Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Many small-to-medium businesses have not embraced marketing through social media, and here’s why: it’s as if someone gave you a live microphone in an empty arena and told you, “Go on! Talk until you fill the seats!” Great platform, but what the heck do you say?

On Facebook, you fill those metaphorical empty seats by getting Likes. If you’re a small business struggling to get some social media attention, there’s an easy and cost-free technique for getting attention on Facebook. It works reliably for all types of businesses, non-profits, and institutions.

Before I took over social media policy and implementation for ICANN, they already had a Facebook page. It generated anywhere from 0 to 8 Likes per week. When I implemented this technique, ICANN’s Facebook Likes shot up to more than 100 per week.

I’ve been advising on social media strategies for a local business, GoodSide Studio, that produces superb training videos. When they implemented this technique, their Likes on Facebook equaled in two weeks the number they had garnered in the previous two years.

The secret that makes this technique devastatingly effective will never change, because it’s built on human nature.

What is this “powerful secret” that turns your cobwebby Facebook page into a social media hotspot? Well, it’s so obvious. you’ll laugh when you read it.

It’s built on this simple principle: if someone hands you a group photograph, and you’re in it, where’s the first place you look? Answer: at yourself.

So here’s the cheap and easy way to drive up Facebook Likes for your business: use the Photos tab, and post as many faces as you can. Clients. Employees. Prospects. Convention speakers. Anyone who is relevant in your vertical niche. Doesn’t even matter if the picture is recent; find an excuse to post it.

Then use your other social media platforms, especially Twitter, to mention the fact that new pictures are up.

That’s it in a nutshell. When you try it, you’ll find ways to refine the technique and improve it specifically for your business. If you build it, Likes will come.

Use Your Community as Your Opening Act

Because the technique is so simple, you might scoff. If so, you’re not entirely wrong. Likes are not money. When you score Likes, you haven’t converted anyone to a customer; you haven’t scored a prospect’s e-mail address; you haven’t monetized a thing. But to do any of that, you have to have an audience. If you haven’t got much of one, this technique is golden for getting one.

World's first rock band?Back in my youth, we cavemen would sometimes get three or four of us together and form something called “a band.” We’d howl and bang rocks together in rhythm, and pretend it was music. (Rock music, we called it.) Then we wanted people to hear our rock music. The main way we gathered an audience was to put on a show and cunningly select some “opening acts.” The opening acts had friends who would come to see them, and then the friends would accidentally see us. If they liked our rock music, they became our fans. Now Og smart and popular! In essence, posting faces on Facebook is using your community as your opening act. Each face has its own audience draw. More faces equals more draw.

Another intangible benefit of this technique is implicit in the word, Like. Faces make your business relateable. For example, ICANN coordinates global policy around domain name services and IP zzzzzz. Sorry, I just fell asleep typing that sentence. Compare that to the image of ICANN you get from this joyful picture.

Another example: it might sound boring to you that GoodSide Studio makes training videos. But a photo from behind the scenes evokes some of the cool creative vibe of a video shoot.

As with most techniques in social media, this technique doesn’t work in a vacuum. You should support it with relevant content and coordinate it with other marketing efforts for better synergy. But it sure provides a lot of attention for very little effort.

Want an audience on Facebook? Want people to feel like they can relate to your company? Have a budget right around, oh, say, zero dollars? Post faces on Facebook. (Hey, now I get it: Facebook!) Use your other platforms to let people know they might see themselves on your Facebook page… then enjoy the Spike of Like.

Ten years into the era of permission marketing, the vast majority of marketers understand that engaging with customers on line requires that a company offer a stream of content. In contrast to the late 1990s, the delivery mechanism has migrated from emails and podcasts to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — but after a brief obsession with crowdsourcing their content, marketers realize afresh that in-house content is once again king.

Great. Until you try it.

Posting and sending tons of content that seems to find no audience? Perhaps you’ve fallen into one of these three commonly seen problems. Photo: Beatrice Murch

I’m writing to you if your company has faithfully updated Facebook only to receive fewer than ten Likes per week, and systematically tweeted merely to scrape together a paltry Twitter following. (If you’re not updating your content systematically and predictably, well, there’s your problem.) As a marketer who has advised on many companies’ lackluster social media offerings, I can tell you the three most typical reasons why your content marketing isn’t working.

1. Inside-out content. Within your organization, you have a message you burn to impose upon the world. You blog it and tweet it and Facebook it, and the only Likes are from employees and your mom. What’s the problem? Relevance. The one thing you want them to remember is nothing they care about. (BTW, this is also why online display ads always flop.) Rethink your content from the outside-in perspective.

2. Monotonous hard-sell content. If you generally write (or video) about your product and what’s on sale, you’re simply duplicating your web site or print catalog. Readers began supporting blogs because blogs promised to convey a behind-the-scenes, authentic look at brands of interest. Facebook and Twitter users expect even greater intimacy than blog readers. Show off your expertise and your vision more than your inventory. (Dun & Bradstreet explain more reasons Why You Should Write More and Sell Less.)

On line, you may have to dole out the big picture one kernel at a time. Photo: Little Zey

3. Wrong-sized content. On this point, quality is not the issue — time is. We’re all busy. If your DVR is full, then you understand: people will fail to watch the best content in the world if they simply don’t have time for it. At the top of the sales funnel, a blog entry should not exceed 800 words. A video needs a truly compelling reason to exceed two minutes. Your Facebook sales campaign must be dead simple, not require several minutes to grasp it. Length kills.

Embrace the fact that you can’t tell your audience everything in one go. Learn how to tease out content so that readers eat it like popcorn — each delightful kernel leading them to the next bite, until they’re surprised at how much they’ve consumed.

My three tips really boil down to one concept. Your content marketing plan must stand on a foundation of adding value for an audience you sincerely care about. Social media is about building relationships, and doing it well requires you to empathize with the other guy’s viewpoint. Gilad de Vries of Outbrain triggered this blog entry because my heart leaped in affirmation at his quote about content marketing:

It’s not going to be about you, it’s going to be about them and what’s interesting and important for them and can you solve their problems or not. If you keep that as a lighthouse of sticking to things that they’re interested in and not what you’re interested in them knowing, I think you’re going to be in a good spot.

If your customer doesn’t dominate the heart of your company culture, content marketing is merely a multi-platform, multi-delivery, time-intensive method for proving, at length, that you don’t care. I guess you can hope for sarcastic Likes, but that hardly constitutes a strategy. The fix doesn’t require a bunch of money. Think about who you follow on line. The odds are, it’s someone who comments with expertise on a topic you care about, published periodically so you know when to expect fresh content. Give your customers the same, and watch your popularity grow.

If you’ve got 10 minutes, this well-crafted documentary can inspire you.

In East L.A., a 9-year-old boy made his own DIY arcade out of cardboard, and persisted “staffing” it on weekends — even though he only had one customer. (Seriously, who’s going to go to East L.A. and play cardboard arcade games?)

But Caine earned his big day. Sure, there was a social media-savvy “angel investor” who helped, but payday would never have come if Caine had given up.

Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

–Calvin Coolidge

If you’re a one-of-a-kind artist like Caine, keep going! Persist!

Over on SlideShare, a Belgian consultant named Steven van Belleghem posted the most favorited presentation of 2011: a terrific briefing on people’s involvement with “Social media around the world.” How good is it? Well, when was the last time you posted one of your presentations, and received 680,000 views?

Those of us who market from North America can unknowingly (and unintentionally) build American bias and flavor into our sales and outreach materials. For that reason, I found it refreshing to absorb a well-researched, sharp analysis of the social media phenomenon from the EU perspective. At 167 slides, it’s a virtual illustrated tome; but Belleghen’s team researched across 35 countries, with some 9000 participants, to gain many insights into the attitudes and behaviors of Internet users. Some of the factoids that sparked my interest included:

  • Around the world, awareness of Facebook is approaching 100%
  • The average Facebook visit lasts more than half an hour
  • The #1 driver of online conversation is off-line events
  • Twitter presents a paradox: 80% of online users are aware of it, but only 16% use it
  • On Facebook and MySpace, women outnumber men; but men outnumber women on LinkedIn and Twitter
  • In Eastern Europe, Vkontakt is almost as popular as Facebook
  • In China, awareness of the social media platform Qzone equals awareness of Facebook
  • In Europe, only 51% of users “follow” a brand, but in India, 70% do
  • In Europe, one-third (33%) of all social network users are not allowed to access social networks from work

The list above is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. You’ll find many clear indicators of what methods reach people efficiently, and which don’t.

Though social networking has a reputation for changing rapidly and being faddish, Bellenghem’s research indicates the vast majority of social media users (93%) are happy with the status quo. They intend to keep using social media at the rate they do now, neither increasing nor decreasing their current usage. That is merely the latest empirical data point indicating that social media is here to stay.

If you’re interested in figuring out how you can use it to forward your own global agenda, I highly recommend spending a few minutes with “Social media around the world.” I know of nowhere else to get data this useful and recent at everyone’s favorite price.

When I was a kid, school authorities could frighten me into conformity by threatening to list a minor behavioral infraction on my “permanent record.” I imagined a blacklist of devastating shame that would pass from one authority figure to another, and follow me forever. Now, with social media, that nightmare has been realized.

Everything you do publicly on the Internet is practically etched in stone. Thanks, search engines! (Photo by Bee Wolf Ray on Flickr.)

I’d really rather write an entry encouraging slow adopters to jump on board with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, blogging, and the rest of the social media panoply. But I’ve concluded that from a professional perspective, every single letter you type into a social media expression should result from the question, “What would someone wiser, kinder, and more thick-skinned than I am write?” (And even, “Would that person respond at all?”)

A brouhaha that occurred recently on a book review site triggered my renewed caution and introspection. I think every writer who anticipates promoting themselves via social media should take a look at this.

A likable guy who uses the screen handle BigAl specializes in reviewing books published in the Kindle format. He posted a very reasonable review of The Greek Seaman, by Jacqueline Howett. As is common with social media, readers commented on the review. One of those commenters was the author herself — angry about BigAl’s review. What follows must be seen to be believed. I recommend you read BigAl’s review, and the initial comments on it (note that it is not worth your time to read all of the more than 300 comments that resulted). I’ll wait right here while you check it out.

Back already? Were you as stunned as I was to watch the author destroy her own reputation in a few brief hours?

I think your professional reputation might be able to recover, in time, from your insisting that grammatically tortured sentences you wrote had “no flaws.” You can later say “Since then, I’ve learned better.” But when you try to negate a reviewer’s opinion by counter-posting positive reviews from your own relatives, you lose credibility. And when you finally tell the reviewer and all the commenters, more than once, to eff off… I think you just wrote Game Over across the top of your career.

Why? Because once Google picks up your mistake, it will follow you forever.

Getting something removed from search engine results is like asking the US government to change your Social Security number: it is theoretically feasible, but it takes a long time, a lot of expense, and nearly superhuman effort to pull it off. So for the rest of Jacqueline Howett’s life, anyone who searches on her name will find her regrettable inability to absorb constructive critique. And it’s not just Google that is the problem: after the first 10o comments on BigAl’s review, you see snarkier commenters visiting from Twitter and Facebook, where people were mentioning what a hilarious ass the author was making of herself.

Wise advice from a parking slot in Costa Mesa, CaliforniaWatching the whole sobering incident motivated me to search on my own name. I’m happy to report that I found no examples where I advised readers to execute biologically implausible imperatives. But I was startled to see that where I had sent some business documents to limited, carefully selected recipients, some of those recipients had in turn re-posted the documents for the whole Internet to see. It reminded me that on the web, you dare not write assuming a limited audience and a specific context: eventually, all audiences might see your writing, without any context.

If you hope to make a career as a writer, you cannot avoid social media; nor should you try to. But let the fight over the Greek Seaman remind you that, regardless of how the “social” part of “social media” may attack or provoke you, whatever you write back remains on your permanent record. Your goal now is to exercise enough care and wisdom to make that a plus.##