Social media has the potential to build brands, get people talking, and bring in business leads. And it moves fast. Here are three new social media developments and how you can use them to boost your business.
A lot of people I meet tell me: “I’m on Twitter but I don’t really get it.” If that’s you, the microblogging site is a concise way to share news, opinions and links, contributing to a constant stream of information. By following appropriate people, you build an engaged mini-community with specific interests, for example this network of local foodies. Now Twitter has launched Vine — an app that allows you to share micro videos on social media sites.
Vine is the new six-second video app for Twitter. Instead of being limited to text, you can use moving images to showcase a new product, create a comical sketch that people will want to share, or even show your team in action, adding a friendly face to your business. For instance, Bacardi has posted a video on Vine showing you how to make a mojito.
We’re not sure if this one is here to stay or not, but Twitter has introduced the ability to space out your 140-character messages on Twitter, paving the way for messages with line breaks and bullet points.
In a crowded and fast-moving stream like Twitter, anything that helps your message to stand out is a good thing. That being said, my advice is to use it sparingly. Overuse of gimmicky features can turn your audience off quicker than you could say #fail.
The recent news that the biggest social network (Facebook) is about to steal a key feature from the second biggest social network (Twitter) caused a bit of a flurry and has even spawned protest groups. We’re talking hashtags.
Hashtags are a good way to encourage and take part in conversation around your product or industry. If, for example, you’re at a trade show, tweeting with the hashtag is a way of getting your message in front of those interested in or attending this event.
Facebook — traditionally more of a friends-and-family network — is trying to get in on this open conversation aspect of Twitter. If it works well, this could be yet another channel to make your voice heard and reach potential customers.
Ahmed Ahmed works at Zoober Digital Training
Find out more about Vine in our article, Six reasons why you should be using Vine.
Whether you’re tweeting, pinning, blogging or composing the perfect Facebook update, it’s essential to make sure your social media copywriting is up to speed.
How to write a good tweet
If you’re new to Twitter, you’ll probably already be familiar with the most common problem — fitting everything you want to say into 140 characters. Writing short copy is a great discipline and a skill all of its own. Any online copywriting agency will tell you that whittling down an idea into a short, clear message is tougher than writing a long piece.
Make sure you’re using the shortest and most straightforward words you can find, and strip out any unnecessary adjectives. Get right to the point, and keep each tweet centred on a single theme. Don’t forget to add a link if you’re talking about something people can read about elsewhere — especially if it’s a link to your own site. Hashtags can help you connect to other people writing about the same things.
What makes a good Facebook update?
Facebook is probably the most widespread and best-known social platform. It gives you a bit more wiggle-room than Twitter in terms of word count, but it’s still a good idea to keep your posts punchy and to-the-point, especially when you think about how many other people’s messages yours will be competing with in any one user’s news feed.
Facebook users love to chat, so invite comments by asking a question or posting a picture or video for people to share their reactions to. The more reactions your message gets, the more “newsworthy” Facebook will rate it, so that it appears in more of your users’ news feeds.
It’s also worth thinking about when your user base is most likely to be online, so you can schedule or post your updates at peak times. If you’re in the UK for example, you might post at around 13:00 GMT to catch people on their lunch breaks at work, or at 20:00 when they’re sitting down with their laptops after dinner.
Spreading the word on LinkedIn
Writing on LinkedIn is all about showcasing your strength as an opinion leader and curating content that shows your credibility within your industry.
Post hot news stories about your area of work, and make sure you preface them with a quick comment showing your own opinion on the subject. Asking a question in your update is also a good way to start conversations with like-minded people who might comment on your post.
LinkedIn is an ideal place to share news about your company, especially if you’re hiring new people or expanding your business.
If you’re looking for a new job or you’re a freelancer, treat it as part of your job application or pitch process — keep the tone of your updates professional and keep an eye on your spelling, grammar and capitalisation.
Writing content that’s shareable
Even if you’re not actually writing on a social media platform, it’s worth remembering that your content is likely to be shared across social channels. It might be via an automatic feed to your corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts or shares by interested readers who are posting your content to their own social streams.
Headlines are the key to shareable content. A strong, self-contained headline that gives a clear idea of what your article is about, and also gives the reader a good reason to click through and read it, is your goal. That’s because on Twitter, the headline is all they’re likely to see.
It might sound like a tall order, but there’s a lot you can learn from an online copywriting agency like Sticky Content. The trick is to think like your users. What do people want to read? What are their motivations, pain-points and goals?
Charlotte Rivington is a freelance writer on social media and marketing.
How long should you spend on social networks such as Twitter and LinkedIn? The simple answer is no more than fifteen minutes per day, preferably outside normal working hours.
If you are an entrepreneur, the vast majority of your time should be focused on your business: selling and delivering your products and services whilst ensuring you make a profit in the process. Everything else is a distraction.
The Dunbar number
You would be wise to ignore those who insist you should spend significant time in online conversations with complete strangers. This may be a very good idea for those with free time on their hands but the rest of us should remember that the number of close friends we have is only around 150 people, often called the Dunbar number.
This also represents the maximum number of people with whom you can effectively have a close business relationship. They each have the same number of close contacts, so you are no more than one degree separated from 22,500 people, plenty for most business purposes.
While developing online relationships with potential customers is sensible, you should focus your prime business activity on the 150 that genuinely represent some potential value to your business.
You should start by generating an accurate personal profile on the main networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. This must include a clear elevator pitch explaining the business problems you solve for people.
You then start networking online by first offering people useful and valuable information. Once you have built up sufficient trust, you can also make useful introductions between people.
Horses for courses
All the online networks have different purposes. Facebook works well for younger people looking to socialise. Twitter is about broadcasting and overhearing useful conversations. LinkedIn is ideal for people looking to recruit or be recruited, as well as those who have already spent time building up their business network manually.
If you are genuinely doing interesting things and generating useful content, then do broadcast this fact while cherishing everyone who chooses to follow or befriend you. But concentrate your commercial activity on the 150 people who you genuinely like and who share your values. They will also make your best customers.
Originally published in The Mail on Sunday. Copyright ©Mike Southon 2012. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission in writing. Mike Southon is the co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur and a business speaker.
I regularly give talks for entrepreneurial businesses on how to make their marketing pay. Top of my list for most is to try social media as part of their marketing toolkit. And within that, I almost always recommend Twitter.
Particularly if the business in question is one where authentic one-to-one relationships count (which is most).
Despite being on public display, Twitter is a remarkably intimate medium — in as much as people seem willing to share all sorts of personal information. Now, I don’t mean those girls who seem intent on sharing everything… that’s what the block button is for. I mean business people being willing to share that they’re having a bad day, or that their children are ill or that they’re not in the best mood, or whatever. And, vice versa, people share great news from a child winning a painting competition, to their love of the view from their window, to closing a fab new business deal. Which is why it is such a great tool for building genuine relationships with real people.
But, there’s a balance to strike. Now, this isn’t an exact science, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re using Twitter as a business tool, I suggest a mix of about 80 per cent professional and 20 per cent personal. And, of the professional tweets, I’d make at least half of that sharing content that is not your own. Of the personal, remember your audience.
I have a few rules to keep it comfortable:
So, should you show a bit of personality? Yes, definitely. People like talking to real people. Should you use it as a confessional or dating service? No, not if you’re using it as a business tool.
A digital brand is the collective impression of all that is online about a person or a business, including your own, and it is important in establishing and building customer trust and loyalty. Increasingly, businesses are using popular social networking sites such as Twitter to encompass their digital brand.
Unfortunately, many businesses rush to set up Twitter accounts without recognising that a digital brand communicates your quality, professionalism and standing, and that everything posted on Twitter (or online elsewhere) will contribute to your brand.
Furthermore, companies are letting their employees, who may be untrained and unaware of brand values, manage these accounts on a day-to-day basis. As a business, you should be aware of this, and make an effort to protect yourself on Twitter.
Just one misplaced Tweet by an employee could have a negative impact on your company. Earlier this year Vodafone was forced to issue an apology to thousands of followers on Twitter after one of its customer service staff broadcast an obscene message. Despite Vodafone deleting the message from its Twitterfeed, users of the service saved a copy of the Tweet and sent it across the internet.
The episode damaged Vodafone’s digital brand, and the company was forced to apologise to hundreds of individual followers.
The Vodafone case highlights the importance of choosing carefully which employees manage your businesses Twitter account. Those entrusted with the responsibility should be well aware of the tone, language and brand values you wish the business to express through its Tweets.
It’s not just existing employees that can bring damage to your business’s digital brand through Twitter misuse. Individuals associated with your company in any way, such as ex-employees, can bring harm through disparaging remarks made on their personal Twitter accounts.
Don’t shy away from Twitter, embrace it, but have a solid strategy in place. Make sure your business is proactive, and you can deliberately build a positive digital brand that is protected against Twitter, and which extends your ability to achieve awareness and create lasting customer loyalty.
Howard Scott is digital marketing director at agency, Sequence Digital.
Targeting customers through social media has become more and more prolific over recent years. Household brands through to much smaller start-up companies are using tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
However, it is vital that when selecting the social media tools you intend to use to target your audience, you are selected the correct ones. For example, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn users all have very different demographic profiles, so there is no point using a tool like Facebook to reach a target audience of professionals aged 40+, when statistics show that around over 80 per cent of UK Facebook users are under 40.
Once you’ve decided which social media tool or tools you are going to use, decide how you’re going to approach it carefully. What are you saying and to whom?
There have been numerous examples of major brands attempting to conduct social media campaigns or stunts, which have badly backfired and resulted in a consumer backlash, and ridicule aplenty.
No brand can afford that kind of damage, no matter how large or small.
Always have the consumer at the centre of any social media activity, and think as they would. Add value for your consumer, and always think of how they will gain from your activity. For example, a Facebook page that offers discounts and information about your product or service is innovative and is likely to increase brand awareness virally.
Be different and try to make sure that your social media campaign is one that will get people talking and one they will remember. No matter how simple.
And last, but by no means least, encourage your consumers to engage with you through social media activity. Simply talking at them by posting regular updates sends out the wrong message entirely.
Social media is all about engagement and interaction, and is not a passive process.
If you can actively encourage consumers to get involved in these campaigns, for example by posting suggestions for new products ideas as part of a competition, they will feel that they have some ownership of the brand, and this is vital.
Consumers engaging with each other through social media and sharing brand opinion has a favourable reaction, not only because these consumers feel they have ownership of the process, but also because they are more likely to relate to others’ opinions about the brand as they seem more ‘real’ than direct marketing messages.
Finally, don’t forget that many mobile phones today have powerful interactivity and will be linked to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. You can take advantage of this by developing a downloadable application, which can be done on a relatively low budget and connects you directly with your consumer. Just remember that an app needs to add value for your consumer. That way it will make their life easier and cement their relationship with your brand.
Howard Scott is digital marketing director at Sequence Digital. The digital marketing agency’s clients include the BBC, S4C, The Welsh Assembly Government, Storm Model Management and Rachel's Organic.