Over the last couple of years, we’ve all seen the importance of social media skyrocket for businesses.
- Facebook has over 1.19 billion active users monthly. This means that if Facebook were a country, it would have been the world’s third largest with 3.5x the size of the U.S population.
- 1 in 5 young adults aged between 18 and 24 use Twitter daily.
- Overall, Twitter receives an estimated traffic of 300K users per day.
- Between 2011 and 2013, LinkedIn experienced a 105% growth.
- 72% of online adults use social networking sites.
It’s safe to say that the need for businesses to get their social media marketing right is only going to get stronger over time.
Social Media Marketing 101
1. It all starts with picking the right types of social channels
Most marketers have limited time and resources to invest in social media. This makes deciding where to focus your social media energy an increasingly important decision. The thing to remember is that not all social media sites are created equal. Three things will determine which network you should sign up for.
- Your business objectives and goals
- Your customer demographic
- The type of product and/or service you offer
For example, if you run a website that sells beauty products, you will be sharing a lot of image-based content. This makes Pinterest an ideal social site. It also has a more women-skewed user base.
2. Publishing and Sharing Content
Many marketers limit their social media content to promotional updates. This won’t help you build trust or a community around your business. You need to broaden the scope a little. In addition to the occasional promotional update, try other types of updates including:
- Adjacent content. This includes content relevant to but not exactly about your business that may interest your audience.
- Joining conversations. Social media is all about interacting and communicating with people online. Take an interest in the conversations happening around you and jump in if you have something of value to add.
- Non-promotional company information. It’s always a good idea to humanize your brand on the social media sites. Let people in on what’s happening behind the scenes like if you’re doing any volunteer work or if you’re having a Christmas lunch for your employees.
- Humor is subjective and it’s not always acceptable so this type of post can be tricky. If you’re not sure about what you’re doing, it’s always better to put safety first. Remember that a joke is supposed to be funny. Not awkward. Not inappropriate. And not painful.
Then of course, how often you should update your social media accounts is another important consideration. The bad news is that there is no best practice that’s set in stone. The best frequency for making updates will depend on what’s appropriate for your business, the best practices in regards to the social channels you use and your audience. You will need to experiment to know what works best for you.
According to iResearch data collected in April 2014, WeChat is now the #1 mobile chat application in China ahead of Sina Weibo and Qzone in terms of effective usage time. But what is WeChat? And why are major brands and businesses including Nike, Burberry and McDonald’s breaking into this app for marketing?
WeChat is an innovative mobile chat application that as of September 2013 has over 350 million registered users. The app was launched in 2011 and has been climbing the ranks of mobile applications ever since. On November 25 2012, WeChat was reported to be the top ranked iOS social networking application in 6 different countries including Hong Kong, Argentina and Thailand. The service supports voice and text messages, videos and pictures.
The popularity of WeChat has to do with a number of factors:
1. The users on WeChat are authentic. Because WeChat requires a telephone number, it’s the strictest social media platform in China.
2. Official WeChat account holders can reach their target audience directly which they can, in turn, choose to categorize based on demographic data.
3. WeChat provides an integral communication platform allowing registered users to interact with their friends and favorite brands through text, pictures, videos and voice messages.
- WeChat was launched in 2011
- As of September 2013, WeChat has over 350 million registered users with 100 million users outside of China
- Approximately 50% of WeChat users are between the ages of 25-30.
With stats like these, no wonder WeChat is one of the marketing channels businesses are successfully using to reach Chinese consumers. The challenge is to get WeChat marketing right. This includes:
- Defining the role of WeChat as an extension of your marketing strategy
- Defining your content strategy to keep your content stream fresh and interesting
- Defining your target audience to push relevant content
- Promoting your WeChat QR code
- Understanding the concept of “Throw A Bottle, Pick Up A Bottle.”
- Being personal and humorous
- Using voice messages to connect with your audience
- WeChat also has a Location Based Service (LBS) function, which allows businesses to reach clients and customers who are nearby
And while most brands are still trying to find their foothold using China’s number one social mobile app for marketing, some have already jumped on the WeChat bandwagon and are maximizing its potential as an extension of their CRM system.
5 Brands That are Getting WeChat Marketing Right
Starbucks was one of the first companies to create a WeChat account in 2012 shortly after it opened up to brands. The coffee chain’s first round of marketing activity took place between August 28 and September 30 that year and it used a simple idea: A user of the app sends an emoticon to Starbucks. Starbucks then returns a song that reflects the mood of the emoticon originally sent.
By the end of that first marketing campaign, Starbucks had amassed 62,000 fans on WeChat.
Most social marketing strategies are currently centered on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest but WhatsApp may be the next major thing. Facebook definitely thought so. The WhatsApp purchase (when Facebook dropped $19bn to acquire the IM service) left a lot of people confused. But only until it struck them that WhatsApp reached around 450 million active users since US citizens Brian Acton and Jan Koum founded it in 2009. It’s also estimated that the growth rate of the service is about 1,000,000 new users per day with a high percentage of these users residing outside the US.
If you do the math (so cost per user), it becomes pretty clear why Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp makes a lot of sense. Especially when you consider the fact that the acquisition meant that Facebook effectively got access to the user information of nearly 500,000,000 new customers.
WhatsApp for Business
With that said, WhatsApp is a cross-platform mobile messaging app that prides itself on providing users with a simple, personal and real time messaging platform and having no ads, no games and no gimmicks. But marketers have found ways to leverage the popularity of WhatsApp for business.
The question is, how do you use an instant messaging service to help your business goals?
The answer is pretty simple. Think about it. In countries where text messaging is expensive or less accessible, WhatsApp is very popular. Users of the app heavily rely on it to connect with their friends and family and save on their cell phone bills. Small businesses in countries like India have leveraged this fact to communicate and engage with their clients and customers. And the new link between Facebook and WhatsApp makes this communication and marketing channel even more intuitive.
Fair enough, for marketing purposes, it’s critical that businesses maintain an active social media presence but WhatsApp… WhatsApp takes it to the next level by enabling instant messaging between businesses and prospective customers.
Even as we are talking about it right now, in some countries, businesses have started to put their WhatsApp number on billboards and their website. This is particularly true in the case of specialized businesses in India according to the Economic Times.
So essentially, while Whatsapp may not currently be a comprehensive solution when it comes to social media marketing, it’s getting there. Businesses can use WhatsApp for:
WhatsApp is obviously a powerful platform to connect with potential customers. By incorporating WhatsApp in your marketing strategy, you can open a new channel of communication between your sales team and WhatsApp users.
2. Customer Retention
With WhatsApp, you can hope for a closer and more personal relationship with your customers. The instant messaging service enables you to send out quick updates, address customer queries, follow-up on a sale and resolve complaints.
Every brand has a story. Instagram is a platform that’s unique in its singular focus on captivating imagery and providing brands with an avenue for rich visual storytelling.
Why use Instagram for Business
- It’s a tight community: Instagrammers are passionate about the platform
- It’s very visual: Instagram’s simple design allows captivating imagery to take center stage
- It’s beautiful: Instagram is a creative and inspiring environment
But Let’s Also Cover Some Stats
- Instagram boasts of 200M monthly actives
- With 65% of the users residing outside the U.S.
- Instagram is home to 20B photos
- It generates 1.6B likes daily
- And 60M photos per day
Brands are some of the most creative contributors to the Instagram community.
- Ben & Jerry’s reached 9.8 million users and saw a 33-point increase in ad recall
- Levi’s, the classic American retailer reached 7.4 million people and saw a 24-point lift in ad recall
- America’s Taco Bell was the first restaurant to advertise on Instagram. The response was tremendous, including a 29-point lift in ad recall
Clearly, Instagram makes a strong case when it comes to social media platforms businesses should use to increase their reach and impact. The challenge is to determine what’s unique about your brand and then share it with the world.
Useful Content Strategy Tips
- Start with clear goals: Your Instagram account should fit into your overall brand marketing strategy
- Choose a theme that’s authentic to your brand and tells a cohesive story through captivating imagery
- Produce high-quality images and videos that are well crafted. The content you create should feel at home on the platform
Photo Taking, Editing and Sharing on Instagram
First off, to produce images and videos that are well crafted, you need to know the exact image sizes used by Instagram. Instagram image size used to be 612 pixels in width by 612 pixels in height. Recently, this image size was slightly increased. The current image size is 640 pixels in width by 640 pixels in height.
So first things first, remember this image size for all content you create for marketing on Instagram.
1. Photo Editing Tips
Once you’ve taken a photo, you can edit it by applying effects. Instagram provides a suite of photo-editing tools including:
When you take a photo using the Instagram in-app camera or upload a photo from file, you can straighten it using the Adjust tool.
You can add a border to any filtered photo.
Lux makes your photos more vibrant and brings out details you couldn’t see before.
Other photo-editing tools include:
– Brightness: It makes your photo brighter or darker.
– Warmth: It shifts the colors of your photo towards warmer or cooler tones.
– Vignette: It darkens the edges of a photo.
– Highlights: Use it to adjust the focus on the bright areas of an image.
Let’s start this post with a question!
What do you do on your smartphone most often?
– Email clients?
– Check the news apps?
– SMS/Text messaging?
– Take pictures and/or record videos?
For those of us who are completely honest, there is no shame in admitting that, for the most part, our time is spent on the social networking apps behaving like “stalkers.” We observe and obsess over people, places and things that are meaningful to us.
On any given day, how many times do you honestly check your social apps to see what your friends are eating for lunch or whom they are hanging out with?
According to Adobe’s 2013 Mobile Consumer Survey, in 2012, there was a 31% and 180% increase over 2011 in smartphone and tablet users respectively in the United States. Consumers today are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets to connect with brands through mobile-optimized websites and mobile apps.
Key findings of the 2013 mobile survey:
1. For consumers who have access to both a smartphone and a tablet, the device of choice remains the smartphone although tablets are rapidly rising in popularity.
2. Facebook is the dominant social network. It is accessed via mobile at 85%.
3. Twitter follows this number at 35% and Google+ at 21%.
4. The most popular social activity on mobile is to read status updates. Consumers are also using smartphones and tablets alike to view pages of their favorite brands.
In this era of emerging mobile-specific technologies, businesses have an unprecedented opportunity for brand differentiation.
Understand Your Audience Before you Address Them
Social media users fall under 3 different categories of people:
For social media success, you need to have a cursory understanding of your target audience before you start talking to them.
Thinkers use social media when they are contemplating whether or not to make a purchase. These are laid back people and are slow to act. 48% of Pinterest purchasers are thinkers that will favorite an item that they may or may not buy at a later date.
Questers are people actively researching a potential purchase. They are information gatherers looking for feedback on items they are interested in.
Leapers are people who get inspired by social media to make a purchase. You may think of this category of people as impulse buyers. They take action quickly when they see something of interest.
These customer profiles are key to developing a successful mobile social media presence.
Take a look through your Twitter or Facebook streams. Are your friends talking about the products and brands they are using? Chances are, yes, they are. How about you? Have you ever asked one of your social media peers to advise you on whether a new restaurant down the road is worth trying or not? Have you ever steered someone toward one specific product or service and away from another?
This is influence!
Influence, on social media, is the ability to change how others think and act. Often people think the definitive characteristic of an online influencer is how many Facebook fans and Twitter followers that person has. That’s not technically accurate. It does not matter if you run a blog where you post content everyday about a specific subject. Influence is measured by a person’s ability to drive others to change their opinion and take actions.
So in truth, anyone has the potential to influence another. Influencers are not necessarily people with the most arbitrarily awarded +K on Klout. The challenge therefore is to find the right influencers to engage. Some people have enough pull to drive a spike in web traffic and sales with a single status update.
The point is: As a brand marketer, it’s important to understand that influence can come in several shapes and sizes. Sometimes influence is predictable. Some industry influencers have an established reputation that spreads far and wide. Other times, an algorithmic tool such as Klout or PeerIndex can help you find potential influencers who can sway others on a specific topic. This is of course not a surefire method but only a tool you can use for some help.
Connecting with Your Industry’s Social Media Influencers is a Multi-step Process!
1. Identifying Influencers
When researching your industry social media influencers, the most important consideration is that any influencer outreach should support your existing business goals. You can’t get started without knowing exactly what you want to achieve. Your objective may include one or more of the following:
1. Demonstrate credibility and thought leadership
2. Generate inbound traffic
4. Build customer relationships
5. Move community members through the purchase funnel
6. Test new products and generate honest feedback
To find influencers who align with your business goals,
- Keep an ear out for conversations happening in your industry’s community, sweeping the social web to find conversations that matter to you
- Search the communities you found above to identify who is sharing content and who is most active there
- Dig deeper into these influencers by checking up on them on LinkedIn and/or Twitter.
- With a good list of potential influencers, you can now narrow down on 10 or 20 so the number remains manageable. This may require further detailed information about your influencers or you can look at Klout for their influential topics and ensure they are relevant.
Before making a purchase decision, people read reviews, feedback, testimonials or opinions on the web. If the reviews are positive, there is a greater probability of purchase. However, if the reviews are negative, people are likely to move on to something else. Therefore, positive opinions or reviews play crucial role in financial gains of individuals, organizations, and businesses. But, unfortunately, this leads to shady practices, like the posting of fake reviews, or opinion spamming.
The term opinion spamming refers to unethical activities such as posing fake reviews that mislead the consumers, for example: writing good things about a product that doesn’t merit the glowing review. Fake reviews also come in the form of negative opinions about competing products and businesses. This damages the reputation of the competition. It becomes obvious why detecting fake reviews is critical for both the consumer, and a business.
Detection or identification of fake reviews or opinion spamming involves the use of relational modeling, graph-based methods, pattern discovery, and supervised learning. Some of the signals that can be used include:
- Relationships: The complexity of relationships that exists among the entities (products, stores, etc), reviews, and reviewers
- Product related features: Some of the features that could be considered include sales rank, sales volume, and product description
- Reviewer abnormal behaviors: The public data that is available from online sites, like first reviewers of the product, frequency of posting, time of posting, reviewer id, etc. In addition to these features, the opinion spamming detection algorithm can also discover uncommon characteristics of these fake reviews. Another indicator of abnormal behaviors is the private/internal data of websites such as the reviewer’s physical location, time taken to post each review, IP or MAC addresses, etc
- Review Content: Some of the important detecting features include lexical features like parts-of-speech, grammar, words and grammar, or other lexical attributes. Style or content similarity of reviews obtained from different reviewers can also indicate opinion spamming. Semantic inconsistency is another feature that can be used for detecting fake reviews.
In addition to the above, you can also avoid fake reviews by avoiding fake accounts that exist on social media.
This is done by checking for the blue verified tick prior to liking or following a business’s, celebrity’s or brand’s social media profile or page. Both Twitter and Facebook now feature the blue verified tick. The blue tick badge that appears next to the profile name shows that the profile or page has been verified. Therefore, you must understand that a profile or page of any business or individual having lots of followers, likes, or positive comments, does not necessarily indicate its validity or genuineness.
Vine, a video app, also features a verified tick. If the Twitter account of the business or the individual is verified, then the Vine account will be automatically verified. However, another renowned social media network, Instagram, doesn’t feature verified badges. If you are in doubt, you must check the account’s official website. Genuine Instagram accounts always show links to business’s official website.
Humans are wired to respond to visual stimulation. As historically recorded, thousands of years ago, people narrated their lives in cave paintings and Egyptian hieroglyphs. Today, art, books and various multimedia platforms have created a new narrative landscape populated by brands in many shapes and forms.
Everyday, the average person is exposed to hundreds of different advertising messages from hundreds of different brands. Of those, people tend to be most attracted to brands with authentic narratives and compelling imaging.
In the current digital era, social media is no doubt a great tool to increase your online presence. The problem lies in the fact that as more brands jump on the Internet bandwagon, marketing clutter can make it harder for your brand to stand out and compete.
Effective Visual Branding on Social Media
1. Build a Brand Narrative
– In the following video titled ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’, author Simon Sinek explains his simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership. Addressing the question of why Apple always seems to surpass other computer brands, Sinek postulates that Apple’s success as a brand can be attributed to the fact that Apple believes in challenging the status quo and thinking differently. And did you notice the high quality and neatness of their photography?
The take-away: Determine why your brand is great and the kind of narrative you want to share with the world will emerge. Invest in high-quality photography, digital imaging and graphics.
2. Make Your Brand Memorable
Did it ever happen to you that you are spending an amazing day at the beach and suddenly, bursting out of the ocean, you feel like a Coke?
It’s not a coincidence!
Coke uses ‘red’ to associate excitement with their product.
Big brands have realized a long time ago that colors can impact how they appeal to their target audience. Color is more than just a hue. It makes a statement.
But you do need to be consistent with your use of colors. Social media includes virtually anything you post online. This includes but is not limited to tweets, Facebook posts, shares and web content. A brand’s authenticity relies on consistency.
Here is an excerpt from KISSmetrics’s infographic that gives some general guidelines on how colors affect American online shoppers:
Launched in June 2011 by search engine giant Google Inc., Google+ is a social networking service with 300 million+ in-stream active users. It integrates numerous Google services, including Google Profiles. Most notably the social network, also referred to simply as G+, allows users to group their contacts into Circles, enabling members to sort their contacts into specific categories. This in turn allows users to tailor posts and send them to specific social groups.
Google+ Quick Facts
- 22% of online adults use Google+
- 42% use the social network to interact with brands’ content
- 70% of top brands use Google+
- Google+ refers the most traffic per visit: 2.45 pages
- Google+ generates nearly as much engagement per follower as the social media giant Facebook
- Google+ generates twice as much engagement as Twitter
Clearly Google+ is the next big thing.
Marketing on Google+
1. Perfect your Profile
Getting on Google+ is like setting up your home in a new, exciting metropolis. To get yourself known, you will need to go out and meet the neighbors. Google+ was launched in June 2011 so your neighbors have been having a street party for quite some time now.
– Set up your profile with a clear photo of your face and a creative or exciting image as the cover photo to visually represent your brand. In case of a business, you can also showcase your brand personality with a company logo.
– Link your Google+ page to your site. The use of Google+ badges is subject to the Google+ Platform Buttons Policy. Because Google+ pages, profiles and communities are different, Google offers slightly different versions of the badges, which you can read about here.
– To find people to whom you relate, use hashtags to search people with similar interests. You can then add these people into your circles.
2. Create and Manage Circles
Circles make it easy to share the right things with the right people. To start out with, Google+ gives you a few circles but you can also create new circles for even more flexibility. On Google+, you can shout, speak or whisper. You can share as broadly or narrowly as you want. If you have something to say that the world needs to hear, choose “Public.” To keep your message to a specific group, choose one of your circles.
3. Get Involved and Be Active
No matter what you’re into, there are people on Google+ who share your interests. Search for public communities around the topics you’re passionate. This is a great way to meet new people and join conversations.
There are lots of ways to share with your communities. Post beautiful photos and videos, plan events, or even have face-to-face discussions using Hangouts.
– Only share your own stuff
– Just post links and photos without describing them
– Share the same post multiple times
You can also create real-world groups of people like your basketball buddies and fellow classmates. It’s simple: If you find yourself sharing regularly among the same group of people, communities are a fast and fun way to stay in touch more easily.
Content Marketing on Google+
Right now there is an opportunity for everyone to build his or her global network using Google+. Google+ can amplify your business messages i.e. your content and create:
– Engagement on posts themselves
– Social traffic to your website
– And Traffic to your website that comes from Google Search.
This not only increases your business reach and impact, it creates business.
In our never-ending quest to increase conversion rates and revenue, we often focus on web design and offers, and overlook the power of customer reviews. In truth, no amount of advertising or tweeting can impact customers the way an objective peer review can. This is because, in this age of social media and online reviews, what you say about your business is important; what people say about you matters even more.
So, How Important are Online Reviews to Consumers?
According to BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey 2013,
- 85% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
- Lifestyle businesses attract the most searches including restaurants and clothes shops
- 73% of consumers say positive customer reviews make them trust a business more
- 65% of consumers are more likely to use a business which has positive online reviews
- 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
These findings provide unequivocal evidence of the growing influence of online reviews on the purchasing habits of people. Nowadays more and more consumers are consulting reviews as a first step in their pre-purchase research of local businesses.
These stats are self-explanatory as to why small businesses need customer reviews. Put quite simply, user reviews increase conversions. They can eliminate doubts potential customers may have about a particular product or service or they can help the process of product selection.
The SEO Benefits of Reviews
Improved conversion rates and overall customer experience are among the most obvious reasons for encouraging customer reviews but let’s not forget the considerable SEO benefits as well.
1. Customer reviews generate fresh and unique content for the search engines.
2. Improved rankings for the name of your products plus the word ‘review’ or related words such as ‘ratings’.
3. Reviews can sometimes serve as rich snippets to help increase click throughs from the search engine results pages.
4. And content generated by user reviews increases your chances of ranking well for long tail keywords.