Social Media Marketing Strategies in 2015

Social MediaMarketingStrategies 2015

If there is anything we can count on in the digital world, it’s that it changes quickly. As the speed at which information is exchanged improves, consumer response to that information becomes faster and businesses want to be the first to know, and react in kind, to the consumer response.

Analytics are and will remain important for businesses. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest all have rolled out analyzation tools for their users. The new information will allow businesses to pinpoint which aspects of social media are drawing interest, and which are falling flat. In order to use this information effectively, businesses will have to be flexible, willing to discard strategies that aren’t working and acquire new ones, sometimes implementing strategies that are novel and creative.

Businesses have to be aware, and not just aware, but engaged with the public profiles of their employees. As businesses learned from this past year, a business, and the public profiles of its employees, don’t have a private life on social media. Everyone markets. On a public profile, employees of a company are representatives held up to consumer expectations.  Consumers have the expectation that the companies they buy from reflect their own values. Which means employees have to be careful what they post on their public profiles and how they represent the brand.

Consumers are also wanting authenticity because it’s more relatable. As video and visuals become more common, there will be an upswing in the number of promotional videos that “sell” via real customer reviews, or through telling a great story. Consumers give greater points to a company that is doing more for the community than just making money off them.  They will want to see the human, personal side of a company because it gives the impression that it’s local and approachable, versus an immense and untouchable thing that happens to employee people. Companies will find their videos going viral if they can make the consumer’s heart melt, by promoting caring rather than persuading them to buy.

But attention spans among adults are starting to change. Studies have shown that we actually read differently after a constant exposure to social media.   Businesses concerned about consumers losing their ability to “read deeply” might focus on having quality posts of a longer length. But businesses who want to tap into the consumer trend of focusing on the most pertinent information in the shortest number of words, will use focus on implementing shorter posts and more of them. Microblogging, especially, will be useful for businesses interested in shorter, more frequent, posts.

Bigger companies will rely on an approach that incorporates both the digital tech and creative aspects of marketing. This means knowing a modicum of html speak will be of huge benefit to the social media marketing job-seeker. At the same time, smaller companies will discover that social media and blogging companies are catering to the DIYers by making their interfaces more user friendly.

Regardless, some argue that the age of the blog is starting to wane as companies discover other avenues of social interaction that work better for their business, and microblogging via tumblr and twitter take over. New social media outlets that are specific to certain subsets of people will begin to become more common. Purchase of ads tailored to these subsets of people will increase as consumers begin to make use of the hobby/interest-specific social media.

Hence, business owners will have social media managers who are given specific parameters of interaction – as much to ensure that there aren’t any social media faux pas which escalate into media debacles, as to ensure that the interactions are appropriate to the audience.

Immediacy continues to be an important aspect of digital commerce and, as such, will continue to force the direction of digital technology. As social media outlets attempt to shorten the distance between idea and action by experimenting with platforms that allow direct purchase of products, we’ll see the beginning of the end of third party distributors. Consumers will no longer have to go to a different website to purchase the product, but can purchase it right from their media outlet of choice.

This in turn will lead to a rise in ad sales on social media, as well as opportunities for individual bloggers to make more through affiliate links and acting as distributors of products endorsed on the blog. Because of this, authenticity will be even more important to the consumer who may not trust a blogger whose sole purpose in owning a blog is to make money off followers.

Overall, in 2015 we can expect to see a more tailored approach to the individual consumer. With every generation that passes the exchange of information has steadily grown swifter. The speed of that exchange has made a huge impact on the marketplace, both digital and otherwise. It will continue to do so and businesses will need to be prepared to take advantage of improved social media changes. Technology stops for no man.

Sources:

http://www.business2community.com/social-media/7-top-social-media-trends-will-impact-marketing-2015-01107054

http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/social-media-in-2015-predictions-and-potential/

http://www.toprankblog.com/2014/05/digital-marketing-2015/

http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/7608-2015-small-business-predictions.html

 

3 Social Media Marketing Resolutions for 2015

computer-resolutionsDid you craft measurable resolutions for your business at the end of 2014? We’re just over a week into 2015, so if you haven’t had time to do that, don’t fret; there is still time. Resolutions are difficult to make if they are broad, unrealistic and there isn’t a way to measure if you are sticking to them. Borrowing from Lululemon’s goal setting process, create a vision to provide focus to your business’ overall growth. Would you like to have the resources to hire more staff, expand your services, or reach into a new market area? Once you have your overall dream for 2015, create the goals to get you there. Goals should be specific, measurable and written in the present tense. From your overall business goals, determine the social media goals that can assist your efforts. Here are three social media goals to get you started on the right foot for 2015:

1. I determine what social channels are or aren’t working for my business by properly tagging social media URLs and monitoring progress within my analytics software once a week.

Whether you use Google Analytics or another analytics tool, it is important to accurately track what sources are performing for your business. If you have goals set up in your analytics software, proper tags will let you know which specific tweet or Facebook call to action drove the inquiry or sale. Tagging your links with the appropriate parameters will allow traffic and site activity to be attributed to the correct sources. Remember to craft your parameters with care, so they can be used consistently without any future changes. Also, aim to learn something about your audience or social metrics each week. Check out this helpful URL Builder for Google Analytics to get started.

2. I devote time monthly to update my business’ social media profiles to make sure the information is up-to-date and useful to my audience.

Things change. It’s important to let your audience know when they do, so they don’t try to call the wrong number or visit an outdated social media profile. Once a profile is created, we rarely go back and edit the information even if our company has grown and developed. Set aside time to review each field on your profile and fill in any relevant blank spaces. This Hootsuite resource is a good guide for setting up both your business profiles and your personal social media profiles. When reviewing your social profiles, remember to check for consistency in messaging across all channels.

3. I monitor what changes are occurring in the social media space by reading social media blogs and networks daily.

The world of social media changes fast. What is in one day may be out the next and subtle changes may make a difference in how you market your business online. Pay attention to blogs that post new trends, ideas and tools so you can make sure your business continues in the right direction. Social Media Examiner and Marketing Land are good resources to bookmark. To get you started on this quest, check out the new Call to Action button for Facebook pages.

What Are Your Social Media Resolutions?

While these goals are a good place to start, take time to look at your business’ goals and determine how your social media can support those goals throughout the year. Figure out how your social media can become more effective and authentic and run with it. I invite you to share your goals in the comments below or on our social media profiles. Cheers to a successful year in social media!

If This, Then That (IFTTT)

IFTTT logoHave you heard of IFTTT (pronounced ‘gift’ without the ‘g’)? IFTTT is a personal assistant service that according to ifttt.com, “makes useful connections between two things by using the statement ‘if this, then that’”. Connecting different services to help make your life easier, IFTTT aims to be a computer switchboard for useful things like sharing social media posts to multiple channels, muting your personal cell phone when you get to work, and beyond. With over 160 different channels, the possibilities are seemingly endless.

Assuming you are new to IFTTT, let’s take some time to learn IFTTT vocabulary:

  • Channels: Channels are the basic building blocks or the applications that you use on your computer every day, such as Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook and Instagram. Each Channel has its own Triggers and Actions.
  • Triggers: The this part of a Recipe. For instance, a trigger might be “I get an email from Sue”or “the weather is above 70 degrees.”
  • Actions: The that part of a Recipe. For example, “save the image file to my dropbox.”
  • Ingredients: Pieces of data from a Trigger (the if statement). For example, the Ingredients of an Email Trigger could be: subject, body, attachment, received date, and the sender’s address.
  • Recipes: Personal Recipes are a combination of a Trigger and an Action from your active Channels. Personal Recipes look like this: If I Instagram a new photo, then Add file from URL to my Dropbox.
  • On / Off: Personal Recipes can be turned on and off. When turned back on, they pick up as if you had just created them.
  • Polling Period: Most Personal Recipes check for new Trigger data every 15 minutes, some are even faster.

Launched in 2011, IFTTT was created by Linden Tibbets, Jesse Tane and Alexander Tibbets. In August of this year, IFTTT announced that it had raised a record $30 million in funding from the venture capital firms Norwest Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz, so I expect this is a platform to add to your watch list in 2015. Two things to watch out for are monetization and internet-connected hardware devices being added to the channels.

Monetization

IFTTT will be launching a paid version for those who want more control over their recipes. Currently, creating an account and recipes are free.

Internet Connected Hardware Devices

As Wi-Fi-connected products are added to IFTTT channels, people will be able to control what happens at their home by setting up recipes. With IFTTT, you are able to control devices at your house, beyond your computer or phone. For example, Logitech Harmony is a tool that Creates personalized home Activities and lets you “enjoy integrated control of connected lights, locks, thermostats, sensors, home entertainment and more with the latest in Harmony home automation.” By linking Harmony with IFTTT, you can use your location to set a Harmony Activity. Or if you have Homeboy, “the world’s most accessible home security system”, you can set up recipes to turn your Phillips hue bulbs red, if motion is detected in your home.

Harmony IFTTT recipe Homeboy IFTTT Recipe

According to a recent Time article, IFTTT aims to encourage creativity in remixing Internet, phone and computer services to work better for our needs. “We’re often repurposing simple objects to fulfill a different purpose and need, like putting a pencil behind your ear when you need to use your hands,” Mr. Tibbets said. “It’s the same with IFTTT. People really deserve this ability to mix and match, and to have the Internet work for them.”

Facebook and Twitter IFTTT recipe

If you haven’t signed up, I recommend you sign up now and browse the recipes to see if anything looks beneficial for your productivity and efficiency at home and at work. Here are some excellent productivity recipes and some hilarious recipes to check out. Let us know what you think; what are your favorite recipes? Share them in the comments below!

That Mom and Pop Feeling…

A shop a kid can grow up in...Remember the old days when you walked down the main street of town and the shops you went into were all owned by people who lived there? Everybody knew everybody else, their children knew everybody else’s children, if there was a problem, the locals could fix it for you. People provided good products and great service, because they were all neighbors! And a bad reputation would quickly put them out of business.

Actually no, most people today don’t remember those days. We read about them in books, or hear stories of them, a fond remembrance (or a complaint) from our elders who do remember. Larger companies who could sustain the loss undersold them, lobbied for regulations whose costs they could absorb, while the mom and pops couldn’t keep up. The big stores hired an army of employees at low wages who could move more product than the smaller shops could even dream of. The government rewarded the large shops with tax-breaks and other things, but more than anything else, the mass of people chose large shops over small by jumping for lower prices and lower quality goods. And they did so with little regret. More paycheck left in their bank accounts after shopping was enough to sweeten this deal.

Then the internet revolutionized everything, both for good and for ill. It leveled out the playing field, at least for a time. Little mom and pops could now market and sell their products online to a potentially unlimited market, far beyond the borders of their towns and cities. Sadly, as many of us know, it wasn’t to last. Just as the large shops conquered communities, they conquered the web, pre-eminently Amazon, which is a mixed blessing. Just as Wal-mart could force companies to lower prices below what they want or even considered profitable by means of the threat of not carrying their products, Amazon too can lower prices as it wishes. If you don’t like it, what are you going to do? John Q. Public’s bookstore is not going to have a flashy app, or cut their prices 20% to compete because they have bills to pay. Amazon can cut prices and absorb the cost. Amazon wins.

Despite the fact that the place that takes the smallest bite out of one’s check will usually win the customer, consumers still want to feel that mom and pop feeling. They want to have their cake, at a cheap price, and eat it too (albeit only with real butter, cream and sugar). And they want to see the face of the baker and think that their purchase is helping sending his or her kid to college. Many Americans say they would like to shop local and support local businesses, but talk is cheap. You have people like Occupy Wallstreet protestors who bought their sign materials at Wal-mart and skipped the locally owned coffee shop for Starbucks. And this seems to be the way most of America is at this point. They want that good old-fashioned feeling, but they don’t want to pay for it.

Some people DO put their money where their mouth is, and a movement is born. Harold Pollack, a Chicago professor, shops only at small retail stores online, saying: “I don’t feel they [the big box stores] behave in a way that I want to support with my consumer dollars.” (Source) Buy local, shop local movements are beginning to gain momentum, especially in touristy towns where small shops still exist because they are quaint and attract visitors. In this movement, people consciously choose to sacrifice quantity for quality, especially when there is a face attached to the business they are supporting. A big faceless corporation like the run of the mill big box store starts to lose appeal in the long run.

Even people who say they cannot afford to shop at the Mom and Pop shops heartily support them in spirit. They like the “feeling” and the “idea” of them being around. Whether it’s the quaintness of a nice old building, or the personal touch of an etsy online shop, mom and pop says personalized customer service, one-on-one attention to detail, someone that cares about you finding the thing you want and will do what it takes to rummage around the shop to find something that will make you happy. In addition to all that, most consumers DO like knowing their purchase might be paying someone’s school tuition.

Companies that share their story, even put up pictures of their children (the family you are helping to buy groceries for) and show how their shop is a valuable part of society are becoming very popular. People naturally wish to have a personal connection with the place they buy their products from. Social media helps to build and keep this connection established. A simple communication device between the mom and pop shop and the small guy customer. Suddenly, big box stores take note of this, and go… “why can’t we use this tactic to make us look like something special to the small guy?” That mom and pop feeling can be an illusion, and we as a country sometimes fall for it.

An advertising trend over the last five years, big box stores have hired experts to help create an illusion of their being a mom and pop-like establishment. Personal touches like stories of how CEOs started out as small farm boys and worked their way from the bottom up to the top of the ladder really help to build up an image that you would probably have never seen without Facebook. Tweeting about their numerous donations to local charities make it seem like they have the local neighborhood’s well being at heart. Aw. Well, why not shop at Costco then? They have a real man CEO with a real heart, and he even knows about the importance of providing organic eggs to us at an affordable price. We get our organic eggs cheap AND support a real bona-fide farm family, a win-win situation! It’s that olllld mom and pop feeeeeling. It feels good, it feels right. The guys that study consumer buying trends are aware of this, and as long as they can make us feel good in conscience about where we are purchasing, we as a nation will continue to do it.

With social media at your disposal you can create pretty much any image you want to portray. You can’t go wrong with that mom and pop feeling.

Who Do You Trust?

You’re out and about and it’s time to eat. You’re not in the mood for fast food, but you’re not sure what else is available nearby. What do you do?

If you’re like millions of other people, you whip out your phone, run a quick search for nearby restaurants and check Yelp to see how the reviews look. The trouble is, that may not give you the full story.

Though clearly the 800-pound gorilla of online review sites, Yelp has had its share of controversy and scandal, especially in recent months. It started with an increasing number of business owners accusing Yelp of everything from unfairly filtering reviews through outright extortion. It was all anecdotal, but at some point complaints become numerous enough that they start looking like they have substance. MakeUseOf recently featured the mess, including this thumbnail sketch of how things seemed to play out all too often:

The story is always the same:
– Yelp approaches a business and asks if they want to advertise with Yelp for a modest price.
– If the business declines, Yelp pursues them with more aggression.
– If the business still declines, their Yelp rating plummets as their 4- and 5-star reviews become filtered for no apparent reason.
Not surprisingly, this story also flows the other way:
– Yelp approaches a business and asks if they want to advertise with Yelp for a modest price.
– If the business accepts, they pay the fees.
– Coincidentally, they begin receiving good reviews that boost their rating while having poor reviews filtered out.

This story — or a similar version of it — played out so many times that a lawsuit was finally brought against the company to force them to cease and desist these alleged practices. The verdict was rendered earlier this fall, with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruling in favor of Yelp’s ability to legally manipulate its ratings to earn more money.

On the one hand, this makes some sense. After all, Yelp is a publicly traded company, and that means its purpose is to earn money for its shareholders. There are many companies — and indeed some entire industries — that exist and thrive in an ethical gray area, many of which could easily be said to be much worse than this. However, on the other hand, for a site whose sole purpose is to provide legitimate reviews to consumers on behalf of businesses to manipulate those reviews in a way that looks a whole lot like extortion, well, it just doesn’t pass the smell test.

Yelp steadfastly maintains its innocence, claiming it uses an automated system to promote and demote businesses based on their star rankings, and there isn’t really any hard evidence of wrongdoing (the 9th Circuit merely ruled that it would be legal if Yelp chose to manipulate its reviews, not that they actually were manipulating them). Are there plenty of valid reviews on Yelp, and is it still useful as a tool to guide consumers to the best products and services? Certainly. Is this a problem unique to Yelp? Certainly not.

In fact, the same arguments can likely be made about any major review service, and finding legitimate, fair, and honest reviews will probably remain a challenge for as long as human civilization exists. But, in the meantime, there are other options. Urbanspoon is an obvious alternative for food choices. TripAdvisor is focused on visitors, but the information is just as valid for locals, too. Major search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing generally provide review information on restaurants, events, and many other things. Angie’s List is another big name in the industry, trying to solve the review problem by requiring a paid subscription to use the service, and a more stringent review vetting process (though the same accusations have plagued it in the past, too). There are many others, some based on location, some based on a topic, and some based on nothing at all. Search around and try some new sites; you may be pleasantly surprised.

At the end of the day, this mess with Yelp should be at minimum a cautionary tale to both business owners and consumers alike. Small businesses can spend a lot of time and effort trying to appease online reviewers, and to do so for reviews that are deliberately squelched or unfairly manipulated is both costly and maddening. Similarly, consumers may miss a high quality business simply because it has run afoul of a review service, or go to a business expecting one thing and getting something entirely different, causing an equally maddening experience. The bottom line is that online reviews should always be viewed with a giant grain of salt. If you want to be really thorough, it’s probably best to use multiple services to check any business. It should probably go without saying, of course, that asking people you know with first hand experience of those businesses is perhaps the best way to go because they’re not trying to make money off of their recommendation. Of course, their recommendation may depend on what they think of you, but that’s an entirely different subject…

How Many Connections Should I Have On LinkedIn?

That, my friend, is an excellent question!LinkedIn

There are two primary schools of thought on this: quality or quantity.  Those who lean toward quantity will try to create the biggest list of connections possible in order to expand their network as far as possible.  This could come in very handy when looking for jobs, especially targeted searches for particular companies or industries – obviously, if you have thousands of connections, a single post to your LinkedIn page is going to reach far more people than if you had just a couple hundred connections, thus increasing your chances of finding your target somehow.  LinkedIn has also become quite the gathering ground for business- or industry-related articles and opinion columns.  Having a lot of connections means a lot of eyes will see whatever you post, and increase your chances of getting interactions and notice from others in your industry.  However, there are some downsides to having a huge network on LinkedIn, and they need to be considered, as well.

For one thing, one of the best ways to connect to someone new and grow your network is through LinkedIn introductions.  Normally, you would ask one of your existing connections to write a brief introduction message and put you in touch with someone you’re trying to reach (who is a connection of theirs).  If you have a vast network of connections but don’t really know them very well, that introduction message is likely to lack a certain heartfelt genuineness that could put off the recipient and fail to bring about an actual contact in real life.  Second, when you connect with someone, you can see all of their connections…and they can see yours.  Whether or not it’s fair or right, the people with whom you associate do reflect on you, so if you don’t know your connections well, it’s possible that their actions, words, or histories could be damaging to you without you even knowing it.  Finally, studies show that it’s usually the quality of your connections rather than the quantity of your connections that are more likely to land you a job.  It’s those personal recommendations from people who really know the kind of person — and professional — you are that carry weight with those making the hiring decisions.

Social network connections by pnx - NetworkingThis leads us to the quality school of thought.  In addition to the recommendation aspect previously mentioned, there is the flip side, as well.  If someone asks you to introduce them to one of your connections, but it’s not someone you know well enough to thoroughly endorse, then why bother having them as a connection in the first place?  Similarly, you don’t want to introduce someone to one of your connections that ends up being a total flake; that makes you look bad!  Actually knowing all of your connections is probably the single biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to either side of the recommendation coin.  Of course, there’s a threshold below which being choosy in your connections becomes silly – if you only have three or four connections, then you’re kind of wasting your time on LinkedIn.  Find a happy medium that works for you.  There’s also that association thing at play, too; you don’t want to be connected to someone who turns out to be a serial killer, and you certainly don’t want to introduce them to anyone new!

In all seriousness, though, the bottom line is that when you’re setting up your LinkedIn network, first stop and think about how you plan to use it.  Is your goal to get as big a network as possible because you plan to post industry relevant information on a regular basis?  Is it just to have a convenient online resume that people can see when need them to?  Is it to make (and help others make) genuine connections in a way that jobs are found and lives are improved?  Bottom line: what’s your purpose?  This question will go a long way toward guiding your decision-making process on who your connections should be and what threshold you use for determining which connection request to send or accept.Contacts by roshellin - Contact Book

One more thing – don’t be afraid to remove connections.  It’s probably a good idea to sweep through your LinkedIn contacts list at least yearly to remove contacts with whom you no longer keep in touch.  Think of it as a digital spring cleaning.  If nothing else, use that sweep to first try to re-establish contact with people and renew those relationships.  If they don’t respond, then you know it’s time to remove them from your list.

LinkedIn is a terrific tool, but like most other tools it is only really useful in the right situations and in the right hands.  Develop your purpose, make a plan, and then execute it.  You’ll be doing yourself a favor.

Location Based Advertising: Super Convenient or Big Brother in Action?

Ye Good Olde Days of Advertising… thirsty? Now you are!

Imagine yourself walking by a Starbucks. Suddenly, your phone beeps urgently, alerting you to the fact that you are in the vicinity of Starbucks!  Would you like to take a break for some coffee?

Or you are driving by Macy’s, and suddenly your phone beeps again. Did  you know that the pair of boots you browsed last week online is 10% off? Like, right now this very second, and won’t be anymore if you drive past this store! Does this sound a little bit like the visual advertisements targeting people in Minority Report? If it does, that’s because it is… albeit in a less invasive manner than retina scans. Welcome to the world of Location Based Advertising (LBA).

The process described above is what is called the “push” approach to LBA, which allows companies to target mobile users unless or until they opt out. There is another approach to this, in which mobile users can voluntarily enter their information into a search application, such as looking for a deli while visiting a city, and the app will return results with a map and even coupons for a free drink or appetizer. Yay!

LBA represents a way to market ads far more efficiently than traditional advertising, where a company’s advertising dollars go to pay big name celebrities to talk about why such and such a product is awshum. The only problem is that you, the company, have to believe and have faith that your celebrity endorsements are paying off, as you have no easy way to determine if your sales have gone up based on the millions you have just spent. Companies can now spend much less on ads that are more personalized and more effective, while, more importantly, providing tracking data to show how much these advertisements are paying off.

LBA is not going away. With advertising slowly catching up to the mobile medium, LBA is going to be big, being expected to net $15 billion by 2018. (Source) The only hangup with LBA services can be summed up in one word: Snowden.

For years the public at large did not pay much attention to how the heck their information somehow miraculously got absconded from their computers and phones and appeared into the digital atmosphere. Since the revelations of Edward Snowden, however, there is a growing awareness that this information is not lost to the ether. We now know that every single thing we do online is captured by government computers and stored in government databases, potentially forever, in the name of fighting terrorism. LBA represents the latest way for the government to know almost everything about you.

But before we go too far, it is useful to note that LBA is not a conspiracy theory. It is a conspiracy fact, that it’s a conspiracy to make money which doesn’t directly involve Big Brother. The fact is, Google’s meteoric rise is due in part to their analytics technology which can form an accurate depiction of who you are based on the websites you visit. This allows Google to target ads to you based on who their algorithms think you are. Since the advent of smartphones, you can browse from a device which gives your location to someone at all times. This is also not a conspiracy theory, it is conspiracy fact, the phone companies conspiring to use technology to make money. The simple reality is that for the phone company to support your device, provide you with internet, deliver your texts and connect your calls, it has to know where your device is. Even if you choose not to share your device location with this or that provider, app, or website, your service provider absolutely knows your device’s whereabouts (and by extension, your own) at all times. While the question of how involved the government was in producing these devices may be in the realm of conspiracy theory, that the technology works in this fashion is a matter of fact. Since Snowden, we know that the government collects all of this data from the telecoms, Google and Yahoo and any other of numerous web applications and services.

Irrespective of the motivations of developers and engineers, or how active the government may or may not be in tracking your movements, any and all information obtained by your device to target ads to you will be collected. LBA could be an awesome convenience, particularly when goodies like a coupon for this or that are involved (can you imagine the effect it would have during an event like Black Friday?), but it also allows Big Brother to take in all the information. Given the market potential, Location Based Advertising is here to stay, and, unfortunately, so is Big Brother. You win some, you lose some. It’s up to you to decide how much you lose.