When we speak with prospective clients, we always do an analysis of their digital presence. This analysis includes a close look at their website and a conversation about how often they make changes to their website. Often, the answer is “very rarely”, and the reason given is usually a variation of “we haven’t gotten around to it and, by the way, it’s really tough to get in touch with our web developer or it takes them forever to make changes”. If you have a website built using the WordPress Content Management System (check out WordPress.org for more info), you remove the issue of contacting and paying your web developer for content changes. You can log in to your own site and add or delete text or pages quickly and easily. (And, yes, there are other Content Management Systems out there, but we prefer WordPress for several reasons).
Why is it important to be able to change and add to the content on your website if you use social media?
Second, the key component of any social media campaign is content. And the best content is always your own. Putting your articles, videos, and photos on your own website and then sharing links to that content on the various social media platforms is a great way to get people back to your primary digital real estate – your website. When you add your own content to your website, it’s always there for people to find. We get continual traffic to our website because we have developed a library of articles that contain keywords and phrases that people use in their internet searches. People find us and contact us through articles that we added to our site – and some of those articles are almost two years old.
Second, Google scores websites based on “freshness of content”. This influences how Google ranks your website for search terms. This is a great article from SEOmoz that explains more about how Google looks at website content to determine rankings.
Third, when you can log in to your own website to make changes, you are in control and you can do it at any time. If something is happening at your company or in your industry, you can share it on your website as soon as you know about it. This also makes for timely social media content. You add the event or article to your site, share the link to the page on Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, and now you’ve got website traffic from people who are interested in what you have to say.
Fourth, there are hundreds of tools available for WordPress websites that make sharing your content via social media very simple. You can also track how often your content is shared and encourage people to follow your accounts right from your site.
Fifth, a changing website is a current website. It’s time to start thinking about it as something that is dynamic rather than static. Too many sites are just online business cards or brochures. Your company changes all the time; your website should, too. Your website can be working for you, even when you’re not. WordPress makes it easier.
As we have discussed in previous posts, the key to success in B2B social media is the development and sharing of content that will appeal to your target market. When we work with new B2B clients, we always have an in-depth discussion about content and these critical questions:
1. What type of original content do you already have? Articles, videos, radio show, infographics, presentations, photos, testimonials, whitepapers
2. What type of content will appeal to your target market?
3. What type of original (developed by you) content will be developed on an ongoing basis?
4. Who will be developing the content? A staff member, the owner, a group of people, Mediavine Marketing?
5. What other content can be used to supplement your original content?
6. How often will the original content be developed?
7. Where will the content be placed initially? The website, YouTube, a trade publication?
8. Where will the content be shared? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking sites, etc.
9. Will others be able to share the content as well? In other words, is your website set up to allow comments and sharing of your content?
Once we have established the who, what, when, where and why of content, we inevitably start discussing the details of developing content. Many B2B companies really struggle with this, and understandably so. Most of us will not acquire legions of raving fans who are waiting breathlessly for our next product or announcement.
So, what do we B2B companies share out there? How about thinking in terms of “edutainment”?
We’ve adapted the term “edutainment” from the educational world, but we think it applies well to social media. Edutainment is designed in order to keep people interested and engaged, and the goal is to provide some valuable knowledge to the target market by keeping them engaged with entertaining content. It doesn’t have to be hilarious and earth- shattering, but it does need to be interesting and/or useful enough to encourage further exploration of your digital profiles and even an email opt-in or phone call. Articles/blog posts should have targeted and interesting titles, and the articles themselves need to be written in a more conversational, less “whitepaper-ish” tone. Videos, rather than the “salesly”, long and over-produced showcases of yesterday, should be shorter, authentic and address a “pain point” or offer a way to solve a problem. Think about showing your prospective clients what their success would look like if they work with you. Help them visualize how they would achieve their goals with a short presentation or an infographic.
We have found from experience that edutainment may be the thing that keeps you in your prospects’ minds longer than anything else you have on your website. What do you think about the idea of using “edutainment” for B2B social media?
Whereas many B2C companies sell products and services that can inspire raving fans, B2B companies often struggle with inspiring that same type of interest and interaction. The key to staying in front of people is producing the kind of content that your target market will want to read or watch- and perhaps even share with others. People will notice and pay attention if you give them something that will pique their interest, help an issue or even make them chuckle. Also, when potential customers do take the opportunity to check out your company website or profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, for instance, they will see activity and recent content. After all, more and more of us do all of our research about a company online, regardless of the industry.
So, what type of content can offer the most value to your B2B company?
Articles/blog posts: As painful and daunting as it may seem (or actually be), writing articles and blogs can be really effective at gaining an audience, increasing website traffic and solidifying your expertise in your area. When you add a new blog post to your website on a regular basis and share it out on all of your social media accounts, you never know who might end up visiting your website and reading your post. Our clients who produce articles the most often also see the most return on their social media activity.
Videos: These days, videos don’t always need to be high-quality productions that cost thousands of dollars. With the popularity of YouTube, people are used to videos that have been made on the fly and have a human quality to them. You can set up a camera and do a video blog instead of a written blog, if you prefer. Keep them short and authentic, and share them out wherever you have a profile.
Questions and Polls: Posting questions and polls on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can be an effective way to start a conversation about a topic of interest to your target market. Questions beg for an answer, and usually someone will be compelled to give an answer if the question is thoughtful or provocative enough. Fred McMurray, one of our partners, has had great success with this strategy, especially on LinkedIn. He has made numerous valuable connections in the B2B space with people who have chosen to answer his questions.
Photos: On Facebook and even Twitter, photos draw a lot of attention. They are easy to share and don’t require a lot of thought. Not that photos should the sum total your content, but interspersing photos and images can be a way to continue your visibility on days that you don’t have more comprehensive content to share.
Share articles/blog posts of others: Don’t have time to write an article right now? Consider sharing the articles of others that you believe your target market will appreciate. Although the traffic won’t be coming to your site, at least your company name and logo will be associated with something that could be of value to someone. The idea is to keep your company name in front of people on a regular basis.
If you have a B2B business and are finding success with your own content, we’d love to hear about it!
Whether you have a child, a pet or a plant, you know that you have to give it attention and keep it fed and watered or it will be very unhappy, won’t grow and will eventually die. The same goes for your small business’s online network.
So how do you keep your online network happy and growing? Here are some tips that we have gathered while feeding our network and the networks of our clients.
1. Post and share content on a regular (daily) basis. Producing your own articles or videos can be a daunting task, especially for those of us who struggle with writing or appearing on camera. However, we have found that consistency and frequency really does equal visibility, so when you can’t produce your own content, share someone else’s. The idea is to share articles and other items that provide value to your followers. Let the choice of content that you share reflect your company’s culture, mission, vision, and sense of humor. It is a good idea, however, to give your own thoughts when you’re sharing someone else’s content, and of course, give credit where it’s due.
If you want to save time, try using a site like HootSuite, TweetDeck or Dlvr.it. You’ll be able to share content to different sites from one interface.
2. Interact and acknowledge. All too often, we see small businesses do “hit and run” posting. They’ll post something, which is great, but then they don’t bother to acknowledge when someone makes a comment or shares it out. A classic example is a community bank in our area that asked people to go on their Facebook page and write about their favorite tellers. This was a great idea, but not one person (and there were a LOT of comments- they must have some great tellers) who wrote on the bank’s wall was acknowledged in any way. No likes, no thank you’s, nothing. Next time the bank decides to do something like that, they will probably get a less than enthusiastic response.
Besides acknowledging when someone makes a comment or retweets your own content, etc., it’s also a good plan to initiate some comments, retweets and likes. Not doing so fits the definition of “hit and run” posting.
3. Add connections every week. Whether you’re using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ or another social site, you need to be increasing your friends and following on a weekly or even daily basis. Some may argue that it’s best to work the connections you already have, but we have found that it’s vital to expand your network if you have content (articles, videos, promotions) that you want to share in order to provide value and increase your visibility.
This doesn’t mean that you just add connections blindly, accepting every LinkedIn connection and following everyone who follows you. Growing a network does take time, effort and thoughtfulness. The point here is that you do need to keep it growing regularly, so schedule in some time to seek out connections. New connections mean new points of view, new information and new content. They also mean the potential for more people to share out your articles, videos and news to their networks.
4. Have a plan. Whether you’re the social media “expert” in your small business, or you are able to give the task to someone else, you want to have a plan of action. Morgan Miller Plumbing in Kansas City has seen great success with using social media, and the owner, Jeff Morgan, set a goal to post a blog on the company website once per week. His office staff members begin bugging him the Friday before to get his article written so that they can post it and share it with their network. Having this goal in place focuses everyone to think about their customers and target market, the industry and what’s happening within the company.
How do YOU keep your small business’s online network from dying? We’d love to hear about it!
When it comes to using social media websites for recruiting – what we call social recruiting – how far is too far? Beyond learning the hard way what works and what doesn’t, there are some best practices emerging to help recruiters know when they’ve pushed the proverbial envelope too far. And hiring professionals are discovering a new line of recruiting applications and tools built into applicant tracking software to help them rise above the same old hashtag to better identify, connect with and place viable candidates.
For all their good intentions, many folks using social media in their recruiting efforts are running into the same issues. Here are the top three:
● Spamming job posts. Want to render your social recruiting efforts ineffective? Spamming people with your job opportunities is a surefire way to do just that. The key to social recruiting is to be social and engaging. Share industry news and articles of interest, exchange personal messages, etc.
● Prying rather than researching. Some positions require a flawless social media presence. For the rest, you shouldn’t be digging too deeply into their profiles. Screening should be focused on general impressions of candidates to see if they would fit within your company culture.
● Penalizing candidates for level of access. It’s not unusual for candidates to deny recruiters access to their Facebook profile, inviting them to connect via LinkedIn instead. Many people use Facebook for personal, rather than professional networking – especially in Generation Y. Don’t write off candidates for showing a bit of backbone and managing their public image – it’s hardly something to penalize.
Lessons Learned from the Trenches
Some people are experiencing more success in social recruiting than others, and have picked up a few tricks worth sharing. Carolyn Betts, CEO of Betts Recruiting, is one such person, and was recently featured in a New York Times article, for leveraging social media to grow her recruiting success. She and I chatted last week, and she shared some lessons she’s learned from the trenches.
● Focus on strategy. You won’t be able to make the most of social media if you’re going into it blindly. You need to have a plan for how you want to accomplish your goals. Betts suggests starting with one social media site, familiarizing yourself with it, then growing your presence gradually.
● Have realistic expectations. When you consider the industry you’re in and the position you’re hiring for, are your deal-breakers realistic? You need to determine upfront how much weight you are giving a candidate’s social media presence.
● Leverage the right apps and tools. Many successful social recruiters know that in order to make the most of your social recruiting efforts, you need to leverage the right tools. Why go it alone when there are applications with built-in best practices for recruiting more effectively?
Software Expanding Recruiters’ Reach
Human resources software is growing to help recruiters make use of social media in their hiring strategy. But before recruiters can fully harness these helpful tools, they must determine whether or not they are in the right social media playground.
According to a recent study, approximately 85 percent of U.S. companies used LinkedIn for recruiting last year, though only 30 percent of active job seekers are on LinkedIn. As such, many recruiters are finding LinkedIn a bit overcrowded. Where are the candidates? The large majority of them are on Facebook.
Because the data recruiters are looking for is a little harder to find on Facebook, however, many miss the sourcing opportunity this vast network provides. Fortunately, there are third-party software developers devising methods to put actionable candidate information into the hands of recruiters quickly and efficiently. Some of these recruiting solutions are standalone applications that leverage recruiters’ networks. Others – like Bullhorn Reach – are applications designed specifically for automating social recruiting.
For further reading, check out Kyle’s HR blog at: http://blog.softwareadvice.com/articles/hr/social-recruiting-how-far-is-too-far-010271/
By now we all know about Bank of America’s U-turn on its prior decision to start charging monthly debit card fees. After the uproar on Facebook, Twitter, and sites such as Change.org, big banks got a big wake-up call (or at least yet another wake-up call) about the social nature of business today. Businesses who think they can’t do social media because there are “privacy restrictions” and “sensitive information” issues need to figure out how they are going to get around these issues really fast.
The banking industry is one of the last hold-outs against truly embracing customer engagement online. Certainly, many banks are using social media, and many more are making plans to do so, but the gap is still apparent. Go to the websites of Bank of America or Chase and see if you can find any social media links. Both do have a social media presence, but you have to do some hunting (and in Chase’s case, you have to know that their Community Giving Project, explained below, exists).
In a recent report by Amplicate, a social media analytics company, 83% of the online sentiments about major US and European banks were negative over a recent 12-month period. That’s a lot of negativity begging to be turned around by creative customer engagement! Criticism is occuring whether or not banks choose to get involved in social media.
The U.S. has a few examples of financial institutions that are using social media creatively. American Express and Foursquare teamed up to give Am Ex cardholders discounts when they check in with Foursquare at participating merchants such as Sports Authority and H&M. The Chase Community Giving Project on Facebook has over 3 million fans and encourages people to suggest their favorite charities and vote for up to 10 charities to receive funding.
Both American Express and Chase have seen some great activity and engagement with people through their efforts in social media. However, it’s a non-U.S. bank, Standard Chartered, that really seems to be getting it right. Based out of Singapore, their online banking division, Standard Chartered’s Breeze, has been innovating to the point that they are considered one of the leading banks in the international mobile banking arena. Indeed, in the last two years, they have added over a million new active online banking customers.
Here are some of the social media-integrated campaigns that Standard Chartered has launched:
The Wishlist: Standard Chartered developed a Wish List application, where customers enter the things they are saving up for and then apply funds to each item as their savings grows. Customers can link to Facebook to tell their friends about what they are saving for and when they have enough to make the purchase.
Inmode: They partnered with a Frog Design, a marketing firm, to implement an international design competition. Its theme was “Design to Change the World” and they were deluged with submissions. The most popular designs were the first thing that users saw when they logged in to Breeze, Standard Chartered’s mobile banking app. The top winner received a cash prize and an internship with Frog Design.
The World’s Coolest Intern: Standard Chartered launched a hunt for a social-and-all-things-media intern. The winner received a 6-month internship and $30,000, so as you can imagine, they had no shortage of applicants, many of whom were very highly qualified.
Breeze Living: Their iPhone app allows customers to access location-based coupons, special offers and even a customizable social networking platform called Tribe.
Every industry is being affected by how social media is changing company/customer engagement. Standard Chartered’s efforts to encouarge customer input and provide helpful tools has greatly increased their market share in the last two years. They may be in the mobile banking space, yes, but smartphones aren’t going anywhere and new account holders are the young twenty-somethings who expect their banks to give them convenience and listen. And, yes, the campaigns I’ve described above generally appeal to the “younger” generation. However, the next generation sees social media as a gateway to conduct daily activities, and banks can capitalize on that to connect and build a community. The same applies to virtually any industry.
If you’re the leader of a manufacturing company and you haven’t made the leap into social media for your business as of yet, you’re not alone. According to a Forrester Research study done in March 2011, 30% of manufacturers said that they were planning to increase their spending in social media and community marketing. Contrast that number with over 50% for other industries.
Like many other B2B companies, you may have started to see other companies use social media with some success, but you aren’t quite sure how your company can benefit from it, incorporate it or even get started with it. In this post I’ll share some manufacturers who are finding success with social media as well as some tips to for your business to get started.
Who are some manufacturers that have seen success in social media?
Channellock, Inc., is a tool manufacturer headquartered in Pennsylvania that recently won a PRism award for a best-in-class, multi-faceted marketing campaign that incorporates YouTube videos, a Facebook fan page, Twitter and a blog.
According to Michele King, the Communications and Training Manager at Channellock, “The biggest advantage of being relevant in social media as a manufacturer is having a direct line of communication to the people who use and enjoy (our products). It affords us the opportunity to ask questions and get answers.” She says that their social media profiles have attracted visitors and fans from all over and from all walks of life. Source
Jim Carr, President of CARR Machine and Tool Company in Elk Grove, Illinois, has been successfully using social media for a while now and believes that social media will be leading the way in helping small and larger corporations reach out to a new customer base. When his company experienced hardship during the economic downturn, Carr turned to a marketing company to design a strong web and social media presence. He believes that, going forward, corporations need to embrace the online culture because that’s where their next generation of customers already exist. Source
Steelmaster, a manufacturer of prefabricated steel buildings, got involved in social media about a year and a half ago. They found out that Facebook was a great place to post photos of their customers’ steel buildings and that social networks gave their products greater exposure to other vertical markets, such as chicken farmers and woodworkers. Source
What are some tips we can use to get started?
Make sure you have a strong brand and an updated website. Do some work up front to make sure that your company’s brand is well-represented and that your website looks current. Manufacturers often have the least attractive logos and websites. Even if your company is producing the most technologically advanced products, if your website looks like a clunker, you could be sending a message that you’re behind the times.
Showcase your company’s values, mission and culture- in addition to your products. Manufacturing is often extremely complex, with some companies producing literally thousands of parts that may become part of larger products manufactured by other companies. While some manufacturers do sell directly to the public, this is very often not the case. Most manufacturers are marketing to businesses, so social media has to be viewed as a place where a company can share its values, mission and culture as well as its products. It all comes down to, “Why should I buy from you instead of Company X?” Videos and photos can do a stellar job of answering that question.
Give value. If you just think of social media as a place where you are just going to sell your products, your efforts will drop like a lead balloon. Instead, think about information you can share with your potential customers that will be beneficial to them- as well as remove barriers to the buying process. Good content makes prospects notice your company. Blogs and videos accomplish this goal very well.
Encourage interaction and be prepared to listen. Many manufacturers are using social media as a forum to connect with prospects and receive feedback that can be used to improve product quality, stay current, and improve customer service.
Let your products tell stories. Like many manufacturers, your products probably end up becoming part of another product, and so on. Use photos and videos to tell a story of how your products become part of something larger. And if you can connect your products to people’s lives, so much the better! Most people have little information about how their favorite products come to be. Although you probably don’t sell directly to consumers, you can still connect with prospects in a unique and strong way when they are in the information-gathering phase.
Attract new employees. Although this isn’t a tip on how to get started using social media, it is a tip that can benefit manufacturers. We often hear that young adults don’t have knowledge or interest in the manufacturing field and that there is a perception out there that all manufacturing jobs are dirty, hot and don’t require much skill. You can use social media to change that. Young adults use the internet and social media constantly to search for information on everything under the sun, including careers and companies. You’ll appeal to the younger generation if you have an updated, mobile-accessible website and a strong social media presence that includes photos, videos, Facebook and Twitter.
With a strong U.S. sentiment toward manufacturing “reshoring”, companies can use social media to help make the case that they are ready, willing and able to provide the best products with a commitment to quality and integrity.
Did you know that not all of the messages that you post to your Facebook business page may be observed by the people who have “liked” your page? Even if you have a lot of fans, your posts may be seen by only a portion of your fans in their newsfeeds. Why? Because the default setting for the newsfeed on your fans’ personal profiles displays “Top News”. If users want to see “Most Recent” posts, they have to manually change the setting. Most people just use the default setting.
So, what does Facebook consider to be “Top News”? We don’t know exactly- Facebook isn’t divulging its secret formula called Edgerank- but we do have some tips we have compiled after research and observation.
Encourage conversations: Facebook likes to see strong bonds between users (they call if Affinity). When one of your fans likes or comments on your posts, there’s a higher chance that your fan will continue to see your posts in their newsfeed. To help encourage “affinity”, post items that spark conversations. Use questions. Say something controversial or share something funny. And if your fans like or comment on your post, acknowledge them with a comment of your own, making it a two-way conversation.
Facebook also seems to give more weight to posts that get comments rather than merely “likes”, so asking questions seems to be a better strategy that just posting something that people enjoy but don’t encourage comments.
Post links, videos and photos: Facebook seems to like some content more than others. Maybe links, videos and photos tend to get more reactions from people, so that’s why they get better visibility. But it is believed that some kinds of content are weighted more heavily and are more likely to be considered “Top News”.
Time your posts well: As you know, unless you have only two inactive friends and have liked only one page, your own newsfeed is constantly changing. So, after you post something to your business page, the clock is ticking and it will have less chance to appear in your fans’ newsfeeds as time goes on. Your post will stay around longer if there’s a lot of interaction on it, but most updates don’t have a lot of staying power as “Top News”. You can experiment with posting at different times of the day or week and see if that has any effect. You can also use your Page Insights to see when something you posted got the most comments and likes. Has Wednesday been the best day? Evenings versus mornings? Weekdays versus weekends? If you haven’t taken the time to look at your Page Insights, put it on your to-do list.
We don’t claim to have the inside track with Facebook, but if you’re using Facebook as a major part of your overall marketing strategy, these tips should help you increase your visibility. Also, doing some of your own research into Facebook’s Edgerank and your own Page Insights is a smart idea.
Last week LinkedIn announced that companies now have the ability to share news with followers of their LinkedIn Company Pages through Status Updates. This ability has been given to administrators of the Company Pages, and the updates appear as coming from the company rather than the individual.
This marks a change in the visibility of companies in the LinkedIn space. Giving companies the means to communicate and interact with followers brings the LinkedIn Company Pages a little more on par with Facebook’s Business Pages or even Twitter (where companies have always been able to share updates). Previously, the Company Pages were virtually static placeholders.
As you can see below, the status update now shows up in your network activity on your home page as coming from the company instead of an individual.
What does this mean for business owners on LinkedIn? The Company Page status updates present an opportunity and a challenge. My company appreciates the opportunity to increase our visibility and engagement through our Company Page. However, we are now challenged to further develop our page, increase our follower base and also deliver content that will be engaging and helpful.
If you do not have a Company Page yet, now would be the time to build one. To build a company page, click on “Companies” in the main navigation. Look to the top right and you’ll see a link called “Add a Company”. It’s a step-by-step process from there.
I haven’t heard that LinkedIn has plans to add more features to the Company Pages, but this may be the beginning of a focus on encouraging companies to build a greater presence on the platform.
A recent survey by Hiscox, the online insurance company (which I’ve noticed has been advertising heavily on LinkedIn), asked small business owners and leaders about their usage of social media. They found that almost half of small businesses were not using any social media channels to promote their products and services.
Hiscox’s survey highlights:
- 47% of respondents indicated they did not use social media for business purposes at all
Of those small businesses that were using social media for their business:
-19% use Facebook
-15% use LinkedIn
-4% use Twitter
When all respondents were asked about how they felt about using social media for their business:
-12% described it as a must and they use it all the time
-24% use it when they have the time
-14% indicated they don’t know enough about it
The numbers show, in this survey at least, that many small businesses haven’t made the leap to building a digital presence.
But here’s the thing…
-70% of Americans now say they look at product reviews before making a purchase
-79% of consumers say they use a smartphone to help with shopping
-83% of moms say they do online research after seeing TV commercials for products that interest them
(according to Google in their recent ebook Winning at the Zero Moment of Truth by Jim Lecinski)
And according to a recent Nielsen report, the time that Americans spend on social networks and blogs now represents about one-quarter of the total time spent on the Internet. (Where was the most rapid growth? Mobile Internet users over the age of 55. Fancy that.)
If you’re reading this post, you may be a small business owner who is hunting for information on the best way to use the internet and social media to promote your products and services. You know that most of your potential customers are on their computers and smart phones chatting with others, reading reviews and seeking advice about products or services. But half of you aren’t actively building a digital presence for your business. So why the disconnect? In our own informal company surveys, we have found that it’s usually a combination of 1) not having enough time and 2) not knowing what to do.
The good news is that seeking help on social media and and other forms of internet marketing can remedy the (lack of) time and knowledge problems. Just as many of you benefit from using a bookkeeper, tax accountant, graphic designer, printer and other specialists, you can also save time and experience better results by seeking assistance (training, consulting and/or management) from a social media specialist. It’s time to start building a strong digital presence; save time by getting help.
As a small business owner or leader, you’ve probably wondered if you can possibly be heard above all of the “noise” in social media. To address that question, I’ve come across a couple of interesting quotes from people who are widely regarded as experts in marketing. Do you see the common theme in both?
“We’re entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that’s useful or helpful to their lives. The consumer is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be there to help them with that. To put it another way: How can we exchange value instead of just sending a message?”
– — Kim Kadlec, worldwide vice president of Global Marketing at Johnson & Johnson
“Talking isn’t the only thing that makes social media social. Just like adding Facebook, Twitter and other sharing buttons will not magically transform static content into shareable experiences. Listening, learning and adapting is where the real value of social media will show its true colors. Listening leads to a more informed business. Engagement unlocks empathy and innovation. But it is action and adaptation that leads to relevance. And, it never ends.”
- – Brian Solis, social media futurist and author
The answer to being heard seems to be… listening first. That does sound familiar. People tend to do business with other people that they know and trust. And how do you get people to know and trust you? By listening and responding to expressed needs.
What does listening in social media mean for a small business? It means using some of the tools that are available and searching for, and paying attention to, what people are saying about your industry, products and services. For instance, a local payroll company hears that other businesses are confused about a new IRS rule and offers clarifying information and helpful tips. A small online toy merchant listens to so-called “mommy bloggers” and starts carrying eco-friendly toys and offering tips on recycling and restoring toys that require imagination. A web development company responds to other small business’s requests for cost-effective websites that they can edit themselves.
Most small businesses don’t need to be heard by everyone. We just need to be heard by the right someones. And that means listening to the right someones and responding the best that we can.
What a great challenge!
You’ve started a blog for your small business, and you (or your designated writer) have been putting out some great content. However, no one seems to know that your blog even exists. How do you get the word out about your blog and get some people to read it?
Here are 7 fairly simple and practical ways to share your blog:
1. Start an account with StumbleUpon and submit your posts there. StumbleUpon is an excellent social bookmarking site that allows you to share content as well as discover some incredible websites, blog posts, and videos you would have never come across otherwise. One word of caution: If you “stumble” your own posts, you must “stumble” other people’s content as well. StumbleUpon frowns on people who only share their own content, and it looks really self-serving, anyway. Whenever I submit one of my own posts, I always spend a few minutes “stumbling” and “liking” other people’s content that I find truly engaging. I really enjoy StumbleUpon and know many other people who do as well.
Along with StumbleUpon, there are many other bookmarking sites that you can use to post your content, such as Digg, Delicious and Reddit. Take some time to explore at least one of them and try posting your links to it.
2. Make sure that you give readers the ability to share out your posts by adding share buttons to each post on your website. WordPress and other blogging platforms make this pretty easy to add. However, you can also check out addthis.com for a solution to including sharing buttons on your site.
3. Many of you do this already, but make sure you share your post on Facebook. Preface the link with a comment or question. Ask your social media power partners to share it out as well.
4. Share a link to your post on Twitter, more than once. Sure, you may already tweet your posts, but do you tweet them several times, spaced out over a couple of days, for maximum exposure? Posting once is not enough. Try using a tweet scheduler such as Twaitter, Tweetdeck or Buffer. Vary the tweets that you send out with the link. Experiment with catchy headlines, questions and hashtags in your tweets. Also, if you are going to use Twitter in this way, make sure that you are tweeting other content besides your post over and over again.
5. Comment on other people’s posts and include the link to your own post when you are asked to enter in your website URL for validation. In other words, instead of entering in your general website address, enter in the URL for your specific post. Don’t talk about your post in the comment, however- that is not cool. Be thoughtful and give an authentic comment; if you do, people are apt to take a closer look and check out your link. This tactic is more effective if you comment on a blog post in the same industry as yours.
6. Share you post as a status update on your LinkedIn profile. Also, post it as a discussion item in any of the relevant LinkedIn groups that you have joined. Each group has its own rules for posting, so check with the Group Rules for their guidelines (if a group has guidelines, they show up under “Group Rules” on the right-hand corner of the group’s home page above the “Manager’s Choice” box).
7. Give your readers an opportunity to subscribe to your blog so that they receive an email each time you post something. There are several services out there that allow you to add a subscription function to your website. Aweber.com is one of the better known services, and they do charge a monthly fee, but they keep a database of your subscribers and give you many options for including an attractive subscription form to your website.
These are just some of the things you can do to get more pairs of eyes across your blog. Please share your own ideas.
Klout.com is a measurement of your overall online influence. This site calculates and assigns you a score (from 1 to 100) based on variables from the various social media channels, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Foursquare. Klout also recently added Tumblr, Last.fm, Flickr and Blogger to its algorithm. It’s easy to set up a Klout profile; you just log in with Twitter or Facebook and start connecting your other network accounts.
According to Klout, the higher your score, the greater your sphere of influence and interactivity. Klout measures your True Reach, Network Score and Amplification Probability.
Your True Reach score calculates the number of people you influence. They filter out spam accounts and instead focus on the people who are acting on your content. When you post a message on any one of the networks they measure, these people tend to respond or share it.
Your Amplification score shows how much you influence people. When you post a message, how many people respond to it or spread it out to their networks? If people often act upon your content (such as retweet, share, like, etc.), then you have a high Amplification score.
Your Network indicates the influence of the people in your True Reach. How often do top Influencers (i.e., other people with a high Klout score) share and respond to your content? These top Influencers increase your Network score when they do.
Klout also show you who are your top Influencers and well as who you tend to influence. They even include a “Klout Style”, with names such as Networker, Thought Leader, Broadcaster, Pundit and Specialist.
In a nutshell, your Klout Score represents the measure of success that you achieve when it comes to engaging your audience as well as how much of an impact your messages have on other people.
But does Klout matter for your small business? My answer is that it depends.
If you are a sole proprietor and your name is your brand, then Klout can be very helpful in showing you how active and influential you are in your networks. If you increase or decrease your activity on any of the networks, especially Twitter, you will see a corresponding rise and fall in your Klout score over time. Your Klout score and the data they provide can be a useful reminder about the importance of engaging your networks and staying consistent in your online activities.
If you have a business with partners and/or employees, then things get a little more complicated. There is no way to pull together the accounts of several people who are using social networks to promote one brand. Another drawback I see with Klout at this point is that it does not yet incorporate Facebook Pages (such as your Facebook Business page). If you have an active Page with many “likers” and comments, that doesn’t get factored into your Klout score. Klout also seems to be heavily weighted on Twitter, so if Twitter isn’t your strong suit, you may have a lower score.
Overall, Klout can help you see how you stack up against other people and businesses in the areas of reach and influence. If you have large networks and share out content that people react to, and if you actually engage with your friends and followers, then your Klout score will reflect that. I find that it serves as a good “nudge’ for people to continue being social and staying consistent in their online activities. Klout is still a work in progress (it’s in beta), but it’s probably the best free measurement of online influence that we have right now.
I recently came across a couple of great posts by Jeff Bullas in which he shares compelling questions and information he uses to convince CEO’s about the efficacy of social media marketing.
A few of the questions that he poses to these social media skeptics highlight the changing behaviors of the general public when it comes to searching for and evaluating products and services:
In the last few months have you either professionally or personally…
1. Answered or responded to a direct mail letter or brochure? (Current research shows only 3% have responded to those types of marketing)
2. Did you follow up on a mainstream media advertisment on TV, Radio, Newspaper or Magazine? (22%)
3. Did you use the Yellow Pages to look up a company to buy a product? (3%)
4. Did you use Google or other online methods when looking to purchase a product or service? (97%)
5. Did you use your online network via Facebook, Instant Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn or other Social Media to get a URL to a website for a product that you were looking to buy? (80%)
And the “clincher” question…
6. So why are you still using marketing for your company that you yourself have not used?
We all know that it is hard to break long-established patterns of practice, especially when faced with an alternative that’s new and seems to be ever-changing. The good ol’ Yellow Pages and postcards have been around for a very long time and are easy to implement in the marketing plan.
It may be a long time before we finally see the death of the Yellow Pages. Direct mail is still very common (and apparently has seen a bit of a comeback). But both professional and anecdotal evidence has shown that we are using and responding to these forms of marketing less and less. And we are going online more and more to look at reviews, find local products and services, and ask our networks about their experiences and advice. Yes, using online and social media marketing for your business can be time-consuming, confusing and difficult to measure.
But you have to ask yourself- are your habits so very different from your customers’?
Would you like to increase the impact and reach of your small business through social media? Having a few “power partners” can bring much needed resources, support and validation to your marketing efforts.
Most small business owners and leaders do some sort of in-person networking; many even join organized networking groups through chambers of commerce or other business organizations where members refer business to each other. When small business owners venture into social media, however, they often forget that online networking can be (and should be) just as cooperative as in-person networking. Pulling together a few people who are committed to promoting each other’s businesses online as well as offline can be very powerful.
Here are a few ideas for using power partners in social media:
Commit to promote:
Every day, you and your power partners should seek each other out wherever you have profiles- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog. Retweet, share, comment and increase your collective reach. You’ll keep in the habit of being “social”, which is crucial, and while you’re seeking out your power partners to promote, you’ll probably find other great content, businesses and people along the way. This has a snowball effect; when you see that someone’s content is being shared others, don’t you often take a second look to see why?
Obviously, you don’t need to promote everything that your partners say. Be authentic. In fact, you should also provide feedback, good or bad. We can all use a second or third set of eyes.
Being a small business owner or leader can be overwhelming. Sometimes social media marketing takes a backseat. Your and your power partners can provide encouragement and keep each other accountable. Is your power partner committed to writing a blog post per week? Hold him to it and let him know when he hasn’t written one for a while.
Share information and leads:
If you come across some great content, share it with your power partners. The same goes for a great lead. We’ve gotten some excellent referrals from power partners who saw an opportunity for us online.
If you feel comfortable referring a relative, friend or associate to a business, would you be willing to write a testimonial for that business? You and your power partners may want to write testimonials for each other that can be used on LinkedIn and review sites such as Yelp. You should only write what you know and believe to be true, but even a brief testimonial can be valuable.
Share your list of online advocates:
Most small businesses have customer lists. As you venture further into social media, you should also be picking up a list of valuable online contacts, such as folks who retweet, share and comment on your posts. Imagine if you exchange your list with another business that offers a related product or service to your company. Your power partner can follow, friend and connect with those people, using you as the reference. A “vetted” list of real people is a great resource.
Put links to your power partners’ sites on your website, and vice versa.
These are just some of the ways you can use power partners to help you increase your reach and stay social. Do you have a social media power partner? If so, how do you help each other?
You’ve probably heard that if you use Twitter for your business, then you need to be sending out tweets several times per day. Why? Because if your connections are following more than a handful of people, their timelines are changing rapidly. Most Twitter users, even active ones, cannot sit and read tweets for hours on end. The window of time when most people are scanning their timelines is usually a few minutes here and there. So, posting once or twice per day simply isn’t enough. And posting several tweets within the few minutes that you might be logged into Twitter is not effective, either, because you’ll flood your followers’ timelines for brief period and then miss anyone who might be checking in later. Furthermore, your target market may be checking Twitter more often at 7:30pm, for instance, long after you’ve logged off for the evening.
So, how do you send out several tweets throughout the day without sitting at your computer? Use a Twitter automation tool. Now, there are many purists who believe that scheduling tweets is not authentic and just wrong. However, if you want to use Twitter to widen your reach while growing your business, then the following tools can really help and all are free to try.
1. Bufferapp. Bufferapp is fairly new and they describe their service this way: “Never flood your followers again. Add Tweets to your Buffer and we spread them out for you during the day.” The basic plan is free and very handy.
2. Twaitter. This is a great service, especially if you want to schedule tweets that recur for a specific period of time. Let’s say that you want send out a tweet every day in order to promote an event that will take place in 10 days; Twaitter allows you to schedule a daily tweet and give it an end date. A free basic plan will get you up and running by logging in with your Twitter account. You can actually schedule up to 10 tweets per hour, but you might lose some followers if you post that often.
3. Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck is a very popular Twitter management tool that also allows you to also post to LinkedIn, Facebook and Foursquare. You can also use Tweetdeck to schedule tweets for the future. For instance, maybe you want to thank several people for their retweets. Instead of sending out a flurry of “thank you’s” in a few minutes, you could space out those tweets throughout the day. Tweetdeck is free and must be downloaded to your computer.
4. Hootsuite. Similar to Tweetdeck, Hootsuite provides a simple interface for scheduling tweets into the future. Hootsuite is a web-based application and is free for the basic plan.
5. Timely. Timely (timely.is) analyzes your past 199 tweets and then figures out the best times to send future tweets. They use this information to auto-schedule your tweets and learn as your audience grows. We’re still testing this one, but we like the intuitive concept. Timely does not support Internet Explorer.
Getting the most out of Twitter’s capability to increase your web traffic and audience is usually going to involve a tweet scheduler. You may not like the idea of scheduled tweets, but it’s a common practice and small businesses use tools like the ones listed above all the time.
Small business owners and leaders struggle to develop and maintain the consistency and frequency of their marketing program, especially now that social media is in the mix. We are already consumed with running the business and hopefully moving it forward. With mailers, flyers, newspaper ads, radio spots and even Google Adwords campaigns, you do a bunch of work to get them scheduled and set up, but then you can (I realize I’m oversimplifying this) sit back and wait for the phone to ring. A mailer might go out every 6 weeks. However, if you only post to your Facebook business page every 6 weeks, you’ll be lost in the torrent of information. With social media, the work to remain visible and engaged is constant.
It is not the job of the customer to remember us. It is our job to be responsive and deliver valuable information on a consistent and frequent basis. Consider if your favorite TV show aired for a couple of weeks and then dropped out for 3, then aired again for 1 week and dropped out for 2 more. You’d probably stop watching it.
Quality of the content you share is very important, but in social media, consistency and frequency may be even more so. I’m not saying that this good or bad; it’s just an observation taken from experience.
So how do you attain consistency and frequency? This is often such a struggle, but here are some of the tactics that we use and share with our clients:
1. Set up an editorial calendar. Your editorial calendar should document the days and times you plan to blog and post in the various platforms. Although the ideal may be every day, “I will aim for progress, not perfection” is a good mantra.
2. Read. It may seem difficult to carve out time to read something, but I have found that doing a bit of reading in a business book or 2-3 blog posts per day really helps with content generation. Sometimes it’s a quote (like the one above) that I run across during my reading that gives me the impetus to share something helpful (at least I hope it’s helpful!).
3. Observe and record. If something happens with a customer or employee during the day that would be a “shareable moment”, jot it down for later. People really respond when you share experiences that provide insight to your readers and customers.
4. Map out ideas for the next year. Most businesses already have certain dates or periods of time throughout the year that are important to the company, industry and/or sales cycle. Putting those dates down on your editorial calendar and brainstorming related ideas for social media content far in advance can really give you a laser focus for some exciting campaigns and content.
4. Get help. A social media specialist can assist you with planning, scheduling and content creation.
What tactics do you use to stay consistent?
Google recently opened up its latest venture into the social networking arena, Google+, to an invitation-only group (being a major geek, I was ridiculously excited about securing an invitation). Though not yet released to the general public, and still in development and testing at the moment, Google+ (or Google Plus or G+; who knows what will end up as the final shorthand?) already has some features that I like. Here are a few:
Circles: In Google+, you can place people into groups, called Circles, with incredible ease. Yes, you can group people in Facebook and Twitter as well, but Google allows you to use a simple drag and drop of faces and names. You are able to move people around at will, and they don’t know which of your Circles they are in (for instance, you could name a Circle “The Competition” and the people in that circle will never know).
When you post something, you can easily choose the Circles with which you will be sharing. You also have the option of creating as many Circles as you want (at least I haven’t run into a limit yet).
Another useful thing you can do with Circles is change the visibility on a per-circle basis. You can have some circles that anyone can find out about, some circles which are connections that only other people in your circles can know about, and some circles whose membership is completely private. In other words, nobody but you will know that you’re following those people.
Huddle: When you use Google+ on your smartphone, you can create a “Huddle” that is essentially a group text. Create a new huddle-specific Circle of your staff, co-workers, friends or family, or huddle with a circle you have already created.
Hangout: This feature may give Skype some serious competition. A simple download to your computer gets you up and running on video chat as long as your computer is video capable. If others in your business or network are already logged into Gmail, it’s simple to see who’s available or already in a “hangout”. As with Skype, companies with telecommuters or multiple offices can use this feature to connect. The difference here is that it’s integrated with a social network and email (Gmail) where people may already be logged in and spending time. It’s a Skype alternative that Google’s deep pockets will probably continue to enhance and tweak, and it’s already pretty good.
Do-overs: Google+ let you edit your posts after you share them. One of the people in my network said that it was great to be able to edit something so that her “moronification” could be changed- without having to erase the whole thing and start over.
Check out a connection’s entire digital presence: Much like LinkedIn, you can add your website, Twitter account and other digital accounts to your profile so that people in your network can check you out in other places. If you’ve already had a Google Profile for a while, this is nothing new, but seeing it in context with Google+ makes it all the more valuable. Of course, you can share other accounts on Facebook and other platforms, but Google makes the links fairly prominent.
If you’re interested in joing Google+ when it becomes available to more people, be sure to put some time into your Google Profile in order to get ready. If you don’t have a Google Profile yet, you just need a Gmail account. When you’re logged into Gmail, click on your name on the top right and you’ll see a link to your profile.
I do believe that Google has a serious contender for the social networking arena. Time will tell just how serious it is.
If you want to quickly create a simple and attractive web page that you can easily share out to everyone, checkthis.com may be for you. Billed as being somewhere “between nothing and a blog,” checkthis.com doesn’t require special set-up or software downloads. All you need is a Twitter account. Checkthis allows business owners, marketers, creative types and anyone else to share photos, videos, and text on a unique URL without going through the trouble of adding a page to a website.
Here’s the landing page I made in about 3 minutes: http://checkthis.com/3zq
In order to get started, visit checkthis.com and sign up for the beta program. While you’re there, take a look at some of the pages created by other users located on the bottom of the checkthis home page. Once you receive your user name and password from them (this can take a few days), you can jump in and quickly create new landing pages. The process is very simple:
1. Create a heading for the page.
2. Add content to create the main body of the page. You can use text and upload images and videos.
3. Establish a background and font colors. You can also upload your own background. Note: This function doesn’t seem to work in Internet Explorer.
4. Add a gadget like a Comments section, Google map, or a Tweet for some something extra.
5. Choose your settings. Make your page public (to be found by anyone who goes to the site) or private (only those with the link can find it). You can also set the page to expire in a day, a week, a month or more.
6. Make your new page live by clicking “publish.”
7. Share it out via Twitter, Facebook, email, or +1 it. Or grab the URL and share it wherever else you want.
You might ask why you would need yet another venue to share out content, and that’s a valid question. Of course, you can share videos and photos and content on dozens of sites already. And for many of us, adding a page to a website is not a big deal, thanks to platforms such as WordPress. However, checkthis makes set-up about as quick and simple as possible. And the ability to set an expiration date can be a bonus.
Please leave a comment on the checkthis page I shared above if you have ideas, comments or questions about how someone might (or might not) use this type of application.
The +1 buttons you are starting to see pop up on websites (like ours) are Google’s new “plus one” feature. The +1 button seems to be in the same vein as the Facebook “like” button or maybe even a Twitter re-tweet. It’s another way to let people know that you find a website, a web page, a blog post or an article informative, helpful, useful, interesting, awesome- however you want to define it. Google says that when you click the +1 button, you are “recommending” that item to others through your Google profile.
In addition to being placed on websites, you can find the +1 buttons next to search results when you’re using Google, as long as you’re also logged into your Google (or Gmail) account.
When you do click on +1, that particular website or web page will be added to your Google profile under the +1 tab. The button will also turn blue.
If you’re not sure where your Google profile is, you can find it when you’re logged into your gmail account. Look on the top right and click on your name. Click on “View Profile” and you’ll see your Google profile. It’s probably time to either build or update your Google profile.
Giving something a +1 is a public action- anyone could potentially see items you have +1’d when they visit the same places on the internet. You can keep your Google profile private, but why?
According to Google, your +1’s help improve the content you see on Google search. We’re not exactly sure how that works yet, but we’ll keep watching.
If you have a Google account and you find a page useful, you might as well give it a +1. If you have a website, you or your website developer can add the button wherever you want it fairly easily (just Google “+1 button”). With Google, it may be a good thing to be an early adopter.