If Want to Sell Stuff, Use Social Media

Question:  Why would you spend your time (and money) on Social Media sites if you are not making sales?  Most businesses I know are not on Facebook to play Candy Crush or view crabby cats.  Businesses who are successful on Facebook and other social sites understand that there is a right way to sell on these sites, but…

It’s like walking a tightropetightrope

If most of your posts are overt (or even covert) sales messages, not only will you not win customers, but Facebook may hide many of your posts. (See the article about new FB algorithm changes.)

However, if none of your posts give people a reason (or ask them) to buy from you, they probably won’t.

Inbound Marketing is Still Marketing

The idea behind inbound marketing has always been that people no longer want to be “sold to,” they want to “decide to buy.”  It is about pulling people in with interesting and valuable content. However, some of that content has to be about what you are selling and why people should buy from you (other than that you are a nice guy).  Today’s marketing on social media includes a carefully planned mix of interesting posts (blogs and articles) both curated and original, and may include a few jokes, memes and interesting facts about your company, your community and the world we live in.  However, there should also be special offers, coupons and even “member only deals,” (which makes those who like a Page feel special).

Social Network Marketing – before online sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter – was only about face-to-face interactions at networking meetings, Chamber of Commerce Functions and Community events. These venues gave small business owners the opportunity to get to know other business owners and members of the community, and to tell people about their products and services. While this form of “relationship marketing” is still viable today, the intelligent use of online social sites gives business people a unique opportunity to meet people online, interact with them , earn their trust and sell to them without ever meeting them in person.  This not only enlarges their potential customer base, but can save them time and money.

The top social media sites today deliver a large and interested audience, and smart marketers are figuring out how to take advantage of the opportunity to sell to them.

Image courtesy of chanpipat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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Why In-Person Networking Groups Might Not Work

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We just finished redoing a website that was originally done by a business owner my client met in a networking group.  Almost nothing in the original website could be salvaged, and we started over.

The problems started with photos that were uploaded without any attempt at optimization or editing.  The result was that the very large images uploaded directly from the digital camera made the site open extremely slowly.  Google punishes sites like this and humans today are often not willing to wait for long periods of time for a site to open. The photos were also left unedited. They looked amateurish. (Cropping a cracked parking lot in the foreground of a picture and rotating it to make it look straight would have helped.) The other problems were probably even more startling.  The phone number was captured within an image (making it useless as a link on smart phones) and the text was not well-written, not optimized for the key words; there were typos and grammar problems.  Finally, although the target market of the business was definitely local, the site was not registered Google Places for Business – and the web designer hadn’t even suggested that this should be done.  The site was basically invisible to Google.

Had the client developed his own website on one of the free platforms, this might be understandable, but the website person he hired also used a free platform, represented himself as a web designer, and charged thousands of dollars.

But this isn’t a post about websites. This is a post about joining a networking group that demands that you use and refer the people within the group.

The problem with this type of “Relationship Marketing” is that simply developing a relationship with someone does not guarantee that he will do a good job.  The more insidious problem is that people in these groups become friends. No one wants to speak negatively about a friend, who sits next to him every week.  Also, since giving and getting referrals is the main reason for these groups, you may be asked to leave the group if you don’t provide members with referrals.  This sets up the perfect storm for referring less than optimal people.

While we are not saying that networking groups are intrinsically bad, the adage, “Caveat Emptor,” (Buyer Beware) definitely applies when deciding whether or not to hire or refer anyone.  Even though you may think you know someone in your networking group, ask for references (preferably from people not in the group) and investigate his on-line reputation.  People used to warn us about hiring our brother-in-law to do a job for us without checking up on what kind of work he does. Today, this warning extends to people we network with.

 

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Facebook Embraces Its Marketing Side

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While it is debatable whether Mark Zuckerberg had a grand plan when it came to leveraging his social networking site into a marketing platform, the fact is that any time over one billion people hang out somewhere, smart marketers will figure out a way to reach them.  And while he maintains that it is not the marketing part of the network that he focuses on, the reality is that he continues to make the enhancements that are shaping how marketing is done today, while assuring Facebook’s place as a marketing giant.

The recent Page changes that have been (and continue to be) announced demonstrate click like blogFacebook’s commitment.  The newest announcement helps people understand how the News Feed works today and explicitly explains what may get a Page quarantined.  While those of us who use the site for clients have suspected some of these “rules,” it is helpful to have them spelled out.  If you want to stay off Facebook’s “Black List,” do NOT:

  • Explicitly ask people to like, comment or share your posts.
  • Share the same content over and over.  (If you want to repeat something important, use different words and different images each time.)
  • Use “bait and switch” tactics. (Be honest when telling people where they will end up when they click a link.)

So how does Facebook decide what to show in a News Feed, they rank the post based on the following features:

  • Interest of the user and creator.
  • The post’s performance against other users.
  • Performance of past posts by the creator.
  • The type of post – text, photo, link.
  • And how new the post is.

For more on what Facebook chooses to post see TechCrunch’s equation

These and other Page changes have helped define how marketing should be done on Social Media platforms. However, it even more reinforces the fact that Zuckerberg and his cohorts continue to care about user experience. In other words, they want Facebook to remain the place people want to hang out.

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Why the Phone Book May Not Be Your Best Marketing Option

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We have been talking to three of our new website clients about adding a social media marketing strategy to their marketing plans.  All three had concerns about the price.  All three currently pay over $1,000 a month for exposure in the “yellow pages” (or similar directories).

When asked why they were spending this money, their answers were all along the same lines. They had been told by the representatives from these directories that:

  • Without these printed books companies will miss a large segment of the population without access to the Internet.

While it is true that about 20% of America’s population does not have ready access to Internet, many of those folks are elderly and many are living below the poverty level.   Whether it is worth the thousands of dollars a year to continue to advertise to such a small segment of the population is a question that only the business owner can answer.  And the fact is there may be other more economical ways to reach these folks.

  • The directories are also published online. People look for companies there before they look for websites.

In order to find a company in directory sites, you first have to click on the directory and then on the listing.  The question for companies is: Is it worth thousands to be buried within a directory?  Or would it make more sense to use those funds for a more effective marketing strategy that will help get a Page 1 listing on Google AND reach more potential customers?

  • If you stop paying for your “phone book” listing, you will become invisible on Google.

This is probably the most misleading statement of all.  If a company ONLY has a yellow page business listing, when the company stops paying, they will no longer be found on Google. However, a well-optimized website, listed on Google Places for Business will definitely be listed on Google – usually on Page 1.  Google admits that it favors websites with fresh content and strong “social signals.” Allocating marketing funds to accomplish these goals will pay big dividends when it comes to exposure on Google.

The bottom line is that marketing has changed.  It might be time for business owners to get out of their comfort zones and stop spending thousands on things that aren’t working.  Hiring a professional Social Media Marketer, who understands how marketing is done today, and keeps up with the trends that will work in the future, will not only make the company more visible to its customers, but show it as a modern company that knows what it is doing.  It will probably also cost about the same or even less than advertising in the books with yellow pages.

(Images:  http://id.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berkas:Assorted_smartphones.jpghttp://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MichYellowBooks.JPG

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Facebook’s Latest Business Page Change Gets a “Thumbs Up”

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As marketers, we pay attention to what is working in our marketing strategies and to try to make the changes to capitalize on those things. So, while Facebook’s tweaks to their platform may, at times, seem annoying to those of us who run marketing campaigns on this platform, the truth is that they are only doing what we do. They continually evaluate their website and make the changes that they believe will make it more valuable to their customers.

The newest change was officially announced yesterday on its Business News Page.  The ads on the right sidebar will be re-configured to more closely resemble ads in the Newsfeed.  While the full rollout of this change is set for later this year, watch for some advertisers to start using this new ad design later this month.

The changes include:

  • The ads in the sidebar will be larger.
  • The proportions of the ads will match the ads in the New feed.
  • Because of the size change, there will be fewer ads presented on the right sidebar.

The reasoning behind the change, according to Facebook is to make the “right hand column ads more visually consistent with the ads that appear in the News Feed” offering advertisers a simpler way to create ads and giving them “an enhanced creative canvas.”

Facebook reports that these changes are intended to provide a better experience for their members and to simplify ad creation for marketers.  In early testing of these ads engagement was up to three times higher. Because the new ads use the same proportions as the News Feed ads, designers will be able to use the same images for ads appearing in the News Feed and in the right sidebar.

Early comments on the announcement have been, for the most part, positive. This change seems to be a win-win for marketers – better user engagement and less work creating ads. However, the question is, since there will be fewer ads, will the price for the ads increase?

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