Social Media Marketing
On Thursday of last week, Reuters reported that Twitter launched a service to allow small businesses to buy and place ads on the service. Since 2010, Twitter has sold “promoted tweets” to large businesses on a case by case basis. The new service will be open to small businesses who use American Express, and will be limited to the first 10,000 small businesses that sign up. Go to the sign-up page here.
I have noticed the change as early as yesterday in my Twitter feed. In the past, promoted tweets were few and far between, and were clearly marked as promoted tweets. They would stay at the top of the twitter feed as you updated it, even as they aged. I noticed in my twitter feed yesterday tweets from small businesses that stayed at the top of my twitter feed as I refreshed, even though the tweet was 3 hours old. They were not clearly marked as promoted tweets, but they obviously were, since they stayed in the top position. I’m not sure how this is going to go over with twitter users. Twitter says the response has been mostly positive. By limiting initial use of the system to businesses that use or accept American Express, they may be able to eliminate scams, spammers, and other problems that plague Google and Facebook.
It does present an opportunity for small businesses hoping to promote their online presence through social media. Advertisers are able to pick cities or regions where they want their ads to appear. The dashboard allows you to choose from 210 markets in the US, so it may be a way for small businesses to do a very targeted local marketing. The ad is still limited to the 140 character limit. Twitter will only charge the advertiser when the ad gets a response. A response can be in the form of a follow, a retweet, or a click on the link.
Any social media strategy should be implemented carefully within the framework of a larger Online Presence Management strategy. As I would advise any of my Indianapolis SEO and OPM clients, if a social media presence is an important part of your overall online presence management strategy, sponsored tweets may now offer a very cost effective way for building a social media presence for your small business.
An article in the business section of the Washington Post reports on Twitters new program for small business advertising.
This article in Mashable.com reports on Twitters Self-serve ad platform, which they have opened to 10,000 small businesses.
A new player is emerging in the social media category. This site may be especially suited to cash in for both itself and marketers. If you haven’t been to Pinterest.com, you should give it a try. It’s kind of hard to describe. The best way to describe it would be that it is a photo sharing site, where all of the photos are things you have discovered on the web, and you feel like sharing why you like it with others. Also, each of the photos has a link back to where you can read more about and in many cases purchase it on the web.
If you go there and try to sign up for an account, you will discover one of the first things about Pinterest that is a lot different than other sites. You can’t join immediately. You have to be invited. You can request an invitation, but you will wait 48-72 hours to get a reply. Then you will be able to really start using the site. This sign up strategy is discussed in this businessinsider.com article, where they credit it for some of Pinterest’s early success.
The first thing you will notice about most of the things you will see initially (before customizing it more to your interests) is that they seem to be geared towards women. You will see lots of pinned items about clothes, home furnishings, recipes, etc. This is due to the fact that according to this techcrunch article, the core users for Pinterest are currently 18-34 year old upper income women from the American heartland. Don’t let that fuel you into thinking this is just a site for that audience. The concept works for a lot of other demographics, and you can eventually customize your Pinterest to contain more things that pertain to your interests. The demographic that has become early adopters of Pinterest is much different from the east and west coast early adopters of most start-ups, and in shows in the interests of it users. And how many users does Pinterest have? The techcrunch.com article reports that Pinterest has reached 10 million unique monthly visitors faster than any standalone site ever.
How does Pinterest make money? They aren’t saying for sure, but this businessinder.com article speculates on one ingenious possible business model. Pinterest gives people a place to share things they like. Many of those things have a link back to where you can purchase them on the web. If Pinterest takes your shared link and adds an affiliate tag to it, they could be getting an affiliate commission every time someone purchases something after seeing it recommended on Pinterest. In his example, one of things people share is books they like. They share it by sharing an Amazon.com link to the book. If Pinterest adds their affiliate tag to the link, they collect a percentage of the purchase.
It’s really brilliant in it’s simplicity. Give people a forum to share things they like, and a way to link to those things. Make money when someone learns of a product through Pinterest and ends up buying it. The pinterest users are doing the advertising for you.
So how can you take advantage of this as a marketer? Make it easy for products on your site to be Pinned by Pinterest users. It’s like Facebooks ‘Like’ button or Google+’s ‘+1’ button, but it puts all of thos things together into one big, word of mouth recommended, easy to browse market place. According to this businessinsider.com article, a Pinterest link to an item on your site has quickly become one of the easiest ways to draw amazing amounts of traffic. The article even walks you through the how-to-do it steps of actually adding a button to your site.
If you have an online presence, especially a retail web site, social media is becoming an ever increasing part of your online presence management strategy. Pinterest may very well quickly become the best social media site for generating word of mouth referrals and traffic to your site.
I was reading an article about the recruiting strategies of Twitter, and one of the comments slammed working at twitter as a place to work. He had a small graph to back up his claim that Twitter was fading. This graph couldn’t possibly be correct, I thought. With all of the hype surrounding social media, Twitters reach could not possibly be on the decline already, could it? So I found a tool that he had used to graph ‘Reach’, according to Alexa. They define reach as the percent of all users who visit a given site. It is expressed in the number of users per million who visit that site. Here is the graph of reach for the last two years for twitter:
Wow, it appears that Twitter’s reach peaked in July or August of last year, and does in fact appear to be on a downward trajectory. This made me a little curious about the reach of some other sites, so I tried Facebook. Surely Facebook has an ever-expanding reach. Here’s the same Alexa Reach graph for Facebook:
Facebook was also on the expected upward growth in reach, until July-August of last year. They aren’t dropping, but their reach obviously flattened out at around the same time frame. Interesting, but just a coincidence? Let’s look at Google, same time frame:
Google appear to have peaked at just over 500,000 out of a million, or half of all users in early July of last year. Although not as dramatic as Twitter or Facebook, they did have a sharp drop in August and an apparent flattening out of growth in their reach since that point in time.
What does this mean? Google, Twitter, Facebook, what happened last summer? Did the public reach some tipping point of oversaturation from these three major players on the internet? These figures are gathered from users of the Alexa tool bar, was there a change in Alexa users that caused these figures to change? If you have any theories, Please comment below.
If you have an online presence, trends can impact how you should be allocating your resources to best strengthen your online presence. It is important to follow trends in search and social media. If you have a social media strategy, it is important to know the potential reach of social media. It is much hyped right now, but is the general public growing tired of Twitter and Facebook? It is important to have better search engine rankings, but is Google losing its reach? If so it bears watching, and you might want to cover your bases. There are many ways to be found on the internet, and a good online presence management strategy involves making sure you are found in all of those places. Good website SEO is important, but things are constantly changing, so being found everywhere is better.
Chobani is a small, New York state based greek yogurt manufacturer. They compete against huge global brands Dannon and Yoplait. A recent case study of their use of social media has some valuable lessons on best practices in social media. Fast Company published an interview with Emily Schildt, Chobani’s Digital Communications Manager that contains some valuable lessons for any online presence managers considering a social media strategy as part of their online presence management strategy.
The brand seems to inspire an evangelical loyalty from its customers. After the introduction of an Apple-Cinnamon flavor, they saw activity at the rate of over one tweet a minute, similar results on Facebook, as well as strong fan activity on Pinterest. The article focuses on Chobani’s efforts too curate social media content, repining relevant content, and developing customer loyalty. After seeing conversations about their brand evolving among fans on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, they decided that Pinterest was the best forum for focusing their efforts. The visual nature and the target audience seem to be two of the motivating factors for the decision. Chobani’s now got 17 boards on Pinterest. According to Schildt, Pinterest allows you to showcase more than one core value of your brand. For instance, inspirational quotes are posted o a Chobani “Nothing but Good” board, while motivational quotes are posted on a “Chobani Fit” board. These boards have no direct relation to yogurt, but can help brand the product as a force for good, and a force for physical fitness. These are great examples of using content to create an image, rather than just spouting the virtues of your product over and over, which has unfortunately become the norm for many corporate social media interactions.
Multiple boards also allowed them to Micro-Target customer personas. A travel board targets adventurous types, the Chopani Champions boards offers advice for moms. Other advice gleaned from their experience includes don’t be afraid to share and be responsive. One board shares yogurt recipes, without any direct mention of Chobani. They are not afraid to share they may have increasing consumption of yogurt witht heir competitors. Responsiveness is a result of monitoring social media, curating appropriate content, and responding whenever necessary to suggestions or complaints.
This success story has a lot of valuable lesson for anyone with an online presence. First, you need to monitor social media for anything related to your company or brand. Once social media picks up on a brand or business, there are ways to maximize that opportunity if it is handled correctly. In the curating of social media, don’t be too company or brand focused. Focus on providing content that is something of interest to your targeted demographic, but not blatantly marketing driven. The content can be a good way to establish perceived core values of the brand without even mentioning the product.
So you have decided to take control of your businesses online presence. You’ve decided to take charge and manage your online presence to strengthen your online image. You are either doing it yourself, or you’ve hired an online presence manager to help you. You’ve decided that social media targets the demographics you are shooting for, or perhaps you’ve realized your competitors have used social media to engage potential customers or to build loyalty in your existing customer base. So you want to develop a social media strategy.
There are many things you need to consider before jumping in and opening twitter account or setting up a Facebook or Google+ business page. I talked about these things in this blog post in my 11 part series on Online Presence Management. They include defining your target audience, setting goals for your social media strategy, and choosing platforms to best target your potential audience. Once that is done, and it’s time to start tweeting or posting to Google+ or Facebook, what do you say? This is where it gets a little tougher; there is no sure fire recipe for success. You need to be creative, and not be afraid to do your own thing. But you can’t really answer the question “how do I create compelling content?”. That’s like answering the question “how do I write an interesting book?”. In the interest of giving some direction, perhaps it is easier to give some pointers on common mistakes others have made. Hopefully you can learn from their mistakes.
An interesting article I read recently in memeburn.com on 3 ways brands fail on Facebook shows some common mistakes made by some very big brands. Perhaps just avoiding these common poor social media strategies is the best advice I can give you on how to proceed in finding your voice in social media. The three biggest mistakes that they found were:
Spamming Product Information
Don’t use social media to just constantly post product information over and over. All of that is available at your website. The example they used was Kellogg’s All Bran. Here are some sample Facebook posts:
These posts are all too product centric. Some advice here would be to think tangentially about what people who eat All-Bran are interested in. They are probably health conscious. They probably have interests in the health, lifestyle and fitness areas. Instead of posting about the benefits of the product, post some compelling content about other healthy choices, create some original lifestyle content, or post links to some favorite fitness web sites. This accomplishes two things. First, it makes the content more compelling than just regurgitating facts about how great your product is. Second, and most important, it builds your brand in that it associates your product with other ideas like a healthy lifestyle and fitness that build a positive product image.
They use an example of a woman’s clothing store that just posted images of their products randomly, with no tie in to any ideas. Just keep in mind when you are posting, try to make sure that the posting is something that you would want to read. Even though they have opted in to seeing the social media, don’t take that as license to push just anything out there. Make sure that each post has a compelling message, a tie in to further engagement via a link, or at least an original thought about something of interest. Avoid posting just for the sake of posting, which brings us to the next pitfall…
Over posting is the fastest way to lose credibility (and followers) on any social media. You should have a loose schedule that you try to follow, and a goal for the minimum number of posts. Try to stick to that schedule as much as possible. Your posts should be more or less evenly spaced over the time of day in which you post. If you have a goal of five posts a day, and it’s 4:45, you’re getting ready to head out and you haven’t posted at all, don’t do 5 posts in 5 minutes. It makes your posts seem forced, and less likely to be engaging. Frivolous and pointless posts push people away.
Finally, think of your social media posts like a conversation you are having with a friend. Speak to them about things you have a mutual interest in. Try to make the things you say compelling. Relate interesting and newsworthy things about those mutual interests. Don’t speak just because you can.
In light of all the recent privacy concerns on Facebook, I was thinking about the parts of Facebook that people would really miss if we woke up tomorrow and Facebook were gone. I don’t regularly update my Facebook status with where I’m eating, or when I’m at the gym, as some of my friends do. But there are certain events in my life that I wouldn’t mind sharing with my friends and family. The truth is I don’t consider every one of my Facebook “friends” to be a true friend that I want to share everything with. Google+ circles recognized this fact, and it is one of the main reasons for their success so far. But a new social media may be on the rise, with a few interesting twists on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.
It’s called Path. It’s been around for awhile, and in November, 2011, the re-released a re-targeted version of the app. One of the first differences you’ll notice is that it is only available as an iPhone and Android App. It was designed from the ground up to be mobile. The second thing you’ll notice is that instead of being designed as a social media, it was designed to be a journal of your life, which coincidentally can be shared. Path originally limited the number of people you could share with to 50, but with the re-release in November that number was raised to 150. 150 is called the “Dunbar number” after British Anthropologist Robin Dunbar. According to Dunbar’s work, 150 is the upper limit of trusted relationships we can have as human beings, and that may be a direct function of our biology.
Because of the limit of people you may share with, they hope to create a more intimate feel of only your closes family and friends, with whom you will be willing to share more. Another reason you might be inclined to share more is the lack of fear that anything you post may make you a target for marketing. The App is free, and has no advertising. Users must pay for some features. Matt Van Horn, Vice President of Path said “We believe in creating quality products that our users will want to pay for,”. He went on to say that “Facebook changed the world. People were themselves for the first time, putting their real name on the Internet, and then connecting with every person they had ever met, but we really believe the next generation of social is going to be personal.”
Is “Social” Media going to become “Personal” Media? Let me know what you think in the comments.
Read more about Path:
If you have a business, you have an online presence. One of the biggest questions most online presence managers faced this year was how did a social media strategy fit into the big picture of their overall online presence management strategy.
If you believe the hype, social media was the most important development since sliced bread, and if you had a website you had to have a Facebook page, a twitter account, a Google+ page. If you saw through the hype, you probably asked why? What can social media do for my business? As I discussed in my Guide to Online Presence Management blog post on social media, whether or not your business could benefit from social media depends a lot on the type of business, and more specifically, the target demographic of customers you were trying to attract. Social Media is an important component of online presence for some businesses, but now the hype may be tempered with a little reality, as important questions about ROI are finally being asked.
As early as Aug. 15, a Gartner Report stated findings of consumer fatigue with social media. Bloggers in September began to question whether social media had run the course of the “hype” cycle. Here’s an example of that. Every new development in communication on the web seems to go through a cycle where it is adopted, then picked up for use by marketers and heralded as “the greatest marketing tool ever”. Then, sometimes hastened by overuse of marketers, its usefulness wanes as users resist the over-commercialization of the new media. Think of email, then the explosion of spam, and then the settling of email into what it is today. This blog post in smartblogs on Dec. 27th suggested that we have finally hit the peak of the hype cycle in social media.
Does this mean that social media will go away? No. Does this mean that social media was over-hyped? Yes, but every innovative change in online communication was. What does the future of social media hold for businesses looking to social media as part of their online presence management strategy? It has a role to play for some types of businesses, but should only be used when ROI is clearly defined, or it can use up resources best used elsewhere.
Since other technologies have undergone this same “hype” cycle during amazing growth followed by eventual maturation into something important but less than the initial hype, don’t we have a way to discuss and understand this phenomenon? A model of similar growth and finally maturation does exist. To understand what is happening this year in social media, we should look at Geoffrey Moore’s Technology Adoption Life Cycle. This model shows how many technology innovations evolve through innovation to early adopters, a chasm of acceptance by early adopters, the early majority, the late majority, and then the laggards.
You can read more about the Technology Adoption Life Cycle here. Many of the studies cited in the referenced blog posts indicate that we have entered the latter part of the “Late Majority” phase, probably entering the “Laggard” phase for social media. Some of the blog posts use these numbers to claim that slowing growth by social media indicates their imminent demise. The truth is we are probably entering a maturing phase for social media, where it will eventually take its place as the communication media that it is, nothing more, nothing less. It is not the over-hyped be all and end all of marketing communication that some would have had us believe, but it definitely serves a purpose.
Social media can be used to engage customers and potential customers. They can also be used to help improve search engine rankings when they draw those users to your website. How, when and where you use social media, and the resources spent in developing and implementing a social media strategy, should be managed with a realistic eye on Return on Investment (ROI).
In this seventh part of my eleven part series on Online Presence Management I am going to discuss developing a Social Media Strategy.
Social media has had a huge impact on how people spend time on the web. Time spent on Facebook alone now exceeds time spent on search and email combined.
The first step in developing a social media strategy is to decide if your target audience participates heavily in social media. Is it a good forum to engage your potential customers? Despite the current hype surrounding social media, the answer to this question is not always yes. For Business to Business (B2B) businesses, the answer could very well be no. As a B2B you may need to consider a more business geared social media site such as LinkedIn. For Business to Consumer business it is more likely that the answer to the question of whether or not you could benefit from social media is yes. For as-needed services like auto repair or home repair, social media may not be an area where you should concentrate your effort.
There is currently a lot of hype surrounding social media. You will quite probably read something that says all businesses can benefit from the use of social media. Wading through the hype is one of the challenges of managing a strong online presence. Keep your business goals in mind first. Evaluate your potential client pool. Estimate their involvement in social media. An Online Presence Manager may help you in making some of these decisions.
As a first step in establishing a social media strategy as part of your online presence, look at your business type, your potential customers, and possible ways to engage them with social media. If you are a service oriented business, or an as-needed service type business with little or no repeat business, social media will probably not provide you many benefits. If you are a consumer oriented business with high repeat business potential that wants to build a loyal brand following, establishing a social media presence would be a larger part of your overall online presence management strategy. The decision as to whether or not social media should be a component of your overall online presence strategy is a complex one. Your business type, the goals of your online presence strategy, and the demographics of your target customer pool will all play a part in the decision process.
If you decide that social media could assist you in reaching your online presence business goals, the next step is to determine goals for the social media component of your online presence strategy. As when you established goals for your online presence management strategy, these goals should business oriented as opposed to internet oriented. Some example goals could be build a stronger brand, build customer loyalty, engage and reward customer loyalty, etc. Without a business oriented goal for your social media, it is too easy to get caught up in the “everybody has a twitter account, so I should have a twitter account” mentality that is generated by the social media hype. Without a goal to drive your efforts, you can easily waste resources in this area that could be better spent somewhere else.
If you decide that your online presence can be enhanced with social media, you should then establish which social media best targets your audience and aligns with your goals. Facebook reaches the broadest audience. LinkedIn reaches a more professional, business oriented audience. Google+ currently tends towards a male, technical, early adopter audience. Twitter tends to reach a younger, trendier audience. Once you’ve decided which platforms fit with your online presence strategy, establish a strong presence there. There are tools that help you manage your presence within each platform, as well as tools that allow you to manage that presence across multiple platforms.
Facebook pages should be designed and managed. This can be done directly from the Facebook interface, or by using one of a number of customization tools. You can also link your Facebook business page to your twitter account, so that tweets will also appear as Facebook status updates. The Facebook interface allows you to customize your page, and even provides a best practices guide for making your Facebook page more engaging.
A twitter account can be used in multiple ways. Twitter provides tools for customizingTweets can be used to offer deals, specials or other time critical news that can engage potential clients directly. They can also be used in conjunction with blogging. A tweet when a new blog posting is added to your website is a good way to convey that information to loyal followers of your website, and to build a loyal following.
If you are managing several different types of social media for your business, tools like Hootsuite can help you manage them. It also gives you more analytic capabilities than you would have using the social media interface directly.
Social media is just one component of a strong online presence. Once you determine that social media is an appropriate forum to engage your potential or existing clients, develop a strategy for how you intend to use social media. Be careful to not be seduced by the hype of social media when making these decisions. If used well, social media can be an extremely cost effective way to engage potential clients. It can be used in support of other activities such as blogging an website SEO, that can lead to better search engine ranking, and ultimately help you obtain the business goals of your online presence management strategy.
If you are a business owner who realizes how important your online presence is to your success, you have probably wondered how social media fits into your online presence management strategy. A lot of business owners react to things they hear. They hear a lot about Facebook, so they think “We need a Facebook page”. They hear about Twitter, so they think their company needs to “Tweet”. The truth is, not every business will benefit from engagement with social media. B2B businesses, for example, will probably only see limited success with any social media campaign.
Once you or your SEO Expert has decided that you can benefit from a social media campaign, decide what the goals of the campaign will be. Then it’s time to decide which social media platform can deliver the results you need to reach those goals. The main platforms for engaging potential customers socially were Facebook and Twitter. The emerging platform is Google+. Google+ recently added the ability to set up business pages. Google+ has struggled, and whether or not it will ever grow to challenge Facebook is a topic that I don’t intend to debate here. I’m just going to say that given Google’s resources and apparent commitment to a social media platform, I wouldn’t bet against them. That being said, a recent article in WebProNews gave some very compelling arguments on why a business page on Google+ is so important, and could be increasingly important going forward.
The main points made in the article are:
- Google likes to rank its own stuff first when it’s relevant.
- Google has hinted that it doesn’t want to rank social media unless there is a signal as to the authority of the author – Google does not index content from Facebook or Twitter.
- Google likes ‘Freshness’ and has added a ‘Trending Topics’ to Google+.
- Google has shown preference to its own properties like YouTube in rankings returned.
- Google does seem to index Google+ Content, and return it in the results, typically on the first page.
Few of those points can be disputed. When you look at those points, you would have to conclude that eventually Google intends for Google+ to be the most authoritative platform for social media, and the only social media platform that can directly benefit you search engine results.
As you consider social media platforms, Google+ may not be the place where you are going to reach the most people. It could be the place where you are going to get the most bang for your buck, in that it could solidify your online presence with Google and give you a stronger search engine ranking.
If you are considering using social media as part of your Online Presence Management strategy, and one of the goals of that strategy is better search engine ranking, you should probably consider Google+ as a platform where you need to be.
Although social media marketers are trying hard to penetrate Facebook, is there some evidence that users don’t want to be targeted? The following numbers might suggest that.
Although you can’t ignore social media in you Online presence Management strategy, is it possible that social media is where email once one in its evolution? In the early days of email, a great way to communicate with friends became the marketing channel of choice, and spam quickly got out of control. Service providers had to put regulations into place to limit spam, or we would have lost all of the email we actually wanted to get in a sea of spam. Is the same thing happen in social media? As savvy marketers find ways to sneak their messages into social media, are they on the verge of creating a storm of social media spam? Unliking or unfollowing, of course, gives users more control over what they receive. If liking or following a company unleashes a storm of irrelevant or unengaging tweets, or posts to your wall, will users eventually pull back from any contact with business on social media? Will social media assume following or liking someone is the owner’s responsibility, and wash their hands of any control over marketing messages, or social media ‘spam’? If social media doesn’t control bombardment of marketing messages, will they eventually lose some of their appeal?
If you are going to use social media in your online presence management strategy, use it wisely. Send relevant messages only to users who you have already engaged. Don’t seek access to profile information or friend’s information to attempt to push your message to people who didn’t seek it. Inbound Marketing is what people will accept. Outbound marketing doesn’t work and can weaken social media as a delivery medium. Make your message engaging and relevant. Fight the temptation to create social media spam.