Archive for January, 2013

5 Daily Habits for Effective Social Media Marketing

The number of recommended actions and suggested tasks that social media managers must engage in can seem downright overwhelming. Not only are you supposed to update dozens of different profiles every day, you have to connect with potential new followers and monitor your company’s branded keywords in order to manage any negative mentions you encounter. And more.

To prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed and unable to get anything done at all, refocus your efforts on the following daily social media habits made up of tasks you know you can complete. Doing so should help you to form positive brand recognition and responsive follower bases — without driving yourself crazy over everything you could be doing.

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1. Check the pulse of your social profiles. As a social media manager, the first thing to do every day is to log into your social profiles. Although this seems like a fairly common sense recommendation, many companies create their social profiles only to let them lie dormant for weeks or months on end.

So whether your company has chosen to focus on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Google+ — or any combination of these and other social networks — your first step every day should be to simply log in. Once inside, you’ll be able to complete your goals, all of which play an important role in effective social media marketing.

Related: 3 Low-Cost Tools for Managing Social Media

2. Respond to direct interactions from followers. One of the most important things you can do within your social profiles is to respond to any direct messages you’ve received from followers or potential fans. These interactions come in a number of different formats, including:

Facebook messages
Posts to your Facebook wall
Facebook status or picture tags
Twitter direct messages (DMs)
Twitter “@” replies

What’s important about these interactions is that they represent people who have put forth the effort to engage with your brand on a higher level than simply observing your content. While these interactions may be good or bad (as in the case of negative reviews), it’s important that you respond to them out of respect for the initiative these followers have shown.

3. Post stimulating content to encourage conversation. After you’ve responded to any direct interactions that have occurred since you last logged into your social profiles, take a few moments to post a status update or message that’s designed to encourage interaction among your followers. For example, you could:

Ask a provocative question
Share an interesting blog article
Comment on a recent news item
Post an inspirational picture or quote
Request follower feedback on the specific products or services you offer

As you create these messages, make your call-to-action obvious, as social followers are often so overloaded with media inputs that it takes a clearly-defined request to encourage action. Pairing your stimulating content with a statement such as, “Let me know what you think” or “Share your thoughts in the comments” can prompt the type of action to make your social profiles appear more welcoming and engaging to potential new followers.

Related: Early Test: Facebook’s Graph Search a Dud for Marketers

4. Seek out new followers. Ideally, the bulk of your new social profile followers should be coming from people who love your brand and your website content so much that they can’t wait to hear more from you on social networks. But sometimes — whether your website is new or your company hasn’t built the necessary market traction to attract followers naturally yet — you’ll want to be a little more proactive when it comes to building up a follower base for your business.

One way to do this on Twitter is to seek out the profiles of authority figures within your industry. Then, follow people who are following them, and whose profiles indicate that they’d be interested in your company as well. A number of these people will most likely follow you back automatically, increasing the size of your follower base.

Attracting new followers on permission-based websites like Facebook can be more challenging, but the same principles apply. Seek out those who have demonstrated an interest in your industry and the authority figures you follow, make your introductions through direct message and see what happens.

5. Search for your company’s branded terms. One final daily habit is to conduct a quick search for any of your company’s branded phrases, including any common misspellings or abbreviations you’re aware of.

Specifically, what you’re looking for are instances where users you aren’t immediately connected with are mentioning your company’s name. These mentions could be left as unsolicited reviews or questions seeking clarification. Either way, proactively seeking them out enables you to connect with potential followers and create the impression of an engaged, customer-centric brand.



The Power of Social Customer Service

When Brie Weiler Reynolds noticed that her customers were discussing their service concerns on social media networks, she realized her company had better start responding to them there as well.

“We started getting comments and questions from people on LinkedIn and Facebook,” says Reynolds, director of content and social media for FlexJobs, a Boulder, Colo.-based online job-search firm. “They were using social media for things you’d traditionally contact customer service for, so we figured if that’s how they want it, that’s how we’ll give it to them.” Today FlexJobs uses Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube to publicly inform, serve and connect with customers on a daily basis.

The transparency of communication on social platforms lets companies showcase their devotion to helping customers, fostering brand loyalty and authenticity among a widespread audience. Still, research suggests there’s room for improvement. In a recent study by PR and marketing firm Cone Communications, 46 percent of respondents said they’d like to be able to solve problems and receive product or service information via new media, but only 14 percent said they’re “very satisfied” with their experiences with companies or brands online.

“Social customer service presents a great opportunity for active listening and reacting to your customers,” says Andy Smith, co-author of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change. “When you listen to and create discussions about the problems they’re having, you can progress toward becoming the person or having the product that addresses that problem.”

Patton Gleason, president of Richmond, Va.-based, says social media helps him build relationships with existing customers; they in turn promote his online store to new audiences when they share the information they’ve received on their own networks.

Gleason doesn’t just respond to customer questions with a quick tweet. Several times each week, he creates and posts personalized videos to help customers solve specific problems. For example, he assisted in diagnosing and addressing the source of a runner’s calf pain by requesting and examining an uploaded photo of the bottoms of the runner’s shoes, then responding with video suggestions.

“If they have questions about shinsplints or the difference between two shoes, I can actually show people what’s happening or [give] a comparison of those shoes,” he says. “Not only can they see the products, they can also see the person behind them, which is a powerful way to connect.”

Shared content–positive and negative–fosters brand authenticity, according to Reynolds. She embraces negative posts as an opportunity for FlexJobs’ 17,000-plus social media followers to see that the company cares about resolving problems. “It helps people [who are] on the fence about signing up see that we respond quickly to people and don’t shy away from problems,” she says. “They see firsthand that if they were to join and have a problem, we’d treat them the same way.”

Reynolds adds that social customer service has the unique ability to turn negatives into positives in a very public way. “If someone posts a negative comment on [our Facebook] Timeline–they don’t like the site or understand why they should pay for membership–oftentimes our fans swoop in and support us by explaining why they use the site and why those posters should give it another shot,” she says. “What could be better than our customers solving our customer-service dilemmas with us?”


Early Test: Facebook’s Graph Search a Dud for Marketers

By now you’ve most likely heard of Facebook’s new Graph Search, which essentially allows you to search for things based on the interests and recommendations of your friends, as well as their friends. While the tool should potentially be useful for searching for specific pieces of information on Facebook, it is, at least in its beta version, seriously flawed.

I’ve spent the last week testing Graph Search, and I’m disappointed with it. Sure, it performs well when telling you who your friends are, what categories they fall under, where they live and what they do, but as of now that’s about it. Instead of developing an innovative search tool that gives us a new way to search and offers an information alternative, Graph Search is your same cookie cutter search engine. If you ask former Facebook executive Dave Morin, this tool is nothing new at all — it’s a product that existed as far back as 2006, but was eventually eliminated.


Twitter’s Video-Sharing App Weathers a Stormy Launch

Twitter has released a new video-tweeting app called Vine. Currently available only to iOS users, the app allows you to record six seconds of video which, when uploaded to Twitter, are viewable directly in a user’s Twitter stream.

While Vine could eventually become a useful way to drive engagement with followers through multimedia, the app’s launch was marred by a technical glitch that caused some users to be logged into other users’ accounts — apparently giving them access to confidential personal information such as unlisted email addresses and phone numbers. In response, Twitter disabled video sharing to Facebook and Twitter while it worked on the problem. At the time of writing, the glitch appears to be fixed and the app is fully functional again. — AllThingsD

Facebook is hoarding its social data.
Facebook wants to keep your friends — or at least data about who these people are — all to itself. The Facebook-integrated “Find Friends” feature was once a standard way for new social startups to grow their user base but the social networking giant has started barring certain companies from using its social data. With Facebook apparently out to crush competitors, entrepreneurs may want to think twice before building a service that depends for its success on Facebook’s platform. — Business Insider

Quora gets into blogging.
Social question-and-answer platform Quora will now host blogs organized according to the 300,000 topics by which the site sorts questions. While it doesn’t look to be a replacement for Tumblr or WordPress, the advantage is that your audience will be limited only by followers of your topic, not by personal followers. “Because of the topics system, you can come onto Quora as a nobody and be read by tens of thousands of people in a couple of days,” company spokesman Marc Brodnick said. — AllThingsD

Facebook beefs up conversion measurements for marketers.
There’s positive news for marketers on the Facebook front: The social network has added a new conversion measurement feature that allows advertisers to track shopping cart checkouts and other valuable metrics. “This should be extremely valuable for marketers in ecommerce, retail, travel, financial services and other direct-response industries that value actions taken on their websites,” the company said in a blog post. — AllFacebook

Filmmakers find ‘riches’ through Twitter and Instagram.
As independent filmmakers have discovered, a fragmented media market doesn’t mean you can’t connect with people who will love your work. Thanks, of course, to the wonders of social media. A panel of filmmakers at the recent Sundance Film Festival discussed how social media outreach efforts — such as tweet-based promotions and actor-hosted online chats — had been instrumental to the success of their films.


3 Tools for Backing-Up Your Social Media Accounts

While it might be difficult to imagine that you’ll ever need to revisit a Facebook post from two years ago or see what a customer tweeted to you last April, there are certain times you might need to. And if you haven’t taken steps to back up your social media posts, you might be out of luck.

Social media data essentially is no different than company emails or printed memos. In case of a dispute, social media records fall under the e-discovery process mandated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Besides the legal issues, having a full record of your social media interactions can help you quantify your marketing efforts and follow up on customer service issues.

But what happens if your accounts get hacked and all your social data disappears without a way to retrieve it? Twitter and Facebook both offer links where you can download an archive of your site history but to get the full picture, you’ll need the assistance of a social media back-up service. Here’s a look at three tools you might consider trying:

Related: 10 Questions You Must Ask When Hiring a Social Media Consultant

Frostbox: This new U.K.-based company backs up data from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and even Gmail and Foursquare. Frostbox pulls everything including follower lists, video and photos and keeps it in the cloud so you can access it from any computer. You can also back-up your own hard drive through Frostbox so everything is kept in one place.

Right now, Frostbox offers 1 GB of storage for free and will give you an extra 200 MB for every person you refer to the service. Paid plans start at $9.99 a month for 20 GB and go up to $29.99 for 200 GB. Or you can pay yearly and get two months free.

Backupify: Specifically aimed at business accounts, Backupify comes with a variety of service levels to suit every size company. It specializes in Google products including Google Drive, Apps, Calendar and Gmail. It also backs up Blogger, Flickr and Picasa, as well as Facebook and Twitter.

Nightly backups for up to five services costs $4.99 a month, rising to $19.99 a month for up to 25 services. Features include one-click restore for Google products, the ability to pull Google apps data from a single employee and phone support.

Related: Getting Started on Twitter and Facebook As a Business Owner (Video)

SocialSafe: This tool takes a different approach by backing up your social data to your own computer instead of the cloud. SocialSafe backs up both Facebook Profiles and Pages, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Viadeo, a social network for professionals. You can then access the information through a timeline calendar or search your social networks for specific keywords.


How Facebook’s Graph Search Could Help Businesses

This week, Facebook unveiled a major new feature: Graph Search. Designed to be a discovery engine for your “social graph” — the network of friends and brands you “like” on Facebook — Graph Search allows you to parse your personal network and address messages to a select number of people based on specific criteria.

Currently Graph Search is available in beta to a very limited number of users. You can sign up for the mailing list and be notified when you’re able to use it. By the time Graph Search is available to all users, it’s possible that brands will have the ability to single out both their most engaged followers and potential fans and target them for special deals, promotions and other offers.

Only time will tell whether Graph Search raises Facebook’s stock price, shakes up its competitors or irritates privacy activists. But Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg sees it as a move in the right direction toward fulfilling Facebook’s mission. “Exploring your community is a core human need, and this is the first big step we’re taking in that direction,” Zuckerberg said. — Wired

YouTube’s share of the social video market is declining.
Pretty soon YouTube may not be the best place for your video content and advertisements. From June to November 2012, YouTube lost six billion monthly views while the rest of the video websites gained a total of 13 billion. New video services are sprouting up, user-generated video content is pouring onto the internet from all over the world and all that remains is for a new, Spotify-type leader to emerge. Keep your eyes peeled. — AllThingsD

LinkedIn Answers are going away.
On Jan. 31, LinkedIn will be closing LinkedIn Answers, a competitor to popular question-and-answer platform Quora. Apparently LinkedIn Answers did not meet the social network’s target for engagement. “Members can still pose questions and facilitate professional discussions through other popular LinkedIn channels including LinkedIn Polls, Groups, or status update,” a LinkedIn representative said in a statement. — Mashable

Enjoy free phone calls through Facebook.
Burning up cell-phone minutes talking to everyone about your new startup? Facebook has come to your rescue: Now you can place calls through the social network’s Messenger app. The person you’re calling will receive a Messenger push notification giving her the option to accept or deny the call. — Mashable

Michelle Obama has joined Twitter.
The First Lady of the United States — or at least her staff — has joined Twitter again. Mrs. Obama’s previous Twitter account, @MichelleObama, which was created a year ago and run by the president’s re-election campaign, was shuttered in favor of the new account, @FLOTUS, [] which will be managed by the Democratic National Committee. No word yet on how much Mrs. Obama might be tweeting herself, but when she does, her tweets will be signed “-mo.”


3 Ways Brands Can Use Pinterest’s ‘Secret Boards’

This month, Pinterest announced the addition of “secret boards,” which are available through the holiday season. Account holders now have the ability to add up to three secret boards that won’t show up anywhere else on Pinterest, limiting visibility to the creator and any collaborators they choose to invite.

Is this new feature valuable for businesses? Does this privacy capability defeat the purpose of creating and sharing pins that go ‘viral’?

Pinterest recommends creating secret boards for holiday wish lists, and special events. While these are great ideas for personal use, brands also have the opportunity to think outside the box by using secret boards as an inter-office collaboration tool.

The private boards offer a secure space for visual brainstorming among multiple departments in the office, so they may benefit a variety of industries.

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With just one click, invited board contributors can share concepts, pin articles, capture images, videos, and link to content inspiration without revealing their latest ideas with all of their Pinterest account followers.

Are you lacking inspiration on how your company can use private boards? Here are three ideas to consider:

1. Social media content development board
Social media managers usually plan the posts and images they’re going to share several weeks in advance. By using private boards, community managers can collaborate and brainstorm together, and pull inspiration from the board to generate future social media content.

For example, if you pin a holiday specific infographic, you can save it for a timely and relevant post in the future.

2. Launch board
When creating a board specific to a new product launch or an upcoming announcement, it may be valuable to develop a well-crafted board before it is made public. By creating a private board first, marketers can create and design a Pinterest campaign before unveiling the content to the public.

Private boards are also helpful because marketers can avoid bombarding followers with multiple pins simultaneously.

3. Event planning board
Secret boards offer a great way to collaborate on an upcoming event. Contributors can share images of venues, decor, themes, links to vendors, food ideas, music inspiration, etc.

The private boards also enable users to plan an office holiday party, off-site meetings, and other events where private collaboration is helpful.