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.
Social media and competitive intelligence go hand in hand, but the first step to a good intelligence maneuver is listening. In fact, listening is absolutely essential.
So what entails listening?
There are quite a few free and paid tools you can use to listen. It’s the online equivalent to putting your ear to the ground and listening for oncoming horses. You want to know where your competition is and what they’re doing. So listen.
Your first step should be to subscribe to a few Google Alerts. You choose your most important keywords and subscribe to the Alerts. Google will notify you when those keywords are mentioned anywhere online, or at least on pages indexed by Google.
You should also look for blogs in your niche to subscribe to. Google Reader is especially helpful for this.
Other online tools like Tweetdeck and HootSuite allow you to subscribe to Twitter followers. More than just allow you to see who’s saying what on Twitter, these tools give you additional features that allow you to massage your Twitter stream so that you can manage it more easily.
Klout allows you to get a handle on your competition’s influence.
All of these tools are free. There are a few paid tools out there that give you a little bit more functionality and organization. Some of them can prove useful as well.
Whatever tools you use, take the time to put your ear to the ground and listen. That’s the only way you can know what your competition is up to.
One of the most important parts of marketing online is getting a handle on what your competition is up to. One of the most important growing trends in that space is social media. It’s what I call social intelligence.
Social intelligence is learning what your competitors are doing with social media. To do that effectively, you have to follow them.
There are different ways of approaching social intelligence. You can simply follow your competition in your own name, but what if they decide they don’t want to include you in their posts? What if they exclude you because you’re the competition? There’s a simple fix. Create an online persona not associated with your brand and then follow your competition.
It’s clandestine, yes. But it also works.
Your social intelligence persona should be very controlled. You are only interested in following your competitors. But to make sure that you arouse no one’s suspicion, follow your own brand as well. You can use this strategy on any of the social networks:
- and more
What should you be looking for with your social intelligence profile?
For starters, you should be looking for new important announcements about products and services, new marketing initiatives, contests and specials, etc. If your competition makes a move, you want to know about it. That’s what social intelligence is all about. It’s competitive intelligence using social media as the information gathering tool, and it’s an essential element of your marketing plan.
SEOmoz published a blog post last year titled “12 Things That Will Kill Your Blog Post Every Time.” I agree with all 12 of them, but there are six of the 12 that stood out to me as absolute blog killers. The others can hurt your blog but don’t necessarily knock it dead. For instance, not adding page titles and descriptions in the All In One SEO Pack may not hurt your blog at all (I’ve seen blogs do well without that information).
Nevertheless, the following six practices can certainly send your blog hurling to the bottom of the trash heap if you continue them:
- Not linking to old posts – Sure, you can get away with never linking to old posts, but by linking to your older posts you are telling readers that you have covered certain topics before and that you like to write about those topics on at least a semi-regular basis. Plus, those links send traffic back to those old posts and keeps visitors on your site longer.
- Not linking to other bloggers – Linking to other bloggers makes you a part of the global community.
- Using clunky URLs – These can often not be indexed in the search engines, which means you won’t get any traffic.
- Plagiarism – There’s no excuse for stealing someone else’s content. If you can’t come up with something original, then don’t post.
- Infrequent posting – You should post to your blog at a minimum once a week but more often than that if you can. If you post less than once a month, then your blog is invisible.
- No social media presence – In today’s online marketing culture, you need a social media presence. That’s where a lot of your readers are hanging out. Not only can you reach new readers, but you’ll build quality backlinks on the popular social media platforms.
If you’re going to blog, and you should, then follow the best practices for blogging. Otherwise, don’t bother.
I’ve noticed that in the last year or so many small business and mid-size business owners who were blogging a couple of years ago have cut back on their blogging. I think this is a bad idea.
The thinking may be that blogging will eventually go by way of the directory and people will no longer need a blog for content marketing or SEO purposes, but I don’t think that is the case. I think blogging, in some form, will always be around.
While certain blog strategies are certainly not as effective as they used to be, I’d still say that blogging is the best online content marketing.
The main reason that blogging is good is because the search engines still like to see websites with fresh content. A blog keeps your website updated regularly and invites the spiders back to crawl it again, and again. There’s no better SEO than that – as long as you aren’t spamming the search engines.
What makes blogging different than it was a few years ago is the rise of social media. If social media is a necessity for 2013, then it will be much more effective with a blog. Use your blog to create a dialogue with your readers. Use your social media to drive traffic to your blog. Once you draw your readers in, then you can send them to your landing pages. But your blog is the perfect conduit.
Constant Contact is predicting that social media marketing will become a mission-critical activity in 2013. Funny. Some of us thought it already was.
It’s already an established fact that Google is relying on social media cues in its search algorithms. While that might not exactly spell “mission-critical,” it’s pretty close. If you want your websites to rank in the search engines, then you should be doing some type of social networking. For search, I’d say the most important social media sites are:
But not necessarily in that order.
Facebook is important for other reasons. If you use Facebook, much of what is done on Facebook is walled off from Google’s robots, so you won’t get a lot of search traction. You could get some traction on Bing through Bing’s social search features, but that’s it.
On the other hand, if you have a Facebook page, then that might get you some search traction – even on Google. Even that is suspect, but it’s possible.
In 2013 – I think Constant Contact is onto something – social media will become much more important, and not just in search marketing. You should spend some time now brushing up on each of the major social networks and what they have to offer. Learn how to use the tools and get yourself involved. 2013 will likely be a year that defines the winners and losers in a lot of niches based on the social media question.
Back to metrics again, it’s vitally important that you measure what you want to control. To that end, perhaps the most important business metric you should be concerned with, and one which you have a fair amount of control over, is the cost of acquisition for each customer.
Whether you market your products and service through PPC, social media, search marketing, other, or a combination of above, you should keep tabs on what it costs to get a new customer. If you don’t know that, you don’t know whether you are earning a profit or not.
By running a few tests you can determine the base cost of a new customer. This is easy to do with pay per click advertising.
After you have determined the base cost of a new customer, you can then adjust that as needed by tweaking your online marketing initiatives. You can downgrade your PPC campaigns to control costs, increase the amount of time you spend on social media, or increase your SEO efforts.
Keep in mind that customer acquisition cost is a one-time event. After you have gained a new customer you then have to expend your resources to keep him. That’s a different cost altogether, and it’s cheaper and easier to keep a customer than acquire a new one.
So keep an eye on the cost of obtaining a new customer. It’s your most important business metric.
Talk to anyone pursuing online marketing today and they’ll tell you that social media is on the rise. Of course it’s been on the rise since 2005. It will likely be on the rise for the next decade. But what hasn’t been on the rise, until now, is the integration of e-mail and social media.
I’m seeing more and more online marketers using e-mail more effectively with social media, and it’s making for some very good results.
That means a lot of things, from the inclusion of social media icons to allow e-newsletter readers an opportunity to share their favorite articles to delivery of e-mail newsletter through social media channels. Yeah, modern technology is allowing for company newsletters to be delivered through social channels. Who’d have thought?
Actually, it’s the content that is being delivered through both channels. Instead of re-publishing your e-mail newsletter on your Facebook page, why not repurpose one article from your newsletter to your Facebook and drive traffic back to your website for subscriptions?
Then you can include donation or Buy Now buttons in both places to drive more conversions.
All it takes is a little creativity, but you can turn your social media into a real driving force for your newsletter, and you can use your e-mail list as a driving force for your social media. Make them work together. Integrate them.
If you could buy a tablet for $99, would you bother buying another eReader? Ever?
My thought is the eReader market would dry up and disappear completely if consumers could purchase a tablet for $99. Of course, rumor has it that the $99 Acer tablet wouldn’t be sold in the U.S. But that’s just a rumor.
Let’s say the rumor holds true. Many eReaders are priced in the $69-$99 range. With lack of competition they will continue to sell. Many people don’t care about the extra features you get with a tablet. If they want to read e-books, an eReader is adequate. But what if a $99 tablet does come to market, Acer or otherwise? That would totally shut down the eReader market.
Why would anyone pay $99 to read an e-book, or even $69, if they can spend $99 and get the extra functionality? Furthermore, why would e-reader manufacturers take a chance on producing more e-readers when they can focus on cheaper tablets?
I think it will be interesting to see where the e-reader market goes in the next couple of years. Tablets are becoming more popular each day, so it’s possible that a cheaper tablet may not even be necessary to drive eReaders out of the market.
Tablets serve up another medium for online marketers. eReaders serve up a limited opportunity only if you publish e-books. With tablets, you can produce more videos, do more social media marketing, and implement more mobile marketing campaigns. These are exciting times in which we live.
Once again, another big company has egg on its face because of one unhappy customer with a YouTube account.
The sad thing about this incident is that UPS could have averted the negative publicity simply by doing what it ended up doing to start with – investigate the man’s claims, fire the dishonest UPS worker, and replace the iPad Mini that was stolen. Simple, right? Then why do so many companies not do it?
My guess is that many of the people in customer service departments of large companies still have not been trained on the repercussions of no action. They are operating like it’s 1985.
At one time not too long ago, if this kind of incident had occurred, a person had no recourse. They couldn’t call the local newspaper and say “UPS employs dishonest workers.” The newspaper wouldn’t run the story unless there was some type of official police investigation where someone was arrested. The home owner would have to file a police report and an investigation would have to take place. That could take weeks or months. Even then, if justice was served, the chances of that kind of event happening to someone else was pretty high because even if the UPS employee was fired for his crime once convicted, the company never realized any negative repercussions because newspapers generally don’t report petty crimes. And the time between the incident and the close of the investigation all but ensured a dishonest employee had access to more merchandise to steal.
Today, instant negative publicity due to one customer with a video, a smartphone camera, or even access to Twitter and SMS, can do far more damage to a company’s reputation.
Let this serve as a lesson to large and small businesses alike, every customer is your most important customer. One little fail can lead to huge PR blemishes that could cost your business for years to come. Social media cannot be ignored, and neither can your customers.
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.
Frank Reed asks a very important question.
How many times though have you seen someone using Twitter for business and then asking the question “I don’t know if this is worth it. No one seems to be here that would ant my stuff.” Hence the need for a little look around to see if you should even be on a social network because the effort and resources required might be better utilized somewhere else. It ain’t cheap or easy to do social media correctly. That’s something we can all agree on.
True, social media marketing is not cheap or easy. That’s why you need a plan, and your plan should include using those social media networks where your target market already has a presence. But what constitutes “a presence?”
If you find two or three people who might be interested in your product or service using Twitter, does that constitute a presence? What if several of your competitors have Facebook pages. Is that a presence? These questions must be answered.
In order to determine whether your target market has a presence on a particular social media website, you must first define your market. Are you targeting young professionals 18-29 who lean left politically? To define a target market well, be as specific as possible. Narrow your demographic as much as possible, then conduct a feasibility study to see which social media networks your target market is using the most.
Matt McGee shares that he recently published a blog post on Sunday, a time when most experts say is the worst time to publish a blog post. But is it really?
I have to concur with Matt’s conclusion. There’s no best time to publish a blog post.
Well, actually, there is. It’s when you publish it. There’s no better time than the moment you get the idea, write the post, and hit Publish. Why wait?
You can spend all your time thinking about the best time to publish your content, or just write it and publish it. Planning doesn’t involve second-guessing when people are going to share your stuff, bookmark it, send it to their friends, or sit on the pot with their tablet and take it all in. They’ll share, send, read, and retweet when it’s convenient for them. Your job is to simply write and publish – on your own time.
I fully believe in editorial calendars. You can plan a month out all of your content – and you should. Plan to publish your material at the most apropos time in conjunction with important events and in sync with your community’s goings on. But be flexible. Allow it to change if necessary.
But quit thinking your blog posts have to go out on a certain day or at a certain time each day to be most effective. It’s not true.
Online reputation management is one of the most important tasks for any business in today’s multimedia culture. Once you decide to start marketing your business online, you are engaged in some type of reputation management. You might as well make your reputation-enhancing activities a proactive agenda item in your efforts to increase your business online.
One of your most important tools for managing your reputation online is social media. That includes Facebook and Twitter as well as any niche social sites you use, social and mobile apps, and collaboration tools. Anything with a social element can be used for your online reputation management needs.
Rich Gorman has a short-but-sweet article at Marketing Pilgrim that touches on how to use use social media for online reputation management. His three recommendations include:
- Picking the right platform
- Engaging the user
- Using keywords
These are really easy to decipher. When it comes to picking the right social media platforms, all you have to do is ask where your target audience is, and where will your content have the biggest impact? That may be Facebook or it could be LinkedIn. It could even be a smaller network like Quora or FourSquare.
User engagement is also important. Don’t just spam the social media sites with useless information. Try to engage and interact with other users with posts that will help them and make you an expert in your niche.
Finally, keywords are searchable. Don’t overdo it, but do include keywords in your posts.
Social media engagement is reputation management. The more you do, the more you’re likely to increase your standing in the community and the more you risk doing something that will have a backlash on your reputation. Be wise and stay connected.
Not all content is created equal. You can produce or create content that has temporal value. It can even have intrinsic value. And of course, even content that is temporal can have tremendous value even if for a short time. But there is no value quite like eternal value. That’s what evergreen content can do for your business.
So what is evergreen content? I’ve identified 4 very important qualities of evergreen content that every online marketer should know. If you know these qualities, then you can create evergreen content on a regular basis and keep visitors coming to your website over and over again.
- Search engine optimized – Evergreen content is content that can be found through a simple search query. It has to have some SEO value and be searchable.
- Valuable to a large variety of people – The content itself must have some intrinsic value. That value must crossover to people from a variety of backgrounds and achieve some sort of cross-appeal to multiple audiences.
- Must be shareable – Evergreen content is content that people want to share with their friends.
- Lasting value – As its name implies, evergreen content is content that has lasting value. It isn’t trendy or fashionable one day and unnoticeable the next. News is rarely evergreen because it by nature is transient. But informational content that has the same value next year or next decade as it has today will always be searchable and shareable. It’s truly evergreen content.
Are you looking for content that appeals to a broad audience and will be valuable for a very long time? You should be. It’s the most valuable content you can produce.
Friday we talked about AuthorRank, which is the new model of ranking for search phrases in Google. There is actually a lot more to say and today I’m going to say it.
I think it’s inevitable that Google will consider author reputations when ranking web pages for specific key phrases. Gone are the days when search marketers wrote spammy keyword-based content and focused instead on reputation enhancing content that addressed the needs of a specific audience.
That’s not to say that keywords aren’t going to be important. What it does mean is that keywords for the sake of keywords are definitely NOT important.
How To Rank Web Pages Going Forward
Instead of writing keyword-based schlock and spending all your time and money building links to it, here are 5 things you should start doing right now, and keep doing, if you want to rank for content related to your business:
- Write great content that solves a real need among your community.
- Develop a social media presence on networks where your target audience hangs out, but don’t just publish keyword-based schlock. Instead, interact with your client base and build relationships.
- Connect your social profiles with your blog and website.
- Reach out to industry leaders within your niche, comment on their blogs leaving helpful, valuable blog posts that aren’t necessarily keyword-driven. Link back to your website without spamming.
- Work judiciously to establish one online identity using Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube.
The key to this online marketing approach is to produce valuable content that people want to read. Become a content king, then share your content widely on your social networks.
A client says to me, “I should be getting more traffic than I’m getting from this SEO business.” My response is, “Of course you should be getting more traffic. You should be doing more things.”
Sometimes, expectations exceed reality because we’re not willing to do the work necessary to make reality reach our expectations. If you aren’t getting enough results from your efforts, maybe you should do more. Or maybe you should see what else you can do to achieve the results you are expecting.
Online marketers should never just rely on one method of marketing. If all you are doing is writing blog posts and hoping SEO will deliver more traffic to your website, then you aren’t doing enough. You should be promoting through social media.
Or you could be using pay per click advertising models, or perhaps doing some video marketing.
If you’re blogging 15 days a month, start blogging 30 days a month and see what happens. Open up a Twitter account and promote your blog through Twitter. Do some Facebook marketing. Or head off to LinkedIn and join a few communities. Join a forum or two. Engage in some conversation in the forums. Write a few articles even.
Marketing is about talking to people. It’s not about sitting around waiting for results. Birds who do that don’t get any worms.
There are numerous ways to make money online. If you are going to attract targeted traffic and convert it to money, then you have to have a content strategy, but there isn’t just one way to develop said strategy. Every content strategy should have a purpose and a plan to push it along.
The following 5 content strategies are available to you in various mix and match options. Pick your options and run:
- Catalog of themes – Pick your themes. What will you write about? What should you write about? Pick your favorite topics and write about those using the best keywords to attract the kind of traffic you want to attract.
- Create Value – Your static content pages should be full of value. Whether they are on Squidoo, your website, or wherever, meet your targeted clientele at their greatest point of need.
- Enter Into Conversation – For this strategy, your blog is the best and most useful tool. Talk about topics that your audience cares about. Solve their problems. Ask them questions. Get them to talking back.
- Go Social – Drive traffic back to your website and blog using social networks. Your social media content should act to tease and attract an audience that wants something deeper. But don’t just go deep. Also go wide. Different types of social media content is just as important as what that content is all about. Develop a presence at Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, YouTube, and other social networks to make your content speak to different interests.
- Develop Landing Pages – Your final strategy is to build landing pages for your market audiences. Drive all your traffic to those pages and convert it.
When it comes to online marketing, you have to chart a course and stick with it. Then give your plan some time to work.
Google+, of all the social networks, has more notification triggers that allow you to connect with other users. They’re all easy to use, and I’d say that the social service owned by the largest search engine is adding more notification triggers every day.
Here are 15 Google+ notification triggers, hence 15 reasons to use Google+:
- Share a post with another G+ user – Simply sharing a post with someone will notify them that they are on your mind.
- Mention them in a post – Type “+” and the user’s name with no break in between. They’ll be notified that they’ve been mentioned in a post.
- Share a post, be in a circle – If you’re in a circle that someone is following and you share a post, then they’ll be notified.
- Comment on a post they created.
- Add them to a circle – Simply adding someone to one of your circles will notify them that you are interested in them.
- Comment on a post they’ve commented on – If a post is really popular, you’ll get a lot of notifications. I sometimes mute posts because it just gets to be too much.
- Tag someone in a photo – Upload a photo and tag them.
- Tag one of their photos – If someone else uploads a photo and you add a tag to it, they’ll be notified.
- Suggest new people to add to their circles – The equivalent to an online handshake.
- Suggest a profile photo for them.
- Start a conversation with them – Type “+” and their name with no break and start a conversation.
- Send them an invitation to an event – Events are one of the latest features to be added to Google+, and they’re growing in popularity.
- Comment on a photo they’ve commented on.
- Comment on a photo they are tagged in or that they tagged.
- Perform any activity on an event they created.
Now think about how you can use these 15 notification triggers on Google+ to market your business more effectively.
Social media has become much more than a marketing tool. It can also be used for customer service. In fact, it should be.
An article on the Constant Contact blog got me to thinking about this. What emerged from the reading of this article is a realization of three very important customer service precepts for social media.
- Don’t delete negative feedback – The tendency for a lot of companies – and I do mean A LOT – is to either ignore or try to delete negative information about their companies. That’s a big no-no. Chances are, someone has already seen it, and if you delete it, then it will look like you are trying to cover it up. It’s best just to address the concerns brought up by the post and address it head on. Your reputation will survive.
- An apology goes a long way – If your company has been caught in the wrong, apologize. That will show people that you are taking responsibility. Making excuses will only dig your hole deeper. Say you’re sorry and move on.
- Look at bad publicity as an opportunity – Any attention your company gets is an opportunity. Once you’ve acknowledged your customer’s concerns, and you’ve apologized, offer a discount or freebie to make up for their bad experience. Do it out in the open. Make sure everyone can see it and that will show the world that you care about your customers and you care about doing the right thing.
The best reputation management you can give to yourself is to treat your customers like you care. Social media is a great platform for doing just that.