Its been nearly two years since I have written a blog, or even paid much attention to my own marketing. This is a rather sad admittance from a social media marketer, but as I have often half-kidded, I am like the cobbler with the shoeless children.
Its not that I wasn't aware of how poorly it looked to have my business social media sitting unused. Yet, its hard to worry about my own when I am making sure my clients' marketing is taken care of.
What made me sit back and realize that I needed to make time for my own marketing, and strengthen my strategy, is that I began getting calls from people. And these people were telling me that they were finding me from Facebook and Google searches.
It is time for me to practice what I preach - that now my reputation is laid bare online.
And it's not just a problem for me, but for most businesses that don't have an actual marketing department to monitor their online presence.
I have had many people say, "I get my clients by word of mouth," or "I'm in good networking groups." There is no arguing that knowing someone, or being referred, gives you a stronger bond with the perspective client. This usually is how I come by my clients.
However, this is ignoring those prospective clients who have a problem to solve, and they are searching. So if you don't have a sign on that road they never are going to know you. Or worse yet, get a damaged first impression because you aren't showing off your products or skills well.
Now, when people want to learn about about a business, they have powerful research tools in their phone. If say, they wanted a plumber, they choose from the search the ones that look promising, then they take a look at the websites, and they also do a quick search of the review sites, such as Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If they find an active Facebook page they will also spend time seeing what is said, and being said, about the business.
I also have had it said to me, "But I Have A Website!"
Websites are important as they provide an anchor for your online presence, and they allow for a fuller description of what you do. However, websites are static. Social media gives a greater feel for what the business is like. So if a prospective client is having to decide between comparable businesses they are more than likely to go to one that is vibrant and active.
At last I am again practicing what I preach. I am making time in my weekly schedule to use best practices for my business social media. Its definitely time for me to get some shoes on!
The fact that Facebook is constantly changing often seems to be a curse, particularly if you are just on Facebook for personal use. However, for businesses it is usually a blessing in disguise, because many of those changes offer more ways to enhance your business page.
It can be a challenge to keep up with these tools, because of the variety, and the fact that many of them show up unheralded.
So I am putting together a short overview of some of the tools and best practices. Some of these have been around for a couple of years, and a few were just recently added. I am not going to try to cover all of them, but this should give you a good start on what is available.
It really is time to take your Facebook page seriously, because your clients and Facebook definitely are. Gone are the days when businesses and not-for-profits can expect to reach their followers' newsfeeds with an occasional post, or a fun quote.
Remember, mobile is ever-growing, and most of your customers are doing a great deal of their decision making on their smartphones, tablets, and e-readers. Facebook is designing their various tools to help reach mobile devices.
Facebook Page Templates.
This is fairly new it allows for more control over how your page is organized. Its not really fancy yet, which I am sure will change, but it allows you to prioritize your tabs in order of what you consider important.
Just about everyone is familiar with a post, a photo, or a photo album, but many have not explored the options for: slideshow, carousel, or canvas (for mobile).
The reach of a Facebook post is now contingent on not only being visually attractive, but leading to some type of worthwhile content. Businesses and not-for-profits have to seek a balance between promotion, images, and solid, useful, content.
It is also contingent on consistent posting, and using your insights to learn audience behavior, and hit your key audience times.
Nor can you get away from Facebook Ads. While they do not require a large commitment of money Facebook does look more favorably on clients that pay for ads.
Facebook Live is a currently a mobile tool, but offers many ways to reach your followers and clients.
Video is powerful on all of the social media, and Facebook is particularly fond of video that is embedded on their own pages. This can be Facebook Live, a slide show video, or something that has been uploaded.
Facebook Live also allows for real time interaction with clients and followers.
This is for businesses with products, and gives you the opportunity to sell from your business page. It also offers the opportunity to focus your adds on your product catalog.
People are fairly familiar with this, but it also is developing and offering new insights into your followers and customers.
This offers you a great deal of control over your posts and videos. The categories are:
Currently this is used mainly for people who are managing multiple accounts. However, more functions require using business manager.
Facebook Ads Manager
This is part of your Business Manager, but it can be used separately. It allows for better organization, and better tracking, of your ads. This, plus the range of ads types, gives you greater flexibility than a boost would have.
Types of Facebook Ads
As other aspects of the business pages on Facebook expand so do their ads. They not only offer you a variety of ways to focus your ads and target audience, but they offer a variety of ways to make the ads very attractive visually.
You also have the ability to run your ad on Instagram, and to have your ads reach beyond just Facebook. Right now this depends on the type of ad, and in the case of video, its length.
I know that all of the options can seem overwhelming. However, Facebook does offer good training in their Business Resources.
As with all projects it is always best to define your objective, and set up a plan on how to reach that objective. Ask yourself, "Who am I trying to reach?" "Where are they located?" "What do they like?" "How old are they?"
If you take your Facebook marketing in small steps, and familiarize yourself with the tools that best meet your needs, then you will be able to better reach your clients.
I'm going to say up front that I love when a business hires me to handle their social media marketing; not only because of the business itself, but the chance to design a program that works for my client. However, before any business takes a step towards social media as a marketing tool, whether on their own, or letting someone else handle it, there are new developments they need to take into consideration.
Not that long ago a Facebook business page offered a great opportunity for free marketing, and everyone had heard the stories of the pages that became phenomena in their own right. And the common cry was, "You have to have a Facebook page!"
And that was what many businesses did, particularly the smaller ones. Some of those pages are now sad, empty virtual store fronts, but other businesses have dutifully posted to their pages. Maybe not every day, maybe not every week, but they posted.
Unfortunately that faithfulness isn't offering the rewards it once did, and in truth hasn't in a while.
What has been happening is that Facebook has truly become a corporation, and has been decreasing its "organic reach" (how your free posts appear in newsfeeds). And they are doing so again. Rumor has it that the changes is so that businesses will buy Facebook advertising, or buy "likes" to boost a specific post, and there is a strong likelihood that rumor is true.
It has always been true that if you aren't active on Facebook (at least 3 times a week) that your posts would get bumped from newsfeeds by more active pages. This also requires having "sharing" and "liking" occurring. Now this is even more so.
The truth be told, you can't just concentrate on Facebook. All of the social media platforms are intertwined. So to have it worth your while you need steady activity on Twitter, Google +, and Linkedin (at minimum). We won't even get into the power of original content (blogs) or YouTube.
This is where you need to decide whether you can commit to social media.
Small businesses always have had challenges when it comes to marketing. They try very hard to stick to flyers and business cards they can do themselves. Maybe get a free website up. And try to do a bit with Facebook. However there comes a time when you have to go to a printer, or get professionally done business cards, and its the same with social media. You have to ask yourself whether you have the money, or the time, to make it work for you?
When you are thinking about doing social media what should you have ready?
1. Look around your business, and think about questions your customers have asked. Are there reoccurring ones? Are there special products that normally need a little more explaining. What is your history with the business? And general trends that you are aware of in your profession?
2. Then think of your seasons. What is your down time? What is your busy season? What produces these highs and lows?
3. What pictures, photos, or graphics do you associate with your business? Always keep in mind that images are a powerful tool on social media sites.
4. What organizations, hobbies, or charities are you involved in? What industry magazines do you subscribe to?
5. And never forget to keep track of special events that might be coming up, or are reoccurring.
All of these provide the "meat" for your ongoing social media campaign. It doesn't matter whether you, a staff member, or a consultant is handling the day to day - all of this will be needed. The knowledge of the highs and lows, and the special events, will help to create a calendar for your campaign.
Just keep in mind, it really is no different than the thought processes that every business owner uses in the life of their business. You know it better than you know your home, and you can discuss it at length. And all of that is what it takes to make a good social media campaign.
I am starting to think that one of the scariest thing for many business owners is that social media demands ongoing activity. The fact that business is coming into an era of "digital word of mouth" is intimidating.
Recently I was speaking with a prospective customer, and was working with a new approach. I had decided to develop this approach because I thought the term "social media" was what was terrifying people. So I set off to explain that instead of worrying about the technical end of social media that they should first think of it as doing what they always did - interacting with their customers. To look at it as an extension of the local word of mouth.
As we were discussing traditional advertising, and what made this different, I pointed out that standard advertising was one way. You develop your flyers, your newspaper ads, T. V. spots, and radio strategies, and all of these are sent out into the great world. And basically, unless someone mentions any of the business's advertisements, you will never really know what brought the customer in. With social media you have a better chance of interacting with your customers, and giving them a chance to know you. They know they can contact you quickly from any number of mobile tools, and express themselves in "real time."
And as I was listening to my potential client I realized that it may not be a fear of the term "social media," but stage fright. That the need to come up with interesting material on a weekly basis caused him to freeze. It didn't matter that I can help with finding content - it was that owner input would be required.
Nor was it just a terror of needing original content it was that there had to be a consistent strategy.
This also got me thinking of some of my other clients.
When I am setting up for a new client I will talk to them about the aspects of their business that could be used for blogging, or helpful hints. And I will also ask about organizations, hobbies, and charities they are involved in. The later gives me filler material to work with when I don't have original content. The first response I often get is, "Oh, I'll leave that to you!"
I always do a follow up email after the initial fright goes away. In the email I will ask the same questions, and usually get better input.
Really it is a case of realizing that while social media is more interactive that basic marketing still applies. The business owner knows their products, and when they create the standard advertising they know they will need images and focused content. With social media you need all of that, but you also need to have an idea what you want to do week to week. You need to know consistently, "what is the meat of the story?"
This time around I am going to focus on public opinion and communication. Letter writing has always played a huge role in the spread of public opinion, with an example of this being during the heydays of immigration. In A True Picture of Emmigration, by Rebecca Burlend, the author told how her husband listened for news of letters coming from America. Then he would go and hear what was said of conditions in the U.S.. Nor can the power of the coffee and chocolates houses be forgotten - as those gathering places were where politics and popular opinion were vehemently discussed.
Jumping ahead to today, and particularly to the oft-bemoaned fact that everyone has their nose in their smart phones and tablets. And while I will admit that I too bemoan this on occasion it also cannot be ignored. Or, it might be better to say, "It is risky to ignore."
The forums for public opinion have changed, and become lightening fast....
......Pictures of a restraurant dinner on Facebook are usually sent with a comment.....
......Bored people, waiting in line, having nothing better than to Tweet their status......
Basically opinions of businesses and services fly with the speed of thought.
And businesses can only ignore this at their risk.
If you don't "hear" what is being said then you cannot highlight the praise, or show solid customer service, if there was a problem. Nor can a business afford to focus on just one "window" into the thoughts of their customers, because their clients may use a Tweet one day, or a FB post the next. Or they may be on a tablet, and writing a longer review on Google Plus.
In every business "how to book" and seminar one of the main emphasize is networking, and it is accepted as common sense that to build your business you have to know a range of people. Sometimes these are people you meet at networking groups. Sometimes it is an acquaintance you meet at the grocery store.
And it is a solid practice.
A practice that hold true for your Facebook, Google +, Linkedin, and Twitter interactions. And even Pinterest - "pinning" makes a difference too.
When you "like," "follow," "connect," or "create a circle" another site, or customer, you begin to get their postings in your "newsfeed." Your newsfeed is usually found in your "home" on most of the platforms. However, what you see in your newsfeed is not, at that point, showing up on your public profile. This holds true for either personal, or business, pages; both of which have "home" icons and newsfeeds.
Those postings in your newsfeeds offer a wonderful chance to help out your business associates and clients. As you read through your newsfeeds you can also share or retweet your colleagues' postings, and with this you help broaden their visibility. And remember, if you are pleased with their business - add a comment, or recommend them.
So, when you go out to post, keep your business friends in mind, and help them out. It not only will help strengthen their web presence, but yours' too.
Recently I realized that I had been rather spoiled by the quality of service that Microwebb Software provided, and because of that I will unabashedly give them a salute. What brought this realization was hearing how many business owners were not really sure about the companies they had hired to do search engine optimization. With MicroWebb Software I learned about the process, and what I was paying for.
Unfortunately search engine optimization is not the only area where otherwise savvy business owners take a leap of faith. This also holds true when it comes to their websites and social media platforms.
A lot of this stems from the fact that computers and the internet can be intimidating, but indispensable. Business owners have been told that both websites, and social media, is now needed for modern marketing, and so the owners, sometimes reluctantly, have a website built. Then, perhaps, they enter the realm of social media.
Of course, with larger companies they can hire someone to handle all of the intricacies, and the rest of the staff can stay focused on the real work. For the small to mid-sized business owners, however, they first tackle the large investment of hiring someone to create their website, and when the site is done they are willing to let it "do its thing." Then they may turn their attention to Facebook and Twitter, but often they cannot see much purpose to the exercise.
And after a while the owners are approached and told that their website needs something called "search engine optimization." It sounds necessary, and much like was done with the original website, the owners hire someone to deal with the mystery.
Where all of this is leading is a suggestion for a checklist that every business owner should keep. The realm of the internet, and web-based marketing, is speeding up, and this information is becoming indispensable.
1. Keep your web designer's name and contact information handy so they can keep your site updated with social media icons, and links for blogs.
2. The name of the company who did your search engine optimization so that you know what their package included. You will end up having more questions, such as, "Does it include handling social media marketing too?
3. Keep a list of your user names and passwords to your social media sites. What once appeared to be frivolous is now becoming a vital part of your marketing strategy.
Take nothing for granted.
Even if you don't really want to deal with it - keep the information at hand!!
Some may wonder how a storyteller wanders off into the full-time business of social media marketing. And, I'll admit, I have occasionally wondered that myself, though not with any regrets. Social Media offers an intriguing array of opportunities to tell stories, and I am looking forward to doing so for my clients.
Over the last year I have been aggressively networking for my storytelling business, White Fox Productions, Ltd, and during many lunches social media was discussed. Often times one of the luncheon members would give a little talk on the topic, and it never failed that many of the listeners said that they didn't have the time to do their business's Facebook page consistently.
And that wasn't even getting into all of the other platforms, such as Twitter, or Pinterest.
The idea lurked in the back of my mind, where I was beginning to pull together the realization I had the needed skills.
Over the last few years I had been studying how best to market my storytelling, and so was learning about how best to use Facebook, and other platforms, to my benefit. And I also have a background in writing, which has been used for the blogs, but still under-utilized.
Many years back I had dreams (delusions?) of being a novelist, and did a creative writing portfolio for my Masters in English. Somehow, though, the novel sidetracked me into storytelling. I had been trying to write a believable folk musician, but I did not play a musical instrument or sing. And at one point I had the opportunity at a writer's conference to ask writer/musician, Emma Bull, how to write a believable musician. She told me, "Perform something. Get in front of an audience."
A year later storyteller, Dan Keding, offered a workshop in storytelling.
That was perfect! I loved listening to folk stories, and figured that I could at least practice my new found skills on family - and hapless friends.
And after twenty-six years I am still storytelling (the novel is in the file cabinet), and now it is time to combine the storytelling and the writing into a new business venture.
So, last week, White Fox Social Media was born.
Cathy Mosley brings her 26 years of storytelling and writing experience to the realm of Social Media. To help small businesses.