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. 🙂

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?

The Dissection of Social Media

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To understand what Social Media is, you must firstly separate and analyse those 2 words – Social and Media. The star of the show in Social Media has to be the Social element, it’s all about people. People drive, develop and ultimately control what Social Media is and will shape the future of how it looks and how we use it.

Social

Social Media gathers individuals into groups and communities of likeminded people with shared interests and cultures – In Social Media terms it’s all about connecting, engaging and sharing.

Regardless of your age, Social Media is used by all, young and old. The fastest growing demographic on Twitter is 55-64, whilst on Facebook and Google+ it’s the 45-54 age group. Such statistics demonstrate that Social Media isn’t just for the young ones.

Younger generations adapt much quicker to Social Media, they’ve been doing it since they were born and will be leaders in future Social Media trends. It’s common knowledge that younger Facebook users have been switching to new platforms like Instagram, Vine and Pinterest. They’re the trendsetters and will be the driving force in how Social Media evolves in the future.

The volume of information on Social Media excites me but how we learn and communicate scares me.  As a recent graduate I know how much studying is required, reading, reading and more reading – but can the Social Media generations learn anything other than fast moving smaller bursts of information? Can they/we concentrate on more substantial methods of learning? Does Social Media enhance or hinder human communication?

Social Media surely improves access to information, friends and family but does it make us less sociable and lose focus when learning? Whatever the answers are, it’s the people who use Social Media we must understand to adapt to their preferences.

Media

Media simply facilitates communication and our consumption of information. The internet enables us to communicate and consume information but Social Media has spread onto multiple media channels. Watch the news on TV and you can contribute via Twitter, Newspapers, Billboards and Radio encourages us to “Find Us on Facebook” which demonstrates how Social Media functions across a multi-media network – not just the internet.

More niche interests will be accommodated in Social Media in the near future resulting in the Social element of Social Media shaping the media we use to communicate. As Social Media evolves the larger generic platforms like Facebook will make room for niche platforms based on the varying interests of smaller groups and geographical locations. More regional platforms and groups will be born to accommodate people’s interest in specialist products/services and preferences – Small is the new big.

Social Media may comprise of 2 core elements, but we must remember that understanding the Social element will enable us to understand the entirety of Social Media and its future.

What’s your opinion? Does Social Media make us dumb and hinder how we communicate?

Social Media: Heaven for Market Research

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Whatever industry you operate in Market Research is an essential element to help understand who your customers are and what they want. Once you truly comprehend your target market and their demands, then you are poised to become a genuinely customer-centric company.

Conducting Market Research via traditional channels can be expensive and time consuming, but Social Media provides your small business with a platform to reach a vast audience and best of all it’s free – apart from your time.

Co-Creation

As a small business your ideas, strategies and approach to your company is limited to your internal culture and way of thinking – why limit yourself?

Co-creation is basically as it sounds – the process of creating products & services with your customers to enrich customer experience.

In a world of homogenisation and same same same, co-creation can help set you apart from your competitors big and small. The level of involvement is dependent on your industry and company and you can choose to co-create with customers at a very basic level or collaborate with your most creative and talented customers to help shape your future products and services. Having your most talented customers design your products/services is also an excellent method of recruitment.

For those customers who aren’t involved in the co-creation process, they’ll see you connecting and collaborating with people just like them and identify you as a creative company who cares about what customers want. So many brands nowadays are capitalist driven managed by power hungry egomaniacs – the exact opposite of innovative co-creation.

Ask your Customers

How do you know what your customers like and dislike if you don’t ask them? Asking questions is the easy part, it’s how you listen that’s important.

Joining groups on LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook will enable you to conduct Market Research by asking direct questions to your customer base. Be creative and create polls to gather feedback, they’re easy to set up and quantify into useable statistics – this is known as Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research is the process of understanding the opinions and experiences of your customers which can be collected by asking more open questions. Groups and forums are ideal platforms, but also consider using something like Google Hangouts which can be used much like a focus group.

Explore & Discover

Market Research doesn’t just have to include asking direct questions, running polls and facilitating focus groups. The beauty of Social Media is the ability to listen to your prospects, customers and close competitors.

Groups are an ideal way to engage in Social Listening, but you can dig a little deeper into their comments with friends, family and other brands. Determine their likes/dislikes and attempt to identify any patterns common to your type of customer.

Spy on your competitors too, especially the larger companies as there’s a ton of conversations which will allow you to understand trends and provides a higher level insight into your industry. Local competitors should also be monitored so you can identify any gaps in the market where you can tailor your products/services to fill that gap.

How have you conducted Market Research on Social Media and what successes/failures have you experienced?

Social Media: The Evolution of Communication

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Wherever you are right now reading this article whether it be in the office, at University or in a Cafe just lift up your head and look around you – you’ll see someone clicking their thumbs on a screen.

How human beings communicate has undoubtedly changed forever and Social Media plays a significant role in altering the dimensions of communication.

Developing an understanding of how people communicate on Social Media will help small businesses to connect, engage and build relationships with prospects and customers.

How we Communicate

Social Media has helped to evolve communication from speaking, to clicks, photos, videos and short bursts of information. A video, image or post on Social Media can be viewed and shared by a multitude of people – yet talking is merely a by-product of social sharing.

Language has also changed as we now shorten words and abbreviate to save time, space and to send our messages within seconds. Communicating in such a fast-paced environment means our attention spans are becoming increasingly diminished as we process vast quantities of information.

People like to live their lives on Social Media by capturing the moment to share with friends, family and colleagues. On Social Media communicating is instantaneous, personal and most importantly capture moments of real life untainted by the influence of commerce.

Changing the Culture of Communication

For us oldies reading this article we’ve had to adapt to new technology, new media and embrace new methods of communicating. For the younger generations communicating on Social Media is the norm. Therefore generations both young and old with their prolonged exposure to Social Media begin to create a culture of communication fuelled by Social Media.

TV shows prompt viewers to tweet mid-show, Vimeo, Pinterest and Instagram capture snippets of our lives and Facebook is ingrained in conversations. People will say “did you see what John posted on Facebook” or “I’ll friend you on Facebook, let’s arrange to meet up” and so on.

The inspiration for this blog was born from a scenario I experienced with 2 of my good friends. 3 of us in a room, nobody talking to each other yet all 3 were communicating on Twitter and Facebook – The culture of communication has changed. I’ll let you decide if it’s for better or worse.

What does this mean for Business?

We constantly hear about the importance of producing interesting, relevant and engaging content. Whilst this is vital, businesses must understand how to grab the attention of their audience. The creative elements of Social Media such as images and headings must make an immediate impact – people won’t read your content if you don’t grab their attention.

It’s also time to dump traditional methods of communication on Social Media, people have grown wearisome to one-way sales messages and advertising saturation. No more corporate mumbo jumbo designed to manipulate us into buying what we don’t need or want – genuine engagement with personalised and relevant interactions between 2 human beings.

This is where small businesses can trump the big boys – be genuine, interact on a 1:2:1 basis by using Social Media as a tool to facilitate relationship building.

Do you think Social Media has hindered or enhanced the way we communicate?

What do I post on Social Media?

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A common problem with small businesses and Social Media newbies is deciding what type of content you should be posting.

How do you find enough fresh material to post on your Social Media sites every single day?
The 1st question you should be asking is: What does my audience want to read?

Ask and Answer Questions

Social Media isn’t about you or your company, it’s a platform to connect and engage with your audience. If you want to know what your followers want to read, ask them.

Conduct some basic market research on Social Media by running a poll which lists a variety of topics, it can be something simple like:

What Social Media platform do you want to know more about?

A. Facebook
B. Twitter
C. LinkedIn
D. Google+

A poll is a quick and easy method for people to respond to, and once you establish the results you can then post content relevant to your audience.

Provide tips and advice relevant to your industry. You’re the expert in your field, not your customers so become a useful source of information and offer your skills and knowledge for free. Once you become a credible and trusted source of information, you can engage with individuals and tailor your products/services to suit their needs.

Share

Share content from sources outside your company that are relevant to your industry and specialist areas. By sharing external content you’re providing a richness and depth to the content you share with your audience.

Some examples of the types of external content you can share on Social Media are:

• Newspaper articles
• Articles & links to industry associations & trade bodies
• Competitors blogs (not your immediate competitors)
• Videos
• Industry Experts
• Academic & Industry Research

When you share content from external sources, you’ll experience an increase in followers and your own content will also be shared. Share and be shared.

Post about your Company

When posting information about your company, their products and services it is essential to create a balance. Too much information on your company and people will very quickly disengage, too little and people will simply be using you as a source of free information.

As a rule of thumb apply the 80:20 rule, posting 80% of content NOT related to your company and 20% about your company. Use this as a guide and alter according to the level of response and feedback you receive.

When posting about your company, consider posting:

• Offers & Discounts
• New product/service launch
• Awards & Achievements
• Client testimonials
• Specialist/niche areas

Be Social

This is THE golden rule of Social Media – BE SOCIAL.

Honestly Social Media isn’t complicated; it’s simply about 2 parties communicating. Respond when people have shared your content and respond promptly to every single comment, like and new follower.

Small businesses have a distinct advantage over larger competitors if you take the time to connect and engage with your audience. Provide a truly customised level of service that larger competitors will struggle to replicate due to the scale of their customer base.

You might not have a big Marketing budget or thousands of employees, but you can offer personalised 1:2:1 customer service earning you a competitive advantage.

What approach do you have to posting content on Social Media?

The Versatility of Social Media

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Social Media can be incorporated into a variety of different business functions – in fact it’s versatile enough to be used as a tool across ALL business functions.

Social Media can be used as a Tool for:

• Customer Service
• Market Research
• Networking
• HR
• Target Marketing
• Selling

Social Media as a Customer Service Tool

Customers like to ask questions on Social Media about your company products, opening hours and even to complain. Their questions and complaints are public and this may scare some businesses – the key is to deal with all customer service issues promptly.

Turn any negative feedback into positive by resolving issues swiftly and demonstrating your ability to make improvements to your company. As a small business you have the advantage over larger competitors who struggle to deal with individual issues.

Social Media as a Market Research Tool

Ask questions and run polls on Social Media – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google + are all good platforms to gather market research. If you want to know what your customer wants – ask them and use Social Media as a tool to gather important statistics and opinions.

Ask your followers on Social Media their opinions on new products/services to meet their tastes and preferences. Involve your customers at R&D stages in a process called CO-CREATION.

Social Media as a Networking Tool

Use Social Media to network with peers and industry leaders to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your field.

Connect with people on Social Media before meeting them, I find this helps to break the ice a little as you know a little about the person before meeting them.

Network internationally too, you’ll enrich your own learning experience by understanding a variety of views, experiences and opinions from a variety of cultures and people.

Social Media as an HR Tool

Do your homework on Social Media to analyse potential employees – their Social Media profiles and activities often reveal more in depth information about people than a simple CV.

Create closed groups for your employees and use Social Media as a tool for internal communications. Gather feedback from your staff on new products/services and listen to their opinions on the strengths & weaknesses of your business.

Social Media as a Targeting Tool

Identify prospects and customers using the variety of search functions on each Social Media Platform. In particular the search bar on Facebook can be used to identify and target potential customers based on a wide range of variables.

Target people and companies based on your existing customer base.

Target based on Location, Demographics and Lifestyles.

Social Media as a Sales Tool

Selling is the primary objective of any business but on Social Media it should be the last in a series of stages. Always remember that people are on SOCIAL media for SOCIAL reasons and this should be respected.

Post new products/services, special offers and discounts on Social Media but limit this to around 20% of your overall posts. Try to understand the demographics of the users on each Social Media platform and tailor your messages to suit each audience.

Have I missed out any business functions? How do you use Social Media?