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If you do any online marketing at all – whether you are an online retailer or a brick and mortar store owner – then you should reflect on these 10 holiday shopping stats, courtesy of Constant Contact.

  1. 28% of consumers are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day
  2. 90% of retail sales are projected to occur in brick and mortar stores
  3. Holiday spending is expected to increase by 11% this year and online sales by 15.1%
  4. 66% of Black Friday purchases last year were the result of a social media interaction
  5. 64% of holiday shoppers have bought something because of a post they saw on Twitter versus 39.3% on Facebook
  6. Mobile is expected to have an impact on 87% of holiday purchases
  7. 25% of consumers last year purchased gifts from a retailer they had never shopped with before
  8. 67% of consumers have purchased a gift they saw on social media
  9. 64.8% of shoppers use social media to find the perfect gift
  10. 67.2% of consumers are most likely to share digital coupons on social media and 63.4% are most likely to share a holiday contest or giveaway

If there is anything to take away from this survey, it’s this: Social media is a necessary component to online promotions for holiday shopping, and no retail store will be unaffected by online shoppers this year. If you own a retail business, you should have an online marketing strategy that includes social media and mobile.

According to a recent eMarketer report, 15% to 17% of TV viewers engage with social networks in real time. This is a golden opportunity for brands who sponsor television programs and are looking for ways to engage with audiences on social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

The key is in the use of hashtags.

This Sunday, Season 4 of The Walking Dead will premiere on AMC. As one of the most popular TV shows, you can bet there will be a good number of watchers who will be tweeting and posting on Facebook during the show. What will they be posting about? Most likely, the characters and the story line. Whether they like it or not, your brand can get in on the conversation. You don’t even have to be a sponsor of the show.

The official Walking Dead hashtag is #WalkingDead. You can see the 24-hour trend for the hashtag at Hashtags.org.

If your brand’s audience coincides with the audience for this TV show, you could be watching the show and tweeting and posting on Facebook during the show. Be sure you don’t annoy your audience with self-promotional posts that hijack the hashtag. Instead, use your branded Twitter account or Facebook page to join the conversation going on about the show and its characters while it is happening. This alone will become a way for you to expand your brand’s influence as you discuss a common interest with your audience. You can engage in this form of social media marketing with any TV show in real time.

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.

You’ve got a great video marketing plan and have started working it to your advantage. Good for you. Does it include YouTube? It should, and to make the most of your YouTube video marketing, be sure to include these three easy-to-implement tactics.

  1. Enable video embedding – If you want your videos to get maximum exposure, you’ve got to allow embedding. I’ve seen a lot of businesses shoot themselves in the foot by disabling video embedding. Embedding allows bloggers and other business owners to showcase your videos on their websites, which gives you great exposure and opens you up to more potential customers.
  2. Keep your videos short – Few people want to watch an hour-long video, even on a topic that interests them. Keep your videos under three minutes, if possible. Shorter videos get more views, and they’re more likely to be embedded.
  3. Share your videos – Don’t just upload your video on YouTube and forget about them. Share them. Spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to give your videos maximum exposure all around. Yes, even Pinterest allows you to pin videos, so put it out there.

These three simple and easy-to-implement video marketing tactics will give you greater impact and exposure beyond the interface of YouTube.

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.

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?

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.

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?

I like how Jon Morris tells this story. While he offers several “key takeaways,” for me there is one really BIG key takeaway.

In his words, he shares

Provide your influencer with exclusivity in viewing and sharing your personalized content. Allowing them to create the first surge of the sharing wave will help reinforce that they are an extremely valuable, important part in the process. But don’t rely on them for everything — have a two-pronged approach and invest in link building efforts to compliment the awesomizer’s reach.

Jon came to this revelation by experimenting with an infographic, which he created specifically for a Twitter power user to whom he gave exclusive rights to with no expectation of return. The risk paid off.

I like this strategy.

You don’t always have to be first to share your own content. In Jon’s case, he could have published his own infographic, but would it have gained the same amount of attention as the one he created for his Twitter pal? Not likely.

When he offered exclusivity to Travis on Twitter, he essentially allowed the power user to get the glory that comes with sharing something great with your audience. Travis, however, paid it back and passed that glory on to Jon and his team. When you pay it forward, good things happen to you.

Lesson to learn: You don’t always have to be first to share your own content.

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.

Going viral can be a lot of fun, and for a business it can be really profitable. But at what cost?

One fan wasn’t doing it for the business, but he went viral in a very un-recommended way. @MasoneDylan posted on Twitter that he’d run across the field at the Major League Baseball All-Star game if he got 1,000 retweets. He ended up getting 3,552.

Now, I have to ask this question: What would you do for 1,000 retweets?

Keep in mind that a retweet doesn’t necessarily mean more money in your pocket. Those social media users may never visit your website and may never buy your widget. But you’d get a lot of publicity, especially if you do something stupid like interrupt a professional sporting event.

Some people get desperate for attention. Business owners are not immune to it either. Be sure, before you do something risky, that you stand at least a good chance of seeing positive results from your crazy antics. It’s OK to do something wild from time to time as long as you don’t endanger people’s lives and you don’t end up ruining your reputation. These kinds of antics are a risk.

If you want to go viral, think a little on the crazy side, but stay away from the stupid side.

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.

One of the latest developments for website design is responsive design. This is a term that is used to describe a website that is accessible from any device and allows the user to experience the website whether viewing it from a desktop machine, a laptop, a mobile phone, a tablet, or some other device. The website responds to the device it is being viewed from.

>Responsive web design is about more than simple accessibility. It also has some SEO benefits.

For instance, responsive websites eliminate the duplicate content issue. If you have a website in HTML that was designed for computers and a separate website that was designed for mobile devices, you’ll either have to rewrite the content for the second site or potentially deal with duplicate content issues in the search engines. There’s no way around it. Even if your mobile site is a subdomain of your main site, you’ll have to face the duplicate content monster.

You also only have to do SEO on one site. If you have two sites, that’s twice the SEO work.

Thirdly, if you have a traditional website and a mobile website, then you’ll have to build links to both sites. Link building is a time consuming activity. You will most certainly duplicate your efforts in social media promotion and other link building activities if you have a dedicated mobile website.

Going forward, responsive website design is going to be one of the most important trends for website development.

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.