As more and more of your Internet marketing occurs on a variety of social media platforms, the time required to manage your social media marketing can grow exponentially out of control. Not only is logging on to each individual social media platform time intensive, you may fail to capture data about overall trends across platforms. While these tools do have costs associated with them, you can try them for free. The right tool should more than cover its cost from your increased business profits.
Best for social media beginners
If you are relatively new at managing social media marketing, consider Crowdbooster. This tool focuses on only two platforms – Facebook and Twitter. It tracks all of the activity regarding your social media each day, including shares, likes, retweets, comments, and replies. Not only do you receive a numeric aggregate, you have the opportunity to see who it is that is engaging with you. What makes this a stellar tool for beginners, however, is that it includes recommendations about the actions you should make in response to the reported activity, whether that is commenting, following, or some other response.
Best for analysing customer response
If your social media marketing activities have been scattershot, with a wide variety of post topics, a mix of photos, videos, and text, and occurring when you have the time to make them, you will benefit from a tool like Socialbakers that allows you to analyse which of your posts get the highest rates of engagement. Find out the times of day and days of the week that people are most receptive to your message, as well as the types of content that most resonate with them. If you are modelling a successful Internet marketer or competing for mind share against another business, this tool will also allow you to see how your efforts stack up against theirs across the big three social media platforms, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.
Best for instant response
If you are already working a detailed social media marketing plan, and simply need a tool to help you manage all of the pies in which you have fingers, Sprout Social will do the trick. It monitors mentions of your brand or product across multiple platforms, allowing you to respond from whichever profile is most appropriate, and in whatever manner is most effective. You can see overall demographic breakdowns of your followers at a glance, to help you to better appeal to their needs, or to identify potential growth areas of market segments that are underrepresented. It also breaks down your social media statistics into both an influence level, which reflects how many people are exposed to your message, and an engagement level, which reflects how many people are taking action as a result of your message.
A business-specific Pinterest account can be a valuable part of your social media strategy, if you set it up correctly. Here are the key steps to take in order to create a business-specific Pinterest account that can be used to generate leads, build a customer community, and raise your brand awareness. Once your account is established, you can follow the business-specific tutorials on the Pinterest site to master Pinterest marketing.
Convert an existing account
Early Pinterest adopters may have created a personal account on behalf of their business. To convert this personal account to a business account, after logging in, you merely need to click on the “Convert” button on the Pinterest business page. You will need to select the type of business that you are in, add your contact information, add your business name, and agree to the business-specific terms of service.
Create a new account
If you do not already have a personal Pinterest account, or want to keep your personal account personal and create another account for your business, you will need to create a business-specific Pinterest account. Go directly to the Pinterest business page and click on “Join as a Business”. Choose your user name, select the type of business that you are in, add your contact information, add your business name, and agree to the business-specific terms of service.
Verify your website
The point of the Pinterest account is to drive traffic and sales leads back to your main website, so you will want to have your website verified by Pinterest. To do this, you can either upload a verification file to your website’s root directory or include a meta tag on all of your website’s pages. WordPress websites can easily include the meta tag to the header field of their theme, while custom developed websites will probably prefer to upload the verification file rather than change every page of the site.
Customise your account
Whether you created a brand new account or converted an existing account, you will want to customise it for your business. Modify your profile, and include a new header image that matches the header image you use for other social media platforms. Add your verified website, as well as links to your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Include a short company biography similar to what you have on the About section of your Facebook page.
Keyword optimise your account
Create a Pinterest board matching every keyword for which you want your account optimised. To easily add pictures to your boards, install the Pin It bookmarklet to your Internet browser. Then, whenever you come across something that you think your target market will find useful or interesting, you can pin it to the relevant board. Track the number of repins you are getting to fine tune your strategy for what will make the best pins.
It’s easy to get swept up into social media madness, spending hours every day following the thought leaders in your industry and inserting your brand into every meaningful conversation. However, at the end of the day, has that time been well spent for your business, creating real leads and sales, or has it wasted time that could have been better used elsewhere? Follow these four tips to use your social media time wisely, as a crucial and aligned element of your marketing efforts.
Focus on your business
Every industry is different, and the needs of business-to-business companies will be different from the needs of business-to-consumer companies. Based on your demographic, determine which social media platforms your customers use, and focus your attention only on those platforms. Figure out where social media fits into your overall business model, whether as a means for customer support, brand awareness, or lead generation, and then align your social media efforts with the rest of your efforts to support that business function. Pay no attention to any measure of popularity for your competitors, only to how well your own efforts are supporting your chosen business function. Ruthlessly select your social media activities based on return on investment, and only pursue those with the highest ROI.
Create content first
To create valuable content, determine who your customers are and what they want. Then create content that tells them how to get that. Most of the time, your products will help them, however when they have a want that isn’t addressed by your products, tell them how to satisfy that need anyway. Be entertaining, interesting, and informative. Write with a distinct personality, from a specific point of view, including people, things, and companies you like as well as those you dislike or feel could have done something better. Reuse your content by contributing it to industry publications or using it as the basis for in-person talks or webinars.
Use the right measurements
For Facebook, the number of your Fans is not as important as the “People Talking About This” metric. Fans are a theoretical number of people who might have seen your post, while the number of people talking about it – liking it, sharing it, or commenting on it – is a real number. Twitter followers rarely convert to sales, whereas you can statistically predict the number of sales that will be generated by every email based on the number of email subscribers. Therefore, the number of subscribers is more important than the number of followers.
Give it time
The most important thing about social media is that it is not instantaneous. People will still be discovering your content for months and years after you post it. Don’t get discouraged if you do not have an immediate reaction to your efforts, and stop too soon.
Especially with all of the changes that have been rolled out in the past few months, LinkedIn has a large number of features. However, you do not need to learn all of them at once. Instead, to become a LinkedIn master, you need to learn the 20% of functions that will give you 80% of the benefit of using LinkedIn. You can easily learn those functions within one day by focusing on your company page.
Why you need a company page
Company pages let you communicate with fans and followers of your company and its products, recruit new talent, and collect and share testimonials and endorsements for your products and services. LinkedIn provides useful analytics regarding visitors, including what your visitors are most interested in learning more about, which lets you tailor your messages to appeal to these prospective customers.
Create a company page
To create a company page, navigate to http://www.linkedin.com/companies and click on “Add a Company”. Enter the company name and an email from the company domain. Click on “Edit Page” and assign admin authority to everyone in the company who is authorised to post changes to the company page, or else everyone from the company domain can update the page. Enter the details about your company, including a keyword rich summary in “About Us”. Click on the “Products & Services” tab and edit that page to list all of your company’s products and services, with the most important ones listed first. Be sure to include purchase links. If you have job openings in your company, click on the “Careers” tab and edit that page as well.
Drive engagement with content
The first content to drive engagement is your cover image. Make it visually engaging and representative of your company, such as a scene of people using your product, rather than a company logo. Next, request reviews of your products and services from your existing customers. Have all of your company’s employees connect to the company page. Publish useful content about your company, products, and services that is targeted to specific customer and employee demographics, as well as important featured content available to everyone. Make sure that all content, whether on LinkedIn, on your website, or in other social media, contains buttons or links to allow people to become followers of the company page.
Drive leads with ads
LinkedIn ads allow you to send your message to the 175 million worldwide LinkedIn users. This number includes nearly 8 million business decision makers, more than 1 million small business owners, more than 4 million corporate executives, and 5 ½ million IT and technology managers. LinkedIn ads allow you to target specific job titles and functions, industry, company size, seniority, age, or membership in particular LinkedIn groups. Use standard best practices for pay per click advertising such as split testing, using many targeted ads versus a few general ads, and appealing to people close to making a buying decision.
In the online world, your reputation is everything. A new company with some whiz-bang products or services can make a big splash, but as soon as product or service reviews start hitting the social media, there is little that a company can do to counter a bad offering, no matter how big their advertising budget is. Unfortunately, competitors realise this, and unscrupulous ones may create false reviews in the hopes of tarnishing your reputation. There are also a certain percentage of people who will give you bad reviews without ever having used your product or service, simply because it reminds them of another product or service they used in the past with which they were dissatisfied. The good news is, however, that this is a situation you can fix.
Turn unhappy customers into fans
The easiest way to ensure people do not find bad reviews of your goods or services is to make excellent products and have exemplary customer service. However, even the best companies make the occasional mistake. By monitoring the major social media platforms for use of your company or product names, you can find disgruntled customers while there is still time to salvage the relationship. Take steps to satisfy them, and they’re likely to post equally glowing comments or blog entries about your excellent customer service. Make it easy for happy customers to write positive reviews about you by including links to review sites in your confirmation emails.
Monitor your appearance
If your product is easily recognisable from a photograph, do regular searches of the Internet to ensure it is not being used in inappropriate ways. Use the Facebook photo searching capabilities to locate photos that people have tagged with your company or product name, and remove the tag of any that are unflattering. If your company has a widely recognised President or CEO, you should search on that name, as well. Similarly, make sure that any publicly accessible photographs posted by employees, even if the photographs are posted on their personal Facebook accounts, do not tag the company or products in an unfavourable light.
Create a positive reputation
Using standard SEO practices, you can ensure that the first page of results returned in a search for your company or product names are pages featuring positive reviews, pages sponsored by your company, or places where your products can be purchased. If necessary, you can even create pages with your product name and a derogatory word such as “scam” or “problems” that will match that phrase for search engine results. However the content of the page will be that the product is not a scam or has only insignificant problems. Unscrupulous businesses whose products really are scams or have major problems sometimes use this methodology to temporarily paper over the bad publicity, although the reaction to an attempted cover-up is usually far worse than the reaction to the bad product. Therefore, if you create pages in this manner, make sure they do not give the impression of being unscrupulous.
You’re probably familiar with the 80/20 rule. For example, 80% of your profits will likely come from 20% of your customers. However, this rule breaks down when it comes to the Internet and social media. 80% of the content on the Internet is produced by less than 15% of the people. When it comes to social media, the number is even lower, with 80% of the content being produced by less than 10% of the people.
As a result, you can quickly get your name, reputation, and products widely dispersed throughout the Internet and social media sphere if you get these key influencers to mention you. To do that, you need to grow your influence with these influencers.
Locate the Key Influencers
Before you can influence these people, you need to know who they are. Do a search for your area of influence – or for your customer’s area of influence, if you are doing this as part of your Internet marketing services for them – in influence ranking services such as Klout, PeerIndex, or Kred. Note the names, websites, and blogs of any people who are ranked highly for your area of influence.
Look at services that compile the most influential blogs for your area of influence, such as AllTop. You can also find people who are influencers by searching active LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages for your topic, noting not only who the organiser is, but who are the most active commenters. This requires slightly more research than simply taking the names given to you by a ranking service, but a side benefit of the research is that you may discover groups and pages you want to follow in this process.
Once you have identified between ten and twenty key influencers, you are ready to begin growing your influence with them.
Join the Conversation
Using a feed reader such as Google Reader, you can aggregate all of the blogs of your key influencers. This allows you to see at a glance what topics are hot within your industry. You can also aggregate Twitter streams and LinkedIn groups using a social media aggregator such as HootSuite. Again, the purpose is to easily see what the key influencers are saying.
Once you’ve listened to what they’re saying for a while, and have a sense of the values and culture embraced by each of your key influencers, you can focus on the ones that most resonate with your goals and values. Promote their work with your list, and let them know you’re doing so. Become a customer of theirs. Comment on their posts. Contribute to their groups, pages, or forums. Refer customers to them. In general, present yourself as a knowledgeable, helpful person who is aligned with their values and culture.
Many people think that being a good salesperson requires developing relationships with lots of “rapport” and expressions of warmth. Their goal is to develop a persona like a fishing buddy or other person with whom their customer would share many good times and personal intimacy. The internet marketing side of this comes out in how you portray yourself in social media.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with developing such relationships with your customers, it’s the wrong attitude with which to start. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Your customer isn’t looking for a friend; they’re looking for an expert whom they can trust. Once they find such an expert, they expect to be told the truth, even when the truth won’t bring them closer to buying something from you. That’s what true experts do, and it’s what wins both minds and hearts.
Tell your customers the truth. Even better take the stance that you’re there to serve, not to sell. No one wants to be sold anything. People want to buy. Take the stance that you’ll find out what your customer needs, even if it isn’t something you can provide to them; even if it’s something that a competitor can provide. When you take this stance, you begin to rise above the crowd and gain a reputation for excellence and service.
If you want to really maximise the potential here, take the stance that you’ll even be willing to risk the relationship if that’s what you believe is best for the customer. This might include telling the customer that they’re about to do something that they haven’t thought through enough, or that is a mistake—and why. You can tell them this nicely, and you should always get permission first.
Those who do their level best to put the customer first, not just as a catchy slogan or catchphrase but as a way of living, will find in many cases that their customers will become enthusiastic fans who recommend them to all of their friends. They will refer business to you, and that’s always the best way to get new customers.
Once you understand that your customers need you to be the expert they can trust, you will find this leads to a variety of different behaviours. How will you dress? What will your website look like? How will you communicate with prospects? What will your stationery, business cards, and proposals look like? All of these questions can be answered by determining what will make it easiest for potential customers to view you as an expert they can trust.
Those who try to be all things to all prospects find themselves in a weak position, since it is impossible to be an expert in everything. They rarely build lasting relationships of real value.
Don’t be your customer’s friend. Be their ally and serve their true needs. See what happens. You’ll be amazed at the results.
Are you trying to maintain a social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites, and discovering that there aren’t enough hours in the day to read everything that the thought leaders and social influencers in your sphere are saying, let alone search for mentions of your products or services? But you’re terrified that if you start skimming – or worse, skipping! – posts you’ll miss something crucial.
If This Then That (abbreviated IFTTT) is the perfect solution for social media overwhelm. It allows you to specify different rules for each social media platform that you are following. You can have it automatically alert you via email or text message based on who is posting, or on keywords that are used in their post.
This is an excellent way to find out who is saying something about your company anywhere in social media. Set up an alert that references your company name, or the name of your major product. Whenever a happy customer tells their friends about their experience with your company, you can follow up asking for reviews, referrals, or additional sales. Whenever a disgruntled customer tells their friends about their experience with your company, you can follow up with immediate damage control, doing whatever it takes to turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan who will tell everyone how you fixed their problem.
You can also identify the thought leaders and social influencers that you wish to get closer to, and get alerted whenever they mention something in your area of knowledge. You can jump right in with an insightful comment or helpful suggestion to a problem they’re having, and immediately be recognized by their other friends and followers as someone of value.
Other ways people are using IFTTT are to automatically update their status in Facebook when they receive reviews from clients or are tagged in other people’s photographs. They can receive text messages warning about weather conditions that are likely to cause traffic slowdowns. If you use a webmail service such as Gmail, you can set the system up to automatically create new records in your customer contacts database when request for information forms arrive in your email.
Since the service is currently free, many people are also using it for personal situations as well as business. Some examples include notifying you of when new streaming video becomes available on Netflix, to record a history of rain for your location, or to track the music you listen to through a service such as Scrobbled.
Best of all, if you are part of an internet marketing agency that performs social media services for other companies, you can use IFTTT to convince them that they are your number one client, with dedicated support. After all, whenever anything about their company appears in the social media, you’re on it within a matter of minutes.
Have you heard of Pinterest yet? Are you using it? If you’re not making use of this social network marketing channel, your business will shortly be left behind as your competitors who are using Pinterest surge past you in sales, customers, and online influence.
The concept behind Pinterest is fairly simple. You create what is basically an online pin board, to which you can pin pictures of things you like. These can be product photos, captured webpages, or photos of people or places. You can create multiple pin boards, each of which collects a certain category or theme of things that you like. People who follow your pin board are able to view the images you’ve pinned to your board, comment on them, and even re-pin the images to their own boards.
This is an extreme simplification, but it’s the general concept. At this point, you may be wondering how it can possibly be a useful marketing channel.
Where Pinterest differs from a standard pin board is in what happens when you “touch” one of the pinned images. On a standard pin board, you can pull out the pin and pick up the image it was holding – and now you have an image in your hand. On Pinterest, however, when you pick up an image (by double-clicking on it), you’re taken to whatever webpage the image is linked to. So for a product photo, you may be taken to an online retailer where you can buy that product. The captured webpage image would take to you that webpage. Photos of people or places may take you to a fan site or personal webpage for a person, and a tourism website or travel agency may be linked to the image of a place.
If the pictures are particularly beautiful, moving, interesting, or captivating, they will be re-pinned onto other people’s pin boards. You can add words and other graphics to an otherwise interesting image to make it even more likely to be re-pinned. All of these other people are then doing your marketing for you, because any time someone sees the image on their pin board and “picks it up” by double-clicking on it, they’ll be directed to the website you selected.
How many people are viewing these pin boards? There are 11 million Pinterest users, making it the fastest growing social network ever. It is the #2 social network (after Facebook), and has more users than Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter combined. While the initial adopters of Pinterest were almost all women, as more and more people join, the ratio of men to women is trending toward parity. While it is an ideal way of reaching a female demographic, you can also use it to reach millions of men.
With the social network media buzzing about Google+ and Google+ Local, I decided it was time to delve into this new and constantly evolving scene and find out what it means to Internet marketing. Google+ Local has replaced Google Places and in the process added some features that will impact the way your business is found locally and what they see when they do find you.
This new feature in Google+ is a more personalised way to search for businesses than the traditional web search. When you log in to your Google+ and go to the new local tab you are taken to your local home page. Here, you can put in your location when you search and also choose whether or not you want to see results based on reviews and people in your circles.
The results are where you see the new and improved Google+ Local. All of the basic business information is displayed along with a new Zagat score and reviews from locals, people in your circle and people like you, based on your profile. You will also see pictures more prominently and a Google Map with the listings.
So, now, you simply have to put Google+ Local to work for you and your business. First, you have to understand that Google+ Local is indexed pages and this will be the basis of your online marketing strategy using these pages. As indexed pages, query results will be both stand alone pages and pinned results that are controlled by Google.
Whilst this does mean that Google will have editorial discretion on the content of pages, and they will display competitors’ ads on the bottom of the pages, it also means that as the business owner, you have a role in controlling your content, and need to employ SEO tactics. You should constantly monitor your listing on Google+ Local and use this in other online marketing strategies.
My first suggestion is to create local ads for Google+ Local to showcase your business. These are called express ads and will bring more traffic to your website .Much of that traffic is going to be local traffic that converts to revenue.
There is more to Google+ Local and Express that adds more value to your ads. Express ads not only show up when your business type is queried, they can also appear in the “Sponsored Links” section of Google and Google Maps search results.
If this sounds alien and you, like me at times, need a visual, imagine that you are searching for accommodations for your next holiday. Your query in Google+ Local will return results that are not only relevant to my search but will include reviews from people in my Circles if there are any and any results that are based on their input.
As a business owner, what you have to understand is that Google+ Local will impact your business regardless of whether or not you get involved in marketing with Google Express. All it takes is someone on Google+ to post a review or comment about your business and that will travel from Circle to Circle and ultimately across the Internet when your business is queried.
My suggestion to you is to take time to walk around the Google+ landscape and see what it is for yourself. If you choose not to get involved, you will only have yourself to blame.
If you have used Google+ Local in your marketing campaign, I’d love to hear from you. Use our comments section to share your success or lack thereof with others, and we can all learn how to improve our online marketing.