Social Media for Business – Implementation

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.

Social Media MazeIn that post, I pointed out the four basic facets of planning an effective social media campaign:

  1. saying the right thing;
  2. at the right time;
  3. to the right people;
  4. 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.

Tweet Example

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;

  • gender
  • age group
  • income bracket
  • marital status
  • education level
  • employment status
  • interests
  • 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.

You may find the worksheet which I offered in my previous post on this topic helpful in managing your use of various social media accounts. You can access the free download here in either .rtf  .pdf.

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

Social Media for Business – The Plan

There can’t be many people left in the online world that haven’t realized how social media activity has increased, and how much can be gained by a business that does a noteworthy job of handling their social media presence. Most of us have heard some horror stories of some business that tripped over its own social feet, as well as the occasional example of turning vinegar into wine.

Social Media StaircaseWhat’s the key to handling social media accounts for business the best way possible? Planning!

Each social media platform offers a unique opportunity to interface with past, present and future customers, in a very public fashion. But in order to derive real benefit from the effort, you need to ensure that you’re saying the right thing, at the right time, to the right people. And you have to say it in the right way. Every.Single.Time.

If deep down, you simply feel obligated to register a Twitter account or build a Facebook page, only because your competition has done so, then you might as well stop reading right now. You’ll need to be committed to success in order to achieve positive results. Any less than total commitment and you’re liable to do your business more harm than good.

Still here, huh? Good for you! Let’s start at the beginning: 

1. The right thing

This is your message. Whether you’re announcing a new product, explaining your company’s policy or responding to a question, every response should be carefully considered before you hit that Enter key. No matter how fast you realize you’ve said the wrong thing, someone will see it before you can edit or delete it! And the worse the mistake, the more likely that it will come back to bite you.

Particularly important, is being clear and consistent in your company’s stated policies and values. Don’t be wishy-washy or ambiguous – if your followers aren’t sure what you mean, they’ll almost always assume the worst.

2. At the right time

It’s nearly always best to respond as quickly as possible. If visitors see a company respond within minutes of a question or complaint being posted, it shows them that the company cares enough about them to be constantly monitoring. That, alone, can count for a lot.

Ideally, you’ll be able to respond quickly and clearly to every comment, but sometimes, you’ll need to ask for more information. Don’t assume you understand the situation unless you really do. If there might be any ambiguity, couch your response in a qualified manner, such as “If I understand the situation correctly,… ” or “Assuming you have already …”. Then, at least, if you learn something new that might have affected your response, you may be able to salvage the situation.

I suggest you use this as sparingly as possible, though, because a cynical viewer may take it upon himself to comment that the company is “trying to weasel out of” what was seen as a commitment by you.

The bottom line: answer as quickly as you’re able to gather enough information to give a clear and concise response.

3. To the right people

This is where I see most companies either skip the issue entirely or make erroneous assumptions. You may not be in a position to contract a demographic study, but there are still ways to determine who your audience is. If you don’t know who your prospects are, you can’t have much hope of engaging with them effectively.

Most businesses have a blog and often use that blog to direct readers toward their Facebook page or Twitter account. Put that blog to even more use, by having a contest that requires responses to a short poll – it’s a great way to find out who your “typical” reader is. You can’t be too invasive, but there are ways to entice people to volunteer the information you need. Assure them their privacy will be respected, give them a prominent way to opt out later – use your imagination. Hey! Maybe telling them exactly what you’re doing and why you want it will be the best approach. It depends on a lot of factors.

Knowing a few basic facts like gender, basic income bracket, level of education, marital status, type of employment (blue collar/management) and age/number of children can be very helpful in tailoring your social activities in a way that may be of more interest to them.

4. In the right way

Here is where the demographic snapshot will be extremely helpful. If you know your audience is predominantly 12th grade education, blue collar, single men, 18-25, your tone will be different from what you’d want to use with an audience comprised of mostly middle-aged professional family men with two kids in high school.

You may find it prudent to adjust your tone for a number of different reasons. The nature of your business, existing climate of customer relations, even the season, can come into play, as well as cultural aspects, language barrier and economic considerations. Don’t neglect to give this aspect of your planning the attention it deserves, or you may doom your efforts to failure from the first day.

Building your Template

When you’ve analyzed all four of these aspects of your social media audience, you’ll be ready to start building your S/M personality accordingly. It’s not advisable for this to be performed by only one person. Ideally, someone with some online marketing experience can collaborate with someone that has intimate knowledge of your typical customer profile, along with someone that can define and set policies, to determine the limits of authority (for customer service issues) and the values that are “cast in concrete”.

Some other questions to be addressed are whether the account will be anonymous in nature (Mr. Acme) or a human entity (Debbie, from Customer Service). Both can have advantages and disadvantages, so each business needs to give this careful consideration.

It is of utmost importance that the personality that is constructed/selected will afford maximum credibility, and every action taken must protect and nurture that credibility.

Only after completing all of the above, should you consider registering your accounts on various social media platforms. Be consistent with facts and policies across all platforms, even if you decide to use a different persona on one or more.

In the next part of this series, we’ll get into some of the nuts and bolts of interacting with your users and encouraging them to engage in the way you want. Meanwhile, if you have any questions or ideas, feel free to share them in the comments below.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not your business needs to be using social media, I suggest you watch this short video. You may change your mind in a hurry.

 
Download our free social media planning worksheet in .rtf or .pdf to help keep your plan organized.
 
 

Where the Hell is Matt?

In these times of entrepreneurship and light-speed marketing, I’m frequently reviewing things that other people are doing online.  YouTube is a great place to locate innovative marketing techniques.  It is also a great place to wonder how people came up with their ideas but some things are better left unexplained … especially a video like this!

Make Your Business Fun!

Here is a video where Matt explains his business and how he has grown his ideas into something that not only is more fun but also is profitable. It is carrying a beneficial message to our world too.

Last weekend, I attended a reception for a well known nature photographer named Thomas Mangelsen.  He autographed my purchase with this message:

Dance while you can.  Scream when you must.

There is wisdom in those words, and Matt’s video and business plan reinforces them somehow.

Here is another favorite quote of mine by one of this world’s most famous writers, Mark Twain:

“Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like its heaven on earth.”

For those of you in the USA, have an awesome Thanksgiving.  For all my other readers, enjoy the day!

Incoming search terms:

Zoom in on Zettabytes

May 10, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Communicating for Success

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!  :)

GetIncomeBlog.com | Zoom in on ZettabytesRecent 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.  :D

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?

Facebook Taking Heat Over Privacy Policy Changes

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.

In a nutshell, here is what has changed.  Previously, Facebook flushed personal information from their cache each 24-hours.  The privacy policy revision states that it will be held infinitely and that advertisers may use it for targeted promotions.  Many internet marketers have picked up on this nuance and developed products for sale to help people get more bang for their advertising buck.

facebook-privacy-policy

Although Facebook users have the privilege of opting out, the user interface is confusing and most folks don’t know where to look for the opt-out.  Heck, finding your public profile link can be an absolute chore!  I do understand the genesis of Facebook as being sort of an online yearbook for a university.  This may explain the unwieldiness of it  but it doesn’t forgive the fact that we should be able to easily locate all news and important links by visiting out own profiles.  In other words, the obligation to track changes to the privacy policy of any social networking site is not the user’s.

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.

Increase your Twitter followers by eleventy-billion in seconds

April 19, 2010 by +Marj Wyatt  
Filed under Business Basics

I didn’t create the page that I’m writing about today but I’ve been wanting to do someting similar for more than two years!  Because my site is G-Rated, I can’t put a link to it but if you don’t mind a little free expression, colorful language, and want a good laugh, I encourage you to search for the site using the title of this post to find it.   :) 

eleventy-billion-twitter-followers-postIncrease your Twitter followers by eleventy-billion in seconds uses all the tactics that experienced internet marketers have ever used, so far as I am aware.  There is an animated roll down script on the corner of the page, a bodacious lead in claim, multiple rave reviews, and a purchase option.  It even employs a tactic that I’ve noticed rising in trends and don’t much like.  There is no price given on the landing page.  But they admit they aren’t selling anything, which is part of the fun. 

From an educational point of view, this is a great example of what NOT to do on your sales pages.  From a social media perspective, it touches upon another source of my dismay, which is the automation of friend finding on social networks.  I mean, if you have to automate relationships, what is the point to them? 

Oh yeah … selling something!  :D 

Recently, Michael Fortin had a much more politically correct post on the same idea.  Even a respected professional who has gained from product launch tactics sounds nauseated by them. 

The internet product launch formula needs a tune-up, I believe.  Maybe more internet marketers could try more honesty with a smidge of reality next time around.  Why not leave out the “hot spices” from the recipe so everyone can digest the cuisine without getting heartburn? 

I dislike citing problems without imagining possible solutions.  While I can’t say that I’ve been party to a huge product launch … yet … I certainly hope to see a trending upwards of these things. 

Forget the Bonuses 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that the worth of the bonuses is overstated if they are willing to give them away or sell them at 1/1000 of their supposed value.  A brief time spent on the internet will tell you that these products are approaching obsolescence.  Very few internet marketers have been up-front about the fact that they are clearing old product. 

Stand Behind Your Product 

This week, I listened to a webinar hosted by Frank Kern, who is working with Brendon Bouchard on a program called the Experts Academy.  While I decided against opting into their membership, I found their offer to refund all purchases, regardless of how far in the future the request was made, quite fascinating. 

This demonstrates two important things.

  1. They truly believe in their product
  2. They are genuinely concerned about customer satisfaction

Guarantees like that are the exception among internet marketers.  Clickbank products abide by the 56-day refund rule.  Sellers of software, that was misrepresented or has proven to be buggy or not working at all, have refused my requests for refunds less that 30-days after my purchase.  Although it is irritating, it isn’t worth the dispute and negativity it would create in my life to pursue it any further. 

Even with my desire to see product promoters offer extended refund policies, I do understand that the buyer of anything can’t just change their mind and claim something didn’t work for them.  If they’ve never tried the product, there is no flaw and no basis for requesting a refund.  If there is accountability coupled with lifetime guarantees, then it is fair for all parties involved. 

Don’t Promote … Campaign 

Something that Brendon Bouchard said during the webinar really made sense.  Even though the idea of a new product is exciting to the developers and they want as many sales possible in the least amount of time, the persistent promotion emails are tedious. 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  People don’t like being sold.  They prefer to use their best judgment and make a decision on their own.  Promotions are like putting the giant inflatable gorilla on the roof of a building.  They attract attention but they look silly. 

Build interest through a series of explanations about what the product overcomes or improves.  Leave out the links in the notes once in a while.  Request email inquiries and avail a mailbox that will be read and responded to.  People like to ask questions and to get answers. 

Real Testimonials Only,  Please… 

The FCC has endeavored to clamp down on false testimonials and paid reviews in the USA but who knows how that ruling is policed?  Do they prey on known offenders or randomly pick them out?  Either way, this ruling has as much “beef” in it as the anti-spam laws, based on the bulk email that I receive every day. 

When I see a plethora of testimonials on a page with no dates or full names, I cannot help but wonder about the vintage and credibility of the testimonial.  Since I am fully aware that many internet marketers give away copies of their products to their inner circle for trials before they are made available to the public at large, I feel that full disclosure would clear up any confusion.  Therefore, segregating raves given by people who got a trial version at no cost seems like a good idea.  It also would be wonderful if that round of reviews were updated within 3 – 6 months of the product launch. 

Say Thank You! 

Would it be too much to ask that the product owner take a little personal time to write a thank you email?  We are human beings, doing business with human beings, and someone has believed that our product was worth spending some money on.  Courtesy should not be automated. 

While we’re at it, is it to much to ask that follow up emails inquire as to how we are doing rather than continuing to promote more products for sale?

Doodle for Google Contest!

We all use Google everyday to look for information. Every now and then, there is a new link on the main Google page which catches my eye. If you haven’t done so yet, follow the Doodle for Google Contest link. The theme of this year’s contest is “What I Wish for the World.” The drawings which I previewed are all absolutely delightful but the originations of the young people who created them are what I found most compelling.

Here’s a YouTube video with some animated Google Doodles which is promoting the contest.

Every internet marketer has access to the entire world to promote their businesses. Not everyone is guaranteed visitors to their website daily, however. We all know that Google has this sort of leverage. To see a huge company like that use their advantage in such a selfless way warmed my heart.

Community involvement is not a new business idea. Engaging our prospects or existing customers through being present in a non-threatening way is a great method to get to know these people as people. Initiating a contest can permit you to attract targeted traffic to your site and it can be a lot of fun for you and your staff too. You are only limited by your imagination.

As internet marketers, we often overlook things that are not trendy. Leaving our desks to actually interact with our local community is something we rarely do. This could be due to the fact that we have an “online” business but I don’t think we should use that as an excuse. Getting involved with our regional and local communities can only stand to facilitate meetings with other like-minded entrepreneurs and expand our circle of influence.

If you haven’t done so already, cast your vote at Doodle for Google Contest. If you are inspired, try to think up a way to use this great promotional tool in your business too.

Are You Swarming Upstream?

As a person involved with internet marketing, I hear about new programs every day of the week. Always, there is the first wave of notification via Skype broadcasting tools for immediate attention. Next are the emails from affiliate marketers or internet marketers whose lists I have opted into. I’ve mentioned before that my initial reaction to these sorts of offers is to Google the opportunity name and see what is out there to read, as well as analyze how many people have jumped on it already. I have no statistical analysis to offer but it is crystal clear that there is a huge group of people involved by the time any information reaches my inbox.

Recently, a colleague of mine explained a mindset of success that included being part of the group who created the hype surrounding new business launches and moving forward quickly, from new business opportunity to new business opportunity as part of an entourage as a means of creating wealth. The first metaphor that came to mind was killer bees. Then I started wondering: How Many People are Swarming Upstream?

I’d like to explain the entire thought process of my associate. By their explanation, the people who made the most money in any business opportunity were those who got in early, attracted the first round of initiates and moved on quickly to the next launch to promote it. I knew folks who joined a program early made the most money but it had not occurred to me that they moved in swarms. I confess to having a visceral reaction. Following it through, I could only imagine a lifestyle of promotion mania and capitalistic avarice.

I’m a retired hippy, for goodness sakes! My generation shunned materialism! :)

I acknowledge that the success or failure of any business venture rests with the person who decides to join it. However, I firmly believe that those who are swarming and hyping the business venture must assume some responsibility for its ultimate longevity and success. If the founders are swarming forward to the next thing as soon as they’ve made their millions, are they creating wealth or havoc?

Sadly, the mindless pursuit of money and distance from the masses who join these programs seem to make some top guns calloused. Like a salmon swimming upstream, a new marketer who is caught up in the hype can become nothing more than a tasty snack for the bear that waits upstream.

Tribes & Misdemeanors (Updated 10/19/2009)

I’ve been online since the dial-up days, long before internetworking or email exchange was possible on computers with dissimilar operating systems. Working for a company with military contracts provided access to something called Arpanet which preceded the internet, as we know it today. When personal computers came on the scene in the late 1980s, we initially shared files using a technology called sneaker net. This involved copying files to a 5.25 inch floppy disk and delivering to the person who needed to access the file.

At that time, online tribes gathered in Usenet Groups where discussions could occur or news could be read with minimal lag time. As well, if someone had an axe to grind or was biased by some other affiliation, online and unofficially declared social etiquette was to indicate your position in the posted replies or at the end of one’s signature. Participants used telnet to visit these “chat rooms” and dial up speeds were a whopping 1200bps.

Bulletin boards were along the evolutionary chain of online tribe building. During their heyday period from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, these venues were maintained by hobbyists or corporate system administrators and the application software was hosted on dedicated computers. Operating costs sometimes translated to a fee based service. Because dial-up access often included expensive long distance calling rates, these sorts of tribes were geographically localized and members of the BBSes tended socialize in person on a somewhat regular basis.

Fast forward to now. These days, it is an anomaly for someone to not have high speed internet access. Bulletin boards have progressed to become forums and free internet messaging tools make it painlessly simple to gather into online tribes in a heartbeat. Skype Chat rooms are a great place to get connected and interact with like-minded people and I have learned a lot from my involvement with some of them.

Most Skype chat rooms have clear guidelines posted and all of them have hosts and co-hosts to monitor discussions and ensure that members adhere to the rules. Friendships can develop quickly when you can get a feeling about things that people think and care about in the rooms. Some friendships evolve on a more personal level which may even lead to conducting business together in profitable partnerships or JV endeavors.

Over time, I have observed that all Skype Chat Rooms are not created equally and that room owners, hosts, or members don’t always play nice. Unlike face-to-face friends, you do not have the benefit of body language, voice tone, or inflections behind the words. Even when you voice chat with someone, the anonymity factor of distance permits people to misrepresent themselves. If you are a guest in a Skype Chat, you will soon learn that room hosts can be arbitrary about who remains a member. Since it is their room, I guess this is their perfect right but, if you are the victim of a random ejection for no apparent reason, it can be disconcerting.

I approach all new memberships with caution and tend to leave or distance myself from Skype Chats where the room owners are only intent on pontification of their own professional worth, seem to bully members, or where the overall intention seems to be gossip, belligerence or unfocused conversations leading nowhere. We attract what we are thinking and, if we are embroiled in mean-spirited conversations, interacting with vulgar and opinionated people, or wasting our precious time on non-productive conversations, what will we attract?

This post is mainly written to recommend two of my long-time favorite chat rooms:

  1. GutzMedia Training 24/7 Chat
  2. Julie’s Skype Tips Chat

My evaluation is primarily based on these observations:

  1. Quality of content & member interaction
  2. Spirit of mutual support
  3. Lack of spammy affiliate links
  4. Membership exhibits common courtesies we learned in Kindergarten such as: play nice, don’t push each other on the playground and share your toys.

Skype is a remarkable online business meeting place and Skype chat rooms can facilitate great learning. The two rooms recommended in this post have never publicly disparaged anyone and I’ve found their membership to be very helpful. If you’re looking for interaction and friendship, I do suggest checking them out. These chat room owners are good people with superior online reputations whom I have come to know, respect and like. I believe that you will like them too.

Feel free to look me up on Skype if you have any questions. I can introduce you to these rooms too. My Skype ID is marj.wyatt.

I have an addendum to this post. Gutz 7/24 Skype chat has recently made a business decision to come off of Skype Public Chat and adjourn to their free Social Network hosted at Ning. Membership is free and getting involved with the Gutz Media Live community can only serve to improve your connections and business mindset.

As of October 19, 2009, the value obtained from participation in Julie’s Skype Tips chat room has become questionable.  This room appears to be absorbed in conversations that will only help brand new Skype users, business owners in Message Magic, or people whose Skype Accounts have been hijacked.  Thus, even though the information about the history of online chats remains of some value, there are NO Skype Chat Rooms that can be recommended.

Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube?

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.

Social Network and Your BusinessIf 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.

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