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When it comes to social media, everyone has their ideas on how to do it properly. Most social media experts I know agree on a few things, but on the nitty-gritty details of running a social media campaign there is a lot of variation. Here’s one of the things that I see often suggested and just as often ignored.

Listen first.

So many small business owners take to Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn and jump in with a shout. They start promoting this and that about their business without really checking to see who is listening. A better way to get some mileage out of your social media marketing is to listen first, shout later.

Actually, instead of shouting, just whisper.

Let me clarify.

When I say listen first, what I mean is sign up for the service and make a few friends. You can interact with them, but don’t start any special promotions. Just spend your first few weeks listening. What are people talking about? What’s the tone? How often, and in what ways, do people interact on that particular service? What makes the various social media platforms different? Take note of that.

As you are listening, engage with people on the services. Interact with them. That’s how you make friends and build relationships. But hold off on the self-promotion until you’ve made some solid connections.

When the time is right, slowly add a few self-promotional tweets or messages. Don’t overdo it. Spend more time sharing useful information with your audience. Only promote the really good stuff you have. Spend the rest of your time listening.

A new study by the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth shows that Inc 500 companies used LinkedIn and blogging tools more in 2012 and Facebook and YouTube less. The companies also turned to Foursquare and Pinterest more often.

This is an interesting trend because the year before the companies were excited about Facebook.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn has become the business networking tool. Facebook is a great place to go if you are a B2C company or local, but if you cater to B2B businesses, then LinkedIn will be better for you, and more effective.

Of course, Inc 500 companies are not small businesses. But I think small business owners can learn from the big guys what is effective in online marketing.

Let’s start with blogging.

For a while, businesses turned away from blogging. They didn’t see the value. At that time, interest in social media was beginning to grow, so there was a natural exuberance that resulted from this new phenomenon. I think businesses have learned that social media isn’t quite the magical panacea they thought it was. In truth, social media can be effective, but it’s best used in conjunction with a well-maintained corporate blog.

The Truth About Social Media

So is social media worth it? It depends on what social media you are pursuing. Our rule of thumb is to choose the social media that is going to put you closer and more in touch with your targeted audience.

For some companies, that might be YouTube. For others, it could be Pinterest and LinkedIn.

If you go where your audience is rather than where all the other businesses are, then you’ll be much more effective in your online marketing.

Facebook has a new tool. It’s called “Lookalike Audience.”

If you are a Facebook advertiser, then you can create a custom demographic. Facebook then gives you the option to add a lookalike audience to your PPC advertising campaign. This lookalike audience will consist of Facebook users who match the demographic criteria of your custom audience who are also not fans of your Facebook brand page.

Convenient, eh?

I think so. This is a step forward for Facebook advertisers because it means that you can actually reach more targeted customers. More easily. More quickly. More cost effectively.

You can then turn those customers, with click throughs, into Facebook fans for your page. A certain percentage of those will then see your Facebook content and be able to interact with it. It’s a great way to grow your fan base, market your products or services, and increase your conversions.

In fact,

According to Inside Facebook, advertisers in the beta are seeing lower costs per action than with traditional targeting options.

Lower costs per action translates into higher profits. With this tool you can increase your conversions, lower your costs per action, and increase your profit margin – all while expanding your reach in a sensible cost effective manner. What more could you want?

Last week, Facebook introduced its new search feature, called Graph Search. I just read my first review of it today.

Greg Sterling gives it a thumbs up. I think his assessment, even though I haven’t used it myself, is pretty solid.

If I search on something that isn’t within the scope of Graph Search (e.g., plumbers) I’ll get Bing results. This is significant because people are going to start searching on anything and everything to see what happens and what comes up. It avoids the “no results” problem that might have undermined getting users to “come back” to Graph Search.

I’ll have to agree. The worst thing in the world for Facebook would be for users to get a bunch of “no results” results and stop using the feature.

Bing could very well increase its share of the search market if the Graph Search catches on, but I doubt that it will be a big leap. Even a 1% or 2% increase would be something. And if Greg Sterling is right that people will use Graph Search more broadly than Facebook intended, that will bode well for Facebook as well. You may very well see people using Facebook more than Google if they find positive results – at least with certain verticals like restaurant recommendations.

The main thing is competition. If there’s enough of it, then search will improve all around. For businesses, it means another way to be found by your target audience.

First you heard that social media was good for customer service. Now there’s someone saying that it isn’t.

So which is it?

I think it depends. There are viable ways to use social media for customer service. However, it won’t work for every company.

If you find that it uses up too many resources or that you can’t respond to customer service queries fast enough, then let your customers know that you can’t take customer service concerns through social media. The big thing is communication. In fact, the best customer service you can deliver through any medium is communication.

Consider limiting your social media customer service actions to specific hours – then post those hours on your website and in your social media bios.

If that won’t work, you can take more drastic measures and remove your Facebook page or Twitter account – but only do that if you need to. After all, you can use those accounts for purposes other than customer service.

If your marketing department and your customer service department don’t communicate well and you are making customers unhappy by not responding fast enough, fix the problem. Maybe you need to encourage more interaction between your departments. Or maybe you need to set up a separate social media account for customer service. Kick around the ideas and see what works for you.

In most cases, I’d say if you wanted to build an off site e-commerce application to replace your onsite store, then you should rethink your strategy. But what if you want to add an off site store – on Facebook, for instance – as an adjunct to your onsite store? Then I’d say more power to you.

Facebook now has applications that allow you to set up your page as an e-commerce storefront. That’s not a bad thing.

Remember what your Facebook page is. Primarily, it’s a branding and marketing tool. If you promote it well on Facebook and it gets a good bit of traffic, why not allow your fans to buy directly from the page? Why send them to your website to look for what they want when you stand a chance of losing them in the process to recidivism? Give them the opportunity to buy right where they are and they are more likely to buy.

In other words, put the end goal closer to your customer.

That’s what the Facebook page as e-commerce store is all about. You can use it as an outpost, a franchise to your main store. And sell more product in the process.

I see a day when serious online merchants will have their main website as well as outposts on Facebook and the other most popular social networks.

As we enter a new year, search marketers will start to make their predictions for the coming year. I always read and pay attention to what the leaders in the industry are saying. One leader I like to keep tabs on is Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz. His predictions for 2013 aren’t really striking (most of them), but I’d like to hone in on three of them for a little bit.

  1. Google+ – Rand says that Google+ will continue to grow albeit at a slower pace. I think that’s a reasonable prediction. I also believe that some time in the near or mid-term future Google+ will be an essential element of SEO. We’re not there yet, but I believe it’s coming, and a part of that is the steady growth of the service.
  2. Facebook/Twitter metrics – One of the downsides of marketing on Facebook and Twitter is that neither service offers very robust tracking and metrics tools for marketers. Facebook is further along than Twitter, but their admin portal is still quite slim. If Rand’s prediction on this one comes to fruition, then you can expect Facebook’s and Twitter’s value as marketing tools to increase.
  3. Co-citations – Another interesting prediction is that anchor text will diminish and co-citations increase. This has already started happening, but Rand is saying that confirmation of it will come in 2013. I suspect that Google’s reliance on the change will also grow. This will be a big deal to search marketers who have traditionally relied on link building techniques for search rankings.

Interesting, there was hardly any mention of mobile search or tablets in Rand’s predictions. Don’t think that these will be off the table in 2013. I still see growth in those areas as well.

Facebook has introduced its answer to Yelp and Foursquare, and in a certain sense Google Places and Bing Local, with a product called Facebook Nearby. This is a feature available to Android and iOS users.

Facebook Nearby looks to be a way for users to see what businesses are in the local vicinity while on the go. Are you looking for a restaurant? Use Facebook Nearby. Need a roadside emergency service? Use Facebook Nearby. How about a party planner? Facebook Nearby.

I haven’t used the service – yet – but it looks useful. Or course, it combines two of the fastest growing segments of online marketing – social and mobile.

Facebook Nearby Is Local Marketing At Its Finest

I like the idea behind Facebook Nearby. You’re already on Facebook every day anyway, socializing friends, hamming it up with fans, etc. So why not give you one more reason to stay there? Facebook Nearby gives you a reason to connect on your smartphone – and stay connected.

Local online marketing is often forgotten outside the realm of SEO, but Facebook Nearby bridges that gap, and it does it in a big way.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook Nearby works like this:

Similar to how it ranks stories in the news feed, Nearby looks at a ton of signals to determine what to show you first, including friends who’ve Liked a business, checked in, left a short text recommendation, or given the Place a star rating.

So what it looks like is, you don’t have to register to be listed in Facebook Nearby, but you do need to have some interaction with your brand. This is just one more reason to have a Facebook page.

If you have a Facebook fan page for your brand, it can show up in the search engine results. But you should optimize it to give it an extra boost. Here are 5 Facebook fan page optimization tips, courtesy of SEOmoz.

  1. Get a vanity URL – Facebook allows you to get a vanity URL for your fan page after it has received 25 likes. Make sure you use a vanity URL that utilizes your primary keyword or brand name.
  2. Use a branded title for your page name – When you name your Facebook fan page, give it a name associated with your brand name. If you can’t do that, give it a keyword-based name. This will go a long way to making your fan page better optimized for search traffic.
  3. Include a phone number and address - This is very important for local businesses. This information will make your business more searchable in Google Local Search.
  4. Link back to your Facebook fan page – If you own a blog or you have a Google+ account, link to your Facebook fan page. Associating your fan page with your brand in all the places where you are recognized online will help that page to rank better in the search engines.
  5. Optimize your status updates – When you create a new status update on your Facebook fan page, use keywords. That will optimize the status update as well as the page overall. The first 18 characters of your post serve as your meta description, so be sure to front-load your keywords.

Optimizing your Facebook fan page is just one more thing you can do to boost your brand’s search chutzpah online. Don’t overlook it.

When Google introduced Google Chrome, it was a challenge to Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox. And when Google brought us Google+, it was a direct assault upon Facebook’s social media juggernaut. Well, Firefox and Facebook have teamed up to fire back.

With Facebook Messenger for Firefox, Firefox users can chat with their Facebook friends any time and from any page on the Web. That’s a powerful feature. Google can’t top that.

The war has been brewing for well over a year now – since Google+ hit the airwaves. The war is starting to look like the Apple-Microsoft battle that’s been going on for 20+ years now. This time it’s between Google and Facebook, with Firefox serving as a more-than-adept Facebook sidekick.

The problem that Google has in this battle is it doesn’t have a sidekick. Google is the giant that goes it alone. And they seem to like it that way.

It remains to be seen whether Facebook Messenger for Firefox will convert IE users to Firefox or encourage Facebook fanatics to download the application, but if it does catch on, then what’s next? How will Firefox improve the social app? Will users be able to have hangouts akin to Google+ Hangouts within the Firefox browser – right from any page on the web? If so, that will be a major game changer.

The one thing I’m afraid of is that Internet marketing could become a walled city where you are forced to either go with the Google model or the Facebook model. I’d hate to see that kind of cyber segregation. Wouldn’t you?

Online marketing is a multimedia enterprise. Some small businesses do it effectively while others struggle day to day. To truly be effective at marketing online, you’ll need to learn how to use images effectively. Here are 6 ways you can use images for better online marketing.

  1. Turn them into infographics – Infographics are popular right now, and they’re effective. Use eye-popping images with statistics and a powerful message to highlight key talking points and drive your target market to take action.
  2. Create shareable memes – On Facebook, Google+ and other social networks, memes get people talking. Your images with just a few choice words can give people something to talk about.
  3. “Look inside” photos – Show people on your social networks what goes on in your business “behind the scenes.” Take photos of your customers and employees interacting and doing their thing. Then post them on Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest.
  4. Make them Pintering – Take cool photos and share them on Pinterest. Watch them go viral.
  5. Add them to your blog posts - Your blog posts will become a hundred times more interesting with images that draw readers in. Pick the right images and you’ll get more readers, more traffic, and more interaction.
  6. Liven up your Timeline – Your Facebook Timeline is the place people go to see what you’re all about. Make it easy for them. Give them images to look at and they’ll stay longer and interact with you. With the proper Facebook engagement, you’ll be the life of the party.

You make your online marketing better with images in many formats. So why not take advantage of the opportunity?

Last month, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that there are now 1 billion people on Facebook. 1 billion. That’s 1/7th of the world’s population. And it continues to grow.

As more and more people come online, the number of people using Facebook will also grow. There are an estimated 2.5 billion people online around the world right now. So 1/5th of that number are also using Facebook. That’s a big pool of people that could potentially see your Facebook page or interact with you in some way through Facebook.

Is it any wonder then that brand pages are as popular as they are? If you’ve wondered why big brands are taking to Facebook, there’s your clue. There are a lot of potential customers there.

But that’s true for Mom & Pop as much as it is for McDonald’s or any of the world’s largest brand names. Put your business online and give it a Facebook presence. This is the future of marketing.

But it’s not enough to simply add a Facebook page. What you really want to do is market that page, and there’s more to it than simply joining Facebook and building a brand page. Link to your page from your blog or website. Promote your page through other social media outlets. If you do any paid advertising, then drive traffic to your page through Google AdWords or Facebook’s own paid advertising model.

People are looking at brand pages. Don’t let them down.

Last Friday, Facebook announced that you can see the searches you’re making. You can also remove your searches, they say. That’s all nice, but why are they tracking them?

Like everything else Facebook does, this new thing is going to be rolled out “over the next few weeks.” In other words, starting “today” (i.e. last Friday), you can see your searches and delete them, but you won’t be able to do that until Facebook actually allows you to do that by adding the Search option under your Activity Log. That will happen at Facebook’s discretion, of course.

Here’s the question: Why is Facebook even tracking your searches? So far, I have met very few people who think Facebook’s search feature is even that good.

Frank Reed at Marketing Pilgrim thinks it’s because Facebook is planning to create a search engine and allowing its users to view and delete their searches prior to making that announcement would ease the shock to privacy advocates. That’s a reasonable suggestion, but does it hold water?

Since Facebook has commented in the past that a search engine could be in the works, I don’t think he’s too far off the mark. If Facebook had a search engine, would you use it? Would you attempt to optimize your content for Facebook search?

Facebook just keeps getting better and better. One evidence of that is the recent launch of Facebook Stories, as separate website from the most popular social network online.

There are several things that make Facebook Stories an interesting social product:

This month’s theme is “Remembering.” On the introduction to Facebook Stories, the opening paragraph reads:

Welcome to Facebook Stories, a new site dedicated to sharing the extraordinary, quirky and thought-provoking stories and ideas from the more than 950 million people around the world who make up Facebook’s community.

So what do you think? Are you going to take Facebook Stories up on its offer? Submit a story about your business and see what happens. This could be a unique opportunity for networking.

If you’ve been measuring your Facebook analytics on a regular basis and observing your data religiously, then you may be disappointed at the recent news that Facebook has updated how it measures Reach through Insights. This recent announcement says Facebook is going to begin measuring Reach by the number of people who scroll down on your page and actually load a news story.

What? You mean that’s not how they’ve been measuring Reach? No, evidently not.

This is rather startling news when you consider that Facebook Insights has been active for a while now. And marketers have been relying on it for information regarding their brand page engagement, but this recent change in addition to the announcement that Facebook is now going to start including mobile views means that your Reach data has likely not been very accurate until now. Essentially, it means that your historical data is completely worthless.

You might see the announcement that mobile views will now be included in your Reach numbers as good news, but my question is, Why wasn’t it included before? Facebook’s announcement doesn’t tell us.

I hope that this data helps you and that you are able to use it to improve your social media marketing. Otherwise, you’ll be operating on inaccurate data.

A post at Constant Contact shares 21 ways non-profits can use Facebook. You can use these same tactics to promote your business. Here are 21 outstanding ways to market your business through Facebook.

  1. Shoot videos of your employees working.
  2. Share your company history on your Facebook page.
  3. Make good use of all of Facebook’s tabs.
  4. Use as many of the tabs as you can for your business.
  5. Take a survey.
  6. Share your customer testimonials.
  7. Take candid photos of your staff doing what they do and share it on Facebook.
  8. Get customer approval first, but show them being happy with the results they got.
  9. Link to press releases and press coverage of your business and its events.
  10. Link to relevant legislation that affects your business.
  11. Ask for comments on your page.
  12. Take pictures of your events and post them on Facebook.
  13. Post event invitations.
  14. Educate consumers.
  15. Share private feedback from customers (but get their permission first).
  16. Tag your partners and suppliers in posts that are relevant to them.
  17. Share news of common interest with your fans. It doesn’t even have to be about you.
  18. Sum up your business’s mission with your cover photo.
  19. Share awards you win as a company.
  20. Welcome new customers. However, if customers expect confidentiality, then get their permission first.
  21. Have a contest or a promotion.

Facebook is an incredible marketing tool. Most businesses aren’t using it to its fullest potential. Are you?

If you want a solid SEO plan for building back links to your website and taking over the SERPs within your niche, here’s a little secret: Try Squidoo, Facebook, and YouTube.

No, seriously.

Let’s discuss this one-third of the triad at a time:

YouTube

Let’s start with YouTube. Set up a YouTube channel using your primary keyword in the channel’s title. Then start producing videos. Make them short videos and give each video a unique title that uses the keyword you want to target in the search engines. Post them as often as you can. Post to YouTube at least once a week. Every day is better.

Squidoo

Build a Squidoo Lens around your keyword. Again, title your Squidoo Lens using the keyword you are targeting. Build great content around that keyword using a variety of modules. Include some of your YouTube videos.

Facebook

Build a Facebook fan page. Again, make sure your keyword is in the title of your fan page. Post your YouTube videos to your fan page. Link to your Squidoo Lens on your Facebook fan page. And link to your Facebook fan page from your Squidoo Lens. Your triad should be completely linked together.

Your Triad Should Rule

If you do this correctly, you should see yourself rising in the SERPs and taking them over. You can move your website to the top of the SERPs by linking to it from each of your triad accounts. Get aggressive, but be smart.

If you use Facebook to post messages about your business, you might be interested to know that you can schedule them in advance. This is a relatively recent addition to Facebook, so not everyone knows about it. It is particularly useful to businesses, however.

Here’s what you do:

  • Login to your Facebook account
  • Switch over to using Facebook as your business page
  • At the bottom of your Status post you’ll see a small link labeled “Add year.” Click on that.
  • Choose the year. If you want to post your message to a specific time in the past, choose a year. Otherwise, choose the current year.
  • After you choose the year you want your post to appear, you’ll see another dropdown box for the month. Choose your month.
  • Another dropdown box will appear for the day of the month. Choose the date you want your post to be scheduled for.
  • You’ll see a dropdown box for the time of the day. Select the time of the day you want your post to appear.
  • Create your post and click Schedule

It’s fairly simple, but this Facebook feature allows you to create posts for the future as you get the information. It’s a great time management tool. So, for instance, if you are having a seminar and you’d like to promote your seminar a couple of times a day in advance, then you can create your seminar promotion posts in Facebook all the way up to the day of the event. Then you don’t have to think about it again.

I like this Facebook feature. How about you?

We’ve known for a while now that Bing and Facebook were in good with each. They’ve developed a pretty cozy relationship over the last few years. Last year, Twitter and Google were playing nice until Twitter ended their relationship with Google abruptly. Now I know why.

Bing made them a better offer.

Both Facebook and Twitter have toyed with the idea of developing a competing search engine. But no one has ever developed a search engine that even came close to the powerful Google. Until Bing.

Google has wanted its own social network. Until now all their attempts have been failed attempts. Then someone came up with the idea of Google+. Bingo! Huge sucess. Well, OK, it’s been a success.

Google+ is Google’s search engine plus social networking. Not everyone is buying it, but the people who are buying it are really buying it. On June 1, Bing announced something similar, only they don’t have their own social network so they’ve partnered with Facebook and Twitter.

Along with the new features in its search engine, Bing has redesigned its search results pages. They’ve added a third column.

The cool feature about the new Bing-Facebook relationship is that you can now query the search engine and then tag your Facebook friends on the search to get their feedback and have them answer your question. Beyond that, Bing will also notify you of experts in that area and you can ask the recommended experts. Pretty cool. But let’s take it a step further. If someone does have the answer to your question they can answer you on either Facebook or Bing.

Isn’t that nice?

I haven’t played around with the new Bing much, but this excites me. I think it can be a big boon to businesses trying to market themselves online. Your search engine marketing now has even greater potential.

Did you know you can make your Facebook posts go viral and Facebook will let you know when it happens? That is, if you have a Facebook page.

A Facebook page is one of the best marketing tools you can have for your business. Facebook Insights is a tool that allows you to measure your effectiveness in posting to your Facebook page. You can do it too often and you can do it not often enough. Insights will give you a clear picture of your reach and let you know whether you should scale back or plunge on.

There are 4 key metrics with Facebook Insights.

  1. Reach
  2. Engaged users
  3. Talking about this
  4. Virality

Reach is the number of unique people who have seen a post on your Facebook page. Ideally, you want this number to be high. If you post too often fewer people will pay attention to you. Build up your readership by posting once or twice a week, but no more than once or twice a day.

Engaged users is the number of unique people who clicked on a post. Again, you want it to be high, but people won’t click if you don’t post engaging content.

Talking about this is the metric that measures how many unique people respond to a post. This includes Likes, shares, comments, answers a poll, etc.

And virality is the measure of the number of people who themselves have created a story from your post. It is calculated by dividing the number of people talking about your post by your Reach. Keep your readers engaged and post interesting content that they want to read about and your Facebook posts will go viral.