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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.

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

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.

 

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.

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

What Facebook’s Newest Privacy Changes Mean for Your Business

Recently, Facebook announced that their new privacy settings would be taking effect August 25, starting with one percent of their 750 million users. The changes to Facebook’s wildly unpopular approach to user privacy settings is most likely a result of the rise Google+. Because users can easily and accurately control who sees what information, businesses could potentially have a more difficult time trying to connect with users. Here’s a quick summary of how Facebook’s new privacy changes may affect your company:

    • On the upper right corner of the screen, there will be a new drop down menu where users can choose which information to display to the public (Facebook’s new profile redesign looks oddly similar to Google+, hmmm…). While users had this capability before in their setting page, the new drop down menu is more easily and quickly accessible. The new accessibility of this feature could mean more users do not publicly share information that could draw attention to your business (such as check-its, tags, etc.)
    • Users will now be able to tag non-friends in status updates and pictures. This change could actually be beneficial to your business as people who have not taken the time to actually “like” you can tag you in their status, resulting in more exposure for your business.
    • Before posting a status update or picture, you can choose who can see it by choosing either public, friends, or custom. Again, this feature may decrease public exposure to your company if users are only sharing information to a select few.
    • Users can also more easily choose the “View Profile As” button from their profile (which was previously located in Setting) to view and possibly change what content is available to the public.
    • Another potentially beneficial new update is that users can now tag their location (such as your business) in their status updates, whereas it was only previously available via the “Check In” option through Facebook mobile.
    • Now, when tagged in status update by another person, you have the option to approve the tag or reject it. When tagged in a photo, users have the ability to remove the tag, ask the user to take down the photo, or block the user. This is also a beneficial update, as you can monitor who and how your business is tagged, preventing unwanted attention.

While a few of these new features have always been available under the users settings, Facebook is proving that they are ready to finally listen and act upon users’ complaints.  It is likely that businesses will have to adapt how they manager their profiles in order to accommodate the changes in how users protect and share their information. What is certain is that with the emergence of Facebook’s newest competition,  Google+, you can guarantee that these won’t be last of Facebook’s changes. Here’s another great article from Entrepreneur on how these changes are likely to affect your business.

Dealing with Negative Feedback on Your Social Media Pages

If your business has a social media presence you have most likely had to wrestle with the question of how to deal with negative posts on your page. Should you remove them, respond to them, ignore them? These are important questions to think about as you develop your business’ social media presence.

One of the first things to consider is who posted the negative comment. Was it a customer? A competitor? A spammer? Or just someone trying to create trouble  (in social media lingo, they are called trolls)?

The next thing to think about is what kind of comment was it. Was it a complaint about an issue the commenter is having with your business? Was it constructive criticism with suggestions for improvement?  Is it spam from someone else extolling the virtues of their business? Is it an unmerited attack on your business by someone trying to create a stir?

Once you’ve determined who the comment is coming from and what kind of comment it is, you can now implement some tools to deal with it. While many businesses are tempted to simply remove negative comments, this isn’t always the best option. If the comment is coming from a customer or customers with a legitimate complaint, simply removing the comment can often make things worse and simply move the conversation to another online venue that you can’t control. If this is the type of comment that you are dealing with, it is better to acknowledge the issue and respond to the customer(s) either publicly or with an invitation to contact you privately to further discuss the issue. Remember that social media is an opportunity to engage with the customer and dealing quickly and honestly with complaints will earn your business respect and loyalty in the social media world. Southwest airlines comes to mind as a business that handles customer complaints well through social media. A quick visit to their Twitter page and you see a constant stream of conversations that address customer issues and complaints in a positive way.

What if it is constructive criticism that a commenter leaves on your page? As a small business owner, you are probably very passionate about what you do. You have probably poured hours of your own time into every aspect of your business. Its very personal for you and when someone criticizes your business, it is very easy to take it personally. So, even if you disagree with the post, it is important to acknowledge the comment politely and gratefully – yes, gratefully. Constructive criticism means that someone is payingattention and took the time to start a conversation with you. There may be times when it is appropriate to remove constructive criticism from a public forum, but you should always acknowledge the commenter for their feedback and their time. Also, remember to take this feedback seriously. Sometimes you may get a good idea from someone that took the time to write this kind of post if you are open-minded enough to listen. One example of a company that is getting this right is Dell. In 2007, Dell started Ideastorm, a website designed to collect ideas from their customers online. Dell has integrated Ideastorm into its own Twitter feed and their Facebook campaign. While not everyone is going to have the desire to be this open to the public’s ideas, it is good to remember that great things can come from crowdsourcing.

If the negative comment is either spam or an unwarranted attack by a troll, feel free to simply remove it. However, I would caution you to never engage in a  flame war with this type of commenter. Simply take the high road – remove the post and pretend like it never happened. Engaging in a tit-for-tat negative battle is not going to do you or your business any good.

In a perfect world no one would ever have anything negative to say about your business, but in the real world mistakes happen and it’s important to acknowledge them sincerely when they are brought to your attention. In other words, even in the virtual world, it’s important to keep it real.

QR Code: An Acronym in Need of a Definition

In an effort to continue explaining and defining the various acronyms you may need to understand, today I bring you the QR Code. The acronym is short for quick response code. These two-dimensional bar codes are cropping up all over the place and if you don’t know what they are, you definitely need a quick tutorial. These codes can be scanned on mobile devices and provide the user with a plethora of information. It can link them to a website, social media site, videos, customer reviews, etc. depending on how they are set up and what platform the user is using to read the codes. If you want a more detailed explanation, check here and here.

There was an excellent article yesterday in The Business Insider explaining how to use QR codes to enhance your business. Here are the tips from the article that I think are the five most important: 1) make sure your QR code adds value or offers something special they can’t get from just your website; 2) make sure the site is mobile friendly; 3) provide original content so that you stand out among your competitors; 4) it should be easy to scan; and 5) make sure the links all work before you put it out there.

Also, the Social Media Examiner had an excellent post today about how to use QR codes in conjunction with your Facebook page.

Finally, check out this fun little video I put together.

Myspace: from Social Networking to Social Entertainment

Remember that giant social networking powerhouse called MySpace? It was the most popular social networking site in the U.S. from 2006 through 2008 but was taken over by Facebook in 2009 (currently the second most popular site in the U.S.). MySpace has since changed its name (to Myspace), its logo, and redesigned its website several times despite steadily losing visitors to Facebook. Myspace has even changed its target audience and most recently, changed owners. News Corp finally sold Myspace to Specific Media for $35 million in 2011 after buying it in 2005 for $580 million which is an insanely huge loss. Super pop star/actor/producer Justin Timberlake also purchased a substantial chunk of Myspace in hopes of bringing sexy back.

So what is Myspace good for now? Around 2006, Myspace was experimenting with allowing small businesses to promote themselves through pages and ads, but they were not as effective as Facebook. Myspace is, however, an ideal website for the entertainment business. Myspace has become very music and film prominent.  As a matter of fact, the first thing that comes to mind when a lot of people think of Myspace is music. This is great for huge major stars, directors, producers and musicians to promote their work as well as the much smaller almost “underground” entertainment companies to showcase their stuff. Just look at bands and musicians like Panic! At The Disco, Lilly Allen, Kate Nash and The Devil Wears Prada who owe much of their success to Myspace.

Unfortunately, other small businesses outside of the entertainment business would have a hard time advertising on Myspace. Myspace teamed up Citysearch to start MySpace Local, a virtual directory of local businesses essentially made “to promote [themselves] and communicate with consumers through a social lens.” Which was brilliant on paper but has since been scrapped to focus on the social entertainment aspect.