Does part of your social media plan include having a dedicated user-- someone whose job description includes planning and carrying out your strategy? In a small business setting it's typical, and often times essential, for staff members to wear many different hats. That sometimes means that jobs are shared or passed around as staff members become available to take them on. That approach can be great in some scenarios, but it doesn't mean everyone should have a hand in social media, or that the task should fall to whoever is available in the moment. There are benefits to centralizing your strategy in the hands of one or two people. It allows you to:
Be More Consistent
For a unified tone and approach, it's best to limit the amount of people publishing through your social media outlets. With different writing styles and varying response times to questions from customers, followers may find you unreliable or start seeing individual posts as too disconnected. For cohesion in messaging, which makes for stronger branding, a dedicated user works best.
Are you spread out over various social media platforms? Instead of having different users monitoring different sites, it's better for a dedicated user to have an eye on each of them. On the most practical level, it's easier to keep track of logins and accounts this way. It also allows for the task of tracking data to be centralized in one place, with one person checking in on various platforms and collecting relevant information periodically.
Make Better Use of Time
Dedicated users translate into dedicated time. Spreading out your social media efforts amongst different staff members can mean that the time and energy spent on your strategy gets diffused. A dedicated user can use blocks of time to tackle answering questions, updating pages and scheduling new content. A piecemeal approach ultimately leaves you one step behind instead of one step ahead.
Does that mean that brainstorming about how to approach your plan should only be limited to the people who execute it? Not at all! It's great to have input from several members of your team during the initial planning phases. This allows you to tap into the creative potential of your team, gather great ideas and develop a plan that's a true representation of your organization. But as you execute specific parts of your strategy, funnel responsibilities towards one or two users who can hold it all together. It's the best way to present a confident overarching narrative that will strengthen your identity and keep your followers engaged.
Yes, there's a lot of planning when it comes to setting up a successful social media strategy, but the ability to improvise is just as important. If you're familiar with improvisational comedy, sometimes called "improv," you know that coming up with great material on spot is easier said than done. Still, there are some good lessons to be gleaned from the world of improv that can make your strategy that much stronger.
One of the first rules you learn in improv is to accept the reality your scene partners are trying to make and build on it (aptly summed up as the "Yes, and..." rule). Imagine an actor walking into a scene with the line “This spaceship is about to crash!” You can either accept that first line as a fact and start building a story together, or you can shoot it down with “What do you mean? We're at the mall.” The latter response is a scene killer, with two conflicting intentions putting the nail in the coffin before your scene gets off the ground.
The same can be said about your social media strategy. By reacting positively to the direction your followers start you off in, you can start building a longer, stronger narrative together. Once you've said “yes,” don't forget to build on their original ideas with your own contributions so that followers are incentivized to keep engaging with you.
Support your partners
While some parts of a scene about you, they're just as much about the dynamic you're a part of. The same is true about your presence through social media. If you're only concerned with how many people follow what you publish, you're missing the other side of the equation. Support your online community by the following individual users, chiming in on what they have to say and supporting the endeavors that they're trying to promote.
A classic pitfall of comedic improv is to feel the need to rattle off a bunch of jokes that never add up to anything. In the same way, you don't want the messages you publish to exist in a vacuum. Remember that everything you put out there is part of a multi-faceted, ongoing narrative. It's good to concentrate on details, but you should never lose focus when it comes the the driving narrative you're trying to share.
Be spontaneous, flexible
Having a game plan is incredibly important, but don't be so dogmatic about sticking to your strategy. You could risk coming off as inflexible, standoffish and even stubborn. Instead, open yourself to the possibility that once you get in the game, things are bound to change. By being receptive to an ever-changing online environment, you can guarantee that you'll be a dynamic player, ready to explore new and exciting directions in your story building.
Finally, make sure your ears are always open to what your scene partners have to say. They might be feeding you important clues about where they'd like to take the narrative. When you listen carefully, the stories you tell in any medium will become more memorable, detailed and enriching. People will also feel that you're present, accessible and transparent.
A strategy doesn't always have to be a strict blueprint you never stray from. Be open to the possibilites that are happening around you and you'll be ready to thrive in the world of social media, where dynamic storytelling is the key to success.
Have you fallen into the trap of being purely transactional with your tweets and posts? It's easy to find yourself in a rut where you only announce things like discounts, new products, operational hours or other superficial facts about your business. But followers want a little bit more than that, and you're not likely to keep their attention for very long if you don't indulge them.
People who subscribe to you via social media want information that they can't get from somewhere else. They want to feel connected to the people behind the brand, and feel like they're an active participant in the story of your business. Here are three ways you can put people first to make sure your social media strategy is personal.
Feature Customer Stories
Do you have a regular who has been coming into your store for years? Next time you see them, ask them to answer a few questions about themselves and use social media to feature their story. It's a great way to make customers feel valuable and shows that your business is a vital part of the community. You never know what you'll learn about your customers along the way, and everyone loves to have at least fifteen minutes of fame!
Take pictures (or encourage open submissions) of your customers enjoying the things that make your brand great. For instance, you could create a contest where customers submit pictures of themselves with their favorite pint from your micro-brewery. Generating original content makes your storytelling through social media become more dynamic and unique. Just make sure you always get the permission from the people featured in the photographs!
Provide Backstage Access
Your employees don't have to be anonymous. In the same way you feature customers, you can share stories about the employees that make up the heart of your business. Pulling back the curtain on your operations can be a little scary at first, but remember, you're the publisher. You control what information to share and what should stay internal to your organization. Followers can learn why your employees love working for you, which encourages brand loyalty. Customers also get to learn more about the staff that serves them, helping to build a great rapport that builds lasting relationships.
Think of your social media platforms less as a news ticker with a constant stream of facts and more as a dynamic tool for storytelling. Start with people and build your stories out from there. Use original and found images as well as text to provide eye-catching information and you're sure to have an online presence worthy of the people who are the beating heart of your business.
Not everyone is born with a funny bone, but flexing your comedic muscles every once in a while on social media is a terrific way to build your brand, gain followers and keep customers engaged. Afraid that you don't have what it takes? You don't have to be the next coming of Johnny Carson to succeed. Feeling like humor is too risky of a strategy? Staying on the sidelines might mean missing out on some memorable moments and great connections with followers. Here are 5 great reasons why it's worth it to get rolling with the LOL'ing.
It Strengthens Your Identity
Humor adds a whole new dimension to your brand. People may be following you for things like discounts or deals, but they also want special access. Your humor reveals important things about your own worldview, which opens the door to finding the followers that really relate to your mission and outlook. Joking with someone also creates a sense of familiarity. There's a reason why opening with a joke is referred to as “breaking the ice.” It immediately dissolves tension and shows that you don't take yourself too seriously.
You Become More Memorable
Users are much more likely to dismiss interactions that are purely transactional. A great joke or comment can stay with a user for a long time. That hearty chuckle you elicit from someone while they're stuck in traffic might be the thing that secures your place on someone's Facebook or Twitter feed.
It Makes Your Content More Dynamic
Some messaging has to be serious to get the message across, but if you never alter your tone, your messaging becomes an endless drone. Break up the monotony by introducing humor.
You Become More Relevant
Topical humor is great! It shows that you're connected to the zeitgeist and have something to say about what's happening. Adding your voice to an ongoing conversation is always a good idea when it comes to making your presence known on social media platforms. Using humor makes you stand out even more in a sea of ever-changing commentary.
It Turns Followers Into Evangelizers
The person you make laugh today is the person who will be singing your praises tomorrow. Jokes are inherently viral. Once you hear something hilarious, you immediately want to share it. It only takes one look at a popular meme to show you how one funny idea can catch on like wildfire. If you're looking for retweets and shares, make sure you're bringing the funny.
Your own personal brand of humor takes time to develop. Get to know your audience and find out what they think is funny. Test the waters with a few zingers before you pull out all the stops. Most of all, don't miss out on a great way to grow your business by being too cautious or overthinking things. If you do, you might find that the joke is ultimately on you!
If you don’t track and analyze your marketing efforts, how can you know if something is successful? The easiest first step is installing Google Analytics. It’s free for basic functions, so once you get used to various features, you can determine whether you need the paid version. Just try it out and start looking at conversions today.
Determine keywords that fit the business and services that you provide. Utilizing keywords within your content, including tagged photos, is the best way to optimize your site. Since Google and Bing algorithms do all of the work, it won't cost you anything!
3. Site Map
4. Landing Pages
Creating targeted landing pages for services, products, or FAQs provides visitors answers to their search inquiries. Your homepage is certainly key to your business because it’s the introduction to your brand, but it’s not the only page to worry about. Providing a range of landing pages means your business will be optimized for search engine ranking and obtaining consumers.
Structure your links. Make sure your content is strong and your pages are specific to what you are talking about. Example: www.yoursite.com/press_release/May_2012. Failure to provide specific links to content, or having links unrelated to the content itself, doesn’t help your SEO ranking.
Though these tips are helpful to remember, the bottomline is that if you don't provide strong content that showcases your business, services or products, the best SEO optimization will not bring people back to your page. Be sure to keep content creation in mind as much as these technical specifics!
Sharing stories with friends and family is something people have always done. We discuss our relationship issues, career goals, and customer service experiences. Now we have the ability to let everyone know on social media, including strangers, what we have encountered.
The issue many businesses find is that feedback is given anonymously. As business owner, you have to question the validity of feedback. Is it a consumer who genuinely wants to provide information to improve your service? Maybe a former employee? Perhaps a competitor looking to take business away from you? A bad review can hurt your business and ensure potential consumers will question whether to support your establishment.
Whatever the circumstances, you have to protect your online reputation. Here are a few tips to ensure you're looking out for your brand.
It's important to know what people think of your business, from customer service to products. Set up Google Alerts, which send an email any time your brand is mentioned online. Provide an area on your website where people can get in touch with you to leave feedback so you can recognize a potential issue early.
Some sites allow you to reply to your critics. It says a lot about your business if you answer a negative review with a polite or even positive statement. This will not only let the reviewer know you're paying attention, it will show potential consumers feedback is welcomed and addressed.
Encourage Positive Publicity
It's true you can't make everyone happy, but what about the customers who already enjoy your business? Rally your loyal supporters to get online and share their great experiences. Ask customers if they are willing to give a testimonial for your site, and provide them with your Facebook url so they can spread the good word there.
Establish Standard Policies
If you have not instituted a customer service policy, you may want to create one now. You want to make sure your employees understand the necessity of great customer care. Train them on how to speak to difficult clients. Everyone who works in your business should understand that each customer experience is important. You're building a brand and need to develop excellent communication lines between your employees and your customers.
It may seem time consuming at first, but the constant feedback can create the kind of buzz that will only benefit your business. Being aware of what is being said about your business will provide insights to improve and grow.
We're not here to tell you what your process of hiring should be, but you certainly don't want to just pick someone you deem as "really good at Facebook". We're certainly not saying recent college graduates aren't qualified to work with social media, or that they are not more than capable of handling the responsibilities that come with running such an important aspect of your business.
However, since social media is a relatively new thing, many businesses assume that a younger employee is more knowledgeable with this channel. This is the kind of thinking that can get you into trouble. Social Media is important, and just like any other part of your business, you want to hire the most capable and experienced person. Some problems you may encounter are:
1. Lack of Social Media Etiquette
Yes, this newly minted graduate knows Facebook and Twitter, but do they know how to create posts that reflect your brand? Do they understand how to manage awareness of your products? Can you rely on them to take their responsibilities seriously? The last thing you want is a late night Instragram photo posted on the wrong Facebook Wall or a customer mistreated. The Chrysler Twitter incident and Best Buy Facebook ordeal are good examples of how bad this can be.
2. Getting on the Job Training
I know what you're thinking - how can this person gain experience if we don't give them a chance? Remember: there is a difference between having someone manage your social media and entry level experience. Social Media incorporates marketing, public relations, branding, customer service, and sales. We learn these things through years of on-the-job experience. Professors can only do so much.
3. Unfamiliarity with Your Business
Your business is your livelihood. Trusting a workforce newbie can be a risky. This person will need to really understand what your company stands for, the products or service that you provide, and the marketplace. We all have to learn these things when we start working at any company, but a new graduate will have a deeper learning curve.
4. Communication, Communication, Communication
The art of communicating in a businesslike manner is truly learned. It took many of us time to learn how to read company communication and reply in a professional manner. While blogs and social media interaction are allowed to be less stiff, you need to ask yourself, Does my new hire know the difference? Does this person know when to use a more formal tone?
This leads us to the next point....
5. Humor: Friend or Foe?
We all have a different sense of humor, and social media certainly can entertain us, but does your ingénue know the boundaries? The last thing you want is to offend your consumer base, like the famous Kenneth Cole Egyptian riots tweet, or the disastrous jokes Aflac spokesman Gilbert Gottfried made about the Japanese tsunamis.
6. Inability to Analyze Efforts
Social Media isn't just about posting and engaging. You need to find out if using these channels is working. You need someone who can understand the nuts and bolts of your marketing efforts. Can your hire craft content to engage and inspire fans? Can they also create reports and analyze high level information to determine next steps?
Here is the bottom line: you need to make sure you hire the right person for the job. Experience is necessary, but in some cases, budgets make it difficult to retain an expert. If you hire a new graduate, make sure you set expectations and keep control. Ensure all accounts created use your company's email address, passwords are shared with you, and all posts are double-checked before they are put out on social media. This may seem like a lot of work, but it's best to maximize return on this important part of your marketing plan.
Consumers have always loved the idea of contests, mostly because they're getting something free, but for a business it's a way to market their services or merchandise. Creating contests can help develop a customer database, and with the introduction of social media, it's a way for consumers to easily engage with their favorite brand. But do contests, especially social media contests, work?
Business owners provide some mixed feedback. While many recognize that contests increase the number of followers or likes for their business, some proprietors simply don't find social media contests useful. This made us question, are they conducting these contest the right way?
Expectations may be too high, and when the owners don't see the results they were hoping for, they simply deem the contest concept a failure. Be realistic and set goals which are reasonable for your business and your consumers. Contests help give your followers a reason to interact with the business and each other. As a business owner, try to focus more on your customer interaction, and less on the amount of Likes or Followers you're obtaining.
Social Media is an investment of your time and money, including the cost of the prize, and if you've paid money for a third party to run the contest, this cost can be overwhelming. Having to invest in both areas can set you up to create unrealistic goals.
I'm sure you're asking, "How can I ensure my contest is successful?" Well that's what we're here to answer.
1. Ask yourself, "Do I really need to run a contest?".
If you're a B2B company, running a contest won't really help you gain new clients. It makes more sense if your business sells directly to a consumer. Look at your goals, and if they can be accomplished in a more efficient or reliable way, take that route.
2. Set Realistic Expectations.
Make sure you set goals for the contest by asking the following: What do you want to achieve? Are you running this contest to bring awareness to your brand? Are you going to highlight a product or service that you provide? Do just want to increase Likes or Followers? Do you want to obtain feedback about your company? Be specific with your questions.
3. Match Your Fan.
Think about your business; if you're a clothing store, will conducting a photo contest work best? Maybe you could ask a question about a product. For example, recently Goorin Bros Hat Company ran a Free Hat Fridays contest. They posted a picture of their merchandise and asked followers "What would you wear with this hat?" They engaged consumers and randomly picked a winner from the 200+ comments.
4. Less Is More.
Remember to keep it simple. If your consumers have to fill out several pages just to win one prize, they'll abandon the idea, and you'll be left with few entries. Only ask for the information you absolutely need.
5. Pick a Perfect Prize.
Remember to ensure your prize shows off what your business provides. And make sure your giveaway reflects what your participants need to make an entry. If you own a camera store, and you're giving away a new state-of-the-art camera, have your participants post a picture they have taken.
6. Shout It from a Mountain Top.
Don't limit your contest to just Facebook or Twitter - let the world know! Include it in your email newsletters, on your webpage, and if you have a physical location, tell your shoppers. Make it a part of your marketing strategy. If you are going to run a print ad, save some room for the contest information.
7. Learn from It.
Once your contest is over, make sure you follow up. You've collected information to help you market to shoppers who showed an interest in your business. Keep them engaged. Let them know you heard their feedback. They'll appreciate knowing their comments made a difference, and they'll understand how important they are to you.
Last but not least...
8. Follow the Rules.
Social Media sites, especially Facebook, have rules and policies for running these contests. They have a list of do's and don'ts. For instance, Facebook regulations require that you notify winners via email, snail mail, phone call, or singing telegram before you congratulate them publicly on Facebook. They also ask that you state Facebook is not sponsoring the contest. We can list these forever, so let's make it easier - check out Facebook's Pages Terms.
Ménage à Trois translates to "Household of three". Here at Social Sonar, we often talk about the Virtuous Cycle, the three services that complement and feed each other seamlessly to create a cohesive marketing program and serve as the basis for all other efforts. Combining services does more than triple your reach; it has a multiplying effect.
Maintaining a blog is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your business. Not only does a blog educate your customers and demonstrate your expertise, it also greatly improves your search engine ranking. Every blog post increases the number of keywords and pages on your site, so search engines will rank your url more highly than other websites with less information.
Having a more highly-ranked site ensures more traffic to your blog, which leads to more people signing up for email newsletters, and more people liking your Facebook and Twitter accounts. If you run any Google AdWords campaigns, you can actually pay less and be ranked higher than less informative sites.
Blog posts also provide you with unique content to promote in your Facebook and Twitter messages, as well as your email newsletter. You can even run targeted marketing campaigns linking to specific blog posts, which are easier to set up than landing pages.
2. Social Media
Updating Facebook and Twitter pages shows customers your business is healthy, and you are keeping up with the times. Rather than expecting people to visit your website, you are meeting them where they already hang out and making it easy for them to interact with your business or check your hours.
Social media is an ideal tool to drive customers to your website when you need them to take an action. For example, you can promote your recent blog post on Facebook and Twitter. People click the link to visit your blog and spend time on your site, where you can convince them to make an appointment or call with questions.
You can even run specials on your Facebook and Twitter pages. Post a unique coupon code and send people to your website to make the purchase. You get to keep more money than if you partnered with a deal site like Groupon or Living Social.
Tell other fans on your Facebook and Twitter pages about your positive Yelp reviews, and encourage them to review you. You can even link directly to the positive review!
3. Email Marketing
Gaining the trust to receive an email address is one of the most powerful marketing relationships you can build. Make sure you always send relevant content so recipients are less likely to unsubscribe.
Blog posts are ideal for ensuring your emails are always interesting and informative. They enable you to take a "Something for Everyone" approach, as we mentioned in our blog post What Saturday Night Live Teaches Us About Email Marketing.
Facebook and Twitter are great tools to promote signing up for your email newsletters. People who sign up to receive your emails are more likely to make a purchase than someone who has only liked you on Facebook or followed you on Twitter.
This recent article from TIME states, "Forty-eight percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends, or retailers, but less than 1% of transactions could be traced back to trackable social links... For repeat shoppers, 30% of online purchases begin with an e-mail from the retailer."
Our complete package offers everything you need for the basis of a healthy marketing program: Blogging, Social Media, and Email Marketing. Give us a call at 1-866-843-4490 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how our customized automated solution can work for your business.
We have often talked about the importance of the interesting content when it comes to social media.
Whether you want to post "interesting and engaging content" once a day or once a week, where do you find all of this info?
Just Google It
The easiest way to find content is to "Google it" (enter a search term into any internet search engine). You don't have to hand-craft all the content you post. Most search engines have a news tab, which you can also limit to any stories posted within the previous 24 hours. BAM! You have the most recent news stories about your industry.
For example, if you are a jewelry business, you can search for new and interesting pieces or stone cuts to share on your Facebook or Twitter page. If you own a restaurant, you may want to use some current news piece about a salmonella outbreak to write a blog and explain why your restaurant is a cut above the rest in cleanliness.
Ask the Experts
If you receive newsletters from other companies in your own industry, you may be receiving a daily list of interesting content you can easily share on your own social media profiles. The work is almost done for you! You may even check out posts from your competitors to inspire items you post on your own page.
Go Where the Action Is
Some of the most shared content comes from aggregation sites, which pull together the most interesting content people find. Our favorites include Digg and StumbleUpon. For shorter posts with more visuals, we love 22 Words.
If you're looking to take advantage of what is trending at this very moment on Twitter, you can always check out the "Trending" area on your profile. If you're having trouble figuring what something is, or why the heck it's trending, check out What the Trend. It has handy explanations of why things are showing up.
Finding content to post to your social media profiles does not have to take up hours of your time. Although you do also want to have items specifically related to your business, posting about broader industry-related topics is absolutely acceptable as well. It is a quick and easy way to keep your profiles fresh with content.
Where do you find content for your social media sites? We always love hearing your unique and creative ideas!