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From Zero to Thousands: 5 Steps to Get Your Social Media Up and Running

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

Social Media

photo credit:pixabay

Maybe you’re a new business, or maybe you’re an older business who recently decided to get active on social media. Regardless, you face the same problem: how do you build a successful presence on social media when no one on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram knows who you are?

Below, I’ve outlined 5 steps to get your social media channels up and running.

1. Choose the channels that work best for YOU

Not every social media channel will works for your business. As the Community Manager for a test-prep company, I’ve experienced that firsthand. Pinterest for test prep? Not the most efficient use of my time. (Have you ever heard your friends say, “Oh I saw the most amazing pin about math formulas today”? No? Didn’t think so.) So first, choose the channels that are right for your company.

How? Figure out where your customers already hang out. Set up a Mention or a Google Alert for your company’s name, and find out where conversations about you are already happening. (Or, simply ask your customers what their favorite platforms are!) You can also consider the demographic information for each channel and try to match that up with the demographics of your customer base.

2. Define your goals

As marketers, we know it’s much better to be able to track and define your success with hard numbers. Once you’ve chosen some channels, it’s time to set up your metrics for success. That will help you see if your hard work is paying off and help you decide if you should continue to invest in a channel that is not working as well as you’d like.

Some things to consider when setting up your metrics goals (a.k.a. how will you define success?):

  • Is getting a lot of followers your main goal?
  • Do you want to increase mentions of your brand online?
  • How important are likes, re-tweets, comments, and engagement to you?
  • What is your goal for response time to customers’ questions and comments?
  • Are you trying to increase clicks and drive traffic to your website?

3. Tell everyone you know.

Great, now you’re set up on the best channels for you and have started making your profiles look awesome. But you still have the same problem: no one is following you. :(

How to fix it: start an online conversation with your current customers to get the ball rolling. Move your existing customer base to your social media channels. Email them, put your account names on your business cards, and scream it from the rooftops. By driving their focus to your social media accounts, you’ll start to build a quality follower base that already likes you and what you have to say.

4. Think like a human being, not a social media robot.

Don’t just promote and talk about yourself. Don’t allow your conversations and posts to be one sided. When you act like a human being via social media and use it to interact with other human beings, you’ll be able to reach new potential customers and people who are genuinely interested in what you’re selling.

Engage in conversations like you would with your own friends — “like” relevant comments and statuses, and start conversations with interesting people and companies.

5. Provide useful information to your community.

Now, I’m not saying you should never talk about yourself, but do so in a way that will benefit your community. What are their main concerns? What do they need help with? This comes back to knowing your customers.

Now that you have these 5 steps under your belt, it’s up to you to upkeep your brand new follower relationships and make them last far into the future!

Bonus Tip: people love contests and free stuff, and your followers are no exception. Engage your new social media community by promoting fun competitions. Got some company pens or t-shirts to give away? Create a contest for your followers and promise the winners swag! They might even brag about it to their friends, which just equals more and more mentions for you!

Good luck and happy Tweeting!

My author photoRachel Wisuri is the Community Manager at Magoosh, an online test-prep company in the Bay Area. There, she spends her time making sure the Magoosh community is happy, healthy, and growing. In her free time she can be found eating peanut butter, listening to the Beatles, and lounging in the park.

 

Systemize Your Networking with a Relationship Plan

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

DTM1

photo credit: deposit photos

Does the word “networking” give you an icky feeling?

If so, you’re not alone. A lot of people hear “networking” and it immediately conjures up images of bad networkers passing out business cards and trying to sell you on their product or service as soon as you’ve met them.

But really savvy business people know there’s no such thing as bad networking – only bad networkers. And if you want to succeed in business, you need to get good at developing relationships, no matter what word you use to describe that process.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked in many different industries – from politics to Hollywood to Silicon Valley – and I’ve found the one universal truth no matter what industry you work in is that if you want to succeed, you need to cultivate relationships with others.

There’s an old African proverb that I think speaks volumes about this: if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

In other words, if you really want to go the distance with your business or career, you need to bring others with you. So how do you do that?

How to Create Your Relationship Plan

If you want to build a business, you put together a business plan. If you build relationships, you need to put together a relationship plan. And it starts with putting together a list of people you want to have an ongoing conversation with over time.

Most people don’t create a list of people they want to proactively build a relationship with, so their networking ends up being random and haphazard. That’s not a good strategy for any career or business.

Here are the five basic steps for how to put together your plan:

Step 1. Put Together Your Conversations List

The first step is to brainstorm a list of the people who you see value in getting to know better.

I call this your “Conversations List” and it is simply a list of the 50+ people who you want to develop a relationship with over the next 12 months.

They are people who you admire and who you would like to know better, whose values you share and who you’d like to help out — not out of selfishness, but of a sincere desire to see them succeed.

This simple step might take you 20 minutes, but it could save you 20 years of wasted effort.

Step 2: Ditch the “Me First” Attitude and Make Some Friends

The second step is to forget about trying to get something from others and to start thinking about how you can start helping others, just like you would help a friend. Develop genuine relationships — but do it with people who can be helpful to your career or business, of course.

As Zig Ziglar famously said, “you can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

Step 3: Follow Up Over Time

One of the biggest mistakes I see people making in business is they let relationships go stale.

They will let months or years go by without contacting people in their network. Or, worse yet, they only reach out when they need something.

Be sure to keep in touch with people in your network so your relationships remain fresh and you remain if not “top of mind” then at least not forgotten.

Step 4: Deepen Relationships

Your goal should be to continually deepen relationships with people on your Conversations List.

You can do this by continuing to provide deepening value over time. Start by sharing articles and resources with them, and move up the ladder into helping to promote the things people are doing or interviewing them when they have a new business, book, or other thing to promote.

Step 5: Increase ROI from your Relationships

We’re talking about business here, so there needs to be some financial payoff. Without a financial benefit, then we’re just talking about charity. So you have to make the transition from relationships to revenue.

I know a lot of people who are good at networking because they have a charming personality, but they are bad at making the final step — turning those relationships into something that is financially beneficial to them.

So don’t be afraid to draw the line with people in your network and let them know that you would love to work together, but you deserve compensation for your time.

Put Together Your List

Now, let’s end this with a specific step you can take to get started. Begin with creating your own Conversations List of 50+ people who you would like to get to know better.  You’ll develop better relationships, and your career will go farther because of it.

Finally, what tips do you have for building relationships in business?  Let us know in the comments.

DTM2John Corcoran is an attorney and former Clinton White House Writer. He has a free, 52+ page ebook you can download, How to Increase Your Income in Today by Building Relationships with Influencers, Even if you Hate Networking.  

 

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.

 

Why Social Media is a Must for all Companies

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Margaret Dawson– Enjoy!
Why social media is a must for all companies

While younger demographic groups are higher users, all ages are on social media. Source: comScore

Social media is all around us and has become a daily part of people’s lives.

As of this month, there are nearly 650 million Twitter users, posting some 58 million tweets every day.  Facebook is even bigger, with 1.4 billion users, spending 700 billion minutes on the network every month.  In the United States, 58% of the population use at least one social network, and that number leaps to 98% for those aged 18 to 24 years old.

And yet, I still have organizations or consultants tell me, “my customers aren’t really on social media.”

Your customers ARE on social media

Unless your customers live under a rock and do not have Internet access or a smartphone, you should assume they are on social media.  In fact, according to research by the University of California Berkeley, some 80% of respondents use the Internet to research information on a product or service they want to buy, and increasingly, that’s on social media networks, no Google search.

Using social media to reach your customers and tell your story is no longer an “if” but a “must have”.

But where do you start and how do you figure out which social media channels to use?  You will want a plan. The only thing worse than not being there at all is creating a profile and having zero content or information.  In this case, build it and they will come doesn’t work.

Top 8 steps to get you started

  1. Research which social network your customers use most and start with the top one: If your customers are mostly consumers, then Facebook is a must have and a good starting place. If you are a B2B product or service, then start with Twitter.  One fast way to figure out where to start is to research where your top competitors have a presence and make sure you are in the conversation.
  2. Build a great profile:  As you build your first profile, make sure you are following best practices.  Each social network provides helpful guides and suggestions, and if you don’t have the time or staff, then hire someone to do this for you.
  3. Develop compelling content: Content is king on social media.  Spend some time researching your competition or market leaders to determine what type of content is driving the best engagement and follower growth. If you don’t know what to write or don’t have the resources, look to getting expert help from a social consultant or agency.
  4. Grow your follower base:  In spite of what some people say, growing followers should always be a case of quality over quantity. Think of your followers as leads. You should be able to do this organically or at a very low cost.
  5. Measure, analyze and adapt:  As you start building out your presence and community, make sure you are using data to determine what’s working and what’s not and track your progress.  You want to do initial baseline metrics, and then continue to use data to improve how you are engaging and adding followers.
Why social media is a must for all companies

Use metrics to set a baseline and track progress. Here’s an example of consumer soda brands on Twitter. Source: Rival IQ

  1. Increase frequency of content: Once you know what type of content works best with your followers, try doing more. But be clear on how different social networks require very different levels of frequency. On Twitter, work up to 10 posts a day. For Facebook, 1 or 2 a day is usually fine. Use these numbers as a guideline, as dach market is slightly different. Experiment with post frequency, while always measuring, to determine what works best for you, and look for tools to help you find great content and schedule posts, like Hootsuite or Buffer.
  2. Do targeted follower campaigns: As you work to build out your social community, look into targeted follower campaigns. Again, your goal is NOT just quantity, but using filters, comparables and research to build a relevant base of users who would be interested in what you have to say and sell.
  3. Rinse & Repeat with the next social channel:  From there, you will want to look at other channels based on the market and your product. While it’s tempting to think you must be everywhere, it’s better to have a great presence on one or two channels then a mediocre or bad presence on many.

Of course, this is overly simplified, and each of these steps takes hard work.  But it gives you an idea of how to move down the vital path of social media.

Margaret DawsonA 20-year tech industry veteran, Margaret is known for taking people, teams, brands and companies to the next level through creativity, awesome positioning and messaging, coaching and hard work.  She is a proven entrepreneur and intrapreneur, having led successful programs and teams at several startups and Fortune 500 companies. Margaret is Chief Marketing Officer for Rival IQ. Prior to this, she was Vice President of Product Marketing and Cloud Evangelist for the cloud computing division of Hewlett-Packard. She’s a frequent author and sought-after speaker on subjects such as marketing analytics, big data, cloud computing, women in tech and the convergence of technology and business. She is also an active mentor for men and women in technology. You can follow Margaret @seattledawson.

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.

 

Why Your Business Needs a Google+ Page Too

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

If you are on Google+ (which you are) and if you run a business (which you do), you also need to create a G+ Page for your business that is wholly separate and distinct from your personal G+ profile.

Essentially, Google designed Google Pages to address the specific needs of business owners seeking to maximize Google’s features for their professional purposes.

Here are some of the basics you need to know for mastering your G+ business listing and some tips on where to devote your energies to reap the greatest rewards in harnessing the power of G+ for your business marketing strategy as well as enhancing your business’ reach across the online realm:

First Impressions Matter

With so much competition in any given field, unless you can create a visually stimulating profile page for your business, there’s a high likelihood that searchers will simply move on to the next business in the carousel that has prioritized its appearance.

At a minimum, your business page cover photo needs to represent your brand and indicate what line of business you are in. You may love kittens, but your business’ cover photo is not the venue to display this affinity (unless you are in the business of kittens, that is). If you are not, leave them on your personal G+ Profile Page or on an adorable YouTube video where they belong.

Ideally, the photo will be clear and will adapt well regardless which device the user employs. More and more searchers are doing so via mobile devices, so making sure your G+ Business Page is compatible is a must.

In addition, make certain that your properly linked website conveys the same message!

Google Maps Matters

The best way to establish your place “on the map” is by establishing your place on the map, literally.

When your business profile clearly lists your business address, your physical location will automatically show up when people search for your area of expertise using Google Maps. And that’s why it’s also important that you select the most-appropriate business category – Google wants to connect you with your potential customers, so help them help you.

Make sure your listing shows your address exactly as it appears on your website. Additionally, don’t just stop at your business name, location and physical phone number. Provide as much information as possible. Include hours of operation, a description of what you do in general, and a few specifics such as: most popular products and most requested information.

And perhaps most important, consistency across all of your business channels is key. If Google lists your address differently, change the one on your website to match theirs. Those who are willing to play the game according to Google’s rules are the ones whose businesses will benefit in the end.

Connect Through Conversations

One of the newest aspects of social media that Google is working to integrate across their own products is hashtags. Whenever you post something on your business page (and you should as often as possible), include relevant hashtags because Google now recognizes those in searches when it shows up on their own G+ outlets. If you are using the “right” hashtag at the “right time,” Google just might reward you with an increased rank in search.

As we all know, there’s no secret formula for getting to the top of the Google search charts. But if you follow these optimization guidelines when setting up your Google+ Business Page and listing, you are that much closer to connecting to your customers when they seek you out via Search, Maps, G+ or mobile devices.

And the best part is that by putting the work in upfront and staying on top of regular updates, from that point on, the rest will be taken care of by Google marketing automation.

DianaGomezDiana Gomez is the Marketing Coordinator at Lyoness America, where she is instrumental in the implementation of marketing and social media strategies for USA and Canada. Lyoness is an international shopping community and loyalty rewards program, where businesses and consumers benefit with free membership and money back with every purchase. Check out Lyoness on Facebook.

 

Not Having a Blog Is Not An Option

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Joel Libava – otherwise known as The Franchise King – Enjoy!

If your business doesn’t have a website, it doesn’t have a chance. And, I’m not even talking about a professionally designed and optimized one. If you don’t have even a basic website up and running these days, your prospective customers and clients are going to have a hard time seeing you as being relevant.

And, if you don’t have a blog attached to your website, those same prospective customers and clients aren’t going to have a chance to learn about your expertise, and about the human side of your business.

55,000,000

That’s how many blogs there are (in the world) at the time of this writing.

And, those are only WordPress blogs. There are millions of other blogs that are on other blogging platforms like Typepad, Drupal and Tumblr.

Now, you can let that number motivate you, or you can let it freak you out-it’s your choice. (Personally, I hope that it gets you motivated to get a blog up and running right now.)

Blog Benefits

  1. Visibility
  2. Your visibility-especially online, will increase with a blog. The more you write, the better the chances are that you’ll get noticed. And, not just by your potential customers/clients. Reporters, writers, and PR people read blogs too.

  3. SEO
  4. Search engines love fresh, new content. Search-engine spiders-those little robots that are scouring the web, 24/7, get energized when they locate something new…especially if it’s closely related to the words that are being searched by your customers/clients.

    Active blogs…ones that have at least 1-2 original posts published weekly, provide that fresh, new content that search engines crave, which in turn, can increase your company’s chances of being found online by your target audience.

  5. Cred
  6. You need some. If you don’t come across as being a credible source of information, your customers are going to have a difficult time opening their wallets up to you…your business.

    A great way to show just how much you know is to write about it. These days, there’s no better way to do it, then on a blog. (It doesn’t even have to be done on your own blog. See #4.)

  7. New opportunities
  8. Once you’ve been writing posts-articles of your own on your own blog for a while, you can start approaching others in your industry, or even a related one, and write a blog post for them. (A guest post)

    Writing an article on someone else’s blog can provide you an opportunity to showcase your knowledge to an entirely new reader base. (And, possible new business opportunities and/or strategic partnerships.)

    Just make sure that your post is informational and helpful in nature-not promotional. (You’ll get an opportunity to promote yourself-your company at the end of your post, along with a link to your website or blog*.)

  9. Keeps your head in the game

There’s something to be said for writing your thoughts down, as opposed to verbalizing them or keeping them in your head.

You know things that others don’t. Why would you want to keep those things inside of you?

Do you have an idea that potential customers/clients can put to good use right away? Share it through a blog post. Do you have some opinions about your industry…and what needs to be changed to make it even better? Consider sharing those opinions on your blog. (Only if you’re comfortable doing so.)

Having an active blog keeps your head in the game-your game…your industry.

You want some more? Check out these 9 hidden benefits of blogging.

Thousands of articles…blog posts…have been written over the years on the importance of having a blog. If you don’t have one yet, what are you waiting for?

No more excuses

If you don’t consider yourself to be tech-savvy, have no fear. There are literally thousands of talented designers and programmers that can help you set-up your blog. It’s not expensive either, so scratch that one off your list of excuses of why you can’t do this right now.

If you haven’t written anything of substance for a while, don’t sweat it-I have a solution. Start a blog, and start writing. You’ll get better. Just keep writing.

And, if you think that no one will read it, you’re just plain wrong. Do you have any friends? Ask them to read your blog. Do you have employees? Do the same with them, and ask others in your industry to read it, too. Add a link to your blog on your main website. Do you have a LinkedIn account? Add a link there, too. Think of some other places that you can include a link to your new blog. And, before you know it, you’ll have a handful of readers.

That’s all you need at the beginning.

The more you write the more interest you’ll garner. Your early readers will start to share your posts with others. They may start reading your blog…they may even subscribe for free to receive your newest blog posts.

Have I succeeded in convincing you to start a blog?

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become A Franchise Owner! He’s on a mission to create a new generation of super-successful franchise owners. He provides much-needed advice to individuals interested in franchise ownership with his top-notch advisory services and to the masses via his award-winning franchise blog. He’s on Twitter constantly @FranchiseKing.

What Most Small Businesses Are Doing Wrong on Social Media (And 5 Tips For Success)

I’m taking some vacation time this week and I’m actually going to stand waist deep in the Columbia River in Oregon and cast for Trout. (Don’t worry I won’t hurt any I’m strictly a catch and release kind of guy.)  While I am away, I have a great lineup of guest bloggers filling my shoes.  This post is brought to you from Dave Kerpen.

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable, a social media agency that has worked with more than 200 leading brands, including Verizon and Neutrogena. He is author of The New York Times best seller Likeable Social Media. Dave recently launched Likeable Community College and Likeable Local.

Over 900 million people in the world are on Facebook, including over 180 million Americans, or 1 in 2 adults. Twitter recently surpassed 300 million accounts. Small business owners are trying to take advantage of these trends, but few are fully reaping the rewards. 

For most business owners, the temptation is to use social networks to promote themselves and broadcast their messages. But if you stop thinking like a marketer and start thinking like a customer, you’ll understand that the secret to social media is being human – being the sort of person at a cocktail party who listens attentively, tells great stories, shows interest in others, and is authentic and honest.  The secret is to simply be likeable.

Here are 5 tips for small business owners to be more likeable and ensure greater success using social media:

  1. Listen first. Before your first tweet, search Twitter for people talking about your business and your competitors. Search using words that your prospective customers would say as well. For example, if you’re an accountant, use Twitter to search for people tweeting the words “need an accountant” in your town. You’ll be surprised how many people are already looking for you.
  2. Don’t tell your customers to like you and follow you, tell them why and how they should. Everywhere you turn, you see “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter.” Huh? Why? How? Give your customers a reason to connect with you on social networks, answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” and then make it incredibly easy to do so. Note the difference between these two calls to action: “Like my book’s page on Facebook” and “Get answers to all your social media questions at http://FB.com/LikeableBook.
  3. Ask questions. Wondering why nobody’s responding to your posts on Facebook? It’s probably because you’re not asking questions. Social media is about engagement and having a conversation, not about self-promotion. If a pizza place posts on Facebook, “Come on by, 2 pizzas for just $12,” nobody will comment, and nobody will show up. If that same pizza place posts, “What’s your favorite topping?” people will comment online– and then be more likely to show up.
  4. Share pictures and videos. People love photos. The biggest reason Facebook has gone from 0 to 900 million users in 7 years is photos. Photos and videos tell stories about you in ways that text alone cannot. You don’t need a production budget, either. Use your smartphone to take pictures and short videos of customers, staff, and cool things at your business, and then upload them directly to Facebook and Twitter. A picture really is worth a thousand words – and a video is worth a thousand pictures.
  5. Spend at least 30 minutes a day on social media. If you bought a newspaper ad or radio ad, you wouldn’t spend 5 minutes on it or relegate it to interns. Plus, there’s a lot to learn, and every week, new tools and opportunities across social networks emerge. Spend real time each day reading and learning, listening and responding, and truly joining the conversation. The more time and effort you put in to social media, the more benefits your business will receive.

Above all else, follow the golden rule:  Would you yourself click the “Like” button, the Follow button, or Retweet button if you saw your business on Facebook and Twitter? Would you want to be friends with your business at a cocktail party? Just how likeable is your business?

Image credit: owenwbrown