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

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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. 🙂

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Social Media: The Intern’s Job

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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 🙂

4 Reasons Why Social Media is Perfect for Competitions

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Small businesses can choose to spend their small Marketing budgets in a number of areas – Print, Digital, Radio, Advertising, Directories, Outdoor and many more. It can be a confusing web of options. Which method reaps the highest return on my investment? – Discard all those options and organise a competition.

Social Media is a perfect platform for running competitions – your competition is the magic bean and Social Media is the beanstalk. With careful organising you can get the competition entrants to grow your company’s Marketing, boost brand visibility and increase sales – here’s 4 ways your Small Business can leverage the benefits running a successful competition.

1)      Free Marketing

Firstly ensure that the topic of the competition compliments your own strategy – If you’re a hairdresser, then offer a pair of GHD straighteners, if you’re an Accountant offer a year’s free advice and so on. And of course you’ll need to promote the competition to the relevant audience – just make sure your prize is appealing.

Once you’ve decided on the finalists, run a voting system then watch Social Media explode! It’s amazing to see finalists of a competition embark on their own campaigns to get votes from their followers, meaning your company can leverage ALL connections from ALL their Social Media networks. Every time a finalist posts on Social Media – your company is included in the links resulting in driving traffic to your website. Once they’re on your website, enquiries and sales are a cert.

2)      Build a Database

When collecting votes for the finalists of the competition – make the voters enter their email addresses so you can build a database of relevant prospects.  Once you have built the email list you then need to align this with collecting Social Media details to build a complete profile of prospects.

Run a special voting day on Facebook, whereby people can simply click LIKE to place their votes. Now you can match the names and email addresses collected earlier to the Social Media profiles. With access to more in depth information about individuals you can build a picture of your ideal customer profile resulting in improved segmentation and targeting.

3)      Build Authority

Running a competition with a reasonably high cash value (or cash) will help to build credibility in your field allowing you to become a trusted company in your field.  Linking back to my initial advice, ensure you align the competition with your own company strategy. For example if you’re an Accountant who specialises in small business, then run a competition for the “UK’s Best Small Business” or something similar.

By making your company synonymous with a specialist area, you can build authority and become trusted and credible in your area of expertise.

4)      Integrate

When you launch your competition a key element in your strategy needs to be integration. Although Social Media is the key channel, ensure you adopt a multi-channel strategy. Place ads in relevant newspapers, advertise digitally and raise awareness of your competition – you need to lead people toward Social Media by integration.

Therefore by integrating your competition marketing and integrating the way you collect information from entrants and voters you can build a fully comprehensive database of prospective clients. Only 1 company can win your competition, so everyone else is a potential sale.

Have you ever run a competition on Social Media? Any horror or success stories?

Social Media Couch Potatoes

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Social Media and the technology we use to access it is contributing to the creation of the Social Media Couch Potato. Staying in, sitting down facing the screen of a Smartphone, tablet, laptop or PC people are laughing, sharing and living their lives – all without talking, touching and intimacy.

Communicating through Social Media changes our habits and daily routines which impacts how consumers browse and buy products and services. Therefore as a small business if you understand how your prospects and customers are using Social Media, then you can connect with them when they want where they want.

Timing

When are your followers online?

7.30 in the evening are they sitting down to watch Coronation Street or Eastenders? 12.30 on a Saturday afternoon are they watching the football game on Sky TV?

When the 1st TV ad break appears or half time at the game, people will check their Social Media accounts – and you should send posts on Social Media at these exact times. You can use auto scheduling tools like Hootsuite, Buffer or Social Sprout to schedule posts for you at certain times of the day/week.

You might even be watching the same TV show or game as your audience, so find common ground and connect with them. If you’re a hairdresser you could mention a famous player’s hairstyle and promote a special offer for that style.  Has someone died in Coronation Street? Post about it to encourage your followers to comment – make real life connections, just don’t make everything you post about you and your company – be real and BE SOCIAL.

Turn Browsing into Sales

Shopping habits have changed with the birth of smart technology and Social Media fuelling a shift from Retail to E-Tail breeding a generation of armchair shoppers. What’s the point in going shopping in the rain, fighting for space in the car park in high streets with the same shops, brands and products as every other high street in the country?

Armchair shoppers are canny as they conduct research to shop around for the best deals available. Often people visit Retail premises, find something they like then go online to look for a better deal.  Social Media plays a significant role in purchasing decisions as potential customers ask their friends & family where to find X product, best prices and best websites. Regardless of how fancy and snazzy your marketing is, people trust their peers ahead of any brand in the world, so use this fact to your advantage.

Consumers will connect with their peers on Social Media and your Small Business needs to be heard to be part of that buying process. Use Social Media as an exclusive Marketing channel, offer specific ranges only and offer special deals that consumers can’t find anywhere else.

Tap into your customer’s peer network by offering say a 10% discount if they share your “special offer post”. This way you’re getting the customer to do your Marketing for you.

Find out when your followers are on Social Media to get your timing right, marry this with using Social Media as an exclusive Marketing channel and you’ve tapped into a market of Social Media Couch Potatoes itching to spend, spend and spend.

Are you a Retailer who struggles to compete with online competitors? Are you struggling to increase sales on Social Media? Tell me about any success stories or problems you’ve faced when selling on Social Media 🙂

Pinterest for Small Business

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What’s the next big thing on Social Media? Google+, Instagram and Snapchat are all being tipped to become the platforms to watch in 2014, but for me I’m tipping Pinterest. Visually stimulating, easy to use and highly effective for generating sales – here’s why Pinterest should be included in your Small Business Social Media strategy.

It’s all about the Visuals

Social Media is full of passers by who are all potential shoppers for your small business products. In the blink of an eye you can be lost or found, depending on how visually appealing you make your company and products.

Posting on Twitter is all about the text in the Heading, with Pinterest it’s all about the visuals. Headings are important, but it’s the visuals you use which are more important to succeed on Pinterest.

You can search for free images on Google images, make sure you select “advanced search” from the settings menu then select “usage rights” to ensure you can legally use the images you wish to use.

Pinterest Gets Results

Statistics show that Pinerest drives 50% more traffic than other Social Media sites. This figure may be a wee bit excessive and vary from country to country, but the fact remains that Pinterest leads to sales – If you have a strategy and commit your time to it.

Certain industries perform very well on Pinterest such as Food, Interior Design, Fashion and any physical product which is visually appealing.

Let your product do the talking by posting high quality images onto Pinterest and always include a URL link back to your company website – make sure it’s the full URL and not a shortened one as Pinterest will flag your posts as spam otherwise.

Be Yourself

Tread this line very carefully, be yourself and reveal your and your company’s personality – but always remain professional. Customers have been exposed to decades of corporate stiffness, politician-like smarminess and advertising saturation – they want something more REAL.

As a sole trader, when people buy my services they’re also buying into me – my way of thinking and my personality. There are hundreds of thousands of other competitors around the world all offering very similar services me – your small business is exactly the same. Products and services in any industry are becoming homogenised, there’s very little difference between the end product the customer receives – but you can make that difference by showing customers the real you.

Create boards and post pictures of places you’ve visited, cars and clothes you like, your favourite food or even some cute kittens and bunnies. Not only will you become more approachable but you have the opportunity to open up dialogue with potential customers by leveraging your interests to forge 1:2:1 relationships.

Remember that people buy from people.

As the masses flock away from Facebook (especially teenagers) and customers become more proficient in using multiple Social Media platforms, Pinterest is one to watch in 2014.

Is Pinterest just for fun or do you think that you can generate sales from it?

Why Should I Learn Social Media When I Can Do It?

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Social Media is easy right? You just set up an account on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and all the other Social Media platforms start posting and you’re away – wrong!

You can’t simply read a few articles about being a Lawyer, Accountant or Business Professional and simply become an expert, so why is Social Media any different? So many people think that gaining certificates or learning Social Media courses isn’t necessary – well that’s a slap in the face for the Social Media industry and the professionals within. In fact it’s an insult to the entire concept of education.

Let’s explore why learning Social Media helps to compliment on the job experience.

Decision Making

Whether you’re a Marketing Professional or Business Owner you must avoid making mistakes at all costs. Whilst it’s true that people learn by making mistakes it should be noted that making mistakes on Social Media negatively impacts your customers and business. Why would you risk gambling with your clients business by refusing to learn about Social Media? – that’s just arrogant and dangerous.

Mistakes can be prevented and decision making improved if people take the time to learn about Social Media from accrediting bodies and companies.  Trial and error isn’t an effective or advisable method of decision making.

Timeless Fundamentals of Social Media

Social Media isn’t a stand-alone discipline, it incorporates SEO, Content Marketing, Lead Generation, Sales, HR, Customer Service, Advertising, Marketing Integration and so much more.  To understand the multi-functional use of Social Media one must firstly learn the basic fundamentals.

The most common complaint about learning Social Media is that the design of courses can’t keep up with the rapidly changing pace of Social Media. Yes platforms change, new ones appear and older ones evolve but there remains a set of fundamentals which can stand the test of time.

Social Media is a place to connect and engage with human beings, building relationships and being social is the key to success on Social Media.  Once you’ve formed relationships with your target audience the concept of sharing relevant, useful and informative information will always be an area of importance regardless of how fast Social Media changes.

Analysing your Social Media activity and customer responses require the use of on-site or 3rd party tools making the concept of testing and measuring timeless. New tools and apps are constantly being created, you don’t need to know them all – simply how they should be used and the benefits they reap.

The fact that Social Media changes so frequently, this should encourage educators to provide fresh material and certainly cannot be accused on being static or out of date.

Experience

I spent the 1st 30 years of my life with a somewhat anti-academic approach to work and my career until I realised that I couldn’t gain the experience I needed so much as I lacked the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed. It’s a classic example of the chicken and egg, how can you gain experience unless my skills are in demand?

Of course you need experience to prove you can apply what you’ve learned, but you need to learn 1st.

Do you think Social Media certificates and courses are a waste of time?

Social Media: You Can’t Teach Until You’ve Learned!

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The sheer raw beauty of Social Media is its ability to enhance how we communicate where we talk, listen, learn and develop. It’s rather sad to see so many businesses large and small mistake Social Media as a channel where they think shouting is how to be heard. If those very culprits understood how to share information and inspire people to learn they might realise the potential of Social Media

Sourcing Information

Rich or poor we all love getting something for free and on Social Media there’s all the free news, information, guidance, tips and tricks you can possibly find the time to consume.

If you want access to relevant, current and topical information then Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook publish news quicker than traditional news channels. A recent Pew Research study found that 1/3 of U.S. adults’ access news via Facebook which demonstrates the shift in how people source and consume information.

The tragic Boston bombing springs to mind for me as I learned more from Twitter quicker than any news channel could offer. What’s the point in turning your TV on when you can access news and information whilst talking to your friends on Social Media?

Pick any industry in any country and I guarantee you that you’ll find free information on any topic you want to learn about. Therefore small businesses need to learn that by offering their time and knowledge freely to customers helps to build trust, credibility and relationships which are the first steps in winning new customers.

Change How You Think

Isolation is one of the most commonly cited problems of small businesses, particularly new start ups. The world is a big place and you’re only isolated if you choose to be, so change how you think and learn from different cultures and ways of thinking.

Connect with companies and people in your own industry in other countries. How do people in your industry solve common problems? How do their opinions differ from what you’ve learned in your own country? What do they do differently to achieve the success you crave?

Creativity and innovation are difficult to achieve if your approach and way of thinking is the same as all your local competitors. Your customers and competitors might not be in India, Italy or North America but what can you learn from their experiences and opinions?

How Do We Want to Learn?

How we learn as individuals is subjective – we learn at our own pace, digest information differently learning from a variety of methods. Some people absorb information by reading text, some via infographics, frameworks and videos.

Therefore if we understand that learning is subjective and people respond to a variety of teaching methods then small businesses should be poised to take advantage of this fact. Offer your audience a variety of methods to deliver that free information and guidance you share on Social Media. Be creative and offer video guides, podcasts, diagrams and images. Measure and listen to what your audience prefers and adapt how you communicate according to what your market demands.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t use Social Media to source information or learn then there’s no place for you on Social Media. Communication involves listening and talking so less shouting and more listening leads to a greater understanding of how people use Social Media to source information and learn – you can’t teach until you’ve learned.