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Social Selling and Content Marketing: A White-Hot Combination

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Robert Rosenthal & Natasha Sekkat – Enjoy!

Social Selling

photo credit: canva

“Social selling” and “content marketing” sound like trendy terms you’d hear at a cool conference. But we’ve never cared much about what’s fashionable in marketing and sales. It comes down to what works. And the combination we’re about to describe has the potential to change almost everything.

First, a couple of quick definitions: Social selling is about building your personal and business brand through social media. Content marketing is the use of educational and even entertaining content in marketing.

Traditional Sales and Marketing No Longer Cut It

You may have noticed buyers don’t behave the way they did a generation ago. One reason: the explosion in easily accessible information. By the time you walk into a dealer to buy a car, you’ve most likely done research online. Car buyers are no longer at the dealer’s mercy.

When your parents needed a new refrigerator, they probably headed to a local appliance store. But these days, you might jump on Facebook, ask for recommendations, and receive five suggestions from friends in as many minutes.

Power has indeed shifted from seller to buyer. They want less of a pitch and more value from you. They have an ocean of information at their fingertips, so you’d better know your stuff. And with the opportunity to quickly research prospects online, there’s no excuse to pump out generalized messages.

Traditional marketing may be summed up in three words: sell, sell, sell. But product pitches often perform far worse than presentations that contribute more value. Great marketing is less self-centered and more buyer-centric.

Not Your Father’s Sales and Marketing Approach

When 20th century sales reps called new prospects, buyers generally knew nothing about the reps. Today prospects look them up on LinkedIn in seconds. Buyers ask themselves, “Is this someone I want to do business with?” It’s a whole new level of transparency.

Traditional sales reps were known for aggressiveness – and a willingness to repeat a pitch. Constantly. But that won’t work (and may even backfire) in social selling. If you keep posting comments like, “This (product name) is the best thing ever,” you’ll be ignored – or worse.

It’s better to proactively share advice or respond to a prospect’s post with a mention of a white paper on how others have addressed a similar issue. Or even provide a link to your company’s position on a particular topic. Your response should feel like community service and be adapted to your personal brand.

Content quality and quantity is key. Excellent content is super-relevant and informative. Even fascinating. Reps doing social selling regularly work the top and bottom of the funnel – and points in between. Marketing content needs to help prospects at every funnel point. It should never be, “Here’s our latest propaganda,” posted in the same manner to every prospect by every sales rep.

Of course, you can’t keep offering the same stuff. That’s why the best content marketers figure out how to regularly produce lots of high-quality content that fulfills prospect needs and business objectives. Your content should be strategic.

And remember, the best marketers tend to be the best testers, so be prepared to experiment in your content marketing and social selling. Think trial and error.

Listening for Opportunities

Here’s a potential game-changer. On LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and countless other sites, prospects tap into their networks by posting comments on what they’re researching and buying. They often use predictable words and phrases: triggers that could indicate a potential purchase. Naturally, you want to optimize your site accordingly for search engines, But if you efficiently sift through the noise on other sites to identify fresh prospects, you may have more opportunities than you’re able to handle. You may want to use Google Alerts or another tool to have these posts appear in your in-box as soon as they’re available, or focus on a small number of message boards or other sites.

Whatever you do, don’t get overly aggressive. Be consultative. And don’t overload prospects with information. Content that gets consumed most often tends to be concise: short videos, infographics, or other quick but useful presentations.

This is your chance to position yourselves as thought leaders. Or as an excellent content curator. Social selling is also about building your personal brand. It’s important to add your own touch to what you publish. Sometimes that simply means playing matchmaker and connecting people who may be useful to each other.

By all means, bring your personal life into your posts. That’s right – mix industry, product, and personal information. Show your kid’s artwork if you’re in the mood. Give prospects a chance to really know you and build a connection.

Commitment Is Key

The hip and highly profitable stuff we’ve described – social selling and content marketing – require commitment from the top. You can’t drop it into a dial-for-dollars or batch-and-blast culture and expect it to take hold. New technology is often needed, and if the team won’t use it, you may be unable to move forward. So get commitment for all this – along with the budget and time to make it work – from the top of your organization.

Now get out there and rock the world.

Robert Rosenthal Head Shot Arms Folded Igor Pic 5-2-14Robert Rosenthal is President of Contenteurs, a content marketing agency that has developed dozens of record-breaking marketing campaigns. Robert is author of Optimarketing: Marketing Optimization to Electrify Your Business – recently the #2 marketing book in Amazon’s Kindle Store. Robert holds a B.S. degree in marketing from California State University, Northridge.

 

 

Natasha Sekkat 150-150Natasha Sekkat is Global Director, Inside Sales Centers of Excellence at EMC, with 15 years’ experience in technology sales and sales management. She’s a graduate of UPenn and Wharton, with an MBA from Boston College. Natasha lives in Sudbury, MA with her two young children.

 

8 Ways to Amplify Your Content on Mobile

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Dave Landry – Enjoy!

photo credit: shutterstock

Mobile is becoming a powerful, driving engine in the content world. The January 2014 Mobile Technology Fact Sheet shows that 63% of adult cell phone owners use their phones to go online, while 34% of cell phone Internet users go online using only their phone rather than any other device.

Mobile content is distinct because of the idiosyncratic and curious ways users interact with it. A Rumble study from 2013 found that while certain mobile app user behaviors were similar, most of those interacting with mobile content exhibited unique behavior.

Apps account for 86% of the average US consumer’s time on a mobile device, while time spent on the mobile web declined. How can marketers make their content stand out in such a crowded mobile marketplace?

Here are eight ways marketers can amplify content on mobile:

1. Be mobile-friendly.

You must optimize for the device as well as the way that users will interact with your site’s content. Mobile users NEED simple sites with easy navigation. Utilize the principles of responsive design to ensure that your content will display correctly for all users on all devices.

2. Build a community.

You can amplify your reputation by being helpful and relevant to your audience. When you build trust, you also build a community – and this community will be vital when it comes to amplifying content. The cultivation of long-standing relationships is key to having your content amplified. Even if you’re not posting undeniably quotable and shareable content all day every day, your base community of followers with whom you regularly engage with will still have your back and interact.

3. Develop a mobile app.

With so many users trading in time spent on the mobile web for time in apps, it’s easy to see why it’s beneficial to develop your own app to deliver content to users. The added bonus is that you can further target content for the segment of users that download and use your mobile app. Enable all possible sharing options to allow users to share content with their network.

4. Make mobile a part of your overall strategy.

Keep your business and marketing goals in mind as you consider your mobile campaigns. Don’t make the mistake of treating mobile as something separate from your marketing strategy, as it should be integrated into the rest of your initiatives. Do not silo mobile because it will likely affect other aspects of your organization and marketing. Understanding where mobile falls into your overall strategy allows you to drive sales activities.

5. Consider real-time video.

In May 2014, Grabyo, a company specializing in real-time video, released a report stating that 72% of the traffic on their platform came from mobile. The company found that live TV clips generate exceptional levels of engagement on Facebook and Twitter. Content creators can sponsor these mobile clips to reach new members of their target audience. Content creators interested in amplifying content on mobile should consider paid sponsorship and advertising opportunities. With targeted advertising you will be able to measure exact analytics.

6. Don’t just think social – think branded.

Mobile users are almost twice as likely to share content on social media sites. A study from the video technology company Unruly showed that branded Vines are four times more likely to be shared than branded videos. Brands like PepsiCo, AT&T, and General Electric are already taking advantage of consumers’ love for bite-size content and use it to boost their overall content marketing strategies.

7. Add SMS to the mix.

comScore’s January 2014 report showed that 159.8 million people in the United States owned smartphones, making up only 66.8% of the mobile market penetration. The majority of devices on today’s market are SMS enabled. SMS messaging is affordable and provides a sizable ROI for marketers, as 90% of SMS text messages are read in the first 4-6 minutes of delivery.

8. Always analyze.

Perform a thorough analysis to help you understand what campaigns are working and which need to be adjusted. Take your newfound data and apply it to your next round of marketing. Your collected data and improved campaigns will be critical to amplifying future content.

Successful content amplification is rooted in providing your audience with engaging, valuable content. With creative power and vision, marketers can take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that mobile opens up for them.

Dave Landry Jr.Dave Landry Jr. is a journalist and business owner who enjoy creating graphic and written content on his downtime. He hope you enjoy this article.

How Mobile Marketing is Changing the Face of Events

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s post comes from Adam Hope.

‘Mobile marketing’ Image Credit: Osman Kalkavan

‘Mobile marketing’ Image Credit: Osman Kalkavan

In today’s increasingly mobile world, more and more marketers are focusing their activity primarily at mobile users. According to research from mobiThinking, there are over 2 billion people using a 3G or 4G mobile phone network. That means nearly 30% of the world’s population has access to high-speed mobile internet – and this percentage increases dramatically among business users and those living in developed nations. Data from eMarketer predicts that by 2017, 50% of the world’s mobile phone users will be using a smartphone with access to the internet and mobile apps.

Keeping up with the mobile trend

Mobile marketing is nothing new, businesses have been creating mobile friendly websites and using social media to reach their on-the-go audience for years. However, as with all technology, the industry is constantly evolving as new hardware and software are developed. These developments are aimed at enhancing the mobile experience for the user and are giving mobile marketers an increasing number of channels through which to reach their customers.

Mobile marketing at events

One key area of growth in the mobile marketing world, is the use of targeted activities to connect with customers at events. Whether it’s creating a pre-event buzz, managing the duration of the event or keeping in touch afterwards, mobile technology offers countless possibilities for customer engagement. Event marketing is rarely a fixed location affair, with businesses travelling to meet their target customers’ locational convenience and, as such, mobile marketing and event marketing make a well suited pair.

Creating a social buzz

The event marketer’s job starts long before the actual date of the event and mobile marketing is a great channel through which to build pre-event hype. Social media and mobile friendly email campaigns are a fantastic way to reach your pre-existing audience, giving them an early introduction to an upcoming event.

In order to have a wider mobile reach and grow your audience prior to the event, research influential local retweeters and sharers alongside complementary businesses in the location of your upcoming event. Get them to share your event information by building a relationship with these people and asking them to share information which may be of interest to their followers.

During the event

There has been an emerging trend in the creation of custom event apps. Businesses are either creating an app specifically for an event or expanding their pre-existing mobile app to include the event. This offers the ultimate convenience to the customer – putting all of the essential event information in their fingertips. Apps also provide great brand exposure as your business’ branding is installed on the customer’s phone, keeping your message fresh in their mind, as they use their mobile device.

Make it as easy as possible for your audience to access further information on your business, product or service at your event. Direct customers to your social media accounts by including information on how to find you online in your printed display materials. The use of QR codes has had a varying success rate, allowing mobile users to scan a code with their smartphones camera which takes them directly to your site. The more mobile channels through which your target audience can access further information, the better.

The use of geotagging at events is extremely valuable to businesses as it shares your attendees’ location with their friends, having a visible knock-on effect on social media. Ensure your event’s social pages are set up in a way which allows attendees to ‘check-in’ to your location.

The post-event social sweep up

The success of an event is generally measured by examining post-event data, whether it’s the number of leads generated or the level of attendee engagement. Social media is a great way to follow up your event and give attendees a specific #hashtag that they can use when sharing images or comments socially, during or after your event. This makes it easy for businesses to track any mentions and gather a general overview of the event’s success.

Industry trends predict clear growth in the use of smartphones as people’s primary access to the internet. It is clear that successful event marketers will need to shift their focus to ensure that their events are fully integrated with mobile communications in order to ensure future success.

Adam HopeAdam Hope is a blogger for The Events Structure – the UK’s largest single source provider of road show exhibition trailers and mobile event marketing vehicles. We provide versatile event venues for exhibitions, one off events and marketing roadshows. These range from inflatable pop-up structures to fully customizable exhibition trailers. We work with a variety of large and small businesses to promote their products at events around the UK. Our self-drive promotional vehicles offer the ideal economical solution for small businesses looking to make a big impact.

 

In Sales & Marketing, Zero Dark Thirty is 30 Minutes Too Late

… or why the biggest sales problem businesses think they have isn’t the one they actually have!

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from a member of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network - Kurian M. Tharakan– Enjoy!
Zero Dark Thirty

Photo Credit: Zero Dark Thirty – IMDb

In the movie Zero Dark Thirty, the US Navy Seal team raid on Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s house was conducted at 00:30, or thirty minutes past midnight. If that raid were a sales and marketing operation, zero dark thirty* would be thirty minutes too late!

Before I explain what I mean, let me provide some background. In the past few months I have consulted with numerous companies who believe they have a sales problem. However, in almost every situation the primary issue was identified as a marketing problem and not a sales problem. How did I determine this? By examining close ratios, or how many leads were converted into a sale. Although average close ratios vary by industry and market, if you are in a competitive environment and closing more than 15 – 25% of your QUALIFIED leads you are on the right track!

All of these clients were closing their fair share of the leads they were generating. They just weren’t generating enough QUALIFIED leads to pursue.

Lead Generation is a Marketing Function

In each situation above the sales team were expert closers but spent most of their non-sales time waiting for the phone to ring or following up on previous leads. Now some might say that these guys should be using their “spare” time prospecting for new leads, but, by definition, prospecting (lead generation) is a marketing function. Besides, these sales teams’ skills and expertise are best used to close sales, but their company’s marketing efforts were not producing enough qualified leads for them to pursue.

Now, Here’s the Big Problem

It’s estimated that up to 70% of the buying decision is made PRIOR to anyone even talking to a sales person. Today’s customer has numerous resources available to them, usually just a few mouse clicks away. By the time that they arrive at your sales desk the majority already have a preferred direction to go and are now seeking confirming or dis-confirming evidence to support their decision. If you have not positively biased their decision PRIOR to this contact point, YOU ARE AT A SEVERE DISADVANTAGE!

This is Time Point Zero Dark Zero

A properly functioning company will have a marketing process which creates qualified leads to HAND OFF to sales. Let’s name this crucial timeline juncture as zero dark zero. This is the point of truth where marketing delivers a “primed” prospect for sales to close. Primed is the key word. These are the prospects that have a preference to choose you from all of your competitors! If a company only STARTS their selling process AFTER zero dark zero WITHOUT HAVING PRIMED THEIR PROSPECT to choose them, they are at a severe disadvantage!

You Don’t Have a Sales Problem, You Have a Lead Generation Problem!

So, these clients don’t have a sales problem, they have a lead generation problem. All of their future revenue depends on their sales abilities with UNQUALIFIED, UNPRIMED prospects. But sales abilities can only go so far with prospects whose minds have already been 70% made up to travel in other directions!

If we were to put this into the context of Zero Dark Thirty the movie, the vast majority of the plot dealt with the CIA unearthing, tracking down, and qualifying leads on Bin Laden’s exact location. The seal team’s actual on the ground time was less than 38 minutes from entry to exit, but it took over 10 years of research to pinpoint the location to attack.

The First Step to Improving Sales is to Improve Lead Generation!

So, if the primary sales problem is actually a lead generation problem (marketing), what are some things you can try? Here’s a VERY BASIC list. Although not all of them will apply to your specific business, you should be using at least six on a consistent basis, with full measurement and tracking of the results. How many are you doing?

Website

  • Pay per click (e.g. Google Adwords)
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

 

Social Media

  • E-Mail marketing
  • Facebook
  • Industry specific social sites
  • Linkedin
  • Twitter
  • Etc.

 

Content Marketing

  • Blogging
  • eBooks
  • How to guides
  • Newsletters
  • Special reports
  • Video
Advertising

  • Billboards
  • Catalogs
  • Classified ads
  • Direct mail
  • Fax advertising
  • Flyers
  • Magazine
  • Radio
  • TV

 

Other

  • Joint Ventures
  • Press Releases
  • Pro bono work
  • Publicity
  • Seminars
  • Speaking
  • Sponsorships
  • Trade shows
  • Webinars
  • Workshops

*technically, in military terms zero dark thirty does not reference a specific time of day, but is slang for the very early morning.
StrategyPeak Sales & Marketing Advisors

 

 

Kurian M. TharakanAbout the Author – Kurian M. Tharakan
Kurian Mathew Tharakan is a Sales & Marketing Consultant, Speaker & Facilitator, and founder of the marketing strategy firm StrategyPeak Sales & Marketing Advisors. Prior to StrategyPeak, Mr. Tharakan was vice-president sales & marketing for an Alberta based software firm where his team achieved notable wins with several members of the US Fortune 500. Previous to his software experience, Mr. Tharakan directed the sales and marketing programs for the Alberta practice of an international professional services firm.

Marketing Techniques Every Small Business Should Use

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Kristin Hovde – Enjoy!

Small-Business-Marketing

photo credit: iStock

Having the best, most innovative product on the market is not enough to drive traffic to your office or store. It takes a carefully-planned strategy to effectively promote your products or services.

Marketing is a critical component for any business, but can be done effectively without having to shell out thousands of dollars. Small business owners may feel intimidated competing with their larger, more established competitors, but these ideas will help increase brand awareness, drive more traffic to your website, and gain new customers.

1. Have a Measurable Goal

Before beginning any marketing campaign, having a realistic goal to aim for is a critical piece to the marketing puzzle. There are several steps to creating a goal to successfully launch your campaign, but for an easy way to remember it, think S.M.A.R.T:

  • Specific: Know Who, what, where, when, which, and why.
  • Measurable: Determine how you are going to measure your progress.
  • Attainable: Create a goal that can be achieved.
  • Realistic: Aiming high can give you the motivation you need to reach your goals, but it can also make it much more difficult to reach. Shoot for a goal that can realistically be accomplished.
  • Timely: Know what time frame you would like to accomplish the goal by.

2. Know Your Target Market

If you target everyone, you will be wasting valuable time, energy, and money on promoting your business to an audience that may not be in the market for what your company has to offer. Do your research to determine what age, gender, location, and any other criteria needed to discover what demographic you need to sell your products to.

3. Get Involved in Networking Events

Networking events such as trade shows are excellent ways to get the word out about your business. It will allow you to get out of your office and meet other professionals in your industry. Instead of going to these events with the sole intention of selling your products, try to connect with these people on a personal level. The friends you make could refer customers your way down the road.

4. Grow Your Social Media Presence

Social media is everywhere we turn; from checking Facebook newsfeeds to tweeting about our day entirely from a smart phone. Billions of people are using social media, so having your business be a part of that world will help to reach out to a larger audience. Set up company accounts on Twitter and Facebook, a company page on LinkedIn, and a YouTube channel for downloading videos on useful tips that could help your customers.

5. Join Volunteering Groups or Start Your Own

Is there an event coming up that supports a cause? Help support it by having your employees and yourself volunteer or by donating money or items to the cause. If there is a cause that is close to your heart, consider starting your own volunteer group. Not only will volunteering or donating put your company’s name out there in the public eye, but you will also be helping a group of people in need.

6. Show Your Expertise in a Blog

Show readers how knowledgeable you are in your field by writing about it. Write blog posts that include helpful tips on a subject that your readers will find useful. This will show everyone that you are an expert in your industry.

7. Be Consistent in Your Marketing Campaigns

Whatever marketing message you are communicating to potential customers, make sure it is consistent throughout all of your marketing materials. Having the same text, motto, and pictures throughout your different marketing mediums will be much more memorable to potential customers.

8. Keep Your Website Updated

Online shopping has increased in popularity from 10 years ago, so keeping your products updated regularly is important. Not only should new products be added or outdated products be deleted, add fresh content to the products you already have listed on your website. Also, add new images and graphics to build traffic and keep visitors from getting bored. Regularly updating your website will also help your search engine rankings.

9. Write a Press Release

Are you launching a new product? Does your company have big news? Writing a press release about it will get the attention of the media, which will end up getting the word out to your target audience very quickly. As much as this tool can help boost the awareness of your business, don’t write a press release just to write one. Make sure you have something that is news-worthy to write about in order to get readers interested.

10. Measure Your Results

As I mentioned in tip #1, having a goal that is measurable will help you discover the success of your marketing campaign. In order to find out which campaigns have been the most successful, have employees ask customers how they heard about your business, offer coupons with promotional codes, or look into purchasing tracking software that will be able to tell you where your website visitors are coming from. Once you have gathered this information, you’ll be able to find out which tools and campaigns have been the most successful.

With these tips, you will be well on your way to effectively marketing your small business.

161352_100001963608959_2491958_nKristin Hovde is the Marketing Manager for Smash Hit Displays, an online trade show display company. She has written numerous articles related to trade shows, marketing, budgeting, and social media.

 

Social Media Marketing for Lead Generation

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Michael Bird– Enjoy!

photo credit: whoohoo120 on Flickr

photo credit: whoohoo120 on Flickr

Let’s say you’ve devised the perfect marketing strategy for your small business, a photograph business. It involves placing ads in papers and passing out business cards. The business comes in, and for a while things are good. After a few more months, however, it seems that the leads have dried up. You’ve had nothing but success at the events you’ve done thus far, but fewer people are responding. So what do you do? Make a new plan, Stan, and it should probably involve social media. Look, I’m not saying your marketing strategy doesn’t have potential, but if you’re not using social media to generate leads, you’re missing out on an opportunity to reach a huge market. Not convinced? Lend me your ear…

Tides Have Changed

facebook

photo credit: Flickr

Now more than ever, there has been a dramatic shift on social media from being purely a community to being a viable market. Here your customers sit, just waiting for you to reach them and tell them why they need you at their next bar mitzvah. Small businesses are using social media to create a brand for themselves, making them almost instantly recognisable. Through posts, tweets, pictures and videos, they’re encouraging conversations about their products and services. Social media also makes your company appear more personable. Your customers will feel like they can approach you, ask you questions and potentially pass your name on to their friends.

Content Leads to Leads

In recent years, social media has come away from the community builder aspect and become more of a lead generation and content publishing platform for small businesses. This encourages them to become content publishers, writing blogs and posting photographs in order to further connect with the customer. professional-photographer-blogIt works like this: The photographer might show off his or her expertise in a blog explaining the rule of thirds or the best time to use outdoor lighting. He or she then posts the article to the company website and begins posting the link on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, along with an accompanying photo on Instagram. The followers then read the post, comment and even share it with their friends. The photographer has reached out to more people, who probably have a relative or friend who needs a photographer for an event. The content helps potential clients view the photographer as an expert, and they’ll be more likely to trust the service provider. The links on the various social media sites help point back to the business website, bettering the link profile. Sure, community is a great aspect of social media, but just having people “like” your page just isn’t enough. You have to keep them engaged with new and original content, questions in posts and photographs that will provoke a positive response.

Get Out the Measuring Tape

photo credit: Google Analytics

photo credit: Google Analytics

It is now so much easier to measure social media’s return on investment (ROI). After you establish the goals you want to reach, such as clicked links, filled-out contact sheets or booking dates for events, you need to define a strategy to reach them and find a way to track your progress. Check out these programs:

  • Simply Measured
  • Google Analytics
  • Socialbakers
  • Rival IQ
  • Zumm

These tools (and others) will help you see your social media efforts in action. You’ll be able to see what is working, what isn’t and what you can do to change that. Some companies rely heavily on paid advertisements, such as Google Adwords or Facebook Ads, and it’s true, they can be very useful. Their value, however, should come from the number of clicks back to your website, and if they aren’t doing that, they’re not really worth it. The possibilities are endless with social media and landing page marketing. Who knows? A social media shift might just lift your small business out of a marking slump.

Michael Bird

Michael Bird is Co-Founder and Director of Strategy at Social Garden, a Social Media Marketing, Content Development, and SEO Agency based in Melbourne, Australia. You can connect with Mike on Google+, Twitter, or click through to check out Social Garden’s Blog.

How to Incorporate Brand Advocates into Your Marketing Strategy

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Holly Cordner – Enjoy!

When asked about how and why they make purchases, most people say that reviews and recommendations play a major role. That holds true even in the B2B marketplace—according to one study, 60 percent of B2B tech buyers look at peer reviews before making buying decisions.

This probably doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, when it comes to your own purchasing decisions, are you more likely to trust an ad or a person who’s actually used the product?

The question is, how can you boost positive reviews of your business and how should that play into your overall marketing strategy?

Brand Advocates: Generating Buzz

Brand advocates are more than just loyal customers—they’re ambassadors. They’re people who believe in your business and who are willing to answer questions, write blog posts, and help you create favorable word-of-mouth buzz. They can help you by reviewing your products and helping convince leads who may be on the fence about your services to take the plunge.

Who are your advocates? Where can you find them?

Begin by identifying customers who have had a good experience with your brand.

  • Get in touch with people who are interacting with you on social media or on review sites like Yelp.
  • Find customers who’ve given you positive reviews on comment cards or surveys.
  • Ask your salespeople—which customers to they turn to for references? Which customers are most satisfied with their experience?

Try to identify potential advocates on a regular basis—every three to six months or so—to keep your pool fresh.

This should go without saying, but in case it’s not obvious: in order to keep your loyal customer base large and happy, you need to provide consistently great service. It’s not enough to be just “adequate”— most companies do that—you need to “wow” your customers with attention to detail and personalized service. Try to accommodate special requests when you can, and let them know how much you appreciate them.

Setting Up a Brand Advocacy Program

Identifying advocates is only half the battle. You need to decide what to do with them once you’ve found them. Here are some ideas about how you can leverage their power to help maintain a positive image for your brand:

  • Ask them to follow you on social media and comment on and share what you post.
  • Ask them to write positive reviews and testimonials on your site, review sites like Citysearch, or their blog and social media profiles.
  • Ask them if you can film them talking about their experience with your brand.
  • Ask them to contribute to communities or forums.
  • Ask them for referrals.
  • Ask them to write blog posts or create images for you.
  • Ask them if you can use their experience as a case study.
  • Ask them to speak directly (over the phone or via email or chat) to potential customers.
  • Ask them to come up with FAQ questions and answers or identify improvements for your website.

These are just some of the ways that brand advocates can be put to good use. You should get creative and decide on which strategies will work for your business.

You should probably start small. Ask potential advocates to do something easy at first, like follow you on Instagram or give you a five star rating on Google+, before moving on to bigger projects like testimonials and blog posts. You may also want to consider setting up some sort of rewards or kickback program where advocates get a percentage off, a nominal payment, or free products (à la Amazon Vine) for completing tasks.

You should also invest some time in mentoring and quality control. You should let your advocates be authentic voices for your brand, but you may also want to set some guidelines if, for instance, you plan on connecting brand advocates with potential customers directly.

How about you? How are you leveraging the power of brand advocates in your business?

Holly Cordnerhollycordner is a marketing manager living in Salt Lake City. She writes for Needle, which helps businesses of all sizes identify brand advocates and connect them with customers. Her first love is technology with tofu coming in a close second.

 

5 Ways Buying Facebook Fans Can Hurt Your Business

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Norton – Enjoy!

traffic-sign-209196_1280

photo credit: pixabay.com

Amazingly, many brands still measure social media success based on ‘counting metrics’, not on more meaningful indicators such as engagement, referrals or share of voice. Fueling this is the ongoing trend toward buying fans; usually bots that offer nothing of value what-so-ever. However, what many don’t realize is that this approach can in fact be actively harming your brand online. So, how can fake social media fans and followers be damaging? What kind of metrics should you be interested in, and why should social marketing success never be measured in LIKES alone?

1. Fake Likes Don’t Help Credibility

Purchasing of Likes may give your company an impressive image at first glance, but this alone isn’t enough to build a good reputation. With well-known crackdowns on fake accounts from the likes of Facebook in recent years, chances are your new ‘fans’ could suddenly disappear, or worse still, you could be publicly named and shamed. Think of the consequences; should you be exposed as buying fake fans, you risk instant scrutiny from the online world who won’t be shy in making their feelings known, and in the long term, this could damage your brand integrity, especially if you profess to be a transparent organization.

2. Fake Likes Don’t Turn A Profit

Contrary to popular belief, having a social media page full of fake likes or followers generally won’t help you achieve your marketing objectives – including driving sales. Anyone buying fake fans should check out their insights, and they’ll quickly see the majority of the accounts – even if they are real – are based in countries that they don’t even operate in. The same goes for any call-to-actions you are making through your social networks. How can you expect people to click through to your website or engage with your content if they’ve got no interest in your brand what-so-ever?

3. Fake Likes Don’t Measure Success

Many businesses, especially those starting out, believe the amount of Facebook fans are a measure of their company’s success and brand awareness. It is not. In fact, fake fans and followers can make your brand look worse online. If you’ve got a highly engaged online community of a few hundred, then any content you share will be received warmly, discussed and shared. In simplistic terms, Facebook’s algorithm will recognize this, and will then broaden the reach of the post to your wider community. Conversely, if you’ve got 1,000 fake profiles, then the initial reach of your posts will be worse, given that it’s being sent to un-engaged bots, not real people. This will subsequently reduce its natural reach, as Facebook’s algorithm recognizes this lack of engagement and interest in your content.

4. Fake Likes Will Mess With Your Metrics

A strong understand of social media metrics is essential if you ever want to improve your social media success. This includes knowing what content people are engaged with, and gaining an understanding of your online community’s dynamics and norms. However, the influx of fake profiles – which offer nothing in the way of engagement or meaningful action – will only impede your ability to measure your community’s behavior, leaving you with a dense smokescreen to negotiate.

5. Fake Likes Can Be Harmful

It’s often the case that the illegitimate individuals behind the fake likes and followers are professional hackers who use unsuspecting members of the public as their guinea pigs, without them even knowing a thing about it. The software in use by these people is also harmful to computers in general as spam links are commonly sent when the hackers are working their black magic. For any brand serious about behaving ethically online – which let’s face it, you should be – then buying fans should never be an option.

ChrisNortonChris Norton is MD at specialist social media and PR agency Prohibition.