Social Media is just one of the many marketing channels open for the promotion of a business and its products or services. As such, it’s important to ensure that it’s done in such a way that it will always reflect positively on the business, enhancing the image you want to project.
The sad truth is that most businesses that attempt to use social media do so in the worst possible way. And most of those mistakes could be avoided, if the social media campaign had been properly planned, as was discussed in the first part of this series, Social Media for Business – The Plan.
In that post, I pointed out the four basic facets of planning an effective social media campaign:
- saying the right thing;
- at the right time;
- to the right people;
- in the right fashion.
It’s not a coincidence that those are also the basic tenets of content strategy. Because, make no mistake, social media, at least in this context, is very much a part of your content strategy.
Defining your Business’ Social Media Message
Before you say anything, be very clear on what your real message is. Simply announcing a contest, giveaway or discount says absolutely nothing about your business. Every Tweet and post should support the underlying message of your company.
That may be showing that the company listens and heeds complaints or suggestions, or that it understands the problems faced by its customers. It may be a common goal, such as in the case of a non-profit or activist campaign. That’s something you and your management need to discuss and agree upon before you go any further.
Whatever predominant message your business wants to deliver, it must be consistent and constant… while being subtle. Does “constant” and “subtle” together sound difficult? You might be surprised how simple it can be, if the proper thought is put into it.
In the above example, SuperCoders is subtly communicating that they have been tirelessly promoting new legislation against online bullying – there’s no shameless promotion of their web development services. But assuming that civic involvement is part of their underlying company message, they’ve done a good job of reinforcing that message without seeming to be self-promotional.
Obviously, if that can be done in less than 140 characters, what can be accomplished on their Facebook Wall is even greater. Subtlety is often the most persuasive method of building confidence in your company brand.
Picking the Time
This doesn’t refer to just picking the best day and hour to put your message out there for the greatest visibility to your target audience, although that is an important consideration. It also deals with the temporal value of your message.
Any post or tweet that is relevant to current developments needs to be of great interest when posted. If you have a large following and are in a position to be among the first to address an issue, you can get a lot of mileage out of that.
However, if your following is small to moderate, you may be better off letting interest build via those with a greater follower count, and then jump in with a new twist. Which way to go is entirely up to you and may vary a lot, depending upon the nature of the topic.
The key is to send the message at the point in time that your followers will be most receptive to your message, while offering them something they can’t find in a half dozen other places.
Identifying your audience
Sending the perfect message at the perfect time, but to the wrong listeners isn’t going to accomplish much for your business. As you focus your message and your timing, your following will naturally develop among the type of audience that you want, but in the meantime, there are a number of things you can do to determine what sort of following you already have.
A demographic study would be ideal, but obviously, many small to medium businesses aren’t in a position to invest in such research. Still, a surprising amount of information may be available, if you know where to look. Here are a few sites that may help you out:
Alternatively, you can solicit the information directly on your website, in the form of a poll or registration form. The sort of information that might be helpful will be;
- age group
- income bracket
- marital status
- education level
- employment status
- number and age of children
and more, depending upon the nature of your business and its offering.
Choosing the Right Voice
The way you “talk” to your followers can have a huge impact on the trust and confidence they will place in you. Careful thought should be given to selecting the personality you wish to project in your social media contacts.
This will depend a great deal on the nature of your business and the typical persona to whom you’re directing your messages. It can vary greatly by culture, educational level, age, interests and many other factors. You may also find it necessary to vary your approach somewhat between different social media platforms.
While your style may vary from humorous one moment to sympathetic or even plaintive another, try to be reasonably consistent in the basic personality of the posting character. Expressing concern for an issue one day and total disdain for a similar situation the next is a sure way to create confusion and lose the confidence of your followers.
Putting your Plan into Action
Remember, your focus is to build the trust of your following, so that your messages will earn credibility. Inconsistency will quickly undermine your efforts, and you’ll find you’re getting very little engagement.
Like any marketing effort, online or off, some research and planning can be the difference between success and failure – or worse – brand embarrassment. Determining detailed goals up front will always yield better results than simply shot-gunning information into the dark.
Take a few minutes and read this great interview with someone who knows what they’re talking about:
Scott Stratten talks business and social media Toronto Star
Skype is an invaluable business building tool. Not only does it allow you to conduct business internationally without incurring international long distance charges, it make is very easy to share large files and engage your customers in video chats when the need arises.
There is a dark side to Skype. Hackers prey on naive online users. Last year’s hacker game was to usurp an account and initiate contact with all confirmed contacts, inviting those people to accept files. Even though I do not consider myself to be naive, I was duped into accepting and opening a file, in March 2009, when a seemingly active client offered it to me. When I lost access to my Skype account, I realized I had been hacked. It took a few days to put everything back together and it was a real headache.
I haven’t accepted any spontaneously offered files or clicked on any uninvited links since that time, even if the offer is extended by a long-term contact on my list.
This year’s hacker game is to hijack an account and offer a link that looks like a Skype link to all confirmed contacts in that account. With a slight amount of scrutiny, it is obviously not a link you should follow. The link will probably ask you to login to your Skype account, at which point the hacker has your credentials. If you have a Skype subscription attached to your PayPal account, the hackers can run up huge expenses for you. Skype takes no responsibility for this. Neither does PayPal.
When my Skype account was hijacked in March 2009, I had no Skype subscriptions but friends of mine who were hacked by the hackers who hacked me were harmed financially. A hacker’s sole intention is to steal something from you. They are clever people and it is truly a shame that they have chosen to use their creative talent for malicious intent.
Safe computing and surfing is an old topic but its relevance is not stale. It is comprised of more than running Spyware blockers and Antivirus software, especially if you are a member of any internet messaging application.
How to Avoid Skype Hackers!
Here are some steps you can take to be safe on Skype:
- Whenever a friend offers you a picture or file, ask them what it is. Try to engage them in a longer conversation so you can determine if the language they are using is native to them. If you feel uneasy about it, ask if you can connect through voice to have them explain why you should accept the file. A hacker will not be able to talk to you.
- When you are asked to confirm a contact, ask the requestor how they found your ID. If they can’t provide information that links to any sites or chats you have a membership in, decline the opportunity promptly.
- When you are invited to click on a link unexpectedly, look at the link carefully first. Here is the dialogue from a recent attempt to hijack my account today. You will notice in the first line that English is not their native language. By the way, THE LINK HAS BEEN DISABLED IN THIS POST!
[11:20:10 AM] MyFriend says: hi how are you,i send to you link please sign in ok and thanks http://smii.host.sk/www.skype.com/?id=79826&lc=us
[11:23:04 AM] Marj Wyatt says: oh dear, hackers at work
[11:24:01 AM] Marj Wyatt says: more importantly, what sorts of idiots spend their days trying to wreak havoc on nice people?
I received no response to my inquiry, but I wasn’t really expecting one. I admit to my brutality in my biting response but, frankly, it was a way to shut them down immediately. I posted this thread here so you could see an example of a hacker’s link. There will always be something after the domain name.
The first time I encountered this in Skype, I asked what the link was for. The user at the other end kept repeating that it was “a surprise.” I was polite with them and informed them that, if I wanted to access my Skype account, I would login through a browser and not through their link. The abandoned their efforts.
Managing Your Online Life
Tools, like social networks and Skype, have made it easier to build business and promote products and services at a minimal cost. They have also opened up a new channel for hackers. Both Twitter and Facebook have been hacked repeatedly during the past year. To the best of my understanding, it always starts with a malicious link.
Very early in my practice of conducting business online, I learned to set every profile that I have on social networks to approve comments manually so I could avoid the use of my pages as advertising space for others. People who have a penchant for doing this have had the nerve to complain when I do not approve their posts with links to their list building tools or business opportunities. Oh well…
New contacts on Skype are always advised that my accepting them is conditional and presumes that they will not promote every business opportunity they come across on the web via Skype broadcast tools. When a confirmed Skype contact sends me a link to something that they are promoting, I always ask questions and remind them that I’m not looking for get rich quick schemes. Not so long ago, one of my contacts decided to launch a group chat with the founders of one business, after I declined to enroll myself. It was quite embarrassing for me. I didn’t want to hurt my friend’s feelings but I also did not like the feeling of being cajoled into joining yet another “worthless webinar” so they could get a bonus.
The LinkedIn network uses a process for profile publications that begins with a request, from you, for the feedback. It is very straight forward. Additionally, LinkedIn uses associations like school or work to help people find friends. It may take a little longer to build your social network there but at least you know who you are connecting with, which provides you with a reasonable expectation about how they will behave online.
I have also monitored my Twitter feeds carefully. When a Twitter contact presents themselves as being uncouth or a Twitter Spammer, I will “unfriend” them so my Twitter feed isn’t cluttered with junk. It is my feed, after all.
With the caveat that I find the Facebook user interface unwieldy and may not have taken the time to figure it out, there doe not appear to be a setting for manually approving comments on my Facebook wall. This is a bother because it enforces a need to go into your account and delete content that you do not want displayed.
Building Business Online
Skype, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are powerful business building tools when they are used appropriately. Social manners should not be tossed out the window just because you are in an online relationship with your prospects and customers. When you are respectful of your online contacts, you will attract more business contacts who are also respectful of you.
Have fun online, be careful, and be prosperous!
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Most of us don’t think twice about what is involved in maintaining the platforms the Social Networking and Social Bookmarking potpourri of sites that we use each day in our online businesses. These days, the focus is mostly on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Other useful sites are LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr, MySpace, and Last.fm … to name a few. Then there are he multiple free email accounts we have.
When it comes to our home computing environments, we unconsciously manage disk space every day. If we have self-hosted blogs, we look for and choose hosting vendors who permit us to have unlimited storage for our websites. Yet, we take the storage of our Tweets and posts for granted.
Every piece of content must be stored somewhere. In the early days of email, I was part of a group who studied email etiquette with interest. We discussed computing capacity issues, like storage, too. A friend of mine, who worked for EMC, wrote a fascinating white paper about the exponential growth of data storage. Her predictions have been exceeded by mounds and mounds and mounds of data. None of us foresaw the advent of micro-blogging in 1985, let alone text messaging on a cell phone!
Recent research by IDC revealed that our digital universe grew by 62% during the last year alone. The stunning amount of storage online at the time of the study was 800,000 petabytes, a measure better described at this link. In short, it is one million gigabytes. By the end of 2010, it is predicted that there will be 1.2 zettabytes online. A zettabyte, incidentally, is roughly half a million times the entire collections of all the academic libraries in the United States. Whew! And I’m worrying about a few gigabytes around here.
Computers and the internet have made our lives easier, much more public and availed methods to get income online for some of us too. Pages upon pages of material sifted and listed, categorized and presented for our reading pleasure with a few keystrokes and a button click. Since our content is cached and stored online indefinitely, one begins to wonder if our content will outlive our grandchildren. Who can say?
Social networking is a great way to connect with prospects and friends. Over the past few months, there have been a lot of internet marketers advising that Facebook is a better advertising spot than Google. When you must advertise, it is good to have choices where your ads will be targeted but has Facebook gone too far to serve up data for their advertisers? It would appear so, if the US Federal Government has gotten involved.
Many Facebook users won’t care one way or the other. Still, there are those among us who don’t enjoy unsolicited advertisements. I’m sure one. When I logged into my account today, I found a dozen ads that were geo-targeted to my location. Local shops, product providers, service providers, Realtors and bars. I’d rather not be bombarded like that. I looked for a method of opting out and I just couldn’t find it!
Facebook is not wrong to sell advertising space. Their on-screen real estate is valuable and they must fund the site support. All things being equal, Facebook ads are less expensive than Google Adwords.
The fact remains that nothing replaces good SEO with a solid keyword strategy. In my online branding business, I never advocate that my clients use paid advertising. I will provide some consulting services to help them learn the SEO ropes. It isn’t a big secret or anything. Most of the information someone needs to learn SEO is available online for free. With interest, the ability to read, and the willingness to monitor results and experiment, perseverance will take your site where you’d like it to be.
Those in business are well aware of the power of having a website. More recently, the utilization of social networking sites for business promotion and lead acquisition is gaining popularity. Because social networking takes time, companies that are serious about their business success have decided to hire paid staff whose sole responsibilities are to connect with prospects and customers to drive traffic to company websites using social networking techniques.
While considering this idea, I took some time to conduct a little statistical analysis using Google’s nifty search trend analysis tool. This link provides research about search trends for 5 well-known and reputable social networks: MySpace, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and YouTube. I must admit, the YouTube results surprised me. But, other than that, this data informs me that the trend of employing social networking, for any reason, is a critical strategy for businesses whose future growth and revenue relies upon connecting with potential customers or consumers living in the United States.
If you are a solopreneur or small business owner, you may not have the capacity to outsource or employ full-time staff for social networking so that duty will fall to you. The time that you spend on social networking is not frivolous time. Prospecting is an important part of establishing your new business and helping it continue to thrive.
There are many ways to attract your market using social networking. All networks provide personal blogging features. Duplicating content is not advised, although it is inconvenient to have to create multiple blog posts for every social network to which you belong. Since we all must prioritize how our valuable time is spent, a far superior solution is to use RSS outbound feeds to publish blog posts to all your social networking profiles. Since it is a feed, it is not considered to be duplication of content.
Most networks offer groups, forums or both. Groups and forums allow you to interact with the online community and begin to establish relationships. Including a link to your blog is a great way to assist your blog’s Page Rank through linkbacks and does not inhibit the confidence of members who appreciate what you have written. As an example, imagine that your business is home remodeling. Joining or starting a group about home repair is a great way to demonstrate your expertise, in a helpful way, and attract new business.
Social networking is often abused by people who do not understand how to effectively build online relationships. The keyword is relationship. Remember to be courteous, to write professionally and, perhaps most importantly, to establish a common ground for communicating with an individual or group before you begin to promote anything.
All too often, I see marketers make the social faux pas of leading with an offer. Even worse than that, in my opinion, is submitting a comment or wall post that includes a banner or link to their business. If a single-minded marketer, whose sole interest is making money, begins to bombard a group, forum or me with endless links to business opportunities or affiliate promotions, I tend to lose interest in them and what they have to say. I know that I am not alone.
For marketers who are conscious of the fact that there is more at stake than making money, social networking provides a method of establishing credibility, loyalty and referral business. The latter is THE most important aspect of any business endeavor. People who come to you on the basis of their friend’s recommendation already believe you can deliver the product or service they seek in a professional and cost-effective way.
Social networking is no longer an arena just for the kids. Business people who do not grasp the importance of utilizing these sites effectively will fall behind the curve as this trend continues to rise in popularity. Facebook has embraced their place by enhancing their Fan Page feature so that it is a better way to promote one’s business. Well known companies like Microsoft, IBM, Wells Fargo, State Farm and Prudential all have well-attended and active Facebook Fan Pages.
The power of your future business relies upon ready access to existing and potential customers who are interested in your product or service and who also want to remain informed. When they opt-in to your Facebook Group or Fan Page, you have gained permission to market to them and, if you do not abuse this privilege, your business can grow and you will prosper.