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It’s not surprise that an increasing number of small businesses are gravitating to social media so they can connect with audiences and find new customers.
Part of social medias appeal is its free or cost-efficient. While this is somewhat true, social media is a beast that demands time, energy and a tactical commitment.
For many small businesses, all of the above are often in short supply.
The reality, however, is small businesses need to use social media to be successful. What was once a quick way to market and brand is now essential to survive and drive profits.
So here’s the thing: small businesses need a digital marketer.
Whether it is an owner, employee or using a third-party supplier, someone needs to constantly be on top of the ever-changing social media landscape.
A key role played by the digital marketer is being the online voice for a small business, which has to regularly connect with target audiences.
There’s many ways for small businesses to succeed in the world of social media.
The first step is finding a digital marketer internally or outside the organization. The second step is creating the plan, and then proper execution.
Social media can be cost efficient (not free) but, more importantly, it is money well spent if the strategy, effort and knowledge is there.
According to statistics, more than two-thirds of small businesses have increased their social media activity. This number will definitely continue to rise.
Social media gives every business a chance to get into the ring with their competitors. It affords them the opportunity to start the conversation and compete for customers.
With 85% of consumers going online to research before they buy, why wouldn’t you want to be active on social media?
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Most people in the business world now recognize the importance of a strong social media presence. The trouble is many entrepreneurs don’t know how to effectively use social networking to build their influence and reach target customers.
Social networking has been identified by experts as one of the top skills entrepreneurs must have in their arsenal of weapons for 2014. Not surprising, given the explosion of social media and its impact on the business world.
The challenge for many entrepreneurs, who often are responsible for their own skills’ development, is figuring out which social networking activities they should make their central focus in order to lead their companies to success in today’s new marketing environment.
A major mistake many entrepreneurs make is they start social media profiles and then forget about them. Fostering a social media network is like planting a seed: You won’t see much growth in the beginning, but it’s still important to feed and water the soil,” says Augie Ray, a New York-based social media strategist.
“Because entrepreneurship is so demanding, it’s easy to think that your sleepy Facebook page or Twitter account may not need attention, but when customers post questions or comments they do expect a speedy response,” Ray said.
Research shows of those who engage with brands on Twitter, half expect a brand to respond to a tweet within an hour. This doesn’t mean you need to be monitoring your social networks 24-7, but it does mean you can’t afford to go days or weeks without checking in, responding and offering content.
Bottom-line is if you want your business to remain viable in the future, you will need to maximize the marketing potential of social media.
So what are the top social networking skills that every entrepreneur should possess?
To answer that question, I turned to Ray and Jules Taggart, a San Diego-based marketing strategist.
Ray has more than 15 years experience in digital media. Taggart is founder and president of amp&pivot, which provides content marketing for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Here are their suggestions for the top social networking skills every entrepreneur needs:
“Reaching out and connecting with other entrepreneurs can help you with everything from emotional support to practical advice,” says Ray. “Once you build a network, you can rely on people you trust for recommendations or advice. And of course, that network can be a source of business and referrals.”
Some big companies can succeed strictly on their efficiency, but nascent entrepreneurs need to be able to tell a good story.
“Your story is how you differentiate yourself from the competition, it’s how you earn and generate PR and it’s why people care,” Ray said. “In the age of social media, the ability to create and deliver a good story can make a huge difference to a fledgling business.
Every piece of social media content you create should be unique because each audience is different, says Taggart.
“People want 80% of the content on Google+ (meaning in the body of the post). Including a link to your blog post is important, but people don’t want to have to click on the link. That’s the nature of the Google+ platform (at least for now).”
Transparency and active participation
Too many businesses approach social media as though they were robots, failing to engage their customers. If your tweets or posts are too random and distant, customers will not feel a connection to your brand and may be less inclined to purchase your products or services.
“Your social media posts should always feel like a conversation,” says Taggart.
The day-to-day demands of running a business can be overwhelming, but building an online reputation requires making time daily for cultivation of social media channels.
“If you plan time every day to share something, respond to inbound comments and posts and thank people for Yelp reviews or LinkedIn recommendations, you will begin to build your reputation and network,” Ray said.
The ability to give
‘Before you ask, you must first give’ is the rule in social media.
Taggart suggests entrepreneurs focus the majority of their tweets or posts on sharing helpful ideas and examples for their customers and less about the sale of their products and services.
“We want people to go to our websites and buy our goods and services, but if you ask before you give, you’ll be tuned out pretty quickly,” Taggart said.
While social media can be a complex world to navigate, especially for busy entrepreneurs, understanding how to use it efficiently and wisely can be a cost-effective way to share ideas, grow your market and lead your company successfully into the future.
It’s that time of year again when marketers, communicators, social media people, app designers and anyone with little twinge of geek in them heads to Austin, Texas for a meeting of the minds. And parties. Don’t forget the parties.
That’s right, it’s time for South By South West (SXSW) again.
If you’ve ever been to SXSW Interactive before, you know that there’s a lot of great learning opportunities while you’re in town, but sometimes it feels like some of the topics and words can get a little repetitive. While the teachings are good, it’s also a great place to sometimes get buried in buzzwords. That’s why this year we wanted to help people have a little bit of fun with it while they’re down at SXSW.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the buzzwords we’re expecting to hear a lot of at 2014′s SXSWi. Words like “big data,” “curation,” “internet of things” and, of course, the always popular “ROI.”
We’re going to be monitoring the #SXSW and #SXSWi hashtags over the course of the Interactive conference to see how many of these words start trending as people share what they’re learning in the multitude of sessions. We’ll then be tweeting some of the most popular ones and showing you when they’re trending, so be sure to follow @Marketwired on Twitter and follow the #SXSWBuzzBINGO hashtag. Also, if you have a hot tip about a session that’s filling up your board, tweet us and let us know about it.
Want to play along? We’re going to have a bunch of our people representing Sysomos around the conference and Austin handing out these BINGO boards so you can play and have some fun while you’re learning. Or, you can print out a copy of our buzzword BINGO board and bring it along yourself.
But wait, that’s not all.
We’re also going to be putting together some video content while we’re down at SXSWi and we want to hear from you. We want to know what you, the great minds interested in social media, think about the future of social media. Our community manager, Sheldon (@40deuce), and some more of our team will be walking around and shooting video interviews, so if you see them feel free to stop them. Or feel free to tweet at Sheldon to find out where he is during the conference.
We’re really looking forward to SXSW this year and hope you are too.
Don’t forget to print out your copy of SXSW Buzzword BINGO or get a card from one of our many reps in Austin so you can play along with us.
We’ll see you in Austin!
We all know what Google has created a lucrative revenue engine using pay-per-click ads, while Facebook has deployed a similar advertising model through its embrace of advertising.
Facebook ads have taken off over the last few years, and brands have invested significant budgets to attract clicks and likes. This should never be seen as an expense but more as an investment because it does pay off.
The gain is obvious for Facebook beyond the bottom line. The more brands and organizations are invested in their network, the more financially viable Facebook becomes. This is not only good for business but also a good thing given Facebook needs to meet the demands of Wall St. as a publicly-traded company.
The clicks have seen a steady increase in the past few quarters but the important stat Facebook needs to see rise is click through rate (CTR).
Higher CTR means more engagement with the ads being presented, as well as more revenue for Facebook.
The value of a like is tied directly to CTR. If you value your Facebook fan base, you would be best served by allocating money to Facebook ads. Incentives can help but proper design and copy are the keys to having a compelling presence.
Facebook advertising needs to follow the upward trajectory of Google Adwords. There’s no arguing it has the user base, as well as the brand engagement and the resources to make it happen.
It is users who decide if they want to click on ads, while brands decide if this is where they want to spend their budgets.
Do you invest in Facebook ads? Do you feel confident they will continue to provide the return on investment that you’ve come to expect?
As the old saying goes; it’s not what you know it’s who you know.
That’s why using social media has become one of the best tools for people on the hunt for a job. Social media allows you to interact and network with large groups of people all at the same time. It also gives job seekers the ability to access people that previously would have been nearly impossible to meet.
I can attest to this, because if I wasn’t able to use social media as an avenue to help me find a job, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this blog post for you all today.
But social media isn’t just for job seekers. People who are looking to hire are also scouring social media for the right people to join their teams. In fact, according to our friends at Gumtree, an online classifieds market in the UK, more recruiters are using social media to find people than job seekers are.
For that reason, the folks at Gumtree put together a great infographic to help job seekers make a better appearance in the social space for these potential job recruiters. The stats listed in the infographic are based on numbers from the UK, but a lot of the advice is universal.
Check out Gumtree’s tips below on what can help you get a job through social media, what will hinder you, and some great tips on how to use LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ to improve your social job searching.
Have you used social media to help you land a job in the past? If so, we’d love to hear your story in the comments.
Oh, and if you know someone currently searching for a job, you may want to be a good friend and share this with them.
Iron Road Ltd., an Adelaide, Australia-based mining company with a $2.5 billion iron ore deposit through the Central Eyre Iron Project, is using Twitter to raise its profile with the global investment community. In under a year, the company went from having absolutely no followers on Twitter to a current total of 3,325. Among its followers are regulators, stock brokers, fund managers, and journalists.
Like many companies that succeed with social media, Iron Road stands out for the quality and usefulness of the information it tweets. Rather than just promoting itself, the company tweets about the Reserve Bank of Australia’s predictions for the price of iron ore and for prospects for the Australian dollar.
The company also promotes its social-media presence. From the Investor Centre on Iron Road’s Web site, visitors are invited to “be part of our community” by joining the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Often, the modesty of follower numbers on Twitter doesn’t reflect the power of the medium. In a YouTube case study on Iron Road, it’s estimated that the company is actually reaching 119,000 investors, advisors and other interested parties each month — thanks to the fact that the company’s tweets are widely retweeted.
To see the brief case study on Iron Road’s use of Twitter, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrQHqwUOy9U.
As you might imagine, we’re pretty big fans of seeing people use interesting data to create great content. That’s why when we got word of how our client GolinHarris turned some research data into a full-blown social campaign, we had to share the story with you.
McDonald’s Canada wanted to promote their McCafé® Premium Roast Brewed Coffee. More specifically, through social media they wanted to raise awareness of their Free Coffee event – where as you might have guessed, restaurants across the country give away free coffee to all their customers (which is going on now, just in case you live in Canada and are in need of a caffeine fix). So working with GolinHarris,they started to plan by doing what any smart professional would; research.
Using our Sysomos software, GolinHarris and McDonald’s Canada started to research how Canadian consumers talk about coffee through social media. During the process, they started to notice some interesting patterns in the stats they were seeing. Things like: Canadians talk about coffee on Wednesdays the most, or that March sees the largest amount of coffee talk in Canada while July sees the least.
All of this was really interesting data that they collected through social media to learn more about their target consumers, Canadian coffee drinkers, that they could use to plan out both their campaigns and their products.
But rather than keep this information internal, they started thinking about who else might like to know about some of their interesting findings. The answer was, of course, Canadian coffee drinkers. So they set about to create a fun way to share this information while promoting McCafé’s coffee and free coffee week.
The result is a series of what GolinHarris calls “infobytes.” Little single fact infographics that they can share through social media that will likely grab the attention of the coffee drinkers they’re targeting by showing them interesting data about themselves.
— McDonald’s Canada (@McD_Canada) February 26, 2014
We thought this was a really clever idea. Use interesting data found through our Sysomos software about their target audience to actually intrigue and entice that same audience. The infobytes are nice looking too.
This just goes to show that data can be a powerful tool. It can not only help you to learn more about your audience, but it can also help to grab their attention. People love to see interesting data presented in an interesting way.
So, if you’re doing research, don’t always keep your findings to yourself. Use it to tell a story. You may just be surprised by who else finds it interesting and takes notice.
To see more of McDonald’s Canada’s infobytes check out their Twitter account.
By Karen Geier
Traditional wisdom says that anything worth having is worth working for. However, we live in a world where more and more items are available to us free or at low cost in a digital format, so much so that consumers are spoiled by having easy access to too many choices. Welcome to the new economy where anything worth making is worth gamifying to attract users and encourage their interaction.
What is Gamification?
Gamification is the high-tech version of something your dad used to tell you to do when you had to perform a dreaded task like mowing the lawn or raking leaves: “make a game of it.” Built into humans’ primal nature is a desire to compete, even if it’s against ourselves, and to be considered a winner. Gamification applies these simple challenge-and-reward systems into the tasks you need to accomplish, turning the experiences into more pleasant ones.
Learning new tasks is often frustrating. Enter Duolingo, an app that adds self-challenge rewarded with “life hearts,” and in-app currency that you earn along with high marks and completion – all praise and encouragement to the otherwise boring and typically rote method of learning a new language. The result is that Duolingo has quickly become the top language-learning app in the app store. Can your company benefit from the mechanics that caused Duolingo to become so popular?
How to Leverage Gamification
Gamification works because humans are hardwired to move in the direction of reward, and they have a natural need to compete. If you can figure out what part of your business directly fits into this paradigm, you could be a candidate for gamification. You don’t have to turn everything into a game; you just have to think about how you can remove the tedium in the sales process or user experience of your product.
You have probably experienced gamification if you have a LinkedIn account. Most people are on LinkedIn looking to increase business leads or to get their next job. LinkedIn sends out reminders via email and in-app for you to “be found by more people,” encouraging you to provide more information to them.
Find an Area Your Business Needs Help With
Every business has pain points, and these are usually things that have some barrier associated with them, which might involve a third-party service or process that need standardization to make the vendor’s job easier. But those are factors that don’t necessarily contribute positively toward the end user’s experience. Often, these pain points have a direct effect on a business that you can measure, such as a too-complicated shopping cart that has a high rate of abandons. Identify these pain points.
Figure out What Would Be a Cost-efficient Reward for Completing this Activity
Gamification isn’t about bribery or unearned rewards; it’s the opposite. Sometimes, the reward is just fun, or something unexpected. Think about ways you can entertain users while they wait, or make it enjoyable for them to see their progress toward earning future rewards.
Find a Way to Make Getting to that Reward Fun or Validating
Perhaps instead of a cart completion, you’re looking for a customer to fill out more information about themselves on your site. This is one of the most tedious activities for a customer. Figure out a way that you can make this interesting, or how you can make the experience one they are willing to tolerate. Maybe it’s the promise that if they fill out their profile beyond a threshold, they can unlock “kitten mode” on the form, and kittens will randomly appear every time they finish a new section. Think about the things that people enjoy doing when they’re not working, such as playing casual games or looking at funny pictures.
Test and Execute
See how your changes will work by conducting an A/B test that compares two versions (A and B), which are identical except for one variation that might impact a user’s behavior. If you get more of your desired result from the test group, you’ll know it has worked. If you get many fewer completes with your changed version, you’ll know that you have made incorrect assumptions.
Plan For Super Fans
This might seem strange, but in any gamified situation, there is the potential for superfans, both good and bad. If your “game” includes real rewards, make sure you’re building in traps for automated bots, so that you don’t experience losses due to automation.
On the other hand, you might have real superfans who love what you do. Don’t make the mistake of making too few “levels” or dampening the surprise for super users. Plan ahead to add more levels or complexity to your game to keep engagement high.
It’s not a magic bullet, but by adding game elements to engaging parts of your sales cycle or user experience, gamification can help your brand overcome some of its pain points. It takes planning correctly, making informed assumptions about your potential customer base, and rethinking methods of attracting customers.
Twitter seems to be in the midst of a thorough redesign, which is currently being beta tested among small groups of users.
Users tend to be livid with Facebook and their constant updates and refreshes, but this one has the potential to take the cake.
A redesign of Twitter’s homepage and profile page had to surface at some point. When it comes to design, Twitter has failed to evolve and improve.
It’s one of the reasons why many users eventually move to other services such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck (owned by Twitter).
The new redesign will include major changes to the profile page. Truthfully, it feels more like its main competitors, Facebook and Google+.
One of the biggest changes (and potentially the one that will attract the most complaints) is the removal of the vertical stream.
We don’t know what the redesign will include or how some of its functionality will change.
It seems there will be a greater emphasis on photos, which might take up more real estate. This will mean photo sharing will be important if this redesign sees the light day.
For many digital marketers, the redesign is going to mean making adjustments. Most brands have been chugging along with their original strategy (if it worked in the first place, of course).
Now, Twitter appears to be throwing its users and brands a curveball.
Digital marketers who figure out how to effectively leverage the redesign could see new opportunities for success. The risk for not adapting is there’s no guarantee your current strategy will continue to work.
Think about the changes made by Facebook and Google. Were you able to simply continue along? You most likely had to change course in some way to thrive in the new environment.
The plan should be to brace yourself, review the changes when they go live, brainstorm and then execute a new plan.
They said that the London 2010 Summer Olympics was the first ever “Social Olympics” as social media became a way for people around the world to connect, talk and share over one event. But if London was the first, the Sochi Games that just finished took social to the next level.
London started the trend, but social media became very prevalent to the world during the Sochi Games. There was even an official hashtag that was revealed months in advance. The Olympic committee in charge of these Winter Games thought that a great way for the entire world to connect and be part of one large conversation was for everyone to use the hashtag “#Sochi2014.”
While many other hashtags appeared and took off during the games (like #SochiProblems or the #WeAreWinter hashtag that was adopted by Canadians talking about the games) the official hashtag for the games was still one of the most prevalent that we saw.
As an homage to the games, we decided to take a look back at how the #Sochi2014 hashtag was used over three weeks that the Winter Games ran for using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software.
While hashtags are usually most used on Twitter (although we all know that they’ve snuck over to Facebook and even into real life), we decided to start our look with a high overview of a few social channels. As it turns out, the #Sochi2014 hashtag did show the most on Twitter, coming in at over 4.7 million tweets over the course of the games between February 7-22. However, the hashtag did spill over to other parts of the web as we also found the hashtag appear in 4,115 blog posts, 3,736 online news articles and 301 forum postings.
Over on Instagram, where hashtags serve almost the same purpose as they do on Twitter (to join people to one giant conversation), we also found the #Sochi2014 hashtag used 739,607 times as tags for people’s pictures.
However, since the largest network to see action on the #Sochi2014 hashtag was Twitter, we’re going to focus the rest of our look there. As mentioned above, we found that the hashtag appeared in 4,722,256 tweets over the three week period that the games ran for. When we divide that number down, it mean that the hashtag was used 295,141 times a day over the course of the games. Or, to get even more specific, the hashtag was used 12,298 times an hour.
Looking at those tweets spread out over time we can get a good sense of how it was used. As you can see from the popularity chart below, the hashtag seemed to have been use the most on February 7th, which was the Opening Ceremonies of the games. From there, the hashtag took a slight decline in use (as people likely started talking about individual sports and left out the #Sochi2014 hashtag when they were doing so), but people still continued to use it. The second largest day of use for the hashtag came on February 20th. After doing a little investigation, it looks like the hashtag had a rise in popularity as the world tuned in to watch long-time rivals Canada play the United States in the men’s semi-finals of the Olympic hockey tournament.
While the Winter Olympics don’t bring in as many countries as the summer ones do, the hashtag was still appearing in tweets around the globe. The United States used the #Sochi2014 hashtag the most as they have a large population that quite active on Twitter. The United States accounted for 36.3% of all tweets using the hashtag. After that, Canada used the #Sochi2014 hashtag the second most and accounted for 21% of the tweets. The next two countries to chime in on the hashtag the most fell far below with the United Kingdom producing 7.6% of the #Sochi2014 tweets and Russia, the host country, producing 4.5% of the tweets.
For a better idea of how the hashtag was used around the world, we pulled up our geo-location heat map to visualize where all the #Sochi2014 tweets were coming from. Looking at this map we can see that no country didn’t participate in the Olympic conversation. However, we can also see how concentrated the tweets are from some of the top countries mentioned above.
Next, we explored what kind of tweets were being sent using the #Sochi2014 hashtag. As it turns out, people loved to share Olympic information during the games as is evident by the retweet being the most prevalent tweet type we found being used. From the over 4.7 million tweets we analyzed, 53% of them were retweets. That’s over half of all the tweets that contained #Sochi2014. 45% of the tweets analyzed were “regular tweets” meaning that they were single tweets with no @ mentions that were sent into the twittersphere. This has become a very common practice when people live-tweet events. People send out tweets about they’re watching to be part of the conversation regardless of if they’re talking to anyone in particular or not. And speaking of talking to people, only 2% of all the #Sochi2014 tweets were sent with @ mentions, meaning they were directed as someone specific. It seems that just being part of the conversation took precedence over actually having a conversation.
Since over half of the #Sochi2014 tweets were retweets, we wanted to see which were the most popular RT’s from the games. Like the conversation, we found that some of the more popular retweets came from all ends of the globe. One of our favourite ones (especially in our Canadian offices) is the second most retweeted tweet which came from Stephen Harper, Canada’s Prime Minister, who bet on both women and men’s hockey games where Canada played the United States for a case of beer for each game against President Obama, and was now looking to collect. Take a look at the top six retweets we found below.
We then did a quick dive into some text analytics to see what people were talking about while they were using the #Sochi2014 hashtag. When we looked at our buzzgraph, which shows words that have been found being used the most in conjunction with our search term, we see that a lot of popular events seem to come up the most. We found words like “ski,” “snowboard,” “slopestyle,” “hockey” and even “biathalon” showing up, which leads us to believe that these were some of the most popular sports from these Olympics. Also, while no surprise, the talk of “medals” played a large role in the conversation happening around the hashtag.
Lastly, we recognize that #Sochi2014 was not the only hashtag being used to talk about the Winter Olympics. So, we also searched to find out which hashtags were being used most in tweets that also contained #Sochi2014. As it turns out, the second largest used hashtag was #TeamUSA, which makes sense seeing as the United States did tweet the most during the Games. Also, with Canada producing the second most amount of tweets, it was no surprise to also see #TeamCanada and #WeAreWinter (the hashtag adopted by most Canadians when talking about their showing at the Olympics) made it into the top 10 as well. As well, last on the list we can see the #SochiProblems hashtag, which started a few days before the games. However, that hashtag took on a life of it’s own and was used a lot without the #Sochi2014 hashtag as well. (For those of you wondering, #SochiProblems was used 385,466 tweets over the course of the Games).
Were you tweeting along during the games? Tell us about your favourite Olympic social media experience during the games? Was it sharing a winning moment with your country? Or maybe it was something that one of the many brands trying to get in on the Olympic action did? We want to know, so tell us in the comments.