Blogging & Social Media

I love the Internet. I love blogs and social media. I can’t imagine life without these extremely powerful tools. I blog for money; I blog for fun; I use social media every day.

What I haven’t gotten used to is the way online anonymity and lack of face-to-face accountability allow some people to release their aggression and negativity online, in ways they would never do in person. This is not the majority of users. Most of us remember the basic rule of online behavior that says you should always act online the same way you would act offline. But the small percentage of users that becomes hostile and aggressive on the Internet can be a problem for the rest of us.

On a personal level, the best thing to do when faced with personal insults is to delete them if you can, and to devalue the feedback. Any feedback that is given anonymously is not real feedback and should not be taken at face value. Harsh anonymous feedback is cowardly. It would be a mistake to take it personally.
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One of the arguments in favor of using social media, even when you can’t quantify the benefits, is that social media has value beyond dollars and cents, and one important aspect of this value is risk control.

Being present in relevant social media channels enables you to listen to conversations about your brand. When the conversation is positive, you can simply thank the person, or just ignore it. But if the conversation is negative – if the person is complaining about your brand – social media enables you to immediately address the problem, before it escalates.

In other words, social media can be used to provide customers with immediate customer service, the type of service they are unlikely to get through your website or even via the phone.

Customers are increasingly aware of that. Many still email or call a company when they have a problem, but if they don’t get an immediate response, they post their complaint on the company’s social media channels. These complaints are often accompanied by graphic photos that illustrate the issue.

The following screen shot from the Facebook page of a prominent yogurt brand beautifully demonstrates how a brand’s social media page can be used by a frustrated customer to complain. While this may seem damaging to the brand, I believe that the prompt response by the brand is, in this case, beneficial to the company and reinforces its image as a company that cares about its customers:

Social media has given a lot of power to consumers. The ability to make their complaints public has forced companies to take those complaints more seriously. When I started out as a blogger and social media manager, it never occurred to me that a big part of my job would be monitoring conversations about my clients and quickly responding. I didn’t realize that part of my role would be to provide customer service. But it is, and it’s becoming increasingly common for consumers to skip the email and the customer service phone number and head directly to a company’s social media channel when they have a question or need to solve an issue.

I used to think that social media gave power to consumers at the expense of brands. In the past, brands were in full control over what was said about them, at least when it came to marketing. Now, consumers have the power, at least to some extent, to control what’s being said about a brand. But as long as you are aware of this, you can take this as an opportunity not just to make things right when they go wrong for an individual customer, but also to show everyone else that you care. The customer can initiate a negative conversation, but if you’re vigilant and keep your cool, you still have the power to turn it into a positive message about a company that cares.

Social media marketing offers benefits beyond those that can be immediately quantified in dollars.

Sure, the best-case scenario for everyone is being able to establish a direct correlation between a company’s social media budget and an impressive increase in sales, or significant lowering of costs (due to less money going to print ads, for example). Sometimes this can be done, but many times it can’t.

But social media campaigns where a brand develops a strong social media presence but cannot measure the campaign’s success in dollars, are not necessarily unsuccessful.

Analyst Laura Ramos cautions that social media shouldn’t necessarily be relied on as a source for generating qualified leads, but as a platform to foster engagement. Says Ramos, “I see social media as a tool marketers are looking at to create awareness and demand, and I think it’s going to be more of a tool for how to establish and maintain relationships, grow those customer relationships and ultimately, turn those customers into advocates for you.”

According to analyst Augie Ray, social media offers important benefits even if they’re not all financial benefits. These include brand awareness and loyalty – a successful social media campaign has the power to improve consumer attitudes about the brand; and risk management- social media enables an organization to immediately become aware of, and respond to, attacks or problems that affect reputation. Needless to say, these benefits do affect a company financially – long term.

One of my clients has recently told me that she sees incredible value in our social media campaign even though it never directly brought her clients. She said that her online presence, and especially her blog, brings her credibility. Through her Twitter account, she was invited to speak at a prestigious conference. And recently, a participant in a survey she was recruiting for, had told her that he initially thought her offer was a scam, but then he visited her blog and became convinced that her firm was for real.

Blogging and social media may not be directly responsible for your business growth, but they indirectly help by creating legitimacy, authority and trust. For any business I can think of, these are unquantifiable – and priceless.

Unhappy with your social media campaign results? You might be doing it wrong. Here are the main reasons why some social media campaigns do not work.

1. Full Automation. Automation is an amazing thing and a huge time saver, but when it comes to social media, where the goal is communication and interaction, you can’t fully automate your social media efforts. If everything is automated, from finding people to follow to posting messages, you’re missing the point and your social media campaign will move nowhere.

2. Broadcasting instead of Interacting. It’s OK to use social media channels to broadcast information about your brand, but if all you do is broadcast and you never listen or interact with others, you’re missing out on an important aspect of social media. As a result, your social media campaign will be less effective.
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You’ve decided to go ahead and add a blog to your company’s website. You also started a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and hired a social media consultant to manage those for you. Or perhaps you’ve hired a full-time social media manager.

If you’re like most companies, you’ve done all that hoping that your social media efforts would serve as a lead generation tool. However, most companies – at least those cited in the survey – report that this is not always the case.

It’s difficult to know if social media efforts generate leads, because they often generate them in an indirect way. Sometimes we can effectively measure the effect of a social media campaign. This usually happens when we create an asset such as a white paper, promote it in social media, remembering to create several different landing pages for each social media channel we use, and requiring people to register before they can download the white paper. In this scenario, we end up knowing exactly how many inquiries we received from each social media channel, and we can also find out how many of those have turned into actual leads and customers.
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SEO Is Not A Dirty Word

by Vered DeLeeuw

Occasionally, I come across a fellow blogger that announces in apparent disdain, “I don’t do SEO.” As if search engine optimization is somehow a bad thing to do, proof that you’re not a true writer, because real writers are artists, they create, and you can’t be a true artist if you engage in something as technical as SEO.

But SEO is not a bad thing, and writing with search engines in mind does not make your writing inferior, as long as you write mainly for human readers. SEO simply means helping search engines figure out what your site is about, so that they can index it properly.

While a human would probably figure out the topic of an article even if you only used its main keywords once or twice, search engines typically need more than that (although the Google engineers are working hard on making their search engine eerily intuitive). They need you to sprinkle your main keyword throughout the text and they also need it in the title tag and, ideally, in your domain name.
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Social media is a powerful tool, but it also has the potential of wasting so much of your time that it’s not really worthwhile. Getting traffic and leads is great, but to determine your ROI, you need to ask yourself how much time you’ve spent on the activities that have generated those leads. Social media is vibrant and addictive. It’s very easy to get sucked into wasting precious time on Twitter or on Facebook. Here are a few tips for avoiding social media waste:

1. Choose your social media channels carefully. You probably don’t need to be on all social media platforms. In an ideal world, you would leverage all the tools available to you, but in the real world, where you have time and money constraints, it’s best to pick the 2-3 social media platforms that are a the best fit for your company and stick with them, at least for a while until you see if they work. For example, if you’re a B2B organization, Facebook would probably be a waste of time for you; and if you’re an ecommerce website, Pinterest is a must, but Twitter – not so much.
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