Avoid Sites That Sell Followers

It’s a practice as old as business but when it comes to the social media game, paying to play just doesn’t cut it. Buying followers from “businesses” outside of Facebook, Twitter, et al. will not get you the results you desire. At best, you can hope for a superficial list of friends and followers, one that’s inflated like a balloon—big and hollow. It may seem like a quick, easy way to boost your follower count so let’s take a look at why paying for likes just doesn’t cut the mustard.

FallFest Crowd

So you’re new to a social media site and you see that low follower count. If only there was a way to quickly gain a bunch of followers so it doesn’t feel like you’re tossing pebbles in the ocean . . . Well if you give in to one of those users who promise 10,000 likes or followers you’ll be tossing your money down the drain. First, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to deliver so many followers. And even if they do? It’s nearly certain that these followers aren’t your target demographic. Heck, they might not even be real people at all.

Companies that promise new followers often deliver with people from different countries who have no realistic chance to ever visit your business. Another tactic is to deliver ‘bots’, fake accounts run by computer programs. What good is that? The whole point of running social media communities is to commune with your customers. All the work you put into delivering interesting and engaging content through your social media sites will go ignored if not delivered to the people its designed for.

Paying for followers is a cheap way to boost your audience and the results are just as cheap. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to running a healthy social media community. Want more followers? Targeted ads through the sites themselves help, allowing you to aim your site to the people you wish to reach. Be sure to include links to your social media accounts on your official website. Cross post between accounts by posting an Instagram photo to your Facebook page. Put up notices in your store. In the end, there are plenty of ways to increase your follower count without “paying to play.”

The Do’s and Don’ts of Using Facebook for Business

The benefits of using Facebook for business are now well trod ground. But just signing up and posting a profile picture won’t get you the results you’re hoping for. There are a lot of ins and outs when it comes to running a Facebook page for business. Here are some critical DOs and DON’Ts that will provide a basic guideline for running a wicked good page.

facebook photo

DO: Keep it light. Facebook is inherently fun and you don’t want to come across as stiff. If you’re looking to engage with your Facebook community and generate good will among potential customers, make them smile a bit. Have fun with it.

DON’T: Be unprofessional. There’s a line between having fun with your customers and coming across as unprofessional. You don’t want to cross it. Avoid sophomoric and crass humor.

DO: Provide customer service. Facebook is a great opportunity to answer any customer service queries that come up. By being prompt and personable, you can add a human touch that customers are so often looking for.

DON’T: Be formulaic in responses. If someone has a question or complaint, be sure to address it but don’t do so in “customer service speak.” People will be turned off by cookie cutter responses.

DO: Space out your posts. News feed burn out is a real thing on Facebook and you don’t want to be the page that is posting something every five minutes, bombarding your followers. It’s quality over quantity on Facebook, which is not necessarily the case on Twitter. Plan your post ahead of time and publish it when your followers are most likely to see it. This is much more effective than posting constantly.

DON’T: Leave your page unattended. Facebook is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of business and if you let your page go dormant for a couple of days, people are going to forget about you and move on. It’s about finding that balance between posting too much and not posting enough.

DO: Keep people informed. If you’re using Facebook for your business, you’re going to want to let people know about what’s going on. Do it in a way that’s Facebook-appropriate: Use photos, be friendly and warm, and keep it informal.

DON’T: Post like a commercial. Of course you’re going to want to let people know about your products or services but don’t do it in a way that comes across like an advertisement. People will tune out the businesses that they feel like is only on Facebook to sell them things. Facebook is a community, not a place for formal advertisements.

Leveraging LinkedIn for Business

Linkedin ChocolatesWith each social media site comes its own set of advantages, characteristics, and user base. While some sites, like Instagram and Vine, may share similar demographics and video sharing capabilities, other sites are more unique to themselves. This is certainly the case with LinkedIn, a social media site designed with business in mind.

At its core, LinkedIn was created as a place for business professionals to network. It’s a place where businesses can form new partnerships, where employers can look for new employees and vice versa. LinkedIn users are, on average, better educated with higher paying jobs. All of these factors make for an excellent marketing opportunity for a business.

Creating a LinkedIn page for your business allows you to tap into that population, allowing you to target engagement with people who may be better connected within your community and also may have a little more to spend on your service or product. There are the obvious businesses that stand to profit from networking with the professionals on LinkedIn—a suit tailor, office supply store, or anything in the technology industry, for example—but just about any business can take advantage of the free marketing opportunity LinkedIn presents.

Find ways to advertise your business to the LinkedIn crowd. If you own a bar and grill, maybe push your happy hour. You can even offer special LinkedIn-only deals to your followers. Boutiques can push business professional-friendly attire. Salons can show off styles that would stand out in the workplace. The point is that though you may not view yourself or your business as something that would fit on the professional networking site, the people already using LinkedIn make for excellent potential customers.

Doing Business on Pinterest

Pretty PinterestAs anyone who has invested in Myspace knows, the social media game has no safe bets. A site you thought would’ve been around forever is already a ghost town while another you thought was doomed from the start slowly builds into a zeitgeist-grabbing juggernaut. When it comes to matters of social media, it’s best to not count anyone out too quickly. Except maybe Myspace. You can probably count them out. But, then again . . .

Pinterest, who has had its fair share of naysayers, detractors, and otherwise, has established itself as one of the main players of the social media game. If your business isn’t on Pinterest, it’s high time you set up an account. It’s an image-based site, one that allows a user to create a sort of online cork board where they pin their favorite pictures, easily accessed by their own personal network of friends and family. It’s built for sharing.

Being that Pinterest is an image-based site, so much of what you choose to share will have to be agreeable to the eyes—to put it lightly. You want the photos you share to look good. You want them to look so good that your followers will be inspired to repin (like retweet) your image for their followers to see. And then maybe one of their followers repins it, too. And so on and so forth: Your image just went viral.

Using photos to showcase your products is great, of course, but you’re going to want to keep your posts varied and diverse. For every photo you pin, you’re going to want to repin someone else’s photo. Not only does this engage other Pinterest users, it demonstrates that your business isn’t only on Pinterest to advertise. Users aren’t going to follow an account that is only bombarding them with advertisements. To be a part of someone’s community, you must commune.

Of course, posting photos of your products and services is an excellent way to drum up business. But don’t stop there. Post coupons available only to your Pinterest community. Post photos of your employees to show that you’re a team. Make things that are visually stimulating and inspiring. Follow influential accounts in your own industry to watch for product trends. Use Pinterest to learn more about your customers and what they’re interested in. Pinterest is excellent for engaging and interacting that community which you rely on. Also, it’s popular and, we think, here to stay.

The Art and Value of Repurposing Content

Now that the content industry seems to have come to the agreement that high-quality, regularly updated content is the best way to get traffic, webmasters are left with a dilemma. In a way, it’s a version of the same dilemma that has frustrated content creators (or as we used to call them, artists) since time immemorial: what to write? What to photograph? What to feature? How to create content, day in and day out, and keep it fresh and interesting?

Repurposing content can answer some of these questions. It takes the pressure off by limiting the amount of creativity your content creators need to deploy, and also allows you to subtly tweak content to better fit different formats. Repurposing content is the key to maximizing your efficiency and ensuring that you get the most bang for your content buck. Read on!

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Get maximum mileage out of each piece of content

Repurposing content helps you maximize the reach and efficacy of each piece of content you create. If you’ve researched a topic enough to write an article about it, get a designer to use that research to create an infographic, a slideshow, or even a video! The more you go over information, the more insights will become available to you, and in this way you’ll be able to add value to your content as you repurpose it.

Attract visitors from difference sources

When you repurpose content for a social media channel, you access a different category of your fans. It’s entirely possible that these fans only follow you on Twitter, and didn’t know you actually had long-form content. Repurposing content for all of the various channels of social media also maximizes your exposure to all the different people who are interested in your brand.

Boost your SEO Game

By reconfiguring and repurposing content, you maximize keyword coverage and density across multiple pieces of content, making sure that your relevance for that keyword is as high as possible. You can further increase your relevance by cross-linking the various pieces of content, however take care not to make your repurposing too blatant in this case.

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Make sure your they get the message

As any Facebook marketer knows, the organic reach of a Facebook page is limited. Facebook itself puts the number at 16%, meaning you’re likely to reach 16% of your page’s fans with a given post, but some people allege the numbers to be even lower than that.

Repurposing your content means increasing the instances of that 16% reach—ensuring that you reach a larger percentage of your fans than that maybe-16% without repeating yourself and possibly getting penalized for spamming.

Repurposing: 2nd/3rd/4th time’s a charm?

Repurposing content is great for maximising the efficacy of your content and giving your creators a much-needed break to recharge their creative energies. Plus, as we have shown, repurposing and repromoting is actually necessary just to ensure that your content is seen by as many of your fans as possible. Your content is there, you already paid for it. Why not get the most out of it?

About the Author

Hilary Smith is a guest author and online business journalist with a background in business telecommunications and media marketing. Her writing often covers content amplification, business globalization and technology as well. Follow her on Twitter to read more!

When to Use Twitter Ads for Business

Twitter Bird SketchFor all the great things social media has to offer small businesses, perhaps the greatest might be the simple fact that it’s free. All of these services allow you to reach thousands and thousands of potential customers without spending a dime.

Well, sort of.

While it’s true that sites like Instagram and Vine don’t charge users to start an account and begin posting to their ever-growing list of followers—i.e., potential customers—that doesn’t necessarily mean that a post is going to be seen, read, or clicked on. How do they offer their service for free? Advertisements.

So while you may be posting for free, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a post is as effective as it can be. In fact, this is sometimes by design. A site like Facebook actively makes it more difficult for posts to be seen these days, gently prodding its users to pay to “boost” their posts so that they experience a wider reach.

While Twitter doesn’t actively limit a tweet’s reach, its wide-open, anything-goes Twitter feed means that a tweet can be quickly buried and quietly forgotten. If a follower of yours only follows 50 users, than your tweet is more likely to be seen. But if they follow hundreds of users, than their twitter feed is more likely to be full of so many tweets that they’re bound to miss some—including yours.

To combat this, Twitter offers its own paid model for tweeting. Users can pay to have tweets appear at the top of their followers’ Twitter feed, which is the ideal location for being seen. Obviously you’re not going to want to pay for every single tweet but if you have a special offer, sale, or event coming up and you want to ensure that it’ll be seen by more of your followers, than paying for a boosted tweet is the right option for you.

Sharing for Engagement on Twitter

Cat Mandoo too

Content, as we say in the social media biz, is king. Well, that and cats. So cat content is king. But the rest of content is a very close second. It’s what drives the social media machine, garnering likes, gathering retweets, and being spread virally through shares. It’s articles, listicles, photographs, infographics, videos, and so much more. Content is the key to engagement.

No matter the format, be it Facebook or Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, you’re going to want to share content that occupies that magical space where your own interests and your customers’ interests overlap. Of course, how you share that content is largely determined by which social media platform you’re using. The Vine app, for instance, only posts user-made videos. Instagram started off as a photo-only app, though it now offers video sharing, as well.

Be Concise

When it comes to Twitter, sharing content can be a tricky endeavor. The popular social media site’s 140-character limit per tweet doesn’t allow you to dive into a deep analysis of whatever it is that you’re sharing, like a Facebook or LinkedIn does. Instead, you want to deliver content with a concise but engaging headline with two goals in mind: Users clicking on your content and users retweeting your content.

Be Visual

One of the biggest things that can help is including an image with your Tweet. This used to be more of a hassle but Twitter has recently incorporated images directly into users’ Twitter feed. If you are tweeting a link to someone else’s article, find the author’s Twitter handle and include that in your subject line. This greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll be retweeted.

Be Relevant

You’re going to want your content to be relevant to your message, trustworthy, timely, topical, useful, informative, and personal. And take the time to see what your followers respond to. If you notice that one type of tweet is consistently retweeted more than other types of tweets, thoughtful analysis may reveal what your specific audience is interested in.

Best Business Uses for Instagram

Short break for a small craft project...

Short break for a small craft project… (Photo credit: sazbean)

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. But in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rapidity of this modern world, social media suggests that a photo might be worth much more than a thousand words. The right photo at the right time might be worth 10,000 words. Heck, a snap on a smart phone could carry the weight of War and Peace for your business, should everything work out right.

The popular image-sharing app Instagram is an oft-overlooked opportunity for businesses hoping to connect with customers. While sponsored posts that appear in every user’s feed are available (and expensive), the average small business is going to gain Instagram followers the same way they would on Twitter or Facebook: Start your own profile and build from scratch. The more people who opt to follow your feed, the more people you reach.

Show off your goods

With Instagram being an image-based platform, it presents a perfect opportunity to show off what it is that you’re selling.

While plenty of people use the service as a means to show off their products like they were in a catalog, it’s important to note that lots of people online appreciate subtlety in their social media marketing. People take ownership of their feeds and don’t necessarily want their friends’ photos to be interrupted by a commercial. Instead, it can be helpful to present the product in a thoughtful, creative manner.

And for those in the food and beverage industry, what a leg up you have. It’s like Instagram was invented just for you. How thoughtful of them! Half of a person’s Instagram feed is already full of pictures of their friends’ meals, treats, coffees, teas, and cocktails.

Remember: Creative. Thoughtful. Fun.

The photos and videos you can make showcasing your product or business are excellent opportunities for involving customers and potential customers alike in the process. In the world of craft everything—beer, cocktails, cupcakes—more and more people are wanting to feel a part of the processes of production and manufacturing. Instagram is your chance.

With photos and videos, you can take people directly into your woodshed and show them what goes on behind the scenes. Take them to the market with you and document your picking out fresh produce. Getting a little loopy after a long day in the kitchen? Start a dance-off with an employee. A sense of humor goes a long way in a medium like Instagram—anything to get someone to linger over your post for more than half a second.

Another idea is to create demonstrations of how your product works. Or even how your product can be enjoyed. People putting on the clothes you created. Someone enjoying that pie you labored over. Or sitting on that chair you built.

Contests always go over well on social media and Instagram is no different. Offer exclusives and first dibs to your followers.

Remember that on Instagram, just as it is in life, it’s not all business. Let your followers into your life as they do with theirs. Show off your dog, show off your cats. Take a picture of a new piece of art you bought or a beautiful late summer sunset.

Going the Extra Mile: How to Use Twitter to Boost Customer Satisfaction

Image Courtesy of Youssef Rahoui on Flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Youssef Rahoui on Flickr.com

Social media has completely changed the way brands communicate with their customers. Consumers are no longer trapped on their phones, either on hold or cycling through ridiculously long menus just hoping and praying a customer service rep would soon pick up the line. Instead, a customer can hop on his computer or pick up his smartphone to fire off a quick tweet voicing dissatisfaction with a company.

Twitter is a breeding ground for customer concerns, questions, complaints, and (sometimes) compliments. These customers expect to be given something of value in exchange for their loyalty, and they expect that something to happen soon. Above all, brands on Twitter need to be responsive.

The Eptica Multichannel Customer Experience Study found that, on Twitter, the average response time to a customer service question is eight hours and 37 minutes.

What do users think about this? Data from the 2012 4th-quarter The Social Habit research report showed that 32% of respondents expected a response from a brand within 30 minutes, while 24% still expected a reply within 30 minutes even if they made contact at night, on weekends, or during the business’ off-hours.

This evolution in consumer behavior is changing not only the way brands interact with their customers, but also how they do business at a base level. How can businesses keep up with their customers and better use Twitter as a platform for customer satisfaction?

Have the right people for the job

A properly trained customer service team is worth its weight in gold, as they are the first line of defense in dealing with an unhappy consumer. It’s vital to hire the right people and train them well, as they will be representing brands and interacting with customers on a daily basis. There’s no room for hotheads or Luddites on a brand’s social media team. Twitter customer service reps should be allowed to show their human sides and relate to customers. (For example, reps can sign their initials after their tweets, such as on VirginMobileUSA Care). Creating a sense of trust between customer service and the consumer will build brand loyalty.

Be online when customers are

A customer can tweet at any time of day, including outside of business hours. If they tweet at a corporate handle, they will expect a response and they will expect it now, even if it’s 3am and the social media manager is asleep. Businesses are expected to provide around the clock support, but this isn’t always practical for the businesses. Instead, a brand can clearly state the days and hours that someone from customer service will be answering tweets. It would also be prudent to give customers another way to get in touch, such as through email or phone.

Stay engaged

Don’t wait for a customer question or complaint to come in. Instead, be enterprising! Post tips, tricks and other useful resources that customers can use to solve their problems. With tweets like these a business might be able to reduce the number of customer complaints that come in each day.

Don’t delete

If a brand fails in a particular instance of customer service on social media, they may be tempted to delete the post. Don’t do this. People will remember what a brand said and they may have already screencapped the response, making it possible for the incident to make the rounds on other social sharing sites. Remember, nothing is ever truly deleted from the Internet. Instead of creating an atmosphere of perceived impropriety, own up to the mistake and correct it quickly. Users will appreciate the correction more than they will a perceived deception.

Always be monitoring

Stay ahead of the game. Brands should use monitoring tools and alerts to be notified when customers are talking about their products on Twitter. Users expect companies to find them rather than the other way around. Companies should also consider sentiment analysis along with their monitoring. Are customer comments positive or negative? Set up these alerts to track brand name as well as related keywords and hashtags. A timely, appropriate response will be greatly appreciated by consumers.

Keep it simple

With only 140 characters to utilize, it can be difficult to answer more complex or personal questions on Twitter. Businesses should know when to move the customer to another mode of communication like email or a phone call. Take the time to identify what types of complaints or questions should be elevated to the next level of customer service and outline a response for your Twitter team to use to notify the customer. Twitter is best used for short and simple responses to straightforward inquiries.

Get personal

Treat customers as individuals. Nothing irritates the Twitter audience more than a generic response. Rather than replying to tweets with the same canned message, personalize each response. The tone of each reply should be appropriate for both the message received as well as the customer herself. The response will not exist in a vacuum – others will be able to see it and the tweet may be shared with others.

Consider starting a separate customer account

Rather than crowding a brand’s Twitter timeline with customer service responses, consider creating an entirely separate support account and pointing customers in that direction. For example, Nike operates a separate @NikeSupport account to address customer concerns and complaints. The account is incredibly responsive, having sent over 312,000 tweets while the branded @Nike account has sent just over 15,000 tweets. A separate customer service account also better allows brands to use social media management tools to monitor and organize the customer support account. Team members can filter with keywords and hashtags, and better study the analytics.

Twitter can be a great tool for providing exceptional customer care as well as cultivating customer loyalty. The social media analytics company Simply Measured found that, as of March 2013, 99% of brands are on Twitter and 30% of these have an account devoted to customer service.

The numbers don’t lie – it’s critical for brands to solve customer problems on Twitter.

About the Author

Dave Landry is an online business journalist, personal finance manager, and debt relief counselor in Southern California. When he’s not writing about debt management, he enjoys researching and sharing his knowledge about social media techniques, business communications, and globalization.

5 Tips for Better Twitter Advertising

Accessible Twitter website icon

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Advertising on Twitter can be effective for increasing the size of your audience and also for sending traffic to your website. Besides knowing what your goal is, these tips will help you advertise better on Twitter…

1. Goal Impacts Type of Campaign

Deciding on your goal for your Twitter advertising will help you choose the right type of campaign. The promoted account campaign (followers campaign) is best for increasing your followers and building audience for the long term. If your goal is to boost traffic to your website (or to particular pages on your website), then take a look at the promoted tweets campaign. And if you’re trying to get people to install or engage with your mobile app, there’s a campaign for that too.

2. Targeting Usernames vs Interest Categories

For smaller organizations that are looking for niche audiences, use username targeting to find followers similar to the ones you enter. Interest category targeting works better for larger organizations or broader audiences.

3. Good Messaging

Just like any other good messaging, Twitter ads should have use plain and understandable text and have a clear call to action. Adding pictures can also increase clicks on your ads. Try adding 3-5 different tweets to test your message and images.

4. Competitive Budget

Advertising on Twitter can be cost effective, but make sure your bids are within the suggested range or you may see a drastic decrease in the impressions of your ads.

5. Test to Optimize

Just like any advertising, testing will help you optimize the ads to get the best results for your budget and goals. Test different messages, images and calls to action. Test for a certain length of time, and then copy your campaign to make changes and save past tests and data.

Twitter advertising can be a very cost-effective way to increase the reach of your social media marketing.