To Buy, or Not to Buy? – Do you buy Social Media followers?

To_Buy_or_Not_to_Buy

Building relationships and followers organically on Social Media takes time and effort, often depleting your company resources of money and time. On any Social Media platform, one of the most important objectives is to increase your followers – thus demonstrating your marketing prowess and apparent popularity. It’s an issue of quantity over quality or applying the theory that turnover is vanity and profit is sanity – same principle here, volume of bought followers = vanity and volume of organic followers = sanity.

Ethically and morally buying followers for Facebook, Twitter or any other platform is inherently wrong. However this article explores the advantages and disadvantages of buying Social Media followers and implores you to hold your head in shame if you still choose to buy.

Advantages

  • Increase in volume of Followers
  • Enhanced credibility due to apparently larger customer base
  • Saves time vs organic following

One of the biggest problems cited by Small Business owners relating to Social Media, is their lack of ability to commit time to Social Media Management, therefore buying followers will save time but not money.

Disadvantages

  • Fake – Shows lack of transparency & integrity
  • Skews posts/followers ratio – harms engagement
  • Costs real money
  • Do fake accounts buy your products and services?

Social Media is pointless unless you are genuinely engaging with your audience and buying followers ensures your engagement will be poor/non-existent. It’s simple – connect with real people and businesses, not Social Media accounts.

How do I spot a fake account?

Easy peasy, just do some simple research into the accounts themselves. On Twitter read past tweets, you’ll notice fake accounts have nothing but retweets, no engagement with people, posting identical links to all followers and meaningless quotes of the day – they’re automated and fake.

On Pinterest check the boards created by the supposed users. Recently I’ve noticed a spat of fake accounts promoting 3 main boards relating to weight loss – all fake.

Check the ratio of likes to “speaking about us” on Facebook. If a page has 10,000 likes but has 0 people speaking about that page, then you know those likes have been purchased.

Conclusion

If you’ve ever bought Social Media followers the likelihood is that you’ve done this on the quiet, after all you want people to think you’ve gained them fairly. Buying Social Media followers is a short term solution to increase your likes or followers but the lack of engagement should be the sole reason NOT to ever purchase likes from shady companies.

The first thing that pops into my mind when I see a company’s Social Media page with fake followers is – You have no honesty, no integrity and do you think we’re stupid? Get real or get off Social Media altogether – if you need to buy your popularity, then Social Media isn’t the right Marketing tool for your company. 🙂

SEO Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving

SEO pic

 

 

Many Marketer’s claim that SEO is dead, their practices outdated and no longer relevant – tut tut tut!

SEO certainly is not dead, it’s a Marketing practice which is merely evolving. With the explosion of Social Media, changes to search engine algorithms and an emphasis on link building, Marketer’s & businesses now need to evolve to optimise their SEO efforts.

Keywords

Keyword stuffing is an SEO practice which is certainly dead, actively penalised by search engines that forces businesses to focus on content rather than randomly placed keywords. Interesting, relevant and engaging content needs to be achieved in blogs and web pages – but keywords need to be included in that content to enable your target market to find you.

Do your research to identify keywords used by your competitors and target audience. Conduct free keyword research on your competition by right clicking your mouse on their web pages and select “view page source”. Much of the text is written in HTML code, but you don’t need to be an expert to decipher the basics. Look for “meta keywords”, now many recently developed websites don’t include this, but researching competitors in your industry will highlight many companies whom will have this included. Select 5-10 most frequently used keywords across your competitors and you now have relevant keywords for your own copy – and also highlights your weakest competitors. Likewise, look for “meta tags” and “title” to gather keywords to help boost your SEO presence.

Personally I reaped success in SEO projects by using the excellent keyword tools available from http://moz.com/ Moz can be used for free for 30 days and a very reasonable $80 per month thereafter. The tool generates keywords used most frequently from major search engines, showing the exact words/phrases used by your customers. For small businesses you should only need to use Moz for 2-3 months before reaping a positive ROI, or just the months free version may also suffice.

NOTE: Don’t use the “meta keywords” on your own website, this is an outdated practice penalised by search engines.

Social Media

Social Media according to SEO is simply another avenue where your content can be viewed by your audience. It’s vital to integrate your Social Media sites with your main website, allowing you to build authority with the key products/services you offer. Use the keywords/phrases used in your website and include them in your Social Media posts. Engage with your audience and apply social listening – What keywords are your audience using? What keywords have are your audience responding or not to? Ask your audience “What would you type into a search engine to find a particular product/service?” RESEARCH, ANALYSE, LISTEN and MEASURE.

It’s not just your web pages which appear in search engine results, so utilise Social Media as a lead generation tool to redirect customers to your website to increase sales.

Link Building

Link building is one of the most important weighting factors to boost your search engine visibility. Make efforts to ONLY include link building partnerships with companies who offer relevant and complimentary products/services – make sure they add value to your customer’s needs and wants. How many websites have you visited where those websites are cheapened by displaying adverts and links to companies with no relevance to their industry?

Include links to your clients, suppliers, distributors, news sources or relevant stakeholders and follow one golden rule of link building – BUILD LINKS ORGANICALLY.

Do you think SEO is dead? How do you think SEO has evolved? I’d like to learn from other businesses to see how you approach the topic SEO, thanks 🙂

Why Scotland can succeed with Small Business Values

small biz scotland

 

Thursday 18th September is a monumental day for the people of Scotland – The simple question is “Should Scotland be an Independent Country?” I shall omit political views and focus this article on how Scotland can become a great wee nation by applying the values of a successful small business. I’m an advocate for Small Business and believe smaller companies have advantages over larger ones, such as the ability to connect 1:2:1 with their customer base, long term sustainable growth and specialising in key business functions – after all Small Business is Good Business.

Decentralisation

The centralisation of power in a company and country grants that power to a select few. In business individual departments have less control over their budgets, management have less influence on how to operate with decisions being made by the higher echelons of a company whom have little to no local or specialist knowledge of those departments.

A fairer distribution of powers is surely more conducive in the hands of local authorities. How is it possible for someone in Westminster to know what the people & businesses in schemes of Glasgow & Edinburgh really need? Who hears those voices, listens to their concerns they air on a daily basis? Regardless of the party in power, surely it’s local Councillors and Authorities who should be in control of distributing budgets, setting policies and delivering what everyday voters desire?

Borrowing

Borrowing facilitates growth, but only by assuming increased risks. You may achieve growth quicker, but you’ll pay more. The UK like most of the developed world managed to create a boom & bust situation by excessive borrowing. Smaller nations must control borrowing, by doing so you reduce the interest payments and decrease risk. There’s no requirement for small nations to be the biggest and best, growing sustainably over the long term should always be the solution over short-term rapid growth.

Harness strengths in Key Local Industries

A Small Business has infinitely more knowledge about say women’s fashion that a supermarket has – they’re not generalists, they specialise in knowing the needs & trends of their market segment, materials and styles. Scotland is undeniably a world leader in industries such as Science, Renewables and Oil & Gas. Take Oil as an example, as each day passes that natural resource depletes, this has created an emphasis on renewable energy like wind, solar and tidal energy.  Michael Porter’s Diamond model emphasises the benefits of comparative advantage such as:

  • Enhanced knowledge base & skilled labour
  • Condensed rivalry resulting in innovation & increased investment
  • Increased government investment (such as renewable energy)
  • Growth in related & supporting industries

An independent Scotland doesn’t need to become successful via economies of scale. By simply focusing resources like labour, money & government support into key Industries a competitive advantage can clearly be achieved. Just look at Aberdeen’s Oil & Gas sector (now including renewable energy) or the Bush Estate for Science in Edinburgh, localised specialism’s in flourishing industries can be created – but only through efficient utilisation of resources and enhanced powers for local authorities.

It’s simple Economics, with overall budgets being squeezed due to austerity cuts the laws of opportunity cost dictate that you can only buy A or B, never both.  Being small isn’t a disadvantage, although big companies will tell you otherwise. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, do the small things well and success will follow.

Marketing Automation vs Personalisation

personalisation

The question of automation vs personalisation for a company is all about saving time and money whilst increasing efficiency. Whereas the perspective of the customer is about receiving good customer service and feeling valued.  So the question is “What does your business value more? – Costs or Customers?”

Advantages and Disadvantages

I’d pick personalisation over automation every time, but as a business grows they must consider all options on how to communicate effectively with their customers. Here’s some of the advantages and disadvantages of automation and personalisation:

Automation benefits:

  • Cost reduction
  • Saves time
  • Reaches a high volume of customers

Automation negatives:

  • Error prone
  • No human contact
  • No personalisation
  • Just another number

Personalisation benefits:

  • Customer service
  • Individual attention
  • Deliver bespoke products/services
  • Increases chances of repeat business

Personalisation negatives:

  • Time consuming
  • Costly to scale

Automation vs Personalisation is simply the choice between quantity over quality. I always like to place myself in the shoes of the customer – what type of service do they expect? Customers are individuals and expect to be treated accordingly, how special do you feel knowing you’re just another number receiving generic marketing communications?

Small Business vs Big Business

How can big businesses connect with a vast volume of customers without using automation? – More often than not, they simply can’t. Can you imagine the amount of money, time & employees that would be needed for a company with thousands/millions of customers to connect on a 1:2:1 basis? But that’s acceptable, as long as time and money are being saved – the customer is last on the list of priorities.

Small businesses on the other hand don’t have the resources to connect with a high volume of customers, personalisation is necessary.  Let’s take email software as an example, rather than sending 1,000 generic emails with a 1-2% response rate, try studying 10 customers and sending personalised emails with bespoke offerings relating to those individual/business needs. Guaranteed your ROI improves, your responses will increase and you’ll develop a reputation for being a customer-centric business. If more small businesses take the time to connect with each individual customer, rather than applying a mass-market approach, then this can be used as a distinct competitive advantage.

Achieving economies of scale isn’t the holy grail of business, growth must be accomplished over a longer period of time, growing too big too fast can and will destroy many businesses. Focus on what you have now, your strengths, your weaknesses and most importantly your customers. By being a customer-centric business you can personalise almost all Marketing communications which results in customer retention, recommendations and an increase in overall customer value. Perhaps customers of larger companies wouldn’t be so keen to move to competitors if they feel valued – personalisation over automation every time.  🙂

Social Media: The Intern’s Job

Intern

As a small business, you’ve likely had the discussion about creating a presence on Social Media. You know it’s an important function, all your customers and competitors are on Social Media and you need to catch up.

Many small businesses don’t have the manpower or resources to adequately create and implement a Social Media strategy so your solution is often to allocate the responsibilities to the Intern. After all they’re young, they understand how Social Media works and using technology is second nature to them. If the Intern is your solution to Social Media, then you’re making a catastrophic error.

The Intern

Depending on your company and industry, an Intern can be employed to fulfil a number of roles – sales, marketing, customer service etc… The likelihood is that you employed them because they are young, tech-savvy people who can bring creativity with their youthful enthusiasm and ideas.

They’re also inexperienced, unfamiliar with your company culture, your products & services, your customers and suppliers. Many Interns are also paid little or no salary – yet this is the best person within your company to deal with the vital function of Social Media?

The Solution

Before your small business dives into the world of Social Media you must firstly devise a strategy which creates the foundation of a Social Media plan. Your Social Media plan needs to include:

Content Marketing

Devising a Content Marketing strategy starts with deciding on what content to post on Social Media. Create a balance between posting sales-related content and a mixture of content relevant to your industry, company ethos, local communities and information which your audience will find interesting and engaging.  This can be posts from news sources, bloggers, industry experts or market reports.

What time of the day do you post? – Testing, analysing and measuring will answer this question. Try altering the heading of your posts; alter the images used and the content of posts to determine the time of the day your audience engages with your content.

Responses

If your small business doesn’t have defined company values, a company vision and defined culture then create one and quick! Your employees need to share your company vision to act and think in a universal manner. Creating a company culture will result in a specific tone and language being used which will be the voice of your company.

Processes & Integration

Social Media is one of the most powerful Marketing tools available to small businesses, but is more successful when integrating a range of business functions including customer service, HR and strategic management.

Whoever you decide to lead Social Media within your company, part of their role should be to define the processes involved and to liaise with a range of departments. Hold weekly/monthly meetings with staff from different business functions and establish the processes required. Who deals with specific enquiries? How should your company respond to sales enquiries?

Identifying the people and processes required to manage Social Media is essential, and always ensure those processes result in the ability to respond quickly (within 24 hours) to any enquiries or queries. Although one single person is able to co-ordinate Social Media activities, it requires the involvement and commitment from the heads of the respective departments.

Employing an Intern to handle your companies Social Media activities can only be successful if adequate time, finance and manpower is committed.  Interns aren’t the solution, commitment and strategic thinking are 🙂

Can a Business have a Personality?

monopoly

People have personalities, not businesses – right? When people go to work they paint on their work faces, put on their work hats and become the consummate professional.  There’s a manner in which bosses and colleagues expect their employees to sound, look and act when in the workplace.

Yes there’s a need to be professional, yes customers demand a deservedly high level of attention, care and service – but is there a need to be so dull, stuffy and corporate about it?

The Business of People

Businesses consist of physical assets, products and services but it’s ultimately people who are the nucleus of a business. Owners, Directors and Managers set strategies and employees execute those strategies to the paying public. Employees and customers have individual personalities, morals and values – and so can a business.

All too often businesses assume a pre-programmed drone tone when dealing with customers. We’ve all experienced this whilst dealing with call centres or on Social Media – that scripted and overly cheery or politician-like response, delivered in true Stepford wife style.

Whatever sector your business operates in, the products & services you produce will be almost identical to your competitors. Therefore one of the few ways to create a genuine differentiation strategy is to focus on customer service by promoting your company values & culture.

Business Culture

The culture of a business should seep out of every pore and be consistent across all areas of a business – it’s called Branding. If customers identify your products/services with your company, it isn’t the pinnacle of Branding – you need to adopt a vision and set of values which resonate with the lifestyle of your customer base.

Create a mission statement so your employees buy-in to your company vision, providing a common purpose for all. Company values help to create a way of thinking consistent across all departments where guidelines are created to achieve an expected manner in which all employees should behave. With the creation of company values there’s a necessity to embed those values onto the daily processes and practices of your company – including posting on Social Media.

Social Media

One of my fundamental golden rules of Social Media is to BE SOCIAL. Minimise the use of one-way communications pushing your company products and services. Be creative in your approach to Social Media by devising a Content Marketing strategy offering a range of topics and material for your audience to enjoy and engage with.

The content you post and the manner in which you engage with your audience can help to define the values and culture of your company.  Send posts about the weather, your local community and even post something funny. Now humour is subjective, but as long as it’s light-hearted and family friendly humour then you won’t offend your audience. The reality is that customers won’t just follow posts from your company about product updates and special offers, provide them with more reasons to read, engage and share your content.

If you’re relevant, friendly and approachable on Social Media by exuding your company culture, then your personality will shine through and become synonymous with your Brand. So can a business have a personality? – Only if you want it to 🙂