Archive | October, 2013

7 Things All Small Businesses Should Know Before Diving into Social Media Marketing!

28 Oct

Because of my background working on social media marketing campaigns for numerous large businesses, small and independent business owners often ask me how they should dive into the social media world. Many of them have little or no experience with social media and some of them may use it but without purpose. Here are 7 general tips I give to them before they take the plunge into social media marketing.

1. Develop a social media marketing plan. Start with your objectives and map out a plan-of-action to meet these objectives. What are you planning to get out of social media marketing? Who and how will you reach your target audience? These are just some of the things you’ll want to address in your plan. By organizing your thoughts and ideas, you’ll have a roadmap and something to refer back to should you lose focus.

2. Start from the inside out. I always stress to clients that before you pull the trigger on social media you need to be sure that you are ready for it internally. Are you and your staff ready to handle any questions that come through the door? Do you have a crisis communication plan in place should something arise via social media? Do you have the bandwidth to actively keep up with this audience? Who will take ownership of retrieving and posting content?

3. All or nothing. Like a marriage or any relationship that you want to work, social media marketing is most effective when you’re committed to it. You either give it your all or don’t bother turning the switch on. You’ll do more harm than good if you go into it half-heartedly.

4. Build your community. This is one of the more challenging areas for larger companies and I don’t see it getting any easier for smaller ones. Promoting the fact that you’re on the social networks can help. Be sure to start showing your presence on your website, and consider things offline like your business cards, brochures and any other printed collateral you may have. They can also be used as a platform to advertise your social media presence by adding your social media information to them. It can be as simple as including a Facebook and Twitter icon to the pieces. Also, create an email database of loyal followers so that you can extend conversations and create referral programs to aid in growing your community.

5. Develop a process. One of the biggest complaints I receive from business owners is that they just don’t have the time for social media marketing. If you create a process for yourself and follow this process you can adjust your thinking and make it a routine. For example, if you allow yourself to take 30 minutes out of your day to push content in the morning, afternoon and evening, then you should have the time for it within your schedule. With today’s technology, you also can also enlist time-saving tools such as Hootsuite, FutureTweet or Vocus.

6. Have a content strategy in mind. Aside from the time it takes to keep up with social media, I’ve always said the hardest thing is finding relevant content to keep yourself active with your community. If you post only product and sales messages, you’ll eventually lose your followers since there is no other added value for them. Try to mix it up with a variety of things that may be indirectly related to your company. I always go by the rule of 1.) product/service 2.) industry 3.) topical 4.) lifestyle. Try to be keyword specific within the posts as well to aid in search engine optimization.

7. Don’t cut your advertising. If you’ve been running traditional advertising campaigns, then you should continue to. Social media marketing shouldn’t be looked at as a means of replacing your advertising, rather, enhancing it. It is most effective when working hand-in-hand with traditional off and online advertising. Remember that social media isn’t for everyone and you still need a way of reaching out to this group.

 
 
 
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Recent Facebook Changes All Marketers Should Know About!

21 Oct

Facebook changes so fast, I often miss new features or updates to existing ones. Since there have been a few changes recently, I thought it would be helpful to do a bit of a wrap-up of what Facebook’s been up to.

1. Images are now bigger and wider – Here are the right sizes to use

Some recent changes to how Facebook displays thumbnail images mean that we need to be more aware of the size and aspect ration of any pictures we post. Because Facebook will automatically resize images that don’t match its specifications, we really need to remember these details for our images to look right.

The aspect ratio is very specific: image widths need to be 1.91 times the height. This will mean the image scales perfectly in both the desktop News Feed and on mobile. Images are now larger when shown in the News Feed, so keeping the aspect ratio right will make sure your images look great wherever the user sees them.

Recommended image sizes have also changed for Facebook’s desktop News Feed and mobile views. For the News Feed, Facebook recommends thumbnail images of 400×209 pixels. Images that are smaller than these dimensions will be resized to either 154×154 or 90×90 pixels.

On mobile, Facebook’s recommended image size is 560×292. Images smaller than this will be resized to 100×100 pixels.

It seems strange that mobile images are expected to be larger than thumbnails for the desktop News Feed, but it’s suggested that this could be due to the lack of a sidebar on mobile, leaving more space for large images, and the increased usage of tablets with larger screens than smartphones.

2. News Feed ranking is now smarter, including 100,000 individual weights

Not so long ago I wrote about how Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm works to determine which posts show up in a user’s News Feed. The algorithm has been developing alongside Facebook’s overall growth, and now uses up to 100,000 individual weights to determine which posts appear in the News Feed.

The latest iteration of the algorithm could be compared to the growth of search engines like Google and Bing. Both use complicated algorithms with many signals included, such as social and personalization, to determine which search results to show a user. Facebook’s algorithm has become more sophisticated over time in a similar way.

When Facebook launched the News Feed in 2006, it was designed to show users the most important content from their friends all in one place. The tricky part is deciding what’s important to each user:

Facebook says that the typical user has about 1,500 stories that could show in the News Feed on every visit.

What shows up on a user’s News Feed is determined by measuring signals that show how close a user is to friends or Pages, as well as global interaction signals:

For example, if we show an update to 100 users, but only a couple of them interact with it, we may not show it in your News Feed. But if a lot of people are interacting with it, we might decide to show it to you, too.

The way users access Facebook affects what they see, as well. The algorithm takes into account that some types of content don’t perform as well on particular devices—for instance, some content is impossible to show on old feature phones.

It’s even smart enough to recognize when a user has a slow Internet connection, and show more text updates that load quickly.

Facebook recently announced a series of blog posts called News Feed FYI that will “highlight major updates to News Feed and explain the thinking behind them.” If you want to stay on top of changes to the News Feed algorithm, this is a good place to start.

3. There are new and improved Page insights

Facebook’s insights for Pages recently got an update that makes them more useful for marketers.

The new insights view includes graphs of Page likes growth, post reach and engagement. It also includes a post clicks section which shows how many times a post received a “stealth click”—i.e. a click that doesn’t result in a story.

You can add benchmarks to your insights now, to test how well your Page performs over certain time periods. This could be really helpful in testing different post types, times or lengths over short periods.

Engagement statistics are now broken down to make them more useful—showing negative feedback, and the breakdown between likes, comments and shares.

If you’ve read up about optimal times to share on Facebook, you’ll know that it can be tricky to nail down. Optimal timing can differ for each individual Page depending on the audience, so it’s best to figure out what works for you specifically. Thankfully, the new Facebook insights make this easier than ever before. You can now see how many of your fans are spending time on Facebook (in general, not just on your Page) on each day of the week.

You can also drill down by a specific day to see how the timing changes.

Lastly, you can break down your engagement insights to see how much engagement is coming from users who already like your Page vs. those who don’t. This can be really useful in working towards posting content that your fans will like.

4. Finally, you can now edit already published posts

A really recent change Facebook made is the introduction of an “edit” feature on posts. The feature is being rolled gradually out to web and Android users first, with iOS still on the way.

This is the first time we’ve had the ability to change posts rather than simply deleting them when we realize we’ve made a mistake too late.

As well as editing a post after publishing, the new feature will let users keep a history of changes they’ve made.

5. You can now Auto-play videos

A lesser-known feature that’s only in a testing phase right now is auto-play for videos in the News Feed:

Now when you see a video in News Feed, it comes to life and starts playing. Videos initially play silently, and if you want you can tap to play with sound in full screen. Scroll past if you don’t want to watch.

Initially, only videos from personal profiles, verified Pages, and Pages of bands and musicians will auto-play.

To start with, this feature is only being tested on Facebook for mobile, and should be rolling out over the next few weeks.

6. Public Feed API and Keyword Insights API

In an effort to make Facebook discussions part of the global conversations around trending topics, Facebook recently opened up two new APIs to selected news partners like CNN, Buzzfeed and Slate.

The Public Feed API will display a “real-time feed of public posts for a specific word.” Only posts that are public (i.e. from Pages or profiles with the “follow” option turned on) will become part of this feed. This will allow news partners to display a feed of Facebook posts about breaking news alongside their coverage.

The Keyword Insights API uses data from all Facebook users, and pulls out anonymous insights about the number of mentions of a specific term. This can also include demographic breakdowns, such as gender, age and location.

So far these tools are exclusive to a small group of Facebook news partners while they’re tested and improved. This is definitely an area to keep an eye on, though. With so much of our data in its hands, it will be interesting to see how Facebook puts it to use.

7. You can embed Facebook posts – Get more likes and follows

At the end of July Facebook announced that posts would be embeddable on other sites. Public Facebook posts from profiles and Page (not groups or comments) including all types of media can be embedded.

Users can engage with posts that are embedded on other sites by liking Pages, following users, liking or commenting on posts and watching video posts.

Kristi Hines makes some great points on Social Media Examiner about how to use embedded posts well, including replacing screenshots with embedded posts so that users can engage with your examples and using embedded posts to share photos or videos to encourage more interaction on your Facebook Page. Kristi also points out how useful this can be for increasing likes on your Page:

While you can’t always like or comment on the embedded post itself without being taken to Facebook, you can click on the button at the top right of the embedded post to like the page.

This means any embedded posts you use from your page could help boost your number of fans!

Did I miss anything? Have you got thoughts to add on any of these new features? Let us know in the comments.

What Does Google Hummingbird Mean for Marketers?

14 Oct

Google continues making changes that impact the online marketing and search community. In the past month, they’ve rolled out Hummingbird, a major update to their search algorithm and also decided to encrypt all searches, no longer giving keyword data to website owners.

What Does Google Hummingbird Mean for Marketers?

While these changes are not explicitly connected, they both pose changes and challenges for online marketing and SEO. Google has been unabashed about their war on black hat SEO and content spammers, progressively updating their algorithms to reward websites with high quality, user-focused content, and penalize websites more concerned with manipulating algorithms than satisfying searchers.

So what are the details of these changes and how exactly will they impact your online marketing efforts? Here are a few thoughts to consider.

What is Hummingbird?

 Search engines use algorithms to sort through the billions of pages on the Internet in order to serve up results when someone enters in a search. Different than previous updates (Caffeine, Panda, Penguin, etc.), Google Hummingbird represents as close to an entirely new algorithm as they’ve had in 12 years. The change is naturally based on Google’s aim to provide searchers the most relevant results possible.

Better understanding of a user’s intent and meaning

 According to Amit Singhal, Senior Vice President at Google and head of their core ranking team, Google Hummingbird will affect about 90 percent of the search requests submitted to Google. The focal point of the change is “semantic search,” giving the search engine a better understanding of concepts, meaning and intent, instead of just focusing on individual keywords.

“The change needed to be done, because people have become so reliant on Google that they now routinely enter lengthy questions into the search box instead of just a few words related to specific topics,” said Singhal.

More emphasis on mobile users and “conversational search”

 With the steady growth of mobile usage and the release of Google’s “conversational search” feature on its Chrome browser, people are increasingly submitting search requests in the form of spoken sentences and questions, rather than just keywords. Because of the shift in search habits, it makes sense that Google’s algorithm needed to evolve. With Hummingbird, Google aims to be much smarter when dealing with longer, more complex search queries in the form of questions and gives users the best answers possible. Google has also redesigned their mobile search results page, making it simpler and better optimized for touch.

Key Hummingbird takeaway for marketers

 Hummingbird increases Google’s focus on semantic search and providing relevant, high-quality resources for search queries. For marketers, that means adopting the content marketing mindset of providing valuable information that answers questions, informs, educates and guides your prospects and customers—instead of simply pitching your products and services. It’s not about trying to manipulate the algorithm; it’s about building trust and authority by creating and publishing original, high-quality content on your website and blog and providing answers to the questions your audience is asking.

What about encrypted search?

 If you’ve noticed an increasing number of (not provided) traffic showing up in your web analytics recently, there’s a reason for that. For more than a year, Google has been encrypting the searches of signed-in users and now, with the exception of ad clicks, all search activity is being encrypted. Regardless of Google’s motives for the change, the change is big, especially for online marketers who have relied on seeing the search keywords that led visitors to their pages and used that data as a primary measurement of past success and an indicator for being successful in the future.

Without keyword data, how do you measure SEO success?

 In the past, SEO success was largely measured by keyword rankings and non-branded traffic (traffic from searches that don’t include a company or brand’s name). But as the analytics of online marketing have evolved, and with the advent of Google’s Hummingbird update, keywords are becoming less important. After all, the ultimate goal of online marketers has never been keyword rankings; the goal has been new business. But while the ultimate goal is conversion, marketers still want and need to know how effective their content is. So how can that be accomplished in the new era of (not provided)? Here are a few things to consider:

• Pay more attention to landing pages and blog posts

• Consider how your content is resonating by looking at referring traffic

• Utilize lead tracking information from marketing automation tools

• Use Google Webmaster Tools to view search queries and anchor text

• Open an AdWords account to utilize the Google Keyword Tool

• Set up internal site search analytics

While Hummingbird and encrypted search have certainly made waves in the online marketing community, there is no reason for marketers focused on doing what really matters to fret. Content is king and the fact remains that the companies focused on answering their audience’s questions, solving problems and providing high-quality content will see success not just in SEO, but in their online marketing program overall.

 

 

Marriage, Honeymoon, Colds and Broken Tibia!

7 Oct

September 2013 was a very eventful month at Sala Social Marketing, but not a ton of blogs!  So sorry!  We went on a much needed break from marketing on August 30, 2013 and planned on being back to posting blogs on September 16, 2013.  During that time we were preparing for our upcoming wedding on Saturday, September 7, 2013, visiting with friends from out of town and going on a great honeymoon to Block Island, RI.  Coming back was the bad part!  I caught a very very severe cold that floored me for almost a week followed by my new husband cracking his tibia which requires surgery this coming week!

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With the good comes the bad and it can be said the same in the marketing world in September 2013.  Google unveiled a major change to their page rank algorithm, temporarily flooring the SEO world.  Facebook also made major announcements regarding their page rank while Twitter released plans for an IPO.

We’re back to the grind over here at Sala Social Marketing!  Check our blog next week for the latest on the new Hummingbird update from Google, our take and what we plan on implementing for our SEO clients.