It’s no secret that I am a big fan of blogging as a marketing tool. I will happily wax lyrical about the importance of generating quality content and how small businesses can make blogging central to a content marketing strategy. So I was delighted by the findings of a new survey that proves that blogging is “where it’s at”.
Published by Technorati, a leading US social media company, the 2013 Digital Influence Report presents insights into the use of social media following surveys of consumers, brand marketers and “influencers” — those people with a “greater than average reach or impact through word of mouth in a relevant marketplace”.
The report reveals that there is overwhelming evidence that consumers rely heavily on blogs for advice and recommendations when making purchasing decisions.
One of the most significant findings is that blogs are right up there with “official” websites — 56% of consumers form opinions by visiting retail sites and 34% turn to brand sites, while an impressive 31% are motivated by what they read on blogs. This compares to a mere 8% of consumers who use Twitter for the same purpose.
And why do bloggers have such clout? Because they are generally considered to give honest and sincere reviews of products and services, they are giving their opinion and will tell it as they find it — what’s more, they aren’t being paid to write favourable endorsements. In other words, they are building trust.
This is something that can come out of even quite small blog communities — when it comes to blogging, size really doesn’t matter, something that the big brands just don’t seem to understand. Popularity doesn’t necessarily equate with trust, and a more intimate experience in a smaller community is much more likely to generate positive action.
Good quality content continues to be the key to a successful blog. Focusing on providing value to your readers through advice and opinion builds that all-important element of trust and will ensure a strong and loyal community. If you want to widen your net, use social media to “advertise” your blog. So Facebook and Twitter should be seen as a valuable means to an end. In other words, it’s your online word of mouth marketing that can direct people to your blog, get them reading your latest posts and then pick up on any calls to action.
Twitter undoubtedly has its place in your marketing toolbox, but your blog is, ultimately, the most valuable tool of all. Twitter, with its short and sweet 140 characters, can only convey so much about your brand and what you do or offer.
So it is through your blog that you will most effectively engage with your audience, influence their thinking and convert them into loyal customers. And that will only happen if they trust you. And trust is built organically through an ongoing dialogue — tricky to do within a mere 140 characters, but eminently possible through regular articles of 400-500 well chosen words.
No one anticipated just how popular social networking would be become. Once viewed with trepidation, small businesses wondered whether social media would ever be something they would incorporate into their marketing strategy. Now social networking has changed the way B2B businesses interact with prospective clients and partners and how they market their brand.
Social media has become a necessity for every business because with the right strategy, it has the power to positively impact the bottom line.
An obvious marketing technique is to go where your prospective clients are and market to them. Well, everyone is using social media and whether your business is engaging in social media or not, people are using it without you. They may be talking about your business — or they may be talking about your competitors! The fact is that they are talking and you’re not there to interact.
An increasing number of businesses are engaging in social media every day and the only way to reach out to them about your brand is to make your online presence known. You can’t run from social media any longer so you might as well embrace it.
Engagement is the key to trust, and conversation and social media gives your business a voice. A few years ago all you needed to do was create a product and market it to as many prospective buyers as possible. Now traditional marketing methods are gone because social media has changed the way B2B businesses market themselves. Many businesses are now using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to engage with their audiences and some use it as their sole customer service function. People want to talk and interact with real people.
Social sharing now also impacts your SEO rankings. If you’re absent from social media, search engines such as Google won’t consider your website as important which makes your website harder to find. It’s important to include social networking in your SEO efforts in order to be a leader on the SEO board.
Social media is no longer a trend, it’s a necessity. It’s a tool that fulfils a need — the need to communicate, interact and share. Interacting on social media platforms can significantly increase your brand visibility. While traditional marketing methods could increase your traffic, social media will bring you fans, friends and followers who are interested in your business and offerings. These can be turned into customer engagement and that will lead to increased sales.
No business can survive without customer and client feedback. Social media is a dialogue where people with similar interests can interact and share things they like and dislike. Consumers don’t limit their online expressions and opinions to those businesses with a Facebook page or a Twitter account. Today, they have their own accounts and blogs for sharing their experiences and opinions about your business. By not engaging in social media, you’re ignoring these discussions and limiting your ability to participate, apologise or defend. Social media is the best way to find out what your customers are saying about your brand.
B2B businesses that continue to conduct their marketing and PR the old fashioned way will undoubtedly find it more difficult to compete. Social media isn’t going away. Businesses that want to engage their audiences need to seriously consider their social media marketing strategies for today, tomorrow and the foreseeable future.
So the key message is — don't get left behind. Social media is not just a passing trend, it can be a bonus for any company if the right strategy is implemented. For a B2B social media campaign to work, the campaign needs the same professionalism that businesses bring to every other aspect of their business.
Blog provided by iBAengage, a global social media service company.
Social media is time consuming, especially if you want to see results. But, as someone who eats, breathes and sleeps social media, I’ve discovered ways to make it a friend in both my professional and personal life, and to avoid burnout.
The key to staying fresh online and avoiding burnout is to establish exactly what you want to achieve from your social media efforts. Do your research to identify which tools your target audience are using, and focus your efforts here, whether that’s LinkedIn and Facebook, or Google+ and Twitter.
Spend time planning content. Think about what to post and create a calendar to schedule your updates. Identify a range of sources you can tap into at any time. RSS feeds are perfect for checking at a time that suits you, and can help to avoid your email inbox becoming cluttered.
Check the latest news each day, and share appropriate posts by those you like, follow or are connected to.
Not only do I plan my content in advance — I schedule posts using timers. Telling new social media users about scheduling feels like sharing a way to cheat, but it’s essential for managing your time, and your online presence.
Quotes, pictures, product descriptions, upcoming event promotion, links to your website and articles about your industry all lend themselves to advance scheduling, leaving you free to focus on the very latest news.
There are a number of tools available to help your scheduling — Hootsuite, TweetDeck and Buffer are popular choices.
Technology is the catalyst behind the popularity of social media and a wide range of free mobile apps let you keep up with the very latest news on your smartphone or tablet, even when you’re on the move.
Even when you’re happy that social media is working for you, it’s important to regularly review your profiles. Check your connections, pages you like, people you follow, and groups you’re in, and de-clutter to ensure you’re meeting your objectives.
And finally, if, like me, you suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) sign up to receive a daily email from NutShell Mail, summarising the most recent activity from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
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.