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

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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 🙂

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 🙂

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?

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?