Practical advice for making Social Media work for your business HINTS, TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET YOU STARTED
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Practical advice for making Social Media work for your business HINTS, TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET YOU STARTED

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If you're just getting started with social media for your business - and plenty of people still are - this paper was developed to give you some of the basic information you need. Developed in 2009, ...

If you're just getting started with social media for your business - and plenty of people still are - this paper was developed to give you some of the basic information you need. Developed in 2009, the paper is still relevant today with lots of practical advice to give business owners and marketers the confidence for a successful start.

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Practical advice for making Social Media work for your business HINTS, TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET YOU STARTED Practical advice for making Social Media work for your business HINTS, TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET YOU STARTED Document Transcript

  • Practical advice for makingSocial Media work for your businessHINTS, TIPS AND TRICKS TO GET YOU STARTED INTRODUCTION Social media is quickly becoming a vital tool for business. Also known as social marketing, social networking and Web 2.0, the buzz around social media is impossible to avoid. The problem is the maze of products and surrounding hype make it hard to know how to engage with your clients and prospects. With a blurred line between personal and business usage, many people are nervous to enter the fray for fear of doing more harm than good. This paper is developed for business owners or people that have marketing responsibilities in their job. It’s also suitable for anyone that wants to learn more about social media and successfully use it in their professional lives. The information contained in this paper is not exhaustive. Rather, it’s meant to provide enough practical advice, hints and tips to give the social media novice confidence to start engaging in the broader Web 2.0 community. MARKET DRIVERS Recent research clearly suggests that Word of Mouth (WoM) is one of the key influencers in consumer spending habits. A study conducted by PQMedia (www.pqmedia.com) published in July 2009 states: Spending on word-of-mouth (WoM) marketing rose 14.2% to $1.54 billion in 2008, despite the worst economic recession in 70 years, accentuated by secular and structural trends battering year growth is expected to slow in 2009, WoM spending is on pace to grow another 10.2% this year, placing it among the fastest growing advertising and marketing segments. By comparison, the U.S. economy, as well as the advertising and marketing services sectors are all expected to decline in 2009 for the first time since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. That explains where people are investing their advertising and marketing dollars but it does not address why. In another recent research report, Bridge Ratings (www.bridgeratings.com), an American company providing audience measurements for radio, discovered that “strangers with experience” had rocketed up in ratings second only to “friends and family with experience”. © Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 1
  • MARKET DRIVERS CONT. This means consumers weigh the advice of a total stranger higher than teachers, newspaper/ magazines and TV news reporters. Traditional advertising proved to be near the bottom of the list slightly ahead of telemarketers. The report clearly states: The point of all this is that no matter what your business or product is today and in the foreseeable future the concept of marketing that service or product has been turned on its head Consumers are investing more time doing research and are taking advice from people they don’t know. They’re finding their information on the internet. ”Social networking continues to grow in popularity both across Australia and throughout the world,” stated VP-Asia Pacific Will Hodgman of comScore. “[It] is now an essential part of peoples’ daily online routine, providing a level of engagement and reach that far exceeds most other content categories. Understanding how to leverage this audience successfully is both a challenge and significant opportunity for most digital marketers today,” Hodgman added. The problem with WoM marketing is it can quickly become a game of Chinese Whispers. As a business owner or marketing professional, it’s imperative you are the one controlling the message about your company. By generating your own buzz or attacking negative comments as they arise, you improve the effectiveness of your company and protect your positive image. ADDRESSING THE HYPE Let’s dispel some myths. Everyone wants to expose his or her company to a wider, active con- sumer base. Social media has been touted as the new model for business and maligned as a time waster. Depending on what you read, we’ve entered the dawn of a new age or we’re trav- elling further towards the destruction of civilisation. The truth is somewhere in the middle of these claims. The practical view for business owners is: 1. Social media is not going to close deals for you. 2. Social media is not going to provide you with a customer base if you don’t have a good product or service. 3. Social media probably won’t replace your current marketing strategy, although it could. It certainly can’t do it until you and your employees have enough experience to develop a thoughtful social media marketing strategy.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 2
  • ADDRESSING THE HYPE So how do you engage the internet-savvy consumer and where should you focus your time? It still comes down to business basics. The three activities easily addressed with social media are: • Promoting your brand • Establishing your authority • Generating leads Remember two things when you engage in social media for business and you’ll be ahead of the pack. 1. It’s “social” meaning your activities have to be centred on building relationships. 2. You are representing your brand or the brand where you work. At all times you should maintain a professional tone and attitude. If you only take one thing away from this paper, these two points are the most important. When you drift away from either of these concepts, you find yourself in a position of reduced effectiveness. Worse, you could end up in situation where you need to repair damage to your reputation, your brand or your credibility in the marketplace. But don’t worry, most of us conduct ourselves by these two principles with great success. THE RESEARCH In a comprehensive study published in March 2009, Social media marketing industry report: How marketers are using social media to grow their business, the results overwhelmingly pointed to four tools that consistently ranked at the top of the charts for usage and effectiveness: • LinkedIn • Twitter • Blogs • Facebook The good news is these tools conveniently match the business activities described above. While other products like MySpace, YouTube and StumbleUpon get a lot of press, for the purposes of business and this discussion, we’ll stick to the tools with proven benefits.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 3
  • THE RESEARCH CONT. The report further states (yellow highlights included in report): The number-one benefit of social media marketing is gaining the all-important eyeball. A significant 81% of all marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated exposure for their businesses. Improving traffic and growing lists was the second major benefit, followed by building new partnerships. An unexpected benefit was a rise in search engine rankings reported by more than half of participants While this is one report, the findings of nearly every other study published on social media usage is the same. A whitepaper survey called, The coming change in social media applications, separating the Biz from the Buzz, corroborates the industry report: Four services dominate the use of social media network and tools: LinkedIn (79.3% of respondents now using), Facebook (77.2% now using), Twitter (75.3% now using). Use of blogs follows closely behind, with 68% of businesses currently using them. Only 17.2% of organizations use MySpace for business. HOW TO APPLY SOCIAL MEDIA IN YOUR BUSINESS If we know how we can improve our business using social media and we know which tools to use, how do we go about figuring out which tools to use for each task? While there is definitely overlap in what each of these tools can accomplish, they all have specific strengths. As social media advances, the independent tools are finding ways to integrate with each other making them more useful than stand-alone tools. Some of them, Twitter in particular, is keeping their technology “open” allowing users and software developers to enhance and extend the current functionality. PROMOTING YOUR BRAND Perhaps the most effective way to enter the social media arena is to start a regular, corporate blog. A blog allows you to position your company, promote your products and services and keep your customers abreast of new developments. An important part of blogging is that it allows you to position yourself against your competition and handle objections before they arise. It’s an open forum for you to communicate with your customers and allows the customers to leave their own comments and opinions. There are a number of different blogging tools including Wordpress (www.wordpress.com). Integrated content management systems (CMS) like Silver Stripe (www. silverstripe.org) and Drupal (www.drupal.com) also provide blogging services.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 4
  • HOW TO APPLY SOCIAL MEDIA IN YOUR BUSINESS CONT. An added benefit of blogging is that it’s an effective way of enhancing the search engine optimization (SEO) of your website. With regular blog additions and the inclusion of key- word-rich phrases, you’re going to capitalise on an important investment. The higher your search rankings with the major search engines, the easier it will be for the consumer to find you. The Coming change in social media applications whitepaper survey has this to say about blogs: While Twitter and Facebook get the headlines, the social media form organizations are turning to most as they look to the future is blogging. Some consider blogging “old” social media, but it has proven itself an effective communication tool. The ability to reach a mass audience with a personal point of view and invite comments is very powerful. FACEBOOK (www.facebook.com) Arguably more valuable for Business-to-Customer (B2C) companies than Business-to- Business (B2B) organisations, Facebook is a free service that allows people to connect with family and friends anywhere in the world. Founded in 2004, Facebook differentiates between businesses and personal users. You can share photos, write messages, play a game or adver- tise your business. More than 200 million users sign on to Facebook every month, with 100 million users logging on to Facebook at least once a day. Here are some other interesting statistics supplied by the Facebook website: • More than two-thirds of Facebook users are outside of college. • The fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older. • Average user has 120 friends on the site • More than 850 million photos uploaded to the site each month. • More than 1 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) shared each week. Arguably more valuable for Business-to-Customer (B2C) companies than Business-to-Busi- ness (B2B) organisations, Facebook is a free service that allows people to conn ESTABLISHING YOUR AUTHORITY Allowing you to present a complete picture of your credentials and work experience, LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) is invaluable to individuals and businesses. Established in May 2003, LinkedIn is a professional networking site where work experience and accomplishments are used to connect people with trusted contacts. In its most basic form, LinkedIn allows the user to post a C.V. and to connect to people they know. These connections open a complex web connecting you to all the people your connection know, too. You can join special interest groups, post questions and provide answers to other questions that demonstrate your exper- tise in a given area.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 5
  • HOW TO APPLY SOCIAL MEDIA IN YOUR BUSINESS CONT. LinkedIn provides a comprehensive search engine that lets you find old colleagues, research businesses and introduce yourself as a subject expert. According to the LinkedIn website: • LinkedIn has over 45 million members in over 200 countries and territories around the world. • A new member joins LinkedIn approximately every second, and about half of the members are outside the U.S. • Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are LinkedIn members. GENERATING LEADS The best way to drive traffic to your website is with Twitter. (www.twitter.com) Instant messaging on a global scale, Twitter is the latest phenomenon to emerge in social media. Launched publicly in August 2006, the idea behind Twitter is to answer the question “What are you doing?” Each message is limited to 140 characters and is referred to as a “tweet”. You select people to “follow” and those tweets appear on your timeline. You can choose to send public or private messages to your followers. You can also block someone from following you if you don’t want them to see your messages. The spirit behind Twitter is one of open com- munication, which is why news agencies, politicians, celebrities and small business have all embraced it. You can send tweets from your computer, from your phone or from many ap- plications being created to support the Twitter craze. Twitter recently added a search feature allowing users to find tweets on any topic, anywhere in the world. Twitter are notoriously guarded about their user statics and don’t provide any information concerning usage. Howev- er, a 2009 comScore report claims that Australian usage of Twitter grew the most of all social networking sites, “rising to 800,000 visitors in June — up from 13,000 last year.” GETTING STARTED Before you get started, it helps to understand some of the rules and less obvious nuances to social media. If you begin your activity armed with some good advice, you’ll have a more successful experience. Detailed below are recommendations gleaned from the voice of experience. Some of these were learned the hard way so take a few moments to review them before you start creating user ids.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 6
  • GETTING STARTED CONT. SOCIAL MEDIA “DO’S”: 1. Be transparent in all your dealings. There isn’t a social media community that won’t sanction you in some way if people in the community get a whiff of deceit or underhanded technique.2. Social media is not going to provide you with a customer base if you don’t have a good product or service. 2. Use a picture. Remember you are building relationships and you’re using a visual medium. A picture makes people feel like they’re dealing with a real person. Make it easy on yourself and use the same picture for all the tools. If you’d rather not post a photo of ourself, get an avatar based on a photo. As a last resort, use a logo from your company. Whatever you do, don’t let the photo link remain blank. 3. Pick a short, descriptive user id that can be used across all tools. A common id is going to make it easy for people to follow and find you on multiple social media channels. Ideally, make it the name of your company or something that easily identifies who you are. 4. Use your real name. While your user id is how you will sign on to a tool, your associated profile should have your name. When people start investigating whether they want to have a social media relationship with you, they’re going to want to know that it’s a real, accessible person they’re communicating with. 5. Keep your details updated. If a prospect can’t find you easily, they probably won’t bother to look further than the first dead end. 6. Make regular, frequent posts. Social media requires regular activity. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, less than 20 minutes a day if you like, but you need to be consistently present in your community. 7. Be social but keep all communication at a professional level. If you’re having trouble with how to achieve this, consider the conversations you’d have in an office hallway or while waiting at the photocopier. 8. Be generous with resources. If you’ve found a good article in the newspaper, had a good experience with a business or know someone doing a great job, tell your network. 9. Shorten your URLs when providing website links. Most social media tools, especially Twitter, have a limit on the number of characters you are allowed. A number of URL shorteners provide useful statistics about usage of the link. The most popular URL shorteners are http://bit.ly and http://www.tinyurl.com. 10.List yourself in social media directories. Two good ones are www.twellow.com and www.wefollow.com. These directories are great places to find people to populate a network. 11.Adopt a Quality vs. Quantity mentality when it comes to followers. Remember, you’re in this for business. It’s not a popularity contest. A lot has been written about the etiquette around following everyone that follows you but that doesn’t make sense. Ideally, your followers are people that are prospective customers. You want these people and also the thought leaders in your field in your network. Having quality followers removes you from the “What are you eating for breakfast?” nonsense. 12.Connect your tools with each other as much as possible. The Company Buzz feature on LinkedIn allows you to follow specific keywords being discussed on Twitter. The Blog Link application on LinkedIn follows the blogs of your connections. Twitter and Facebook have many different interfaces.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 7
  • GETTING STARTED CONT. SOCIAL MEDIA “DON’T’S”: 1. Don’t be selfish, self-centred or self-serving. Your connections and followers will rebel. We’ve all been to the dinner party dominated by a corporate bore. Don’t be a social media bore. Share information, ask questions and build relationships. If you do, the opportunity to promote your business will arise on a daily basis. 2. Don’t spam. Don’t peddle porn. 3. Don’t use a suggestive or controversial photo. You’re trying to promote your business and it’s best not to do it showing a lot of skin or wielding a firearm. 4. Don’t use foul language. 5. Don’t send out quotes. This is usually a sign of a spammer or an affiliate marketer. You’re unlikely to inspire anyone and it demonstrates lack of original thought. 6. Don’t get too personal. No one really cares about your sex life, what you had for dinner or whether your bathtub needs cleaning. This sort of information only weakens your professional brand. Additionally, you don’t want to reveal so much information that your private life is jeopardised in some way. 7. Don’t comment on controversial subjects. You may have strong views on late-term abortions or sex education in primary schools but sharing these opinions probably isn’t going to win you any business. SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS BUILDING FOLLOWERS, FINDING CONNECTIONS Your experience with social media will only be as good as the network you build. It’s strongly rec- ommended that you identify the type of person you want to be in your network and then follow or “friend” those people. If you’re running a professional photo laboratory like Fitzgerald Photo Imaging, you’re going to want to friend or follow photographers. Conversely, if you are a writer you probably won’t get much business if you follow other writers. You’ll want to be following editors, PR companies and newspapers that employ writers. Figure out who your prospects are. They will be the people you want in your network. Facebook and Twitter both have loose guidelines for adding followers or friends. The networks tend to be fluid and can build very quickly. On Twitter, especially, it’s common to have total strangers in your network. One good way to find followers on Twitter is to use the directories mentioned in #10 of the Social Media “Do’s” section. Another way is to look at the people your followers are interacting with and add them to your list. Chances are if you want to follow graphic designers from Perth, they’re going to be in contact with each other. LinkedIn has a very structured, formalised method and strongly recommends that you connect only to the people you know and have worked with. Their connection interface requires you to have personal knowledge of the person with whom you want to connect. Both parties have to agree before you have a connection. To maintain the integrity of your professional network, don’t connect with anyone you don’t know. This is not the place to build relationships with strangers. Once you do, browse through the connections of the people in your network. You’ll often find you have people in common and can send an invitation to those people, too.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 8
  • SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS CONT. LEAVE YOUR FINGERPRINTS Another way to engage in social media and keep your SEO rankings moving up the scale is to leave a comment on articles or blogs. Most blogs and news sources require a name and a website before they accept a comment. The more external links your website has – the more places you have left a thoughtful, useful comment – the more authority your website has with the search engines. Again, make sure your comments are transparent and appropriate. “Link spamming” is an activity quickly identified. The people doing it are sanctioned and your SEO will suffer. Leaving a comment for the sake of leaving your website name is not acceptable in the social media world. TWITTER Twitter has a few customs that, at first glance, aren’t that intuitive. Here’s a short guide. • MDM – Direct mail. This is mail sent to you by a follower. It’s useful for sending “not for public” information like phone number. It does not appear on the public timeline so only you and the sender can see it. Direct mail is used heavily by bots and spammers and many heavy Twitter users don’t use • @ - An @ followed by a word denotes a Twitter user id. Click on your @userid to see all the Tweets and replies with your name in it. • Favorites – Tweets you have designated as a favourite by clicking on the star icon in the Tweet. • RT – Retweet, a manual copy/paste operation that allows you to rebroadcast someone else’s tweet to your network. Using retweets is a very popular way to build relationships. • RT @globalcopywrite I’m going to the next WITWA event. Anyone else joining me? http://bit.ly/fEZoc • # - Referred to as a hash tag, defines a search keyword, i.e., #perth. Hash tags allow your tweet to show in search results even if the word doesn’t appear in the Tweet. People use tags when they feel the tweet is important to a particular topic, location or demographic. • The next WITWA event is 25 August at Matilda Bay Restaurant http://bit.ly/ fEZoc, #perth, #women, #networking • #ff or #followfriday – A weekly Twitter occurrence, Twitter users list the names of people that have been helpful to them in the previous week or people they would like to recognize. Participating in the #followfriday activity is an extremely valuable way to build a loyal following. • #ff @witwa @globalcopywrite @the_west_aust @jan190 • #followfriday @kaz747 and @g_parker for helping us with our next presentation.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 9
  • LINKEDIN LinkedIn is a marvellous tool because it’s nearly devoid of spam and porn. It’s a professional network and people work really hard to keep it that way. Some nice features of LinkedIn include: Company Buzz – an application that allows you to track Twitter traffic about a company or keyword. The initial companies are loaded from your profile but you can add as many keywords and companies as you would like. Blog Link – an application that provides links to the blogs of your connections. Polls – LinkedIn allows you to create and run polls which can be valuable in research. Status Update – A “tweet” style update that shows on your profile and is published to your connection group. Groups – Special interest groups provide another way for you to connect with people and enlarge your network. Examples include Women are IT, WA, AWISE, Australian Computer Society, and Australian IT Industry. BLOGS As mentioned before, blogging is the best way to position your company, knock out the competition and allow for on-going dialogue with your clients. It’s also an excellent way to keep the SEO of your website fresh and current. Still, many people don’t blog because they’re not sure what to say, how to say it or they don’t have the time to write and maintain a regular column. While the other social media tools can be used in the spare moments while you’re holding for a phone call or eating your lunch, blogs require a more structured, thoughtful approach. If you’re not blogging, you’re losing a lot of valuable business opportunity. Consider sharing the blog load with several different colleagues in your office. You can also ask people to guest blog for you and feature this in your social media activity. An industry expert or overseas visitor can create buzz for your blog in a way you can’t do by yourself. If these solutions aren’t possible, hire a freelance writer to maintain the blog for you. The benefits you get from blog- ging will far outweigh the fee a professional writer will charge.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 10
  • CALL TO ACTION Social media is an excellent way to establish authority, promote your brand and generate leads for your company. As long as you approach it as a relationship building exercise and maintain a professional presence, embarking on social media activity can be satisfying and highly prof- itable. With a minimal time investment, you can have a profile defined on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. You can start building a file of blog posts even if you website isn’t currently geared with a blog page. Decide on a user id, find a picture and start a conversation. If you’re patient and let your networks build over time, before long, you’ll be involved in a fullblown social media marketing campaign. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Sarah Mitchell is the owner of Global Copywriting (www.globalcopywriting.com), a freelance writing company based in Fremantle, Western Australia. She specialises in content marketing and B2B documents. Her specialities include white papers, case studies and blogs. Her experi- ence includes 20 years in the IT business. She has five years direct sales experience and over 10 years writing experience. She has lived and worked on five continents. ABOUT RYAN BRIGGS WEB & PRINT CREATIVE WEB & PRINT CREATIVE WEB & PRINT CREATIVE WEB & PRINT CREATIVE Ryan Briggs Ryan Briggs (www.ryanbriggs.com.au) – Award-winning web and print designer based in North Perth. Ryan’s creative talents complement a shrewd business sense resulting in designs that look terrific and work hard for your business. His consultative style and generosity with advice make him a number one choice for all marketing and design projects.© Ryan Briggs & Sarah Mitchell 2009. All rights Reserved Page 11