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

A segment of a social network

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Advertisements

Use Your Analytics on Social Platforms Thursday, Dec 22 2011 

TrackerSuite.Net, a Web-based product

Image via Wikipedia

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.

Pretend To Be A User Wednesday, Dec 21 2011 

This (attributed to ) originally appeared duri...

Image via Wikipedia

I was recently working with some partners on a charity’s Facebook page. We were having a little trouble getting everything we wanted in place because, like any good Americans, we wanted it all and we wanted it now! We wanted our landing page to have reveal tabs and donations page to have “tweet to friends”, our posts to be written by Benjamin Franklin and our art carved by Michaelangelo! Erm. Yes.

Well the one thing we were forgetting is that community development is a long term goal, not an instant conversion. We should be happy we get a “like” to start with and thrilled to get a donation down the road.

We’d gotten in so deep at that point our page plan was a mess! So what did we do?

We took a step back, had a couple beers and logged out of facebook went to our facebook page and said, “Lets pretend we’ve never heard of this charity ever. It doesn’t matter how we got here, but now we’re here. What do we see?”

Then we started asking questions: Having looked at our landing page for 2 seconds do we know what the page is about? is it worth a like? Why not? What can we do to make it worth a like? Ok, now we liked it- now what? And so on…

In short we went through the “conversion” process and decided exactly how a completely uninformed lead should be nurtured to becoming a donor / spokesperson for our cause.

And that, really, was our goal- to create donors! But we’d forgotten our strategy and gotten mucked up in tactics. Always remember a tactic supports a strategy! On their own tactics are a waste of bandwith. We all love new toys but what good is Voltron’s sword arm without the head? Savvy?

@pallanteMichael 😉

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

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

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.

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.