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. 🙂

SEO Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving

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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 🙂

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?

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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 🙂

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?