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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.

Is your elevator pitch letting you down?

February 09, 2015 by Andy Bounds

Is your elevator pitch letting you down?{{}}If I am at a networking event and someone asks me “what do you do?”, and if I reply “I’m a consultant”, they might say “between jobs, are you?”

But when I say, “I help people communicate better”, they’re interested. They ask how I do it. They see me as useful. And all because I used a different opening sentence.

How you describe yourself – your elevator pitch ­– is critical. It’s the first impression you give. An exciting one turns people on, a poor one turns them off – and you’ve only said a few words.

Here’s a quick question for you: What do the following elevator pitches have in common:

  • I am an accountant
  • I work in IT
  • I own a web design business
  • I am a health and safety specialist
  • I am in charge of X division
  • I work for company Y

I can think of quite a few common elements – none that are good.

They are all:

  • Boring
  • Forgettable
  • Non-value adding
  • Unexciting – I certainly won’t be rushing to my contacts saying, “Hey, guess what? I spoke to someone who describes themselves as – get this – an accountant!”
  • Conversation stoppers, not starters. The only response I can think to give to each of the above is “Oh. Are you?”

Elevator pitches like this also trigger our preconceptions. Imagine if you and I were to play a game of word association; what do you think when you hear the words accountant, IT specialist, web designer, health and safety?

Instead, here are the two steps for an impactful elevator pitch:

Step 1: Focus on the “afters”

Introduce yourself by talking about why people are better off after you’ve worked with them.

For example, instead of “I’m an accountant”, you might say, “I help my clients pay less tax”.
Or, if this feels a little too abrupt: “I’m an accountant, so I help my clients pay less tax”.

Believe me: if you say that, nobody will say “Oh. Do you?” Instead, they’ll say something like, “that sounds useful. How do you do that?”.

Step 2: Reinforce the “afters” with a story

When someone asks for more information, don’t respond by listing all your products and services. It’s boring. And they won’t care.

Instead, remember that “facts tell, stories sell”. So, tell a story to illustrate the “afters” you just mentioned. “I recently helped company X to reduce their tax by £Y. What happened was…”

So, in two short steps, you’ve been the opposite of the bullet points above, in that you’ve been:

  • Interesting
  • Memorable
  • Value-adding
  • Exciting – people might talk about you to their contacts
  • Conversation-starting, not conversation-stopping.

I like being a consultant. But I prefer the “afters” that I cause. As do others. They don’t want to hear about what I am, nor what I do. They want to hear about the impact I have.

So, how could you – in just two sentences – instantly portray yourself as more valuable?

Copyright © 2015 Andy Bounds, a communications expert, speaker and the author of The Snowball Effect: Communication Techniques to Make You Unstoppable. You can sign up for his free weekly tips here.

18 ways to talk to your customers on social media

February 02, 2015 by Marketing Donut contributor

18 ways to talk to your customers on social media{{}}I meet a lot of small business owners who still aren't getting the most out of social media. Some say they don’t know how; some say they haven’t got time. Others say they simply don't know what to post.

But any activity, if important to your business, will get done. It just needs to become a priority.

Here are 18 easy ways that small businesses can connect with their audience on social media:

  1. Promote new products. Take photographs and share them via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Make sure you focus the accompanying text on a benefit your customers will care about.
  2. Tell people about a sale or promotion you’re running. People love deals. Including a picture will get your customer’s attention and help them visualise themselves with your product.
  3. Announce a new member of staff. This doesn't have to be done in a boring way (the way most companies do it). Have some fun with the announcement and include a picture.
  4. Get involved with your community. Not every tweet or post needs to be about your business. Focusing attention on others is a great way to build an audience online.
  5. Share pictures and testimonials from happy customers. Make sure you have their permission first.
  6. Give people something to think about. Publish an inspirational quote or share an interesting tweet.
  7. Don’t forget the basics. Tell people about a new telephone number or any upcoming changes to your hours of service.
  8. Tell people if you’re hiring. You never know, your next superstar may be a current customer, or a friend of one.
  9. Ask your customers questions. Use social media as a tool to get customer input on how to improve your products or services.
  10. And answer their questions too. Responding to queries and comments is the best way to build engagement.
  11. Make people laugh. Tell a joke (keep it tasteful!) or share an amusing picture.
  12. Tell people where they can buy your products and meet the team. This could be a new shop, an event or a trade show.
  13. Create a product video. Showcase one of your products in a video and share it via YouTube, Instagram or Vine.
  14. Run a competition. Social media is a great way to publicise a competition and get engagement with customers and prospects.
  15. Announce key dates. This could include upcoming deadlines to place product orders, the end of a promotion or the arrival of a new product.
  16. Share a how­-to video. Provide helpful information related to your area of expertise.
  17. Remind people of your returns policy. Highlight how it differentiates from your competitors.
  18. Provide local updates. This could be related to road closures or parking issues for instance.

Copyright © 2015 Eric Moeller, founder of Copy Dojo. You can find him on Twitter @CopyDojo

Switching email providers? Read these seven key tips

January 26, 2015 by Amir Jirbandey

Switching email providers? Read these seven key tips{{}}There are many reasons that businesses make the jump to a new email service provider; a growing contact list, a new budget or the need for new features. But whatever the reason, a switch can also be an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate your current sending processes and improve your deliverability.

If you’re thinking about switching email service providers, here is a useful checklist to make the transition as smooth as possible so you can spend less time stressing about the migration and more time on email marketing.

  1. When you create an account with a new email service provider, make sure you continue to use the same sender name and address so your existing customers can recognise you.
  2. On the new platform, ensure that Authentication Keys (DKIM SPF) are set up with your new email IP address so that recipients know that emails are from you and are not spam. This will ensure high deliverability, especially if you’re looking to send emails through SMTP. SMTP stands for Simple Mail Transfer Protocol and in this context means sending emails through an email service provider using a platform such as Outlook or WordPress.
  3. Migrate your contacts. You can do this manually by downloading them as a CSV file or if your email provider is supported, you can automate this process by using an integration service such as elastic.io. One important thing to remember here is to make sure you also migrate your bounced and unsubscribe contacts – this ensures you don’t spam anyone by accident and risk having your new account blocked.
  4. You’ll need to protect your reputation if you’re moving IP address and domain, especially if you send high volumes of emails. This means, as a rule of thumb, that for the first couple of weeks after migrating to your new provider, you should segment your contact list and email smaller batches of recipients over the first few weeks. This way, you should avoid triggering spam alerts.
  5. Also, remember to migrate the HTML email templates that you worked so hard to create. Your customers are used to receiving a certain look and feel from your emails; it's important to maintain that identity. Again this can be an easy process as you will be able to copy and paste the HTML codes from your previous dashboard on to your new email provider.
  6. With the new email templates migrated, make sure you check that all your links still work and amend those that don’t. Don’t forget to check the unsubscribe button.
  7. Finally give your customers a heads up about the changes – ask them to add your email address to their address book to help deliverability and ensure they continue to receive your messages. In case you haven’t contacted your customers for a while, you may want to consider opting them in once more to make sure they still want to receive your emails.

Copyright © 2015 Amir Jirbandey, marketing lead UK at Mailjet.

Six New Year’s resolutions to boost your social media productivity in 2015

January 19, 2015 by Christina Richardson

Six New Year’s resolutions to boost your social media productivity in 2015{{}}Since the New Year is all about fresh starts and resolutions, I want to focus on some social media resolutions that will help you to increase your productivity in 2015.

If you’re not careful, social media can suck up a lot of time; but there are many ways to work smarter, not harder with all things social.

Here are six social media resolutions for 2015:

1. Take the hassle out of posting with automation

By using online tools you can schedule posts for the most convenient time, without having to sit at your computer and physically press the “publish” button. Not only that, social media management tools make it easy to share content in more than one place, and they’re packed with analytics that can help you figure out what’s working for your business.

Both Buffer and Hootsuite offer an easy way to manage your social media engagement. Buffer, for example, helps you find and schedule interesting online content; Hootsuite allows you to manage all your social media accounts in one place.

2. Make a bigger impact with Openr

Sharing is simply huge. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn newsfeeds are all filled with content that people and brands are constantly sharing. But no-one is sharing for the sake of it – whether you are a small business or a global brand, sharing is intended to build credibility, engage and increase an audience.

Now a new free tool called Openr can turn your sharing into a traffic-driving tool.

Before now, if you shared an interesting article from Huffington Post, for example, it wouldn’t allow you to push your own message. At most, a share might increase your credibility by association but that’s about it.

Now tweet about that same article using an Openr link and your followers will see the article you shared, but also your own personal message and a call-to-action driving traffic back to your website.

3. Try to beat the clock

This approach might seem a little low-tech for some people, but the reason it has been around for so long is because it works. You can experiment with different timeframes, but the favoured approach of many is called the Pomodoro Technique — named after the kitchen timer that looks like a tomato.

You can either set a timer on your phone for 25 minutes, or for those who want the “authentic” experience, go out and buy a tradition kitchen timer for your desk. The aim is to get as much done in that 25-minute period as possible, followed by a 5-minute break. You can then repeat the process, or move on to a different task – depending on how successful you were.

4. Reuse old content

You spend hours writing an article or finding interesting articles to share, then you tweet about it once. The time-value equation doesn’t quite add up does it?

There is nothing wrong with sharing the same content more than once – especially on Twitter - because the feed moves on so quickly. But keep in mind that this strategy works best with “evergreen” content. This blog is an example of evergreen content because it doesn’t just have a one-time use, it can be useful over and over again for anyone who finds it.

Your reused content might not be as popular the second, third, or fourth time you share it on social media, but it will still get hits. Over time these can add to a substantial amount of new leads, conversions and paying customers.

5. Share it; outsource it

Going back to my second point, sharing content from other people is a great way to help your customers and build credibility. But sitting on the internet for hours every day trying to find said content is another time sapper. Luckily you can get it done for you. Try sites like Triberr, Swayy and Scoopit as these are all great for finding relevant content fast.

When it comes to actually writing the content, it’s good to weigh up the pros and cons of writing yourself versus having a trusted writer on hand to help. If it takes you a day to write an article, working with a writer who could do it in an hour could pay dividends. It could be someone on staff who can write well or a trusted freelancer who can deliver high-quality work when you need it most.

6. Get rid of dead weight

Some social media platforms just might not be right for your business; so don’t be afraid to turn off a channel that isn’t working for you. What works for one business might not work for yours. Ask yourself whether maintaining seven different social media accounts is the best use of your time.

There are two approaches: Go with your gut, or rely on analytics. Sometimes it’s obvious that a social media account isn’t working, because nobody likes it, nobody comments on your posts, and everything seems to be a one-way conversation. When things aren’t as clear as that, it’s time for some analytics.

So there you have it – a New Year, and a few new ways to make better use of your time when it comes to social media marketing. Of all of these, my favourite is Openr because it can save you time and increase your social media marketing ROI.

Copyright © 2015 Christina Richardson, business marketing specialist, mentor and founder of The Nurture Network. Christina is also co-founder of the Brand Gathering community, helping young businesses to grow by working together.

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