They say it’s always smart to avoid two topics during conversation: religion and politics. But the truth is, social media has become a huge platform for people to share their personal views about a slew of different perspectives, political or otherwise.
When it comes to taking on politics and social issues, however, what you write, tweet and post on your personal accounts may not always be what’s best for the social media outlets that represent your business. While you may personally feel strongly about current events and issues of the day, does it make sense for your small business to get political?
For some organizations, the answer will be obvious. Take a look at your central mission. A non-profit that promotes gender parity in the workplace, for example, should absolutely use their social media soapbox as much as possible. You’ve got an incredible opportunity to mobilize people, engage them in a way that gets them to think about issues in a new way, and turn followers into strong advocates for your cause. The website Movements.org has some great online resources, including how to mobilize followers and raise funds through social media.
If you’re a business that deals with other kinds of services, the answer to whether or not you should delve into politics is not as clear cut. If you’re a small restaurant, sports shop or electronics stores, for example, your mission is to appeal to a broad demographic. That may mean having to bite your tongue on questions that may be too polarizing. The last thing you want to do is stoke a fire on your business’s Facebook page or Twitter feed.
Still, finding a cause that your business or organization can rally behind might not be a bad idea. It shows that you’re an active members in the community and that your business has a mission beyond making a profit. If you’re shopping for a cause, attach yourself to something that isn’t divisive.
A street cleaning project is a good example of a cause you could support without the fear of ruffling too many feathers along the way. Endorsing a political candidate, on the other hand, can easily become a case study in delving too deply into controversial territory. Instead, find a broader message that's still positive, like encouraging everyone to get out and vote no matter who their preferred candidate is.
So, next time you have the urge to publish that political rant online or share your views on a contested election, remember that the temporary glee you get from broadcasting your perspective may be great, but the ultimate effect might be alienating and counterproductive. When in doubt, focus on supporting issues that all of your followers can get behind so no one feels left out, even if it means letting your own opinion take a backseat for just a while.
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.
As if running a small business weren't hard enough already, the IRS is focusing in on small-business owners this year. What could that potentially mean for you? While the chances of getting audited are pretty low, less than 1 percent, no one is completely exempt. Any suspicious activity on your tax returns could mean an increased risk for audit. If you've got unusually large deductions in your recently filed taxes, for example, you may already be raising a big red flag for the IRS.
So what does any of this have to do with social media? Well, if you've written off certain expenses throughout the fiscal year, you want to make sure that the story told by published activity on your social networks corroborates it. If you're the kind of user who regularly checks in or updates your status, you've already created a digital trail. Does this match up with information you've stated on tax return? An audit could reveal discrepancies.
Although it's not totally clear what kind of digital information the IRS could potentially use against you when it it comes to being audited, it's better to be safe about what you share. Some possible avenues for keeping yourself protected could include limiting the dedicated users from your business you allow to share information through your social networks. It's also a good idea to draw up guidelines or contracts stipulating what people should and shouldn't share through company channels.
As bigger companies expand to social media outlets to connect with potential investors, the role that sharing so called “material information” online could have is undergoing constant revision. For instance, Netflix recently used Facebook as a channel to share information about viewership. It's a pioneering move that opens the doors for other businesses to do the same.
But just as sharing information about your travels and expenses in an open forum could come back to haunt you around tax time, you should also be wary about sharing material information. Sure, it could be a terrific way to attract people interested in having a stake in your business. On the other hand, you need to assure that it's accurate, up-to-date and that it doesn't misrepresent facts about your business.
It seems that the takeaway lesson here is that while increased transparency is an in incredibly beneficial part of being on social media, it's always important to identify sensitive company information that could cause more harm than good.
We love a good deal. There's something awesome about getting that thing you desperately need or desire for a few bucks off. Special deals helps us feel like we're in the loop, and somehow ahead of the rest of the pack. They also help us feel rewarded for being loyal customers. But from your perspective, deals can be risky business. Social media is a great way to promote savings, but are you using the intersection between deals and social media to the best of your advantage?
Don't be a Coupon Machine
It's tempting to use social media as the primary way to advertise coupons, sales and deals. The danger here lies in becoming a coupon catalogue. Don't let special offers take over in such way that all your other content falls by the wayside. You need time and space to develop other aspects of your brand, so don't let the coupon clutter build too much.
Do Reward Loyal Followers
If you're trying to engage with your most loyal customers, deals and savings are a great way to reward their excitement and passion for your product. You can generate excitement online with competitions, teasing special deals along the way. It's also not a bad way to repair damage from bad customer experiences.
Don't Use it as Your Only Strategy For Growth
As this study from Rhythm Insights shows, most social media users (close to 60%) follow brands to show their loyalty or support. Creating original content that shows off who you are as a brand is much more vital to a sound social media strategy, so make sure that those efforts take priority over publicizing deals.
Do Make Stipulations
For any deal you're offering, always make stipulations. Plan ahead and set deadlines for deals to expire. Brainstorm with staff members to make sure there aren't any gaping loopholes in your plan that would allow someone to run off with more than you can afford to give away. Make sure you communicate all the fine print to your followers before they take you up on any special deals. You can avoid awkward confrontations and negative customer experiences that way.
With the knowledge that gaining and retaining followers doesn't rely solely on the discounts you offer, you can relax a little and refocus your energies elsewhere. Be as specific as you can with what you're offering, so that your next coupon or sales discount isn't a deal breaker for your most valued customers. Finally, have fun! Create contests, roll out deals with teases that build excitement and document people enjoying your special offers so that you have a reminder of what makes it all worth it.
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!
By now, you've probably heard about the overhaul of Facebook's design. You may even be on the waiting list to try it out. Facebook has undergone major redesigns in the past, but this new wave of change signals a significantly different direction for the social media platform that could change the way users interact with it from here on out. Are you and your business ready for the changes headed your way?
As you may already know, a carefully crafted algorithm determines what's more likely to pop up on a user's feed. The more often users interact with you through Facebook, the more likely they are to see your content prominently featured in their feed. While the way that developing stories are prioritized in users' feeds isn't fundamentally changing, other updates could have an impact on your visibility.
The biggest and most obvious change is that images will be displayed in a much larger format. The new design is also consistent across various devices, which makes sense, since so many users are logging into Facebook from smartphones and tablets now. The move could be a shrewd attempt to recapture some of the younger demographic that has flocked to image-driven platforms like Instagram and Tumblr.
While ads have been a part of Facebook for quite some time now, you'll now have to compete with ‘super ads.' They'll be flashier, take up more space and have the potential to dominate attention if your own content is not up to snuff.
The new Facebook has been described as a personal newspaper, customized for users' personal tastes, so make sure that what you are putting out there is engaging, visually striking and valuable to your audience. The quality of content you create is paramount to gaining and retaining attention.
With such an emphasis on images, the new Facebook is more visually driven than ever. You want to ensure that images hold up in terms of quality, since they'll be much larger. Rich media like video will also be prioritized, so it's good to ensure variety and stay away from content that is solely text-based. Your cover photo will also act as your virtual calling card every time your business is “liked,” so it's important for it to be memorable and truly representative of your brand's identity.
Great interaction with customers will remain an extremely important aspect of using Facebook succesfully. It's more important than ever to connect with your loyal followers, since their interactions with you will spill over into their own friends' newsfeeds. The more you are engaged with people, the bigger role you'll play in their newsfeeds, so make sure you have the tools, time and manpower to answer questions and reach out to active users as much as you can.
As always, having a dedicated team developing and staying on top of your social media plan is crucial, especially when platforms change their look and function. You can trust us to stay on top of things and keep you one step ahead of new shifts so you don't get left behind!
Growing an opt-in email list takes time. It is highly discouraged to buy an email list, since the people on it are not qualified, and more likely to mark your email as spam. Once too many people mark your emails as spam, service providers like Gmail will send your messages to the Spam box for legitimate recipients, as well. Here are some more fruitful tactics you can try.
1. Find a Partner.
If you want to reach a lot of people quickly, consider partnering with another business that has a larger opt-in email list. The joint email should be very clearly marked as a partner email so you can build upon the trust the recipients have with the existing brand. It should simply be presented as an introduction or a special offer for people on the list.
Ideally, you would create a special landing page for the people on the partner company’s list so there is continuity in the message. A special discount code never hurts, either.
2. Use Your Existing Customers.
If there are not any relevant companies willing to partner with you, you will need to build your own list. You should start by asking all of your current clients for their email addresses. If you already have their email addresses, you can send them an initial email asking if they want to receive regular email messages.
It is a good idea to send all optional email messages from an email address that is different from the address you used to send admin communications. This way, if the customer unsubscribes from the new email series, they can still receive notifications about system outages and updates, as well as billing information.
According to CAN-SPAM, since you have an existing business relationship with your customers, you do not need to ask for their permission to email them. However, to keep people from marking your email as spam and affecting your deliverability, you want to be sure you have their permission before you send a second one. This is known as a double opt-in, and is often a required step for legitimate email service providers like MailChimp and Emma. It also ensures that anyone on your list has chosen to be there, which should improve your deliverability in the long run.
3. Ask for New Email Addresses.
There are a number of different ways you can collect email addresses. If you have a physical location, the least painful way is to keep an iPad at the front counter or desk so people can sign themselves up. This saves the time of retyping and prevents having a paper sign up sheet where people can see each other’s email addresses; it protects your customers’ identity security. If you have to have a paper sign up sheet, ask your employee to keep it hidden until people need to sign up.
You can also ask people to sign up online. You should have an email sign-up form on your website, and preferably on your Facebook page, as well. Many of the most popular email service providers have a Facebook app that allows you to easily add a form to your profile.
It’s a good idea to let people know the type of content you will be featuring in your emails as an incentive to add their name to your list. You can also offer something for free in exchange for an email address, like an e-book, but it needs to be compelling enough for people to give up their real email address. Jay Abraham is doing a very excellent job with this. He gives away the transcripts for all of his books as a way of building his email list and developing a relationship with potential clients.
You can also ask for email addresses as a required field in live chats.
Slowly but surely, you will build a list of interested recipients. Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know.
There are a number of tools I’m using these days to increase my productivity. I think other small business owners will benefit from them as well.
I have easy access to all my spreadsheets and documents no matter where I am. It’s ideal for sharing information if several employees are working with the same clients. I really enjoy the ability to limit who has access to the documents. It’s great for people who work in multiple locations throughout the day, including the office and later again at home.
Skype allows me to take calls from anywhere. I have our 1-800 number and Google Voice number redirected to my Skype phone so I never miss a call. I can have international phone calls for next to nothing. I record all my calls in case I ever need to reference them. I can also instant message my coworkers, which comes in handy if they encounter a roadblock and need an immediate answer to get working again.
3. Live Chat
My clients get answers so much faster by sending a chat than an email. Answering questions via live chat also reduces the number of inquiries waiting in my email inbox. It enables me to answer questions in real time so my clients feel valued; they’ve actually mentioned live chat as one of their favorite features, as well.
What are your favorite tools? Share them below!