The Power of a Social Network Post Policy Thursday, Jan 12 2012 

A segment of a social network

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I work with a variety of clients. Some of them simply want a Twitter or Facebook set up, others want an actual social media campaign. The clients who simply want one of those networks running get just what they ask for- the other guys? They work with me to supply content and optimize their websites and let me work with their web teams to create landing pages so I can actually convert the communities they want me to build!

But before you can get into running a full on campaign you really do need your ducks in a row — you need a solid foundation for your social networks including a strong post policy, content schedule, and a single message / point of view / voice.

This week I had the pleasure of building just such a foundation for two of my major clients. When my firm came in to the scene both of these clients had their social networks registered and were doing what most businesses do at first: someone or several someone’s at their offices was asked to “make updates” to their social networks. These updates were unsurprisingly sporadic, often off message and generally lacking in any consistency whatsoever.

Their numbers were in the toilette and they were driving no traffic to their site, but rather than throw in the towel they decided to ask the important question, “Why isn’t this working and how can we do it right?” (That’s a question I ask myself, by the way, and every marketer should not be afraid to be self-critical when they aren’t getting the desires results)

So, I stepped in, looked at the companies previous analytics and found what type of posts their fans responded to most and thought about what caused these reactions. Using that “actionalble data” I drew up a specific post policy working from a pre-written template I generally keep handy. For most corporations (most, not all) the following template works almost without fail:

Post five times a week, once every week day.

Include 1 educational post which reminds users what the company is or does.

Include 1 discussion piece in which the company takes a position on a given issue which is derived from their mission statement.

Include 1 outside link to anything relevant to either the company or their fans to demonstrate connectedness to the brand’s community at large.

Include 1 shareable media post such as video or images.

Include 1 sales message directing users to a landing page, product or website which is optimized to allow users to spend their money right then, right there.

The point of this generic post policy is that it emphasises familiarity and engagement with a corporation so that when a sales message is sent users are prepared to respond to it- kind of like a micro-version of lead nurturing.

Its also important that these posts all filter through one final editor (usually your social media director who eats, sleeps, lives and breaths on-point messaging and community development) so that each post can be evaluated resulting in consistent voice & style, avoiding two competing concepts of what the company’s message may be (no two people think exactly alike) and so that the final editor can weave a consistent story over multiple posts.

So how did this work out for my clients? Well… I’ve done this type of thing before- but never with national brands. On a local business level post consistency and a solid policy can help you slowly build a following and show a steady drip of new activity on your social networks. When you combine pre-existing brand recognition with a dynamic post policy which takes the brand’s unique user expectations into account? It was a flood.

Triple digit increases in new likes, new activity and site traffic across the board for both of these clients. This resulted not only a good pat on the back from my boss, but also new opportunities for our firm. After demonstrating to these clients that we could, with some minor tweaking and good planning, show them measurable returns from social media they opened up to us and allowed us to expand our campaign. In short we got their trust- and your client’s trust is in the end way more valuable than their monthly checks.

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Facebook Advertising: How To Do It Right Monday, Jan 9 2012 

Swift Heart Rabbit staring at the Spirit's spe...

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Most people who know me know I’m in a band. As this blog is designed for small business owners I’ll assume you don’t yet know me so let me tell you- I’m in a band. Our band leader realized the other day that I do marketing for a living and we began to discuss a social strategy for the band’s upcoming saleables (shirts, CDs).

Well, the singer went off, ran a facebook advertising campaign because of how much I talked about them, and came back this week telling me: It didn’t work.

To which I replied, without thought, “You did it wrong.”

How did I know this? Because Facebook Advertising is as easy to screw up as it is effective, which is “very” in both cases. So in case you were wondering about how to approach a Facebook campaign…

Start with a goal. The goal can be anything trackable, but it must be trackable. The most easy thing to track is the number of “likes” your page has, some other things to think about however include page activity, comments, interactions and of course website / page hits generated from facebook.

Next decide what type of reach your advertisement needs to accomplish the goal you’ve chosen. For example, if you want 10,000 new fans then you’ll probably not reach your goal if you target 10,000 people unless you have the best ad copy ever written and the most focused target audience of all time.  If you experience average results and your goal is 10,000 new fans then you might want to target a million people, or ten million people.

Also, choose your interest targeting carefully. The benefit of social media is hyper-accurate-targeting, and just like on Google you’ll find a lot of competition for common terms. Don’t just think about your product but think about the content of your advertisement. For example if you’re selling makeup and your advertisement focuses on how the product can make someone look younger- don’t just target people who like “make up” or “fashion”. Target people who like “Recess” and “kickball” and other “youth” oriented things as your ad text will resonate with them.

The worst, and most expensive, thing you can do is expect it all to happen “right now” and your add to run itself. If you run a 1 day add with a high budget and don’t even look at your Insights, you’re going to over pay for your ad. The longer you run an ad and the better it performs the lower CPC you’ll get. And to know how well its doing you’ll need to run two ads to test out different text, images, and targeted users to see which works better.

Just think, if you run an add for two weeks and you get 500 clicks and that meets your goal you’ll be happy. But what if you could have had 2,000 clicks if you had a better advertisement? So choose one ad as your “control” ad, and another ad as your “test” ad and try out different things with the test ad over two weeks, see which works better. If your test ad starts doing well, make it your primary ad and start testing again.

Also don’t forget to adjust your ad bid, or how much you’re paying per click. If you are paying 50 cents a click, and you could be paying 30 cents, or even 3 cents- wouldn’t you want to know? Pay attention to your ad account. Every day.

The best part about facebook ads is the new “likes” and clicks they drive without you actually paying for it- its the “friends of friends” effect. When someone sees their buddy just “liked” your page, they’ll be inclined to check it out as well!

There are other things you can do- and the next blog will talk about Facebook Landing Pages (well worn territory) but I’ll do my best to make it very easy for you.

 

Page to Page Facebook Activity Works Friday, Jan 6 2012 

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

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I’m an organic social media type fellow. I love to be behind my master dashboard (something my company cooked up which will soon be available to the public) and schedule posts and watch real time analytics. In short, I love talking to people and telling stories about my clients.

So when my employer (@everymerchant) gave me access to a Facebook page our biggest client “forgot” about (our contract was to run all *existing* social sites, so I was prevented from creating one for them! Dumb, eh?) I got excited. Not because the page was doing well, it certainly was in rough shape, but because I had a veritable blank slate to work with.

My challenge? Build a facebook following under brand restrictions (can’t be edgy) and with zero advertising budget. DAMN!

So I fell back on the old tactic which started my career (and, incidentally, raised me a few grand in college which I promptly spent on beer and horror movies- worth every penny!).

I talked. Online.

Brain crushing, eh? But I didn’t just “post into the air” to zero followers hoping that somehow, someway, someone would accidentally search for my brand and randomly be enthralled by my wit and high quality content. I “rode the ticker” by doing targeted “page to page” likes and engaging other brands which, while not in competition with my client, that my client’s customers would frequent. I didn’t just log in and spam, “CLICK MY PAGE” either. I spent a few minutes every day having real conversations with folks in the threads and showing a genuine interest in the topics.

Well every time I logged in to my client’s account a new notification popped up in the corner and my engagement levels sky rocketed. To be fair- facebook is kind in that it doesn’t provide Insights that go below “zero” so the only direction my client’s analytics *could* go was up.

In short this was just targeted advertising. If I jumped into a major discussion with folks I already knew were interested in my brand all it took was a few basic practices to inspire them to click on my client’s icon.

I kept my posts short, 1 or 2 sentences at most. In long discussion threads all but the most passionate will skip over the big blocks of text (tl;dr). Also if your post is between two other people in an active exchange your potential customers simply have to read your post to get to the next post (its human nature, we’re taught to read *everything* in grade school, not skim)(don’t debate me and tell me Internet users just skim, its different in real time chat when the posts are not in excess of 140 words).

I kept my posts relevant and made sure to generate discussion, not debate. Even if I was just agreeing with a previous poster, or the original poster, I contextualized my replies in a way that agreed with my client’s message and company.

I kept my voice and posts consistent, when they saw my client’s avatar they knew I wasn’t going to suddenly bend left and confuse people. I was a reliable source of opinion.

In the end, the other brand’s I communicated with benefited from longer converastions which kept users on their page longer, and my client benefited from increased visibility and… the only analytic most clients even look at… more “likes”.

So if you’re a small business owner- log in as your Facebook Page and cherry pick a couple dozen pages with whom you know you can have good discussions. Watch as the followers of that brand, and their friends who see their posts in the Ticker, discover your brand.

 

 

Your Community, Your Spokespeople Tuesday, Jan 3 2012 

Social Media Outposts

Image by the tartanpodcast via Flickr

At times being a social media marketer can be frustrating. Depending on the client you may spend more time educating them on what social media is (and isn’t) than you do actually marketing! It was with these similar frustrations that I vented on my facebook (its private) about a (nameless) client who wanted me to simply build up massive lists and post pictures of their print ads on their page.

A buddy of mine responded back with a little bit of amusement, but then said he knew of a page which was “doing it right” as he said.

The kid linked me to his local radio station (Radio 104.1 WMRQ) and for a moment I thought he worked for the station. He was so open about what a great station they were and how impressed he was that they actually cared about / responded to his posts that I assumed he was an intern. So I asked him if he worked for WMRQ…

He doesn’t work for WMRQ, but he does listen and when their little add appeared in the corner of his facebook page he clicked “LIKE” because they were familiar and they had his trust.

So, just to recap what happened:

WMRQ spent anywhere from $0.05-$0.50 to get this guy to click. They nurtured the connection over time by posting content, replying to comments and engaging users in a very genuine way (they have 18K “likes” and over 2k people talking about the page, and every single one of those users matters to WMRQ). This kid then came out in public (his profile is not private) and talked about what a great radio station WMRQ is. He’s got four four digits in friends and is active daily, people trust this kid.

So WMRQ’s chump change just got them a ton of impressions, at least me as a new fan, and more bang for their buck than a newspaper advertisement could possibly manage. Oh and this glowing blog.

So you small business owners out there- if you’re just thinking of social media as a digital billboard then delete your accounts, you’re hurting your brand reputation if you’re not engaging your audience and treating them the same way online as you would if they walked in your doors or called the office.

Use Your Analytics on Social Platforms Thursday, Dec 22 2011 

TrackerSuite.Net, a Web-based product

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I have a wide fauxcabulary. A fauxcabulary is a list of words which are basically nonsense but I’m forced to use in a business environment because well… If I said what I meant clearly all hell would break loose.  The first time someone said,”Bullet Point these Price Initiatives for me?” I asked, “You mean tell you how much this costs?” I was nearly tossed out on my thrift store clothed behind.

But Actionable Metrics is not fauxcabulariy- its your lifeblood as a social marketer. What are Actionable Metrics? Just what they sound like, measurements which suggest a course of action. For instance, if you post 100 times a day about turtle wax and once a day about bike chains, and the bike chains post gets your clicks? Well, then you know you’ve stocked your twitter lists with bike messengers and not car owners and, depending on your product, you can either change who you engage with or change your message.

Such was the case with one of my favorite clients last week. The client shall remain nameless, but we share office space with them and I take my smoke breaks with them. I’d been running a low level twitter campaign for them. I was waiting on some other things to come into place, so I wasn’t really building their following just yet. I would seek out and connect with a few locals (their business is local) and automate some messages about their product, but nothing major.

Well, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t seeing a 50% click through rate (Pretty easy, actually, with a small list, also tracked via bit.ly and @everymerchant ‘s soon-to-hit-market social media software). What really got me though, was that the majority of those clicks were coming before and after the business day and that the most clicks were on the product oriented blogs that the business was posting.

Well, this told me something- people were interested in product specifics, and those people had jobs.

So I changed my tactics. I took down all the content I had automated and replaced it with product details and changed the timing of the posts to peak hours of the previous month’s click throughs.

Will it work? Don’t know, have to wait until I’ve given it enough time to turn over. And, as much as it sounds reasonable  it may still *not* have been the right move. But you have to be rubber, flexable and listen to your fans and your data.

Hit me up at @pallanteMichael some time and we’ll talk about it.

Twitter Marketing: Its Who You Follow Monday, Dec 19 2011 

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

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Any reasonable social marketer should be listening to their market. And you are listening to your market, right? You didn’t just add a bunch of people and start spouting off a sales message, did you? Well, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

How your audience reacts, how they click your links, what they say and what you say to them all has a major impact on the style of your social media campaign. You should be looking at your click throughs and website analytics to see which messages worked, which messages didn’t, and identifying who your biggest fans are. Knowing who your biggest fans are lets you leverage their loyalty- and reward it. Someone who constantly retweets or @’s your brand is someone you should be extending extra attention to so they continue.

But lets face it- if you’ve got a massive list and you’re following back everyone who follows you the numbers can get tough to crunch. You can be looking at a stream of thousands all day and find it near impossible to gauge true sentiment. There is software out there to help you with this- and its useful, but I’m an old school kind of guy and prefer to work “in the field” as it were. And I can tell by looking at someone’s Twitter feed how successful they’ll be with their efforts- In short, if you can’t guess how your audience feels about an issue then you can’t be flexable enough to deliver an impactful message.

If you followed a wide array of people with no coherent interests you’ll never be able to gauge your community and respond to their specific needs.

If you followed a select group of people you carefully chose by keyword use, retweeted posts and observing their feed then you’ll have a much greater chance of staying engaged.

In short- if you went and added a bunch of shmucks just to get big numbers then you’ve gone and shot yourself in the foot because you’ll never be able to talk to them because you won’t be able to listen to them. If you have 10,000 fans that you got by adding 20,000 and with whom you have nothing in common than there’s no hope for dialog, and you will fail. Epic fail.

But if you started with a handful of people whom you see eye-to-eye and grew your list organically through conversations and dialog- well then you’ll be able to chat with 10k people as if they were a single friend.

So think hard before clicking that “Follow” button- because even a big huge corporate brand can be sunk by predatory adding.

Social Media Marketing : Message! Not medium! Friday, Dec 16 2011 

Social Media Cafe

Image by Cristiano Betta via Flickr

As a social media marketer who serves small businesses (My current employer is @EveryMerchant ) a recent headline caught my eye: “Search engines beat social media for local business info!” I have a friendly rivalry with our SEO / PPC department. They pay premiums for keywords and spend hours tweaking websites to get the “google edge” and front page placement for our clients. My approach is to use social networks and on-site conversion tactics to drive hits through conversation and understanding customer habits, not just search terms.

But did that headline really just say they are *beating* me? Well, according to the MSNBC article linked above (which references a Pew Research Center Poll) only 3% of users check social media for information on local businesses. Ouch. That makes it look a lot like I’m wasting my time in social media, right?

Well, me and my peers have accidentally, in order to sell our services,  created something of a myth about social media. Our clients believe social media is somehow different than your average marketing. And on some mechanical levels it is! A tweet is definitely not a magazine ad, digg? However, in the end, the only difference between social media and regular marketing is the ability to listen to your audience. The marketing aspect of it can only boil down to getting a sales message to a customer.

So when I see that only 3% of people are going to social networks to *get* information on small business and local business I have to wonder if maybe its because:

A: Social Media brings the message to the customer, not the reverse (like in Google) and…

B: Most local business have terrible social media campaigns.

Yesterday, and I’ll leave names out, I came across a lead and looked into his social networks. His store’s official facebook page was actually the owner’s private profile. With his picture. And pictures of his family. And sometimes pictures of his store’s product.

Compare that to the tactic-du-jour of incentivized facebook landing pages with reveal tabs that provide instant gratification and conversion for clients who are interested in a brand.

My nameless lead was not marketing with social media. He was *on* a social network. They are not the same. And many small business owners, god bless ’em, simply don’t know the difference. So in the end- its the message, not the medium.

And reports and polls will continue to downplay the value of social media until guys like me educate people one by one. Or you can help educate people by sharing this article.

Organic Social Media Campaigns with Author Steve Umstead Friday, Sep 23 2011 

I spoke with Steve Umstead this week, a best-selling author (Amazon top 100) and business owner, about how social media has factored into selling his two novels Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s return (available for the Amazon Kindle, Nook and all eReader formats and, in the case of Gabriel’s Redemption, paperback editons).

The face of a Ninja

Author of Gabriel's Redemption

The two novels are adventure / sci-fi stories which he marketed exclusively through social media. Steve commented, ” Having the ability to reach hundreds, even thousands of people with very minimal cost, just time, is invaluable to a self-published author.”

Even if you aren’t paying a social media expert, time is an investment and the ROI cycle still applies- you can brute force your numbers but you still need to make the most of your impressions (impressions = when someone sees your tweet, facebook, blog etc).  Having 10k followers who don’t know who you are isn’t a platform, having 2k followers who will buy your product however is smart use of time and resources. But how do you get them to buy your product?

“…authors need to get involved in building their own platform.[but]I’m not a ‘yell to the heavens’ type of marketer in terms of my own work. Prior to releasing Gabriel’s Return (book 2), I tried to build up anticipation by encouraging potential buyers to try book 1, as book 2 was on its way. After release, I worked it similarly, in that I still encouraged potential buyers to pick up book 1 now that there was a second one if they enjoyed the first. I think multiple books is one of the biggest keys to success  ”

Here Steve goes a step beyond marketing and edges on creating a community, or what Seth Godin would call a ‘tribe’. He’s appealing to his existing base while expanding it. By getting too caught up in creating new social-media-followers lot of people make the mistake of not tapping their followers. 500 fans who have read your book and will talk about your book is much more important than 1000 new fans who have not yet read it.

But the question that so many people ask is, “Yeah but how do I start my following? Where do I find my initial fans? I know how to manage a tribe, but how do I start a tribe?”

For Steve it was simple trenchwork, “Post release [my plan] was tell everyone I had met online, for the most part fellow authors, and hope they bought it, enjoyed it, reviewed it, and told a few friends. It really was flying by the seat of the pants.”

So did Steve take his following and impose a master-stroke marketing plan?

“Sales for book 2 were significantly better than book 1’s first week, but that wasn’t necessarily due to some magic marketing methods. By August of this year, I had made contact with many, many more people online: fellow authors, readers, genre fans, etc. Therefore I had a much larger audience to talk to.”

Pay close attention to how Steve improved his initial sales push for his second novel, its very simple and if you blink you could miss it: he built a platform and used his voice. And he created genuine fans by doing it. REPEAT buyers (which is essential, anyone can use your product once but what you really need is brand loyalty which generates word of mouth campaigns).

Steve’s sales of book 2 “Most definitely,” resulted in an upswing for book 1, meaning that he has assured a certain number of sales for book 3 and beyond, “As I mentioned earlier, I think this is one of the most important facets of being (or trying to be) a successful self-published author. Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer have both said this for a long time – having more than one book is key. It gives credibility, as many potential buyers see an author with one book and may just pass by. Why? For a couple of reasons. One: an author with one book may be a flash in the pan, may not have top quality work, may be a risk. Two: a buyer may be more likely to buy a book from an author with another book, because they may like the first one and want to move on to another. ”

But while Steve claims that 99.9% of his marketing is organic, there’s still the business owner in him who says, “Because it’s the second in a trilogy, it makes for a natural combination of marketing. Marketing for the first book consists of letting readers know a second book is out (again that more-than-one advantage), and marketing for the second mentions a progression of the story arc, and that (for now) the first book is at a lead-in price.”

There’s some smart work going on behind the scenes, common sense use of the “long tail” effect.

Steve Umstead’s Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s Return are adventure / science fiction stories. He uses common sense social media campaigns to market those novels, tempered with a bit of pure businesses smarts- but something to remember about all of this.

His books are extremely well written.

No amount of social media savvy is going to get a sell a bad product. There are no “smoke and mirror” approaches to SM campaigns. Steve is a perfect example of the saying: The best way to get people to listen is to have something worth saying.

The full text of my chat with Steve will be available tomorrow.

A Hashtag Lesson Thursday, Aug 25 2011 

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter hashtags are a great way to catagorize your posts, imply sarcasm and simplify. But how do you use them to maximize your impact?

There are three types of hashtags (#) on twitter: Social, News Stream and Orphans (hat tip to Rob @questional for the last one).

Social:

These are hashtags that are used for discussions and chat. My favorite is #pubwrite and I have a #pubwrite stream running on my tweet deck. Throughout the day people will include the #pubwrite tag in posts and others will reply with the #pubwrite tag. Its like an old AOL chatroom on twitter without the need to @ every individual #pubwrite savvy user. When you include a social tag you are saying, “This comment is directed at other tweeps using the same social tag.”

News Stream: This is a hashtag that usually moves too quick to engender conversation and is usually reserved for news and culture niches. #antisec is a good example. When LulzSec made the “Antisecurity” movement popular all articles, posts and information about it generally funneled through the #antisec hash tag. When you use a News Stream hashtag you’re usually giving links, information or commentary about that news item. If your content is good or your commentary relevant you may get a retweet or comments on the link you posted.

Orphans: These are hashtags that people probably don’t have a stream set up to follow and are usually never used again. Most of the time they offer context or humor on the preceeding posts. An example would be: Off to the DMV #seeyounextcentury. No one is looking for the #seeyounextcentury hashtag and no community around it exists, but it does offer a little humor and explains the users feelings about going to the DMV.

Do not cross the streams, guys- if you do you’ll make yourself an outsider very quick. Do not treat Social streams as News Streams and don’t expect a Social aspect to rise in a News Stream. And never think that your Orphans are anything but that.

How do you find social streams? Ask your friends what a good #hashtag for whatever topic your interested is. “Are there any good Hash-Chats for Marketing? Where can I find a good hashtag for journalists to talk in?” For news streams? Just watch your stream, they’ll pop up if you’ve properly developed your community to reflect your interests and work life! If you don’t see useful hashtags on your stream then think about adding different users or using list filters to seperate your professional or personal contacts so you can watch closer.

Social Media Ninja Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Twitter HQ in San Francisco - Olaf Koens, http...

Image via Wikipedia

Using your social media to manage and increase your users / readers / market takes time. A good social media campaign should look at months, not weeks or days. The appeal of social media is instant gratification- that like, retweet or reblog feels good. But if you can get past that you can get a longer lasting satisfaction by developing engaged users- engaged in this case means users who interact. A user who interacts is way more likely to be a mouthpiece for your product than other users. So you want users to “engage” so they’ll help grow your user-base.

But social media is not a blitz. You gotta be Seal Team 6.  The big two right now are Twitter and Facebook, though that will change by 2015 (if the planet is still here. Damn Myans!). So let me give you a some basic advice on how to use them.

Twitter:

Its about who YOU follow, not who follows you.  Follows will come- don’t worry about it.

Don’t build a massive random contact list, build a community. Sure, its only a community from your point of view but that’s OK. To manage this community and keep user’s engaged you must give them a sense of belonging, autonomy, and competence.

Belonging: Make sure people know that they are part of a group you find interesting and that you want to serve. If members of your community don’t know each other- they know you, and you are the gateway to that community. Think of yourself as the cool kid in high school who was friends with everyone. Provide links and information and retweets to your friends that serve their interests. This will not only serve to develop the sense of belonging, but also place you as the ‘head’ of what Seth Godin would call your tribe.

Autonomy: Even if they are a member of the group- they need to feel singular within that group. Address them individually and publicly. A brief private message about someone’s interesting link, post or comment will give them a sense of individuality, while a quoted retweet addressed to your community will build the group mentality.

Competence: They need to DO something. The phrase is “Call to action.” Ask their opinions, give them input, ask them to comment on your blog, or share your information with their friends. Let the know when they have accomplished something, provide informational feedback about it.

Facebook:

Likes matter. A user who “likes” your facebook page is 28% more likely to continue to use your product (read your book) than someone who doesn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean that getting someone to like your page will suddenly increase their brand loyalty and level of engagement.

Much like Twitter the secret to success is thinking about it backwards. Facebook is a way to reach out to and manage your existing loyal users. If someone likes your Facebook page it means they already use and know your product- so there’s no need to ‘introduce’ your product / book to them. You’ll need less call to action on your Facebook. You can use Facebook to reach a deeper engagement with your users. You can ask Facebook users to help you with marketing campaigns (help us reach 20,000 followers and we’ll release the new book, product version etc) easier than you can Twitter. Use facebook to take the pulse of the market you developed on Twitter.

There’s of course much much more to it, but this is a great way to start making the most out of your community and your time on social networks.

 

 

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