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. 🙂

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?

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: 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?

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?

Marketing your Small Business Blog

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Now that you’ve started your blog, it’s time to put it in front of as many pairs of eyes as possible. There’s no point in putting in the blood, sweat and tears if nobody reads or benefits from your blog.

Small businesses usually have little to no Marketing budget so this article will explore ways to promote your blog using only sweat equity.

Sign Up

Your blog should contain interesting, engaging and practical information that people find useful. You’re giving away information tips and tricks for free so ask for something in return – their email address and/or social media details. This way you can build a database of prospects and you now have their contact details to facilitate relationship building with your target audience.

Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging site and you’ve got 140 characters to capture the attention of passersby to make them read your blog. Videos, images and infographics will help to increase engagement but with Twitter you need to focus on words.

Post your blog everyday for 2 weeks, change the heading until you find the winning formula. Don’t think “what heading shall I use to describe my blog” – answer questions, solve problems and think like your customer.

LinkedIn

Join groups on LinkedIn relevant to your industry and target audience. Post your blog onto LinkedIn groups and if your blog is interesting then you’ll begin to gather feedback and open up debates.

Don’t just use LinkedIn groups to promote your blog, contribute to conversations and make your opinions heard so those very people will have an interest in reading your blog because they know who you are.

Google +

The most important reason to consider Google + or any other Social Media platform is to communicate with people according to how they communicate, and Google + is growing in size.

However SEO is a critical reason to use Google + to promote your blog. WordPress is an excellent platform for creating a blog, so just copy and paste your work into Blogger. Last week’s blog Small Business Blogging touched on the SEO benefits from blogging and if you want to get seen on Google then get on Google +.

Join communities, much like groups on LinkedIn share your blog content and always respond to comments, +1’s and feedback.

External Promotion

Your existing network is finite and therefore limits the exposure of your blog to your followers, friends and friends of friends. Personally I feel that building credibility and trust so you can create long term relationships is the most important aspect of a blog. Of course you want to sell, but gain credibility, trust and build relationships 1st – then you can sell to people who trust you.

Put your blog on someone else’s platform, you obviously lose an element of control but the benefits of leveraging their experience and fan base can seriously boost your exposure. The reason I recommend this method is because it works. I was recently approached by a company who read my blog on an external website which wouldn’t have been possible using only my own WordPress account.

Here are some of the best B2B platforms to help you catapult your blog into the big league:

http://www.business2community.com/

https://exploreb2b.com/

http://www.businesszone.co.uk/

An up and coming platform http://www.thewriterssocial.com/

When promoting your blog on Social Media always remember to share and be shared, build your network and grow your audience.

Use external platforms to build your fan base by sourcing websites which look for authors/bloggers like you to help provide them with interesting and fresh content.

Why don’t you blog? What problems do you experience? Got a blog already but not being seen? Your comments are welcomed 