All posts in Social Media

  • Small Business Owners are the ‘NCOs’ of the Current Economic Struggle

    I just finished watching an HBO series called The Pacific, which recounts in brutal detail some of the hardest fought battles of the Pacific Theatre during WWII. There is a scene, which I’ve clipped from YouTube, where the company commander is speaking to a group of NCOs regarding their role in winning the war. Read more

  • Content Marketing for Small Business, Part 1

    Effective marketing in the digital age mandates that you create engaging content for your customers, prospects, and social network fans and followers to consume.

    First, let’s define what we mean by “content.”

    Content can be anything – Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets, videos, images, or blog posts. The key point to keep in mind is that web is driven by content. If you expect to gain the attention and trust of customers and prospects, then you should think like a publisher and commit to creating great content.

    Setting the content plan in motion requires four steps: determine your content focus; determine the types of content you wish to produce; determine how often you can publish (or post) content; and create a content calendar for the purpose of scheduling your posts.

    four step content process

    Content Focus

    The first order of business is to determine your content focus. By “focus” we mean the direction in which you want to take your content, as well as its tone. For example, content can be educational in nature with “how-to” posts, helpful tips and product-related information.

    Or it might be entertaining using humorous videos, photos or light-hearted status updates and tweets. Alternatively, is could promotional focusing on sales promotions, discounts or special events you host. Better yet, it could be a combination of the three. Regardless, your goal is to create content that stimulates engagement among fans and followers within social media.

    Some other ideas to consider: focus on content that is thought provoking or that demonstrates your knowledge and thought leadership. Also, focus on content that is consistent with the mission and culture of your business.

    Content Types

    Once you’ve determined the content focus, next think about the different types of content you can produce. That will depend, in part, on the social media channels you are using – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc – but don’t limit your thinking to one specific channel. In fact, it’s best to provide a mix of content in the form of videos, photos, blog posts, Facebook status updates and Twitter tweets.

    Each social media channel has its own unique features and benefits. No matter which social media channel you choose, it’s best if you understand how your customer is using them. Social networks like Facebook can be a strong reach and high efficiency platform that serves as a hub for all your social media engagement activities.

    Video and photo sharing sites like YouTube and Flickr can serve as places to archive content which gets distributed through other channels. And blogs can become niche-market penetration tools to reach individual audience segments.

    Posting Frequency

    Next, determine your posting frequency – how often you plan to post. Part of that determination will be made based on the amount of time you have to create content, and there is no “one size fits all” solution. To some extent, the more content you create the better off you are. That being said, here are some suggested guidelines:

    • Blog posts should be written at least once per week.
    • Facebook should be updated on a daily basis.
    • Twitter posts can be more frequent, up to 3 – 5 times per day.

    As it applies to Facebook, express your core message within the first 90 characters, as longer posts tend to be truncated. Twitter allows for up to 140 characters, however.

    Third, post at the optimal time. Only you know will know what’s right for your business, and that often comes as a result of trial and error. Optimal posting times can be determined by the level of engagement you have with fans and followers, so it’s important to pay attention to when you post, as well as the types of content you post. For example, videos tend to receive more engagement than text-based posts.

    Facebook provides an analytics component called “Insights” that can help you in determining optimal times to post there. As a rule of thumb, many retailers find that posting between 8am and 2pm works best.

    People engage with Facebook the most between 9pm and 10pm and the 18-24 age demographic is the most engaged during this time.

    A tool called Edge Rank Checker can help you determine the best times to post on Facebook.

    Content Calendar

    Once you know where you want to post content, the focus and types of content you want to produce, and have determined the posting frequency, the next step is to develop a content calendar to schedule your posts. One person even referred to it as a “conversation” calendar. What I’m referring to is a calendar whereby you create a series of content entries for use on social networks.

    Calendars can be created on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis and can be done using a spreadsheet or, preferably, a social media management application designed for that purpose.

    Here is an example of a content calendar (click the image to enlarge) using a spreadsheet based on a monthly posting schedule. At the top of the spreadsheet is a field to include the name of the month, along with a field for listing the major theme for that month, should you choose to use one. This could include such themes as holiday sales, special product promotions, marketing campaigns, or anything else you choose to emphasize.

    Content Calendar

    In the left-hand column are the social media channels that will be posted to. The subsequent columns set forth posting schedules on a weekly basis for each week during the month.

    A better way to manage your social media engagement activities, including creating a content calendar, is through the use of social media management applications designed specifically for this purpose. I refer to these applications as “tools.”

    These tools enable you to more effectively and efficiently manage every aspect of your social media engagement from content creation, to content syndication, to community management.

    For example, rather than writing a blog post, then going to Facebook, Twitter or other social networks to repost the content, these tools automate the process for you. Further, they provide a single dashboard through which you can engage with your fans and followers and administer each of your social media channels. In other words, let the tools do much of the work for you and save the valuable time needed to run your business.

    Some of the tools I recommend include:

    Each of these software applications is available for use in multiple languages and is affordably priced. Some, like Hootsuite and Tweetdeck, are free to use as the base level.

    One of the best and most affordable tools I have found is Sprout Social. It performs just about every operation and function you would ever need. Using it you can:

    • Publish & schedule updates across social channels with a single click.
    • Monitor your brand and competition across social channels and the web. This is especially useful when doing research on where your customers and target audiences maintain a presence online.
    • Connect with highly targeted customers through the discovery tools it provides.
    • Measure the success of your social media engagement with reporting
      and analytics tools.
    • Collaborate with other team members, assign tasks and set permissions.
    • Monitor Foursquare Check-Ins and visitor loyalty, and
    • Manage it all on the go with a mobile version of the application.

    Of course, there are many other such tools available, some of which may be better suited to your own language or the country where your business is located. The best way to find them is through a keyword search on search engines using terms like “social media management software.”

    In terms of social media engagement, content is king. Engaging content can set you apart from your competition, help establish you as a thought leader and knowledgeable expert, keep your business top of mind with consumers, and can provide the leverage needed to keep your customers coming back time after time.

    Check out my new ebook - Social Media for Small Business, Vol. 1 - the first in a 7-part series on using social media to market your business. 

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  • The Social Commerce Handbook Puts End to Social Media Hype

    The Social Commerce HandbookThe Social Commerce Handbook: 20 Secrets for Turning Social Media into Social Sales, is now available for purchase.

    Co-authored by the very smart Paul Marsden, editor of Social Commerce Today, and me, it effectively ends the hype over how social media can be used for sales. It is the FIRST book to deal specifically with social commerce written for the North American audience to be published by a major publisher – McGraw-Hill. (Huge props to out editor Donya Dickerson and her team.)

    The book distills the real-world experience of successful social commerce businesses – from Apple to Zappos – into 20 secrets for turning “Likes” into “Buys” and addresses topics like:

    • The power of social utility
    • The appeal of social gifting
    • The importance of social curation
    • The role of social status
    • The value of social intelligence

    We present numerous case studies from leading brands, and include tips on how to get started using social commerce.

    While much of the content focuses on larger retail companies, the book has broad appeal. Its pages contain advice everyone from owners of small business to CMOs of large brands could put into practice.

    Here’s an excerpt from the introduction that explains its premise:

    “This book is our answer to the question of how to shift stock with social media. It is a practical handbook for businesses and brands looking to sell with social media. In twenty short Chapters, we’ll reveal proven secrets for turning social media into sales.

    “These secrets are not ours; they come from the inspired innovators in this field, and from some of the smartest brands and businesses on the planet. Their ideas were born on the battlefields of business and then merely reported by us in Social Commerce Today, the industry journal on social media in sales. In The Social Commerce Handbook, you’ll find 20 solutions for shifting stock with social media that work.”

    Social commerce is a hotly debated topic. I believe The Social Commerce Handbook can lay some of that controversy to rest. Paul and I are pleased to bring it to you.

    The book can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and at other fine booksellers, and is available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook editions.

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  • Most Small Businesses Use Social Media But Few Do It Well

    Small business social media

    The Los Angeles Times reports on a new survey from Manta, an online forum for small business, which found that, of the 600 small businesses surveyed, 78% use social media in one form or another. The survey also found 58% say they “struggle to find value in using Facebook to promote their businesses or don’t have a page at all” and that “25% of those surveyed said their company website drives the most business for them.”

    Which brings me to this article at MarketingProfs – Four Reasons to Jettison the Traditional Website and Go Social – that says small businesses are “dispensing with the traditional website in favor of integrating the most popular social networks right into the website.” While the article doesn’t advocate complete abandonment of traditional websites, it does recommend that companies opt for the use of social sites.

    Which brings me to the question – traditional websites: to be or not to be? Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of having a traditional website or to take arms against a sea of troubles by opposing them? (with apologies to Shakespeare) Perhaps THAT is the question.

    My belief: It’s not either/or, but both/and.

    There are some very good reasons to have a more traditional company website supplemented by a presence in social media as a secondary layer. And, if you can integrate the two, mores the better.

    Website or Social Site

    All in favor of websites, say “aye.” 

    As the scale above indicates, there are four good reasons to have a website.

    1. You control the design, so that it matches your company branding.
    2. You own the data. Guess who owns the data on Facebook? (Hint: It’s not you.)
    3. You can do a better job of targeting and personalization.
    4. You can reach the entirety of your audience.

    All in favor of social sites, say “nay.”

    There are an equal number of good reasons to have a presence within social media.

    1. Social sites are inherently interactive. Most small business websites aren’t.
    2. Social sites are where people spend time.
    3. Social sites are easy to acquire. It costs nothing to use them and it’s relatively easy to set up an account.
    4. Social sites facilitate viral sharing.

    Like I said, not either/or but both/and.

    Now that we have that question resolved (and, of course, I am always right about these things), it’s time to move on to the question of why small businesses aren’t experiencing a lot of success.

    Easy answer – they lack the know-how, which is the #1 reason why guys like me exist.

    More expanded version of that answer – not only do they lack the know-how, they also lack the time and budget to maximize the value social media has to offer, which is the #2 reason guys like me exist.

    My advice to small business owners is simple and succinct:

    1. It’s worth having a presence within social media for all the reasons mentioned above.
    2. Take some time to get trained on how to leverage social media to your advantage. There are plenty of resources available to help you, both online and in your local area.

    Of course, if you find your back up against a wall, I’m always ready to help. Give me a call.

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  • Quantity the Enemy of Quality in Facebook and Other Social Networks

    Neural map of human brainA recent Harvard Business Review article asked, “Is Facebook To Big to Survive?” It made the assertion that, due to the immensity of its size – nearly 1 billion users – and the volume of connections between users – over 100 billion – that the network could implode around itself.

    The writer, Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp, suggests that the human brain isn’t capable of utilizing a network like Facebook if it grows too large.

    Stibel said, “[T]he brain forges higher quality connections and patterns, losing the vast majority of its early relationships. It replaces sheer quantity of neural connections with quality, making us smarter without the need for additional volume. When the brain stops growing and reaches a point of equilibrium, it gains intelligence.”

    He added that social networks are no different and cites bygone networks such as Friendster, Classmates.com and MySpace, which, according to Stibel, got too big for their britches. “Each of these hit a limit at which point the network became too big, too unwieldy and eventually shrunk into a black hole never to be seen again,” said Stibel.

    Stibel, who, in 2007, predicted that Facebook would overtake MySpace as the leading social network, warns that, at 950 million users, Facebook is clearly in danger of following suit.

    Quantity Versus Quality

    With Stibel’s commentary as a backdrop, my concern regarding social network involvement is this: How many connections can we sustain in a meaningful way? And, does the quantity of connections – many of which are cursory at best – dilute the quality?

    In other words, because I’m connected to thousands of people, does that mitigate against the 150 or so that I have a real relationship with?

    My answers:

    150 is a magic number – In my previous career I was a minister. As a student of ecclesiology I came to realize that most churches – 80 percent or more – had memberships of less than 200. Why? Because that’s about as many as one person, the pastor, can shepherd. I believe that number represents the nature of relationships in general, not just those confined to a church setting.

    Quality trumps quantity – I also believe that, by extending my network of connections beyond that critical number, I am, in fact, diluting the quality of the connections overall, and especially with those in the core group. Quantity contends against quality and, unfortunately, all too often comes out the victor.

    So, what’s the answer? May I suggest three possible scenarios.

    • Winnow down the number of connections to 150 – who has time to do that?
    • Segment connections, so that the 150 receive more attention than the rest – who has time to do that either?
    • Start a new network where connections are highly restrictive – that’s pie-in-the-sky thinking.

    Both Facebook and LinkedIn say they want to be little more than virtual mirrors of real world connections, which is why, unlike Twitter, a “digital handshake” must take place between two parties before a connection is forged. But you and I know that’s not true. Both networks pitch people to be possible connections all the time. And while LinkedIn makes it a little more difficult to create connections, there are ways to circumnavigate the obstacles.

    The idealist in me would suggest that we start over by creating a network that makes connecting with others more difficult; at least not so easy, and that a cap be placed at 150 (certainly no more than 200). Such niche networks already exist, but none that I would consider to be of the major variety.

    Stibel recommends that Facebook take responsibility: “What if Facebook could become wiser? Separate out the fluff and strengthen the important relationships. Allow us to efficiently nurture and groom our packs of 150, our ‘real’ social networks, while filtering everything not directly relevant. Facebook has made some strides on this score, but they must redouble their efforts. It is Facebook’s only chance at adding value.”

    For its own sake perhaps Facebook should heed Stibel’s warning. After all, he’s been right before.

    What do you consider to be the answer to how we overcome the quality versus quantity dilemma? Does it require the enforcement of a numeric limit, or do other factors come into play? And should social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn take the initiative to modify their platforms in order to increase quality?