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. 🙂

Marketing Automation vs Personalisation

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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

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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?

Which Social Media Platform do I choose?

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A good place to start is to ask your prospects and customers what Social Media platform they use – but this won’t always give you the exact answer you’re looking for.

Often conducting market research provides a low level of response so you should learn a little about some of the most popular Social Media platform available so you can make an informed choice.

We’ll explore 5 main features of 5 main Social Media Platforms to help you make those informed decisions on what Social Media platform your company should use.

Facebook

1) Over 1 Billion Users

The most widely used Social Media Platform in the world

2) Fastest Growing Demographic 55-64 Age Group

Teen Market using Facebook less than previously

3) Build a Business Page Separate from your Personal Profile

Recommended to set up a personal profile and NOT a Business only page

4) Excellent Targeted Advertising features

Good for local small business targeting local consumers
Aim for likes & turn them into regular followers
Use the Insights Feature to measure the demographics of people who like and share your posts

5) Suggested methods of Marketing = Competitions, Events & of course Relationship Building

Twitter

1) Over 500 Million Users

2) Micro-Blogging site Using only 140 Characters to Communicate your message

This helps businesses be more concise in how they Communicate on Twitter
Short bursts of information are ideal for Time-starved consumers
Your message has around 10 seconds to make an impact on readers

3) Excellent Customer Service Tool

Respond in real-time – Consumers expect a quick response
Respond quickly to negative comments – turn into a positive

4) Post Regularly

Several times a day
Establish optimum times of the day to post – Morning, Afternoon or Evening

5) Target Customers & Connect with Industry Peers

Follow & be Followed
Share & Be Shared – Share posts from other people/companies
Target customers based on location, industry & interests

LinkedIn

1) 225 Million Users

2) Ideal B2B Platform

LinkedIn provides a Transparency to your small business & personal skills, specialities, credibility & experience – Individual & Company Profile
Excellent Platform for Networking with Peers & Prospects
A must for any Small Business operating in the B2B Market

3) Join LinkedIn Groups

Estimated 1.5 Million LinkedIn Groups
Permitted to join up to 50 Groups
Recommended to join no more than 20-30 initially to ensure you’re contributing to those groups
Adhere to Group Rules

4) A Business Page is required for Paid Marketing

Target B2B Market
Small Businesses may experience a relatively low Volume of Clicks but the Conversion Rate will be Higher

5) The 3 C’s of LinkedIn

*Community
Treat each Group like small Communities
You’re simply one person who’s part of a wider community with shared interests

*Contribute
Distribute your Small Business Blog – Make sure the Content is Relevant to the Group & Discussion
Share external articles from News & Information sources – Share & Be Shared

*Comment
Answer Questions from your fellow Professionals, Customers & Prospects
Ask Questions – Utilise LinkedIn to Conduct Market Research
Finish your Group Posts with a Question to encourage others to Comment

Pinterest

1) 70 Million Users Worldwide

2) 75% Female Demographic

Highest Percentage of Users access Pinterest from people using Tablets & in particular the iPad
Women use Pinterest to get ideas & inspiration
Men use Pinterest when they Plan to Buy

3) Ideal Platform Creative Industries:

Most popular Pins shared are Recipes
Use Images, Graphics & Infographics
Pinterest is like Online Window Shopping

4) Easy to Use – Pin It Button

Pin It Desktop Button to Share Interesting finds from the Internet
Pin It Button on your Company Blogs & Website – Make it easy for people to share your Pins

5) Create Pinterest Boards

Showcase your products
Create Boards based on the Specialist Areas of your Small Business
Other People will follow your Boards

Google +

1) 500 Million Users Worldwide

You need a Google Account (Gmail) to have a Google+ Account
Google + can be used in a Personal Context or Business

2) Links to other Google Products

SEO Benefits
Google Adwords
Good for Content Marketing

3) Google Circles & Hangouts

*Google + Circles
Share Content with Selected Individuals
Be alerted and have people in your Circles alerted when you post any fresh content
Be as Broad or as Narrow as you wish

*Google + Hangouts
Voice & Video Chat
Host Live Webinars
Hang out with friends & colleagues in a Group Setting – Have a Group Discussion

4) Join Google+ Communities

Similar to Groups on LinkedIn
Join Google + Communities relevant to your Target Market
Join Google + Communities Relevant to your Industry

5) Plus Ones +1’s

Similar to Likes on Facebook
Quick & Easy way for people to share your posts

Check out your competitors and see what Social Media platforms they use which will also help to establish the platforms used by your customer-base.

What Social Media platforms do you use and why?

10 Steps to Social Media Sales Success

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Can Social Media Marketing lead to Sales? – YES!

Unlike traditional/online advertising where an immediate sale is sought, Social Media Marketing requires the commitment of time and the ability to nurture relationships with individuals.

Social Media can be used like a “sales funnel” to help guide prospects from initial contact to the end sale by following these 10 simple steps:

1) Identify

Build up a list of potential targets by using the search functions in the various Social Media platforms. Target people based on their location, age and interests to help build an audience of relevant and interested followers.

2) Post

Refrain from posting only sales-orientated content by sharing blogs and articles from external sources that provide rich content which adds value in some way to your audience – Give them something for free – Interesting, Relevant & Engaging Content.

3) Like/Follow

Follow & be followed. If you’ve implemented steps 1&2 correctly then people will follow you because you’re relevant to their needs & interests. Once prospects have liked or are following your company you’ve got them – Don’t let them go!

4) Ask Questions

If your company is able to solve problems experienced by your audience then you have a higher chance of converting the sale by satisfying their needs & demands.

Ask your audience questions – ask them what problems they experience, what they like/dislike about certain products/services. How do you know what your customers want if you don’t ask them?

5) Engage

This is where the magic of Social Media happens – 2 parties engaging and being social. Ensure that any communications are 2-way – people are tired of 1-way Marketing communications. Keep asking questions and seek clarity where customers have sought answers from you. Be friendly, approachable & social.

6) Offer

You’ve engaged with your customer, established what their needs are and overcame their uncertainties – Now it’s time to introduce your own products/services.

Never make an offer generic, make your offer relevant and personal and make the customer feel like you understand them and their needs.

7) Signpost

To facilitate the sale it is recommended to lead the customer away from the Social Media platform and to your main company website. On your website you’re in more control and can start to signpost your customer towards their preferred sales channel – Do they want to buy online, by telephone or in your shop? Signpost customers to the sales channel of their preference.

8) Enquiry

You’ve made a relevant offer to the customer, lead them to your website – but they won’t buy just yet.

The customer will want to know more information about your products/services – How much does this cost? Does the offer fit my exact needs?

9) Inform

One of the most common reasons for failing to convert an enquiry into a sale is the customer has doubts or unanswered questions.

You know this individual so tell them the benefits of your products/services according to their needs. Don’t tell them about the wonderful features or technical aspects – tell them how your offer can BENEFIT them.

10) Convert – SALE!

So many people are scared to sell, you don’t want to be seen as pushy – but all you need to do is ask for the sale.

Do you want to buy 1 egg or 2?

That’s £500 in total – Do you want to go ahead?

Simple questions – Just ask.

If the customer doesn’t commit then return to step 9 and overcome their objections.

And there you have it 10 simple steps to Social Media Sales Success.

What problems has your business encountered when trying to sell on Social Media?

Join In on LinkedIn

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You’ve set up a profile on LinkedIn, added all your jobs, skills and achievements – now what? Just sit there? Occasionally adding old colleagues and friends – Get more involved.

LinkedIn for me is the best B2B Social Media platform around. The obvious choice of using LinkedIn is for recruitment purposes, but it’s a thriving community of professionals and business owners and is so much more than an online CV.

Groups

There are thousands of groups on LinkedIn where you’ll find an A-Z of industries and interests. If you can’t find a group on a particular subject then you can create one and start your own community.

You can join up to 50 groups on LinkedIn, which for one person to navigate is more than enough. I’d recommend joining no more than 20-30 groups otherwise you’ll struggle to dedicate the time to be involved and contribute meaningfully to those groups.

Join a mix of groups where you can engage with your prospects, customers and industry peers. Leverage your skills and knowledge to utilise LinkedIn groups as a lead generator, but focus on connecting, engaging and building trust with each individual person – The art of Social Media is to be social.

Be an active member of your professional community by networking with industry peers from across the globe to gain an understanding of the different perspectives to help you learn and develop in your career.

Comment

Join in the conversation by answering questions from your fellow professionals thus demonstrating your experience, know-how and specialist skills. This will help you to gain credibility and position you and your company as experts in your respected field.

One of the most common reasons for failing to convert a prospect into a sale is the fact that the customer has unanswered questions. Ask customers questions and respond swiftly to any questions they ask on LinkedIn groups. If you can solve their problems then you’re half way to achieving a sale.

Ask questions as well as answering them. Ask your customers and peers what problems they encounter or ask for their opinions and experiences. Instigate a response in your community by encouraging people to comment and engage with each other – Be an Influencer.

Contribute

You can distribute your company blog on LinkedIn groups but make sure the content is relevant to your audience; you don’t want people disengaging because all you do is self-promote.

Post articles from other sources and always aim to add value in some way to the group you’re contributing to. Share information which is relevant, fresh and thought-provoking and encourage other members to contribute to the conversation.

Community

Ensure that you’re a responsible and actively engaged member of your selected groups and treat each group like a community. Groups shouldn’t be abused for promoting your products/services or for self-gratification. You’re simply one person who’s part of a wider community with shared interests.

Each individual group will have a set of rules and these should be adhered to and respected for the good of your community.

The 3 C’s

Remember that the 3 most important elements to consider with LinkedIn groups are:

COMMENT – CONTRIBUTE – COMMUNITY

What LinkedIn groups have you joined and why? 