Monthly Archives: September 2011

Will the new Facebook updates and layout affect the way your small business handles advertising?

Starting within the next week, administrators and owners of Fan pages will receive a special announcement in their Weekly Fan Page Update. This announcement will contain information about the inclusion and introduction of Fan page features. Although many people, including businesses, are hesitant about change, this change should be largely beneficial to small businesses.

According to a Facebook announcement, the pages are getting an updated layout and several new features to help you engage with your fans. The following is an example of what you will be seeing in weeks and months to come:

  • Notifications when fans interact with your page or posts
  • A place to showcase photos along the top of your page
  • A news feed for your page
  • The ability to Like and post on other pages as your page.

Facebook is offering two options: try the new page format out as a “Developer” in a trial format, or you can wait until the new changes are fully released, which is expected to happen on or near March 10th, 2012.  A word to the wise, however: once you elect to make the change, you cannot go back. So if you are short on time for learning the new layout, my advice would be to just wait until the changes are formally introduced.

Once you do make the change, there are a number of obvious differences you will notice.

The first obvious departure from the current Fan pages is a change to the Account menu. It used to say “Manage Pages” whereas the current format says “Use Facebook As Page.” You can then select the page and you will notice a Newsfeed, just as you would on your usual profile page.

At the top of the page, you will see images, and below that is the Newsfeed. This will display posts from those who are most active and interactive on your page- just like your profile page. The new page enables you to post, like and engage directly from your business page. This could only be done from your profile page before.

What will this mean for small business?

One of the main things this means for small business is that a business page will be able to expand and engage with a wider network of people without having to utilize a personal profile. The privacy concerns, and fear of sharing personal information with clients and consumer, associates or partners, is a troubling thought for many people. Without sharing your personal profile it was difficult to broaden your network.

Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind:

  1. With every Facebook update, your privacy settings automatically change, necessitating you to manually change them. If you want to keep your profile private and think you can direct people to your page, then you will have to double check these settings and make sure everything is locked because part of our human nature is to be nosy.
  2. Although you will have the ability to engage people directly from the page, people still want to know the “face behind the mask” per se. So take some time to reflect on the personality you want to portray, and stick with that for the duration of your page. If you start with a serious demeanor, maintain that at all times, because people will become confused if you are serious one minute, and humorous the next. Integrate this personality into your posts, comments, and likes.

So, now that we have analyzed what the new Facebook Pages will entail, what do you think the affect will be on your small business?

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Social Networking Overload: Which Social Network’s Could Help Your Business Grow the Most?

With so many social networks online, do you sometimes feel overwhelmed trying to determine which site to update with what, or whether to create an account on a lesser-known or new site, such as Google+ or Tumblr? Check out our summary below to help you determine which site(s) would be the most beneficial to your business.

  • Facebook is good for both photo and text postings. Also it has the largest user base, therefore the largest potential target base.
  • Twitter, on the other hand, is more for text postings, although you can still post images, however users have to click on a link to see the image. Also, the 140-character limit makes advertising a bit tedious. For businesses that can get away with microblogging without appearing annoying, Twitter was created with you in mind.
  • Google+ is a combination of these two, although it is slightly more and slightly less than both. You can post both images and text, however, the extensive privacy controls sometimes create confusing situations as far as commenting on posts or images. This is especially true on the Google+iPhone/iPad app. Also, since Google+ is still the beta stage, and therefore remains an “invitation only” social network, potential users have a very high susceptibility to being turned off. Also, businesses have been advised to wait to start pages when Google+ rolls out the business pages.
  • Tumblr is a relatively new microblogging site, created in 2007, with a cross-platform format. The ability and easiness to post images, video, text, audio, quotes, as well as hosting your own blog, let’s a multitude of diverse users utilize the site in different ways. With a user retention rate of 85%, it is increasingly being seen as an alternative to Twitter, which only holds a 40% user retention rate.
  • MySpace is an exception in its own right. One of the first social networks to go online, the company that started as a social networking site in 2003 is now almost defunct in that sense, and is instead one of the foremost destinations for social entertainment, such as bands, musicians, actors, etc. that are just starting out. After being overtaken by Facebook in 2009, MySpace is down to just 400 employees, pushing it into the backseat of social media.
  • LinkedIn is a professional networking site, allowing professionals and business to network with each other. Colleagues or friends can write a letter of recommendation on your profile, which is then visible to anyone who views your profile. With more than 120 million users as of March 2011, this network spans across 200 countries and is available in a multitude of languages. Users can post their resume’s on their profile, which can then be downloaded at the click of a button in Word, online, or PDF format.
  • YouTube is a video-sharing site, that was created in early 2005 by three former employees of PayPal. YouTube allows users to record, upload, and share videos with both users and non-users alike. Videos such as TV clips, movie clips and trailers, music videos, video blogs, etc. have transformed the way we interact with each other and the world around us.
  • Foursquare is a very new location-based social networking site. It is one of the only social networks that is exclusively used on GPS-enabled mobile phones. When users “check-in” a list of nearby stores, restaurants, and other venues appears, allowing users to explore the area around them. This application is also an excellent way for small businesses to advertise for free. By offering tips, specials, and other content, users and businesses can interact with each other on an almost personal basis.
Speaking of the iPhone/iPad app, this another consideration to take into account. Does the social network you are considering have a smartphone app, and if so, is it available on a wide variety of softwares? Businesses utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Fourquare, and Youtube still have the biggest advantage to reach their customer base via smartphone apps, especially since society in general is increasingly mobile and continues to transition to smartphones. With the above information about some of the most popular social networks, you should now be able to make an accurate assessment as to which social networks would most benefit your business.

Proper Twitter Etiquette Every Small Business Should Know

The concept of Twitter etiquette (humorously known as Twitiquette) can be seen as an oxymoron of sorts. Twitter was developed with the purpose of being a very open, non traditional social networking site. However, as with anything, there are a set of unwritten rules which users would be wise to adhere to. Small business owners utilizing Twitter need also to pay attention, as these guidelines will help prevent inundating your followers with too much information, and saturating them to the point of irritation. Businesses on Twitter should follow these etiquette tips:

1. Identify Who is Tweeting: If this is your business’ official Twitter account, remember that it is different than your own personal Twitter account. The tone is different, the content is different, even the people you follow is different. Before you begin tweeting, decide amongst your business what sort of tone you want to portray, and then stick with it. If you decide to have a more serious tone, for example, don’t all of a sudden start posting humorous jokes or videos, just because you personally think it is funny. Also, foster trust with your community by being transparent and honest. Try to specify one particular person who does a majority of the tweeting. If you specify who is doing the tweeting, you will build a stronger relationship with this following you. Social media was developed for just that: socializing. Regardless if your Twitter is serious or funny, do your best to add a little humanity to it, and let your audience know that you are not a Twitter robot, or Tweetbot (see, with the humor thing).

2. Listen First: Twitter can be a powerful tool for identifying customer concerns or fostering dialogue. Using the Twitter Search tool can help you quickly identify what people are saying about your company; also, you may be able to do this via hashtags (the infamous “#” symbol) which allows pretty much anything to become a trending topic if it is tweeted enough. For businesses, having a Twitter client like TweetDeck or Seesmic Desktop would be a better idea than just relying on the web version of Twitter. These desktop (and mobile as well) applications allow you to view multiple columns at once, and manage and update multiple Twitter accounts at once. This allows you to continually monitor the buzz about your organization. If you find any concerns, or things you like for that matter, feel free to join the conversation!

3. Provide Value Not Just Promotion: Why should someone follow you or your business? People get enough promotion in their daily lives; give them something of value to focus on and remember. Help others out without expecting something in return. Share your knowledge, both from your own company and also from other sources. Be sure not to link EVERYTHING back to your own website. Many users, Twitter administrators included, will see this as spam, and either report your post or unfollow you all together.

4. Pay It Forward: Retweeting (RT) means taking a Twitter post from someone else and forwarding (reposting) it to your followers. If you find a good tip or information, retweet it to your followers. This shows you are in touch with your market and willing to give credit to others. When tweeting yourself, it is not considered good etiquette to ask for retweets. If your information is valuable enough, this will happen naturally, and will not cheapen your post by asking others to repost it.

Promoting Your Facebook Fan Page

Facebook fan page can be one of your business’s most valuable sources for promotion and information.  However, unlike the majority of big-name companies, most small businesses do not have a built-in audience.  So, how do you educate your fan base on how to find you on Facebook?  Here are a few easy ways to promote your page:

1.  Make yourself memorable

Customize your fan page URL.  By going to http://facebook.com/username you can customize your link to make it short and memorable for your fans.

2. Get free publicity 

Put your fan page URL in our email signature.  As a small business you are always using email and each email you send can now be a way for someone new to find out about your fan page!

3.  Make yourself easy to Like

Many people just don’t know you even have a fan page.  By simply putting the URL on your website, all of its visitors will now see that your  fan page exists.  You can also add a Like Box to your website which will show your readers how many of their friends “like” your page as well.  Just make sure you set the options to include face pile.

4.  Connect offline

Put your fan page URL on your business cards.  Even though business cards are offline, you can still let people you meet in real life know about your fan page.  I mean come on, everyone has a Facebook!

5.  Connect with your Facebook stalkers

You know that basic information section on your personal page that you never update?  Well, you’d be surprised how many people actually check that part of your profile.  In the About You section put the link to your company fan page.  Likewise, recruit everyone in your organization to do the same!

6.  Tweet away

If you have a Twitter ask those followers to join your fan page.  “Wanting more conversation than 140 characters will allow? Join us on Facebook at http://facebook.com/myawesomepage.”  You can also put your fan page URL on your twitter profile background.  Plus, now you can even connect your Twitter and Facebook.  This way when you update your status on Facebook it will automatically go to your Twitter and vise versa.

7.  Ask for help

If you tag other, well-known fan pages in your updates their fans might see your page and become a fan.  Also, ask all of your current fans to post a link to your fan page on their personal profile.  As long as you don’t ask often, people will usually like to help out. Power in numbers!

8.  Leave an impression

Whether you use YouTube videos or powerpoint slides to market or present, you can put your fan page URL at the end of the video or presentation as an easy way to connect and remind people about your page.

For more tips on how to spread the word about your Facebook page click here

Recovering From Social Media Disaster

There’s a ton of excellent information available on how to avoid a social media slip-up, but accidents are inevitable. Nowadays, people are managing multiple professional and personal accounts on multiple platforms, and its way to easy to mix up all those accounts. So, what do you do in the event you post something personal on a professional account? Well, the good news is that there have been several social media PR disasters in which the companies were able to turn the situation into something good. From them we have learned a few tips to help you bounce back from your social media catastrophe.

Social media slip ups can do serious damage to your brand. These errors can range from the Inappropriate opinion or insensitive comment to vulgar language. The best way to recover from these types of accidents are to be quick, be honest and humble, and try not to take yourself too seriously.

Be Quick: Information can spread like wildfire on social media sites, so it’s imperative to address any mistakes ASAP. Stay an active participant in conversations on your social media accounts, that way you can quickly catch any comment that may be offensive.

Be Honest & Humble: Sometimes it’s hard to own up to our mistakes. But rather than ignore, deny, or defend any offensive comment posted on your business’s social media account, you should quickly own up to your mistake and show your followers that someone behind the brand is trying to correct the situation. One of the best ways to recover from a social media PR disaster is to create a good name for your brand by doing well by your customers over a long period of time. That way, if something happens, your customers know that it’s not really you.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: Mistakes happen! You don’t want to overreact or blow the situation up by making a bigger deal of the mistake. A really great example of a company taking an accidental tweet in stride is the Red Cross. In February, the Red Cross tweeted:

They quickly responded “the Red Cross is sober and we’ve confiscated the keys.” The Red Cross was able to effectively recover from the slip by acknowledging the mistake, apologizing, and even making a little joke out of the situation. It also doesn’t hurt that they were able to sneak in a little tip about driving safely.

The important thing is to listen to your audience for both positive and negative feedback. It is much easier to deal with an errant post if you how you how it has offended your audience. That, and taking accountability if you have legitimately offended part of your audience.

How Consumers Interact With Brands on Facebook and What That Means for Your Business

In today’s technologically savvy culture, we all know that social media is an essential part of promoting your business. Important questions you should consider when managing your social media accounts are: how are consumers most likely to interact with your business on Facebook? And how does that type of interaction effect how you should manage your social media? A recent study conducted by Constant Contact and research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey analyzed the behavior of almost 1,500 consumers over the age of 18 to figure out how consumers interact with businesses on Facebook.

Here is the information we found most important in the study. Consumer interaction on Facebook is mostly a passive act, 77% of consumers primarily interact with businesses via reading their posts or status updates only. Although consumers may not be taking the time to “like” or comment on your posts, posting is still an extremely valuable way to spread the word about your product or service.  The top two reasons that motivated consumers to “like” or become a fan of a business on Facebook are because they are a consumer (58%) or because they were interested in receiving discounts or information about promotions. Some of the more promising statistics for businesses in the study were:

    • 51% of consumers are more likely to buy a product after becoming a fan of the business on Facebook
    • 76% of consumers have never “unliked” a brand
    • 56% of consumers are more likely to recommend the business to a friend if they area a fan of the business on Facebook

Essentially, for businesses looking to make a splash on Facebook, try to share compelling content, don’t overwhelm your consumers with too frequent posts, and maybe add a little incentive for consumers. For a few tips on how to optimize your news feed click here.

 

WikiHow: A Social Medium for your Small Business

Have you ever wondered, “How to?”, or “How to do I?” Well many people, everyday, come across these questions. These questions bothered both Jack Herrick and Josh Hannah, the two top guys over at eHow, so much that they decided to do something about it. They came up with the idea to create a website that was, “The World’s Collaborative How To Manual,” They called their website WikiHow. Since the launch of the domain www.wikihow.com in 2006, this idea has just taken off; boasting a collection of over 119,725 “How To articles” and growing. There are some great aspects to this site: anyone can post an article, anyone can edit any article, and anyone can access any article for free! There are featured articles, and there are categories for the articles to make finding an article a little easier. If you can’t find the article you want, send a request for an article and anyone can answer your request. The best part of this site, in my opinion, is it also allows business to market themselves through the“How To Manuals.”


At www.wikihow.com, businesses are able to create either a how to guide, a written tutorial for the services provided by the business, or a “How to Hire” a certain firm. Did I mention that this type of medium is a free way to market your business? Yes, free! The website allows people that have problems to look for an answer and it allows your business to post the solution. Wikihow also has a citation and sources area to show the credibility of the author and article. This is where you can link back to your business’s website, creating possible new clients.

The service areas that are utilizing this social medium are the accounting, tax, law, and investment services. These firms put out articles that tell you how to hire a certain firm, the services provided by the firm, and some quick tips to solving easy problems that people may come across when dealing in law,tax, accounting, or investment areas. Many firms tell readers to look for certain skills when hiring a firm. This is where your firm can tell the reader to look for skills that your business has mastered. Here are some examples of articles posted by a law firm, a tax firm, and a personal investment firm utilizing Wikihow. The law firm submitted a “How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer.” The personal finance firm posted a, “How to Pay Taxes on Freelance Work.” Finally the tax firm wrote a, “How to  File 831B Taxes.”

The article, the law firm submitted, “How to Choose a Criminal Lawyer,” introduces the benefits of hiring a lawyer. Then body of the article covers what to look for when hiring a criminal lawyer, why you should look for certain experiences, what steps are required to when hiring a lawyer, and who and what to avoid when making your selection. Finally in the sources and citation area, to show the creditability of the article, the law firm Gurovich, Berk, and Associates linked  to their website. By posting on WikiHow this law firm gained possible new clients because, the people that are searching for that article most likely are looking for an attorney. Secondly, the firm gained a way to cut out competition by saying who to avoid. Finally the law firm has better chance at picking up a client because the person who read the article can see the free advice, and creditability of the firm.

The next article by the personal investment firm, “How to Pay Taxes on Freelance Work,” is another route that businesses can take. This firm decided to give out a small piece of free advice on personal finance hoping others will see this advice, and want more. If the reader wanted more the link to their site was right in the sources and citations area. By posting this article this firm, like the law firm, gain possible clients that had an interest in services they offer.

Finally, the tax firm followed a similar format as the investment firm, they gave information on how file certain types taxes. The difference was the article had a feeling of uncertainty, that if this type of tax is not filed properly there can be serious implications. The article was hinting at if you become lost get help. That help was at the bottom in the form of a link to a tax service website.

Wikihow is a great way attract to create new potential clients to your web page. Its the perfect meeting area, people with a problems trying to find a solution, and people with answers trying to offer help.  There so many way different way to grab the attention of a new client by posting an article, so be creative. If you have a service business you need an article on WikiHow, let the world know how your business can can help them.

Getting Noticed With Facebook NFO

NFO?  At first it may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but knowing its secrets can help your Facebook content stand out among the 30 billion pieces of information shared monthly.  As much as 90% of your Facebook fans don’t come back to your page once they become a fan!  They actually visit your page usually after reading your content in their own news feed.  So how can you get your updates onto as many news feeds as possible?  Facebook News Feed Optimization (NFO) is the answer.  Facebook uses a specific formula to decide what shows up on a user’s home page.  Based on which pages you interact most with, the actions you take on these pages, and what posts are most recent, Facebook produces a home page specific to you.

Here are some of the best ways to get your content seen and interacted with more:

1.  As the saying goes, “Less is more.”

Everyone has that Facebook friend that you believe never leaves their computer because they post every half hour.  Now with the new privacy settings, you can actually unlike a page or hide posts from particular people.  The #1 reason people do this is to avoid those annoying posts.  You definitely don’t want to be “unliked” because you are considered a nuisance, so post only 2-5 times a day to stay in good graces.

2.  As the saying goes, “Keep it short and sweet.”

That same Facebook friend that posts every half hour usually posts extremely long statuses too.  By now you probably don’t even bother reading them!  Studies show that keeping your status 80 characters or less will lead to more engagement from users.  So keep it simple!

3.  As the saying goes, “Keep things interesting.”

Why do people read gossip magazines?  I’m sure it’s not for the meaningful articles!  The photos are what attract readers to buy these magazines.  For your Facebook posts keep the content interesting.  When a user’s news feed shows up the first thing that will grab their attention is photos, videos, links, and even questions that spark conversation.  Just plain words might get over looked if there are other interesting posts above or below it.

4.  As the saying goes, “There is always an exception to the rule.”

Usually when posting a link on other social networking sites, like twitter, you should stick to short links.  However, on Facebook you will actually get 3 times the engagement if you use full links.

5.  As the saying goes, “Time is of the essence.”

Apparently a lot of people sit on Facebook at work bored to tears.  As a result, the website receives high traffic from about 10am Eastern to 4pm Eastern.  However, there are those who don’t have the opportunity to Facebook at work, so evenings are a good time too!  By posting during one of these high traffic times you will receive more exposure and interaction from fans.

6.  As the saying goes, “TGIF!”

Facebook actually has a happiness index, and to no surprise it spikes about 10% on Fridays.  Thursdays and Fridays have about an 18% higher engagement rate than other days in the week.  So posting on those days will also lead to more exposure and interaction from all those “happy it’s the weekend” followers.

7.  As the saying goes, “Be spontaneous.”

Facebook tends to give a little bit more visibility to those that post manually instead of through a third-party app or automated system.  So by taking just a little bit of time out and posting yourself, your posts will sound more personable, and help you reach more fans at the same time.

So, keep it simple, short, and interesting, take advantage of those happy days and times, and be yourself!  And for more information on how to stand out click here.

4 Steps for Small Businesses and Social Media

If you own or are a part of a small business, you know the many challenges that face you on a daily basis. I’ll venture to say that marketing is a big one. Knowing the who, what, why, when, where, and how of marketing for your business is a crucial factor in seeing your business succeed. Due to the small budgets of many small businesses, marketing is often seen as a “backseat” concern. However, with new social media networks, marketing is now easy, cheap, and can even be fun! Here are 4 steps to consider when utilizing social media for small businesses:

1. Don’t overextend yourself:

Small businesses have a tendency to overextend themselves, and try to do everything at once, in order to gain a market presence. This can often have adverse effects. By setting small goals for your business, you can gradually integrate social media marketing into your daily routine.

However, this rule also applies to social networking. By first identifying your target audience, you can then proceed to try to identify which social network(s) your audience utilizes most. By doing this, it saves you from having to create profiles on the dozens of social networks online and lets you focus on a select few.

Example: If you are a law firm or other professional association, you would most likely target users using LinkedIn. If you are a retail store, you would most likely use Facebook or Twitter.

2. Engage your audience, don’t try to sell to them:
Social media is interactive, hence the “social” part. This means that the traditional “one-way street” means of advertising are no longer effective. Businesses using social media need to engage their customers, and make them feel as if they are a crucial part to the business. Pushing sales messages and countless ads will cause you to lose customers. Audiences want to be able to input their opinions, remarks, and ideas, and then see those ideas put to use.

Integrating consumer input into the marketing strategy of your small business is a crucial element to your future success.

3. Balance your time, as well as your money:
While social media itself is free, the costs associated with it can be quite high. Deciding whether to handle social media promotions yourself, hiring a media director, or outsourcing your social media needs can have a big influence in the direction of your business. By handling social media yourself, you can save money in the short term, but in the long-term, you run the risk of losing time spent on other projects, which results in a loss of revenue.  However, by hiring a person or outsourcing your social media, you can focus on things that need attention, while leaving your social media networking to individuals or firms that specialize in just that. This method saves both time, in the short term and long term, as well as money in the long term.

4. Make your business fun and interactive, not just a brand with a logo:
This is not so much an issue for small businesses as it is in the corporate sector. Social networking opens up the possibility for transparency much more than traditional media. Consumers want to feel connected to the business, as they would a person. This is possible by engaging them. By removing the stiff, emotionless business image, you can add personality your business. This can be done by asking questions, creating surveys or polls that people can vote on, encouraging their input, creating special promotions or specials for those using social media, such as 10% off a product or service for “Checking In” on Foursquare. All of these ideas foster an environment of mutual engagement.

For more great tips on growing your small business via social media, check out the articles listed here and here.

An Interesting Infographic on the Growth of Social Media

Check out this infographic on Social Media use from the Search Engine Journal.

Some of the numbers I found most interesting:

  • 75% of brand “likes” came from advertisements
  • 49% of Twitter users either never or rarely check Twitter but 59% of companies use Twitter to engage with customers
  • 1 in 4 Americans watch a video on YouTube everyday but only 33% of companies are on YouTube
  • Chicago is the fastest growing city on Facebook