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  • Great Together
    Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are generating a lot of hype in the marketing world as new ways of reaching and communicating with customers, members, donors, and anyone else you come in contact with. While this might sound a lot like the goal of email marketing, social media is not a wholesale replacement for email; rather, social media can be used to compliment an email strategy by reaching out to customers wherever they happen to be and opening more avenues of communication with them.

    A report by the Nielsen Company shows that people who are heavy users of sites like Facebook and Twitter actually use email more than casual social network users do.

    Why is this? Social media networks like Facebook allow you to set your preferences so an email is sent whenever someone comments on something you post, or on a friend’s post that you may have commented on. You can also get notified when someone sends you a private message within the confines of Facebook. Similarly, Twitter sends an email update every time someone new decides to “follow” you, and when you receive a direct (private) message from another user.

    For you, as an email marketer, this presents some good news: All of this activity drives people into their email inbox. The more email people get, the more they’re going to be checking their inboxes. And the more they check their inboxes, the more chances they have to see your email messages. This is just one way in which social media helps and increases email use. In this guide, we’ll explain some of the basics of social media, and show you how you can use these tools in tandem with email to create a more effective marketing mix.

     

    Getting Started with Social Media

    If you’re having trouble getting your head around what “social media” is, how to “friend” people on Facebook, and “follow” people on Twitter, let’s first take a step back from the email marketing/social media integration path for a brief primer on what social media is.

    Social media networks are essentially semi-closed communities that require an account to post information to them. We say these networks are “semi-closed” because some information and pages posted in the communities, such as a Facebook Fan Page or postings to Twitter, can be viewed by non-account holders.

    While there are hundreds of social media networks out there, the big three people focus on are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on them too.

    Facebook
    Facebook is the largest of the social networks, with more than 802 million daily active users. It is also the most multimedia-friendly of the big three; members can post text, pictures, audio, and video.

    Users sign up for an account, then can make connections with other users on the site by “friending” them: When you find someone you know on Facebook, you request to be their friend. If the request is accepted, you can see that person’s profile information, status updates, photos, and more (which is why you wouldn’t want to be “friends” with someone you don’t actually know). Your friends in turn can see your profile, status updates, and photos, as well. If you don’t want to share all your information with all your friends (for example, if you connect with coworkers or family members), there are more granular privacy settings available to limit who can see what information you post.

    More important for business users of Facebook are Groups and Fan Pages. Groups allow like-minded people to join and share information through public message boards. Fan Pages allow a business to set up an information hub that other users can become “fans” of. Anyone can build a Fan Page. You don’t have to be an actor, musician, or politician to have fans on Facebook, and you don’t have to be accepted to be a fan. These pages are the preferred method for most businesses and organizations to reach Facebook users because a business owner or nonprofit manager can use them to share information with fans, and the pages are public-facing (though only Facebook members can become fans).

    Twitter
    Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media networks, with an estimated 255 million monthly active users. Twitter’s philosophy is simple: Users can post 140-character status updates that are viewable by anyone “following” their Twitter stream. On Twitter, the follower relationship is not two-way; you don’t have to wait for someone to approve your follow request and vice versa.

    Your Twitter updates are public as well, meaning non-Twitter users can still view them. Even without an account, you can use that link to see all our updates.

    When you follow someone on Twitter, you’ll see his or her status updates in real time on your private Twitter home page, along with updates from everyone else you follow. If you follow many people, this can create a bit of “noise,” especially if those people are heavy users of the site. That said, the beauty of Twitter from a business perspective is the ability to search all updates for a certain term or phrase as the search spans the entire public Twittersphere and not just your followers. (This is especially useful when looking to keep tabs on customer service issues.)

    LinkedIn
    The third of the big three, LinkedIn is one of the more professional of the social networks. Individual users’ profiles are tantamount to an online resume (complete with recommendations and endorsements) and, like Facebook, connections between users must be confirmed by both parties. Businesses and organizations can have profile pages as well that outline the who, what, and where of their operations.

    Two of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn are the community and question areas, which tend to be more professional in nature than those found on Facebook or Twitter. Answering questions in your area of expertise can help establish you and your business or organization as experts.

    Get Signed up
    If you don’t already have accounts on these three major social media networks, you should sign up. Even if you don’t plan to use any or all of the networks right away, they’re free, so there’s no financial barrier to entry. Additionally, signing up will make sure you reserve your company’s name in case you decide to use the sites in the future.

    It’s recommended that you keep your professional and personal online personas separate, so you have the freedom to share family photos and other personal things just with people you know, and your customers can only see things that relate to your business or organization. To do this, you may want to create separate business and personal accounts on the networks you plan to use. Facebook users should also set up a Fan Page as soon as possible, if only to keep your company’s name reserved for later purposes.

     

    Integrating Email and Social Media

    Now that you have a better understanding of how the various social networks operate, let’s take a look at them in another way.

    Sites like Facebook and Twitter do require more frequent updating than your blog or email marketing do, but they also often have less compelling content. At the same time, Facebook and Twitter are more viral than a blog or email marketing, but a blog or email marketing creates a deeper customer relationship.

    To most effectively strengthen your relationships, it’s best to use social media in tandem with your email marketing efforts. Here are eight ways to extend the reach of your content and act as a source of new information for your email recipients.

    Let the world know: “We’re on Facebook and Twitter!”
    Once your accounts are established and you’re comfortable using the social media networks, begin telling the world about your new online presence. Add links to your social media accounts to your email newsletter and in your regular email signature. Put the same links on your website and, if you have one, your blog, as well.

    Users of social media networks are always looking for like-minded people and companies to “friend” and follow. If you’re participating in the same networks, there’s a good chance people will become a fan or follow you. The more places you link from, the more likely people will find you on your social networks of choice.

     

    Integrating Email and Social Media

    Grow your email contact list
    Just as you can use your outgoing emails as a way to advertise your social network accounts, you can use social media to add subscribers to your email contact list. A few easy ways to do this:

    • Occasionally, ask your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn followers if they want to be on your email list, and provide them with a link to your newsletter signup page. Keeping with good marketing practices, you’ll want to keep straight pleas to join your list to a minimum. If all your updates to Facebook and Twitter say “Sign up for my list,” then you won’t have many followers. Keep the pitches to a bare minimum, and let the content you post be your sales pitch.
    • A good way to entice new signups is to tease an upcoming issue of your newsletter a few days before it’s sent. For example, if your monthly newsletter goes out on a Thursday, post a quick headline or synopsis of that month’s main article on Monday or Tuesday, and tell people that if they want the information, they’ll have to sign up by Wednesday night to get this hot content.
    • Similarly, you can post a snippet from one of your newsletter articles and tell your fans and followers that if they want to read the rest, they will have to sign up for your newsletter.
    • You can embed a Join My Mailing List signup box on your Facebook Fan page, blog, or just about any other site that allows embeddable HTML code.

     

    Extend the life of your content
    A lot of thought, effort, and time go into creating and publishing the content for each issue of your newsletter, so why limit distribution to one method? If your newsletter content is permanently accessible via a URL (either through an email archive or posted on your website), post that URL to your Facebook pages, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other network where your company has a presence.

    Posting your content to your social networks provides a couple key benefits. First, the links back to your website help boost traffic and your search engine rankings (the more links from outside sources, the better), meaning that your business or organization’s website will show up higher in the results when someone goes to look for you on Google or another search site. Second, it puts your content in a place where it can be easily shared and passed along. That gets it in front of people who are not already on your email list, and can help drive new subscribers.

    For those who are worried about cannibalizing their email list by posting content elsewhere, know that you can always delay your social media posts until a few days after the email has gone out — providing a window of exclusivity to newsletter subscribers.

    Use social networks as a source for new content
    Social media networks can be a way for you to answer customer questions. Your own customers might be saying or asking similar things about your business, service, or product. After all, one of the most common uses of social media is asking common customer service–type questions.

    Obviously, when a customer asks a question through one of these social media sites (whether directly or indirectly), you should answer them as promptly and directly as possible. For example, on Twitter, you should use the person’s Twitter handle in your reply so it shows up on the person’s Twitter home page. But don’t end the “conversation” there. Use the question and your original answer as a newsletter topic to share with the rest of your email newsletter recipients. Chances are good the answer will be relevant to more than just the one customer who asked the question.

    One thing you can do in addition is repost the question to your social networks and direct people to your newsletter for the answer (for example, “A customer recently asked when we’re getting new merchandise. Check out the next issue of our newsletter for the answer” and then include a link to your website where they can sign up). A single question from a social media fan then becomes content for your newsletter and a lure for new subscribers.

    As you’re building your network, maybe the number of customers asking questions or specifically commenting about your business or organization is limited. That doesn’t mean the social media content well is dry. Watch the networks for hot topics and trends in your industry. Use that information as a source for article content. Talk about the trend, how it affects your customer
    base, and what you can do to help.

    Mention in your article that you saw people talking about this on Twitter or Facebook, and be sure to put a plug for your own accounts on the services as another means of making your customers aware of your presence on these networks.

    Get feedback from your social network circles
    When trying to decide between a couple of good article ideas for your next newsletter, if you are not sure which will appeal more to your customers, you can ask your social networking circle for quick feedback.

    Post the question to your Facebook News Feed or Fan Page. Ask your Twitter followers which of the articles they’d like to see. (Remember to do so in 140 characters or less). Use the response generated to make the final decision on which article to use. You may even get a few other ideas for future articles along the way.

    Continue the cycle
    Chances are good your newsletter content will elicit some comments and feedback from your Facebook and Twitter networks. Why not feature them in the next issue of your newsletter?

    In your issue, let readers know that they can share their thoughts on Facebook or Twitter (or wherever you want them to), and that you’ll share the “best” comments in the next issue. That will encourage reader participation and give you content for the next issue that you won’t even have to write.

    Blogging for content
    Blogs may not be the first thing you think of when the term social media is mentioned, but they can play an important part of your overall content strategy. It’s important to remember that a blog is merely a publishing platform that makes it easy to get content onto the Web. A blog’s content does not have to be just opinion or just news. It can be used to easily share just about any type of content with your audience.

    How does this help you in your email marketing efforts? For newsletter authors who find they have a lot of content ideas through the month, but come up blank when it comes time to produce the newsletter, writing a regularly updated blog can be of help. As an idea strikes, capture your thoughts in a blog post. When it comes time to put together your email, the blog becomes a well of usable content that can be copied, pasted, and linked to from your newsletter.

    Alternatively, your blog can act as an archive for your newsletter content. Paste your articles into your blog platform as a means of saving and linking from your social media networks.

    With either use case, a regularly updated blog will help with search engine optimization efforts as it provides fresh content for web crawlers and more potential links to your site.

    Get your followers to refer you
    Word of mouth mentions of your business is a main tenet of referral marketing. As a customer, when someone you deem trustworthy posts a link to something on a social network, chances are good you will click on that link and maybe even share it with your own network of friends and followers. Having your loyal customers and members serve as evangelists for your business or organization via social networking is the ultimate in referral marketing.

    Obviously, putting out good content is key if you want people to forward and share your posts and links with their circle of friends. But sometimes, people need to be told to forward or share your content. Say you own a restaurant that’s offering half-priced appetizers tonight. In your Tweet or Facebook post announcing the special, tell people to spread the word by “Retweeting” (or RT) through Twitter and sharing it on Facebook.

    Of course, just like it’s a good idea to keep the “sign up for my email list” pleas to a few posts, it’s also good social network etiquette to keep the “please Retweet/share” requests to a minimum. Following the 80/20 Rule is a good baseline, with 80% of your messaging educational in nature and only 20% a sales pitch.


    Email and Social Media: Interact With Customers on Their Terms

    With the explosion of social networks, blogs, and other Internet technologies, the number of ways we can meaningfully interact with our customers is growing exponentially. Customers who use social media networks expect the companies they do business with to have a presence and be active in the same networks. And each method — email marketing, social media, blogs, websites, etc. — feeds
    the others.

    As a devotee of email marketing, you’re already interacting with customers via their inbox. Using the steps outlined in this guide, you can leverage your existing content to interact with customers in social networks and beyond.

  • What They Are, Why You Should Be Using Them, and How to Use Them Effectively
    social media buzz
    The buzz around social media has been growing to a near crescendo. People are blogging, connecting with friends on Facebook, posting updates to Twitter, and getting LinkedIn. Is your business or organization still on the social media sideline, looking to get into the game but unsure of how to proceed, or are you wondering if the business value is there?

    In this guide, we will outline 35 of the most important things you need to know about social media networks: what they are, why you’d want to use them, and how to use them effectively. With this information in hand, you’ll have the right ammunition to start building your social media presence.

     

    Part One: What Are the Social Media Networks?

    To begin, let’s take a look at some of the most popular social media networks and tools, with a quick primer on what’s good and not-so-good about each of them.

    1. Facebook
    Facebook is, by numbers alone, the most popular social networking site today, with more than 350 million registered users. It’s a site that lets people share updates, photos, videos, articles, and more with “Friends,” who they have to approve to be in their network. Businesses and organizations can create “Fan Pages,” which other Facebook users can become fans of, just like they do sports teams, musicians, and celebrities.

    What’s good about it?

    • The user base is huge, and that means many of your customers and constituents are already there.
    • It’s easy to use.
    • Multimedia content can be integrated with your profile.
    • You can separate your personal and professional use.

    What’s not so good about it?

    • You have limited ability to customize your Fan Page.
    • Fan Pages do not have email alerts; you will have to check to see if there is any activity.
    • It’s a closed environment — only Facebook users can become fans or friends of your business or organization.


    2. Twitter

    Twitter is a social networking service that allows users to communicate with their “Followers.” It’s open to anyone, so you can follow or be followed by people you know and people you don’t. Users choose a “handle” that is their user name preceded by the @ symbol, and communicate via short messages and updates (called “Tweets”) that have a maximum length of 140 characters. Tweets can be very easily “Retweeted” (RT) and shared with the simple click of a button.

    What’s good about it?

    • The “Timeline” (or the Twitter feed) is public, which can help to give your business or organization greater exposure in web search results.
    • The site is more open than Facebook, so it’s easier to build a community of potential customers you don’t personally know.
    • Fans can “follow you” without you having to reciprocate.
    • There is a quick way to share links to content.
    • Users are very vocal, so if they are happy with your business or organization, they’ll say so.

    What’s not so good about it?

    • The site is text only — pictures and video are shared through secondary links.
    • It’s challenging to say something of significance in only 140 characters.
    • Lots of “noise.” With so many identical-looking Tweets, it’s hard to make a single one stand out in the crowd.
    • Spammers are increasingly targeting the service.
    • Users are very vocal, so if they have a problem with something, they’ll say so.


    3. LinkedIn

    LinkedIn is the more “professional” social network of the Big Three. It lets users create what amounts to an online resume and connect with other peers — be it friends, colleagues, or other business associates — through online networking. Businesses and organizations can also set up profiles on the site; many businesses use it to recruit (and check references) for new hires.

    What’s good about it?

    • The “six-degrees” nature of the site allows you to reach out to people through already existing connections.
    • Profiles are straightforward and connections can be easily made.
    • Not a lot of “noise” and clutter.
    • Allows for Question and Answer inquiries with a professional slant.

    What’s not so good about it?

    • It’s the smallest of the Big Three social networks, though its population is growing.
    • It’s a more stodgy environment, which doesn’t convey fun.
    • Job seekers are more active on the site than those already employed.
    • People use the site for purely professional purposes, so marketing messages are not always welcome.


    4. Pinterest

    Now more popular than twitter, Pinterest is a virtual pin board with an 80% female audience primarily ages 25-44.

    What’s good about it?

    • Pinterest continues to grow each day
    • If your demographic is women, this is your social network
    • Pinterest users tend to have more disposable income than on other networks
    • Useful for travel, food, photography, real estate and visual based industries

    What’s not so good about it?

    • If you don't have captivating photos on your pages, your content will most likely not be shared
    • If your target demographic is men, this probably isn't the social network for you


    5. Blogs

    A blog, by definition, is simply a content publishing tool that displays your posts in cronological order, with the most recent on top and earlier ones below. Your content can be whatever you wish: opinions, education, news, product reviews, etc.

    What’s good about them?

    • They provide an easy way to manage articles and content.
    • Each new post adds a new web page and increases your web presence — and helps your search engine optimization.
    • Blogs can serve as an archive for your newsletter content.

    What’s not so good about them?

    • Blogs must be updated somewhat regularly to derive value.
    • They take more time than Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, etc. to keep current.
    • Templates through free services can be limiting.
    • Employing an advanced design requires some knowledge of HTML and CSS.
    • Blogs hosted at other sites (Wordpress, Blogger, etc) will actually drive traffic AWAY from your site - not good for SEO.

     

    Part Two: Why Are Social Media Networks Worth Using?

    Alright, now you know the basics about which social media networks are which, and what’s notable about them. Here are some quick reasons why you should dip your foot into the social media waters comfortably.

    6. They’re free.Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace all offer free accounts. You can even blog for free with services like Wordpress.com and Google’s Blogger.com. Some — like LinkedIn — do offer paid accounts with more features that are targeted at more advanced users, but for the purposes of getting started, there’s no upfront cost for most of the social networking sites.

    7. They’re popular.Facebook alone has more than 350 million users. To put that in perspective: That’s more than the population of the entire United States. Chances are good that many of your customers or the people you want to reach are on at least one of the social media networks.

    8. They’re not just for college kids.One major stereotype associated with many forms of social media: They’re only for young folks. This is not true at all. In fact, comScore reported that usage of Facebook by users 18–24 actually went down each month during the third quarter of 2009. According to Facebook, its fastest growing demographic is users over the age of 35. And, the Pew Internet & American Life Project says the median age of a Twitter user is 31. That same Pew survey says 40 is the median age of LinkedIn users.

    9. They allow you to be personal and professional.On Facebook, you can have two identities: one for you and one for your business or organization. Facebook offers an option known as “Fan Pages,” which are different from the standard “Friend” connections, and allows you to message just to “Fans,” keeping any personal information about you separate and contained to your profile.

    10. They can tell a lot about you.Profiles on these sites can help boost awareness about your business as they can contain pertinent information about your products and services. Think of them as dynamic yellow pages for the digital age. Much of your activity and profiles on social media sites can be made “public,” meaning they can be indexed by search engines — one more way to make sure your business comes up as the answer when someone is searching for a solution to their problem.

    11. They extend you, your brand, and your relationship with your customers.The goal of marketing is to stay in front of your customers and to remain top of mind with them. You use email marketing to reach their inboxes, and now you can use social media to extend that reach into other interactive areas of the web where your customers gather. People who use social media look for other like-minded folks and businesses. Make sure they find you by having a presence on the appropriate networks for your business.

    12. They’re two-way communications channels.Twitter and Facebook in particular are great vehicles for having a “conversation” (albeit a public one) with your customers. You can see what they’re saying about you and respond, and vice versa.

    Using tools like Twitter Search, you can quickly see any mentions of your business, organization, product, or service. Taking Twitter Search a step further, you can look up key terms related to your business and find out what people are saying about them. With Twitter, you don’t have to be following someone or connected to them to respond. So if you see something relevant come up in the search results, you can easily (and quickly) respond by mentioning the person’s handle (i.e., his or her username preceded by the @ symbol) in your Tweet.

    On Facebook, particularly if you have a Fan Page, make sure to log in to the service often to check for comments and posts. Unlike with a standard Facebook account, there’s no option for receiving email alerts every time something new is posted to your Fan Page. You have to log in and check for new posts.

    13. They’re everywhere.You don’t have to be at your computer to post to any of the major social media networks. For instance, you can post to your Twitter feed via a simple text message. If you have a Smartphone like an iPhone, Blackberry, or Windows Mobile device, there are applications that let you update your social networking sites on the road.

    You can go beyond text too: Your mobile phone’s camera can be used to capture images and video, which can be uploaded to your blog and social media accounts, giving customers a richer (and real-time) media experience. Many of the popular blog platforms also allow posting from a mobile device.

    14. They can be intertwined. Social media sites are not silos of information. You can easily share content between networks. Your Twitter post can also feed your Facebook page and LinkedIn account. Likewise, your blog posts can be automatically fed to Facebook every time you post one. But, make sure not to overwhelm one account with updates from the other. If you have a blog, make sure your posts include links to the services you use — this helps expose your post to a wider audience and helps to increase your presence when people search for you on a search engine.

    Providing network links to your other social media accounts when your post increases online visibility.

     

    Part Three: How Can You Use Social Media Effectively?

    More good news is that most social media services are easy to use and don’t require a lot of Web savvy. If you can build a high quality newsletter, you should have no trouble getting around social media networks and blogging platforms.

    As you make your first forays into social media, here are some tips to keep in mind on how to use the services intelligently.

    15. Have a reason for being there.Don’t just get on the social media bandwagon because everyone else is doing it. Identify a reason for being there first: Is it to more fully engage with customers? Is it to identify and respond to customer service issues? Is it to promote your business and any sales/specials you may be offering? Is it to share your expertise? Is it to give your business or organization more of a public persona? Perhaps it’s a combination of these. Whatever your reasons for getting involved in social media, develop a strategy and stick to it.

    16. Set goals for success.As with any business-related undertaking, you want to have key goals to measure success. Your goal could be something simple like garnering a certain number of fans or followers. Or you could use analytics tools (here’s one example: Mashable to more accurately measure how social media is impacting your business. Mashable is the world’s largest blog largely focused on social media news.

    17. Choose the site(s) that work best for you.As a small business owner or the manager of a nonprofit, you don’t have the time or the resources to be everywhere. If you’re not the writer type or you own a business where educational material aimed at the customer is scant, a blog might not be of much use to you, for example. Create the social media presence that works best for your business or organization. Need some help figuring out what that would be? Ask your customers what sites they’re already using, and then join them there.

    18. Start small.If you’re new to social media, you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. Pick one site and put a stake in the ground. Once you’re comfortable there, you can build your presence or expand to other sites.

    19. Make your presence known. Don’t just sit around and wait for people to find you on social media sites. In your email campaigns, announce that you have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other accounts, and explain to customers why they’d want to join your networks (for example, “You’ll be the first to find out about upcoming sales or events”). If you start a blog, use some content from it in your newsletter and provide a link. And, put a link to your Facebook page and Twitter feed in your regular email signature.

    20. Have a separate personal and professional account.Unless your name is your brand, it’s a good idea to have separate accounts for personal and business use. This keeps your personal, non-business thoughts and opinions separate from your business persona.

    21. Stay involved.Once you get your profiles set up and Fan Page(s) created, you’re done, right? Not so fast. Successful social media users are consistently (some constantly) involved in their networks. Make sure you’re offering fresh content and responding to those who talk to or about you.

    22. Keep your expectations in check. Your Follower, Fan, and Friend counts will not skyrocket the second you sign up. Take the time to cultivate relationships with people and organically grow your social media circle. (It’s much like growing your email marketing lists.)

    23. Involve your friends and family. There’s nothing wrong with telling people you already know to join your Fan Page or to follow you on Twitter. After all, there’s strength in numbers. Would you join a club if no one else belonged to it? If potential customers see that you’re already popular, they’ll want to join in the fun, if only to see what they’re missing. And, your friends and family can help spread the word too, which will help you grow your Fan base and Followers list organically.

    24. Keep up with your industry. It’s important to know what others in your industry are doing and saying on social media sites. Become their Friends on Facebook, follow their Twitter feeds, and read their blogs. Just don’t feel compelled to say “me too” and do something just because similar businesses are doing it. Staying consistent with your brand and staying true to your social media strategy will allow you to maintain a unique social media presence.

    25. Reuse your great content.When you add one or more social media networks or a blog to your marketing mix, you do not necessarily have to come up with exclusive content for each network. Reuse articles from your newsletters to prime the social media pump. In turn, your blog’s content can be used to feed your email newsletter and social network channels.

    26. Answer questions.When you interact with customers and members, do they tend to ask the same questions repeatedly? Why not share those questions — and the answers — on your social media page? You can also use the site(s) as a forum, and ask people to ask their most common questions about your business or organization.

    27. Do more than make sales pitches. Like the content in your email newsletters, it’s important to provide your audience with useful information, not just a constant stream of direct sales pitches. Customers who read your blog, follow you on Twitter, and are fans of your Facebook page are not connecting with you for a 24/7 sales pitch. Yes, they would love to get an exclusive deal, but they don’t want you to sell, sell, sell all the time. Use your knowledge and expertise to educate customers via email, a blog, and through social networks, not just to promote your products or services.

    28. Show some personality. Social media networks are a chance for you to loosen up in the eyes of your customers and members. Is the local team playing a big game? Why not post a message of support? Did your staff recently celebrate a holiday? Why not share photos? Don’t fake it, though. Social media users can tell if something is less than genuine.

    29. Adhere to the “Teacher, Preacher, Boss” rule. Everyone’s heard a story of someone getting fired for an inappropriate post made on a social network. Always err on the side of discretion. In other words, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your teacher, your preacher, or your boss to see. You wouldn’t want to offend customers and steer them away from your business or organization.

    30. Make it exclusive. A great way to add to your social media presence is to offer exclusive benefits for those in your networks. For example, you can share a special code that’s good for a discount if the customer tells the cashier or uses it on your website. Or post a special Facebook-only sale. You can also host a special event just for those who follow you on Twitter (called a “Tweet-up”). Anything that makes your network the place to be.

    31. Look out for the competition.One surefire way to see if a given social network is right for reaching your customers is to see what the competition is doing. Seek them out to find what types of things they are doing with their social media presence.

    32. Share and share alike.One of the greatest reasons to get on a social media network is to share information. Make sure you’re encouraging your Fans, Friends, and Followers to repost or re-Tweet your content. Likewise, if you see something that you think would be worth sharing with your audience — an article, video, photo, or quote — repost it on your Facebook or Twitter page. This applies to positive customer feedback too. Don’t be afraid to repost great things a customer has said. Just make sure to also say “thank you” publicly.

    33. Make it a part of your email marketing campaign.You can very easily add an email signup box to many of the social media sites, which will give your Fans, Friends, and Followers the chance to get even more involved with your business or organization. Post links to your newsletter content on your social media networks, which will expand the reach of your content and perhaps even encourage others to join your mailing list. You can further involve your audience by including selected comments in a future issue of your newsletter.

    34. Budget your time.At the beginning, most social networks seem like a drain on time with little return. While it’s possible to waste a tremendous amount of time on one or more of these sites, being smart and sticking to your goals will prevent you from getting lost in the social media weeds.

    35. Have a thick skin.Be prepared to take some criticism of your business, organization, product, or service when participating in social media. How well you respond to those not-always-positive things says a lot about your business.

    Don’t ignore complaints — respond in a friendly manner asking how you can help rectify the problem, or better yet, fix the situation and let people know publicly. If you nurture complaints the proper way, and respond quickly, your fans (i.e.: your best customers) will start to defend you.

    By reading this guide, you already have some inclination that social networking can help your marketing effort. Go ahead and sign up for a couple social networking accounts. Play around to see what kind of connections can be made, and how easy it is to share multiple forms of content and interact with customers and prospects.

    Social media should go hand-in-hand with email marketing when it comes to your marketing strategy. Today’s consumers want to be part of a conversation with the people and organizations they do business with, and traditional one-way marketing does not offer chances for this sought-after two-way communication.

    Opening up your business or organization to social media and sharing content, personality, and more will create a tighter bond with your customers and members, and ensure your business or organization stays top of mind with them when your products or service is needed.

  • Ideally, marketing should be a self supporting activity which pays back the cost of investment and reaches potential buyers at the right time. However, businesses need to market their services to their consumers with much effort today. During a recession, it’s tempting to get in a “holding pattern” of waiting for things to get better. Cutting costs and staff is not the solution. While it’s important to run a lean business, remember that it is impossible to make money by saving money. The old saying, “a penny saved is a penny earned” is not hold weight in the business world.

    If marketing during a recession is the main cause of worry, here are a host of solutions:

    1. Social marketing, with authentic messages, is one of the most important marketing tools any company can use. There are a number of social networking and bookmarking sites you can use to market your products and services. It’s not easy - it requires a change in the way you think about communications, your customers, requires a fair amount of your time, and the very core of your business model. Encourage your readers to redistribute the message with a constant application of authentic, easy-to-spread information.
    2. Reward your best customers:Don’t forget your existing customers as you prepare to follow up on old leads. You will need to take special care of them, since they are likely to move onto availing services of your competitors who might try to woo them with special offers and incentives. Keep in mind, they are also facing rough economic times as well.

    3. Follow-up on old leads:It’s time to bring out old business cards, brochures and other business leads that you did not follow-up with, earlier. You need to be persistent, because you might not get the job your first few tries. Don’t expect them to avail your services instantly. You will need to follow those leads, since you don’t have anything to lose - and lots to gain if you can seal a deal.

    4. Put your best face forward: Pay attention to the quality of your advertising and marketing material. Understand the technical requirements pertaining to each medium in which you are advertising and marketing. You don’t need to be an expert in computer graphics, you need to know that each medium has different requirements and ensure that your marketing materials are subject to some sort of quality control. If this is something that you feel you need help with, there are many web designers that will help to create an overall package.

    5. Try new things: it always helps try something new which your customer has not been exposed to before. You can try enewsletters, buy ebooks, read online articles - anything that you can learn that will help you to better understand the different types of services or businesses that will help you or your client.

    Once you have implemented the above marketing strategies, you will realize that they are not costly to implement and you will quickly figure that they can be a great return on investment, especially in trying times.

  • sm4Is your blog generating leads yet? If not, then you need to use social media to generate leads. How can you use social media to attract prospects to your business? Assuming you’re offering a quality services or product, a convincing offer, and are talking to the right customer, social media tools make generating leads easy on the pocket and time-efficient.

    Twitter as a Lead Generation Tool
    Having thousands of followers and a database of millions is only valuable if you can continue to build value into the relationships in order to, at some point, have some financial exchange with that lead (either directly or indirectly). Remember leads are people, not just names. The first strategy is to schedule tweets for times that many people read Twitter, usually on weekdays. You can use tools like Hootsuite to do the actual scheduling. Second, send out a promotional tweet every day, but with an altered text. Different people respond to different call-to-actions. If you want to reach people who don’t follow you, include relevant keywords or hashtags. Experienced Twitter users will search for those terms.

    Join LinkedIn Communities to Get Noticed
    Social media is organized around common interests. As an individual you can connect with professional contacts on LinkedIn. If you want to influence these online communities for your business, you need to be a valued community member too. The easiest way to become valued is to present some new insight. Update your LinkedIn status frequently. These status updates are shown on your profile and emailed to everyone in your network. To reach new people, post your message in LinkedIn Groups. Ask questions to seek feedback on your content; don’t forget to include a link to the registration page. Link your profile to your website, blog and feed. Incorporate the linked in tool that displays your feed on your profile as well. And if you’re answering other questions, use an autograph that promotes your brand. LinkedIn works two ways for lead generation. It helps you find out what is interesting for your audience and to promote your offers.

    Blogging
    Regularly updating your blog will interest possible clients. You’ll expand your readership by publishing articles regularly, and by having a common theme in all the posts. Once you have a loyal audience, write a blog post about your new content, with a link to the registration page. This call to action does magic for lead generation. You will get lots of registrations from your blog readers.

    Create a Facebook Application to Promote Your Brand
    The Facebook market is particularly valuable for those businesses that sell material products. If you run an ecommerce store, you can promote your items for free giving you greater exposure and potentially improving your sales figures and profit levels. By creating a Facebook application you promote your business in several ways. First, other users will be more inclined to add you as a friend if your application is useful. They may also send details of your application to their own network – this style of viral marketing can generate a lot of interest for very little money. Users will remember your name, the name of your service, and they will instinctively know how to find you.

    Also, add links to your website and blog on your home page profile under your photo as well as on your information page. Setup the RSS Feed feature to display your feed on your profile. This will auto display on everyone’s news feed!

    Social media is an effective way to generate leads for your service-based business. You can build your standing within your industry, connect with potential customers and planned partners and use it to drive traffic to your website.

     

    3 Ways Social Media Helps Generate Leads

    By Building your Reputation
    Participating in social media – through online networking, blogging and rich media – can help you build your reputation within your industry. Building your reputation online has three great benefits – your credibility goes up, people perceive your business to be successful and a level of trust is established.

    By Building Relationships
    Social networking online allows you to build solid relationships that can result in lead generation for your business. Talking to people in complimentary industries, helping them with client enquiries can help you build a strategic partnership. Building relationships with individuals and proving them with information they need could return media opportunities to promote your business.

    Must Do’s to Attract Visitors
    There’s a variety of ways to use social networking to attract visitors to your website.

    Use social networks to distribute your content by posting a link to your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube or your blog profile and adding content distribution buttons to your web page (e.g. Tweetmeme, Digg and RSS). The first step here is to create content worth distributing – if it’s not good, no one will want to pass it on to their network.

    Create a landing page for your social media profiles. People will click on your website link in your profile to find out more information about you. Make the most of their interest with a dedicated landing page that explains what you do how you can help that person and provide a call to action detailing what they should do next.

  • sm4The key to every site’s success is through good marketing and promotion. Even if you have really good and substantial content on your site, you still need to promote it to avoid getting left behind the competition. In the internet community, the best way to achieve an increase in website traffic and revenue is to take advantage of social media. When used correctly, this tool can provide a platform for brand awareness, exposure, networking, and a huge boost in traffic & sales.

    Since there are so many different definitions of social media, let’s clarify what we’re talking about here. Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences.

    Listening: Gathering intelligence on your market and your customer

    1. Build sentiment measurements – “showing how people feel about a subject and how those feelings are changing over time.” Listen on the web for people talking about your customers.
    2. Research into those bloggers that might care about your customer and their needs.
    3. Build conversation maps for your customers using Technorati.com, Google, Blogsearch, Summize, and FriendFeed.
    4. Search and collect bookmark statistics on social media success stories. Label them “social media stats”.
    5. Scan Summize.com for data listed in Twitter pertaining to your product, your space and your competition.
    6. Use WebsiteGrader.com as the first stop to understanding the SEO dynamics and on-page SEO quality of your website.
    7. Stop by Compete.com to help understand your site’s traffic. Then, compare it to your competitors’.
    8. Don't ask for too much information from your customers when giving away a freebie. Instead, spread it out and collect little bits of info over time.
    9. Track inbound links to your site. When they come from others blogs, be sure to comment on a few posts to develop a relationship with that blogger.
    10. Seek out those in your field and ask their opinions on your social media efforts. This is a great way to network and build relationships.

    Talking: Engaging in a two-way discussion to get your message out (and get messages in)

    1. Build blogs and teach techniques for conversational marketing and business relationship building.
    2. Check out Twitter as a way to show a company’s personality. (Don’t fabricate this).
    3. Couple your email newsletter content with additional website content on a blog for improved commenting.
    4. Try out a short series of audio podcasts or video podcasts as content marketing and see how they draw.
    5. Experiment with the value of live video like via YouTube or Facebook on a cell phone.
    6. Don’t forget early social sites like Yahoo groups and Craigslist. They still work remarkably well.
    7. Practice delivering quality content on your blogs, so that customers feel educated, equipped, and informed.
    8. Turn your blog into a mobile blog site with Mofuse.
    9. Ensure you offer the basics on your site, like an email alternative to an RSS subscription. In fact, the more ways you can spread and distribute your content, the better.
    10. Research how NOT to pitch to bloggers. A great source of info: Susan Getgood.
    11. Try your hand at video interviews, video press releases and podcasts to build more intimate relationships.
    12. Use your creative vision (or enlist someone to help you) experiment with different lengths and formats for you video. Is a brief and entertaining video better than a longer but more informative one? Test features in more than one hosting platform, browser, OS, etc.

    Energizing: Letting your customers give testimonials on your behalf (viral, word of mouth)

    1. Add social bookmark links to your most important web pages and/or blog posts to improve sharing.
    2. For every video project purchased, ensure there’s an embeddable web version for improved sharing.
    3. Learn how tagging and other metadata improve your ability to search and measure the spread of information. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metadata)
    4. Download the Social Media Press Release (pdf) and see what parts you want to use in your traditional press releases.
    5. Help customers and prospects connect with you on your various networks. Consider a Lijit Wijit or another aggregator widget.
    6. Help spread good tips, articles, solutions for customers; Retweet, Digg, or Bookmark them. Others will thank you.

    Supporting: Getting your customers to support each other

    1. Build community platforms around real communities of shared interest.
    2. Help companies participate in existing social networks, and build relationships on their turf.
    3. Experiment with Flickr and/or YouTube groups to build media for specific events.
    4. Start a community group on Facebook or Ning or MySpace or LinkedIn around the space where your customer does business. Good source of information is, Jeremiah Owyang.
    5. Learn what other free tools might work for community building, like MyBlogLog.
    6. Remember that the people on social networks are all people, have likely been there a while, might know each other, and know that you’re new. It’s important to try new territories, but tread gently.
    7. Voting mechanisms like those used on Digg.com show your customers you care about which information is useful to them.

    Embracing: Building better products and services through collaboration with clients

    1. Investigate whether your product sells better by recommendation versus education. Use wikis and widgets to help recommend, or use videos and podcasts for education.
    2. Try using the same tools internally that your already using externally and learn how this social media can impact your business.

    The bottom line is that you want to have a clear objective, be a valuable resource, and use the social media services in the ways they intend to be used. Anything else will get you filtered out, unfollowed, banned or blacklisted and ultimately be a complete waste of your time.

  • social network to boost your rankingIn this era of online marketing, Search Engine Optimization is at the forefront of every online marketing strategy. However, when we talk about Search Engine Optimization, we can hardly miss the subject of optimizing via social websites and social Medias. This is because of the fact that in past few years we have seen an exponential growth in the popularity of social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest

    In this article, we will be showing you how to harness the full power of social websites to supercharge your SEO efforts.

    Helps in Link Building
    Social websites help immensely with your link building strategy, which is of primary importance in your off page optimization strategy. Social websites help increase the amount of back links to your site. Top search engines like Google and Yahoo give more weight to your online popularity factor, which is primarily determined by the number of links pointing to your site, when it comes to determining your site’s rankings in SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page).

    Many social websites provide features that help link your page to the reader or visitor’s page. For example, if your site’s articles are on the Digg network and if someone else also on Digg reads the article and finds it interesting and relevant, they simply click “Digg it” button, and your page is automatically added to their own webpage. Furthermore, these sites also allow you to tell others in the network about your website and no doubt this definitely increases the odds that they will bookmark your site and put your link on their own. However it needs time and effort to build your reputation in these social sites by providing relevant content that provides value to the readers.

    Minimal Effort - Big Results
    Many online marketers consider Social Media Optimization or optimization by social websites to be guerrilla marketing, because they are considerably cheap as compared to other marketing channels.

    Furthermore, to obtain maximum exposure from optimization via Social Websites, it is important to post relevant and useful content on a frequent basis and being an active member of the community. Social Media Optimization is a very effective technique that will yield fruitful results both in the short and long term and is well worth the time and effort invested.

    Importance of Blogs
    Blogs are one of the most important mediums when it comes to optimization via Social Websites. This is because blog posts attract links from other bloggers which creates a snowball effect and helps your site to gain popularity and receive targeted traffic. Successful blogs provide regular, fresh and relevant content. A good way to advertise your blog is to visit other blogs that have a comments section and make an insightful comment about their content and then provide a link back to your own blog or website. This is known as marketing through “Blog Commenting” and is an effective marketing technique, if done properly.

    It is important to update the blog on a regular basis. Provide links, lots of images, video clips and interactive tools. Make sure that each page you add to your site is relevant and provide value to the readers.

    Which Sites to Target?
    When it comes to optimizing via social websites because as a rule of thumb, the more sites you target, the better it is. There are many popular social media sites out there and choosing which ones to participate in can be overwhelming sometimes, so always join those sites that are relevant to your interest and work at a steady pace in building up your site’s reputation in these social sites.

  • which social media network is right for my businessSocial networks are a hot topic. With over 70% of consumers using online resources to find what they are looking for, it makes sense to step up your online presence. Many business owners have a website, an email address, and may have even started blogging. Networking is an important step to opening up your true professional potential.

    Which site should I use?
    What is the goal or problem you are trying to solve? The answer to this question may even mean that you completely change which social networks you take a look at. It may make more sense to create your own social media site or network (check back later for information on how to build your own social network). But for those of you interested in joining the pre-existing ones, here are a few of the more popular SNS, to serve your business well:

    Social-Media/Social-Bookmarking Sites

    1. Reddit - Upload stories and articles on reddit to drive traffic to your site or blog. Submit items often so that you'll gain a more loyal following and increase your presence on the site.
    2. Digg - Digg has a huge following online because of its optimum usability. Visitors can submit and browse articles in categories like technology, business, entertainment, sports and more.
    3. Technorati - If you want to increase your blog's readership, consider registering it with Technorati, a network of blogs and writers that lists top stories in categories like Business, Entertainment and Technology.
    4. WikiHow - Create a how-to guide or tutorial on wikiHow to share your company's services with the public for free.

    Professional-Networking Sites

    1. LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a popular networking site where alumni, business associates, recent graduates and other professionals connect online.
    2. Facebook - Facebook is no longer just for college kids who want to post their party pics. Businesses vie for advertising opportunities, event promotion and more on this social-networking site.
    3. Xing - An account with networking site Xing can open doors to thousands of companies. Use the professional contact manager to organize your new friends and colleagues, and take advantage of the Business Accelerator application to find experts at the click of a button. Market yourself in a professional context and open up new sales channels.

    Image-Based Networking Sites

    1. Pinterest - Pin content from your website and repin others pins! Network by requesting others add to your boards, follow others and comment on pins.
    2. Instagram - If your business can deliver consistenly exciting imagery and content, Instagram will love you!

    Set up your profile
    Communicating works better when you have a good idea who it is you're talking to. Make it a point to add logos, company information, a bio or “about me” piece that identifies what your company does. Remember, social networking requires dedication. Most people set up a profile and then forget to go back to the site, to add friends, or to make use of it at all. Social networks are effective when you utilize them to the fullest. Your first objective in making your profile work for your business is to add friends; this virtual intro may take a little time but is well worth it if you are looking to grow your network. The second order of business is to use the site as your marketing resource. You should be active in posting blogs, commenting on profiles, and advertising your business.

    Now that you know which sites to use, and understand what to do once you set up your site, keep in mind, that if you just jump into an established community with messages about how great you are, it can have exactly the opposite effect of what you’re saying. People inherently trust their peers more than messages from companies, so you’ll need to take the time to understand the community and the people who frequent it.

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