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.

Understanding Facebook Boosted Post Metrics

Cardboard rocket

Cardboard rocket (Photo credit: Matt Biddulph)

 

As you may be aware, Facebook is making it more difficult for companies and organizations to engage directly with their intended audiences.  To counter this (and to make revenue), Facebook offers the ability to boost an individual post so that it shows up in the news feed of your intended audience.  These boosted posts can be fairly low-cost, with a minimum boost of $5 per day.  So how well do these boosted posts perform and what sort of metrics does Facebook provide? To find out, I boosted a post on Lady Paragon’s Facebook page (a site I run with my sister for Women in STEM careers).

Facebook Post Pre-Boost

Here’s what the post looked like before I boosted it:

LP-beforeboost

The metrics we see are:

  • 1 person liked it (red circle)
  • There was 1 share (green rectangle)
  • 976 people saw the post (blue rectangle)

I boosted this post for 1 day at a budget of $5 and targeted fans & friends of fans of Lady Paragon’s Facebook page.

Facebook Boosted Post Metrics

Here are the metrics after the boost:

ladyparagons-FBafter

The metrics provided are:

  • 4 people liked it (red circle) — 1 was from before, which Facebook properly reports in the red circle in the How people engaged with your post section.
  • 1 share (green rectangle) — this was from before the boost
  • 3102 saw the post (blue rectangle) — Facebook reports that 2079 were from the boost in the Paid Reach box.  You can also see the percentage of paid to organic in the box with the 3102 — blue was organic, green was paid
  • 4 link clicks (purple circle)
  • Engagement of 7 — this is the number of link clicks added to the number of post likes

Facebook Post Insights

When you look at the post in the page Insights, you see the following metrics (more recent data):

FBboostedpostinsights

The orange bar shows the number of people who viewed the post, divided into lighter orange for organic, darker for paid.  3.1K is pretty close to the 3102 mentioned above.  218 is the number of post clicks and 116 is the number of likes, comments and shares. This is very interesting. Either the boosted metrics didn’t include some of the stats, boosting the post helped increase the organic reach and engagement, or the post received an unusually high number of engaged traffic from some of the people who saw it (remember that when someone likes a post, their network sees that they liked it, at least for a short time period).

Hypothesis: Boosting a Post Improves It’s Organic Reach & Engagement Too

I boosted another post on the same page (same budget $5) and got the following results:

  • 1331 Paid Reach
  • 5 Engagements – 3 link clicks, 2 post likes

FBboostedpostinsights2

According to the post insights, the post  got 15 post clicks and 4 likes, comments and shares.  Not nearly as high, so there probably is a difference in the influence of the people who engaged with each post.

If we look at the Google Analytics traffic to the actual post on the website (April 2-April 22), the April 2nd post (Jessica Kirkpatrick) had 338 pageviews (20 from Facebook), while the April 9th post (Kate Synder), had 93 pageviews (77 from Facebook).

Conclusion: Unclear, More Results Needed

The results do tend to show that a boosted post receives more organic engagement, especially if there are people with good influence that do engage with the post.  Using good targeting to reach the right audience to improve engagement on a boosted post may provide the most beneficial of results.  More testing is needed — I’ll continue to monitor my efforts.

What have you found with Facebook boosted posts?

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Thoughts on #Socialnomics 2014 by Erik Qualman

Erik Qualman is at it again, with an updated 2014 installment of his #Socialnomics video (see below). If you are still unsure of the impact social can have on your company, consider these statistics from the video:

  • “53% of people on twitter recommend products in their tweets”
  • “93% of shoppers’ buying decisions are influenced by social media”
  • “90% of consumers trust peer recommendations only 14% trust advertisements”

Whether or not your company is using social networks, your customers are — in order to inform their purchase decisions and opinions about your brand.  Being active on social media gives companies an opportunity to listen, connect and contribute to the opinions consumers form of their products. Or as Erik states “Goodbye 4Ps – hello 4 C’s of digital: creating, curating, connecting culture”.

What do you think?

Social Media ROI is Always a Number

Numbers

Numbers (Photo credit: RichardBowen)

Wishy-washy marketers may try to tell you that Social Media ROI doesn’t matter, or that it’s about the conversation, or some quirky statement asking how you measure a phone call.  But ROI of any marketing does matter, especially to decision makers (whether your boss or your client).  People want and need to know how well any particular marketing tactic is working, so they can make decisions about what to improve and on what to spend money. Nichole Kelly has a great article over on Social Media Explorer about how to apply ROI to social media:

So how do we fix it?  We’re going to have to accept our reality that we need to be able to tie social media to an impact on customer acquisition. Sure you can tout customer service savings and other types of cost based results, but you’re going to have to bring a huge volume of conversations for that savings to really mean something to the leadership team. But the minute you start generating leads and adding new customers with a reasonable volume at at a reasonable cost, ears start to perk up.  Social Media ROI is Nothing But A Numbers Game by Nichole Kelly

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Does the Facebook News Feed Algorithm Leave Out Lurkers?

FACEBOOK LIKE

FACEBOOK LIKE (Photo credit: owenwbrown)

There’s been much news about the Facebook News Feed Algorithm which seems to remove posts from most of our friends and the pages we’ve liked — some might claim for reasons of wanting people to buy promoted posts.  While Facebook claims that the changes are to boost engagement — claiming that people are more likely to make updates when they see updates from others (but not from pages) — I think this leaves out a huge chunk of the Internet/Facebook audience — The Lurkers.

If you manage a Facebook Page for you ecommerce business, you may have noticed your organic reach and engagement has tanked lately. Analysis of the Internet Retailer 500 Facebook Pages shows engagement sunk 27% in 2013 vs 2012, and rumors abound that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm is increasingly hiding Page posts to force marketers to pay for exposure in the News Feed. Hacking the Facebook News Feed Algorithm by Linda Bustos

Lurkers are people who read and consume content — probably even regularly, but never share, like or comment on it.  They find the content valuable enough to consume, but not enough to take an action.  Many people just aren’t the type of person that feels comfortable with commenting or sharing online.  But they do find content valuable, and sites that can provide valuable content regularly are useful to this type of content consumption.

If Facebook discounts people who just read content (maybe not even clicking on the links), and removes that content from feed — is that providing a service to that type of person?  My argument is that is not.  Even the least Internet saavy has noticed that Facebook is “tampering” with their feeds.  Will this make Facebook less useful in general?  Time will say, but I certainly have seen the impact in my own content consumption — preferring to get content from my feed reader, Feedly, or maybe even Google+ which doesn’t filter my feed.

What do you think?

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Want to use Social Media? Listen, Reply & Be Human

Amtrak California locomotive train.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re wondering how to use social media for your business, it’s really not difficult — you should do the same things that you would do if a potential customer was in your store.  Listen to see whether or not they have questions, reply to any questions or concerns in a timely manner, and above all, be human.  MarketingProfs has this great article on how an old business – Amtrak – has been successful with social media:

The lessons are simple, and they should be applied by any business using social media to connect with customers.

1. Listen relentlessly. I was shocked that this “old-school” business was so attentive to the pulse of social media.

2. Reply immediately. Not only will you impress the daylights out of customers, you’ll also defuse tension and often turn it into a positive.

3. Have a human voice. I love the fact that whoever was monitoring the Amtrak Twitter account was not at all above shilling for a raise! Three Timely Social Media Lessons From an Old Business by Steve Woodruff

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The Diverse Paths for Google+ and Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Facebook is a social networking site that is trying to diversify into other applications (Poke, Messenger, Camera, etc), while Google+ is trying to integrate into the already existing array of Google Apps. CIO has a great article on the differences in the two company’s future direction:

Yet these two sites are embracing opposite strategies for the future. Specifically, Facebook is an integrated social network that is trying to become many different products, and Google offers many different products that it’s trying to integrate into a single social network.

The reason for such opposing strategies is that the problems, constraints and opportunities for each company are completely different. Why Facebook and Google+ Are Headed in Opposite Directions by Mike Elgan

While the article goes into some great reasons that Facebook and Google+ have different paths, I think that one missed point is why Facebook has been losing active users — not only because teens have been leaving and new teens have not been signing up, but also because Facebook has started more aggressively controlling what you see in your newsfeed — much of which feels like ads.

As my colleague Earl Lear pointed out:

I think what irritates me the most about Facebook is the fact that I personally clicked the ‘Like’ button on her page so that I could keep up with her, and read the content that she posts on a regular basis.  However, Facebook has determined that I really didn’t mean to ‘Like’ her content and has chosen to silence her in my newsfeed.  The motivation here is clearly to raise the revenue at Facebook by forcing people into paying for ads but aren’t they taking away from my experience to achieve their goals and thus lowering the level of satisfaction with their product?

I guess the question is, if you liked a page, do you expect to see updates from that page?  Maybe Facebook should have distinguished between Like and Subscribe earlier so they wouldn’t have to guess what content people want to see.

While people often aren’t keen on the amount of data Google collects about them, they’ve typically been pretty open and truthful about what they’re doing — they even provide good measurement tools for both AdWords and Analytics so you can see what’s going on with your websites.

Will this openness serve Google+ in the future?  Will Facebook’s past gaffs cause problems?  What do you think?

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Relationships are Key to B2B Online Marketing in 2014

over coffee

over coffee (Photo credit: lanuiop)

B2B marketing, whether online or off, is all about relationships. With longer sales cycles, and often, larger purchase amounts, it’s the relationship that a customer has with a business that really determines whether or not they’ll make the sale.  This also means that how the customer thinks and feels about the B2B company is vital to understand, throughout the relationship — especially in customer service after the purchase.  eMagine has a good article on B2B online marketing tactics for 2014: The B2B Online Marketing Quick Checklist for 2014, and while they mention Facebook and LinkedIn, I think that social media marketing has to be one of the top tactics for any B2B company in 2014 — and that means finding the social networks that make sense for your particular business (which may mean publication or association social networks or even creating your own).  Also vital to the success of any social media marketing efforts are being able to track customers throughout the sales cycle — which means a CRM that can be tied to social networks and campaigns and can find customers who are on social networks to know what they’re saying.

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