Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Social media in the news today: from Gaga to Obama

Just when I started trying to think of something to write about today, I heard all kinds of social media news. More and more often, social media events are becoming mainstream media events. TV and radio news covers a social media topic almost every day. 

This morning, as a follow-up to the school shooting in Baltimore County Monday, there was a major surge on twitter. A special needs student, Daniel Borowy, was apparently the random victim of the shooter. We are told that he is a huge fan of Lady Gaga. There has been a push to get Lady Gaga to come to Baltimore and visit this young man as he recuperates from his injuries. At this point, he is still in critical condition. 

While students of the school brought painted signs saying “Pray for Daniel” today, the social media side of the story was also coming to life. Over 10,000 people are fans of a Facebook page that asks for prayers for the boy. The hashtag #GagaVisitDaniel was trending on Twitter this morning. I don’t know if Lady Gaga has any interest in visiting this boy or not, but my curiosity is definitely piqued.

Will social media put the pressure on this singer to come visit a sick special needs students? Tune in next time. It just might happen.

I figured that I had my topic today with the Lady Gaga thing and then I saw a post on Facebook where someone said President Obama was on the site Reddit. If you don’t know what Reddit is, it is a site where you can post a page or link you like and make a comment about it. People can give it thumbs up or thumbs down.

I’ve been trying to see what is going on – but guess what? President Obama crashed Reddit! So many people are trying to do exactly what I wanted to do, see what the president has to say on Reddit and they are overwhelmed.

After proofing my post, Reddit is back up and running. I urge you to check it out. There are some funny, serious and thought-provoking comments on there. Here is one from Obama himself, “…this is an example of how technology and the internet can empower the sorts of conversations that strengthen our democracy over the long run.”

That’s the power of social media! Don’t you just love it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Social media "Whoops!" posts

This morning I read an article about Bill Cosby. Yesterday, for the fourth time, there was a rumor that he died. It was all over the internet. False celebrity death notices seem to be the norm on Twitter and Facebook. Remember the false death stories about Jon Bon Jovi a few months ago?

Then there are posts that should never be said at all. A man was arrested in England after making racial slurs against a sports star. Either the poster didn’t think or didn’t care what he was posting.

Whether it is risqué, wrong, racist or just in poor taste, that is no way to get people to like, know and trust you. Those are the people who will want to buy from you or use your services. Your reputation is based on what you say and how you say it. Don’t blow it by making an off the cuff comment that contradicts your message or brand.

How many times have we heard about people accidentally (or on purpose) sending nude photos of themselves or others? How about when Tori Spelling’s husband sent a touching tweet about how beautiful his wife looked playing with their kids first thing in the morning? It accidentally showed his wife’s bare breast! He didn’t look at the photo closely before he posted it.

There are entire websites devoted to inappropriate photos that people have posted. Sometimes it’s a sexy or nude photo with a small child in the background. There are all kinds of examples of what not to do!

If you are an entrepreneur, you need to filter things before you send them. We all know that once it’s out there, it’s out there for good. Even though the Tori Spelling photo was taken off Twitter after a few brief hours, countless people saw it and people downloaded the photo. Once that happens, there is no taking it back.

If you need to do so, type out your posts in a word processing program so you have a chance to proof them. If you run a business, you can type out several messages that you want to send during the day. Proof them all in the morning and then copy and paste them into Twitter at the time you want to post them.

Always look at the links before you share or retweet someone else’s post. Make sure it is not offensive or incorrect information. There might be a message that seems okay, but then when you click on the link or view a photo, you might discover something disturbing.

Checking photos and proofing your posts before you send them should be something everyone knows and does. If you are an entrepreneur, this is vital to the success of your business (unless you are in the business of exploiting these posts). Don’t stop posting –just think before you post!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Breaking news and social media

Today in Baltimore, it was the first day of school. Unfortunately, at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County, there was also a shooting today. It’s a shame, especially for kids having to remember this happening on their first day of high school. It was the new Baltimore County School Superintendent, Dallas Dance’s first day too. It was not a good one. Social media took on a large role as the events, rumors and facts unfolded.

Right after the shooting occurred, the school was not able to send any official message to the parents. They needed to fully assess the situation first. Kids in some classes were not allowed to have cell phones turned on, but others did have access to their cell phones. They immediately started texting their parents, letting them know they were okay. Later, as the school had an official statement about what had happened, parents were sent phone and text messages.

Twitter was abuzz with activity about the shooting. Lots of preliminary information and even more speculation and gossip was being generated. Loads of tweets with “Perry Hall shooter” were flowing freely through cyberspace before police even had the school secured. Baltimore County’s  Emergency information Twitter page, @BACOemergency,  was sending messages including some to the press. The was another rumor that the shooter had tweeted “SO SICK. RIP victims. R-T FOR RESPECT.” People also speculated that he was a victim of bullying.

The shooter is in custody. One student is in critical condition at Shock Trauma. A guidance counselor grabbed the shooter after the first shot and wrestled the shotgun away from him as a second shot went into the ceiling. More teachers joined in and the shooter was forcibly held until police arrived a few minutes later. That takes real guts! Kudos to those brave souls.

There is a rumor that the shooter posted “First day of school, last day alive.” on his Facebook page. The is a Baltimore County Breaking News Facebook page staffed by volunteers that worked diligently all day to keep people updated on events as they were happening.

Social media was all over this event. I’m sure at least one student video or photo exists of this event. The police probably confiscated and/or examined as many phones as they could find in the cafeteria, where the shooting occurred.

Good news or bad, Twitter, Facebook, texting and other social media gets news out to people much faster than the old-fashioned “telephone tree” when people called each other on the phone. While I can feel for the families involved in this tragic and frightening event, I can’t help but appreciate how social media was all over this. As the news becomes an online media event and people become amateur reporters with their smart phones, the news business has never been as instantaneous as it is today. The way we process breaking news has been forever changed, I think it is a change for the better.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Don’t forget about old networking methods

As you enter into the realm of the social media, you can’t forget about the old ways. Tweeting, posting and sharing are all great ways to get your brand to a lot of people. However, meeting people in person, networking, making phone calls – those methods all still work.

Today I went to a luncheon for business women and they were quite a hoot. As I generally spend my days hunched over my computer tapping away at the keys, getting out and seeing other humanoids was enriching, if nothing else! Just like giving a polar bear at the zoo a giant ice ball with a fish in the center of it, meeting some people in person was my enrichment for the day.

The women I met were from various fields, only one other spends her entire day alone with a computer. While immersed in cyberspace, we tend to forget about how important it is to do networking in person with other business people to help grow our businesses.

Check your community and find a networking organization. Most allow visitors to attend at least one or two meetings without joining the organization. Get a feel for the group and see if it is a good fit for you. You don’t have to meet everyone at once. I felt a little intimidated at the first one I attended. If you just make a few connections, the next time you go, you will know at least one or two people. Then, it becomes much easier.

Always take a big stack of cards, even if you think you will only give out a few. It’s always best to be prepared. If you don’t have cards – shame on you! Get some. There are reasonably priced places online like where cards are very inexpensive (some are free, you just pay shipping). Vista Print offers designs already made up for a variety of businesses or generic cards. If you need help, get in touch with me. I can design something for you at a reasonable price.

Take advantage of all the ways to connect with others and grow your business. Don’t limit yourself by relying completely on the internet.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Twitter: Like a brief message in a bottle

Some people don’t get it at all. Other people don’t even try. Twitter has been the focal point of military coups, tragic shootings and more. Users are tracking events with Twitter. Businesses are sending their messages this way too.

You never realize how much you can say in just a few characters until you start using Twitter. What a great way to communicate your message! Sending a message in a bottle doesn’t really get results, but Twitter does. With over 100 million active users, if you are not using Twitter, you are missing out on a huge audience.

Gain lots of followers to ensure your message is going to the most people possible. That takes time, but it is worth the effort. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, put your Twitter link everywhere! Add it to your website, blog and everywhere else you have a web page. Put your twitter handle or link to your page in your email signature. I check out people’s information in their signatures all of the time. I’m not the only one who does that…

With a decent following, or even when you are getting started, you should tweet at least a few times every day. It’s simple to add photos. People love photos, if you have the chance, add them.

Because the message is short and sweet, you can post multiple times every day without getting anyone too angry about it. Make an offer for your business. Tell people a fun or interesting fact. You can say things that have nothing to do with your business. Just tweet for fun. The message goes out to an ocean of millions, the ripple effect can help you grow your business.

Using hashtags (the # symbol) helps people find your tweets. If you own a garage, for example, using the hashtag #oilchange might help you get the message that you are having a special on oil changes today. The hashtag makes the word searchable. You could search #oilchange and see all of the recent tweets that used that hashtag. That is how people follow a dramatic play, get up to the second sports info, keep up on a natural disaster, military coup or war.

People also use the hashtags for chats. Knitters meet weekly to discuss a knitting topic. Athletes “guest tweet” for NBA’s twitter page and answer questions on occasion. It is a wonderful forum and no one ever gets long winded.

If you are sending a message for your business in a tweet, try to say something that evokes a response from the reader, a call to action. Something like: When was your last #oilchange? Come in today, we’re having a special! (By the way, I just made up that web address. It is not real).

By using automated tweeting software, your oil change message can go out ten or more times in a day. The more you send the message, the more people will see it. You can also tweet variations on a theme. Send multiple messages in a day, each one talking about the sale on oil changes, but giving a different fun fact or silly comment with each. Make your message stand out from the others. Watch what your competition does and do it better.

Sometimes people forget they can make the tweets entertaining and interesting as well as sending their company message. Even if you don’t have anything funny to say, you can always retweet something you find funny that someone else posted. Retweeting posts can assist in gaining new followers.

If you use the @ symbol before someone’s user name, that will change who is able to see the tweet. Only people in your stream and their stream will see it. If you add a period before the @, as in .@, everyone can see it. I just learned that one myself. I’ll have to try it soon.

Unlike the message in a bottle, you are sure people are reading your message. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you should give it a try. It’s a fun way to use social media. If you're not following me yet, visit me on Twitter (@snakecharmed).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Social media: worth the trouble or not so much?

There has been a lot of talk lately about whether or not social media actually works as a method of marketing. Some large companies have over 100 social media accounts. Each division or section of the business has its own complement of social media sites. Obviously, large companies find value in social media.

Are you using LinkedIn? According to SocialMedia B2B, “LinkedIn generates more leads for B2B companies than Facebook, Twitter or blogs. Yet only 47% of B2B marketers say they are actively using LinkedIn vs. 90% on Facebook.”

In other words, if you are not using LinkedIn, you should start! Don’t wait for an engraved invitation. The groups on LinkedIn work wonders in networking. Join as many as you feel are relevant to start networking right away.

Nonprofit organizations and colleges are some of the biggest users of social media. They take advantage because they are always looking for inexpensive ways to do their marketing. Other businesses make the mistake of always they have to spend a lot on marketing in order to get a good return on investment. Entrepreneurs and every business should use social media to the max. Other forms of marketing can be combined with social media to bring the right mix for your business.

A You Tube channel with videos, even if you only have a few, is really helpful in this visual world. Your clients begin to build a bond with you through videos. As they learn more about you and your business, they will begin to like and trust you. Then, hopefully, they will buy from you too.

Keep active and post often or you will be wasting the effort. Posting every now and then does nothing to help promote your brand. The more you post, the more friends, follows and likes you will get and that means you are reaching more people. So, get cracking! Start building your brand and growing your business.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Take advantage of Google+

Did we really need another social network that, at least on the surface, appears to be Facebook’s less attractive little brother? Actually, the answer is a resounding yes. Google+ is not trying to be Facebook. It wants to be its own entity and has charms that are all its own.

While Facebook gives users the ability to decide who sees what posts, people rarely use this option. Mostly, people just like to relate to each other, discuss their day, share interesting stories and/or photos and let people into their lives. Whether it is good or bad, right or wrong, that seems to be the way people use this social medium. Companies get in on the action, posting their information, setting up business pages. That is works great for a lot of people.

But Google+ takes a little different stand on things. The circles allow users to promote one thing to one group of people and another thing to another group. People get involved with their interests on Google+. Many times they find new people, businesses and organizations to follow that they do not interact with on Facebook. When using this social media platform you categorize each friend. You can follow them, classify them as a friend, family, acquaintance, sports or fun & interesting. You can address everyone or just one segment of the people in your circles.

Unique to Google+ are the hangouts. A hangout is where you can webchat live with multiple people. Not only that, but you can save the entire conversation to be replayed on You Tube. Today there was a recorded hangout with Conan O’Brian, a host and five fans. They were able to talk with Conan and ask questions live and watch/listen to his answers. People had posted questions earlier on You Tube and the five fans were picked from among those people.

There was a similar Q&A with President Obama. Everyday citizens, including some who did not vote for him, had posted questions on You Tube in advance as well and were picked for a live interview with the president. That’s awesome! While a limited number of people can be directly involved, millions can watch it live or the recorded version later.

The possibilities for your business taking advantage of the hangouts are limitless. A nonprofit could arrange to have public meeting online. Musicians could have fans hang out with them. Small businesses could ask their customers what they can do to make their experience better. An animal behaviorist could promote his business by answering questions from people with problem pets. A jewelry store could teach a people how to tell the quality of a diamond and they could give feedback. A car dealership salesman could talk about the great new features of the 2013 model of a car. You can promote a hangout in your newsletter, ezine or blog.

The best part is that the hangouts are interactive. There is give and take, questions and answers. People become engaged in your business. They learn to know and trust you. You are helping them for free, so the idea is that when they are ready to spend money, they’ll go to the place where they got the free help.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Step right up… have we got a deal for you!

Hurry! Hurry! The contest is about to begin. This is what many businesses say on their social media pages. Offers, contests and special drawings are often featured on pages to attract people to either sign up for a newsletter or get on a mailing list.

As entrepreneurs, we are always thinking up new ways to bring in business. You do not have to re-invent the wheel. There are some tried and true methods that have worked. Of course, you can add your own spin to an old idea and make it your own. When I was in graduate school, I had a professor who said that there is no such thing as a new idea. You just need to take an existing idea and improve it or change it to suit your needs.

Instead of paying a marketing person to get new business, you can put an offer on your Facebook page to entice new people. Offering a free product is one way to attract new clients. Everyone loves something for free. But, you must make sure you are giving them something that has value. You cannot just give people a 10 page ad for your company and call it a book. People see right through that. But, if you give them something worthwhile, they might just become a happy customer.

Businesses often offer contests if people sign up for a newsletter or mailing list. Instead of giving away a lot of small things, they offer one big one. People love contests, and I have come to discover that people love filling out online forms.

For 14 years, I ran an animal rescue with an online adoption form. I often received forms from people who had no intentions of adopting an animal. But, as a result, I had their name, snail mail address and email address. That information came in handy when it was time to promote an event or ask for donations. I took advantage of it many times over the years.

Use your imagination. If you think about it, you know there is something that you can offer to entice people to visit your page, sign up and even become a client for your business. Then, once you have attracted new people, it is up to you to wow them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Online reviews

Every business tries to get listed on the first page of the search. One of the many criteria in ranking companies is not as obvious as most, and that is to have a lot of reviews for the business. Even if there are a few not-so-great reviews mixed in, it still helps. The more people talk about your business, the better.

Every time you complete a sale or finish a service you should send something to your client. Whether they bought a publication, took a class, purchased some of your inventory or used your service, it is important to thank them. Non-profits use this technique all of the time. When you thank someone for a donation, they are more likely to donate again. The same holds true with your business. When you thank someone, they are more likely to buy again.

When you send the thank you, include a request for a review. This is especially important for your favorite clients or customers. When using Google Places and Yahoo Local, you can write a review for a business. Yelp is a site specifically for writing reviews. If you think people will have a hard time finding out where to put their review – find it for them. They may be willing to write a review, but they are not going to spend a lot of time searching around for the place to do it. Give it to them and make their life easier. All they have to do is click a link and they are right at the review page.

The length of reviews really does not matter. I usually only read the first paragraph or two. Usually after that, I’ve lost interest and it’s on to the next review. You can tell your clients that a brief review is fine. They do not have to write a complete essay about your business.

We all have clients who, at one time or another, are not happy with us and post angry reviews. Do not try to counterbalance that and trick the search engines by writing your own reviews! They can tell where the website’s ISP address is registered. In other words, they know it is you. Spooky, isn’t it? You can however, with most search engines, respond to reviews.

Your blog is a whole different ballgame. You can do whatever you want there, and that includes deleting comments you dislike. Some people may get a glimpse of the comment before you delete it. When logged into the blog, it too knows when you are commenting so be careful what you post.

On Facebook, you can remove unwanted comments, but when they are posted, they go out to everyone who likes the page. While it doesn’t stay on the page once you take it down, it has been sent and most likely seen by some people. 

Obviously, the idea is to make all of your customers happy. Remember to always thank them. The happiest will tell their friends. If you can get people to post their favorable reviews on social media as well as write a review for one of the search engines, that is the best result you can imagine.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Affiliate marketing for blogs and websites

What is affiliate marketing?

Have you ever seen ads on the side of someone’s blog? Or, ads on someone’s website? That is usually not paid advertising, but affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is when you put ads on your site and are paid a commission if someone clicks on the ad, goes to the site and then buys something. Much less often, you get paid per click or site visit. If you get paid per click, it is usually pennies rather than dollars.

If you use affiliate marketing on your site, you now have a way to generate income, hopefully at least enough to pay for the site. Most social media, especially Facebook, frowns upon affiliate marketing because they don’t make any money from it – you do!

Here are a couple sites that I recently started with affiliate marketing:
I started them on a whim, just for fun really. I purchased the domains from, which is – you guessed it – really cheap! Most sites are about $3-10 a year. I know I used to pay at least $35 for each site before I transferred all my names to them. Namecheap also does hosting.

Once I set up the sites, I wanted to get some affiliate marketing on them. ChaCha’s affiliate program offers lots of links, quizzes and other fun things. They pay per click, between 1.5¢ to about 4¢ per click. It depends on what the topic is how much they pay. ChaCha is a website where you type in a question and a real person answers you, like a human Google. You will not get rich with this type of affiliate program unless you get a crazy amount of hits per day on your site. ChaCha’s affiliate program adds several new links every day, so you have to check it on a regular basis. There are links in a lot of different topics.

Amazon is another company that has a really popular affiliate program. They have a variety of ads you can use. Some of them even have a search feature so people can look for what they want to buy. You cannot change the size of their ads, which is one reason they have so many versions available.

Many companies have affiliate programs, but if you want to have several ads from different companies on your blog or site, you should go with a company that serves many affiliates. I went with Commission Junction. There are tons of affiliates listed on this site. There are credit card companies, cell phone companies, dog food, magazines – anything that might interest you. Most of them make you apply to them if you want to put their ads on your site. Some accept right away, others might take a week or two to give you an answer.

The reason that I originally discovered Commission Junction was that I wanted to use Vista Print, the popular online printing company, on my site. When I looked on their site, they sent me to Commission Junction. Unfortunately, they turned me down. But I found a lot of other companies that wanted to work with me. The database is very sophisticated on their site. Each advertiser has lots of ads that are in a bunch of different sizes to fit on just about any website. Most of the time, you have to accept the ad the way it is, although some can be sized to fit.

When someone clicks on the ad, you can set it up so that it opens in a new tab on the user’s browser, which I recommend because that way the browser still has your page on display too. You can also have it just go to the advertiser’s page without opening a new tab.

Clickbank is another affiliate marketing program. They give you a QR code (see below) that can be used as a link to the ad. We’ll save QR codes for another day, but they come in very handy as you can scan it into your smart phone and avoid typing the web address.

With all of the affiliate programs, they hold on to your cash until you reach a certain threshold. For most it is $50. Then you can withdraw the money and have it go to your PayPal account.

Is this totally over your head? If you are not well versed in web design, you might want to pass along the affiliate marketing information to your designer. You need to cut and paste code and that can be confusing for some people who are used to the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) type of designing – where there is no code knowledge needed.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Trending topics for marketing

As a trending topic becomes more popular, so can your page.

When you visit your Twitter page there is a list on the left hand side of the page with trending topics. Google and Yahoo also have trending topics. Wikipedia jumped on the bandwagon with its own site. So, what are they and what is their significance?

Trending topics are what people are talking about right now. They change as people search for different things. Obviously, as events unfold, people begin to discuss them in blogs, webpages and social media. When Michael Phelps broke the record for the most medals in the Olympics, he was a trending topic all over the internet. When there is a mass shooting, like recently in Colorado, that becomes a trending topic. It does not matter if the subject is positive or negative. It can be a coup in a foreign country or someone winning an election. Some sites have local, national and international trends so it can be broken down to where you are.

How does this help with marketing?

You can write your great content either using the trending topic as an example or somehow weaving it into the subject of your article, blog or web content. By using keywords that are trending, you are automatically getting more attention and page views. The search engine bots will be trolling for those keywords and when you use words that are trending, they know. The more your comments are up to the minute, hot button items, buzzwords, trending – whatever name you give it – you will see an upswing in your activity.

Another way to use trending topics in your blog is to give your own take on a trending topic. Let people know how you feel about it. Almost always you can find something that relates to your business that happens to be trending.

When using Twitter and a hashtag, for example #olympics, it becomes searchable. Someone who is interested in finding out about the Olympics can search that hashtag and see a real time list of people’s tweets on that subject. If you are using that hashtag in your tweet, it will appear in the list. People will be reading it. Hopefully people will click on your link or retweet your statement because it is worth repeating.

Certain trending topics can be predicted like elections, back to school, holidays and the World Series. You can always write something ahead of time, knowing that your topic will be trending. Football season is beginning now. While a football related topic might not be trending right this second, you know football is something that will be happening for the next several months and will be on the minds of a lot of sports fans around the country. People will be predicting what certain players will do, how teams will do and then there will be actual news stories about players, teams, owners, stadiums, fans, mascots, and much more.

As with everything else, you need good, clean copy in your content. The internet is a popularity contest and you need to join in the fun. Put some thought into your content and then tell it to the world.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Make new friends and keep the old

When using social media to grow your business, an important aspect is making virtual friends. This is not always an easy process, especially for businesses that have never used social media in the past. One of the best ways to get likes on a business Facebook page is by asking your friends on your personal Facebook page to like it. Without a personal Facebook page, this is a bit more challenging.

I have had retired racing greyhounds for pets for many years. Sometimes they can be a bit neurotic. The dog I have now was a little different than any greyhound I ever had before. He was afraid of everyone. No one, especially men, could come near him. Lots of business owners feel just as apprehensive about meeting people online. There is a stigma attached to meeting unknown people. Maybe as kids, when our parents told us not to talk to strangers, this became ingrained in our psyche.

My dog trainer taught us the command, “make friends.” Using a little piece of cheese to entice my dog to make a new friend, he gradually learned to trust people. While I’m not asking you to use cheese to make friends, followers or fans through social media, think of new business as your virtual cheese. Go and seek new likes, followers and/or fans – especially if they are unknown to you. This will help your business grow.

One way to achieve more activity is by literally asking. When you talk to potential customers on the phone, don’t be afraid to mention your social media sites. Ask them, “How did you hear about us?” When they answer, tell them about your Facebook or Twitter page. You want as much exposure for your content as you can get. And, ask your people to share the page with their friends.

When you send out email, add your page locations to your online signature. You don’t have to remember to tell people, because it will automatically be at the bottom of every email you send. Any print advertising can simply have the phrases, “Follow us on Twitter” and “Like us on Facebook” with the logos of the sites, and people will do it. If your business has online Yelp, Yellowbook or Superpages listings (and they should!!!), make sure you add links to your social media pages to the information.

You can also go out and get new followers and likes. There are websites like that help you get followers on twitter. helps people get followers, likes and web page views. Those two are free. However, when taking advantage of the free sites, you might get a bunch of followers and then the next day many will be gone. You have to continuously add new people to keep your numbers steadily growing.

Sites where you buy followers are also available. Socialscube and Twiends both have paid programs as well as many others like Microjob sites like also offer Twitter, Facebook and YouTube followers for really cheap, only a few dollars. On the microjob sites, most purchasers leave comments so you can see how happy (or not) they are with the results of each offer.

A much better way to get followers is to create an interesting page, good content and links and to have a great photo. Those things will get you organic followers who are actually interested in what you have to say. You won’t have to give them cheese like I did my dog! Just give them fresh and interesting content and they will want to be your virtual friend for a good long time.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Add pizzazz to social media pages

As more businesses jockey for position to be the best, they use their social media pages to gain popularity. Some have one time offers, others contests and still more have funny pictures. No matter what strategy you employ, you must do something to attract new clients.

Lots of web pages have “suggest a caption” contests. Those are fun because people think of the most outrageous things you would never think of on your own. Viewers often share these funny photos. Come up with something that is thought provoking. Remember that you either need permission to use a photo or have taken it yourself to avoid copyright infringements.

You can do a lot with videos. They do not have to be professionally done. Many people use their laptop’s webcam to create video content for their site. People love watching videos and looking at photos. It is so much more interesting than straight text. Even if your website is devoted to something very serious, you can always find some tasteful artwork to go with it.

There are programs like Picasa and Instagram that will help you manipulate photos you take and make them look a little better. By using your own photos, you know no one else will be using the same image. If you don’t have the skills to take photos worthy of your blog or Facebook page, subscribe to a graphics service in order to get copyright free material to use on your site. Companies like will sell rights for individual photos. Sites like offer a year-long subscription and rights to use any graphics or photos on the site. Both are reasonably priced.

Even creating a meme, some having no artwork at all, are gaining in popularity. A lot of times they are old fashioned looking photos or artwork with a catchy phrase. In the case of I Can Has Cheeseburger, and the LOL cats seriously lacking in their knowledge of grammar, the text is often misspelled. I am told it is because cats can’t spell. Many times, unfortunately, I believe there are misspellings not done on purpose.

A meme is defined by Bing:
 [ meem ]   
  1. cultural characteristic passed down generations: any characteristic of a culture, e.g. its language, that can be transmitted from one generation to the next in a way analogous to the transmission of genetic information.
Making your social media pages look more interesting will help get page views, likes and retweets. When you have that kind of interest, your business will grow. The more people who view your information, the better the odds are for you to get new business.

Don’t be afraid to add some zip to your Facebook or other social media pages. Jump in, and build up the page with artwork and maybe even video. You will quickly discover how much new attention you will get.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grow and nurture your Facebook audience

Once your business has a social media presence, it is now time to grow your audience. Sounds simple, right? Well, maybe it sounds easier than it is.

Growing your audience doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of posting, tweeting, forwarding, sharing of your information. Maybe it is something that you need to hire someone to do for you, wink, wink, hint, hint…

I spoke to someone who owns a pest control company the other day. I asked him if he had a Facebook page. “Of course!” he answered, like he was shocked that I would ask such a ridiculous question.

I looked at the page. It literally had three likes and had not been updated since 2011. Seriously? This is not a Facebook page. It is a sorry little, shriveled up plant that no one ever waters. This page is doing nothing to help his company build a brand, have recognition in the community or anything else. It is just a placeholder. There were no photos. It contained absolutely no information other than a location and phone number. Yes, he might get one call a year from that – although I think I’m being generous.

This pest control guy could do so much with that Facebook page. He could increase interest by adding photos, maybe showing the difference between a flying ant and a termite. That is content people can use. Posting a photo that would give useful information to his audience would be fantastic. This guy does nothing, except complain about a lack of business. Adding posts that discuss flea control, roaches, ants, mice or other pests would help people. And more than that, it would attract new customers. The saddest thing is, the person knows this information like the back of his hand and would take him no time to put on his page.

It costs nothing but your time, to set up and use a Facebook page. Every business can benefit from having one.

But, and this is big, you must keep the momentum going. As people like the page, you have to post on it. A page that has no activity is not going to be popular. A page with no information is not even going to get likes.

If you spend just a few minutes each day nourishing your Facebook page, you will see amazing growth. Post on the page. Keep it active. Many businesses put special offers on their Facebook page that are found nowhere else. The offers encourage people to check back with the page to see if there is a new discount.

Use the Facebook address on any communication, whether it is snail mail, videos, newsletters – absolutely everything. It will attract likes to the page. Add it to your email signature line. Then, every email you send, may result in a new like on the page. For sure, if no one knows your page exists, they will not visit it.

Sometimes the Facebook page address is a very long list of random numbers and letters. If the address is to long for people to easily remember or type, check out and shorten the web address. It is a free service that comes in handy with those long URLs. You can let the site pick a shorter address or you can customize it. If you want to tweet the address, this will leave a lot more of the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, to punch up your message.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Using social media for non-profits

One of the best things about using social media is the cost. Many times the cost is low or non-existent. Non-profits, and really anyone with a limited budget, can take advantage of these sites and make the most of it.

About a week ago, I spoke to someone who runs a small non-profit organization. He told me that his organization does not ask for money at all. The entire financing is based on a one-time donation made in the 1960s! Every now and then a board member makes a donation. One died recently and left a few thousand to the organization. They do not solicit anyone for money because they don’t want to spend money on fundraising. YIKES! All of the money is tied up in stocks and mutual funds. They lost almost half of their principal during the stock market crash a couple years ago and have done nothing to build it back except invest in more stocks.

I know my eyes were bugging out of my head as the president of the organization told me about this. It was the first time I met him and I didn’t want to tell him that he was crazy – but is exactly what I was thinking!

I’ve worked for several non-profits and they all used social media, even though it was on a limited basis. It was years ago and not as commonly done as it is now. Just setting up a Facebook page or a blog that tells people to visit the website can help.

I set up a PayPal account for one non-profit and added theie “donate” button to the organization’s website. From that alone, we took in hundred of dollars a year in completely unsolicited donations. While that is not a lot of money, it cost absolutely nothing to set that in motion. And, we received much more when we actually asked for donations. There is nothing more beautiful to a non-profit than seeing a random email from PayPal that says, “You’ve got a donation!”

This might sound like common sense, but be polite. Always send a thank you note for every donation, no matter how small. Research shows that people are much more likely to donate again when they are thanked!

Another no-brainer… Always put your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter addresses in the signature of your emails. You never know when someone might click on one of them just out of curiosity. It could result in a donation. Anything you have printed like business cards, letterhead and any print advertising should also contain your web address and Facebook page.

Through use of newsletters, postcards, ezines, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook pages, Twitter sites and other social networking sites, think of how many people your business or non-profit can reach! If you post on an ezine, Facebook or Twitter and ask people to forward, share or retweet – the number of people you reach is astounding.

You haven’t spent a penny on advertising. Maybe you are paying someone to send the original message, but that is nothing compared to what bulk mailings, yellow pages, radio, t.v. or magazine ads cost. If your Facebook post is forwarded, it is probably done by someone who knows and trusts your brand. When you advertise in the newspaper, you don’t know who is reading it, unless it is geared toward a certain market.

Give it a try. Set up the PayPal account and add the “donate” button to your non-profit web page. It will probably take a total of about 10 minutes to do that. You will see an amazing return on that investment.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

SEO marketing made simple

The first thing you need to understand is how Google, and the other search engines, rank websites. With Google specifically, they have paid advertising on top of the page and if there is a local connection, there is a map with various businesses marked with a “pin” on the right.

The paid list is just that. People pay to be in that spot. They have a PPC, or pay per click, price where businesses can be listed. Every time someone searches and then clicks on the link, the business is charge a small fee. Those little fees can add up quickly, so the businesses have a limit as to how much they will spend each month.

On the map section, things work a little differently. Google has many criteria for ranking businesses in the map section. The ideal position, of course, is to be at the top of the list. The biggest reasons for being ranked on the map include how many times the site has been visited and the location of the business -- if you are not located within 50 miles of where the person is, you will not show up on the map. This is very important for mobile phone users. Citations are another big factor. They are basically reviews written by customers.

The bottom part of the search, called organic search, is where you hope you will be listed near the top (known as above the fold). In order to get in that first position, or at least on the first page, is to have a lot of words that people use in their search on your site. Keywords, or words people use to search, are crucial to your site popping when someone searches.

SEO (search engine optimization) marketing is writing good clean content for your site that has perfectly chosen keywords on the page. For example, if you searching for a dog trainer, you might search the words, “dog training” and your city name. Or, you might search, “train my dog.” Maybe you want a class, so you search “dog training classes.” Other terms include: housebreaking, destructive behavior, dog lessons, dog behaviorist, obedience, obedience training, etc. All of those phrases should be in the content of a dog trainer’s web page. The bots, the programs searching the internet and categorizing everything, are looking for those keyword terms. If you do not have keywords on your page, you are missing out on lots of business. Let’s change that!

On the dog trainer’s site, there should be some content that discusses how the training helps with housebreaking problems. Using that keyword about 4-5 times within that page is helpful. Using the terms naturally and without forcing them can be difficult.

One of my writing clients works in the field carpet cleaning. I had to use the term “carpet cleaning Michigan” in the body of the text I wrote for him. It had to be used a minimum of two times. While “carpet cleaning in Michigan” would have been easy, that was not the keyword phrase he wanted me to use. I ended up saying, “When carpet cleaning Michigan style, you…” Maybe that wasn’t the best way to use the phrase, but the client was happy and I got his keywords into the text. It was a challenge!

There are places where you can find lists of keywords for various topics. There is no punctuation in a keyword phrase, so in the example above, I could not have used the phrase, “If you are looking for carpet cleaning, Michigan has some great companies.” You would have to make it into a run-on sentence and not include the comma.

Adding an “s” to the word will make it into a different keyword as well. In the dog training example, you would want to both “dog trainer” and “dog trainers” in the text of the page.

I have even been asked to misspell words in SEO articles. They were words that are commonly misspelled and people search the misspelled words almost as often as they do the correctly spelled version.

Clear as mud, right? If you are having problems finding online keywords or lists of keywords, you can simply search for a known keyword. If you use Google, towards the bottom of the page, you will find a list of related terms.

I searched “obedience training” and this is what Google suggested:

Searches related to obedience training
obedience training for dogs
obedience training classes
petsmart obedience training
obedience training cost
obedience training tips
dog obedience training schools
german shepherd obedience training
obedience training for puppies
These keyword phrases are commonly used in searches. Therefore, they would be great for a dog trainer to use in his web content.
Do your homework and figure out what SEO keyword phrases work best for your business. Add lots of content to your site. The more information you give your customers, the better you look.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A call to action

The best part of social media is the “social” part of it. When you send a tweet, post on Facebook, etc. many people say where they are or what they are doing. They might tweet a link to a web page because they think their friends might find interesting. Those types of messages are not a call to action.

One type of call to action is the limited time offer. Have you ever heard those t.v. commercials that say, “Call before midnight tomorrow…?” There might be a special that is valid for one day only, or one week only. Posting information about that creates a sense of urgency to the reader. They might think, “I was going to go to that store, but now I’d better make sure I go today.”

On a website, there might be a big, bold graphic that says, “Download me now!” That is a call to action we see all of the time on web pages. This tactic is a win-win. It attracts people to some kind of offer and then the site owner collects the name and email of the person for their own mailing list.

You can also ask people to subscribe to a newsletter, blog or ezine. A similar call to action would be to sign up for a webinar or conference call. The consumer is becoming an active participant in your business. You want to keep them engaged with the information you give them.

In a call to action, you connect with the people reading your post and they may respond. Instead of writing, “Went to the ballgame today. Go O’s!” You might say, “Watched the Orioles win today! Adam Jones was awesome. Who’s your favorite?” In the second example, you pose a question. That may cause people to comment about who their favorite player is. Now you are being “social.” You have started a conversation.

Take another step and relate it to your business. Let’s say you own a bakery. A post might say, “The aroma is incredible. Fresh Danish just came out of the oven.” You might try instead, “Our Danish, fresh out of the oven, smells incredible. If you were on a deserted island, what pastry would you crave?”

In your blog posts, you should encourage people to make comments. That is another way to keep people interested. If at all possible, respond to all of the comments. By answering, you demonstrate to readers that you too are engaged and involved. Ask them to spread the word – share it on Facebook or tweet the information. It sounds like shameless promotion and maybe it is. But, if you do not remind people that the option to share the information is there, they might not forward your content to others. To be effective in your social media, you want to reach as many people as possible.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Make your mark

In today’s business world, everyone has to use social networking in order to grow a business. Whether you are a freelancer working out of a spare bedroom or a brick and mortar business, the internet is extremely important in today’s market. Creating a brand that is all your own, is the best way to make your mark.
Social marketing helps get your brand out to the masses.

What makes your business stand out among all of the others in your field? There must be some reason that you are unique. It’s the thing that attracts a client to you, rather than someone else. You need to bank on that one thing, that uniqueness that is all your own. Build on it and let people know that you are the one person who can help them with your products or services.

It does not matter whether you own a restaurant, create artwork or own a law firm. You have something special. As an entrepreneur, you have already set yourself apart from the majority of people in this world. You are brave. You take risks. You stand at the edge of the cliff as pebbles tumble down into the great abyss. You look beyond it, toward your goals. You might be afraid, but you will never let anyone else know about it. Business owners face their fears every day.

The way to start social networking is to get your business known to as many people as possible and as fast as the internet will carry you. There is help available, you need only look for it.