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Online marketers are infatuated with an alleged war taking place between Google+ and Facebook. An article at LinkedIn claims that Google+ is sneaking up on Facebook, but this could only happen if the two are competing or at direct odds with each other.

The folks at Google+ have claimed that they are not competing with Facebook. In a sense, I think they’re right.

Google+ is a bit of a social network, but it’s not JUST a social network. It’s also a content organization platform. Google wants you to integrate Google+ into your total online experience. That includes being social.

However, in a real sense, it is Google that is competing with Facebook. Both properties are competing for your advertising dollars. Google+ doesn’t display advertising, so you can’t say it’s about Google+. Google displays ads on its search results pages. That’s where the real competition is taking place.

That said, it might be worth discussing how Google+ influences the SERPs.

I have noticed that they do influence brand searches. That is, your personal profile does rise higher in the search results when people search your name if you are active on Google+. Of course, you could say the same thing of Facebook, Quora, Twitter and other social networks. The more active you are the more your profiles will rise in the search results.

Google+ is making good improvements. I’m looking forward to seeing more. But as to whether they beat Facebook or Facebook beats them, does it really matter?

Constant Contact has an innovative Facebook technique. They’re offering a free download of 100 social media mistakes to avoid, but to get the download, you need to like their Facebook page. That’s a good idea.

As a preview, I’d just like to mention what some of those mistakes are. The report focuses on four social media sites:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

For Facebook, Constant Contact says you should talk with your customers not at them, respond to comments and questions, and monitor your page on a regular basis. There are a total of 25 mistakes to avoid regarding Facebook.

Among the 25 mistakes listed for Twitter, CC says to make sure you leave enough space in your tweets for retweets, shorten your URLs, and don’t abuse the hashtags.

LinkedIn advice offered by Constant Contact include completing your profile, including a photo on your profile, and consider the SEO benefits.

Finally, among the 25 tips offered for Pinterest, CC says you should link to Facebook and Twitter, keep your personal and your business pin boards separate, and pay attention to your analytics.

Reciprocal Consulting agrees with all of these tips. Social media is an always changing landscape. What works today may not work tomorrow. That’s why it is important to keep up with the latest developments in social media and to employ those strategies that work well.

Mashable proclaims that job seekers are more likely to get hired if found through social media. In an uncanny way, this sort of validates social media marketing.

While the article doesn’t go into detail about the tactics companies are using to find employees using social media, the fact that they do shows yet another valuable purpose for being on social media websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. It isn’t just one big online party.

If companies are hiring employees through social media, you can bet they’re also finding vendors through social media.

A company willing to invest in the time and expense of social media job recruiting is a company that obviously sees value in the platform. Therefore, you can ask what other activities they might be using social media for. The obvious choice is marketing.

If your competition is marketing through social media and seeing results, then it’s a good bet that you should probably find a way to get into that marketing, as well. Not only that, but employing social media tactics to learn about your competition while engaging in competitive analysis may also be a solid reason to work the social media scene.

What are you doing on social media? Are you recruiting candidates for jobs, marketing, or spying on your competition?

Twitter is a great place for marketing your content and for developing relationships with members of your audience that you want to go deeper with in terms of your content marketing strategy, but it’s also a great place for doing research related to your niche. Here are 5 powerful ways to conduct competitive and content research on your niche.

  1. Hashtags – This one is easy, but so many people miss it. Find a hashtag or two related to your niche and follow them. It’s easy to do in Hootsuite. You just create a stream for the hashtag and any time content is shared on Twitter using that hashtag, you’ll see it.
  2. Lists – Create a list of your favorite bloggers or niche-related Twitterers. You can create a stream in Hootsuite to follow that list. Add and take away Twitter users at will.
  3. Ask questions – One method many professional bloggers and Twitter users use is to ask their audience questions. You’ll be surprised how many of your followers will respond. You’ll likely hear from people you never knew were following you or who wouldn’t normally interact with you. Just ask.
  4. Twitter Search – Did you know Twitter has a search feature? It works much like Google or Facebook’s search feature. You can find information related to a specific topic on Twitter just by using the search feature.
  5. Twitter Trends – On your Twitter sidebar you’ll see a section for Twitter trends. The default setting for this is to target trends based on your geographic location and interests. Did you know you can change that? Click on the “Change” link and you can change your geographic location. You can make it Worldwide or choose a country or region, or even your city. Click on “Tailored Trends” and you’ll see the trends based on what you tweet about the most.

You can use Twitter for more than marketing. You can also use it for research.

You might be wondering whether Facebook has any interest in quality – particularly in quality content on your news feed. But a recent article at Constant Contact illustrates just how Facebook does see quality.

To summarize, Facebook’s idea of quality seems to be:

  • Timely and relevant content
  • Content from trustworthy sources
  • Content that is shareable
  • Genuinely interesting
  • Isn’t trying to game the news feed
  • Not considered “low-quality” post or meme by users
  • No one would complain about the post in their news feed

In other words, Facebook views quality much the same way the rest of us do. If it’s shareable, derived from a trustworthy source, timely and relevant, and not annoying, then it’s probably quality content.

What’s the takeaway here?

When you create your Facebook content, do you have a specific set of quality guidelines to help you achieve the best content for your wall and your friends’ news feeds? If not, why not?

You should. In fact, you should set up some guidelines for your Facebook posts (and social media posts, in general) to help you and your team think more deeply about your social content. Are you just posting links? Maybe you need to be more diverse in what you post. Are you posting three-week old data? Make your content more current.

The bottom line is to think of your Facebook content in the same terms that your friends are going to think about it. Go for quality, not quantity.

Facebook is in the news again with hashtags.

It’s not real big news. It’s just that when you search for hashtags you’ll get a list of other hashtags below the search results page on Facebook. From what I can tell, the hashtags aren’t related, so it makes me wonder how really useful this feature is. Unless you are in the habit of making random hashtag searches, it might not prove useful.

For instance, the search for #flashfiction yields the following Explore More Hashtags:

  • #beetlejuice
  • #mileycyrus
  • #usopen
  • #tmac
  • #MTVVMAs
  • #1stdayofschool

None of these hashtags are related to flash fiction. I performed another hashtag search just to see what would happen. Actually two.

I searched for #onlinemarketing and #smallbusinesses only to end up with endless search results. So it appears that the Explore More Hashtags box is only useful if the hashtag you are searching for offers limited search results. Really popular searches will only result in endless search results.

Still, I have to hand it to Facebook for exploring the hashtags search feature in the first place. They’re trying to appeal to their users, even if they fall a little short sometimes.

What do you think about the hashtag search feature on Facebook? Will you use it? Do you think it will be helpful? Are hashtags the new social media model, the wave of the future?

Companies have been debating how to determine the value of a social media contact for years. Today, I’d like to specifically discuss how you can determine the value of a Facebook fan.

Kudos to Ryan Rasmussen for bringing up this subject. Rasmussen states succinctly:

Instead of using an approximate static value of a fan (e.g., $10 per fan, on average, as SocialCode concluded in 2011), it proves the effective value of your program and the unique value of your particular customer segment in taking an action or adopting an attitude that can be tracked back to sales.

In other words, if contact with a Facebook fan doesn’t lead to a sale, then there is really no value in that fan.

Don’t take that to mean that the fan herself must be the one buying your product. The fan could share a piece of your content with her network of friends, and if that leads to you getting another fan or two who purchase your product, the sharing fan proves her value. Is it much? It depends. Do her referrals purchase often, and do they purchase a lot?

I agree that Facebook fans should not be given a blanket static value. This is arbitrary and doesn’t give a true picture of your Facebook marketing efforts.

When it comes to determining value, think a little deeper. Don’t just look at the surface.

Jeremy Page shares his insights into marketing on Instagram in only five minutes a day at Search Engine Journal. More interesting to me is that his strategy uses hashtags.

Hashtags have become a de facto social media organizing tool. They started on Twitter. You can even search Twitter hashtags at Hashtags.org.

Over the past year, hashtags have become regular use on Google+, Facebook, and Instagram.

While this doesn’t exactly spell ubiquity, it does say something about the growing popularity of hashtags. It’s entirely possible that hashtags could become the Internet’s social organizational tool and may even be indexed through a dedicated search channel in the search engines. Just as Google has search channels for News, Blogs, Videos, and other verticals, it’s possible that search engines could develop a vertical for hashtags.

I’m not saying that will happen, but it could. Hashtags are becoming, more and more, a way for people to catalog their information and a way for them to follow and find information that is important to a large cross-section of people with something in common.

How do you use hashtags? Are they important to you? Do you use the same hashtags across several social media platforms or do you create unique hashtags for each platform? What are your thoughts about the future of hashtags?

Facebook post embedding is soon coming your way. And I can’t say it isn’t soon enough. It makes me wonder why Facebook hasn’t allowed this before.

You’ll often see with online Web properties, especially once they become popular, that changes come a bit slowly, but when they do come they come with a fierce vengeance. I fully expect that the Facebook embed posts will become a very popular feature very quickly. As many people who use Facebook for promoting their blog posts, you know this feature will be put to some good use all over the Web.

Unfortunately, as of right now, the embed feature is not available to everyone. But I can hardly wait.

According to a Mashable article, only a handful of news organizations currently have the ability to embed Facebook posts. These include:

  • Mashable
  • CNN
  • The Huffington Post
  • Bleacher Report
  • People Magazine

Embeds will also make use of hashtags, which allow journalists and bloggers to track specific conversations the way they do on Twitter.

Surprisingly, 72% of Facebook users set their posts to private, but in order to be embeddable, a post has to be set to public. I don’t think this will hurt Facebook at all. Journalists, news organizations, and others in the communications business, even businesses, are going to set their posts to public. Private posters aren’t generally posting information that anyone would want to embed, with only a few exceptions.

What do you think? Will this make Facebook posting more or less valuable from a social media marketing standpoint?

Jill Konrath and Ardath Albee released an e-book based on a survey of LinkedIn users and their conclusion is that top LinkedIn sellers view the social network as essential to their marketing efforts. “Cracking the LinkedIn Sales Code” shares some insightful statistics about how these top sellers use LinkedIn to nurture prospects and build their businesses.

Konrath and Ardath share five key findings in their report:

  1. LinkedIn “contributes” to opportunity creation.
  2. The most frequent LinkedIn activity is prospect research.
  3. Top sellers use more of LinkedIn’s capabilities than other users.
  4. Top sellers also pay close attention to their professional “presence” on LinkedIn.
  5. The biggest obstacle to using LinkedIn effectively is knowledge of its capabilities.

It is clear after reading the report that top sellers on LinkedIn have a completely different mindset than average users. They frequently close more sales than the average user and find more qualified prospects too. In other words, they actually have a LinkedIn strategy.

Konrath and Albee are careful to note, however, that merely using LinkedIn the same way that top sellers do won’t guarantee sales success. Putting in the time doesn’t translate into sales (BTW, top sellers spend 6 hours or more a week on LinkedIn).

When you consider that in a typical 5 day work week a power user will spend 1-1/4 hours per day on LinkedIn and contribute to 30 or more LinkedIn groups, then it’s clear that top sellers are people who are active on LinkedIn. It makes me wonder if they are active on other social networks too.

What do you think? Are you using LinkedIn like a top seller/power user?

Marketing on Facebook is an art, not a science. People will follow your business page, but they want it to be entertaining and engaging. They want something more than a little self-promotion. They want a page that acts like a community. They’re OK with your central control over the content as long as fans feel like they are a part of your community.

Here are 5 ways to spruce up your Facebook business page and keep your fans happy.

  1. Talk about other people. A lot. Don’t make your page all about you. Talk about your customers, your business partners, even your competition. Just don’t talk about yourself all the time.
  2. Post videos. People like images. They love moving images even better. You don’t have to post a video every day, but you can post one once a week. Less, if you want. But videos are powerful ways to communicate a message, and if you have the resources to produce high quality videos, they will work hard to promote your brand.
  3. Post about something else. I wouldn’t advise you to go off topic with every Facebook post, but you can do it once in awhile. People want to see your personality. They want to see the personality of the person running your Facebook page. So give them what they want. Post off-topic content every now and then, but keep it professional.
  4. Make unforgettable offers. Businesses offer discounts and run promotions. You can do that on your Facebook page. Of course, you can run general business promotions, but do something special for your Facebook fans. Offer a Facebook-only promotion.
  5. Tell stories. People love stories. Have your customers share their stories about using your product or service. Talk about events that have happened around your brand. Tell stories, and make them interesting.

When it comes to social media marketing, your Facebook page is one piece of the puzzle. Use it well and it will pay you back.

Social networking site LinkedIn started out as a place for hungry job seekers to find employment. Then it blossomed into so much more. They added forums, communities, a question & answer board, and a load of features for business people. And they started growing by leaps and bounds.

Not long ago they added a new feature that has grown quite rapidly – business pages. Recently, they hit the 3 million mark with business pages created. 500,000 of those were within the last 12 months.

From the way the service is growing, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another million business pages added in the next 18 months. Yours should be one of them – if it isn’t already.

Because so many business professionals are using LinkedIn, if you run a business to business operation, then you should be there too. One of the reasons so many business owners and executives are using LinkedIn is because it doesn’t have all the circus-like distractions that Facebook has, which more a destination for business to consumer operations.

Social networking is here to stay. You have to go where your audience is. You can’t be on every network. You have time to manage. Pick your venues wisely. LinkedIn is for businesses.

This is perhaps the greatest social media blunder in history.

MySpace decided to change directions – again – and when they did they closed off some features to users and deleted all of their old information. And what did they apologize for? A MySpace with limited features.

I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t seem right.

Imagine going to Facebook and being told that all the posts, comments, photos, videos, and everything you’ve ever done on Facebook is gone. Kaput. Finis. You can’t get access to it, and you don’t know if you’ll ever be able to get it back. But Facebook apologizes for redesigning the site so you can’t create groups any more. Would that tick you off?

This little social experiment by MySpace should tell you one thing: You need to start saving all of your Facebook data.

In fact, you should backup all of your social media data every so often just in case your favorite social media website decides to follow MySpace’s lead. I think Cynthia Boris makes a valid point when she says

we don’t own our space in social media, we’re only renting.

If you thought otherwise, sorry to disappoint you. The social media services may claim that you own your own data, but if they can delete it at any time and not give you access to it, then does it do you any good to own it? Take some good advice. Do your own backups.

How many times have you said, “Facebook doesn’t support hashtags?” Probably a lot because a lot of people have been using hashtags on Facebook for at least a year now, and Facebook hasn’t supported them. Now, however, if you say Facebook doesn’t support hashtags, you’ll be wrong.

They started supporting hashtags yesterday.

From the announcement:

Starting today, hashtags will be clickable on Facebook. Similar to other services like Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Pinterest, hashtags on Facebook allow you to add context to a post or indicate that it is part of a larger discussion. When you click on a hashtag in Facebook, you’ll see a feed of what other people and Pages are saying about that event or topic.

Whether you’ve wanted Facebook to support hashtags or not, you can now do some of the things that you’ve been able to do on Twitter, Google+, and other social media sites, such as:

  • Search for a specific hashtag from your search bar.
  • Click on hashtags that originate on other services.
  • Compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results.

So, will this make your Facebook experience any richer? I’m guessing, if you like hashtags, then it very well could. One feature I like is being able to click a hashtag that originated elsewhere and seeing the stream. I did this just to test it and was able to click the results and go to all sorts of places – Amazon, personal blogs, Q&A sites, and more. I guess it works.

If you use Pinterest, you probably want to know what kind of images get repinned the most. This article discusses that.

In summary, images that get repinned the most at Pinterest include:

  • Reddish-orange images. In fact, they are repinned twice as often as blue images.
  • Multiple dominant colors. Images with multiple dominant colors get repinned 3.25 times more often than single dominant color images.
  • Medium light images. These images are repinned 20 times more than very dark images. I have no doubt. A quick look at the two images on display should tell you why.
  • Vertical images. Here’s an interesting one not related to color. Vertical images between a 2.3 and 4.5 ratio get repinned 60% more than very tall images.
  • Images without background. Images with less than 10% background get repinned 2-4 times more than images with more than 40% background.
  • Brand images without faces. This one is the most surprising statistic of all: Brand images without faces are repinned 23% more often than images with faces. How often have you heard that faces in photos is a good thing? Evidently, not on Pinterest.

If you’re going to use a social media site – any social media site – then it helps to understand what works and what doesn’t work there. This article should give you some insight into what Pinterest users like.

You’ve spent hours upon hours of time pushing your content through social media channels and analyzing the results. You get lots of traffic to your website only to see it bounce and go somewhere else. Is this how social media is suppose to work, or are you doing something wrong?

Traffic generation is good. I’m glad you are able to attract visitors to your website, but is your traffic targeted?

It’s better to get 100 highly targeted users to your website than to attract 1,000 non-targeted users. The targeted users are more likely to stick around and check out your content, maybe even buy something. Non-targeted users are more likely to go somewhere else.

It’s important to realize that just because you have a social media presence doesn’t obligate anyone to show up at your business website. People aren’t going to do that. But they will visit your website, and even buy something, if you have what they need.

Social media marketing is not about attracting the highest number of website visitors. It’s about attracting the right website visitors. If you aren’t doing that, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your social content and see if it’s doing the job you want it to do. You’ll get a higher click-through rate and more conversions if you focus on the traffic you want rather than the traffic you can scrounge.

Not long ago, Pinterest introduced what it’s calling Rich Pins. There are three types of such pins currently: Product Pins, Recipe Pins, and Movie Pins. Each type of pin adds specific types of information to the pin that could benefit your customers and ultimately lead to more sales for you.

Product Pins include information such as product name, price, and availability. That way, customers know before they ever visit your site what they are looking at and the potential investment on their part. As a result, you’ll likely see an increase in your conversions-to-referrals ratio.

Recipe Pins include the title of your recipe, ingredients, serving size, and preparation time.

Movie Pins show title, rating, director, cast, release date, and run time.

I have to say, if you run an e-commerce store, then you should add Rich Pins to your website. If you run a restaurant or share recipes, then Rich Pins would benefit you and your customers. In the movie business? They’ll help you too.

There are three ways to add Product Pins to your website: Embed, Schema.org, and RSS feed. You can add Recipe Pins in two ways: Schema.org or hRecipe tag. Movie Pins can be added using Schema tags, then you show them how your Movie Pins look through Pinterest for Developers and wait for e-mail verification.

Learn more about Rich Pins from Pinterest’s help pages.

Social media has become the big gorilla of online marketing. Unfortunately, it isn’t the panacea that a lot of hype makes it out to be. It can, though, be very rewarding if you work it the right way.

I’m not going to tell you which social media websites to be on. Instead, I’m going to tell you how to make the most of the websites you are on, and what to do if you are posting to certain social media networks. Here are three ways to improve your social media marketing experience.

  1. Be an authority and seek out relationships with other authorities. If you are not a highly respected authority, then you are second rate. That’s the taxonomy of the Web. So how do you do that? One very important way is to seek relationships with other authorities in your niche. If they follow you and share your content, then the search engines will like you better.
  2. Implement Google Authorship. Just by adding the Rel=Author code, along with an image and your byline, to your content, you are telling Google that your content is trustworthy. Trust is very important online. If your content can’t be trusted, then it won’t be ranked by the search engines and no one will find it. Google Authorship helps you do that better.
  3. Add A Twitter Card to your tweets. This is a fairly new tool for Twitter users. If you aren’t on Twitter, don’t worry about it (whether you should be on Twitter is another story). Twitter cards make your tweets more trustworthy. Untrustworthy content doesn’t get shared.

There you have it. Here are three ways to improve your social media marketing campaigns right now. Today.

I’m surprised that the number of small business owners who see value in Google is so low. But I think Frank Reed’s analysis is pretty sound. This is likely based on most small businesses having no clue what Google+ is.

Sadly though it goes even deeper because most don’t even have the knowledge of what Google+ is and why it can be valuable. Simply knowing what they are missing is the first step.

I disagree that Google+ is more valuable to large businesses than small businesses. That may not be what Frank Reed is saying, but it appears to be the case. This:

I would posit that Google+ is truly valuable to larger businesses. Why? Because they have the resources to take advantage of what Google+ offers a business in terms of its SEO efforts.

coupled with this:

But optimizing your Google+ presence requires the usual resources that most SMB’s struggle with which is people, time and money. SMB’s often don’t do what many see as what is best for them in marketing because they simply don’t have these resources.

is what I’m basing that on.

I do agree that Google needs to target agencies like Reciprocal Consulting. These agencies are the conduit between the small business owner and Google as search engine and Web portal. Google+ is a social network, but it is more than a social network. It isn’t Facebook or LinkedIn. There is an additional element of search that I think is lost on most small business owners.

So what’s that mean? I think it means that agencies also need to help small business owners understand the benefits of Google+. Those benefits are something akin to social + search. Even then, I’m not sure that gets to the heart of it.

You can’t hardly turn the TV on any more without hearing a tweet mentioned or see a Twitter account plugged. Major news outlets have Twitter accounts, and news is often first announced on Twitter. But that’s not enough for Twitter. They want to push further.

Twitter Amplify is Twitter’s advertising program, and they’ve announced some new partners:

  • A&E (@AETV)
  • theAudience
  • Bloomberg TV (@BloombergTV)
  • Clear Channel (@ClearChannel)
  • Conde Nast (@CondeNastCorp)
  • Discovery (@Discovery)
  • Major League Baseball (@mlbdotcom)
  • National Cinemedia (@NCMonline)
  • New York Magazine (@NYMag)
  • PGA Tour (@PGATOUR)
  • PMC (@Variety)
  • Time Inc. (@Time_Inc)
  • VEVO (@VEVO)
  • Warner Music (@warnermusic)
  • WWE (@WWE)
  • VICE (@VICE)

Twitter calls these partnerships two-screen partnerships. Brands promote themselves through Promoted Tweets to remind viewers to tune into their TVs at the appropriate times to view their favorite shows and programming. And then the shows often tweet during the airings as well as immediately before and after.

Everything from news programs to sports can be seen on Twitter’s new Amplify.

So how can you turn this into a marketing opportunity for your business? You could contact Twitter and ask how you can participate in the Twitter Amplify program. If it works out, you could expand your audience and reach new people through Twitter and your TV screen.