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It’s no secret that being a business and having a presence on Facebook has been challenging, particularly for the smaller business. Many of the changes in Facebook’s algorithms are supposed to allow the higher-quality content of a smaller business page to show up on more newsfeeds, similar to the way Google attempted to bring higher-quality content to light in its recent algorithm changes. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, and a recent announcement on the Developers blog lifts the curtain again for a glimpse:

“You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.”

This basically means that the common practice of making someone “like” your page in order to get some things is going to be bad…but in other cases it will still be okay. Look for a lot of discussion to begin on various forums as business owners try to figure out how to optimize their Facebook presence without incentivizing people the wrong way.

For more information on social media optimization, visit http://www.reciprocalconsulting.com/social-media-optimization-SMO.php.

Facebook has become one of the most important social media websites for businesses seeking to engage with potential customers. B2C businesses in particular have a challenge when it comes to social engagement due to the nature of Facebook’s algorithm.

EdgeRank is weighted to give more cred to the last 50 items a user engaged with on their news feed. For that reason, we recommend these 4 content tactics for improving your Facebook engagement:

  1. Post more frequently – Obviously, you don’t want to spam your followers, but if you post more frequently, then you’ll increase your chances of engagement.
  2. Use images – When you post to Facebook, you’ll make your content more engaging if you include images.
  3. Encourage discussion – Post content that encourages discussion rather than including strong sales calls to action. Facebook frowns on the calls to action, but posts that get people to commenting, sharing, and liking increase engagement.
  4. Keep it relevant – Post content that is relevant to your business as opposed to fluff, cat pictures, and information that isn’t within the context of your niche. Instead of sending out game invites, send out content highlighting third-party sources that discuss important issues in your business niche.

Facebook engagement depends on how well you reach your target audience through relevant content. Start with these four principles and branch out from there.

Chad Whitman of EdgeRank Checker conducted a study on Facebook reach and engagement and discovered that there are two types of content that Facebook has targeted as specifically low quality content and should be avoided. What are they?

  • Memes
  • And calls to action

This is interesting because that second one – calls to action – flies in the face of everything we’re taught about writing great content. You want a strong call to action.

Not on Facebook.

Based on the study cited by Whitman, if you frequently ask for engagement, Facebook will punish your content and cause it not to be seen by the people you want to see it. The same goes for frequent memes, you know those jpeg images with witty sayings? People like them, but Facebook doesn’t.

Another suggestion Whitman makes is to increase the frequency of your posts on Facebook. That’s drastically different than what is recommended by experts who use LinkedIn.

Keep in mind that every social media website has its own guidelines and set of preferences – that goes for users as well as the site. If you want to be effective in using social media, learn how they are all different and pay attention to what actually works when you post it. In other words, use intelligent analytics and measure your results.

Every now and then an idea comes along that seems hokie on the surface but actually turns into a big deal. Twitter comes to mind.

Flipagram promises to be to video as Twitter is to blogging. Call it microvideo production, but it could catch on.

The name makes you think instantly of Instagram. That’s understandable. It is integrated with Instagram. But it’s also integrated with Facebook and Twitter, which means that it could see a lot of users checking it out.

It’s actually a smartphone app – with downloads for iOS and Android.

The essence is Flipagram allows users to create short videos (15 to 30 seconds) using their own photos and music dubbed over them. One question that comes to mind is this, Can users use their own music? If so, then it could catch on with independent music artists, and the marketing value for small businesses will go up immediately, as well.

That’s not to say that you can’t use Flipagram for marketing if you are forced to use music from a pre-established library, but my guess is there will be commercial restrictions on copyrighted material.

I can’t wait to see how users put Flipagram to use and begin to share their videos across their social networks.

All Facebook says it won’t have the same marketing usability as Vine, but I do wonder. What do you think? Will Flipagram become useful to social media marketers?

A few years ago, if you’d have asked anyone doing any kind of Internet marketing at all what their No. 1 referrer was, the answer would have been overwhelmingly “Google.” In fact, Google accounted for about 90% of all website traffic at one time. Today, that number is reduced drastically.

If 60% of your traffic is coming from Google today, then you’re doing well. Chances are, however, that you’re getting the bulk of your website traffic from other sources.

But what are those other sources?

For many website owners, those sources include:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Craigslist
  • Third-party niche websites
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

See a trend?

For many website owners, social media has risen to be the No. 1 referrer of traffic. If you are active on several social media sites, then you may have noticed that too. But more often than not, it’s not just one social media website that is referring traffic. It’s several sites delivering a portion of the traffic each.

In that climate, Google may still be your No. 1 referrer, but it isn’t a majority referrer. In other words, they may refer more traffic to your site than any other website but not above 50% of your total traffic. If you do get more than 50% of your traffic from any one source, then you’ve got a gold mine.

This is important to note for several reasons. You should put your money where your traffic is, and where your conversions are.

In other words, if your No. 1 traffic referrer is Facebook, no matter what the percentage is, then focus on converting that traffic to sales. If Facebook is your No. 1 traffic source but most of your conversions come from Twitter, then spend a little more time on Twitter. But don’t neglect Facebook! Instead, try to figure out how to turn Facebook traffic into sales.

It’s an age-old strategy. Put your investment where your payoff is. Re-invest in your biggest moneymaker and you’ll see your ROI go up.

According to a new study, social media campaigns are achieving higher reach numbers than ad exchanges, networks, and other online marketing channels. But this study could be misleading. Reach doesn’t equate to conversions.

Online marketers have to answer this question: If you reach more users or potential users than you did before and achieve the same number of conversions, are you better off?

What if your conversions go down with a higher reach, what then?

The thing you have to remember about reach is, it doesn’t necessarily translate into revenue. However, you may still get a little branding benefit out of it. That is a benefit, assuming that the folks you reach are targeted consumers. If they are people interested in your type of product or service and are in the market for it, then reaching them can be a benefit if they don’t buy from you today.

I’m not knocking reach, but it’s one metric. It’s not THE metric. Any marketing that doesn’t lead, directly or indirectly, to higher revenues should be scrutinized more heavily.

That said, Facebook and other social networks seem to be growing in effectiveness as more people flock to those networks to hang out with their friends. But does that mean you should be marketing to your audience on their Facebook walls? That’s another question.

If you have trouble coming up with a steady stream of blog post ideas, why not consult with your Facebook Insights?

Facebook Insights is your page metrics tool, which you can see only when you have obtained at least 30 likes. One aggressive social media marketing campaign can get you those 30 likes pretty quickly. After that, it’s just a matter of monitoring your metrics.

Every Facebook post you make can be measured. That’s true whether you post a simple message or you post a link. If you post links to your blog posts on your Facebook page, then Facebook Insights will tell you how popular those posts are.

Among the metrics you can follow on Facebook Insights are:

  • Total Reach
  • Paid Reach
  • Likes
  • Talking About This
  • User Engagement
  • Virality

Total reach and paid reach should be self-explanatory. Under the Reach tab you can get eyes on your reach by demographics, including gender and age. You can also measure your reach by country and the number of page views versus unique visitors.

You can also see the same information about people talking about your page.

The Overview tab is probably the most valuable. Below the graph you can see how many total people have viewed each Facebook post – those with links and those without. This is total reach. If you click on Reach, then you can reorder your posts by highest reach. Engagement shows the number of people who have clicked on a post and read it. The Talking About This column shows the number of unique people who posted about that particular subject. And Virality shows the percentage of people who have created a post from your Facebook post and the number of people who have seen it.

Play with these columns a little, reordering them by each column and studying which posts are the most popular. Take your most popular posts by Reach, Engagement, and Virality and write about those topics on your blog. Be sure to SEO those posts by relevant keyword.

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.

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.

Yesterday, Cynthia Boris at Marketing Pilgrim wrote a post on Facebook’s new Embed Post feature. She says two things that I have to take issue with. The first is that the feature is open to everyone. If she means that all posts are embeddable, that’s not true because most of the ones I see aren’t. If she means that anyone can embed a post, then I’m not sure what the purpose of the beta was on the project.

That’s not as serious as the other allegation, however. She says the embed feature doesn’t work in WordPress. That’s what we’re using here at Reciprocal Consulting and, as you can see from the below embed, it works just fine.

It’s possible that Facebook fixed the problem since yesterday. Or it could be that Ms. Boris tried inputting her code in the Visual tab instead of the Text tab.

Nevertheless, the code works. Here’s how to embed a post on your own blog.

  1. Find a post you want to embed.
  2. Click the down arrow in the top right corner of that post on your wall.
  3. You should see “Notify me of updates” followed by a horizontal line. Below the line you’ll see “I don’t want to see this.” If you can embed the post, then you’ll see “Embed Post” below that.
  4. Click “Embed Post.”
  5. Copy the code inside the box above the preview.
  6. If you are using WordPress, make sure you are in the Text tab on the Write box and paste the embed code.
  7. Click Save Draft and preview.

It’s really simple. Anyone should be able to do it.

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.

On August 1, we talked about how more people are spending more time online than watching TV. What we didn’t discuss was Facebook. As it turns out, more people prefer to spend time on Facebook during the day than they do watching soap operas.

This really isn’t surprising. The group that most likes to spend time on Facebook is the 18-24 age group. People over 55 prefer TV.

That makes sense. Soap operas became popular when today’s over 55 crowd were 18-24. They’ve steadily watched the same soaps for 30 years. Why would we expect them to change their viewing habits now?

By contrast, the 18-24 year old group is in the prime of their lives. They have smartphones and laptops. They are perfectly capable of creating their own drama. A quick perusal of their Facebook walls should reveal that much. When you can post your drama on the Internet so easily, why would you want to watch someone else’s on TV?

For marketers, this is telling. If you want to reach the younger crowd, Facebook is the way to go. If you are trying to reach seniors, use TV.

Another interesting tidbit: The only age group that prefers Facebook to TV during prime time is the 18-24 age group. It makes me wonder what we’ll be able to make of Facebook 30 years from now.

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?

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.

Last month, Facebook announced that they would support clickable hashtags. This came after the Google+ announcement of the same nature. Whilst Facebook users had been using hashtags for years, this announcement made it official.

The interesting thing about hashtags is that big brands are using them. Here are some numbers to mull over:

(Source)

  • 56 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook used hashtags in a post.
  • 38 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted at least two updates with hashtags.
  • 18 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted more than five times using hashtags.
  • 6 percent of the top 100 brands on Facebook posted more than 10 times using hashtags

.

If the big brands are using Facebook hashtags, does that mean you should be using them too? Not necessarily, but here’s a good reason why you should use hashtags: Hashtags make good branding elements.

Now that the top 3 social networks all support hashtags, you can use your hashtags across all the social networks and increase your brand exposure. Those hashtags are searchable in the search engines. If you don’t believe me, just Google a popular hashtag and see what happens.

If you use hashtags that give your brand a unique identifier, then that’s a huge boost to your business. And it’s something real simple.

Hashtags are great Internet marketing.

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.

The Facebook era of Tweetdeck is over. Actually, the third-party app era of Tweetdeck is over. No more Facebook integration and no more Android or iPhone apps, and no more Tweetdeck AIR.

The bright news is that Tweetdeck is working on an app for Chrome, which should include notifications.

What’s this mean for social media marketers who rely on Tweetdeck for posting?

First, it means that you’ll have to find another way to make your posts to Facebook. That’s bad news. If you are currently using Tweetdeck on your iPhone or an Android device, or still using Tweetdeck AIR, then you’ll have to migrate your usage to the web-based version of the product. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. If the Chrome app happens, then Chrome users will have an advantage.

Tweetdeck does offer a reason for their discontinuance of their smartphone apps:

Over the past few years, we’ve seen a steady trend towards people using TweetDeck on their computers and Twitter on their mobile devices. This trend coincides with an increased investment in Twitter for iPhone and Twitter for Android –– adding photo filters and other editing capabilities, revamping user profiles and enhancing search. That said, we know this applies to most of our users –– not all of them.

Tweetdeck has spent the better part of the last year enhancing its web-based platform. The fact that they are still hiring developers means that we’ll see more improvements to that platform in the coming months. I’m excited to see what they come up with.

According to Constant Contact, 74% of all social media users are using #hashtags. That’s interesting because at last count, Facebook hadn’t incorporated hashtags – yet.

They’re working on it, though.

So, what is a hashtag and how can you use it for business?

Simply put, a hashtag is a word or phrase accompanied by a preceding # symbol that is often used to track a conversation. For instance, if you want to know what people are saying about hashtags on social media, you can go to Twitter or Google+ and search for #hashtags. You can even subscribe to the threads to follow the conversation more easily.

As a business, you can enter conversations where hashtags already exist or create your own hashtags. For instance, the popular micro-job site Fiverr has the hashtag #Fiverr on Twitter.

This is another way to optimize your social media posts. By creating hashtags around popular topics related to your niche you can pull in people who may not already be following you on the social media sites where you have a presence. Be sure, however, that you use the hashtags appropriately. Don’t use them to spam people with related topics. That’s a sure way to tick people off and get a bad reputation.

Hashtags are powerful social media tools if you use them correctly. They’re easy to implement and could lead to some big boosts in your business.