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Social Media Monitoring: Why It’s Time to Tune In

“To listen well is as powerful a means of influence as to talk well, and is as essential to all true conversation.”


Say What?

A quick Google search about how to establish a successful social media marketing strategy is bound to lead you to thousands of blogs, news articles, YouTube presentations, company websites and more, all broadcasting their expert opinions and best practices for your consumption. In such a social world, it’s only natural that there’s a lot of talking going on, but none of it will matter if you don’t have a clue about all the talking that’s going on about you. Before you dive head first into the sea of information about what it takes to be successful, don’t forget why you’re doing this in the first place. Social media lets us hear what our most valuable customers are saying, and allows us to respond and build a relationship like never before. Don’t forget to tune in to the conversation.

Social Media Monitoring: Getting Started

Though the process may be initially overwhelming, it’s absolutely crucial that you engage in social media monitoring. In other words, you need to make a game plan for monitoring what’s already being said about your brand, industry and the key players within your company. Where are people most likely to be talking about you? Twitter? Facebook? Yelp? LinkedIn? Maybe an industry blog? Not only will you learn how your business is positioned, but you may even find that key market insight you’ve been searching for that will breathe new life into your brand. But where to begin?

1. The Objective.

We’ve already established that social media monitoring is pertinent to your social media strategy, but what kind of information is most valuable to your business? Your objective will be much in line with your what you want to achieve on social media in the first place. Are you monitoring to be alerted when good things or bad things are said about your product or service so that you can immediately respond and retain your customer? Perhaps it is more important for you to find those people that are in need of your product or service so that you can continue to grow your business. Having an objective will keep you focused and make it easier to find the tools you need for you strategy to be effective.

2. Separating What’s Valuable From the Noise.

Keeping in mind why you are listening to the multitude of conversations taking place on social media will make it easier to extract only the information that is most valuable to your business. But how do you do this without spending hours on ending sifting through all the sites available at your fingertips? There are many tools that can do this all for you–a mix of a few will likely be most effective–but one of the most useful and easy to set up is a Google Reader.

If you don’t have one already, set up a Google account for your business. Here, you can subscribe to various RSS feeds of websites you frequent for information about your industry, but you can also set up Google Alerts. Google Alerts allow you to create a watch list, where you can type in keywords associated with your business. As these keywords appear on the Internet, Google will pull that information and store it in one place, accessible from your Google Reader.

Likewise, setting up an account on Twilert will allow you to be alerted to all recent tweets containing your specified keywords on Twitter. On Facebook, search for your business and click on the “Posts by Everyone” tab on the left hand side to see what people are saying on their status updates.

Why This Matters

We know the conversations on social media are invaluable to gain insights you may have never learned otherwise because that’s where people are talking. It’s obviously important to have a grasp of how your business is perceived, but the nature of social media allows your business to take things one step further. It allows for you to actively change any negative perceptions, and build a relationship by satisfying the ubiquitous need all people have of being heard.

A few years ago, Domino’s Pizza was experiencing a steady decline of annual sales revenue and was growing tired of hearing that their product was not up to par with competitors. Instead of ignoring complaints of their terrible pizza, they decided to make a drastic change.

Domino’s went online, joined the conversations on social media, and listened to all the criticisms their customers had. Then, they did the unthinkable and revised their entire product, creating a whole new recipe based on the comments they saw from their customers and critics on social media. Upon its release, Domino’s launched a massive integrated turnaround campaign to let everyone know. They delivered pizzas to their harshest critics and aired their reactions on television, had free taste tests, and created a microsite that documented everything–the good, the bad and the ugly. The result? Millions of Facebook fans, thousands of Twitter follows, and an 8.1% increase in revenue–more than doubling their profits.

The landscape is changing for how business is done, and never has the customer been more central to its success. Do you know what yours are saying about you?

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5 Ways to Gain an Edge & Be Seen in Facebook News Feed

Most discussions regarding best practices for a successful Facebook marketing strategy consider the importance of various factors (audience growth, the efficacy of Facebook ads, how to make the appearance of your page attractive to users, and various techniques to persuade them to ‘like’ you, etc), but one crucial marketing tool within the Facebook platform is often overlooked: The Facebook News Feed.

90% of Fans Don’t Come Back After ‘Like’

A blog post on the Social Media Examiner recently revealed that an overwhelming percentage (close to 90%!) of users don’t return to a fan page after they click ‘like’, meaning their interaction with you comes mostly from what shows up on their home page once they’ve logged in. Now, considering that a user has the ability to like up to 5,000 different pages, it’s never been more important that your posts are engaging enough to break through the clutter.

Have you ever noticed how you may have 2,000 friends, but the same people show up in your news feed on a daily basis? Not exactly a coincidence. Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine which posts will interest you the most, and displays them under the default tab view ‘Top News’. In other words, the higher your EdgeRank, the more likely you are to show up in your fans’ ‘Top News’. Of course, increased visibility leads to more engagement which, in turn, makes your page all the more valuable as a marketing tool.

How EdgeRank Works

EdgeRank considers everything posted on Facebook an ‘object’, whether it is an image, video or simply a status update. Every object is given a ranking, determined by the combination of 3 different factors:

1. Affinity- This score is determined by the relationship between the post creator (you) and a user (your fans). Since it’s determined by the level of interaction each fan has with your content, this score can be different for every fan of your page. In other words, a user who interacts more frequently with your updates is more likely to see you in their news feed as opposed to someone who hasn’t interacted since they ‘liked’ your page.

2. Weight- Every object is given a different weight, determined by how engaged a user has to be to interact with it. We know, for instance, that photos are given a higher weight since commenting on them requires more effort from a user than simply clicking ‘like’ on a status update. An object with a higher weight score is more likely to show up in a news feed.

3. Relevancy- Facebook updates the news feed in real time, so the longer it’s been since you’ve posted, the less likely it is for the post to show up in a fan’s news feed.

5 Tips To Raise Your EdgeRank Score

Facebook won’t divulge all its secrets, so a specific understanding of the EdgeRank algorithm is not for us to know, but following are a few examples of ways you may be able to raise your score.

1. Ask Questions!- According to Buddy Media, fans equate the ‘like’ button to reply in the affirmative, so using the word ‘would’ generates a lot of interactions when used in posts. Yes or No questions work great for quick interactions, but asking fans for their opinions not only garners a response, but engages fans more since you are showing them that what they have to say matters to your brand.

2. Post Photos & Videos– Photos and videos have more weight than other objects in terms of EdgeRank and provide a great way to interact with fans. At Pertnear, we often post a picture of a famous landmark or favorite dinner item from a local restaurant on our destination pages and ask fans ‘where are we?’. Playing these types of games is not only fun (for both the fans and for us!), but reminds them why they are fans and encourages them to share their experiences. In the example below, we posted a picture of the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse on our Hilton Head Island – TravelTell page and received a great response from fans telling us how they wished they were there and reminiscing about the great times they’ve had at the Harbour Town Marina.

3. Interact with Engagement- Remember that the conversation you’re having with your fans goes both ways. When they ask questions, respond. If they say something negative about your business under a status update, try to fix it by asking them what you can do to rectify the situation. The more interaction there is on an object, the higher your affinity score and the more likely your posts are to show up in the news feed.

4. Include a Call to Action- We preach a lot to our clients about not posting ‘pushy’ promotions too often on their pages, since it can undermine the relationship you’re trying to establish on such a social platform. Just like in general business when you’re trying to make a sale, you want to let the potential customer do most of the talking. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t be explicit in letting your fans know exactly what you want them to do. Ask for ‘likes’ and comments about new product/service ideas you may have, or direct them to an exclusive offer they can only find on a tab on your page. This can often drive much more interaction, which of course, raises your EdgeRank score at the same time and gives you a higher probability of being visible on your fans’ feed.

5. Relate to Current Events- We mentioned before that the news feed is constantly updated in real time. The more recent your post, the more likely it is that it will have a place there. Additionally, social media has been an important resource for people seeking the most up to date information about breaking news (See how Twitter broke a record after Osama bin Laden’s death here), so incorporating current events only encourages more interaction, and also a place in your fans’ news feeds.


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The Power of Social Media During Disaster

Yesterday’s devastatingly destructive tornadoes in the US’s Southern states got us thinking about the power of social media during times of disaster. Not only are platforms like Facebook and Twitter the fastest way to disseminate information to the greatest amount of people in the most efficient manner, but in the case of power outages that often result from severe storms, the various applications available on your mobile device may become one of your most valuable assets.

Michelle Lepianka Carter

Facebook users in the threatened areas posted status updates alerting their family members of their conditions and countless photos and videos of the tornadoes themselves, as well as the destruction they left behind. News and weather stations across the Twittersphere added specific hashtags to make it easy for followers to find information updates as fast as possible.

While social media may have saved many lives during recent disasters, just as impressive is the way it is used afterwards for various relief efforts and support for victims. After Japan’s rattling Earthquake on March 11, 2011, various celebrities tweeted to urge millions of followers to text RedCross to make a donation. Likewise, Lady Gaga created a Japanese Prayer Bracelet with which she raised close to $125,000 in just two days after tweeting for support to her 9 million followers.

Last night, a native of Auburn, AL initiated a support page on Facebook entitled Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa, where Auburn University’s biggest fans came together in support for the hometown of their biggest rivals. At the time of this post, that page has grown to over 35,000 fans and serves as a place for words of encouragement and a resource for those wishing to aid in relief for all those affected in the state of Alabama.

At the time of the 2009 flooding in Atlanta, GA, a hotel client had just enlisted Pertnear’s services to grow their Facebook page. Despite not being located in Atlanta, they wanted to show their support after hearing those lucky enough to have access to the Red Cross were standing in line for hours for fresh water. They knew Facebook would be the most effective way to gather support, but lacked an  audience big enough to make a difference. A strategy was devised to grow their audience and give to the flood relief efforts simultaneously. For every fan they accumulated from Pertnear’s TravelTell Network, a water bottle was donated to Red Cross. After two days, they had grown their page from a few hundred to 3,000 fans and donated 10,000 water bottles to the Atlanta area.

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 to those affected by the recent tornadoes in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia. Charges will be applied to your wireless bill.

How To Grow Your Page Without Facebook Ads

When No One Can Hear You…

A local restaurant has long been a tourist attraction during Hilton Head Island, SC’s hot summer months, but up until April 1st, they were only open for dinner. Not used to an empty restaurant and with only a few fans on their page on Facebook, they approached us to help them get the word out that lunch is now being served.

If you know how to make them effective, Facebook Ads are a great way to grow your page with targeted fans. There are also hundreds of ways to creatively engage fans so the page grows organically, but one of our favorites here at Pertnear is showing our potential clients just how much attention they’re capable of getting from a large audience! A carefully worded post plus an attractive incentive can lead to a response that is almost overwhelming–if you’ve got the right audience.

Collaborate!

Among others, Pertnear has a Hilton Head Island page on Facebook, grown and managed internally with over 80,000 fans. Our targeting strategy allows us to have thousands of daily interactions with an audience made of people interested in visiting the island, longtime vacationers, and locals. We join forces with our clients like Local Business X and leverage* our page to pick out which fans have the potential to become valuable to their business. How? A classic radio-style call-in contest. This approach is old school, but it’s another reminder of how social media marketing’s fundamental purpose depends on an concept most marketers have long known leads to brand loyalty and trust: relationship marketing. To build value and trust, you have to be willing to give a little.

Call-In Contest

After negotiating what kind of incentive the business would like to offer, we write a post asking fans to call or email the business to redeem their prize. In the case of the aforementioned Local Business X, the phone rang within a minute of posting and continued to do so until gift certificates were sent to the emails of 20 very excited fans. The contest lasted for about 30 minutes.

Why This Works

Contests like these are quite simple to execute yet tremendously valuable for your business’s social media presence and brand awareness. Take a look at what you gain and why this strategy works:

1. Audience Growth

Naturally, without an audience on your page, your posts will not be seen. Such was the case with Local Business X, so they reached out to leverage our Hilton Head Island – TravelTell audience to catalyze their own growth.

Generally, the more you are willing to give away, the more likely you are to catch the attention of quality fans and the more eager they are to respond and consistently engage with your business. Call-in contests not only drive fans to “like” your page, but they also create value since such a promotion is exclusively for Facebook fans. Exclusivity encourages fans to stay engaged as you are offering them something unavailable to them anywhere else.

2. Targeted, Quality Fans

There is always the argument that some people will sign up for anything as long as it’s free, but the majority of the respondents will turn out to follow through on using your services. Partnering with a Facebook page with similar demographics as your own target market ensures that the type of fan you are getting is more likely to engage than one you may have accumulated by suggesting your page to your own 500 Facebook friends.

3. Benefits Go Beyond Social Media

Since Local Business X’s giveaway was exclusively for Facebook fans (and noted as such on the voucher they received), the restaurant is now able to track how valuable their incentive was by the amount of fans that come in to redeem them. Not only can they gain a clearer picture of the efficacy of the contest and their page, but a simple post is all it took to drive new business!

*We’ve learned a lot of things while doing contests like the call-ins. Before partnering with a page that has a bigger audience to promote your business, ask yourself:

Does It Make Sense? In the example above, using our TravelTell page to promote Local Business X makes sense, since fans repeatedly ask us where to eat and what to do on Hilton Head Island. Going to local restaurants is a key characteristic of our target market. We’re often approached by products and services that have little to do with our “eat, stay & play” mantra of our TravelTell pages, so using the same strategy doesn’t work nearly as well–if at all. If you’re going to drive fans from one page to another, make sure there’s a common link not only to protect your brand, but to ensure that your fans are of quality to your business!


The Key to Facebook ROI

No matter how long you’ve engaged in social media, you’ve no doubt come across the controversy surrounding Return On Investment. Traditionally in business, the formula looks like this:

ROI = (Profit – Cost of  Investment) / Cost of  Investment

But, since the nature of social media is inherently qualitative, there are more variables to consider. So what does a successful business page look like? Are the quality of posts translating into quality fans? How is engagement effectively measured?

Some have tried to conquer this beast by giving fans on Facebook pages a quantitative value, but a quick Google search will reveal that these numbers range from $1 to over $100 per fan. Others say a comprehensive evaluation is impossible, as the nature of social media does not allow for quantitative conversion. In reality, every business is different.

The key to ROI lies somewhere in between these wide-ranging opinions; it’s a matter of reevaluating your objectives and what success looks like for a business page on Facebook. In other words, your investment may be monetary but the goal is not to immediately break even. To generate sales, you must first capture your fans’ interest and attention so they become comfortable with your business. Interaction leads to trust that puts your brand top-of-mind, a place you want to be when they make the decision to buy.

5 Ways to Better Engage Your Fans

Our agency has a network of destination pages we manage internally, not only to aid in the page growth of our clients, but to help us keep up with the changing landscape of social media. A few things we’ve learned since starting these pages from scratch:

1. Post regularly. There’s a fine line between how many posts a day are just enough and too many, but you want to make sure that when your fans log in you’ll be there to greet them.

2. Make sure every post ties back to your business. Most of our pages are vacation spots, so we’ll sometimes start off with the weather. We know most of our fans on our Hilton Head Island page are vacationers, and given the location, the weather and the beach are two of the biggest reasons why.

3. Ask Questions. Every one has something to say. Remember, this is a two-way conversation and you’re building a relationship. Asking for your fans’ opinions and then acknowledging their responses encourages them to continue to engage.

4. Make your Page a Resource. Depending on your business, this may vary in level of difficulty but it just allows for you to get creative! Recently, we grew a client’s business page to over 40,000 fans in a week by inviting people who enjoy the Tennessee Mountains to post their memories on the cabin rental company’s wall. Fans shared their stories, photos of their favorite places and how they spent their vacation. Not only do they remember what a great time they had, but it may get them to start thinking of their next one. Who do you think they’ll rent from?

5. Thank Your Fans! This doesn’t just have to be a post, but how about giving away a coupon or a gift certificate? Better yet, making it exclusive to Facebook fans not only makes them feel special, but keeps them coming back and telling their friends. The bigger the giveaway, the more valuable your page becomes.

How to Grow Your Page By Thousands in a Week

One week ago, Cabins USA hadn’t a trace of a presence on Facebook. This past Friday, they had 38,000 fans—at the time this post was written, that number had jumped over 8,000 fans over the weekend. What is this unassuming cabin rental company from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee doing to grow their business page at such a whirlwind speed? Pertnear‘s Jeremy Koch and B.J. Shell were happy to enlighten us.

Pertnear, a social media marketing agency based on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, uses specifically targeted Facebook Ads to jump start page growth while simultaneously managing the page with creative and engaging posts so fans instantly participate. This strategy not only allows the page to grow, but ensures quality fans with a genuine interest for the page. There are two key things that allowed Cabins USA to be so successful so quickly:

Initial Ad Targeting

The Facebook platform is unlike any other in that it allows for specific ad targeting based not only on traditional demographics (age, sex, geographical location, etc) but also the likes and interests of users and those of their friends. A Facebook Ad targeted to a user that loves the Tennessee Mountains is more likely to garner a response when prompted to share a favorite memory on the wall. This may seem like common sense, but the key is to find that one commonality that all fans share that makes them want to be active on the page. While it seems that perhaps it’d be more beneficial to have a higher reach based on many potential commonalities, keeping your reach concentrated and small will result in fans that are more engaged.

Additionally, when a Facebook user “likes” the Cabins USA page, it appears in all of their friends’ news feed (a Facebook user has an average of 130 friends). Here is where the power of word of mouth marketing truly manifests itself. Marketers have long known that an endorsement from a friend is infinitely more valuable than an advertisement. With the ability to recommend pages to friends and the general interest of seeing what they are engaging in, a business page has the ability to grow exponentially!

Making the Page a Resource

Cabins USA is a rental company that assists vacationers to the Pigeon Forge area with cabin accommodations. Instead of using the page to immediately generate leads and sales, the strategy was to make the page a resource for lovers of the Tennessee Mountains. As reflected in the ad copy, fans are asked to post their pictures, share their memories and tell why they love the Pigeon Forge area. By encouraging fans to actively engage right off the bat, potential vacationers are able to learn about the area from people who had positive experiences during their stay. This creates value not just for the Cabins USA page, but also for the destination as a vacation spot. Ultimately, with continued nurturing of the fan/company relationship and subtle guidance through posts, this value will translate to trust that encourages lead generation and sales when fans are ready to make their booking decisions.

Update: Cabins USA Fan Count at the time this article was posted: 46,378. How about now? Cabins USA

Why You Need A Facebook Page

By now, you should probably know that having a Business Page on Facebook is not only a good idea, but essential to the success of your overall marketing strategy. With over 500 million users globally, it would be foolish not to participate, regardless of the size of your business. We know you know, but for our first post, we wanted to take it back to square one.

Meet Me in the Middle

At it’s most basic level, a Fan Page allows for tremendous visibility for your business, and meets your potential customers through a medium that is already ingrained into their daily lives. Whereas potential customers once had to do a Google Search about your business for more information, you are now able to easily access them through the Facebook Platform’s awesome targeting capabilities. Not only that, but subtly introducing yourself can spark a conversation that turns into leads and ultimately, loyal brand advocates.

Talk to Me

All social media minimize the gap between the business and customer relationship. This is because the ‘social’ part of ‘social media’ is actually what has consistently proven to be most valuable to marketers: word of mouth. One person tells their friend about a good experience they had with your brand, or how funny your latest behind-the-scenes video is, and eventually that will snowball since the average Facebook user has about 130 friends. Facebook lets you get your name out to the people who matter to your brand. Thank them. Show your appreciation for them with giveaways and exclusive gifts, and post information that shares insider knowledge  so they feel special. You’re not selling, you’re building a relationship–an invaluable one that creates the kind of trust in your brand that is unprecedented if you do it right. Do you really still not have a Facebook Page? What are you waiting for?