Social Media Strategy
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.
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.
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:
The growth rate of Google+ has accelerated dramatically, and if it continues, 2012 could be the year that they surpass Facebook. Although conventional wisdom seems to be that most people’s family and friends, or the so-called “normals” are not moving from Facebook to Google+ in large numbers, Google+ is still experience remarkable growth. Tech Evangelist Robert Scoble thinks Google+ excels in the area of finding those with similar interests. Facebook’s plan to IPO in 2012 could give it a large infusion of cash that could change things dramatically, though.
In his blog, Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com and tech author who has closely followed the growth of Google+, reported that if the December signups rate (625,000 new users per day) continues, Google+ will reach 100 million users before the end of February and nearly 300 million users by the end of the 2012. Allen is predicting that the Network Effect will power Google+ to a “breakout year” and that the new social network will end the year with over 400 million users.
Whether or not Google+ reaches 400 million users in 2012, the new social network is sure to have impacted Facebook and its long-term strategy. Any online presence manager with a social media strategy needs to keep their eyes on this increasingly powerful player in the social media space.
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.