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25 Ways to Engage Contacts in Social Media

What is it? What is it good for? Engagement.

One of the primary selling points of social media is the concept of engaging a potential customer or partner in your product or service. So how do you accomplish engagement on a personal level?

25 Ways to Engage a Potential Customer Using Social Media

1. Start a blog. This seems like an obvious one. This should be one of the first things you think about doing when contemplating using social media as a marketing tool. There should always be a hub where your contacts can interact. The so called “hub.” WordPress is a great tool to start blogging. Get on it!

2. Join Foursquare and Use it during the business day. Foursquare is a service that allows you to update your location to the people following you on a regular basis. I do not recommend using this tool after business hours (could turn a little creepy) but it can help your contacts get an idea of what you do on a daily basis. Even if you are just sitting in your office for most of the day.

3. Join LinkedIN and recommend your partners. Most of us are already using LinkedIN (if you are not click thislink for great information on LinkedIN). When you start to recommend the people you love working with it will help spread the goodwill that your business partners deserve. What happens you spread goodwill? Ever heard of pay-it-forward?

4 and 5. Start an RSS Reader and Find 5 Blogs to Follow. It is important that you use an RSS Reader to help with the organization of the blogs you read. For more information on starting and maintaining an RSS Feed check out this link. By using a Technorati or Google BlogSearch you can find 5 blogs that are industry “blog leaders” in your dedicated profession. By following and commenting on the blogs you will start to engage other readers.

6. Place a Poll on Your Blog or Website. There are plenty of tools available for polling on your website or blog. Wp-polls is a great resource if you are connected with wordpress. Ask a question to your audience. How can I make my content better? What are you wanting to read or learn about? This will help in engaging your more loyal readers and followers. Formstack also gives you the ability to create forms and polls for easy content access and building.

7. Ask a Loyal Reader  to Guest Post. There is value in having your loyal readers do a guest post for your blog. They will feed your link to their subscribers and it also gives them a pride in ownership of your blog. This allows for the strengthening of a relationship in the long run.

8. Identify Your Strategy. This should have been number one because it is the more important thing you could be doing before online marketing. If you do not have a strategy in place to lead the charge into social media you will be at a lost when it becomes overwhelming. A strategy allows you to measure success points in your social media journey. This only helps when it comes to YOU engaging THEM.

9. Focus. Really Focus on Your About Page. What is the second most read page on a blog? The about page. People want to know who they are communicating with. The last thing you need to do (and I am also guilty of this on my personal blog KyleLacy.com) is to create a boring about page. Spice it up. Add some details that will create the best about page you could possibly want! Also.. enable comments on your about page. Allow people to comment on yours likes and dislikes.

10. Use Twitter on a Daily Basis. Now this might be a little overwhelming to the young at heart in social media but Twitter is fast becoming the ideal means of online communication. For a detailed explaination of Twitter check outDiTii.com’s video.

11. Add Your Social Media Information to Your Business Card. I have written a ton about this in previous posts. If you want to truly engage with the people you meet offline… add your social media sites to your business card. I have my LinkedIN, Twitter, and Blog URLs on my business card.

12. Be open to collaboration. You may have run your small-to-mid sized business for years by yourself but social media is built on the art of collaboration. People will be giving their opinions on a daily basis and it is in your best interest to take those opinions with stride. Collaborate and join in on discussions surrounding ideas related to your industry and your life. Collaborate. Learn. Listen.

13. Start a Facebook Page and Add in Your Family Life. Facebook is an extremely personal tool that can be used to connect with individuals on an emotional basis using pictures. You have to be open in sharing some of your family life with the outside world. There is a reason why PR companies have used the idea of “family man” to save many tarnished CEOs. Add pictures of your family, your dog, your vacation. People will connect. (New to Facebook. Check out this link on getting started as a company).

14. Pick 4 Social Sites and Maximize. You will become anti-social if you become overwhelmed with the multitude of different social media sites in which you are a member. We teach a 4-touchpoint theory of choosing four social media sites to spend your time. With a limited amount of time you will find that 4 sites benefits you in two main ways:

1. You will have more brain “bandwidth” to communicate on a deeper level.

2. The same people will pretty much be on all the sites you choose. (I say this loosely)

15. When someone comments on your blog email them a thank you. I learned this from the famous Gary Vaynerchuk. If someone is joining into the conversation on your blog and adding content make sure you thank them for your support. The people who show a vested interest are key to growing your readership. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t have time to email people the moment they comment. It sometimes takes me weeks before I send a follow up email.

16. Write About Personal Experience. We talk a lot about this. Write about the way you see life. Write about the way you experience your business on a daily basis. TAlk about how you are helping people. Talk about how you are solving the problems on a daily basis. Use Twitter. Use Facebook. Tell stories on your blog. People engage in stories. They connect with stories.

17. Try to Keep Yourself Within 450 Words or Less on Your Blog. It is important to keep blog posts concise and to the point. If you have trouble writing this will help you in the long run. As you can tell by the post you are currently reading, it is not essential that you keep it to 450 words. If you have advice and knowledge to send out to the masses.. . please do so. If you keep blog posts short it helps to keep readers and that is the goal.

18. Remember Quality vs Quantity. Quality is always better than Quantity. I have always said that 100 extremely engage readers are infinitely better than 4000 quasi engaged readers. Quality allows you to truly form relationships with the people you are dealing with on a daily basis. You can build your base anyway you like but make sure you always come back to quality over quantity.

19. Monitor the Conversation around Your Brand both Personal and Professional. For more on this read:25 Tools and Tips to Following Your Brand Online. Why is it important to follow your brand online? You need to be involved in all the conversations surrounding your product, service, or YOU.

20. DO NOT HARD SELL! I am going to repeat this again: Do Not Hard Sell. This means you are not sharing about sales and detail after detail about your company. It means you are concentrating on listening to the people who are investing in your writing and social media prescence. Nobody cares about your 50% sale. They care about who will be greeting them at the door of your store or place of business. Personality rules and if you want to act like a used-car sales man… go work at one.

21. Handwritten Notes Go Places. If you have an individual refer you business through the online environment.. we encourage people to use the old method and handwrite a note to that person. You would be surprised how far a handwritten note will get you!

22. Setup Columns in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for Use in Twitter. In order to follow the conversation surrounding your industry, clients, competitors, and your business… the tools provided through Tweetdeck and Hootsuite allow you to manage and organize tweets based on keywords or search functionality. Follow up to 3 columns and get involved in the conversation!

23. Use Rapportive to Connect with Your Email Database. Rapportive is a service that gives you the ability to connect with different contacts in your Gmail Inbox. A profile picture will appear to the side of the email and give you different information facts about the sender of the email. For more information on Rapportive read the LifeHacker post on the tool.

24. Try to Answer All Comments on Your Blog. It can be a daunting task. I felt guilty typing out this step because I am extremely bad at replying to comments. In all reality, the people you care about most…. should be the people who comment on your blog.

25. Use Rapleaf to Produce Segmentation Reporting for Your Email Database. Rapleaf is a reporting company who helps you better understand who your customers are and their social personalities. This service can give you some SWEET data on user engagement and cross platform marketing.

Source: kylelacy.com

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Do It Yourself Online Reputation Management Toolkit

Listening to real time conversations for opportunities, leads, and reputation management is now a standard marketing item on the to-do list.

While there are services such asRadian6Trackur and Jive Software (Filtrbox) that provide this kind of tracking for a fee, there are a number of tools that any do-it-yourselfer can employ to capture much of what’s being said about their brands, people, products, and industries in real time:

1.  Google Alerts

This one is certainly not new, but I still find people who don’t tap into it. Google Alerts allows you to set up as many custom searches as you like and have Google alert you via email or RSS when any mentions of those search terms hits their radar. Not 100 percent foolproof, but very good.

2.  Google Reader
Google Reader is an RSS reader, which means you can use it to subscribe, capture, read and display anything that produces an RSS feed. Most people use it to sort and read blogs, but anything with an RSS feed will show up here, so you can filter a great deal of content, including tags in bookmarking sites such as Delicious. Every customer and competitor blog feed should be in here.

3.  MyReviews Page

Rating and review sites such as Google Places and Yelp have become essential marketing tools. Monitoring reviews is a big part of managing and building reputation on these sites. MyReviewsPage alerts you when a new review shows up on many of the more popular review sites.

4.  Backtype
Backtype primarily focuses on blog comment streams and is a handy way to track this important content source.

5.  Boardreader
Bulletin boards and forums have lost a lot of their buzz due to social networking sites, but many industries still have very strong and active ones. Boardreader is your alert tool for the most popular bulletin board and forum sites.

6.  Social Mention
Social Mention is a real time search engine and important part of the mix because it not only catches things that others miss, it offers a wide variety of content types such as images, video and audio mentions, as well as giving some data about the influence and sentiment of the mentions.

7.  Netvibes
Netvibes isn’t a tracking or listening tool, but it’s a nice way to manage viewing all of the data you collect. Netvibes allows you to create a custom dashboard of RSS feeds and other elements and can be a great way for you to bring all of the content created by the tools above into one handy viewing station.

Source: Open Forum

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5 Social Media Tips for Small Business

A recent study by Employers indicates that over half of small businesses believe in social media as an important marketing tool.  Yet, only 16% of those polled use their social media accounts to communicate directly with customers.  So, what are they actually doing with social media?  The average small business uses it to promote, much in the same way they use ads, direct mail and other forms of traditional marketing.

Social media for business promotion is fine.  But, the real leverage comes through engagement with people who are interested in you.  Your fans and followers are the real catalyst for your success with social media, so keeping in touch with them is critical.

Why?  Social media, much like content marketing, is all about building customer relationships.  In fact, businesses can take their cue from the origins of social media as a primarily “social” tool.  Sites such as Twitter and Facebook were really designed to help people communicate with each other, share resources and stay in touch.  Businesses can do the exact same thing with their customers, using the same sites.

Using social media sites to engage with current and potential customers takes a commitment of time. However, the tools are already built in, so you can simply think of your company account as another way to connect with your target market, just as you would with friends, colleagues and relatives.  Here are 5 tips for building the relationships that lead to sales:

1. Listen- There are a lot of conversations going on out there.  Some of them may be about your company, your industry or other topics that affect you.  Take the time to listen to what is being said before deciding how to respond or add to it.  You’ll learn more about what is important to your target market when you put your ear to the ground.

2. Participate- By becoming part of these conversations, you show that you’re interested in what people have to say.  This is also your opportunity to show how much you know about your topic, which helps to establish your authority.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, encourage debate and even stir up a little controversy now and then.  It gets people talking and gives you more information you can use to connect with them.

3. Add value- Your comments should always add something of value to the conversation.  If you’re too self-promoting or don’t add any useful information, both you and your company will lose credibility.  Think of your efforts as conversation rather than as a push for sales.

4. Evaluate your goals- At some point, preferably at the beginning but also along the way, you should think about your objectives.  What you trying to achieve with your social media efforts?  Some businesses want to increase brand awareness, others are more interested in what their competitors are up to.  Honing in on your primary goals will save you time and energy in the long run.

5. Look at the big picture- Think of social media as a community rather than a place to sell your products and services.   People on these sites, just like the Internet in general, are not necessarily looking to buy something.  Most of the time, they want information they can use, and they want to connect with the sources of that information.  Make sure your efforts keep this in mind.  Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re here to talk to people, invite them to join you, offer them your expertise, etc.  Design each individual post to make an overall impression that, over time, reflects your business objectives.

So, if you’re thinking about using social media to promote your business, or already are, remember to put some time into customer engagement!  It’s the best way to get those friends and followers to convert into customers.

Source: Kyle Lacy

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9 Things to do Before Entering Social Media

You’re going to give this social media thing a solid chance. You’ve heard that social media delivers leads, connects you with customers and you’re confident that you can avoid falling victim to the many social media myths. All that’s left to do is create the accounts hop in.

Wait! Not so fast.

Before you enter in the world of social media, make sure you’re presenting your best possible face. Getting things in order before you take your first public steps will help customers trust your interactions and get things start on the right foot. You wouldn’t show up to your wedding without taking some time to primp, right?

Here are 9 things to do BEFORE you enter social media.

Create a rulebook: Before you step onto that field, memorize your plays. Study the channels you plan to use, listen to the conversation, understand the behavior and create your rulebook for how your company will engage. Identify how you’ll handle common support issues, the tone you’ll take, how you’ll address negativity, how fans will be rewarded, etc. Work up fake scenarios and create a plan for how you’ll deal with them. Look at issues competitors have had in social media and map out how you’ll do it better. The more you prepare, the better off you’ll be. Negative commenters are a lot less imitating when you have a plan for how you’ll convert them to your side.

Assign responsibility: Make it known who is going to be responsible for social media BEFORE everyone stands around looking at each other. Figure out things like:

Who will be responsible for creating the content, pushing it, talking to people, responding to questions, etc?
Who will implement any changes/issues discovered through social media?
How much time should this be taking from everyone’s day and is the number you just came up with realistic or did you just make it up?
Unless social media is someone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility.

Increase your customer support: When you open the social media floodgates, you’re creating a new channel for people to come and get help for issues they’re experiencing. You may need to increase your staff in order to handle that. If you’re a small business, that may mean rearranging your customer support system or, if you’re a little larger, it may mean adding actual bodies. Either way, you’re now going to have a live stream of people coming to you with questions, concerns and things they need fixed. You can’t ignore them. Put systems in place to handle the increases customer service tickets.

Fix your issues: You live in your business. You know that sometimes your service is flaky. You know the number one problem with your product. You know your most common complaints. Do your best to get these under control, or at least on the mend, before you enter social media. People aren’t going to suddenly stop noticing that you could be better just because you’re talking to them. Maybe start your social media effort by TALKING about all the things you’re looking to fix.

Shift your culture: There’s more to being a social company than simply creating a Twitter account. There needs to be an internal culture shift based on creating transparency and authenticity in what you’re doing. You need to be social from inside your organization out and that that may change how you deal with customers, how you treat your employees, and how daily job functions are performed. Make sure you address this before you suddenly have a spotlight on you.

Create content around common complaints: While you’re busy fixing your issues, you also want to create content on your site dedicated to solving, resolving and addressing your most common complaints or anything that may haunt you. By putting the information out there yourself, you give yourself somewhere to link to when issues arise and you also increase the transparency of your company . If you know that sometimes you get negative mentions over a business decision you made, create a page on your site that explains it. The more you can invite people into your company, the better. Answer your customers concerns before they even have them.

Commit to responding: You’re entering social media with the best intentions. You want to engage, to connect and to create real relationships with your customers. And that lasts for about, oh, two minutes after you come across your first online complaint. Don’t run away! Commit yourself (and your company) to responding to complaints and staying in the game. These mentions are why you’re here and addressing them is how you can provide the biggest value to your company. Don’t get scared away now.

Be ready to act: So, when people come to you with complaints or things they need fixed – you actually have to act on them. You can’t serve them platitudes on Facebook and then go back to business as usual offline. If you’re entering social media and inviting people into your organization, make sure you’re doing them justice by not only listening to what they’re saying, but making good on it, as well. If not, you’re going to give yourself a bigger online reputation management problem than had you just stayed away.

Clue in employees: The strongest brand advocates you have are your employees. They’re the people who live your
business every day and the power they have to influence customers and deliver your message is often underestimated. Make sure you clue employees to your new social strategy and let them know their role and how they can help the company. They want to get involved. They want the company to be the best it can be. Give them the power and the knowledge to do that.

By taking care of the items listed above BEFORE you enter the world of social media, you help to set your company off on the right foot. Ignore them and you may as well show up to your wedding still in your pajamas.

Source: Small Business Trends

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7 Essential Social Media Instincts Small Businesses Should Learn

May 04, 2010

In life we expect outgoing people to be better at tasks like networking or sales. We use terms like “extrovert” and “Type-A personality” to describe what many of us believe to be true about many of the people we work with… that seemingly natural parts of their personality make them ideal candidates to do certain types of jobs. Chances are as you have built your own small business, a part of any success you have had has come from your own natural abilities and skills.

The problem with how we think about our natural abilities (and those of others) is that it also forces us to consider that the exact opposite must be true as well. After all, if you can be naturally good at some things, surely you could be naturally bad at other things, right? And being naturally bad at something is a great excuse to just avoid doing something. If you’re “not good with numbers” then you get someone else to handle that. Or if you’re not a technology guy (or girl) then you can justify not investing in better systems to optimize your business.

This is just silly. Having an inherent ability certainly helps, but it is not a prerequisite – particularly when you consider social media. Many small business owners falsely believe that the more technical you are, the more readily you should be able to use social media. Actually, being good at using social media has very little to do with your technical ability. It does, however, require learning some basic principles and to some degree developing the right instincts. These are guiding principles that anyone who effectively uses social media already knows – but will dramatically help you to use social media like an expert, even if you still think

Java is a kind of coffee…

  1. Be conversational. The first and most important instinct to develop when it comes to social media can be surprisingly difficult for some, and that is to speak, write, and share content in your own real voice. This means using conversational language and writing as you would speak. Social media is rarely a place for marketing or legal type of language – so leave those for your important documents and get as real as you can whenever you post anything.
  2. Listen and respond consistently. It is often said that the basis of social media comes from listening. You insert any cliché here that you like about having twice as many ears as mouths… but the point is that through listening to what people are saying you will know what you need to respond to – particularly if someone posts a message about your business or industry and is seeking a response. The more often you respond, the more social credibility you can build for your organization as one that is listening and cares about the sentiment of the group.
  3. Proactively comment and share. Responding to questions that involve you or your business is the relatively easy part. More difficult is to consistently find reasons to proactively share a comment on a blog post or share content that you find relevant or interesting (particularly when it has nothing to do with your business).
  4. Use questions instead of statements. Open ended questions are a boon in social media, because they invite interaction. So instead of just posting statements of your thoughts or beliefs, how about turning them into questions and seeing who might have an interesting point of view to share. You’ll find this one shift makes a big difference in your level of engagement in the long term.
  5. Participate with those who share your passion. There are hundreds of thousands of niche groups on sites like Facebook and also independently created through blogs and sites like Ning.com. There are bound to be groups of people who are in your industry or perhaps even just share the same passions as you. Now there are ways to find them, and doing so can give you an instant community to belong to.
  6. Support online relationships with offline interactions. It would be a sad life if we could get everything we needed just from the web. Despite our advances in technology, there remains no substitute for knowing people in person, so whenever you can support anything you do with social media by going to a local event or meeting people, that would go a long way towards that.
  7. Invest in karma. The last piece of advice is around karma – or the idea that “what goes around comes around.” It has been talked about often when it comes to social media, but what most power users of social tools online know is that doing things to help people, sharing knowledge and generally being open to those who connect with you are all good things that pay off in an uncertain way at some point in the future.

There are likely other tips from social media power users on how to build your ability to succeed, but these 7 essentials should help you to get a good start.

Source: Open Forum