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Getting Started with Twitter: Setting Up Twitter for Business

20 Aug

How tweet it is!

Of all of the social media platforms, Twitter is the most unintuitive for business owners. Its 140-character limit, fast pace and motto “What Are You Doing?” seem to relegate it to rather meaningless updates like “Stuck in traffic! Ugh!” However, if used correctly, Twitter can be an unusually effective way for businesses to communicate with potential customers. I’ll go into the ways you can use Twitter to promote your business in a later post.

Let’s start from the beginning. Here’s how to set up your Twitter account:

  1. First, go to Twitter and sign up for an account. When you choose your login name, or “handle,” choose carefully as this will be your identifier when you tell other people to connect with you. It should be either your company identity or a keyword combination (ex. @creditrepairhelp). My Twitter handle is @buzzoomba because I use it to drive people to my blog, Buzzoomba. The URL for my Twitter page is http://twitter.com/buzzoomba, but most people use the @ handle to designate their Twitter addresses.
  2. If you want to get an overview, you can read through the Twitter help guide.
  3. Create an avatar. An avatar is a small square image that appears next to your tweets as an identifier. If you are tweeting as an individual, you can upload a photo, but for business, I suggest creating an image that is a version of your logo. Because of its small size, you may not be able to fit your entire logo and if you upload it, it will chop it off. If it looks fine, keep it, otherwise you may want to pare it down to a smaller element.
  4. If you want to brand your Twitter site, you can upload a custom background, rather than using one of the default backgrounds provided by Twitter. Here is a good post on how to do that.
  5. Now that you are set up, the next step is to find people to follow. Twitter is the most open of the social media networks. Unlike LinkedIn, where you have to know a person before inviting them into your network and you need to actually specify how you know him, and Facebook, where your invitation must be accepted by the other person, in Twitter, you are free to follow just about anybody. Many people on Twitter will follow you back if you follow them, so in an attempt to build their list, many people simply do a search on a topic related to their business using Twitter Search and follow the people who come up in the search results. You can also search on people you know by typing in their email addresses.
  6. Start tweeting away! Twitter is a very fast platform because the more people you are following and the more they tweet, the quicker each tweet drops down from the top, so it can be challenging to stand out in the crowd. Plan to tweet your message five times a day, so that it is seen by the most people. You can mix it up by tweeting two different messages so it doesn’t get boring for people who have been on and seen one of your earlier tweets. Be conscious of how you use your words because of the short length you have to work with. Most people who include links in their tweets use a site that shortens the URL for Twitter. The most popular ones are  http://bit.ly and http://tinyurl.com, although if you use a social feed aggregator like HootSuite and you bring in your blog feed, it will automatically give you a shortened URL that you can tweet.
  7. Understand the lingo. Because of the limited space, Twitter users (Twits for short) use abbreviations similar to the text messages you might see a teenager use and they also use special Twitter phrases. Here are a few:
  • Retweet (RT) – This is like forwarding on someone else’s tweet to all of your followers. When you see something useful that someone has retweeted, if you mouse over the tweet, at the bottom, you will see a link that says “Retweet,” and that’s all there is to it.
  • Reply – When you want to reply back to a particular one of your followers, follow the same procedure as above, and click “Reply,” then type your reply.
  • Hashtags – Hashtags are the # symbol and are used before a phrase that you want other people to be able to search on. For example, if you sell sports equipment and your tweet is about that, you may want to include #sportsequipment at the end of your tweet. People interested in sports equipment can then go to Twitter search and type in that phrase, and your tweet will appear in the results.
  • Direct Messages (DM) – You may want to talk directly to a follower without replying to something she has already said. In that case, you would use a direct message. Click on the person’s avatar or handle to go to her profile page. On the right side, under actions, click message and then type your message.

Twitter takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, you will soon find yourself tweeting along with the rest of the flock.

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Getting Started with Facebook: Setting Up a Business Facebook Page

17 Aug

Get all you can out of Facebook

If you are one of the 300 million Facebook users, you probably use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, play games and access new, information and videos of dancing babies on YouTube.

You may not be getting everything you can out of Facebook, however, if you have not yet set up a Facebook page for your business. While it is true that most people go on Facebook in order to connect with friends, they do also find business sites that their friends recommend or that they find by doing a search. But doing business on Facebook is a much softer sell than on your own company website or advertising, so it pays to do it right from the beginning.

First, the basics…Here’s how to set up your business page on Facebook:

  1. Go to www.facebook.com, and log in if the system has not already automatically logged you in.
  2. Go down to the bottom of the page and click on Advertising, the click Pages and the Create a Page.
  3. Select the type of business you have. The choices are a) local, b) brand, product or organization, and c) artist, band or public figure. Choose the first one if your business is bound by a geographic area, like a dentist, attorney, or restaurant. If you have an online business or a business that can serve customers across the US and/or multiple countries, choose the second one. The last choice is self explanatory.
  4. Fill in as much information in the next fields and screens as possible, including your company logo. If your company has any RSS blog feeds, relevant videos, images, or other content, include it. Google will reward you with a higher rank, the more information you have on your page.
  5. Add Facebook applications to your page. One of the most popular is Social RSS which will feed your blog content into your Facebook page. See “5 Essential Apps for Your Business’s Facebook Fan Page” on Mashable.com for more with instructions about how to use them.
  6. If you don’t have a blog (and if you don’t, shame on you! You need one!), then you will need to populate your page with information that is useful and interesting to your target audience. If possible, the content should be yours to show your expertise, but you can also augment it by adding links to other people’s articles that are on topic.
  7. Now it is time to promote your page. You can only directly promote it to your own contacts (which you can mine from your personal page), by clicking the Invite Friends link on the left side of the page. Write a little promo telling people what they can get from your page.  As you add more friends on your personal page, remember to send out more invitations to your business page. Facebook will automatically give them a link to get there. You can also promote it via email, on your website, printed marketing materials, business cards, advertising and other social media like Twitter and LinkedIn.
  8. Once people have signed up by “liking” your page, give them a reason (like your fantastic content, freebies and discounts) to pass it along to their other colleagues or contacts.
  9. Update your page often, whether it with a feed from your blog or other status updates to keep your fans’ interest.
  10. Try to involve them in your little mini-community by starting discussions on the Discussions tab and asking them to interact with you. Inject your personality in your page, and don’t be afraid to include some interesting or funny posts that are not entirely related to your business (as long as they are in good taste).

Are You Contagious? Starting a Viral Campaign About Your Product

11 Aug

Psst! Pass it on!

Psst! Pass it on!

Everyone has heard about how the Internet, and social media in particular can help your product or brand go viral, with people passing it along to their communities like a summer cold. But with so many marketing messages out there, how can you spark enough interest to get people to post or retweet your message?

1. Be outrageous – When you do something shocking, people want to share it. An example would be Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” series on YouTube. Blendtec makes high powered kitchen blenders, and put out a series of YouTube videos where they put all sorts of things into the blender, including a golf ball, marbles, and an iPad.

2. Be funny – People love to share a good joke, and if you can use humor to spread your brand name or features, that much the better. Check out the Heinken Walk in Fridge Commerical on YouTube as an example.

3. Present astounding facts about something everyone is already interested in, but don’t know much about – Everyone loves to look like the smartest guy in the room, so if you can provide people facts they can casually drop into cocktail conversation, they will pass it along. In order to really be viral, though, it must be packaged in a cool way. A great example of this is the Socialnomics video on YouTube.

4. Be controversial – When you aren’t politically correct, tongues are sure to wag. An online t-shirt site, T-Shirt Hell carries this to the extreme, with hundreds of humorous, but offensive, prejudiced and racist t-shirts. Their twist, of course, is humor, and they started a viral avalanche when they announced that they were closing the site down because they were tired of all the people giving them a hard time. Everyone got to talking, and on the day they were scheduled to close, they announced that it was all a joke and they weren’t closing after all. Sales went up from around 3,000 t-shirts a week to 100,000 a week for the next few weeks.

OK, so now you have a great video or campaign put together. How do you get it out there?

1. Make sure your content is easily accessible from your web page, on your social media networks and in your email signature. This will reach into your community, and maybe beyond if it is compelling enough.

2. In order to turn your viral campaign into an epidemic, you need to get it into the hands of the major influencers: the top bloggers, analysts and mainsteam media folks. Send them an email with a link to download your content (don’t attach it unless asked).

3. Seed it on social bookmarking sites like Delicious, Reddit, Stumbleupon and Digg. Provide links on your website next to your viral content that make it easy for people to recommend it on these sites.

4. Don’t give up – Your viral campaign may not become catching right away. Keep promoting it, and you may accumulate enough eyeballs to really start something. If it doesn’t catch on, try something else; not every campaign will go viral.

Now, go out and start your “word of mouse” campaign!

Coloring Within the Lines: How to Keep Social Media from Backfiring

10 Aug

Coloring within the lines

Don't cross the line!

Whether it is the FCC fining CBS over half a million dollars for Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction or the CAN SPAM Act, the government or someone else always feels the need to step in and establish some rules around media, and social media is no exception. With social media, however, you have an added incentive to play fair; if the online community feels that you are being dishonest, misleading or insensitive to their needs, watch out! The social media community is not shy about making their feelings known.

At the end of last year, the Federal Trade Commission instituted new rules regarding social media marketing, and sites like Facebook have begun to self regulate as well. Here is a recap:

Don’t : Pay people to “like” or endorse your product without disclosing the fact that they have been paid to do so. This goes for bloggers plugging your company as well as sending out a request for testimonials sweetened with a payment or reward. It’s just plain deceptive. One of the nice things about social media is that people trust people to be honest and speak their mind. If it eventually gets out that you have put someone up to endorsing you and didn’t disclose, it could seriously damage the trust you have built up with your community.

Do: Ask your best customers to write reviews and act as brand ambassadors, but don’t pay them off for doing so.

Don’t: Include deceptive topics into your promotional tweets or posts. Habitat, a furniture manufacturer, was caught putting misleading trendy topics like #iphone in front of its promos to add people to its list. Twitter users squawked, and Habitat had to backpedal and issue an apology.

Do: Be upfront about what you are talking about.

Don’t: Require Facebook users to “like” your page in order to enter a contest or sweepstakes. It may give you some more fans, but will cast doubt on your whole fan base.

Do: Use contests to bring people to your page and let them decide for themselves if they really like you.

Don’t: Only send out a steady stream of promotional messages to the exclusion of all else. Last year, the train service Eurostar continually tweeted about its ticket promos, but totally disregarded followers’ questions about the service. This blew up in their face when their trains became stuck in the channel and their silence on the issue was deafening.

Do: Keep a reasonable ratio of useful/interesting/valuable content to promotions, recommended at 4:1 so your users don’t feel spammed, and make sure that you are addressing their real concerns such as customer service and quality issues.

Don’t: Hear only what you want to hear. Sometimes you may launch a product that is roundly panned by your audience. When this happened at Honda with its new Crosstour car, Honda’s product manager was the lone dissenter, loudly praising the car. Not only didn’t he listen to the people, but he neglected to identify his role in the company, another no-no.

Do: Resist the urge to defend yourself. When faced with criticism, thank people for their feedback and tell them that the company will take it into consideration. Then, really do what you said and come back to the community with some kind of resolution to the issues. Domino’s Pizza did a good job of this when confronted with the poor quality of their product. They used TV and social media to admit that their pizza was bad, but that they had improved it and were asking people to give it another try. The campaign was a smashing success, and their stock soared by 50%.

Remember, social media is all about building trust, and if you cross the line and get caught by your community, it could set your company and your social media strategy back for a long time. Before social media, a person who had a bad experience with a company would tell an average of 7 friends about it. Now, the number of people who will instantly hear of a company’s misstep has gone up exponentially. So, be honest and transparent, and treat your community members like they want to be treated, with respect and human dignity. You know, like you would want to be treated by someone else.

Marketing’s Ugly Stepsister – Crunching the Numbers on Social Media Effectiveness

3 Aug

Marketing's ugly stepsister

Crunching the numbers isn't pretty, but it's necessary

When I had finished my degree in Marketing at the University of Miami, I knew that I wanted to pursue an MBA, but in which area? I opted for Finance, because I felt that it was opposite to marketing, and therefore made me a more well-rounded job candidate.

Most marketing people have an “ick!” reaction when we start to talk about numbers and analysis, preferring to leave that to the finance geeks, but in reality, doing a thorough analysis is a critical part of the marketing function. It is the only way to know what’s working.

When working with direct response advertising, it is easy to see your results, but with social media, it’s a little more tricky since it’s a softer approach. Nevertheless, there are metrics that you should look at regularly so that you know which strategies are hitting home runs and which are striking out. Here are some number to crunch and track:

Who is reading? – If your blog is through WordPress or Blogger, you have a built in stats package that will show you how many people are reading your posts, which are most popular and where they are coming from. If you are hosting your own blog or website, you can install Google Analytics to get the same information.

Who is contributing? Track how many comments you get on your blog. The more comments, the more your audience is interacting and engaging with you, which is a good thing. You may even want to write a controversial post to elicit feedback and spark discussion. You may also want to consider soliciting user generated content in the form of articles, photos or videos to increase reader engagement and build your community.

Who is subscribing? When someone subscribes to your RSS feed, that person is more likely to be a hard core fan, and may become a community leader or brand advocate, so it is important to know who they are and how many you have of them.

Who is recommending? You can get tremendous amounts of traffic when readers recommend your site on Del.icio.us, Reddit, and Stumbleupon. Encourage them to do so by providing clickable social bookmarking icons. Then you can track how many people are using them by running a click map report. Alternatively, you can go to each of the social bookmarking sites, set up a profile and search for yourself.

Who is linking? WordPress and Blogger both allow you to see which sites are linking to your blog (in the Stats tab from your dashboard in either program). You can also go to Technorati, the top blog search engine and search for your domain, or you can go to Google, Yahoo or MSN and in the search box, type in link:http://www.yourdomain.com.

Who is connecting? On social media network sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or MySpace, you can keep track of how many people are connecting/friending/following, and you can also see your total profile visits and other stats.

Keep your stats in a spreadsheet, and graph it to get a visual picture of what is going on. If there are certain posts that are getting better results, then you can look at the comments to see what it is that is creating the spike in interest, and you can focus more on that topic.You should also map your web/blog promotion efforts against your traffic to see what is giving you the most bang for your time. Are your tweets driving people or should you be focusing your efforts on LinkedIn groups? Your numbers will tell you. As you continue to promote your company and blog, at the very least, looking at your stats will make you feel good to look at how far you’ve come.

You Really Push My Buttons – Connecting on an Emotional Level Through Social Media

27 Jul

So emotional

We are emotional creatures

Human beings are, at our core, emotional beings. While some decisions are made by carefully weighing the pros and cons, examining the data and projecting a likely outcome, the majority of our decisions are made, at least in part, by our emotions.

There is a whole, unspoken conversation going on in our heads all the time when we are exposed to information about a product. How does a product make me feel? How will it make me look to others? How do I feel about the person or company selling the product?

If you want to establish a strong brand, then you need to inspire strong emotions. Strong emotions are not only the key to getting people to buy your product, but they are also absolutely necessary to create customer loyalty (repeat buyers) and “brand ambassadors,” people who will go out on the Internet and become evangelists for your brand.

In the process of inspiring strong emotions, you may get some people who become haters because they have a negative emotional reaction to your brand. But that’s OK. You may have heard the old marketing adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity,
and that holds true here. Even haters generate discussion about your brand, and discussion is far better than silence.

Social media is a technology that is rife with emotion. People who post content in text, photo, video, or audio, do so because the subject inspired, intrigued, angered or excited them. If you are face to face with someone and they bring up a subject that you do not have strong emotions about, you will most likely talk about it to be polite. However, if you feel neutral about something, you will never respond, comment, post or tweet about it on social media.

Put yourself in their shoes

Put yourself in their shoes

So, we have a platform where we can connect to our prospects on an emotional level – social media sites. But how, exactly, can we do it? Here are some guidelines:

  • First, listen. Go to forums that discuss your topic and listen to what people are saying about your brand (if it is already established), about your competitors (if they are large and well defined) and about your industry. Find out what they need and how they feel. Are they frustrated because your competitor is giving them poor customer service? Do they feel like they’re being ripped off? Do they absolutely love a particular feature/design/policy/type of interaction and tell everyone about it?
  • Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes. People go online in order to connect with human beings, not to be sold. Don’t be the used car salesman that everyone is trying to avoid. In a sense, you need to take off your sales hat and connect to people on a more personal level. Hopefully, if you own or work for a company, you feel that it provides value, solves a problem, helps people in some way. This is the energy you want to connect to when you go on Facebook or another social media site, not the “I need X number of sales within the next Y months through this channel” kind of perspective.
  • Share. Once you know the needs out there, work to offer solutions. Some solutions may be through using your product, but some won’t be. Offer both, in a ratio of at least 3:1, non-product related to product related. By sharing from a genuine place, you will be building on one of the most valuable of all emotions, trust.
  • Get emotional. In the first step, you learned the emotions surrounding your brand or product. Now, use emotional words and images that also evoke emotions in your posts and promotions.  Let’s say your product is a nicely designed consumer gadget. Use words that provoke lust for the item, such as sleek, sexy, slick, cool, cutting edge, etc. For a financial service, you would want to tap into the prospect’s need to trust by using words like solid, experienced, trusted, strength, secured, and proven.

If you put yourself out in the social media space using these guidelines, you will build up an emotional connection between your prospects and your product or brand. Don’t expect it to happen overnight – these things take time. Be consistent in the emotions you are targeting, but don’t be afraid to occasionally throw in some outrageous promotions or statements to shake things up. The worst thing you can do to your brand is to bore people with it.

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