Awards. We tweet out all nominations (sometimes nominees aren't aware they've been nominated until they see the tweet, because a client or someone else nominates them)."
"We make use of the #smbinfluencer hashtag. We put sharing buttons on the voting site, and we've integrated Facebook comments also, so that community members can show their support."
Digging below the surface of LIKES and number of Twitter followers, Campbell as one of the judges feels it's important to dissect a potential winner's engagement on social networks. "I read every single Facebook comment for this year's nominees. Comments tell me how engaged and loyal the nominee's customer base and social follower base is -- and that's often an indication of the kind of character an individual nominee has, or the kind culture and business practices that a business or organization engages in, and whether they have truly impacted large numbers of small businesses."
Open to new ideas, Campbell noted she might consider new categories to recognize in the future such as a small business 'Social Media Marketing Professional' award. "We would like to consider categories like that, as well as possibly a "Most Loved Small Business" or something that recognizes not just those that serve small businesses, but some deserving small businesses themselves." adds Campbell.
This year, the networking event and awards ceremony was held on the evening of October 17, 2013, in New York City at the CUNY Graduate Center. During the ceremony, the top 100 Small Business Influencer Champions were honored on stage. Recognizable names included Cisco Small Business Support, Etsy, Evernote and Hubspot. The entire list of Champions can be found here.