Brainstorm to Blogging Success: (Part 1 of 2)

What is your motivation for writing blog posts? To produce content which will drive traffic back to you website rather than relying purely on search engine optimisation? To be ahead of the game with your business’ Social Media and build new connections or solidify your existing relationships?

Or perhaps you simply find blogging an incredibly rewarding activity especially when you start to see followers, likes, shares and comments? Whilst your objective for writing blog posts may be subjective and individual, your goals should not be.

In Part 1 of Brainstorm to Blogging Success we share three of our most recommended Tips:  What Does Your Target Readership Need & Want, Reader Engagement & Social Proof.

#1. What Does Your Target Readership Need and Want?

Understanding the needs and motivations of not only the people who read your blog but also the potential followers who comment on it is the lynchpin of successful blogging. And, this presents a real opportunity to be regarded as an authority in your industry. Instead of competing with others, don’t be afraid to be yourself – this will ensure that you are being original and an authentic voice which is ultimately what will make your voice heard. By being somebody who people feel they want to get to know, your business or services will become of interest to them also.

Real Time Search   Social MentionWhilst the comment that you write will what helps this process along, a little online alchemy goes a long way.  Check out Social Mention, a highly recommended search and analysis tool which monitors and measures what people are saying (user-generated content) about your company, industry etc. across 100+ Social Media channels including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Google+. Social Mention will then aggregate that content into one stream of information and also send you daily social media alerts allowing you to keep track of all activity in real-time and respond if appropriate.

#2. Reader Engagement

Never underestimate the importance of this. Reader engagement is a litmus test for how valuable your content is considered and rated by its readers and followers.  If nobody is interacting with it, most likely it won’t be doing your business or your Website any favours. And if they are, then you are on your way to becoming a key influencer and industry which Google will certainly also reward you for (see Social Proof).

Social Media is about solving people’s problems, in other words providing answers to questions they might have, empathising with and helping to resolve bug bears and issues they might have ultimately understanding their online habits and likely end-user activity. Are they looking to purchase a product and service, looking for answers to burning question which if you resolve, will compel them to recommend your business and become a brand ambassador or simply to engage with them and listen to what they have to say. Spend time considering what type of relationship you would like to develop with your followers to ensure that your content delivers the most effective and targeted messages. 

#3. Social Proof 

Whilst your blog will gradually (or rapidly if you’re doing really well!) attract new followers, unless they are engaging with that content, i.e. via Comments, ReTweets, Likes, Google +!’s and so on, this will not influence your website traffic or search engine ranking.

The main reason for this is that readers engaging with your content by commenting and sharing to their own Social Media channels enables the search engines to measure your social proof, in other words it demonstrated that your content has some kudos and you are considered an authority in your industry in terms of content writing.  The benefit of this?

Ultimately Google, Bing and the like will rank your blog and website higher in online searches.

You can also produce custom reports in Google Analytics to track which posts are resonating the most with people and which are way off the mark and tweak your activity accordingly. Facebook Pages and LinkedIn Company Pages to name a few also have their own inbuilt analytics which enable you to do the same and continuously evolving as user-friendly and easy to understand tools for monitoring the influence of your content.

Whatever your motivation for blogging, keep the end-user in mind the entire time. Whilst it is imperative that you are interested in the content you write in order to develop an enthusiastic and influential voice online, it’s not about you!  Followers of you blog need to also feel enthused, interested by and more knowledgeable as a result of reading your posts. Blogging, as with all other Social Media channels is all about valuable exchanges and reciprocity – they’ll make the effort if you do.

Social Media: a Free Lunch or the Thief of Time?

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You wouldn’t do your own books if maths isn’t your strong point or design your own website if you barely know your way around Microsoft Office, so why would you even attempt to manage all of your Social Media? And, as a business owner, you invariably lack the time and inclination anyway, right?

If you’re going to commit to Social Media then you need to truly commit because infrequent participation will not work; the immediacy of Social Media also dictates that your content should never really be more than three to five days old.

Yet, that Social Media is free remains one of the biggest misconceptions surrounding this form of marketing. The platform(s) you use might be but your messaging is not. Even if you are looking after all of your marketing internally the cost is still there in the form of your precious time. And, the more invested your business becomes in its Social Media presence, the more resources and time you need to devote.

Whether you outsource to a Social Media Manager or use somebody internal, the reality is that as a business you need a dedicated person to push all of these efforts. Regardless of how much time your business is spending on Social Media, make every moment count so that it doesn’t become the thief of your time.

Reduce Research Time For Your Social Media Posts

Let’s face it, sourcing new, quality relevant content for your Social Media accounts is the hardest part. Having said that, there are many time-saving tools out there if you know where to look. Here Soci@lite shares some of the most useful to save you time and, more importantly, money!

Google Alerts

My personal favourite! This superb Google service allows you to create keywords and search terms relevant to a topic or concept and have them emailed to you in a digestible list which you can then cherry pick the best results from to share or use for content ideas. This will save you a great deal of time, particularly if these results do not all come from page one of Google because you won’t need to search for them yourself.
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Twitter Lists

Keep Twitter Lists for those Tweeters you would like to ReTweet on a regular basis – simply click on the Twitter List when you’re ready to share and scan through to see if anything relevant is displayed. You can do this based on keywords, types of account, anything really. Twitter Lists are also a great way to keep tabs on competitors or peers – there are in fact two strands to this. 1. you can monitor their Tweets without having to follow them and alerting them to this fact and 2. keep all Tweets relevant to a particular Topic, industry, etc. in once place making you less likely to miss anything and therefore increasing manageability.
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Testimonials

Schedule comments from Testimonials to go out on a regular basis, not forgetting to also include links back to other Testimonials. This is a really valuable platform through which to develop credibility and the perception of trustworthiness and reliability in your business. After all, Social Media is the online equivalent of Word of Mouth and people trust recommendations far more than advertising in this day and age.

Quotations

Who doesn’t like a good quotation and what business cannot find quotations relevant to them? Keep a list of quotations which you keep adding to regularly, then schedule them periodically as quotations are one of the most shared pieces of content online. Aside from the plethora of websites from which you can obtain quotations on every topic going, another fantastic source is the book Talking Shop: Over 5,000 Business Quotes To Help You Through Your Working Day


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Hashtags

Keep an eye on Twitter #Hashtags, see what’s trending at the moment, maybe there’s a hot topic that people are talking about that’s relevant to yours or a client’s business, if so, drop the #Hashtag into status updates and replies.

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Showcase your Products & Services

Share information or take portions of content from yours or your client’s website and ensure that each product or service is highlighted, not just your overall offering. The devil is in the detail!

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Covet the Competition

Draw up a list of your own or a client’s competitors and carry out research on what they are doing online. If for example somebody starts discussing or showcasing something of relevance to your or your client, you will be inspired to do the same and leverage some of the buzz online they are creating. If, on the other hand, a client’s competition is discussing something relevant to their business, you could prompt your client to create content around the same topic/discussion.

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Blogging

Each time you post a blog, make sure that you also send it to your Social Media and relevant groups. but to keep the blog post alive, take quotes from it and schedule periodic updates linking back to it. If they have a WordPress account use the “Tweet Old Post” plugin to automate this process of pulling out old posts, but just remember that using quotes rather than just titles will create unique, less promotional style status updates. Another great discipline is to develop a core list of Blogs which you enjoy reading and subscribe to those Blogs. You will then be updated each time one is updated and if it contains any valuable or interesting content you can then either share it or be inspired to write further Blog posts of your own on the back of it. Hopefully you found this article of use. What tools/methods do you find useful for generating fresh content or fresh ideas for your own Social Media Posts?

5 Social Media What Not To Dos

These days, it can be hard not to feel bombarded by Social Media, what with 900 million active users on Facebook and 200 million plus on Twitter. The majority of the small business owners I train or work with certainly feels a heightened sense of obligation and urgency to navigate the Social Media landscape. But, in the rush to, they invariably end up making critical and costly mistakes for their businesses. Check out these five common mistakes and Soci@lite’s suggestions for how to avoid them:

1.  The Best Things Online Aren’t Free 

Social Media does not cost anything other than in time and effort. It’s free to join Facebook, create a Twitter profile or set up a blog – fantastic news for small businesses, right? Not once you factor in the constant commitment that Social Media demands, from updating your channels with fresh content to engaging with your followers and industry peers, not to mention keeping tab on your competitors.

Potentially, it could be taking you or a member of your staff (if you’re doing well enough to have one) as much as ten hours a week to manage all of your Social Media accounts – you do the maths! Consider outsourcing your monthly Social Media activity to somebody with the time, the tools and the inclination.

2.  Don’t Compare or Compete with the Giants

If you’re running a small business, the hard earned money you’ve allocated for your own marketing budget is merely a drop in the Atlantic for the likes of Coca Cola and Starbucks and there is little if anything you can do to change this. The good news however, is that your business doesn’t need to even attempt to keep up with the big brands, particularly when it comes to contests and campaigns.

Whilst incentivisation via giveaways and competitions is one of the most effective ways to generate new likes and improve overall engagement, small businesses should not feel pressurised to offer flashy prizes that are well beyond their budget. Instead, consider giving away one of your services or a free e-Book instead of a free iPad. This may not the sexiest prize and is unlikely to generate universal interest amongst your potential followers, but whoever does participate is already a captive audience, enthusiastic ambassador for your business and a potential client.

3.  Value of Exchange versus Hard Sell 

images (7)  This is perhaps the most difficult lesson for the small business owner to learn and take on board without a large marketing budget to spend. Whilst it is a marketing channel, Social Media requires an altogether subtler approach, in other words no Buy Me Now buttons or blatant promotional copy.

If your Social Media strategy is purely about marketing or sales then you need to rethink it NOW. Whilst it holds true that you can increase your sales figures from Social Media, this should not be your focus 100% of the time. As a general rule of thumb, only 5% to 10% of your status updates, Tweets, etc. should be selling.

Social Media is all about building relationships and growing trust, from answering questions to providing helpful information, to acting as a trusted resource and an industry authority. These are the activities which will grow your bottom line in the long run, albeit it in a slower fashion.

4.  It’s Not About You! 

Other business owners often comment to me that they don’t want to put what they had for dinner on Twitter. And my response to this is always the same – you wouldn’t walk up to somebody at a networking event and tell them what you had for dinner last night or what you watched on TV, so why do it online?!  And there’s nothing more irksome than being on the receiving end either. We’ve all been stuck at an event or dinner party with the self-absorbed person who talks at not to you and only about themselves to boot.

To be liked online, you’ve got to be a good listener, genuinely interested in what others have to say, gracious about constructive criticism and not dominate the conversation. Ask questions and encourage participation and comments, engage (within reason) with everybody who posts on your wall and share great content of others in your industry, in fact anything that you think will resonate with others or be interest or use to them.

Put simply, the same etiquette you employ offline applies online – don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t in person and you will be fine.

5.  Quality not Quantity 

Linkbaiting imageThere will always be some new up and coming network threatening claiming to be the next Facebook or Twitter and unless Social Media IS your business, you will never be able to keep up with it, but guess what? Nor should you.

Doing Social Media well does not mean being anywhere and everywhere. Instead, it’s about choosing one or two of the most relevant and effective channels for reaching your customers and focusing on them.

It is better to have no Social Media presence at all (although highly unadvisable!) than a neglected account as this will reflect badly on your business and, rightly or wrongly, result in a perception.  And let’s face it; online more than anywhere else, perception is everything.

Again, if you don’t have the time and resources to actively manage and participate on your Social Media channels, consider outsourcing your monthly activity to somebody with the time, the tools and the inclination.

I hope that you have found this article useful – please feel free to leave me comments or questions. In closing, it’s important to remember that the business principle of 50 years ago still ring as true today – doing business with those that know like and trust you will make you money, Social Media is merely the platform. Keep these principles in mind when planning your Social Media activity and you will be a guru before you know it!

Can’t see your Facebook Recommendations Box?

For some reason, Facebook only allows Recommendations for Pages that have not only provided a physical location but chosen to display a map. In your case Rona, the Recommendations Box is visible because you are using the Maps Tab – if you removed this from your Tabs then the Recommendations box disappears. Attached are some screenshots to demonstrate this on my own Facebook Page.

You have the option of up to 12 Tabs (the boxes underneath your cover photo) on a Facebook Page, but if for example you did not want your actual address to be prominent, you could display the Map as the lowest Tab as I have chosen to do (because I run an online business from home so my physical address is largely irrelevant). As Facebook will only display four Tabs at a time anyway, the majority of people do not look beyond these on somebody’s page.

For the purposes of this training, I have disabled the Recommendations Box on my Facebook Page so that I can demonstrate how this works.

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Once you have followed the steps let all of your followers know so that they can start to leave Recommendations on your Page!

Tweeting Smartphone Dashboard not to be saved from the Deckers’ yard after all. Or is it?

A mere two years since their rumoured £25 million purchase of TweetDeck, Twitter have announced that they will not be supporting the platform beyond May 2013. This is despite also having commented only recently that “TweetDeck gives the Twitter experience more flexibility and allows advanced users to gain valuable insight into what’s happening at this moment on Twitter….the TweetDeck team has been steadily innovating and improving the product, and we expect to see much more of that to come.”

The announcement was somewhat overshadowed by Facebook’s news feed PR frenzy despite the hashtag #RIPTweetDeck circulating during the past seven days. According to TweetDeck, they’re going to focus their development efforts on a modern, web-based version whilst ceasing support for old apps such as TweetDeck Air and TweetDeck for Android and iPhone this month.

Since Twitter acquired TweetDeck back in 2011, the platform has grown as a way to organise tweets into manageable threads and lists but this wasn’t enough to dissuade Twitter from killing off TweetDeck for mobile devices and Facebook.  As an already active user of the far superior and more dynamic (in my humble opinion) HootSuite, this latest announcement makes little difference, but what of the users who live or die by TweetDeck’s smartphone app functionality?

HootSuite has long outshone TweetDeck for Social Media Dashboard features and continues to offer far more bang for your buck, boasting one sign in for not only Social Media trailblazers Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn but also Foursquare, Google+, MySpace and even blogging giant WordPress.

HootSuite not only enables you to browse, post messages and status updates from Social Media platforms but also to multitask by posting to multiple accounts, attach pictures and shorten links simultaneously and also schedule posts for later times and dates, to for later.

If this wasn’t enough, you can also monitor/track your links and click-throughs which prior to HootSuite could only be done via third party applications.

TweetDeck had made moves to expand from a Twitter-centric product to one that supported multiple Social Media platforms including Facebook, Foursquare and LinkedIn, but in reality its usage remained Twitter based and not heavily used by the others. But now even Twitter is following suit in three months’ time Twitter by dropping TweetDeck for iOS, Android and Facebook whilst the service will survive on browsers and desktops.

So if you’re a desktop Twitter only user however, you can look forward to fast web apps for modern browsers and a Chrome app offering features such as notifications, search term auto-complete, search filters to help its users find what they’re looking for more quickly and automatically updated Tweet streams. Mac and PC apps for TweetDeck are also in the pipeline, according to TweetDeck.

Twitter users looking for TweetDeck alternatives should try TweetLine and Plume if they are Android users or HootSuite and Tweetbot for iPhone, whilst Sprout Social is compatible for both iPhone and Android.

Check out TweetDeck’s own words on the changes in their blog post from 4 March 2013.

Did you know that Soci@lite trains SMEs in all things HootSuite and is a HootSuite Certified Professional? For further details on how Soci@lite could help your business visit http://www.social-ite.info/store/products/hootsuite-training

Three-Faced Book: the three key changes in store for the nation’s Social Media Sweetheart

So what has prompted Facebook to give the news feed its first facelift since 2009? The idea is to make the website more closely resemble its Android and iOS mobile apps.

Facebook new look news feed1. Tabloid Newspaper style – the website version of Facebook will change from three columns to two so that the main news feed is bigger which will enable all posts, regardless of whether they are updates your friends have posted or adverts to have more space on the page. This ultimately means that images and videos will be afforded greater prominence than post containing only text. This makes a lot better sense when you consider that we are visual creatures and it has already been demonstrated time and again that photos and pictures resonate far greater with people than words.

Facebook news feed pop-out bar2. Pop-out Bar – this will be added to the left-hand side of the page and contain the live updates ticker, links to specific friends, the chat and calendar tools and app bookmarks.

 Facebook Friends news feed3. Feed Octet – in addition to the standard Facebook news feed you can select up to seven others, including a music-themed feed comprised of updates from artists you have liked, gig announcements and songs your friends are listening to through services such as Spotify. There will also be a feed displaying all your friends’ updates instead of just those selected by Facebook’s algorithms as we presently have.

So what do these changes mean for you?  For some worrywarts, adverts will now take up more screen space and be harder to ignore as a consequence and the focus of the redesign is to place more emphasis on adverts and make people ultimately spend more time on the social networking site.

Whatever the real reason, Facebook’s PR machine is determined that the message we get is one of scaled back  newsfeed content and more engaging posts. And, ultimately, this is the purpose of Social Media, right?  What do you think? I’d love to hear your views, so comment away!  You can preview the new look Facebook newsfeed here.