A five step plan for social media

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingMy thanks go to Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, for the inspiration for this blog. I heard Graham speak at a Ladies and Gentlemen That Lunch networking meeting earlier this year, when he shared with us his five step plan for social media, which looks something like this.

  1. Plan – have a strategy, decide exactly what you want to achieve, set targets and goals. For instance, do you want to use social media to find new contacts, or build your reputation?  Are you using it primarily to keep abreast of industry news, or to share your advice with other people? How many contacts do you want to connect with?
  2. Blog – adding content should be your primary activity and the more the better. At the time of writing this blog, we’re posting on it twice a week. We’ll be going back up to three posts each week in the New Year. If you’re just starting out with a blog, aim to post once a week and build up from there.
  3. Integrate – connect your blog to every social media outlet important to your market, but especially Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Each time we publish a post on this blog, a tweet goes out automatically; we keep tweeting that tweet until another blog is posted. Our blogs also go onto our Facebook page.
  4. Monitor – constantly be aware of your readership and what they are doing with your content. We use Tweet Deck to see who is talking about us on Twitter and who is retweeting us. Tools like Google Alerts will also tell you who is talking about you.
  5. Respond – reply to the engagement you receive and use that to help develop your future plans. Reply to direct messages through Twitter and get into conversations with your followers – it can lead to work and ideas for new products and services. Respond to comments on your blog, LinkedIn and Facebook for the same reasons.

Many people start using social media without really thinking about where they’re going with it. That’s a bit like starting out on a journey without actually knowing where you’re going. Without a destination to head to, you’ll just end up driving round and round in circles, wasting your time. Follow Graham’s five step plan and you’ll save yourself lots of time and effort, while making the most of this active marketing tool.

You can read more of Graham’s words of wisdom at www.GrahamJones.co.uk.

Facebook – Is it really the modern day business necessity?

When you first started your business, print media was probably your main marketing concern. Not very long ago, it wasn’t entirely unusual for a business not to be online. To interact with your customers, the internet wasn’t your only option. But now, things have changed. Not only is the internet everywhere, we’re expected to always be connected. Social media is getting bigger, and wise businesses are using it to their advantage.

The average Facebook user spends 23 minutes each visit, and 70% of local businesses use Facebook for marketing. How can you communicate with your target market? Facebook is modern-day equivalent of the telephone book. It holds so much personal information that you can quite specifically get in touch with your market, right down to gender, location and age range. Facebook isn’t just a place for adverts, there are many uses for it – and it’s a brilliant way you can build a relationship with your consumers. You can use a Facebook page to promote and test new products, and you can use it to sell products or content directly using Facebook credits. Marketing is about selling yourself, a personality; not just a product. Facebook is one of the best ways to communicate that, as a business you can find yourself getting the same access to an individual as their friends or family.

There are many examples of people using Facebook third party for their businesses, and utilising the platform partnerships e.g. the business creating the advertisement or application, and Facebook selling the space or the ‘platform’ necessary to promote and effectively use it. For a lot of service providers, it’s another platform – just one with potential access to thousands of people. There are 600million users on Facebook as of January 2011. It’s illogical not to be a part of it. Facebook has been around for years, and immortalised in film. It’s not just a passing fad, the words “Find Us On Facebook!” are everywhere. You see it on a twitter page, on a website, on a blog, on email signatures and even print media and leaflets. It’s quite possibly the most effective and accessible call to action for this generation. Not being on Facebook is like saying your business doesn’t have a phone, but you can still get in touch via your pager.

The internet isn’t everything, and only focussing your marketing online would be a mistake. Good businesses have a presence in more than one forum. What about those people who don’t go online? The people who still don’t understand what the words ‘social media’ mean? If all of your customers are technophobes, then perhaps heavy investment into your Facebook page may not be the way to go. In that case, understandably, you’d focus your marketing elsewhere. But even in your print media, you’d want to make a reference to your online social media, because you never know who is going to see it.

Facebook isn’t a business necessity, but most definitely is a modern day necessity.

Failure to check your website could prove costly

Chantal

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has announced that its remit is being extended to cover marketing on websites.

From March 1 2011, marketing communications on your website and in other places under your control – like Facebook and Twitter – will have to meet the non-broadcast advertising rules as set out in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code.

You need to make sure that your website is legal, decent, honest and truthful – which it really ought to be, anyway!

If you’re not sure if you comply or not, CAP has a range of training and advice resources. You can sign up to CAP services to make sure you’re up to speed with how the extended remit will affect you and how you can avoid being in breach of the rules.

More details and advice are at http://www.cap.org.uk/The-Codes/CAP-Code.aspx.

The importance of interaction

Alice

When you’re dealing with social media, one of the most important things to consider is interaction.

Interaction is when your readers, audience, fans, friends or whatever are compelled to respond to your social networking activities. This will happen when you post up something that is worth commenting on, full of value, beneficial and helpful, entertaining or educational, or even controversial, just begging for a response to counteract it or confirm their approval or agreement with it.

Blogs thrive from comments. Spiders register a comment as new material, so it can enhance a post by making it more attractive to the search engines. It also adds to the conversation because the reader is presented with new ideas and concepts that contribute to the subject matter or interest factor. Ideally posts should be written to encourage a comment, or contain a call to action to remind readers to leave feedback or their point of view.

Facebook works on interaction, as every time you post on your profile, or ideally on someone else’s profile as a comment to their status update, Facebook sees this interaction and clocks it as a match. The more interaction you have with your Facebook friends, the more likely you are going to see your posts or blog feeds on their profiles. If you don’t partake in lots of interaction on social networking sites, it’s not only the search engines that deem you to be inactive, its the social networking robots as well, which can be detrimental if you want to create interaction to help promote yourself or your business.

Twitter is the master of interaction, of course! It is all about interacting with your fellow Twitterers, chatting, commenting, retweeting, sharing in real time – generally forming relationships with your followers as you interact and find out what they are doing. Really this is not a place to be doing business in the old sense of the word, it’s about communicating and making friends, networking by being sociable, asking after their health, family or latest event, having a giggle over a piece of news or notification from elsewhere, exchanging information about each other as if you were face to face and not separated by the web in between two computers. It is a place to find out information, learn from a blog feed, gain trust and credibility by giving and sharing, having a conversation with real people who respond readily – in other words, interacting.

Using social networking sites, and also social bookmarking sites, needs commitment to fine-tune your interaction with your followers and friends. It’s no good having a fantastic blast one day, and then forgetting to continue for the next few days. Even if your followers forgive you, the search engines and social networking sites won’t. Robots don’t understand like humans do, and they see inactivity as exactly as what it is, and immediately your ratings go down, you loose those slots on your friends’ profiles, your stats take a plunge and your Twitter streams are dark and empty.

I know it’s hard to keep it up indefinitely, so it’s worth working out a social media diary to help you keep the momentum going. Plan in advance what you are going to say that month, or week if you think short-term, so that there is always information available to use when your inspiration dries up. It’s much easier to provide content, leading onto to some beneficial interaction, if you have a focus, goal or objective towards your social networking activities – get more leads, raise your profile, extend your expertise, collect more fans or ‘likes’, increase your subscription rates, develop your visibility on the net – need I go on?

And above all – it’s so important to have fun!

How do your customers find you?

Alice

I have a good friend whose new business is doing particularly well. She opened her new shop nearly two years ago, and already she is overwhelmed and thinking of expansion!

I asked her what she thought contributed to her success.

First, she has encouraged repeat business, a good following and excellent referral status by providing small discretionary discounts where she deemed it appropriate.

This did not undermine her prices, because the discounts were placed while the customer was already in situ. They had already come to her for an appointment, so adding on other services on top, mostly via the customer’s request, but sometimes from her suggestions, offering a discount didn’t compromise on her time or resources. Not only did this promote what other services she could provide, this also put her in a good light as far as the customer’s finances were concerned, making them far more likely to return.

Second, she participated greatly on social media. Being young and dynamic, using Facebook was natural to her, so she used her already amassed following as a referral base. I remember her opening night party was like sardines due to her publicity tactics on Facebook.

She has a well populated Facebook Page for her business, to which she regularly contributes with new ideas and products, special offers, answering questions, general observations, pictures of past successes, and testimonials from ecstatic customers only too happy to show off what she has done for them.  She gets her staff to check it daily, and regularly keeps up-to-date with her responses, so the content is always fresh and new.

Also she maintains her website’s number 1 slot on Google through the same tactics. It is regularly updated, sometimes every day, with material from her Facebook Page, but obviously adapted for a more professional slant. Here she promotes new services and products, discounts and competitions, and provides a personal insight about a particular product or service every month.

When she questions her new customers how they found about her, they nearly always say they came because of her website. I’m sure this isn’t due to expensive PPC strategies or worrying about in vogue keyword usage, it’s purely down to regular updating. She knows what her customers want, sources the solutions for them, and promotes her products and services in a friendly, accessible and professional manner.

This continuous new material aimed purposely for her customers’ benefit, without a hint of blathering on how wonderful she is (she doesn’t need to say that!), is what hits the spot and, along with her welcoming message, environment and premises, new custom is encouraged to visit and try her wares. Once sampled, they’re hooked, and are very likely to remain as regular customers, thus building up her client base even further.

Baby Boomers, Generation X or Generation Y – who are your clients?

Chantal

According to certain sources, Baby Boomers are people born before the late 1960s. Generation X people were born from then up to the 1980s. And Generation Y babies were born between 1980 and 2010.

Which ‘generation’ are you? And, more importantly, which ‘generation’ are your clients and prospects? My reason for asking is that the way in which you communicate with your clients will vary, according to their ‘generation’. Here’s how it works.

Baby Boomers like doing things the ‘traditional’ ways. They like brochures and websites that tell them exactly what they’re going to get. They go to networking meetings – but they don’t really like spending a long time getting to know people; they look for quick returns.

Generation X folk like interactive websites and blogs. They’ve started to tweet and can just about keep up the momentum. They are good at networking and like meeting people; they talk about challenges and how they can help, without going for the hard sell.

Generation Y people spend a huge amount of time on Facebook and Twitter. They have the latest gadgets and gizmos and use YouTube for searching the internet for what they need.

Why does it matter where your clients and potential clients hang out? Because for you to reach them and connect with them, you need to ‘hang out’ in the same places. You need to use the same media that they use, to get your message out to them. For instance, if your clients and prospects are Baby Boomers, don’t expect them to find you and speak to you on Twitter – because they’ve probably never even heard of it! If you’re looking for Generation Y people, don’t expect them to turn up at networking events and make sure you learn the language of Twitter, Facebook and whatever is coming next.

Whatever ‘generation’ you are from, think about the age of your clients and prospects. Then you can check out where they hang out, so you can hang out with them too and get your message out to them simply and effectively.

Will Facebook take over from websites?

Alice

The short answer is No. This question is asked because, with some businesses, it appears that their Facebook page is getting more hits than their website, but let me assure you these statistics appear to be deceptive.

But let’s start at the beginning. To succeed on Facebook depends on your product (and that includes services) and the kind of customer you are targeting. Certainly in the States, where social networking takes on a totally different culture than in this country, Facebook has a much larger presence and some businesses are thriving on there, but to what cost?

Facebook is an excellent medium to excite initial interest in your company and what it has to offer. As a social networking site it is, of course, interactive and new content is automatically placed on subscribers’ walls. It is ideal for defining problems, socially empathising with them, and with effective communication tactics gather a suitable following. But, as with all social media, selling and marketing is not tolerated; once you’ve captured your audience your Facebook should act like a squeeze page, directing them towards your website where the necessary marketing activities can be put into practice.

Social networking is all about forming relationships and interacting with these new connections. A Facebook page should perform as a microsite, a landing page, a community portal back to your website. It is excellent for lead generation, and your website should collect these likely candidates through its newsletter signup or whatever method you have, so you can communicate your marketing to them later over time.

Unlike your website, Facebook is only temporary. How long will it last before it disappears, changes or is taken over? Although you may have effectively branded your Facebook page to suitably reflect your corporate image, it is still not ‘yours’, Facebook owns it, hence all the adverts in the sidebars. You don’t have control over the navigation as in your own website, and you have to abide by Facebook’s terms and conditions. Your website is a medium to reflect your own image and brand, let alone market and sell your product or service, whereas your Facebook page is purely promotional, a social networking voice for interaction, networking, feedback, customer collecting and lots of fun and creativity!