Blog Archives

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

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

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.

4 Tips To Make Your Tweets Stand Out

Twitter is an extremely valuable resource for marketing your business. But  how do you ensure your tweets are read?  NowSourcing recently had a great blog post that included 1o Ways to Make Your Tweets Stand Out, but we narrowed the list down to what we think were the most important. Below are four excellent tips to make your tweets shine.

1. Be Original
Have fun and get creative with your tweets. With approximately 110 million tweets per day, users are bombarded with a large amount of information that can be redundant or boring. Social media is about connecting with people, so be personable and use your own voice when tweeting. This awesome slideshow on CNBC shows how the top ten companies using Twitter are successfully promoting their business and improving customer relations.

2. Be Short
Try to avoid tweeting a short story…with today’s hectic lifestyle users sometimes only have a few seconds to skim tweets so make sure to keeps your tweets concise and to the point. While Twitter does limit  your tweets to 140 characters, your followers are likely to skip over a tweet that is unusually long. Keeping your tweets short also ensures that there is enough room for others to retweet and include their own opinion. Hint-use links! Because 140 characters is such a limited space, you can post a link with your tweet to direct your followers to another web page, article, etc., with more information.

3. Time Your Tweets
Timing your tweets doesn’t mean publishing every fifteen minutes, but rather focusing when you tweet to the times your followers are most active. If you seem to receive the greatest number of replies and retweets during the afternoon, you should be the most active on Twitter that time of day as well. Hint-when tweeting, keep in mind that the Eastern Time Zone is the most populated time zone in the U.S so it is likely you will want to tweet during the times of day these people are most active on Twitter.

4. Provoke Thought
Your tweets should leave your followers thinking and wanting more. People love to be shocked by interesting statistics, so if you can, try to include these in your tweets. Your goal should be to create interest and get your followers talking. A tweet that makes people think will more likely result in a retweet or a reply, exposing your business to a larger pool of potential consumers. Take a look at some of 2010’s most retweeted tweets to see what they did right.

Be sure to keep these tweet tips in mind next time you tweet, but most importantly, have fun! If you are having fun, your tweets will definitely stand out amongst the crowd.

LinkedIn: The professional Facebook

Maybe you’ve soiled your name on MySpace or Facebook or perhaps just refuse to support the ever-changing ways of social media. LinkedIn has proven to be something else. LinkedIn is essentially a professional Facebook. I would say it’s the “behind the scenes” networking of businesses, employers and employees. It’s the network that lets you post your resume, recommendations, (work) experiences, education, connections and more business-y stuff. It’s the kind of website that you would only have profile pictures of you in business professional clothing. So how popular is LinkedIn? According to Socialnomics, a new member joins LinkedIn every second, 10% of all college students in the U.S. have an account and its in the top three most popular social media websites. LinkedIn has become essential in making business connections through social media in a professional setting. Through connecting with business partners and employers, it’s a perfect way to either get a job or collaborate with other businesses.

But let’s face it, it’s no Twitter or Facebook. Yeah, it’s expanding, but a lot of people who have it, tend to be distracted by their other social media websites, like Facebook or Twitter, and don’t spend time on LinkedIn. As a business, LinkedIn is not aggressive enough with its promotions and marketability. How exactly is LinkedIn making capital? It hardly has any ads or way to make income yet it has tons of investors and tons of cash. And how many businesses and business people are actually using LinkedIn? Even more, how many even know what it is?

When it comes down to it, LinkedIn is a different kind of social media. It’s much more private, professional and almost dull. But when it comes to connecting with business owners and possible employees/employers, it works fairly well and it lets you advertise yourself to others in a very professional way.

A Social Media Firestorm in Progress

I’m talking about the announcement that Netflix made yesterday regarding their pricing changes. The purpose of this post isn’t to vent any outrage over the 60% price increase for the service that I personally receive. More, I wanted to comment on the use customers are making of social media in order to vent their outrage and Netflix’s response to that use. In an article on PC World, one author talks about the power of the people. Businesses have to understand that social media offers its users a powerful tool to express themselves and organize a coherent response. The Netflix blog post that announces this decision currently has 5,000 comments, mostly negative. “Dear Netflix” is a trending topic in the U.S. on Twitter and these tweets are mostly threats by members to cancel their subscription when the new price structure goes into effect. There is already a couple of Facebook pages that have been created to protest this change. Finally, when I checked Netflix’s official Facebook Fanpage, there were already over 30,000 comments on the price increase post. But, it seems this number would be higher if Netflix wasn’t deleting these posts almost as fast as people can churn them out.

It is this response by Netflix that I find most disturbing. While, certainly any business with a fan page will need to prohibit and remove any vulgar, aggressive, or violent comments, is it in the best interest of the corporation to silence all negative feedback? The point of social media is to engage with your customers. This form of communication isn’t just meant to be one-way…if that was all you wanted, you’d just have a website. This communication is meant to go both ways from the the business to the customers and from the customers to the business. Now, obviously, any business hopes that most of this feedback is positive, but it won’t always be. In order to maintain the level of trust with your customers to allow for a rich dialogue, you will have to allow the negative comments to remain. It’s how you respond to those comments that will frame the dialogue going forward.

It will be interesting to see how things turn out for Netflix after this. Will they win this round? If they do, at what cost to their relationship with their members? (The cost I’m referring to is not a consequence of just the price change, but also the cost of Netflix’s reaction to this firestorm.) Will the members’ reaction to this news via social media cause Netflix to walk back from their price changes? We shall be watching.