Archive | November, 2012

Integrate Social Media Into Your Holiday Marketing Strategy

26 Nov

The holidays are upon us, and if you haven’t implemented various holiday promotions, sales, and specials into your marketing strategy, it’s not too late!

I’d like to share how you can continue building your online community using social media this holiday season. Just because your customers are on vacation, doesn’t mean your social media efforts should be.

According to the Social Media Holiday Purchases graphic by Mr. Youth, 36% of social media users trust brands with a social media presence, and 80% of users who received a response on a social channel went on to make a purchase.

holiday marketing

Social media can be integral to establishing brand awareness and reputation.  The holidays serve as a perfect opportunity for  to consider how you want people to think of your brand.

Here are 5 ways you can use social media this holiday season for brand awareness and recognition:

1. Talk to Your Customers

Businesses can certainly use social to media to push their products and services, it also allows for conversation. Talk to your customers and ask them about their holiday to differentiate yourself.

Perhaps this sounds too easy, but simple questions like, “What’s your favorite holiday tradition?” or “What are you thankful for this year?” Show that you care. These are the questions that add a personal touch and can help ensure your online community remembers you.

But, don’t forget to respond! Just asking the questions isn’t enough. Customers wan’t to know you’re listening, so make sure you’re acknowledging their answers.

2. Give Back

Most businesses utilize social media during the holidays for give-aways and exclusive sales. While that is a great use, you can also use social media to give back to the community.

Are your employees running a food drive? Will you have a company-wide volunteer outing? Is there a holiday charity event you sponsor? Document these holiday activities and post the photos/videos/quotes to your Facebook page or to Instagram with a unique hashtag. Run a promotion where you select a charity and match customer donations dollar for dollar.

Whatever way you choose to give back to your community this holiday season, social media can be an excellent tool to promote your efforts. Your customers will enjoy seeing that you are a business that gives back.

 3. Encourage Sharing

Often, the best social media campaigns are those that  involve your customers and encourage sharing. There are numerous ways you can get your customers to provide and share rich holiday content on your social media networks.

For example, have your online community share and tweet photos of their decorated Christmas tree. One photo can be selected each day to win a 10% discount.

You can also combine the “giving back” element here by asking customers to share photos of their charity efforts this holidays season. People want to feel connected, and they use social media to accomplish this.

The holidays are the perfect time to bring people together on your networks by encouraging them to share their experiences.

4. Highlight Your Culture

You should be using social media to promote your brand year-round, and you can ramp up your culture posts during the holidays. Are you having a Holiday Potluck? Hosting a holiday cookie bake-off? Did you decorate the office? Ugly Christmas sweater contest? Take photos!

Fun, silly holiday photos are excellent to post to your Facebook page, for example, and showcase your business. People like to see the personality behind the product. With all of the holiday happenings; you want to make sure you’re documenting your company culture as much as possible.

5. Be Helpful

People are dealing with a lot over the holidays. You can use social media to offer helpful advice, tips, and facts for customers. Post daily gift ideas, ideas on how to maximize a limited holiday budget, tips for stress-free entertaining. Using a branded hashtag will maintain brand awareness even when the topic may not directly align with what your ‘products or services.

Everyone appreciates useful advice and your customers will thank you for pushing content that makes their holidays slightly less stressful. Start  brainstorming how you can continue to serve up useful advice beyond the holidays. The season will come to an end, but your helpfulness can continue year-round.

If you haven’t planned ahead this year, that’s ok! Your holiday social media activity doesn’t require an elaborate plan (though I do typically recommend you have a strategy in place).

These 5 simple steps will help you engage your customers with holiday posts and promotions that complement who you are as a brand and strengthen your online community.

 

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How to Create Social Media Content

19 Nov

In a crowded online marketplace where smaller retailers are forced to vie against large ones, creating useful content is one way to garner consumer attention and trust. This is especially true when it comes to attracting prospects in social media.

Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford Motor Company, has said, “Content is the currency of social.” What Monty was saying is that successful social media marketing involves creating content that engages consumers, stimulates dialogue, and evokes a response.

In this week’s blog I outline four steps to create an effective social media content marketing strategy.

  • Content Focus
  • Content Type
  • Posting Frequency
  • Content Calendar

1. Determine Content Focus

Content needs to have a focus in terms of the topics you plan to cover and the tone it will take. Here are some pointers for determining that focus.

  • Stimulate engagement. It could be educational, entertaining, inspirational, or promotional. Likely it should contain elements of all four.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and thought leadership. One way to garner trust is by establishing yourself or your company as an expert.
  • Consistent with the mission and culture of your business. You don’t want content that is out of step with your company’s character, image, and personality — it would come across as not authentic.

A commonly accepted practice is to use the 70/20/10 rule.

  • 70 percent of content should focus on your customers’ interests and needs. This can be accomplished through how-to tips, answers to frequently asked questions, and links to helpful resources. Ask yourself, “Would I find this content helpful?” If the answer is yes, then it’s probable others will too.
  • 20 percent of content should be “OPC” — other people’s content. That mandates a willingness to allow user-generated content on social channels you manage, such as a Facebook page. This gives your customers a sense of ownership in the conversation and serves to foster trust.
  • 10 percent of content should be promotional. If you are willing to focus 90 percent of your content on others, then, hopefully, no one will complain when 1/10th of it calls attention to your products and services.

2. Determine Content Type

Depending on the channel, social media content can take many forms: blog posts, tweets, status updates, contests, quizzes, poll questions, infographics, videos, and photos.

Due to Pinterest and Instagram, social media has become increasingly visual. So the use of video and photo images should be a major consideration. Not only does it appeal to different learning styles, but photos and video make it easier for customers and prospects to get a feel for who you are and what you do.

3. Determine Posting Frequency

After you have decided on the content’s focus and type, determine how often you can post updates. Here are a couple of tips.

  • Post at the optimal time. By this I mean post on the days and times when you are most likely to receive responses in the form of Likes, comments and shares. Many retailers find that posting between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. works best. Edge Rank Checker is a tool that can help you determine the best times to post on Facebook. Also, use Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to determine optimum posting times.
  • Put important points first. Express your core message within the first 90 characters, as longer messages might be truncated.

4. Create a Content Calendar

Once you know the focus and types of content you want to produce, and determine the posting frequency, the next step is to develop a calendar to schedule your posts. Calendars can be created on a weekly or monthly basis.

Content calendars can be developed using a spreadsheet. But I prefer a social media management application, for three reasons.

  • Such applications serve as the single source for content creation and scheduling.
  • They automate the process of content distribution and syndication to social networks.
  • They make it easier to administer and manage social media channels and engagement activities, such as responding to comments, identifying new fans and followers, and monitoring conversations about your business and its products.

I recommend the following social media management applications.

Content is Still King

Engaging content can serve your business in a variety of ways. It can:

  • Set you apart from your competition;
  • Help establish you as an expert, and a thought leader;
  • Keep your business top of mind with consumers;
  • Provide the leverage needed to keep your customers coming back time after time.

Think of yourself not only as an ecommerce merchant, but a “media mogul,” as well. Make content the focus of your social media marketing activity. It will likely translate into increased profits.

The Importance of Having a Consistent Blogging Schedule

12 Nov

One great way to promote a company is through the use of a blog. It allows a company the ability to interact with its customers and promote its services in a more casual environment. If you are charged with maintaining the blog, it is recommended that you keep up a consistent schedule when posting. There are several good reasons for this.

The Readers Want Timely Content

Have you ever visited a site that hadn’t been updated in months, or was behind the curve? What would you think if you went to a company website and the blog hadn’t been updated in weeks? You might think that the company isn’t doing too well, or hasn’t done anything of note recently.

When you decide how frequently you post to your company blog, there are two questions that you need to ask:

  1. Is the information I am posting timely and relevant to the customer
  2. What time of day is the best time to post to maximize traffic

For example, if your company is a surf board maker based in Boston, you might get a lot of traffic from California. This means that you might consider making posts three hours later to adjust for the time difference. 3pm in Boston would be around noon, and lunch time, in California.

Keeping A Regular Schedule Keeps You Focused

Your job is going to demand a lot of things from you. This means having good time management skills is important. Nothing helps your time management better than having a set routine. Knowing that you have a time set aside each day for your web presence will keep you calm and focused.

If your boss considers blogging and social media just another fringe task, you should talk to him about the importance of having a set time to blog and how it will help the company reach new customers.

A Regular Social Presence Will Build Trust In A Brand

If your company isn’t using social media, it is akin to not using a phone 30 years ago. You need to be reaching out to your customers by any means necessary. Social media should be part of any web presence intended to reach new customers.

Interacting with your customers will build trust in a brand because it will allow customers to interact with the company they are giving their money to. It is a lot easier for a customer to believe in a product when they know that ‘Amy’ is behind the product as opposed to some woman in an office.

Social media requires a constant and steady interaction. It also requires being online when everyone else is. Once you figure out the optimal time to respond to Twitter mentions and blog comments, it will make it that much easier to stay in touch with your customers. Don’t alienate customers by ignoring them.

Good Web Presence Makes Google Happy

Your company will want to get as high as it can in search engine results. Did you know that every time your name is mentioned on Twitter that Google tracks it? The more people talk about you, the more of an authority you seem. This will not only get Google to raise your rank in search results, but it will also build up backlinks.

Backlinks also raise your page rank because it goes toward the idea that the top sites should be those that are often times linked to and shared on the web. Who is going to create about buzz about you if all you do is write sporadic blog posts with no interaction or social media promotion?

This All Leads To Making More Money

Keeping your customers up to date and informed on what the company is doing makes your blog an interesting destination. Interacting through social media builds trust and allows the company to connect with its customers on a more personal level. All of the created buzz then leads to a loyal customer base that believes that you are a trusted authority in the industry.

Getting to this level can do wonders for sales. The more traffic that you get to your site, the more money advertisers are going to be willing to pay you. If your business does really way, you can create your own deals with advertisers and charge whatever rates you want.

Combining regular blog posts and social media interaction can make your company an influential figure in your industry. Once people believe your company is the leader in its industry, the market is yours for the taking and all because you put consistent effort into your company blog.

The Aftermath of Sandy

5 Nov

At the time I’m writing this article, 65,000 United Illuminating customers and 163,000 CL&P customers are without power in Connecticut due to super storm Sandy.  The utility companies have been working around the clock to restore electricity as quickly as possible and I thank them for their hard work.  After the slow recovery from last year’s tropical storm Irene, both utility companies were better prepared for this storm and it shows.

There is now a possibility of a Nor’easter hitting the northeast mid next week which would be awful for areas hardest hit by super storm Sandy.  Let’s hope this doesn’t end up materializing.

Over the past few days while socializing on Twitter and Facebook, I saw some great stories and some downright sickening ones.  Some of the great stories include tales of heroism and selflessness where people risked their lives to save others.  One picture I saw was a sign that someone put on their front lawn in Hoboken, NJ that read “We have power! Please feel free to charge your phone”.  Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring out the best in people.

Other stories I’ve read had to do with people dressing up as utility workers to access evacuated homes so they can loot it of its valuables.  Also I saw the Mayor of New York City politicize this by not only endorsing the president for another term but also turning this into a debate on global warming.  I’m all for the debate but don’t you think it’s a little premature to start discussing this when people are still being found dead in your city sir!

I watched a press conference a couple of days prior to Sandy’s landfall where Bloomberg dismissed reports that the city could experience tropical storm to hurricane force winds and he downplayed the danger.  I was astonished by this!  Maybe he was trying to prevent 5 million people from panicking but it sure didn’t seem that way.

Here are some of my observations of lessons learned from Sandy.

1. People often lose sight at how lucky they are to be alive and instead complain about not having electricity for a few days.

 

2.  It takes a tragedy to bring out the good nature in some people

 

3.  There was a staggering amount of people who didn’t take this storm seriously and ended up being trapped in their homes

 

4.  You only hear about Meteorologists when they get a forecast wrong and nothing when they get it right.  They got it right this time so a huge    thanks to them for keeping us informed!

 

I’m sure there are more important or profound lessons to be learned from Sandy but these are what came to me before writing this article.