Overwhelmed By Social Media? Start Small To Win Big!

17 Apr

Are you still meaning to start your social media plan? Or perhaps you just haven’t had the time or maybe you’re waiting until after your next project. Maybe you’ve been secretly wishing social media would go away by now! Whatever the reason (or excuse), getting started can be the hardest part. Other than finding the time to start your campaign, I find that most businesses are simply overwhelmed by the high volume of social media information and the constant changes.

Don’t let that hold you back, because social media is NOT going away anytime soon, so here are my five simple tips to get started!

1. Set realistic expectations.
In case you haven’t heard, social media is not magic. You will need to be realistic about your goals and expectations, about how to measure them, and when to make changes. Be sure to set a clear goal such as “use Facebook contests to increase traffic to my store by five percent in the next three months.” Setting a blanket goal such as “more customers and more money” will just leave you feeling defeated.

2. Start small.
One of the biggest mistakes I have seen business owners make is trying to take on too much, too soon. Rather than setting up 10 accounts to keep track of, pick one or two to start. Monitor and track your progress, and once you have a feel for what’s working or not working, make changes as necessary.

3. Set a date.
Set a date for launching your brand on social media. Using this date as a focal point, start planning backwards, so you can assure you will meet your time-frame.  Be sure to build up yourself, and your current audience, for this launch date!

4. Devise a plan for going forward.
Now that you have everything in place, the biggest step will be maintaining your presence. First, block out some time in your daily calendar to keep up with social media marketing. Take that time to check out what your audience and peers are posting, write your content, monitor your competition and strategize ways to keep your content fresh and relevant. For the latter, I recommend a monthly editorial calendar. This will help you focus your content on a specific topic, which is great for both consistency and determining what to post.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
One great thing about social media is the ability to solicit feedback from others. If you have a question about a Facebook page for your business, or you’re not sure if you are on the right track, you can throw it out there on your newsfeed and allow your peers to answer! LinkedIn has a great Answers tool which is perfect to gain help from experts.

If you get stuck, remember the golden question to ask yourself:

If you’re unsure on how to get started on executing any of the tips mentioned above, and would like to see how your business could benefit from expert guidance in adopting social media effectively, I’d love to hear from you.


Facebook Acquires Instagram: The Biggest Sign Yet That The Mobile App Bubble Is Here?

10 Apr

The news that Facebook has acquired Instagram makes perfect business sense. After all, mobile is most definitely the future, and Facebook’s own mobile app efforts have been the subject of plenty of criticism. Instagram has a user base that is increasing at a great pace. It picked up 30 million iOS users in only 18 months and was named iPhone App of the Year 2011, and the app is now officially now on the Android Market, and is adding a million users a day. However, the current problem with mobile apps is the lack of revenue they generate.

With that in mind, it raises what can only be described as the billion dollar question. How can Instagram, a 15-month-old start up, with only approximately 10 employees, go from being a completely free photo-sharing app which has yet to bring in ANY revenue whatsoever, to becoming acquired by Facebook for $1 billion in cash and stock? Surely that is crazy money?

There is a good chance Instagram won’t be providing revenue anytime soon, if ever. But what it does provide is a great mobile experience the meshes well with Facebook. After all, you don’t share Instagram photos on an Instagram website, you use Instagram to take the picture and apply your filter, before sharing the picture on Facebook and/or Twitter.

How Facebook decide to move forward with their newly acquired company is something that only they truly know, but for the time being, Mark Zuckerberg has promised to let Instagram continue to run as it is, as a separate company which will continue to operate in the same way.

The acquisition of Instagram comes just a couple of weeks after Zynga (creator of popular apps such as Words With Friends) paid approximately $200 million to acquire OMGPOP, just six weeks after the company released its wildly popular app ‘Draw Something’.

These 2 acquisitions seem to highlight a new trend in mobile and social of ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em!’. No matter how you look at it, one thing is for sure, with the amount of money being spent on these acquisitions, it’s clear to see the belief these companies have on how big social will continue to get in the future.

In any case, it’s very easy to see how we get to an arms race in the world of mobile apps, where companies will become paranoid that they’ll miss out, so they pay over the odds to make sure a hot app doesn’t land into the lap of a competitor. This is what I believe has pushed the acquisition of companies like Instagram and OMGPOP.

This bubble is going to make some young entrepreneurs very wealthy and some quick returns for lucky VCs. Whether it turns out to make an ounce of business sense, it’s the kind of question that tends not to get asked until much, much later, so let’s watch this space.

3 Ways Social Media Can Destroy Your Business

3 Apr

If you’re a business owner (or a marketer for your company) and you take part in social media, have you thought about if the way you’re using social media is actually helping or hurting your business? There’s a huge fallacy out there about social media which revolves around the thought that if a business is involved in social media, it automatically means that their business is benefiting from it.

The truth, however, is very different. Your business only benefits from social media if you’re using it correctly and you’re properly engaging your followers. When social media isn’t used properly, it can destroy your business.

Business owners don’t sign up for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and/or any other social media platforms to ruin their business. Sounds so obvious, right? Although the intention going into things is usually good, it doesn’t take long for things to take an ugly turn. One mistake, one customer, one instance of accountability being questioned is all it can take for a business to suffer a loss. There’s no office door to hide behind and there’s no receptionist to turn people away that you don’t want to see – when you’re on social media, everything’s out there and transparency is the most vital part of the process.

I know this all sounds terrifying but before you go running for the hills and as far away from your social media accounts as humanly possible, remember that it’s extremely important to know the downside of social media. If you’re not aware of what can happen, then you’re not going to be aware of how to prevent it.

Once negative information is out there, it’s out there for good, which is why preventing a social media disaster is the only fool proof way of making sure that it doesn’t happen to you.

If you’re still not convinced that there’s anything to worry about in regards to social media, here are 3 of the most common ways that social media can destroy your business.

1. The Public Argument

Scenario: A customer confronts you on your social media account in regards to something that they’re unhappy about. You try to politely respond and correct the situation but the customer isn’t having any of it. No matter what you say or do, the customer can’t be made happy. You start to get worried about what other followers are making out of the situation and the small confrontation turns into a full blown argument where you’re defending yourself and your business to the customer.

Lesson: It’s natural to want to defend yourself but if at all possible, take it out of the public eye. You can suggest that you’re only further able to help the customer if they email you or call you. If they’re not willing to do that, your other followers will at least see that you made an effort to take care of the problem but the customer refused. If you argue, it’s never going to portray your business in the best light. Before you know it, your little argument with your customer is now plastered on other profile pages and on other social media networks. It can take a long time to recover if you become defensive on social media and sometimes it’s hard to recover at all.

2. The ‘Silent’ Type

Scenario: This is a real life scenario that happened to me. A few months ago, a business that I was loyal to (a certain mobile phone company who shall not be named) changed their pricing structure and I became unhappy about it as a lot of people naturally do if prices go up. But it wasn’t simply a small increase; it was a pretty large jump that made it almost impossible for me to continue my customer relationship with the company. However, as I had been a loyal customer of the company for several years, I wanted to make it work if it was at all possible.

Knowing how powerful social media is, I turned to one of their social media accounts once I never received an email response from them (which was the company’s first mistake). If I would have received an email response, the issue could have been discussed privately. I did receive an immediate response on their social media account but it was a complete run around and the answer provided didn’t make any sense at all. I then pushed for additional information and received no reply! I tried a couple days later and once again, no reply. Was I just being ignored? It felt like it!

Lesson: There are businesses out there that when confronted by customers on their social media accounts, they fail to address any issues. If they do attempt to address them, it comes in the form of a vague answer that’s not even relevant to the question asked. If you’re not taking care of your customers in front of dozens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of social media followers, then your other followers can get the impression that you’re just going to ignore their problems as well. No one wants to deal with a company who refuses to address customer service issues.

3. The Desperate Company

Scenario: It’s pretty easy to recognise the businesses who use social media and fall under this category. You may even know of a few. It’s the over the top “please, please, please buy my product,” and/or “I am the best at everything”. This is the “I am going to shove my business down your throat every single second of every single day until you buy something from me (or block and report them)”.

Lesson: People are sick of the desperate companies who do nothing but spend all day flooding your streams with advertising. No one wants to deal with an over pushy business who cares more about making a sale than they do building engaging relationships with their customers via social media.

There’s a fine line between marketing and being too pushy. Your followers want to be engaged, they want to learn and they want to trust you before forking over any cash. It’s not the quickest route, but it’ll help keep your business on good terms with the rest of the social media community.

Remember, on social media, everything is transparent. From the way you handle customer service to your personal thoughts and feelings. By knowing what can happen, you can prevent it and that gives you the power to be more successful if you’re using social media as part of your online marketing strategy.

Social Media ROI: “ROE” is the New ROI!

27 Mar

When I consult with clients for the first time, many of them ask, “What’s going to be my ROI with social media?”

This question always leads to me starting off with a disclaimer: Social media is not magic! It’s not just another advertising channel and it is definitely not a one-way ticket to immediate profits. Social media is a form of communication; a platform for building relationships. And, like most relationships, it can take time, effort, and energy.

Marketing managers are increasingly being put under pressure by senior management who want their respective company to “be on Twitter,” but many seem to forget that social media is actually a communications tool and that consistent action must be taken to engage a following.

Compare measuring social media ROI to the task of calculating the ROI of a business card. Conference attendees rack up hundreds of business cards, but how do you calculate the ROI of all of the business cards that you hand out at a conference?

Just like a Facebook fan or a Twitter follower, a business card merely represents potential — so, you can’t accurately measure the ROI of a business card, just as you can’t measure the value of a Facebook fan.

This concept shouldn’t seem new, though, because traditional marketing, such as email marketing and telemarketing, runs by these rules. Marketers don’t ask, “What’s the ROI of this email newsletter?” Instead, they ask, “What’s the conversion rate for our email campaign?” And telemarketers don’t ask, “What’s the ROI of a phone call?” They ask, “What’s the conversion rate of our sales calls?”

Social media should be treated the same way. You can’t just ask, “What’s the ROI of social media?” You have to ask, “What’s the ROI of specific activities that we engage in via social media?” This is more commonly known as the Return on Engagement, or the ROE.

While traditional ROI may be hard to track in this networking, word-of-mouth, virtual world of Social Media, ROE is a trackable and measurable metric. You can count the number of clicks, tweets, retweets, posts, comments and, more as a simple way to gauge the interaction you are having with current clients, client prospects and potential referral sources.

These numbers are crucial as they allow you to look at how engagement on one social network can justify increasing your presence onto another, in addition to the number of people you’ve connected with in your conversations and the types of conversations and revenue generating opportunities you uncover along the way. Today, we can even track the social contacts that convert. With all this information, you’ll be able to calculate your ROE.

So, stop solely focusing on Return on Investment and remember that unlike traditional marketing methods, social media isn’t a one-way channel that starts and stops with the single hope that there is more business at your doorstep at the end of the run.

Social media is a way to build the relationships that establish trust and enable people to feel comfortable buying from a business. Return on Engagement is a measurable and long-term metric which will give you a much clearer picture of how having an online profile on social networks is important for your business.

How do you evaluate the ROI of Social Media? Is it a question that you have been asked before? If so, how did you answer it? I’d love to hear your views!

An Example of How NOT to Promote Your Social Media Presence!

14 Mar

I’m going to keep this one relatively short! I spotted this whilst having a meal at a restaurant (whose identity will remain anonymous, but there’s no prizes for guessing where it was), yesterday evening:

When I first saw this, the first thing that sprung to mind was:
What’s your Twitter and Facebook username? You’ve got plenty of space to include it on the board, so why haven’t you?!?’

How many customers will love this restaurant enough to Google them, and sift through all the searches to find them? Some may, but most won’t! And bearing in mind this is a restaurant which is part of a national chain, it may take a bit of time to sift through if each restaurant controls its’ own social media presence.

As a social media consultant, I was curious to see if their online presence was as lacklustre as their offline marketing, and to cut a long story short, yes it was!

The restaurants Facebook and Twitter accounts haven’t been updated since 6th January 2012 (which is over 3 months ago), prior to which they last sent messages in the middle of December 2011!

The use of social media by this particular restaurant is a fine example of how NOT to do it.

There could be a number of reasons for the poor marketing and upkeep of their social media profiles. It could be that they don’t have enough time to update it, or it could be that there’s been a change in management, and the new manager isn’t too bothered about social media!

Whatever the reason may be, the golden rule of having a social media presence is this: Update it regularly, especially if you are actively promoting people to follow you!

What is the point of asking people to follow you if you don’t ever update your statuses/messages?

Have you ever experienced any social media fails? If so, how bad were they?

KONY 2012: Could This Be The Most Inspiring Social Media Campaign Of Our Generation?

8 Mar

I’ve highlighted many social media campaigns in the past months, whether it be writing a blog post about them, or sharing them with friends through Facebook and Twitter, but very few campaigns will match the scale and vision that Invisible Children have shown with their campaign ‘Kony 2012’. There is probably no other campaign which will implore you to free up half an hour of your time to watch quite like ‘Kony 2012’.

The aim of this campaign is to raise awareness of the Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony to a point where he is world famous. However, the reason for this isn’t to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

Since the video was released on Monday, it has been since over 21,000,000 times, and that number continues to rise. The hashtag ‘#StopKony’ has been trending on Twitter continuously for the past 48 hours, and continues to do so at the time of writing this post.

Since the launch of this campaign, there have been some criticisms raised by groups which question the charity’s funding, its targeting of American leaders instead of African leaders to instigate change, and accusations that it is failing to criticise the Ugandan government, with its poor human rights record. Invisible Children have issued a detailed response to them here, and ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to support Invisible Children in this cause, but just remember that there are 2 very important facts surrounding this campaign cannot be questioned:

1. The campaign has raised great awareness of Joseph Kony, and the extreme atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army under his leadership, and we probably wouldn’t have had any idea how bad this situation was if it wasn’t for Invisible Children.

2. He must be stopped and something must be done!

The video is 30 minutes long but it’s definitely one that everyone should take the time to watch. If you want to support the cause, you can donate to Invisible Children here or sign the pledge here.

This is an example of what can be accomplished with the power of technology and social media when they are used in the right way!

Watch the video here:

10 Key Tips on Creating and Maintaining a Successful Blog

6 Mar

The thought of blogging terrifies many of my clients, and many other professionals I know. Not too long ago, I was also terrified of it! Just like anything new or different, it’s the ‘fear of the unknown’ that can often get the best of us. There are a number of barriers for people when it comes to blogging, including; being unfamiliar with the technology, having enough time to sit and down and write a post, developing interest content and, what is usually the biggest fear, not knowing how to get started. Here’s the thing; all of these fears are conquerable and here are some tips for overcoming them:

1. Just start!
Or as one of my favourite business mentors Richard Branson says, “Screw it. Just do it!” – The toughest part for many people. However, you have to start somewhere, so just create a blog and get stuck in!

2. Pick a blogging platform.
There are quite a few blogging platforms out there for you to choose from. There’s Blogger, Posterous, Tumblr, but I personally recommend WordPress (as you may have guessed). It’s easy-to-use, highly customizable, and works brilliantly with search engine optimisation. They also have a brilliant WordPress mobile app which allows you to login and monitor your page stats, edit posts and monitor and respond to comments very easily. The screenshot below shows what the mobile app looks like (Click to enlarge).

3. Commit!
This can be the first difficulty when blogging, but you have to start off by making a commitment and dedicating some time to your blog. Your post doesn’t have to be too long. If you’re a beginner you could start off with a bi-weekly blog and, once you are comfortable, you could work your way to a weekly blog. Ease yourself into it, there’s no need to start it off with all guns blazing.

4. Start writing.
Sounds simple enough, right? This is the second difficulty people are usually faced with after committing some time to blog. Here’s my tip: Start off by writing about what you and others find most interesting about your business. I had my own ‘Eureka!’ moment after meeting with a client. We were discussing the ways his employees could maximise the ways they use their LinkedIn profile and low and behold, I wrote a post on it. Ever since then, I’ve found that most of the time you already know what to write, all you need to do is put it on paper.

5. Establish a calendar.
Following on from number 4, it’s important to outline a list of topics that you are knowledgeable about and think about some of the most common questions you receive. You can then build up a monthly or quarterly editorial calendar that gives you a schedule, enabling you to blog on these topics and you can also use the editorial calendar to effectively plan how to integrate the blog posts with your social media, email marketing, and traditional marketing.

6. Offer value to your reader.
Blogs are a brilliant way to answer questions, share information and entertain, but with each post you think about writing and ask yourself one very important question, “How is this valuable to my audience?” Remember, your audience has to know you, like you and trust you in order to do business with you, and offering valuable content builds the credibility needed to achieve this.

7. Keep it simple.
Skip the huge whitepapers! Remember, blogs are typically written in the first-person and offer an insight into your business. Don’t over think it, or start comparing your posts to the likes of Hubspot and E-Consultancy. Just write, then edit!

8. Make every single word count.
I have read so many blog posts which seem to offer ‘blog length guidelines.’ Some of these posts say that blogs should be less than 250 words, whilst other say that an average post should be between 400-800 words. I think they’re both wrong! Personally, I think there is no right or wrong answer to how long a blog post should be. After all, it depends on what it is you’re covering. Some posts need more words than others, that’s just the way it is. The only ‘guideline’ I have here is this; keep your posts clean, concise, and easy-to-read.

9. Include photos and videos.
Every single blog requires strong written content, but there’s no harm in adding a few pictures and videos in to spice up the post, add a little personality to it, and give readers a break from just reading lots of text. One key point: Ensure the photos and videos you include in your post are appropriate. Don’t just put them in for the sake of it. If it’s not relevant, it’s taking away value from your post.

10. Blog consistently!
There’s nothing sadder than seeing a great post by somebody from 2 years ago, and then finding out that was the only blog post they ever wrote. Avoid being a one-hit wonder by establishing and sticking to a regular schedule. Do not start a blog only to have it lie dormant. This can sometimes do more damage than starting a blog in the first place, especially if it’s a company blog.

How do you manage your blogging schedule? Are there any tips that I’ve missed out which you’d recommend?

Whether you’re an established blogger, or a complete newbie to the blogging world, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my post and for you to share your own personal experiences on blogging.