A Common Twitter Mistake

Accessible_Twitter_website_iconAccording to Twitter, their website has 284,000,000 active users in a month. Accurate or not, even a fraction of that is quite the number. For a community of that size, a natural rhythm occurs where a language slowly develops, one made of codes and acronyms and inside jokes. For a person new to Twitter, first logging into the site and seeing a feed filled with #FFs and DMs and periods before mentions and Twitterverses and—well, there’s a lot and it can be overwhelming. For a person new to Twitter, all that insider lingo by the well-Twittered can have someone feeling like a third wheel pretty quickly. But don’t be intimidated! Twitter is as user-friendly a social media site there is, one that’s pretty spartan compared to other sites out there.

One of the first misunderstandings people come to on Twitter is in interacting with other Tweeters. There are a number of ways to respond to someone else’s Tweet and each one will affect how your and that person’s followers see your conversation.

When you click the reply icon to respond to someone’s Tweet, the default method looks like this:

@BurgerTime1936 I like what you said about sauteed onions

In such instances, the reply is posted to your feed, @BurgerTime1936’s feed, and visible only to your mutual followers. If you’re hoping more people see your insight about sauteed onions, you’ll want to reply manually. To do so, compose a new Tweet and add a period before typing out your friend’s username by hand, like so:

.@BurgerTime1936 I like what you said about sauteed onions

By adding the period before a username, you open up your conversation to all of your and @BurgerTime1936’s followers, mutual or not. Throw a hashtag in there and who knows how many people you can influence.

Now, if you want to keep a conversation between yourselves, you’ll want to DM that person, or “direct message” them. Click on the DM icon and type away. You can rest assured that your message will only be between you and your hamburger-loving friend.

Running Contests on Social Media

You can’t win if you don’t play. It’s an old adage many a lottery player has used to defend their predilection for gaming. Despite the odds being stack against an entrant, people love games, contests, sweepstakes, and, of course, prizes. What’s a contest without a prize?

mieces to pieces

Crafting a contest for your social media campaign is an excellent way to boost your company’s online presence. In doing so, you accomplish many things. Contests will encourage repeat visits to your page as people return to see if they’ve won. Contests can garner brand new customer interest from people who get caught up in the lure of a prize. Contests allow you to gather valuable insight into your customers’ demographics and data as you can collect zip codes or email addresses as part of the terms of entry. In order for someone to sign up for a contest, make it mandatory that they follow your business on Twitter or like your Facebook page or sign up for you e-mail newsletter. People become a lot more liberal with their e-mail addresses when the prospect of winning something is introduced.

Small businesses can set their own rules with contests. Something as simple as weekly giveaways of french fries can be a cheap way to influence customers’ to engage with your social media. Or go big and be the sports apparel store that gives away authentic game jerseys from the local sports team. Once set up, sit back and watch your list of followers grow and grow and grow.

Because of the word-of-mouth quality of social media, a good contest can spread across new networks of people like wildfire. And it the contest happens regularly, it will only encourage more and more people to return to your page regularly, too. People will begin to look forward to visiting your page.

Contests: Who doesn’t love free stuff?

The Importance of Hashtags on Instagram

Though they started on Twitter, there might not be a place where hashtags are utilized more right now than Instagram. The hashtag, a number sign followed by a #word, #phrase, or #abbreviation, connects similar posts from different users all over the world and collects them in a single place. And it has really taken off on Instagram.


As a business, the Instagram hashtag can serve a variety of functions, from connecting with a local customer base to becoming a part of the Instagram community without seeming like just another business pushing advertisements. It’s an important tool, one that can really help you build your brand.

Place-specific hashtags, for instance, are incredibly useful. If you’re a business in, say, metro Detroit, adding a #Detroit tag to a post will connect your photo to all things Detroit. So users who browse through the Detroit hashtag will come across your photo, your business, and perhaps, eventually, a product. It can also let you see what else everyone in your community is posting about and allows you to follow desirable users in that community.

There are a lot of Instagram hashtags that are day-specific. Throwback Thursday posts, or #TBT, is a very popular hashtag where users post photos from years previous, often of themselves when they were children. It’s a great opportunity for a fun post with little to no risk of seeming spammy. There’s also #ootd, or outfit of the day, used by people to post photos of whatever it is they’re wearing, an especially useful hashtag for clothing and accessory stores.

Hashtags are also great for industry events. If you are at a conference or trade show, chances are that the event has created a hashtag for itself. While you’re out networking, take photos and use that hashtag. People will browse those hashtagged photos during and after the event, re-connecting with the people and businesses they met.

When the hashtag first took off on Twitter, few realized the power and influence it would one day wield. Today, that is especially true on Instagram. Hashtags can be fun, inclusive, and a great way to connect with your community, customers, and industry.

Is Snapchat Right For Your Business?

If social media was fishing, then sites like Facebook and Twitter are the humongous nets thrown in the ocean, catching as many fish as possible. And while you may be looking for a certain fish—that target audience—you’ll also likely pick up all sorts of others, too. Which isn’t such a bad thing.

Today's latte, Snapchat.

There are other social media sites, however, that are much more specific. They’re fishing with a spear, targeting very specific audiences in a very deliberate way. You may not catch as much, but maybe you’ll get just what you’re looking for.

The popular Snapchat mobile app is one of those fishing spears. It’s a photo and video sharing app popular among teens and 20-somethings and not many people more than that. But that millennial demographic? Millennials love Snapchat. So if the target demographic of your customer base is on the older side, Snapchat is probably not worth spending your valuable time on. But, if high school and college kids are an important part of your sales strategy, then you’re going to want to at least consider utilizing the Snapchat app.

Unlike Facebook or Instagram, the content you create for Snapchat disappears after users view it. Think of an old spy movie and the self-destructing message. Because of this, users don’t expect the pretty, well-staged, filtered pictures seen on Instagram. There’s a raw quality to Snapchat that allows you to take off-the-cuff photos and videos and share them directly with your audience. Because of this, make sure your intended message is easily discernible.

That directness is a big draw, too. When posting something on Twitter, you’re posting for the whole world to see. People can then favorite, reply to, and re-tweet your message. In Snapchat, the experience is only shared between you and each user. There is no commenting, there is no ‘like’ feature. It’s notable for its intimacy.

Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for younger people. Even if it’s not for your business, keep on eye on it. After all, Facebook was once only for college kids, too.

The DOs and DON’Ts of LinkedIn

For all of the particulars involved with the many different social media sites out there, there is probably not a more particular social media site than LinkedIn. Because it is a business social networking site, there is a certain decorum that its users expect everyone to follow.


The pictures of your nephew’s birthday party you’d post on Facebook, the clever one-liner you came up with to Tweet, the photo of that delicious desert you can’t wait to Instagram—none of those are things your followers on LinkedIn are expecting—or wanting–to see in their feed. This is a site for networking business professionals; post something out of the bounds of accepted norms and someone will surely let you know it.

LinkedIn is probably most often used by job-seekers and potential employers, which is something you as a small business owner can surely take advantage of as you search for that missing piece of your team. But there are also many other uses for LinkedIn.

As a small business owner, you can use LinkedIn to grow your professional network and introduce yourself to potential sponsors, customers, and business partners. And don’t be shy about introducing yourself to people ‘cold’. Joining LinkedIn comes with a certain set of expectations that include being approached about business opportunities.

However, be strategic and purposeful with the people you connect with. LinkedIn is not like Twitter where you want as big an audience as you can get. It’s about meaningful connections. People can see through accounts seeking to boost their numbers.

When using LinkedIn, it’s critical to remember that this is not your typical social media site. The levity and candor that sites like Facebook and Twitter thrive on do not translate to the professional networking site. We’re not saying to come across as stiff, cold, and unfriendly, but rather pleasant and professional, direct and purposeful.

Using Pinterest for Business

Its users are more active, its content stays visible longer, and it’s the most used social media network you’re not taking advantage of. Pinterest doesn’t get talked about like Facebook or Twitter but that’s just fine by its users. They’re a passionate group, one that actively share and engage with content. And it’s content that is shared and re-shared; as high as 80% of all Pinterest content is curated.


Signing up your business for Pinterest is not unlike most social media sites. Businesses will want a strong profile picture, a clear bio that defines who you are and what you do, and visual branding that is consistent across all websites and social media accounts.

In Pinterest, users ‘pin’ images and videos to their boards, visible to their followers. Boards are arranged by themes, like recipes, design tips, or cars. People even make their own Christmas list boards, sharing their shopping ideas with friends and family. Because of this, Pinterest affords businesses great opportunities to connect with an audience through images that are associated with their brand. Posting a well-taken photo of your restaurant’s newest desert could blow up on Pinterest, as one person after another re-pins that picture.

You’ll want to make your own content as share-able as possible, which means installing ‘pin it’ widgets on your website. This way when people who are visiting your website see something they connect with, they can easily share it to their Pinterest. When posting directly to your Pinterest account, consider adding a ‘watermark’ to an image (if you own rights to that image), that way when your pin starts getting re-pinned, it will forever be associated with your brand.

Another good tip for getting started in Pinterest for business is to be as active and as social as your followers are. Engage with people and become part of the community and not just a figure lurking in the back, trying to sell product. Pinterest is supposed to be fun and that’s what people will respond to.

How Brands Use Social Media to Enhance the Customer Experience

Social media is no longer optional for businesses wishing to grow and compete in their industry. A survey published by eMarketer last October found that 88 percent of companies with 100-plus employees currently utilize social media for marketing purposes. Despite 52 percent of companies saying it’s nearly impossible to measure ROI on social media marketing, a majority will increase spending on mediums in 2015, according to a study by Gigaom.


Instead of measuring returns by profits, companies are utilizing social media to enhance the overall customer experience. A good customer experience means positive word-of-mouth advertising and retention of brand loyalists. The 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report by RightNow Technologies found that 86 percent of customers were willing to pay more for similar products to a company that provides exceptional customer service.

Social media is a very public forum, so both positive and negative customer experiences voiced online can impact your bottom line. The following companies have provided blueprints on how to effectively use social media to improve customer relations.

JetBlue Rapid Response

Twitter and Facebook provide customers a real-time way to complain about your product or service in front of a large audience. Airlines are particularly vulnerable to online venting since flight delays are a common occurrence. Social media gives companies the opportunity to show they care.

JetBlue passenger Jennifer Kennedy tweeted her frustration about a 40 minute flight delay with no updates being given on January 14. A few minutes later, the company responded directly to her, offering both empathy and an update on the flight. Kennedy responded with appreciation for the fast response, along with her flight number. The plane was in the air a few minutes later.

The most impressive part of this exchange was the fact Kennedy’s original message was not addressed directly to @JetBlue. The airline’s social media administrators obviously follow all activity on Twitter mentioning its name. JetBlue ultimately retained a customer and showed others how the company does its best to address all concerns.

LifeLock Cares

Facebook user and Lifelock customer Mindy Lacey allegedly had a payday loan approved in her name that she never applied for. She posted her frustrations on Lifelock’s Facebook timeline, telling the company she should be canceling her account.

Despite the post being published after midnight, a company representative responded within an hour. They apologized for the inconvenience and reminded the customer of their $1 Million Total Service Guarantee which covers these types of instances. The response concluded with another apology and the company’s toll free number so the customer could call and start the process of remedying the issue.

Granted there are a lot of people who complain just to complain. But LifeLock makes it point to address these matters publicly. A Twitter user posted a complaint about someone stealing his identity. Once again, LifeLock quickly apologized and offered the 24 hour customer service number. These instances may seem trivial on the surface. But the footprint left behind for others to see makes it worth the trouble.

Pinterest Personality

Though rarely mentioned in the same breathe as Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest is actually the second-most powerful social network available. Pinterest directs more traffic to company websites than Twitter, Reddit, LinkedIn and Google Plus combined, according to a 2013 analysis by social plugin developer Shareaholic.

Pinterest provides a platform for companies to convey a friendly and fun public image. Taco Bell pins photos of corporate ugly sweater days, jalapeno eating contests and in-store birthday parties for employees. UGallery, an online art exhibit, uses Pinterest to feature individual client’s work. Girl Scouts of America pin pictures of community service projects, including their members making care packages for homeless people and children suffering from cancer.

Regular engagement on social media gives companies instant feedback and opportunities to provide good customer experiences. The returns will ultimately be in the form of better loyalty and higher retention rates.

How to Know if Social Media Efforts are Paying Off

Maybe because it’s still relatively new or maybe it’s because it’s intangible, but for whatever the reason, many businesses are still skeptical of the positive affects of running a strong social media campaign. The fact is that many people just don’t understand how to figure out how their social media efforts are paying off.

social media photo

For the biggest of social media skeptics, throwing around phrases like ‘community engagement’ is just not that impressive. While plenty of people understand the benefits of establishing a community online to where you can directly share your content, some bottom-line business owners just aren’t going to care how many ‘likes’ a photo receives. If you’re one of these types, there are other ways to observe the impact of your social media campaign and even ones that provide hard numbers to analyze and use to affect changes in your business.

Some social media websites, like Facebook, include analytics functions built into the user experience. As page admin, you can track your impact to see what your followers respond to. Both Facebook and Twitter allow you to purchase ads that will make your posts more visible, the impact of which are also easily trackable.

Still, tracking Facebook and Twitters just don’t mean that much to some. Skeptics may want to turn to a numbers analysis program like Google Analytics. Like many of the services it offers, Google’s analytics program is free. It can be of enormous help to a business person and especially so when they’re trying to better understand their social media numbers. For example, a business owner can use Google Analytics to track how many customers visit their online store by way of a Facebook ad. That’s just not possible with a hard copy advertisement in the Sunday paper.

Of course, one way to measure the impact of a hard copy advertisement is the coupon. Count how many coupons are collected and you have numbers to analyze and use to modify future actions. Coupons are equally effective via social media. Post a coupon or special deal, your customers will print them out and bring them to the store, and you can see first hand the impact of a social media campaign when done right.

Getting Started with Twitter for Business

Like most entrepreneurs, chances are you didn’t start your own business so you could run a Twitter page. But this deep into the 21st century and the impact of a social media campaign is undeniable. Unless you’ve completely written off technology, it’s likely that you’re either already on the Twitter train or you keep thinking, “You know, I should really look into this Twitter thing. I’ll do it tomorrow.” The problem with tomorrow is that it isn’t today. In Twitter, as with most things, there’s no time like the present.

twitter photo

Here are some quick and easy tips to get you started with running a Twitter page for your business.

Set up your Twitter profile.

A complete and consistent profile is essential to making an immediate impact on Twitter. The branding—profile picture, graphics, Twitter handle, bio—should be consistent with the rest of your branding, be it on your website, other social media accounts, or physical products. Choose a profile picture that is bold and easily identifiable. Your Twitter name should be your company’s name, ideally.

Build your Twitter community.

When you start out with Twitter, you start out at zero. It’s up to you to build your community of influencers and followers. Twitter will always suggest people to follow—who, in turn, may very well follow back. But take the initiative to identify who are the key influencers in your industry, follow them, and begin to interact with them. Also important is to spread the word among your customers that you are now on Twitter. Cross post to other social media accounts, include information in advertisements, and always include links to your social media accounts on your main website. Make it easy for people to find your page.

Establish your Twitter voice.

Now that you’ve set up your profile and begun to build your followers, it’s time to begin posting and making connections. Be consistent in your posting. Make it so that people can come to expect and look forward to seeing your Tweets. Post regularly and often, but not so much that you’re a pest. If you’re unsure of your posting technique, check other accounts that are in the same industry as you. What are they doing right? Levity and visuals are two major ways to catch people’s attention. Staying current and local can also quickly build a sense of community.

Though it may seem daunting at first, Twitter can be a gamechanger for your business. It’s free and—though this may be hard for some people to accept—easy to use. A complete and consistent profile, relevant community, and a strong voice are the building blocks of an effective Twitter account for business.