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Mastering the art of social listening

February 24, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

Mastering the art of social listening{{}}Social media listening is a fundamental tool for any business owner — even if you’re not currently active on all social media sites.

The days of suggestion boxes and comment cards are long gone. Social media is now the first place people turn to praise or criticise a brand. For consumers, it has become the quickest and easiest way to directly contact a brand and get a problem sorted. So it is vital that your business is listening to these comments.

Listening on social media is about monitoring posts and conversations that refer to your brand, product, service or even competitor, in order to aggregate the data and find out what people really think about your business.

There are several platforms that can help you monitor social media, such as Meltwater Buzz, but there’s nothing to stop you from monitoring social mentions yourself.

Listen before you leap

Social listening must come first in any social media strategy. Once you have gained a sense of your reputation online, you can then engage based upon you customer needs. Knowing what people are saying about your brand allows for more proactive and reactive posting.

If you don’t want to invest in social media listening tools, setting up social media profiles and lurking online is just as effective. Using Twitter to search for your brand name will bring up all the tweets that mention your business and will allow you to gain a sense of how you’re faring online. It also allows you to check up on your competitors and see how their brand mentions compare.

Nine reasons to start listening on social media

  1. Gather market research: People post honestly on social media, so if someone doesn’t like your brand they’ll tell you. Social media allows you to gain insights, opinions and experiences from real customers in real time.
  2. Identify your weaknesses: If customers are having negative experiences with your brand or product then you can quickly identify the problems using social media. You don’t need to second-guess your customers anymore, they are telling you what’s wrong. Keep an eye out for negative posts, use the social media site to communicate how you are rectifying the situation (so others can see) and turn those weaknesses into strengths.
  3. Identify your strengths: Are you unsure if a new product or service is popular or if your latest marketing campaign is working? Monitoring responses online during a product launch or throughout a campaign will enable you to gauge reaction.
  4. Bring cost efficiencies: Social media feedback allows you to focus your marketing spend where it’s most effective. It can stop you wasting money and also identify where social might be a more cost-effective channel.
  5. Fish in the right pond: Social media listening allows you to establish where your target market is spending time online. There are a vast number of social networking sites and focusing on all of them is a huge investment of time. Identifying if your customers are tweeting, pinning or posting on Facebook, for instance, will allow you to focus your efforts.
  6. Understand customer needs: Social media allows you to listen to your customers and gain ideas for future developments that you may not have even thought of.
  7. Protect your brand: Are there people sharing misinformation about you online or misrepresenting your brand? Monitoring your brand mentions will allow you to identify fake accounts or incorrect information and then take action.
  8. Find out what content engages your audience: There are countless ways to engage with your audience on social media, such as images, competitions and case studies but which of these are the most effective? Instead of spending money on ad-hock advertising and content pushing, find out which of these gets the most engagement from your customers and focus your efforts here.
  9. Reach potential customers: Every social media user could be a potential customer. Search for keywords and hashtags to find people that are talking about subjects that are relevant to your brand and then reach out to them.

Copyright © 2015 Emma Pauw, social media writer at We Talk Social.

How to improve your customer service with social media

February 16, 2015 by Sarah Orchard

How to improve your customer service with social media{{}}Many small businesses I speak to are worried about using social media. It’s understandable; after all, social media puts you and your company in the public spotlight and there’s always the risk that you may get negative online reviews as well as positive comments.

Indeed, that’s usually the biggest concern ­– what if a customer complains and leaves a negative review? Their comments are out there in public, posted, shared, re-tweeted. Everyone can see them!

But think of this – you may well have had disgruntled customers in the past but you just weren’t aware of them. Now look at the role of social media from a different angle – if someone leaves a negative comment on Twitter or Facebook (and they will!), you have a valuable opportunity to address the issue.

This enables you to take a two-pronged attack – damage limitation by resolving the problem and turning the situation around by converting a complainer into a brand advocate.

So, how do you go about it?

  • Be vigilant and monitor what is being said about your brand on social media. There are various monitoring tools available, such as Google Alerts, which can be set up for your brand and specific keywords (as well as competitors). Other tools include Social Mention, probably one of the best free social media listening tools on the market. In addition, Ice Rocket offers free blog, Twitter and Facebook monitoring in 20 languages.
  • Don’t forget to set up Hootsuite or TweetDeck (if you use either of them) to flag your Mentions on Twitter too!
  • Check in on your Facebook page and Twitter regularly. If your business gets reviewed on sites such as Trip Advisor, make sure you monitor that too. Likewise, find out about any forums or communities that may be of interest to your customers.
  • Think before you react. Not all negative online reviews will merit a response. If something has been posted on an obscure forum with few members, it’s probably better to just ignore it. Your response will only bring attention to the problem, rather than allowing it to quietly sink beneath the radar.
  • If you need to respond, do it as quickly as possible. There’s nothing worse than a complaint going unanswered for days or weeks. The customer may have vented their spleen but a lack of response will cause more anger and others may pick up on this. Always acknowledge the customer, even if you need to look into the complaint in greater depth. Let them know that you’ll be back in touch and offer to get in touch offline in the meantime.
  • Keep it friendly and avoid sarcasm. If you ever read Trip Advisor reviews and responses, you’ll know what I mean – there’s nothing worse than an outraged hotelier posting a bitter response to a review. An online slanging match will do you no favours whatsoever. Keep things polite, make sure you come across as “human”, it will make so much difference. Ideally respond publicly and provide a resolution, and then take it offline by emailing or calling the customer to go over details such as refunds or compensation.
  • Decide how you can fix the problem. Apologising is one thing, but even better is showing an effective solution to the customer’s problem. For instance, if they have a product that hasn’t lived up to its promise, you might offer to replace it with a superior item at no extra cost.

Show your customers that you care

Remember that social media also gives you a platform on which to publicly demonstrate that you care about your customers. Many people prefer to deal with complaints offline. The trouble with that is that your sincere apology and the way you resolve the issue won’t be in the public domain. However, if you do it online you are being completely transparent and you may just call a halt to droves of similar complaints being posted.

Make someone happy and there’s every chance that they will relay the good news to others, turning a complaint into positive PR and building some good brand awareness at the same time.

Copyright © 2015 Sarah Orchardan expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a consultant at Orchard Marketing Associates.

How images can boost your Facebook following

November 03, 2014 by Sarah Orchard

How images can boost your Facebook following{{}}So you’ve made sure your business has a page on Facebook and you’re posting regularly – but are you using it to its best effect? And did you know that visual content is five times more effective in engaging followers or random visitors who have chanced upon your page? Whether it’s a photograph or video, images add impact and communicate immediately.

Easy ways to create visual content

But before you start worrying about how to generate all this exciting visual content, let me reassure you that you don’t necessarily have to do that much. Social media sites are all about communities, so you can ask your customers to contribute to your Facebook page by posting photographs and videos that are relevant to your brand.

It’s the ultimate endorsement strategy – the customer who is happy to post a wedding photograph thanking your for the cake stand they bought from your online shop is, in essence, telling all their Facebook friends and your Facebook followers that yours is a great shop and you’ve just made a bride very happy. People like that.

This will also drive more organic sharing and increased traffic to your website as well as your Facebook page. Empower your followers to share their images and more will follow.

Smartphones and tablets have made it even easier to share a moment – think back to our hypothetical bride, she has a million things to do on the day, but a simple snap of her wedding cake on your cake stand is effortless to upload.

Respond to user-generated content

It’s important to remember to respond to any content that is added. Maybe that bride was let down at the last minute and you saved the day – a few words to say how delighted you were to have helped shows that you care about your customers and the service you provide.

Here’s another idea: ask customers to show how they’re using a particular product. Introduce a hashtag so it’s easy to share on Twitter too. But don’t forget to check that no-one else is using that hashtag on other social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram.

Don’t leave everything to your followers. Listen to what they’re saying and notice which posts they are sharing – in short, discover what engages them and then follow their lead and give them more on the same theme.

Images also provide an opportunity to show a different side to your business – a behind-the-scenes moment or a “this is how we did it” movie (Twitter Vine is great for this) that gives real insight into what you do and, importantly, your love for it.

Copyright © 2014 Sarah Orchard is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and a consultant at Orchard Marketing Associates.

Why Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about measuring social media

September 10, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about measuring social media{{}}Albert Einstein said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.

Einstein has hit the social media nail on the head. The benefits of social media can be both tangible and intangible and not every aspect of your social media success can be measured. So how can you ensure you’re getting a clear ROI — or “return on Involvement” in social media.

There are many ways to measure your social media success. Getting a positive mention from an industry expert or getting your content in front of key people can be invaluable. Social media gives you easy access to specific audiences so if you are using social media for business, the first thing you need to do is ensure you’re fishing in the right pond. There are many social media sites, all with different purposes and audiences; find out where your audience is lurking and then focus your efforts here.

But once you’ve got a social media strategy, how do you measure its effectiveness?

Set clear and realistic targets

Set clear objectives and realistic goals and understand why each is a measure of success. Targets could include: reaching a certain number of new followers, achieving lead conversions or re-tweets. If you’re hitting these then you’ll know your social activity is working, and if you’re not, look at where you’re focusing your efforts. Keep pushing yourself by gradually making these objectives harder to achieve and as your social media skills increase so will your business success. One measure to employ is by asking: “Where were we able to start this conversation that led to the sale?”.

Social media measuring tools

There are many social media management tools out there to enable you to monitor every aspect of your social activity. These include measuring your click-through stats, likes, re-tweets, follower growth and post shares:

  • Facebook’s metrics are great for showing you how successful your social media activity is.
  • Twitter search your company name — this allows you to monitor your Twitter reputation by bringing up news, pictures and tweets that your brand has been mentioned in. By adding the # before your name you can see all tweets that directly reference you.
  • Technorati will notify your brand when it has been mentioned in the blogosphere.
  • Monitor This is a little more technical but worth it. You can have it watch over 20 different search engine feeds and make an .opml file that you can put into your RSS Feeder to display any results.

Sites like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Sprout Social and Meltwater Buzz offer social media “dashboards” that allow you to post and monitor the success of all your posts, showing conversation volume and the sentiment of mentions. These platforms can also flag up all mentions of search queries you enter.

Saving time and money

Social media provides cost effective access to powerful marketing, networking and lead generation tools. It has truly levelled the playing field for small businesses but it’s essential to have a strategy. By measuring how much time and money your business has saved by using social media to achieve its goals faster, you can see a clear “return on involvement”. If you are spending hours on social media with very little to show for it, then you are doing something wrong. One quick and easy time saving exercise is to schedule “proactive” tweets and posts (without looking like a robot); then you can engage more “reactively” as required.

Analysing brand recognition

Social media is a great way for a business to raise brand awareness. Use monitor tools to search for your brand name. Monitoring your Twitter mentions allows you to see when and why people are talking about you.

Mentions by influencers

Positive mentions are difficult to measure; if you are being re-tweeted and discussed by industry experts then you know you’re “doing” social media right. This shows that you’re creating and sharing engaging content that others find useful. Ensure you set clear goals for who you would like to interact with online and if your content is being picked up by these people then this is a clear measurement of your social success.

Follower growth

After you post content about a specific subject, you may see your followers, likes and favourites increase. This is because people follow feeds and people who provide rich and interesting online content. If your followers/connections are constantly increasing and, in particular, you’re getting lots of new professionals in your sector, then your social media activity is clearly working. Keep posting engaging content — including your company blogs and news as well as third party content— to give people a reason to continue following you.

Better internal collaboration

Social media can foster better employee engagement and communication between departments. Businesses that use social media often have a better collaborative working environment as they reap the rewards of the cost and time efficiencies that social media can bring. And through better internal communications you will soon see better external communications.

Copyright © 2014 Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

The 11 deadly sins of social media

August 27, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

The 11 deadly sins of social media{{}}Recently we’ve seen some sinful uses of social media; from clueless users to pointless tweeters. Already this year we’ve witnessed an array of social media blunders, not to mention those who’ve been prosecuted for their comments on social media.

So why all the sinning? With social media use at an all time high and as competition increases between social businesses, people are stretching the social media boundaries to stand out online. Some businesses have lost sight of social media etiquette, business etiquette and common sense as they “borrow” content and spy on their competitors.

But businesses that abuse social media are only damaging their own reputations and jeopardising their business opportunities.

So what are the 11 social media sins?:

1. Forgetting that social media makes you omnipresent

Although you can delete posts, people can also screen grab and anything you post can remain in the social media realm forever. This is particularly relevant with Twitter — you can never be certain who is monitoring what you tweet. Never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t be happy for the whole world to see.

2. Not being consistent across social media platforms

Treat social media as one and be consistent across your social media profiles. Your social media profiles should not be competing for your attention, do not favour one over the other; you should post content consistently over all sites. But keep in mind though that each has its own rules and purposes.

Use Twitter to signpost, ensure LinkedIn is B2B focused, Facebook B2C and Google+ should be a mixture of the two. You may need to alter the language of your posts based on the target audience of that platform. Ensure that your presence is consistent and truly represents you. Your social media profiles are usually the first place people go to find out about you, if you’ve got a mismatched, jumbled and inconsistent presence, people will be less likely to trust you and what you post.

3. Not being vigilant about fakes and trolls

There are thousands of fake social media users posing as celebrities and everyday users, with many of these being controlled by internet trolls. These are people who trawl social media sites posting derogatory comments and abusing users and should be reported to the social networking site in which they are operating on. 

You must ensure that those influencers you follow are verified (have a little blue tick). If you’re an infamous user yourself, consider getting your own account verified.

4. Not minding your Ps and Qs

You need to be careful what you tweet, even on your personal social media profiles. If your employer is mentioned on your profile, they can be liable for any offensive comments you make through Vicarious Liability.

Mind your social media Ps & Qs, watch your language and do not swear — especially if you’re posting from your business account. Your tweets represent your brand so ensure they reflect your target market and avoid offending anyone with your language.

5. Taking a break from social media

There are proven best and worst times to post on social media and constantly broadcasting brand messages can be a waste of time. Check out the best times to post and ensure your posting is targeted.

Mix up scheduled tweets with timely posts throughout the week so you’ll create a great balance for your social media profiles and save yourself a lot of time.

6. Sharing personal information

Social media is not the place to air your dirty laundry and you will undoubtedly regret doing this so don’t share your personal information, family disputes or private matters.

Do not mix your personal life with your business handles; ensure you create a different personal account to keep up to date with friends. Already this year we’ve seen a number of cases involving people being fired, and in some cases prosecuted, for what they’ve said on social media. Again, don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the world to see — including friends, family, colleagues and employers.

7. Deleting negative comments

Most of us have received negative or abusive comments on social media at some time. Don’t delete these comments, instead reply to them promptly (not necessarily immediately) and appropriately (step back, compose yourself, don’t reply in anger, deal with this in the same manner as you would through any other form of contact) to show you are dealing with this.

This is particularly true when it comes to social customer service; Twitter is now the first place many of us go to complain and if your company is brushing these comments under the carpet and removing them from your feed then this shows you in a terrible light. Show respect when replying and only use humour if appropriate.

So, don’t kill comments (unless truly offensive, in which case report and block); start dealing with them confidently.  Ultimately, you will be judged on the way with you deal with it.

8. Not being faithful to your connections

Don’t insult or mock people via social media; instead treat all your connections with respect. Ensure you get the tone of voice right, as well as the content you share — never position yourself online as something you are not.

Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Forge new relationships, share content and that way your will gain respect, support and recognition.

9. Copying content

Social media has made it harder than ever for individuals to keep a track of their comments, posts and articles; and it’s now easier than ever for people to steal your content. Don’t steal other people’s tweets, arguments and opinions — it’s wrong.

We all know that social media is great for getting content ideas and inspiration, but if you are to use someone else’s articles, don’t present them as your own and reference them correctly. Social media content can still be copyrighted and you may find yourself in trouble if you present ripped off content as your own.

10. Lying

Many people think social media gives you anonymity but this isn’t always the case. Social media posts and comments are traceable so never use social media to slander people or businesses.

If you have a problem with a business or a brand, make sure you bring this, politely, to their attention and do not use social media as a way to broadcast your hate towards them. If you’re a business, don’t lie about other companies or mock them on Twitter.

Ensure that you have correct training and policies in place to monitor what your staff post and who has access to your accounts.  After all, social media is an extension of your existing communications channels.

11. Jealousy

Love what your competitor is doing on social media? Well, don’t just sit back green with envy, go and do it yourself. Social media has removed boundaries that were traditionally the realms of big brand, big budget names.

Social media has provided a glass wall into other businesses and If you like something they’re doing, then think about doing something similar yourself. Not only has it allowed you to monitor competitors, social media has also allowed you to keep a track of your business targets, giving you an easy way to communicate and network with them.

© Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?

August 19, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Are you having one-sided conversations on Twitter?{{}}Social media platforms such as Twitter give brands a free and invaluable way to connect with clients (both current and potential), spread brand warmth, monitor competitors, manage customer service, gain customer insights and drive website traffic — what’s not to love?

Yet, many brands are jumping feet first into the social media realm without understanding the basics; in particular, how to post content. This may seem like a no-brainer to some, yet many brands still don’t understand the fundamental rules of social media. Yes, social media is integral to your brand, but going out all guns blazing with no planning or strategy may do more harm than good.

And what’s the biggest faux-pas of all? It’s using social media channels to broadcast rather than engage.

Beware broadcasting

If used in moderation, broadcast messages on social media can be effective. You can flag up new website content including blogs, news and articles. And you can attract more fans and followers by positioning yourself as an industry expert.

Yet, this must be done in moderation. If you continuously broadcast marketing messages via your social sites, people will soon switch off. Mix these messages with engaging third party content, network with customers and work to build strong lasting relationships with your followers. Social media is a long game but over time you will see results.

You wouldn’t train your in-store staff to constantly shout out brand messages in an attempt to sell to customers — apart from looking unprofessional, it would drive people away. So why do brands do this on social? The best sales people get to know their customers, they engage them in conversations, find out what makes them tick and then provide a solution to match their needs. The same should go for social media.

Twitter tactics

A report from Brandwatch shows that 25% of top brands continue to use Twitter for broadcasting purposes only. If you’re constantly broadcasting marketing messages, your content is without context, no trust is built and ultimately no sales. This can also make your brand look uncreative; your social media sites are supposed to show the human face of your organisation, to show your personality. If you’re only pushing brand messages, your business looks dull and uninspiring.

The real value comes from engaging your followers in two-way conversations, interacting with them and showing them that you care. Over the years, many brands have created a huge sense of brand warmth via their humorous and engaging social media posts; and their messages are retweeted, spreading their brand messages much further than those brands who broadcast. So come on guys, get some personality.

Are your posts falling on deaf ears?

We all know the saying; if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound? Well, the same goes for social; it’s all well and good endlessly posting but if you’re not engaging your followers then these posts will fall on deaf ears. If you’re constantly pushing out messages, people will soon switch off. Instead start engaging in conversations, joining in with the chatter and building up a strong sense of brand warmth and rapport with your followers.

Copyright © 2014 Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

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