Rev Up Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

In less than five years, social media has revolutionized not only our communication culture but how we conduct business. The dizzying effect of endless and sometimes unfettered-24-hour access to people and information has transformed the various tools into a game changer.

There is a broad and increasing list of sites, including BlinkList, YouTube, Delicious, Flickr, Tumblr, BlogMarks.net, and the triumvirate of major sites: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These social destinations have become to business professionals and entrepreneurs what golf is to C-suite powerbrokers – a juncture to strategically network and close deals based on shared interests and personal engagement. But these sites do more by offering users valuable real estate to advertise products or services, create and expand brand recognition, solicit feedback, build relationships, and create community forums. Users also have unprecedented access to consumers, hiring managers, prospective clients, industry experts, and opportunities.

Moreover, social media levels the playing field by allowing anyone access without restrictions on time, location, or social status.

The most diligent and creative players are reaping huge benefits. According to a report from Forrester Research, 55.6 millíon U.S. adults – just shy of one-third of the population – visited social networks at least monthly in 2009, a jump from 18% in 2008. Recent Nielsen research says Americans spend nearly 25% of their time online on social networks and blogs, up from nearly 16% a year ago.

The initial foray into social media can be daunting and bewildering. Newcomers to the space might wonder: Who’s reading? Will I be heard or noticed? Isn’t it all just fun and games? Isn’t it invasive? Making the effort worthwhile requires time, patience, and a work-smart-not-hard strategy. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a corporate professional, the success of marketing your products, businesses, or your personal brand will be determined by how well you engage interest on the varying platforms. In part one of a series on social media strategies, Black Enterprise offers some tips to get you connected.

What Business Owners Should Know

Finding out who your customers are and how they like to be served is essential for the success of any business. Questions and surveys offered on social media platforms can help business owners quickly access that information. Jason Burton, social media strategist and marketing director of Lab 5702, a boutique marketing firm in Kansas City, Missouri, says such data can help you position your product to broader groups outside your initial base of contacts. “Put your product in front of the trendsetters or the next level of users,” he suggests. “Targeted searches let you drill down beneath the surface to find followers and potential influences that can use or promote your product or service.”

Location-based social mapping services such as Foursquare, Google Latitude, Loopt, Facebook Places, and MyTown allow consumers to benefit from their influence. For example, if you visit your favorite flower shop in Tucson and tweet it to your followers, you get $2 off your purchase. The greater the network and influence, the bigger the discount. These services also enable users to find friends and events; share locations, updates, tips, photos, and comments; and share across online social networks and blogs. Loopt has more than 4 million registered users and partnerships with every major U.S. mobile phone carrier and is available on more than 100 smartphones, including the iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android. Google Latitude and Foursquare boast more than 3 million users each. Greater social media interactivity has been facilitated by mobile apps such as ÜberTwitter, MobileLinked IM, and Nimbuzz. According to a Juniper Research report, the number of downloads from mobile application stores is expected to rise from fewer than 2.6 billion per year in 2009 to more than 25 billion in 2015.

What Corporate Professionals Should Know

Carmen Hudson, CEO of Tweetajob in Seattle, oversaw employer branding campaigns when she was senior manager of talent acquisition for Yahoo and has witnessed the shift in recruitment practices. “Companies are cultivating and marketing a brand that attracts and is attractive to certain types of candidates,” she explains. For companies such as Yahoo, Starbucks, Apple, and Microsoft, social media is increasingly at the forefront of that strategy. Recruiters will, for instance, use LinkedIn to create a search stream of attributes to find precisely the type of candidates hiring managers are looking for with minimal time and fuss. Moreover, Hudson adds, “They’re also looking at how many followers you have. Do you have a strong network? If you’re an expert, friends and/or follower numbers are strong indicators of that.”

A Jump Start Social Media survey of hiring managers indicates that 66% go to LinkedIn to find candidates for openings, 23% go to Facebook, and 16% to Twitter. “Job seekers who frequently post and update profiles are nimble and often get to job opportunities first,” Hudson says. “Recruitment officers can execute a well-rounded and more diverse search, through a search stream of attributes because they now can meet candidates where they play,” says Hudson. At the same time, companies can promote the brand and the company message, which gives the job seeker a more informed perspective on the companies as potential employers.

How to Maximize Social Media Marketing to Promote Your Brand or Business

• A blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogspot is essential, advises Warren Laidler, webmaster and creative director of DeLite Multimedia in New York City. Blogs have greater potential for organic leads because their content-rich nature makes them more search engine friendly. Search engines love content-driven platforms and rank them higher than static websites. “Think of your blog as a launch pad or hub for your enterprise. Your social media efforts should lead back to your blog or website, which should be dynamic and informative, providing content and information that encourages visitors not only to return, but to distribute your content to their network.”

• Blogs or websites should contain SEO, or search engine optimized, keywords and phrases that help visitors find the business when they search via Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others. Laidler also suggests pulling in RSS feeds and useful links into your blog. “RSS feeds allow you to import content from outside sources and are a great way to share information that visitors find interesting.”

• Work on engagement and consistency. For example, your Twitter timeline should be a combination of original updates, retweets, or shares from other sources, replies from connections, inspirational quotes, and trending topics. A standard formula is two to four tweets per day. Positive activity can also blossom quickly and create buzz that reaches well beyond a businesses’ core audience. In the virtual world, consumers and job seekers can become influencers and trendsetters by persuading their network to take action or purchase a product or service. Laidler suggests using tools like Klout or Twittergrader.com to measure your social media influence and find out the reach of your Twitter posts.

About The Author
Denise A. Campbell is the Founder and Creative Director of GoldenPen Writing Ink, a multifaceted writing and communication service. This article was originally published at: www.blackenterprise.com/2010/10/15/whats-your-social-media-strategy/

Understanding Web Advertising

More money is wasted on advertising than any other business function. That is not to say businesses shouldn’t advertise but rather people should understand how advertising works. There are many ways to characterize ads, but for our purposes let’s make it simple and separate advertising into two distinct approaches: saturation and emotional.

One of the things I’ve learned over a long career is that business folk invariably take their lead from the wrong sources. Small and medium size businesses look to the mega corporations to learn their tricks and adopt their attitudes when they have little in common – advertising being no exception. Since our clients are mostly medium or small size companies we try to help put some of these issues into perspective.

If you’re big enough and have the money available, there are all kinds of marketing initiatives you can invest in, but if you have a limited marketing budget you need to be smart about how and on what you spend your advertising dollars. And the most effective and cost efficient place to spend those dollars is on your website. Yes you need to attract people to your site, but if once they arrive they find it lacks intriguing, engaging content, then you’ve wasted your money. So what tactical approach should you take to deliver your marketing message?

Saturation Advertising

The first approach is saturation advertising like you see on television. Anyone who has spent an evening sitting in front of the TV set is familiar with what I am talking about: the constant repetition of the same commercials over and over until the ads become an unwelcome irritation. The fact is no matter what you do to avoid commercials they eventually seep into your head. Even fast forwarding through commercials on a recorded program has an effect. Saturation advertising depends on repetition not quality, which is why some of the worst and/or stupidest commercials can still be effective.

There are some great commercials on television that do engage the audience with an entertaining, memorable, marketing message that enhances the brand and generates leads, but when push comes to shove, television advertising is all about repetition not quality.

Does Saturation Advertising Work?

Does saturation advertising work? The short answer is yes it does, at least for a television audience it does. Most people believe that it works on others but not on them, a phenomenon, psychologists call the Third Party Effect. The fact is, repeating something automatically makes it appear more believable.

The majority of people will respond that they don’t pay attention to commercials, but inattention does not protect you from the influence of repeated messaging. In fact bad commercials work better if the audience isn’t really paying attention, and fail when the audience is actually listening carefully. Careful attention brings to light all a message’s conceptual, technical and performance issues.

Will Saturation Advertising Work For You?

But saturation advertising is expensive because it relies on huge media buys in order to get the required number of repetitions needed to worm its way into an audience’s collective consciousness. It’s a messaging tactic that depends on deep pockets and that rules it out for most companies. Advertising that depends on constant repetition just won’t work on the Web unless it’s merely to supplement an existing extensive integrated television and print campaign.
Just as an aside, the music industry uses the same tactic. The constant repetition of a song, even of inferior quality but with minimum rhythmic value and a repetitive catchy chorus, can become a hit if heard often enough on the radio or on television in a music video. And like most saturation advertising it’s controlled by whoever has the most money available to purchase audience access. The same holds true for political advertising. Politicians can get away with the most incredible nonsense if they raised enough money to drown-out their opposition.

The Web is a different communication environment compared to television. Where television and the Web converge is with programming: your website is not an advertisement, or at least it shouldn’t be if you want it to be effective; your website is the equivalent of the program not the commercial, and that is why the key to success is the ability to turn advertising into content, and content into a memorable experience. You need to engage your audience with the same kind of techniques and messaging that is used in the programs you watch and not in the commercials you try to ignore.

If You Don’t Establish Your Brand, You Won’t Have a Meaningful, Memorable Message

If you can’t saturate the market with your brand then you have to find a better, more cost effective way to influence your audience. I use the word brand instead of product or service because that is where you have to start – you have to think ‘brand’ not product/service. What we’re talking about here is advertising intended to promote and grow your company within the context of a long term marketing strategy rather than a promotional ad intended to let your audience know about a particular sale or promotional event. Companies that stick exclusively to a promotional format are basically teaching their customers to only purchase goods and services when there’s a sale, and that’s a tough way to make monéy on a long-term basis.

We all know how popular the Google AdWords program is and we all know how expensive it can get in order to gain access to the keywords that trigger your ad placement. The Google system is basically relying on the same principle as television advertising: big audiences and lots of placements equals lots of leads.

The problem in addition to the continual expense is that even if you attract a large initial audience, that audience will not stick around long enough to get your brand story if that story is not at least as interesting and entertaining as the television programs they watch. And even if that audience manages to stick around a while, if your site isn’t interesting enough, they won’t ever come back and that reduces your chances of being remembered. Unlike television where the audience is captive to the commercials, a Web audience is not. Unlike television where the experience is generally a compromised gróup decision, Web viewing is not.

For most Web-based businesses their website is their best and potentially most effective advertising venue, but people only go to websites that interest them, and they will leave in an instant if a website doesn’t engage, inform, and entertain them.

Emotional Advertising

“People forget what you say, but they remember how you made them feel.” – Warren Beatty

Everybody likes to think of him or herself as a rational, intelligent human being, but in truth, we are all motivated by the same hardwired emotional triggers. Our brains are marvelous, malleable organs that absorb information without us even knowing it; they process information, massage it, and produce instinctive responses to external stimuli. Our survival and dominance as a species depends on this ability. Our brains are not cameras that just record input; they are interpretive instruments that produce gut-instinct. As a consequence, successful long-term marketing strategies depend on an emotional brand association with basic Maslowian needs.

No matter who you are or what you do your competitors will undercut your price, add new and better features, or come up with superior alternative solutions. The business world is littered with the corpses of once proud companies that owned their market until someone came along with something better, or cheaper, or just different. No one wants a Polaroid camera when digital cameras are all the rage. Once proud Kodak has been humbled and downsized considerably because they saw themselves as a film company and cameras as merely a way to sell more film rather than tools of human creativity. Products and services come and go, but brands are forever, and brands are defined by their emotional appeal.

bout The Author
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit www.mrpwebmedia.com, www.136words.com, and www.sonicpersonality.com. Contact at info@mrpwebmedia.com or telephone (905) 764-1246.

Copy Editing: 10 Powerful, Mind Blowing Secrets For Writing A High-Impact Ad

No matter what product or service you’re promoting, unless you are able to write and use a highly persuasive Ad, you may not generate a lot of traffics and sales.

Writing a high impact Ad that will deliver truckloads of sales requires some skill and practice.

Below are a few professional copy editing secrets to help you improve:

1. Publish a picture of yourself in your ad. This will show people that you’re not hiding behind your web site and you’re not afraid to backup your product.

2. List how many famous or respected people have purchased your product in your ad. These people should be fairly known by your target audience.

3. Publish the results of any tests your product has passed in your ad. Your product may have passed a durability test, safety test, quality test, etc.

4. Publish the results of any positive surveys you’ve taken from your customers in your ad. Just survey your current customers and list the results.

5. List any publications that have written about your business in your ad. It could be a product review, on a top ten list, an article, etc.

6. List any related books that you’ve written in your ad. When you list a book(s) you’ve wrote, it gives you credibility because it shows you’re an expert.

7. Have a professional looking web site to publish your ad on. When people visit your site and it looks unprofessional, they’ll relate that to your product.

8. Publish any endorsements from famous people in your ad. Some people will think if a famous person, enjoys your product, so will they.

9. Use a money back guarantee in your ad. This will remove the risk from your potential customers and show them that you stand behind your product.

10. Provide testimonials from satisfied customers in your ad. The testimonials should include specific and believable results you customers have received.

May these copy editing secrets help you to make a lot of money.

How to use Twitter For Business – Five Tips For Twitter Newcomers

Twitter is a wonderful business tool, not least because it’s free; all it will cost is your time (and if that’s in short supply, you can hire a social media marketer to manage it for you).

Used well, Twitter can provide good exposure for your business; but you can also damage your brand with social media marketing if you’re not careful, so it’s worth learning the biggest dos and don’ts before you start using Twitter.

Tip 1: Be yourself and be human

The beauty of Twitter is that it’s a huge global community of human beings (mostly; there are spammer accounts but they’re easy to spot, block and report). So do show your human side, especially when using your business account. Talk about things that matter to you: funny things your children say, recent achievements, your favourite band or TV show, and so on. Join in with conversations that interest you – be friendly, show emotion, and use smilies if you want to.

On the other hand, don’t be too human. Don’t share anything you wouldn’t share at a real-world business networking event; keep intimate health problems and controversial or potentially offensive opinions to yourself.

Tip 2: Watch how you write

Some people write well, others don’t – that’s true in all areas of life, not just on Twitter. You don’t need to be a bestselling novelist to use Twitter, but it helps if you have basic literacy skills (and if you use Twitter at the website instead of through a client, your Tweets will be spellchecked as you type anyway – which helps).

However good (or bad) your writing skills are, with Twitter’s 140-character limit you’ll need to be creative with your Tweets. Your Tweets need to be concise yet informative, and often you’ll be trying to squeeze in a URL too (URL shortening services like bit.ly and tinyurl.com are lifesavers).

One definite don’t is using text speak. Text speak is fine if you’re 13, but as a professional adult promoting your business you’re just going to look silly, and won’t communicate your messages efficiently – unless you’re targeting 13 year olds.

Tip 3: Share and share alike

If you have some good news – related to your business or your personal life – share it; everybody loves a good news story.

Do share links – to your website, your blog, your local news service, or anything else that interests your followers – this is a great way to get conversations going. But do remember to explain what the link’s about, or your followers will feel less inclined to click it. And don’t Tweet the same link over and over; people will quickly become bored and may stop following you.

Do retweet your friends’ links, too; they’ll be grateful, and so will your followers if the link is interesting and relevant. But here’s a very big ‘do’ – DO make sure you click the link and read the content before sharing it with your followers, or you could end up sharing a page that’s irrelevant or offensive, or which contradicts your usual position on the subject.

Tip 4: Be part of the community

Don’t treat Twitter as your personal billboard. It’s not: it’s a community, millions of members strong, and the community as a whole is not very tolerant of users who constantly advertise. Try to stick to the 80-20 rule when you use Twitter for business: no more than 20% of your Tweets should advertise or self-promote, and at least 80% should be non-promotional. If you can get the ratio down to 90-10 or 95-5, even better.

Listen to what people are saying, and join in. Twitter is a network of conversations, so it’s good practice to listen and respond to parts of those conversations that interest you; don’t just stand in the middle of the room with a megaphone, shouting “I’m fabulous! I’m selling widgets at 20% off this week!” Again – if you wouldn’t do it at a business networking event, don’t do it on Twitter.

Do retweet your friends’ requests for help (for example, charity appeals and sponsorship requests), and do introduce friends that are new to Twitter and could do with some followers. And again – do retweet useful, interesting links from people you follow, but always check links before sending.

Tip 5: Mind your language

Don’t use offensive language when representing your business on Twitter; even mild swearwords can put sensitive souls off following you (and besides – cursing in public is hardly professional).

Use Twitter to answer customer questions and solve their problems, by all means; many organisations use Twitter as a customer services tool very effectively. But never, ever use an impolite or impatient tone with a customer. On Twitter, everything you say is out there for everyone to see, so leave your followers with the best possible impression of your brand at all times… the Internet has a very long memory!

Finally – consider this a bonus tip, since it’s not really connected to any of the previous ones – try to enjoy yourself when you use Twitter. Try to embrace all that’s good about Twitter – the new friendships and business contacts you’ll make, the fun hashtags and trending topics, the strong community spirit – and before long you’ll be singing (or is that Tweeting?) Twitter’s praises to anyone who’ll listen.

Debs Williams is Managing Director of debbidoo Ltd, a marketing company in Caernarfon, North Wales that provides marketing, website design, copywriting and internet marketing services to organisations of all shapes and sizes in a variety of industries.

Debs is a self-confessed internet addict and keen social media marketer, providing Twitter account management and Facebook page management services to clients who don’t have time to manage their own social media marketing activities.

How To Give Your Business Credibility

Let’s face it. Buying products and services from the Internet can be a bit intimidating.

You may have no idea where the online merchant is located. You may not know how safe your personal and credit card information will be.

You may be unsure if you’ll even get the product or what to do if the product is broken when it arrives at your door.

These types of concerns are what you are up against when you sell products from a website.

Here some tips to build credibility with potential customers.

1. Include all your contact information on your homepage. Your phone and fax numbers, e-mail address, etc. List the hours you’re available to take customers’ phone calls.

2. Offer a money-back guarantee. This is a must, especially if you’re selling higher price items. Mention your guarantee at least a couple of times in your copy.

The more details you give about your guarantee the more comfortable your prospect will feel. Your guarantee should be valid for at least 30 days after the purchase and it’s best to have a “no-questions-asked” return policy.

Be prompt in refunding the customer’s money

3. Tell your site visitors how their credit card and personal information will be protected if they buy from you.

Do you use a secure,encrypted server to process their transaction? Tell them. I have this info spelled out right below the “Buy Now” button on my website.

If you use a online credit card processing company like PayPal, be sure to include the credit card buyer protection policy and merchant verification process. People want to know how they’ll be protected against credit card fraud.

My credit card processing company, PaySystems (http://www.revecom.com) has a 100% guarantee against credit card fraud. Customers can click on hyperlink to read the guarantee before they actually fill out any credit card and personal information.

4. Use testimonials from satisfied customers. Nothing helps sell a product like a happy buyer. The more detailed the testimonial the better. Be sure to get your customer’s permission before you quote him or her in your marketing material.

Always use the customer’s first and last name, company name and title (if applicable) and their location.

I think you’re less likely to believe a testimonial if it’s just signed “J. Doe” instead of “John Doe, President, XYZ Company, Houston, Texas.”

5. List your credentials or experience on your website or in your ezine. Again, the key is the more a customer knows about who they are dealing with, the more assured they going to feel doing business with you.

By putting these suggestions into action, you’re bound to have a happy group of customers. And good “word-of-mouth” is the cheapest, and most effective form of advertising.

9 Tips for More Effective Facebook Marketing

By Brandon Cox
Facebook is NOT welcoming of the marketing efforts of its users; and often, family and friends on Facebook are ANNOYED by marketing efforts. Both of those statements are undeniable. So trying to “market on Facebook” requires good sense, strict moderation, and an understanding of how Facebook might work for marketing purposes.

Personally, I rarely post any marketing messages on Facebook. I post them on Twitter frequently, but I also try to make sure that 75 – 90% of what I post on Twitter is either personal interaction, plugging good free content, or plugging other people’s stuff. I do think, however, that monetizing my content on even free social media platforms is perfectly acceptable. Why? It’s simple. Even though the platforms are provided to me for free, I’m also providing the content that allows the network to exist. If nobódy posted on Twitter, they’d be broke.

So again, in moderation, with good sense, and with a priority on relationships over sales, marketing across these platforms should be an acceptable thing. Now about the good sense part.

Why is it That Social Platforms Are So Effective for Marketing?

People are social, by nature, so they love recommending stuff they like. Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms have a rapidly expanding user base. Authenticity is demanded as people will give honest and public feedback. The platforms are accessible and easy to use by design, even by people with few technical skills.

For the most part, marketing across social platforms is free, but doing it badly can cost dearly.

Why Is Facebook So Important to Messaging and Marketing?

With 500 million (and growing) unique users worldwide, Facebook is the number one social networking site in terms of activity and subscriptions. What started as a garage initiative by Mark Zuckerberg has now become the biggest phenomenon on the internet.

A user interface that allows for quick communication and the ability to create fan pages and groups at the clíck of a button are what make Facebook extremely popular. Another important reason for its immense popularity is the wide variety of social applications that have been developed and made available within the Facebook environment.

Facebook provides a wide variety of avenues to communicate with the audience, which opens up an entirely different world of possibilities to have a fruitful dialogue with customers. Some of these methods used popularly by marketers are:

Advertising: The first, which is the most obvious one, is advertising on Facebook. The difference, however, is the fact that you can create an advertisement in a matter of minutes and also specify the details of your target group in terms of demographics and types of discussions where you want your advertisement to appear.

Fan Pages: Facebook allows every brand, as well as individual users, to create fan pages for their favorite celebrities and their own businesses. Large brands have also created their official pages on Facebook that have a huge, immediate fan following world-wide. The fan page has immense utility to convey first hand information about the brand and also to collect immediate and frank feedback from your customers.

Branded Applications: One of the most effective ways to engage a user toward your brand is by creating an application; this could be a game or a contest, with your branding coming across subtly through it.

What makes Facebook even more exciting is the way it allows you to target your communication sharply just to the customer segment you want to attract. It also provides analytics and page insights that give good feedback and measurement on the activity done.

Facebook is envied by other platforms and internet companies because, at least for now, they own the social graph. If Google has mapped the Internet’s URLs, Facebook has mapped the Internet’s personal relationships and connections, and that’s extremely valuable. Why else would a company with virtually no physical assets to speak of (other than offices, servers, and datacenters) be worth billions of dollars?

9 Tips for Using Facebook to Market a Message

If you’re thinking about jumping into the idea of marketing (or messaging even without the goal of profit), here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Facebook, like any other online platform, has terms of use. Respect them or be prepared to be banned as well as criticized mercilessly.

2. Facebook is about relationships. You don’t have a “relationship” with a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman – so don’t be one on Facebook.

3. Being personal is everything. Successful Facebook marketing campaigns revolve around personality.

4. There isn’t a magic formula for making any message “go viral.” You can’t control a virus – that’s what makes them viral.

5. People like Facebook for entertaining stuff. In fact, entertainment is defined as “holding one’s attention.” Remember this.

6. Facebook ads are more personally targeted than ads anywhere else.

7. Being “liked” can work very, very well for your message. Being “unliked” (no, there’s not a button, but it can happen) can bury you.

8. Facebook is in control. Always remember this and don’t ever, ever assume its available tools won’t change. They have and they will.

9. Don’t build a business on Facebook marketing – or Twitter marketing – or newspaper ads, radio ads, TV ads, or leaflets dropped from hot air balloons. Build your business on a great product, a great message, and great relationships.

What did I miss?

About The Author
Brandon Cox is a Communications nut, a blogger, designer, web entrepreneur, and a Pastor at one of America’s largest churches, Saddleback Church. And he loves helping people blog for income.