Replace Cable TV Using Hulu Plus, Vudu, and a High-Speed Internet Connection
By: Michael Sim, 4/11/12, http://twitter.com/chicagodesign
Many of us are still getting used to the fact that we can record TV automatically, and have digital content stockpile itself into a queue that is accessible on-demand (via DVR). With cable interfaces and value offerings having undergone many changes since the cable TV of yesteryear, the competition between cable providers is left to clever invoicing and other forms of billing treachery. The only real value-add that cable providers have lies in the user interface experience, and archived digital content (think of Comcast’s On-Demand).
With internet streaming media services fulfilling (if not improving) the cable TV experience, the question left on the minds of many are simple. How do I replace cable TV with internet-based streaming media services? What are the cost differences? How will the workflow governing my consumption of digital content have to evolve to use these new tools? Simply put, how do I save money using internet services, and how do I recreate the cable TV experience with as few twists and turns as possible?
Now let’s introduce smart TV’s and smart devices. Smart devices (such as Roku, Apple TV, Google TV, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and almost EVERY current Blu-Ray/DVD player) vary from Smart TV’s in that smart devices are external components that turns a standard TV into a smart viewing experience. Smart TVs ship with smart features installed, ready to access premium web content such as Hulu Plus, Vudu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime out-of-the-box. So, the good news for most TV owners is that smart features are not difficult to obtain. Most people have the smart features readily available in a device they already own (such as Xbox 360), and the price tag to obtain such a device is fairly affordable (Roku - $49.99-$99.99).
With access to online content on your television comes the need to identify which service works best for you. While other services do provide streaming television content (such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, and CinemaNow), this article is focused on using Hulu Plus and Vudu. I encourage you to research each service for yourself to determine which combination is the best fit for your entertainment needs. Smart services and the availability of certain networks and applications may vary among smart device manufacturers.
Hulu Plus - $7.99/mo
- Contains programming from ABC, Fox, A&E, NBC and others
- Content usually appears the day after it airs on cable television
- Many current shows have previous seasons archived
- Many cancelled/older shows have all seasons archived
- Large selection of free movies
- Allows content-watching on all smart devices
Vudu - No Monthy Cost
- Contains all other major stations not available on Hulu (and some that are), such as A&E, ABC, ABC Family, AMC, Animal Planet, BET, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CMT, The CW, Discovery, FEAR NET, FOX, Fuel TV, FX, G4, HBO, History, Lifetime, MTV, National Geographic, NBC, Nickelodeon, Oxygen, Science, Showtime, Sony Pictures, Spike, Starz, Syfy, TLC, TNT, TV Land, USA, VH1, and others
- Rent videos in SD and HD format ($3.99-4.99)
- Purchase video in digital format for access at any time ($14.99-19.99)
- Purchase individual shows from premium networks in SD and HD format ($1.99-2.99)
- Purchase full seasons from premium networks in SD and HD format ($20.00-30.00)
Digital TV Antenna (One-Time $50-$100)
- Get all live local programming, including news, sports, and regular TV stations
- See shows on available networks the day that they air instead of waiting
- If you miss the show, go to Hulu or Vudu the next day instead of using DVR
Pricing Comparison (Based on AT&T UVerse Pricing)
1) Internet + Cable TV
Math: ($659.00-$684.00* for Cable TV) + ($627.00-$648.00* for Internet)
2) Internet + Hulu + Vudu
Cost: $756.40 - $824.00/yr*
Math: ($580.40-$648.00/yr* for internet) + $80/yr for 4 premium shows on Vudu and $96/yr for access to all other channels via Hulu
* - represents the price fluctuation with and without sign-up bonuses
- Savings between $429.60-$508.00/yr
- No more “full” DVR alerts preventing a show’s recording or watching
- No more installation or equipment rental costs
- No late fees or gas expenses for driving to rental stores/kiosks
- With the money saved, the average viewer can subscribe to full-seasons for approximately 25 additional premium shows
- Using Vudu guarantees ownership over any purchased digital content, making it readily available for future use
- Maintain cable-like user experience by navigating and viewing content by using a remote control for your smart TV or smart device.
- No more advertising overlays to obstruct viewing
- Most live public broadcasts, such as news or sports, are (still) free via digital TV antenna (example, http://bit.ly/ISGBci $100)
- Individual live broadcasts have begun launching their own smart applications, such as NHL and MLB. Expect more events to migrate to smart broadcasting in the near future
The internet is quickly changing the way we access, archive, and discover content. With the advent of smart broadcasting, the entire cable industry as we know is in jeopardy. Online broadcasting and ad-placement services such as Hulu give television networks more control over advertising distribution and subscriptions. This gives viewers the freedom to choose the shows they want to watch when they want to watch them with minimal commercial distraction. This makes cable networks and television programming obsolete, as they are now middle-men trying as hard as they possibly can to convince you that they are still needed. And assuming Hulu’s commercial advertising service is smart (ie: using viewer-interests, buying habits, location, and other demographics to determine what ads are shown to a given viewer), traditional television networks can no longer deliver the return on investment (R.O.I.) that online networks can produce. It is only a matter of time until cable television providers are no longer able meet the technological demands of their customers, as viewers become increasingly more aware of and comfortable using online media services. This will undoubtedly shake the foundation of current cable providers like Comcast, resulting in pricing wars, creative advertising campaigns, freebies, fund hedging, billing adjustments, hidden fees, and other forms of trickery to maintain your business.
For me, the choice was easy; save $500/yr and eliminate a large amount of commercial advertising using my Smart TV, Hulu Plus, Vudu, and the internet. My digital TV antenna allows me to catch all sports and news broadcasts, and anything that I absolutely must-watch the day that it airs. Working in this manner has given me the ability to enjoy all of my favorite shows on-demand, in the quality I want (SD/HD), without any storage limitations or advertising overlays. My prediction is that the nostalgic feeling of channel-flipping will quickly become a distant memory as new technologies emerge and change the way we consume digital content.
- If you haven’t already, purchase a smart device (Roku is suggested, $100)
- Purchase a digital TV antenna (example, http://bit.ly/ISGBci $100)
- Register for Hulu Plus ($7.99/mo)
- Register for Vudu (no monthly subscription)
- Connect your Hulu and Vudu accounts to their corresponding apps on your smart device
- Purchase all of your other favorite shows at $1.99 per episode, or around $20.00 per season on Vudu (accessible forever online)
- Save around $500/yr from dropping your cable bill (this includes the purchase price of 4 seasons of whatever shows you want on Vudu). With the $500 saved, you can purchase an additional 25 full seasons of any other shows you want. That is a total of 29 full-seasons, which is a CRAZY amount of TV entertainment!
Common Questions and Concerns
- Q: What if I want to turn the TV on and just watch TV?
- A: You can. With the digital TV antenna, you can do just that.
- Q: I like using my DVR to record shows, and then watch them later. What changes with this setup?
- A: No monthly equipment rental fee, no more running out of space, no simultaneous recording limits, no live tv advertising overlays, no more fast forwarding through many commercials, and no “breaking news” or “station alert” interruptions. Accessibility is on demand, and the only inconvenience is a 1-day waiting period until a live show gets uploaded to Hulu or Vudu.
- Q: This sounds like a lot of work with additional expenses. Why would I want to pay for each show or season I want to watch?
- A: You already are paying for many different shows and seasons with your cable plan. Many of those networks and shows are programming that you will most likely never watch ($500/yr worth). Additionally, you do not own that content, and cannot ever watch it again unless you store it forever inside your DVR. In regard to being “a lot of work”, the workflow regarding this plan is as follows:
- Turn on your TV
- Choose to watch live TV via digital TV antenna, or online content via your smart device
- If you want live TV, nothing changes. You’re channel-clicking in a matter of seconds.
- If you want other content, turn on your smart device (like you would with your DVD player), and start browsing Hulu and Vudu for your favorite shows and movies.
- If you’re using Hulu, pick a show and start watching.
- If you’re using Vudu, rent a movie, purchase an episode, or purchase full seasons from the supported networks and start watching.
Do you have any devices, applications, tools, or ideas that can make a cable-free television experience more effective? What are your predictions for television and other multimedia content? Please answer below.
14 Best Practices for Brands to Grow their Audiences in Social Media
Read more at www.briansolis.com
As a consumer, you are blasted with the same request over and over, “Follow Us on Twitter, Like Us on Facebook” As a consumer however it is more than natural to ask why should I or what’s in it for me? These are questions of which a significant number of businesses cannot genuinely answer.
Businesses are realizing the importance of establishing a presence on Twitter and other vibrant social networks. In many ways, hosting a branded account is now common practice, a required extension to the push channels created through email, traditional marketing and web sites. What businesses are still learning however is that creating a channel, hosting a channel worth following, and building a loyal audience is a far greater challenge and overall investment than initially anticipated. At the same time, the realization that a shift from a push mentality to that of two-way interaction is nothing less than disruptive to the operation of business as usual.
Today a notable number of businesses are approaching branded social channels from a ready, fire, aim approach. This method conjures a façade of achievement when in fact, any progress, if at all recognized, is short term and shoddy at best. Many focus on numbers without first analyzing who they’re trying to reach and why and more importantly how engagement satisfies the needs of their customers. To build vibrant communities in social networks, businesses must develop a remarkable and diversified channel strategy that reinforces the brand and communicates tangible business value and exudes customer-centricity. Without a mature content and engagement strategy, a great unfollow and unlike movement is inevitable.
A Focused Perspective
You can’t depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.
- Mark Twain
Competing for the attention of the elusive social consumer surfaces new challenges for brands. Rather than luring a static audience, brands must now demonstrate ongoing value in order to captivate an engaged audience. As a result, brands must now focus on defining a mission and purpose and delivering value for each of the audiences they’re hoping to address.
The key to zooming in on purpose and usefulness within social channels starts with the realization that there is no one audience. Nor is there a sustainable market for branded messages, marketing campaigns, or “Tweet/Like to Win” contests. Indeed, every channel created to represent the brand must carry a purpose, mission and corresponding value. One of the most common questions I’m asked by businesses of all shapes and sizes is “what is the right number of accounts we should have in each social network?” Or, “how many profiles is too many or too few?”
The answer is as simple as it is revealing. Create the number of channels that meaningfully extend the focus of your business, topline and supporting brands, and relevant stories to the dedicated audience they’re designed to serve. Additionally, only create the number of channels that strengthen the brand rather than dilute it and also possess the capacity to ensure its ongoing relevance.
For example, I’ve worked with leading organizations that over time accumulated hundreds of profiles on Twitter alone. Is that too many or not enough? If we bring it back to the earlier answer, it is only too many or too few if each account does not serve a purpose that strengthens the brand experience, appeals to a dedicated and scalable audience, and receives the necessary support to stay engaged and deliver endless value.
Initially many brands experienced unmanaged growth encouraging or in some cases ignoring, the creation of profiles simply because it was easy and trendy to do so. Best intentions aside, many of these accounts were unrewarding for followers and the account managers and in some cases diluted the brand through unfocused engagement. These channels were representations of an orchestra without a conductor that at times found its instrumentation inclusive of improvisational and amateur jams. Sometimes beautiful music was brought to life and more often than not, noise or worse, silence was the end result.
So what are the best practices in creating an engaging social stream? Let’s take a look at the traits of some of the more successful and regarded brands in the business.
1. Design an Effective Channel Strategy: Evaluate the main brand, sub brands, and notable personalities that require a “follow worthy” or “likable” presence. If there are other accounts that exist beyond the initial strategy, assess their value as a standalone channel and its current state. It may be best to simple truncate accounts or close them all together.
2. Create a Life Support System: Develop an organized framework that supports each presence uniquely. Ensure that each account establishes a rhythm that meets the needs of its audience.
3. Mission and Purpose: Know the audience you’re trying to reach and design a communicable mission and purpose for each account.
4. Develop an Editorial Program: Create an editorial program that addresses the various needs of the social consumer including entertainment, sales, service, engagement, HR, etc. Evoke the new K.I.S.S. (Keep It Significant and Shareable). Create content that’s both engaging, contextually relevant, and shareable. Think beyond the basics such as polls, curation, promotional content, questions.
5. Construct a Listening Framework: The best listeners make the best conversationalists. Build a listening framework that monitors the brands as well as the distinct conversations related to each account.
6. Establish Conversational Workflow: Each account requires an information path and workflow. They also require bridges between them to ensure that every representative is informed and that the right delegates within the business are on point to engage or respond accordingly.
7. Formulate a Decision Tree: Draft a clear flowchart that details the steps for a variety of “if this happens, then do this” situations. This is designed to help representatives follow a pre-defined path for the real-time nature of engagement.
8. Initiate a Training Program: Representatives will require ongoing training to stay sharp and focused. Every engagement either reinforces or takes away from the brand experience. As technology moves faster than our ability to master its lessons, training keeps employees on track.
9. Install a Governance and Reward System: Much like the marketing team protects the integrity of the brand and how it’s presented, a social team is necessary to manage the integrity of each Twitter account as well as the overall portfolio. At the same time, a reward system must be put in place to encourage exceptional work.
10. Draft a Social Media Brand Style Guide: Chances are a style guide already exists that communicates brand presentation, usage guidelines, and other forms of brand-related marketing aesthetics. This guide requires a significant update to account for social media. Its primary function is to define the brand persona, characteristics, voice, and essence. Additionally, the updated style guide will define the design of each presence and how represents should accurately enliven it through narrative.
11. Compose Guidelines and Do’s and Don’ts: Develop a social media policy that conveys the do’s and don’ts in social media. If one already exists, update it. The law has changed and now protects employee rights to express opinion about employers within their personal accounts. Additionally, many employees complain that the existing guidelines are either too extreme or ambiguous to define successful engagement. Design the guideline to serve as guardrails and also a roadmap to success.
12. Serve Customers and Prospects: Social consumers now expect brands to solve problems and answer questions in social streams. Each channel requires a service function or a dedicated channel to satisfy needs and promote appreciation and loyalty.
13. Employ Language and Timing Techniques: Two points of note, timing is everything and in brevity there’s clarity. Studies already show that the time and day and the language structure of Tweets and Facebook updates determine overall reach and engagement. Optimize language and timing to make every update count.
14. Design Engagement and Performance Metrics: Monitor the performance of each account to improve the engagement and editorial strategy for each account.
Following these best practices will prevent your brand from falling victim to the coming wave of customer unlikes and unfollows. But more importantly, focusing social channels and investing in the value of each will improve the customer experience and encourage greater engagement. By increasing meaningful interaction, brand reach is dramatically amplified through the social effect, encouraging customers to not only Like the brand, but genuinely love it!
Read more at www.business2community.com
A social approach does not alter the fundamental ingredients for B2B selling success: building trust and cultivating relationships. However, it does enable new selling tactics along the sales process that align more naturally to the changing behaviors of customers and prospects in a networked world.
1. Create the Foundation for Social Selling
A prerequisite for social selling is identifying your target accounts and contacts. Do you know the full set of customers and prospects in your sales territory? Can you find those accounts in the CRM system? Do you have at least one relevant contact associated with each account? Even leading sales organizations leave money on the table because of an inconsistent and incomplete view of their sales universe. One B2B organization, which prided itself on sophisticated CRM and sales workflow processes, was able to increase its sales universe by 60% by identifying eligible accounts not entered into CRM, removing inactive and duplicate accounts, and ensuring that the right reps were assigned to the right accounts (e.g., Hunters assigned to Prospects).
2. Connect with Your Target Contacts on LinkedIn and Twitter
LinkedIn profiles are chock-full of rich context (e.g., schools attended, prior jobs, LinkedIn Groups) and predictive business triggers (e.g., event updates, conferences attended). What percent of your active contacts in CRM are you linked to? Start by connecting to your closest relationships first, adding a thoughtful and contact specific note in the invitation. Going forward, invite contacts to link after your first meaningful meeting or call. LinkedIn profiles offer a direct gateway to Twitter handles. This is a major benefit as Twitter handles are otherwise difficult to obtain and often do not clearly indicate a person’s full name (e.g., Lattice Engines CEO Shashi Upadhyay goes by @shashikup on Twitter).
3. Profile Your Contacts with Social Data
The key is to focus on the five most important profiling elements that matter most for your business (e.g., industry group participation, recent promotion) or selling style (e.g., buyer’s favorite sports team). This information should be captured in your CRM contact record. Create alerts to track profile changes and update your records on a monthly basis.
4. Account and Contact Targeting
Successful reps align their selling time to the account opportunities with the highest likelihood of conversion and/or highest likely deal value. Listening to posts (e.g., in LinkedIn groups) from employees at your target customers and prospects can surface customer needs and sales opportunities. Reps can do this on their own, but companies can help automate this process and help prioritize the most important insights.
In addition, B2B companies can apply technologies that synthesize activity on social media networks. For example, companies with stronger social media footprints (e.g., more connections, more postings) are typically more likely to be in growth mode and are often more open to technology-based solutions. Data culled from social networks should be an essential component of the full array of internal and external data sources that companies should analyze to help their reps align selling time to the top account opportunities. Laser-focused on the highest-priority accounts, reps now need to identify and connect with the right decision-makers and influencers.
Social networks, like LinkedIn, are rapidly becoming sales staples for generating new connections and warm referrals. Sales Intelligence solutions extend the power of social networks by enabling a sales team to pool together each rep’s connections into one collective network on an opt-in basis. Reps benefit by accessing more contacts at their target accounts, connected by their trusted colleagues.
5. Gaining Access to Purchase Decision-Makers
Once accounts are ranked, the toughest part is actually getting through to decision-makers. Your buyers are highly busy professionals, inundated by meetings, projects, email and endless to-do lists. On top of their work priorities, they are solicited daily by a myriad of vendors seeking a sliver of their precious time. So, when your contact finally picks up the phone, you have 30 seconds to pique her interest. A sure way to blow the call is to drone on about how great your company’s products are. What does work is immediately demonstrating a thorough understanding of the customer’s business goals and how you can help them achieve success. Set aside one hour weekly to review what your contacts are saying in their social updates, in their tweets and in groups.
6. Building Trust-Based Relationships with Each Customer Interaction
Social networks make it so much easier to stay top-of-mind in between formal phone calls and meetings. It’s as easy as sharing a weekly update on an important event in your industry or liking a post from one of your contacts. The subject matter should be educational and informative with no trace of a sales pitch. In addition, nothing accelerates sales cycles like demonstrating how similar companies have succeeded with your solution. The power of social selling stems from the ability to help reps demonstrate peer success. Sales intelligence software automatically identifies these peer reference cases. Reps benefit because they can apply proven tactics and collateral used by their colleagues to close similar deals and because they quickly and automatically share the most relevant and compelling success stories with their customers.
Read more at socialmediatoday.com
People are moving by the masses to social communities and platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. There is much pressure to have a page as cool as your competitors, clients, partners and colleagues.
There are many experts who tell you how to talk, how to tweet, what to say, when to say it, who to say it to and if you should say it while driving, working, singing, dancing, working out or even while you visit the restroom. Yes, I know I am one of those folks too. I write many tips, tricks and do my best to share what I believe to be truths in social media that enable success. I listen, learn, read and absorb as much information as my brain can literally hold daily learning from the thought leaders who inspire and teach me as well.
However, there is one primary issue I see in the mass community, be like everybody else world. People are doing much more following than leading. They are losing site of who they are. They are losing sight of WHY they are doing any of this in the first place. They get so caught up in the moment of a hashtag gone viral, a Timeline banner that looks the best on the planet, circles on Google+, and more that it doesn’t take much to completely distract them from their goals and objectives.
If you aren’t careful and this happens to you, before you know it you will be off on a wild tangent of random acts of marketing (RAMs). Before you know it, that integrated business, marketing and social media plan you got approved and budgeted seems to lose priority in exchange for the latest buzz.
So what do you do? This is the first in a series on social media truths. This first post is about “being your own duck.” The second will be focused on how to lead in a market of look a like ducks with a goal of leading with results, not the next biggest thing!
10 Tips to Be Your Own Duck:
1. Develop an integrated business, marketing and social media plan. Know your audience. Know your business. Know what you want to achieve. Know how to measure it. Social media is not a bandaid for a broken business. It will eat your greatest asset which is time and follow that with a desert of your bottom line and every last dollar of positive return on investment (ROI.) There is much difference between doing social media versus being a social business.
2. Stick to your plan. Stay true to your goals and objectives. Schedule weekly meetings with core stakeholders to ensure you are staying on track. Schedule and measure milestones, targets and goals. Reward yourself when you acheive success.
3. Lead with results. The best way you can stand out is to lead with results. Be the first in your industry or niche to see real business results using social media. The focus shouldn’t be only on developing a viral marketing asset to get you on the map. Lead with real results and people will be naturally drawn to your communities.
4. It’s not about the next biggest thing! The days of the splashiest campaign are done. Now what matters are campaigns that bring results. Instead of spending time brainstorming the next best thing, spend time integrating social into a plan that helps you achieve your business goals and objectives. Spend time getting in the head of your audience. Understand how your business can help them achieve results.
5. Combine creativity and execution. Focus on standing out in the crowd with a combo of creativity and execution. Lose one or the other and you’re destined to be an average duck.
6. Hang with the right ducks. If you hang with 9 ugly, grouchy ducks you’ll wind up being the 10th! Hang with ducks who help you feel good, inspire you to be your best and can do better as a team working with them than you can on your own.
7. Take care of those duck feathers! If it’s been awhile since you did a brand refresh, have a few close colleagues, clients or partners who can be super honest with you do a review. Focus on consistency across the different platforms and social network profiles. Focus both on the creative look and feel as well as the words within the bios.
8. Don’t forget about home base. Make sure your website and/or blog site is consistent with your online brand. This is an easy way to stand out because there are far too many folks who are simply putting all of their duck eggs in one basket such as Facebook. Focus on making your website or blog site an integrated component of your online presence. Leverage email opt-ins, video and blog content to engage your audience.
9. Do better not necessarily more. When it comes to connecting with your audience it is more important that you are inspiring and connecting with them than it is you push out a blog post every single day. One or two really good blog posts a week is better than five days of status quo blog posts that look and feel like everyone else in your pond.
10. Inspire and connect to achieve results. My belief is that we must first inspire our audiences to connect with us with engaging and relevant content and conversation. We then focus on helping our communities to achieve their results. It is not until we help them achieve their results that we achieve ours. If we focus on our audience and communities first, our results will be achieved organically. You’ll find you have more time to engage in a meaningful way and that your audiences will see much value in connecting with you and your brand.
Remember, you are a unique duck! There is only one you. There is only one of your business and brand. Don’t be like everyone else. Focus on differentiation. Give people a reason to like you on Facebook, circle you on Google and connect with you on LinkedIn. Even more importantly give them a reason to want to do business with you.
Are You Your Own Social Duck?
Have you fallen into the average duck syndrome? Does this remind you to get back focused on results? Do you need a brand refresh? Could your online platforms use a few hours of your time focused on clean-up and consistency of content?
Or are you a vibrant social duck who has your plan together. Have you left the pack of status quo and are now leading a community of folks wanting to be social not just be social? If yes, please share your tips and tricks to help others. How do you stay on track? How do you not get distracted by wanting to do the next best thing?
When many people think “social media,” the automatic response is “waste of time”. Facebook is the place you go to play Farmville while your boss isn’t looking. YouTube is where you head when you have five minutes to spare and you need a good laugh so you watch the Jackass video a few more times. Twitter is where you end up when you want to catch up on the latest celebrity gossip.Read more at thesocialmediaguide.com
Is it possible that these sinkholes of productivity could actually save you time?
Yes, and in this guide I’m going to show you ten ways to leverage social media to make your life better, complete your tasks more quickly, and have more time for the things that matter.
#1: Connect with Customers
These days, business is all about the relationships. We buy a car from the guy our brother recommended. We hire the contractor our mother’s accountant used. We go see the movies that everyone on Twitter talks about. So finding ways to take business relationships beyond transactional is a sure-fire way to cement yourself in the minds of your customers.
Social media – blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and the like – are all ways to connect with people. And if you can use these tools to establish and enhance your relationships with your audience, you’ve got a leg up on your customers. Here are a few examples:
- The car salesman who leaves a link for $10 off an oil change on a customer’s Facebook wall
- The financial advisor who records a short video explaining ways to grow your investments
- The golf instructor who holds a Skype party during the Masters
The possibilities are as vast as the world of Internet business. You will notice some commonalities between the ideas above:
They’re relevant. They are directly applicable to the niche or industry you’re in.
They’re personal. Each interaction connects with the audience in a manner beyond a simple “buy my stuff” way.
They’re useful. Each interaction provides value to the recipient. In some cases, it’s a dollar savings (the coupon); in others, it’s informational (the video). And even the Skype party is useful in terms of entertainment. The recipient is better off for having taken part in the interaction.
They’re free. They don’t cost anything on the part of the person reaching out.
They’re relatively low on the time-investment scale. A tweet or Facebook post takes seconds; the video, a bit longer, but actually saves time in the long run as the vendor is answering a question she receives over and over again. The Skype party takes place during an event the golf instructor was going to watch anyway.
In sum, social media provides ways to reach your customers on an intimate level, quickly and inexpensively. People want to be treated as individuals, not as numbers. And social media provides a way to do that without spending your life on the phone.
#2: Get Answers to Your Burning Questions
It used to be that all answers to your questions could be found on Google. Then, when Google became overrun with junk sites and advertisements, Wikipedia became the guru of choice. But even Wikipedia won’t give you the answer to every question you have. Sometimes the information is too arcane, or sometimes you don’t want the facts; you want an opinion. So what better place to turn to than social media?
Social media is great for the following types of questions:
1. Opinions. Heading out on the town Saturday night and want to know where to find an authentic Indian restaurant? Wikipedia won’t help you and Google is full of sponsored ads. So instead of doing a fruitless search, post a query on your Facebook page, and within hours your followers will have chimed in with a variety of suggestions, depending on your appetite, allergies, and budget.
When you want an opinion or suggestion, ask your social media network. They tend to enjoy giving help and assistance, and the resulting information may be more appropriate to your circumstance than a review written by a nameless, faceless entity.
2. New technology questions. Your brand-new video camera won’t boot up after the last charge. You could spend an hour or two on the manufacturer’s website, searching the FAQ pages for an answer. You could google the problem, but all the answers you get are for the previous model. So you send out a plea for help using Twitter, and within minutes you have a handful of suggestions, as well as site to go to for expert help.
Google often doesn’t help much with tech questions because there either aren’t enough answers out there to make it to the first page of the search results, or the resulting pages are all scams, junk sites, or sponsored posts for services that will fix your camera for a small fee. That’s why you can often save time by asking your network first.
3. References and Referrals. Looking for a great handyman can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. You can go through the Yellow Pages or check online, but are any of these guys any good? To know for sure you need a personal reference or referral, and that’s where your social media network can really help out. Post a Facebook query or tweet it out there, and you’ll get answers that will steer you in the right direction.
We often think of social media as a way to just hang out with our friends and colleagues, but it is actually one of the greatest examples of the wisdom of crowds. Take advantage of it, and save time, too.
#3: Get Fast Feedback
Everything online happens at the speed of light. Decisions that used to take weeks or months to make are now a matter of mere minutes or seconds. There is no time for a group consensus or “sleeping on it.” But with your social media network, you can still get input from a number of people, quickly. There are literally millions of people on-hand, ready and able to give you feedback in the moment.
For instance, want to know if the font on your homepage is too small? Send a tweet with the page link and ask what the general public thinks. Wondering which header graphic better conveys your business? Post them both on your Facebook page and ask for input.
The benefits of turning to your social media network:
- You’ll get an interesting cross-section of respondents: Friends from high school, curious passers-by, coworkers
- It’s fast. Depending on the size of your network, you could have responses within minutes
- It’s free. You don’t have to pay a cent for the input
- It’s informal. No need to prepare a five-paragraph overview, ten-slide Powerpoint presentation, or other background information. Just ask and wait for input
- It’s objective. The people you’re asking have little or no vested interest in the outcome
Of course, this method is better for some queries than others. There are drawbacks:
- You have no control over the responses or who they come from. You could get input from people who aren’t part of your target audience, or who offer goofy suggestions
- By soliciting opinions, you can make people feel like they have ownership in the process. If you don’t take their advice, they can feel slighted
- You make some of the inner workings of your business public
As a result, soliciting fast feedback via social media networks is best for the following situations:
- When the decision is relatively minor. You don’t want to ask the general public what you should do about selling your business, or responding to a law suit, or customer service issues
- When the results will be public anyway. If the decision is behind-the-scenes, keep it there. Our examples above – font size, header graphics – are public anyway. Don’t post private information, or anything that might breach confidence
- When you need a variety of opinions from different people. If you need feedback from a certain segment, you’re better off emailing them directly rather than putting out a public call for feedback
Your social media networks can serve as your own personal focus groups. Asking their opinion can also make them feel closer to your business, and part of the process – both good things!
#4: See What People Are Talking About
Large corporations spend millions of dollars, prowling the streets, seeing what the trends in fashion, music, and culture are. They rely on feedback from companies to see what’s hot and what’s not. As a small business, you don’t have the same level of resources. But that’s okay – you can get your own “feet on the street” feedback, quickly and easily, using your social media networks. Here are some of the tools you can use to see what’s hot, right now:
Twitter Trends. Go to Twitter Search and right below the search box, you’ll see a list of trending topics. If there’s a topic you want to track, you can click on the name and subscribe to the RSS feed to keep constantly updated on a trending topic.
Hashtags. If you want to follow a particular topic (“internet marketing,” “redsox,” etc.) via Twitter, you can simply follow the hashtag (#) associated with that subject. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed to be notified whenever new tweets on that topic are posted.
Facebook and LinkedIn Groups. It’s a little more difficult to see what’s trending on Facebook or LinkedIn, but you can see what groups are growing and what topics are hot. Do a search on either site for results, and join groups that look interesting and pertinent to your business. You can receive messages directly to your email inbox or opt to log in to your account to read. Either way is a great tactic for keeping tabs on what people in your niche are talking about.
Yahoo! and Google Groups. Go to groups.yahoo.com or groups.google.com to view thousands upon thousands of groups for interests as varied as recycling, to Justin Bieber fans. Join the ones appropriate for your interests, browse topics, and see suggestions at Best of Yahoo! Groups.
YouTube “Most Viewed.” Head over to YouTube to see the most viewed videos of the day. You can even see top results by category – the results may surprise you!
Stumbleupon, Technorati, Alltop. Check out any of these blog aggregators to see what others find interesting, read-worthy, or titillating. You can see hot topics, trending news, and just plain weird stuff.
As you can see, no need to hire a beat reporter to tell you what’s happening in your target market. You can easily track it all from your computer – no reporter’s notebook required.
#5: Find Resources
If you’re in search of a great web designer, you may want to skip Elance and go directly to Twitter, do not pass go. Finding recommended vendors and freelancers for your business may be as easy as asking the hundreds of people in your social media network who they recommend. Here’s a breakdown of ways to find trusted contractors, by social media outlet:
LinkedIn. One of the most powerful elements of LinkedIn is the “recommendations” feature. You can write, read, and request recommendations from others in your network. It may take a little legwork, but you can use this feature to find a great copywriter, and read what others have to say about him or her. Think of it as a Yelp for people.
Twitter. While you’re missing out on the depth of information available on LinkedIn, you can get instantaneous responses. For instance, tweet “Looking for a great online bookkeeper” and you should get a bunch of responses within minutes. Give more weight to those that come from inside your network, though, as often a request for referrals will generate automated responses from a spammer. It looks like it comes from one of your friends, but is actually just an ad.
Facebook. You can post requests for referrals, just like on Twitter, and you can also search for people with those keywords in their profiles. Beware, though; just because someone is listed as “Mary Bookkeeper” doesn’t mean they’re an expert. You could also post your request in groups that are associated with the topic (post a request for a logo designer on a graphic artists’ Facebook group wall, for example).
YouTube. It might seem a little strange to put out a call for resources via video, but why not? Especially if you have a significant following, you could get a tremendous response. Added benefit: If the project you have in mind has a visual aspect, you can demonstrate it right on the video (think office organisation, website overhaul, kitchen remodel).
Even if fourteen people recommend the same web designer, make sure to do your due diligence. Get a written quote and scope of work, ask for a list of projects completed, and confirm that that person will be doing your project personally, not outsourcing to another. With these tips in mind, you should be able to find great outsourcing resources at the click of a mouse.
#6: Take a Quick Break
Whether you’re working in an office or at home, taking regular breaks is essential for your mental and physical well-being. In the traditional office, you could head to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee, or head down to the proverbial water cooler. But when you work for yourself, taking a break to join into humanity is a little more involved. You can get in the car and drive to Starbucks for a quick latte, but that takes time and money.
You could call up a friend to check in, but who talks on the phone anymore? Instead, here are a handful of things you can do to take a much-needed mental vacation, all from the comfort of your own home, all via your social media networks:
- Head over to Facebook and see whose birthday it is using the notification feature. Then leave them a birthday message on their wall (time: 5 minutes)
- Catch up on your favourite non-work-related blogs. Or read a few of the industry movers and shakers and leave them a thoughtful comment, linking back to your own site. (10 minutes)
- Post a question of the day (hashtag #QOTD) related to your niche, but in a “just for fun” sense. For instance, “What’s the last ___ you purchased for your ___?” This is a fun way to engage your Twitter followers, as well as gather some informal intelligence. (5 minutes)
- Yes, go ahead and succumb to the Farmville or Plants vs. Zombies pull and log in to play for a limited time. Set an egg timer next to your computer and stop when time’s up. (15 minutes)
- Check out the latest videos in your niche (did you know you can subscribe to other video creators’ YouTube channels?). Leave a comment or create a video response. (15 minutes)
- Log into LinkedIn and update your status. Then check in on some of your groups and see what the hot topics are. Offer your expertise where appropriate. (15 minutes)
- Do the same with Facebook. Visit some of the groups you belong to and leave questions on the wall, comment on others’ posts, and leave links where possible. (15 minutes)
- See who’s commented on your blog lately and visit their websites, leaving comments and thanking them for visiting you. Reciprocity goes a long way to establishing relationships. (10 minutes)
- Go to the iTunes store and see who hosts the leading podcasts in your industry. Visit their blogs and start establishing a relationship with these movers and shakers. (5 minutes)
Any of these ideas takes less time than a trip to the local Starbucks counter – or a trip to the water cooler, for that matter! Use your break time wisely and you’ll receive the double benefits of refreshment and audience engagement.
#7: Share Important Announcements
You’re changing the name of your podcast. You just gave birth to a baby girl. You’re heading overseas for an upcoming trade show. You are releasing a new online product. All these are perfect opportunities to use your social media networks to help spread the word far and wide.
When you have something that you want to share with the widest possible audience, leverage your networks – all of them. Here are some tips to make sure your news gets the attention it deserves:
- Don’t be afraid to post it more than once. Particularly on Twitter, stuff gets lost in the noise. If people don’t catch it the second you post it, it may be gone forever. Post it a couple of times over the course of a day or so. Those who already read the original post will just delete it without thinking twice about it.
- Create an opportunity to connect. Turn a newsy announcement into a way to engage with your audience. Instead of just saying “My new product launches next week,” say, “Check out this sneak peek of my new eBook that I’m launching next week. Let me know what you think!” Or, “My daughter is here – here’s her birth photo. Guess her birth weight and the person who’s closest will win a free 30 minute consultation with me.” People are looking for new and different. Give it to them.
- Talk about the news before it happens. Telling people about what you have in progress not only helps them feel engaged, it also serves as a subversive way to promote yourself without sounding like a promotion. Say, “Just finished the last chapter for my eBook. Have you signed up for early notification?” Or, “I’m interviewing so-and-so next week for my next online class. Do you have any burning questions you’d like answered?”
- Interconnect your social media networks. Place an announcement on Twitter that sends your followers over to your blog to read more. Record an announcement on YouTube and then post it on Facebook. The stronger the interconnections between the spokes of your network, the stronger the overall network.
Forget about press releases and publicists, and don’t sit back and wait for the newspapers to find you. Instead, you can do the promotion yourself by leveraging the members of your network.
#8: Cut Through Customer Support
Make a choice: Would you rather spend the December holidays with your crazy Uncle Bob the roadkill taxidermist attached to your hip, or spend the afternoon trying to troubleshoot your computer modem by phone with your cable company? If you’re like most people, you’d ask Bob to pull out the photos of the lifelike armadillos. Let’s face it; these days, customer support is a pain in the rear, not to mention a huge time suck.
Thank goodness, you can turn to your social network to help you out. Here’s how:
Tweet first. There are a number of major companies, including Zappos and Comcast, who have customer service reps following twitter streams and searching for their brand name in search of unhappy customers. If you can post your issue in 140 characters or less, go for it! Hint: make sure you use the company name – spelled correctly! – in your tweet, and employ hashtags where warranted. In other words: “My #HP OfficeJet 5600 won’t print from my MacBook Pro”. Anyone have any ideas?
Take it to Facebook. Many companies have branded Facebook pages where you’ll receive a personalised response within hours, or even minutes. That way you can go about your business instead of sitting on the phone, frantically working your way through the automated telephone tree. Hint: Post a message on their wall rather than trying to contact them via Facebook message. The public aspect of your plea for help will ignite a faster response.
Try their website. Bypass the customer support number and email in favour of a live chat. You can get a live someone immediately (or within a minute or two) instead of playing hurry up and wait on the phone. Live chat not available? Try the email contact form. You may have to wait 24 hours for a response, but you can use that time productively.
Record a video. If all else fails, record a video and post it to YouTube. You never know what a visual plea for help, or a bad review, will do for cutting through the red tape. Be calm, though, and leave room for a response.
The key here is to take control of your own time rather than letting someone else determine your destiny. Don’t let “them” tell you that you must sit on hold for 45 minutes before you get a living, breathing person to listen to your problems. Save time and take it online.
#9: Execute a Survey or Poll
In an earlier section, we covered using your social media networks to get informal opinions from your followers and friends. Now, let’s cover how to solicit more structured input. There are a number of ways to create and post “official” polls or surveys, none of which involve getting a paper survey printed, and sending it out via snail mail to your followers. Here are some options that are much faster and less expensive:
Google Docs. Create a simple survey in Google Docs and get your results in spreadsheet format – for free! You can even brand the survey with your own colors and logo.
Survey Monkey. If you want to email out your survey, check with Survey Monkey at surveymonkey.com. You can create surveys quickly and easily, and aggregate answers from up to 100 respondents for free. Get more surveys and more answers for a small monthly fee.
Facebook Polls. Facebook makes it really easy to add polls or surveys to your Facebook profile or page. Just go to facebook.com/survey to be walked through the free process.
WordPress Widgets. There are a number of WordPress widgets and plug-ins that can be added easily to your WordPress blog or website. Check out WP-Polls, Poll Code, Snap Poll, and Vizu.
Polls are perfect for the following circumstances:
- You want to increase engagement among your followers. Polls are a perfect way to gather information and use it to further discussion. Most people don’t just want to weigh in with their position; they want to discuss it, too!
- You want to use current events to spark conversation. Does your audience think the latest Google search algorithm changes will affect their business? Do your blog readers agree with the experts’ national college football rankings? Ask them, and you’ll establish yourself as an expert by hosting the conversation.
- You want input from your followers and volume of responses is more important than speed. If you are in the process of developing a new product, you can find out if people would prefer an audio, video, written, or multimedia product. If you’re thinking of visiting a few cities on tour, you can see where your pockets of fans reside.
- You want to gather demographic information about your followers. Want to know how often your followers golf, how much money they spend on equipment, and what their biggest challenges are? A survey is a great way to solicit that type of information.
#10: Connect with “Experts”
Ever thought you could be involved in a conversation with Ashton Kutcher, Jon Stewart, or Miley Cyrus? What about some of your industry’s rock stars? Well, you can, through social media. Tools like Twitter and Facebook make it easy to connect with the stars and the experts on a person-to-person level. Here’s how:
Get on their radar. Read their blog. See what they’re writing about. Retweet their tweets, comment on their Facebook page, and link to their content. The goal is not to become a stalker, but to let them know you’re out there, and you’re more than just a fanboy or fangirl.
Add value. Leave insightful blog comments that expand on the topic. Write your own blog post and link back to theirs. Create a video response. Let them know about your experiences and results using the methods or techniques they’ve taught.
Ask a question. Give them something to respond to! Ask a question that shows you understand their topic, and that you’ve followed their information streams. Don’t make it too personal, but make it unusual – something that you haven’t seen answered elsewhere, but something other followers might wonder about, too.
Don’t get offended. With tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of followers, chances are that your question is one of dozens they’ll receive. If yours doesn’t get answered, don’t get hurt feelings. It’s purely a matter of volume, not anything personal against you.
Rinse and repeat. Keep at it – the longer you work at establishing the relationship, the more familiar your name will seem. If your question isn’t answered the first time you ask it, post it again. Try a few times, and then move on and ask another.
Give before you ask. If you’re hoping to establish a relationship with someone in your industry as a potential joint venture partner, or because you want to guest post on their blog, then you have some more work to do. The top dogs in different niches receive dozens of requests for help. Stand out from the crowd of favour-seekers by doing something for THEM first.
Getting noticed by the stars in Hollywood, or in your industry, is possible. But rather than sending a fan letter via post and waiting months for a reply, cut through the red tape and go directly to the source via social media. It will save you time, and save yourself a postage stamp.
As an entrepreneur, time is your most precious asset. It’s the one resource you cannot beg, borrow, steal or replace. While some people are thinking of social media as a sinkhole for losing hours and days, smart business people know they can leverage their networks for a variety of business-related purposes. Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas for saving yourself time, money, and effort.
“Today, one bad experience might cost you a hundred, maybe a thousand customers. Because of this, social media has irrevocably shifted the role of customer service from an easily outsourced, back-office function to one of an organization’s most important tactical assets.
~Oliver Blanchard, Author of Social Media ROI
Read more at socialmediatoday.com
Your brand has never been at greater risk than it is at this moment. And, that risk grows not by the day, but by the minute. That’s not hyperbole.
You invest thousands of dollars, perhaps millions–and untold hours–building precious brand equity, that can be literally unraveled in minutes. A single negative Tweet, Facebook post or YouTube Video can race across humanity and burn down a brand with blinding speed. We’ve seen it time and again with vaunted brands from Amazon to Zappos. They have all the resources in the world to put out fires, and they could not even begin to contain the tsunami-like brand revolts against them. Consider this video that has garnered over 10 million views and will continue to damage the United brand, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year…for the rest of time.
And, don’t think the risk to your brand exists only from the outside. Someone who works for your company can post what they believe to be an innocuous comment that can inflict terrible damage on your brand.
That is why brand monitoring and online reputation management has become such an important component of social media. A few bad posts on Yelp, Amazon, Facebook or a mom blog—without your engaging in the conversation—could seriously hurt your bottom line. People simply won’t do business with you. Virtually every study shows that people trust peer recommendations orders-of-magnitude more than they trust corporate marketing. In other words, the consumer now holds the cards.
The ability to hear what everyone is saying about your brand online is unprecedented—and a dream scenario for any company.
It is said that every dissatisfied customer will tell ten friends about you, and every satisfied customer: maybe two. As review sites and “complaints boards” become more pervasive, an unhappy customer’s comments can reach hundreds, even thousands. These websites elevate everyone’s influence—and reach. People will never give back that power, which is social media is never “going away.”
Online reputation management is critically important, but relatively simple to develop. It requires three things: planning, proactive listening–and a clear and well-defined response mechanism.
Here are five actionable insights that can help you build a cohesive, effective brand management strategy:
You may have spent millions on branding, website design and corporate communications, but these efforts pale next to the hundreds of millions of people sharing ideas and opinions in social media. They are talking in public about companies—and in doing so, they are defining brands.
Put your ear to the ground and start listening to what people are saying. Not doing this because you are “afraid of what you’ll find” could be the death knell of your business. To move from good to great, you must face brutal facts and improve that which needs improving. Be unwavering on this. Perform searches for your company on the main social media platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIN. What are people saying? Is it accurate? Don’t get defensive if you find something negative. In fact, those can be valuable business insights. If a blogger laments the poor workmanship or customer service of your irregular pants business, don’t ask: “How can we get rid of this post? Ask: “Are they right? What can we do to fix it?” Then fix it and let them know you’re fixing it. I also advise against leaning too heavily on technologies for online reputation defense and “sentiment analysis.” I speak from personal experience: At the time of this writing, even the very best technologies miss critical posts, misjudge “sentiment”–and lack the “human element” so important to effective brand management. Your brand is too important to leave to chance. Put human eyes on this stuff.
You cannot control the conversation, but you can be part of it. If someone posts something negative about your brand, even if it’s not accurate, others will pile on in a mob-like fashion. For every moment you allow that to continue, you risk permanent damage to your brand.
Gone are the days when you can issue a press release to respond to crises—and be done with it. “Corporate statements” are now not only largely ineffective, they can be counterproductive. If I were advising Tiger Woods during his fall from grace, I would have silenced his attorneys and PR firm people, who made things worse. I would have sat Tiger down, showed him how Twitter works and instructed him to to be honest, admit his mistakes and tell people what he was doing to make things right. From a communication standpoint, it would be a win. Tiger’s Twitter page would likely have trumped the media coverage, and Tiger would have been able to influence the conversation. It might have salvaged a few of his sponsors. More than that, it would have salvaged his reputation.
You can turn your most vitriolic critic into your most vocal evangelist if you have humility and listen. Remember: social media is not a media. It’s not marketing. It’s not PR. It’s a human relationship. Treat it as such, and your brand management strategy will be more effective than most.
As Oliver Blanchard says in Social Media ROI: “Never get defensive, never take attacks personally, and never allow yourself to be drawn into an argument. Present the facts calmly and professionally, monitor the impact of your activities on topics relating to your brand and overall sentiment, and either press on with your response or move on.”
Do the Right Thing
When you engage in social media, be honest and have compassion. You may be managing social media for a major corporation, but you’re a person–and the person on the other end of that problematic post is a person. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Offer to fix it—and then, do it. It’s not good for business; it’s great for business. Bring “old school” to “new media.”
Shakespeare aptly summed up effective brand monitoring and reputation management: “Mind your speech a little lest you should mar your fortunes.”
An effective online reputation management strategy is not something you can put off until tomorrow, because consumers are defining your brand online–today.
Read more at thesocialmediaguide.com
Facebook continues to be the most powerful social network on the planet with over 750 million active users.
Businesses simply cannot ignore Facebook as part of their online marketing strategy.
We spoke with top marketing book authors and Facebook brand managers.
Take your Facebook marketing to a new level with these hot Facebook marketing tips direct from the top pros in Facebook marketing.
#1: Give people a reason to become fans
“A Reveal tab offers first-time visitors a clear call to action.
By encouraging the visitor to first “Like” your fan page in order to receive a free trial, coupon or even specialized information, you can significantly increase fan conversion rates, while giving real value in becoming a fan,” says Richard Krueger, co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies.
TruTV’s Operation Repo fan page challenged fans to get their friends to become fans for access to a never-seen-before episode.
TruTV’s fan page saw a 400% increase in fan conversions during the video promotion because they gave people a reason to become fans.
#2: Stay on topic
“People who Like your brand on Facebook expect your posts to be at least somewhat related to your brand or industry. Keeping your focus so narrow may seem limiting, especially if you’re the one crafting the posts each day. Instead, think of it as a creative challenge,” says Daniel Sundin, community manager at PETCO.
Sundin gave the following tips:
- Write about a current event and tie it to your brand or industry.
- Find and share a funny YouTube video loosely related your brand or industry.
- Ask your audience to post questions, pictures or stories about your brand to your wall.
- Repost the most interesting content back out as an update.
“Remember, Unliking a page is just as easy as Liking it. A single odd or off-topic post could get you booted from the stream,” said Sundin.
Petco continues to engage their community with updates that are always on topic.
#3: Ask the right kind of questions
“One of the best ways to get your fans talking on Facebook is to ask interesting and entertaining questions. But did you know there’s a right way and wrong way to ask questions on Facebook? When done right, you can significantly increase your fan engagement and build some great relationships,” says Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies.
“The trick is to ask questions that are easy to answer. Questions that require just one-word responses tend to get the most engagement. Remember, people LOVE to talk about themselves, so when you make it about them, they are more likely to jump into the conversation,” added Porterfield.
For example, Zappos asked a fun, easy-to-answer question. They asked, “What was your first concert?” They even attached a great video of one of their employees answering the question too. The response from this question was fantastic!
#4: Include pictures in your Facebook updates
“Twitter is a link economy, whereas Facebook is a picture economy. So just about every status update should include a picture. Ideas for pictures include customers, your product or service in action, employees and events. There’s no such thing as a bad picture,” says Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.
“And one more tip: crop your pictures. For example, no-one needs to see people’s feet. Remember that Facebook is going to present a tiny version of the picture, so you need to get up close, personal and cropped,” said Kawasaki.
Guy inserts a picture on almost all of the updates on his Facebook pages.
#5: Celebrate your milestones
“Did you reach a milestone? It can be one important to you or one important to your fans. Celebrate with your fans!
Even if you think it’s something small, pull them in, thank them, celebrate with them like you would with your friends,” says Ekaterina Walter, social media strategist for Intel.
Notice the high level of engagement on this Facebook update!
#6: Get creative when your Facebook readers are most happy
“Facebook has a Happiness Index that shows a spike of 10% on Fridays. As a marketer, you can take advantage of this increase in sentiment by doing something creative,” says Mari Smith, co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.
“About once a month, I host ‘Facebook Friday’ (similar to #followfriday on Twitter), where I invite all my fans to promote their own pages, links to their blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. In addition, I know from other studies—and from my own fan page reports from PageLever —that my fans respond best to photos.
“By giving your fans specific times to cross-promote, network and create more visibility for their own pages, they’ll be less inclined to do so outside of these windows, plus you’ll elevate your leadership and increase your news feed optimization,” said Smith.
Here’s an example of a recent Facebook Friday event Mari hosted, where she shared an image that garnered 215 comments and an additional 440 wall posts by small business fan pages. Plus, her page views doubled to almost 4,000 views, and she gained 224 new fans in one day.
#7: Activate Facebook fans (don’t just collect them like baseball cards)
“Your Facebook audience is a club, not just a list, and you cannot satisfy the intellectual and sociological cravings of a club through one pithy status update each day. Get creative. Get interesting. Get successful,” says Jay Baer, author of The Now Revolution.
“Recognize that the vast majority of your Facebook fans are indeed fans. Why would you Like a brand that you don’t actually like? These are your best, most enthusiastic customers who have taken the initiative to raise their hands in the Facebook environment. Don’t bore them to the point where they lose interest.
“Create a robust, ongoing calendar of engagement programs whereby your company gives Facebook fans the opportunity to receive special insider info, tell you what they think about future product and marketing plans, access unusual fan-only deals or learn more about the people behind your brand,” Baer added.
Here’s Jay Baer providing fans a unique look into a place he wrote about in his book.
#8: Run a Facebook contest
“Everyone loves a contest and a chance to win. If you need a little excitement on your Facebook page, a contest will spur your community to action. Hopefully you will also get the benefit of people sharing your contest with their friends,” says Andrea Vahl, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies.
“There are several different types of contests you can run: a photo contest, a video contest or a sweepstakes where people just enter their name and email to win.
“To run a Facebook Contest, you’ll need to use a third-party app such as Wildfire, Strutta, North Social, Easypromos or Shortstack. You can also create your own iFrame app to accept the entries, but that will require programming. Facebook has many rules about how a contest or promotion can be run that you should read here: http://www.facebook.com/promotions_guidelines.php. The main thing to consider is that you cannot automatically enter people who Like your page or post a comment on your wall.
“Your prize does not have to be expensive to garner a lot of entries and good buzz. Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner ran a very successful contest using the Strutta application and gave away a business launch package including one-on-one coaching. He received 80 photo entries, took his fan base to over 1,500 Likes and got fantastic publicity for his new book, Launch.
“If you give away something your audience is interested in, you will create great buzz for you and your Facebook page,” says Vahl.
Recently, the Facebook page Chocolate for Breakfast ran a contest giving away a box of truffles and had over 700 entries and over 400 new Likes in one week using the Wildfire application.
#9: Try out Sponsored Stories
“Earlier this year, Facebook introduced a new form of advertising: Sponsored Stories. These ads display activity from your friends in a fixed ad position on the page,” says Ben Pickering, CEO of Strutta.
“For example, if I Like your page, use your app or check in at your location, you can display an ad to all of my friends sharing that activity.
“Why would you pay to have something that is already in the news feed for free?
First, because the volume of activity in the feed can easily overwhelm any one update.
Second, and of particular importance to those running apps on their page, is the fact that stories published from an app are subject to user feedback.
“That means that if many users hide or block posts from your app, subsequent content is likely to be deemed of low quality and won’t surface in the news feed.
“Sponsored Stories ensure that activity on your page or app is still prominent. And because the ads contain actual activity from friends instead of generic advertising copy, they are a powerful consumer-to-consumer marketing tool,” said Pickering.
Here’s an example of a sponsored story.
#10: Measure your Facebook marketing!
“Measure your Facebook marketing efforts as well as you can. Measure unique users, fans, conversions, clicks, activity, retention, loyalty and many other metrics.
“Only if you measure those will you be able to fully understand your fans, and next time you’ll come with an even better targeted offer,” says Jan Rezab, CEO and co-founder of Socialbakers.
You can find comprehensive brand dashboards, where you can analyze the engagement of your Facebook pages.
#11: Find the best tool to measure your Facebook marketing
“Once you have your marketing calendar all set and you are engaging your Facebook fans daily, spend some time to find the right tool to measure your Facebook marketing,” says Victoria Ransom, founder and CEO of Wildfire Interactive.
“Over time you’ll be able to see your progress as well as your competitors’ progress and adjust your social media strategies,” she added.
In Wildfire’s Monitor comparison, you can see several points of very quick growth for multiple brands. One particularly interesting data point occurs in mid-June, where Dickies’ social presence on Facebook takes off like a shot. If we do some research into their Facebook fan page activity during that time, we see that this is when Dickies started a promotion for their fans, a giveaway where they chose the “Dickies American Worker of the Year.”
#12: Learn to make sense of the volumes of data currently available on social media
“Businesses that succeed will make sense of the currently unmined volumes of data that have been crowdsourced through social media. They’ll use it to get more intelligent and they’ll use data to create better, more intelligent and more targeted marketing campaigns.
“Experiment with data mining, data-driven analysis and intelligence now, because that’s where we are heading,” says Chris Treadaway, co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.
As you study the data that’s already available, you’ll be able to figure out how to target your audience on Facebook.
#13: With Facebook, you now need to consider your brand as a network
“Smart brands are tapping into their Facebook audience to get instant feedback, ideas on new product design, how to market better and what topics are trending with their audience.
“Some marketers are reacting to social media, but smart marketers are proactively using social media to drive their business,” says Paul Dunay, co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies and Facebook Marketing for Dummies, second edition.
Read more at www.readwriteweb.com
After nine months of testing, a nifty tool called ifttt opened to the public last week. Don’t worry; I’ll save you the trouble. They tell me it’s pronounced “Ift.” Like “gift” with no G. Ifttt stands for “If this then that.” It’s a tool designed to “put the internet to work for you” by creating simple tasks using the Web’s great services using the format “if this then that.” It requires a simple yet fundamental kind of conditional thinking that can enable anyone to be programmer of sorts: “If I post a photo to Flickr, save it to my Dropbox.” You can make that happen with ifttt.
Well, great! The possibilities are endless! I want to automate everything! Where to begin? How about with some tasks that are important, not merely nifty? For instance, does posting your whole life into the cloudy ether ever make you worry about losing your data? Read on to learn how ifttt can back that stuff up for you automatically from behind the scenes.
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A Little Background
A “task” on ifttt follows the “If this then that” format. For creating tasks, ifttt has “channels” for many of the Web services we use. The “this” part of the task is called a “trigger,” and each of the channels has a set of triggers for the common things you do with that service, like “If I post a photo to Instagram.” The “that” part of a task is called an “action,” which each channel also lists for its service, like “then save it to my Dropbox.” When you create a task, you link a trigger in one channel to a task in another channel, and away you go: “If I post a photo to Instagram, then save it to my Dropbox.” Tasks check your services for new data every 15 minutes, but you can refresh them manually.
It’s a little trickier than writing a sentence, though. Each trigger and task must be defined by various “addins” that point to variables like your user name on the service, the title of a post, the caption of a photo, the URL, etc. We can show you how to set up the basic task, but you’ll have to figure out how to grab just the right data for you.
Fortunately, tasks can be saved as “recipes,” so they can be shared. Below is a guide to the kinds of tasks you can create for backing up your online life with some links to existing recipes for inspiration. Clicking any of the links will take you to the full ifttt page that explains that piece of the puzzle in detail.
How To Back Up Your Photos
Ifttt currently offers channels for three major photo services: Facebook, Flickr and Instagram. Each of these services works a little differently, but they can all be backed up to Dropbox using ifttt.
Here are the triggers for each service that can be used to save photos:
To back up your photos on ifttt, find the triggers above that suit you, then set up tasks for those triggers to engage the “Add file from URL” action in Dropbox. Just make sure your trigger uses the addon to get the photo’s URL, and you should be all set. Here are some example recipes:
How To Back Up Your Tweets and Blog Posts
Ifttt has channels for Posterous, Tumblr, Twitter and WordPress, so it can be used to back up your posts from any of those services. You can save your posts as files in Dropbox, or you can save them as notes in Evernote. Here are the triggers you can use from these channels:
- Any new post
- New text post
- New photo post*
- New like
* Note: Tumblr has triggers for every single kind of media post. It would be crazy to link them all here. Instead, just go to the Tumblr channel page to find them.
Read more at www.readwriteweb.com
Google is rolling out the ability to link YouTube accounts with Google Plus. The link will add videos shared with you on Google Plus to your YouTube homepage. In a public Plus post, Nirav Mehta says that the process takes some time to complete initially.
To link your accounts, go to the Sharing tab in your YouTube account settings. YouTube and Google Plus already have some integration; Plus users in video Hangouts can watch YouTube videos live together.
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When Google Plus launched, its red notifications appeared over the top of most Google pages, but that was all the integration as users got. Connections between Plus and other Google services have arrived slowly but surely. Arguably the most compelling link so far is with Docs and Hangouts, allowing users to collaborate on a document face to face. You can also share Google Maps on Plus.
But few older Google services take advantage of the new stream of Plus content. Google has incorporated public Plus posts into search, but that was about it before this new YouTube link. Even for obvious ones like Google Reader, if you want to link with your Plus account, you have to do it yourself.
Yesterday, Google Plus got real-time search and clickable hashtags as part of the slow but steady march of new features.
Earlier this week, YouTube announced a contest in partnership with the world’s major space agencies to send your science project into space and broadcast it live!
Will you connect your YouTube and Google Plus accounts?
Read more at www.toprankblog.com
In my quest to find a more efficient and effective way to leverage Twitter, I’ve come across a plethora of new and interesting social media tools.
Recently, I’ve been testing two tools that surfaced in my research, Timely and Buffer, which I classify as tweet timing tools. Timely is a product of the folks at Flowtown and Buffer is from the co-creator of OnePage.
This relatively new and emerging class of tools helps users schedule their tweets based on the best time of day based on the probability of click or a re-tweet. They both appear to use an algorithm that is able to discern what time of day the majority of your users will see your tweet, increasing the probability that someone will re-tweet it.
The following is a comparison of these two tools based on my experience. I’ll begin by sharing where these two tools are similar.
Both Timely and Buffer make it easy for the user to schedule tweets. In either case, you can simply enter your tweet, including a tiny url, into the dashboard and click on “add”. Both tools than move your scheduled tweet to the scheduled area of the dashboard so you can see everything you have going out over time.Additionally, both tools offer a handy browser plug-in to make it even easier to curate content and tweet it. When you find an article, blog post or other type of content, simply click on the browser button to create your tweet, append and load it into your queue. This is the perfect match between content curation and social sharing and can help users build their social influence.
Reporting and Analytics
The second area where Timely and Buffer are similar is they both offer reporting on the performance of your tweets. Both sites report reach, clicks and re-tweets but on this comparison, I have to go with Timely’s reporting as I found it more informative and easier to read.
Timely reportingBuffer reporting
That’s it for similarities and as you can see, they stack up pretty close on the key features and functionality. Now let’s take a look at the differences and see if we can’t help you arrive at a conclusion about which tool to try.
The first difference is that Buffer appears to offer this same capabilities for Facebook posts.
This wasn’t what I thought I would be getting at all, so I proceeded to remove Buffer from my Facebook account.
The final difference, and the one factor that made it an easy decision for me as to which tool to use had to do with cost.
Buffer offers 3 options to use their tool:
- Free – Which includes 1 Twitter account and up to 10 tweets in queue at a time
- Pro – $10/month – Which offers 3 Twitter accounts, up to 50 tweets in queue at a time, 2 team members and daily tweeting patterns
- Premium – $30/month – Which offers Unlimited Twitter accounts, Unlimited tweets in queue, 4 team member accounts, and a direct line to the founder
Timely offers 2 options to use their tool:
- Free – Which offers unlimited Twitter accounts, unlimited tweets in queue and unlimited team members.
- Timely Pro – $9.99/month – Offers all of the above and Priority Email Support 24/7
As I summed up the features I cared most about and compared pricing, the decision was easy. I’m using Timely. I should also point out that I have several Twitter accounts and I tend to do a lot of content curation at one time.
Let us know if you are using one or the other of these tools and what our experience has been. What other Twitter tools do you find to be most useful? What other social media tools would you like to see us review?