What to Share on Your Favorite Social Networking Sites

social media icons: facebook, twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+

In previous posts, we’ve talked about understanding your target audience and finding your unique positioning when it comes to social media. Once you’re clear on your target audience and your unique positioning, it’s time to start experimenting with how you’ll participate in social media.

The nice thing about working online and in social media is that you can reshape your plan as you go along. So don’t worry about having your target market and unique positioning engraved in stone. If it’s anything like the past, social media is a moving target. As soon as you have it all figured out, it changes — or there’s a new kid on the block. Pinterest is a great example. If you’re smart, you’ll evolve with your audience.

So with all that in mind, let’s look at our big 5 networks to see how you can fit in.

Facebook

This is a pretty visual social network with a lot of possibilities for sharing. Images and video do well, and while you can share text, you might find that if you add an image to your text, you’ll get more views and responses to your status update.

Facebook also offers the ability to poll your audience which can be a lot of fun for participants and enlightening for you. You can also share your company history through the Milestones feature, keeping in mind what would interest your audience most.

Facebook offers pretty in-depth analytics and gives you plenty of clues on which content does well and which type of content doesn’t. Use these analytics to figure out how to hone your presence.

Facebook  Analytics

Twitter

Twitter is a more text-based social network that requires you to be succinct in your sharing, as you only have 140 characters to make your point. You can post images and link to videos, but users will generally need to click through to view them.

Twitter RepliesOne of the biggest opportunities with Twitter is to use their @ replies and RT (Retweet feature). Place an @ before a username, allows you to communicate directly with users on Twitter and can pave the way to new connections. RT allows you to share someone else’s useful update with your audience, which is another way to foster goodwill among like minded users.

Google+

Google+ is another visual network with a lot of images and, in particular, videos being shared.

While using Google+, definitely take advantage of their Circles feature, which allows you to categorize your contacts in any number of ways. This allows you to keep friends and family separate from business contacts. It also allows you to categorize your business contacts as well. For example, you can make circles for your customers, affiliates, mastermind groups and more.

One of the most unique opportunities at Google+ is Hangouts, which offer a group video and/or audio chat. It’s perfect for brainstorming groups, planning and getting to know your audience better…so take advantage.

Google+ Hangout

Pinterest

As you probably know, Pinterest is the most visual network of all because it is simply a collection of images. Videos can also be shared, but aren’t in as much abundance.

Pin to Pinterest

Images that you share on Pinterest should be categorized appropriately and include a description that adds to the user experience. Choose images that are visually striking that make people feel like the item in the picture is in the same room as them.

LinkedIn

Your approach to LinkedIn should be that of an information sharer and connector. Connect people who should know each other and offer help through groups and answering questions. For LinkedIn, the key isn’t in the number of connections you make, but the quality of those connections so put your focus there.

LinkedIn Groups

As you can see, each network is a little bit different. A lot of people attempt to use social media integration tools that simply broadcast their updates across all networks, but this is a short sighted approach. While I do encourage the use of social media integration tools, it’s important to use them wisely and we’ll talk about that in a later post. Take the time to deliver the right information to the right audience on the right social network and you’ll have much better results.

I don’t know about you but I am gaining a whole new appreciation for ways to use social networking in my online marketing efforts. The information Greg Watson is sharing is terrific. Knowing what to do is half the battle.

Still, some of you may still be struggling with design issues when it comes to all this content. I checked out a new product recently, that is helping me design Facebook Fan pages for my small business clients. Check out www.fanpageengine.com.

Know Your Uniqueness and Score Big on Social Media

businessman looking at arrows pointing in different directionsNow that you know your target market a whole lot better after our last post, it’s time to look at what you bring to the table. Social media marketing requires unique positioning just like the rest of your marketing.

In fact, it might be even more crucial in social media because you’re competing with hundreds or even thousands of other voices vying for attention at the exact same time. When someone comes to your website, you still need to grab their attention, but there aren’t a bunch of other people shouting their latest tweet or status update all over your page. Unfortunately, that’s how it is on social media. Whether it’s your personality that shines through or the type of information you provide, there needs to be a reason your audience looks forward to your social media updates.

Start by thinking about why your readers are drawn to you. Why do they like and share your stuff? How are you fulfilling their wishes, helping them achieve their goals or how are you easing their worries? If you don’t know why, simply ask them.

If you’re still not sure what makes you different, take a look at your competition or other companies that you follow on social media. What do they do that makes them unique? Write a list of about 10 companies and determine their unique social positioning. That doesn’t mean you have to copy what they do, but by exploring it and being able to recognize uniqueness, you can find your own too.

Some of the things that might make you and others unique include the ability:

– to make people laugh
– to inspire people
– to make people ask themselves tough questions
Know Your Uniqueness and Score Big on Social Media

What makes you unique?Now that you know your target market a whole lot better after our last post, it’s time to look at what you bring to the table. Social media marketing requires unique positioning just like the rest of your marketing.

In fact, it might be even more crucial in social media because you’re competing with hundreds or even thousands of other voices vying for attention at the exact same time. When someone comes to your website, you still need to grab their attention, but there aren’t a bunch of other people shouting their latest tweet or status update all over your page. Unfortunately, that’s how it is on social media. Whether it’s your personality that shines through or the type of information you provide, there needs to be a reason your audience looks forward to your social media updates.

Start by thinking about why your readers are drawn to you. Why do they like and share your stuff? How are you fulfilling their wishes, helping them achieve their goals or how are you easing their worries? If you don’t know why, simply ask them.

If you’re still not sure what makes you different, take a look at your competition or other companies that you follow on social media. What do they do that makes them unique? Write a list of about 10 companies and determine their unique social positioning. That doesn’t mean you have to copy what they do, but by exploring it and being able to recognize uniqueness, you can find your own too.

Some of the things that might make you and others unique include the ability:

questions– to make people laugh
– to inspire people
– to make people ask themselves tough questions

…and just about anything else that evokes a strong emotion or thought. How can you get your audience feeling and thinking about something?

Your uniqueness can also be found in the type of media you are known for sharing, whether it’s:

– Video
– Images

…but there needs to be something unique about those videos, images or other media. After all, everyone and their dog has their own YouTube channel, but what makes your production different than everyone else?

Well, one way to ensure your content is different is to understand that uniqueness requires some self-development as well. It sounds airy-fairy, but it’s absolutely true. Offering something deeper doesn’t come because you want it to, it comes from being deeper yourself. That includes:

Sharing an opinion: Don’t be afraid to say what you think, even if it’s not conventional wisdom. It doesn’t matter if people think you’re wrong, you’re getting people to think and you’re showing yourself as someone who is able to think for themselves.

Look at things from different perspectives: In addition to having an opinion, take the time to understand different perspectives. The more you understand the opinions that oppose yours, the stronger your opinion will be.

Avoid simply copying what everyone else is doing: Just because ABC Company is doing a series of videos on gardening tips, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. The more you can pay attention to your own audience’s needs and disregard your competition (unless you’re in a one on one battle of some type), the more likely you are to find your uniqueness.

Experience things: Don’t just talk about stuff on social media, get out and do it. By doing more, you have more valuable content to share with your audience. Whether it’s opinions based on your experiences, photos, videos or something else, by getting out and experiencing life, you bring more to the table for your audience.

If you look at all this again, you’ll see that being unique really comes from bringing your best self forward. If you want to stand out from the crowd, dig deep to find that best self and serve your audience faithfully. The benefits will be worth it.…and just about anything else that evokes a strong emotion or thought. How can you get your audience feeling and thinking about something?

Your uniqueness can also be found the type of media you are know for sharing, whether it’s:

– Video
– Images

…but there needs to be something unique about those videos, images or other media. After all, everyone and their dog has their own YouTube channel, but what makes your production different than everyone else?

Well, one way to ensure your content is different is to understand that uniqueness requires some self-development as well. It sounds airy-fairy, but it’s absolutely true. Offering something deeper doesn’t come because you want it to, it comes from being deeper yourself. That includes:

– Sharing an opinion: Don’t be afraid to say what you think, even if it’s not conventional wisdom. It doesn’t matter if people think you’re wrong, you’re getting people to think and you’re showing yourself as someone who is able to think for themselves.

– Look at things from different perspectives: In addition to having an opinion, take the time to understand different perspectives. The more you understand the opinions that oppose yours, the stronger your opinion will be.

– Avoid simply copying what everyone else is doing: Just because ABC Company is doing a series of videos on gardening tips, doesn’t mean you have to follow suit. The more you can pay attention to your own audience’s needs and disregard your competition (unless you’re in a one on one battle of some type), the more likely you’re to find your uniqueness.

– Experience things: Don’t just talk about stuff on social media, get out and do it. By doing more, you have more valuable content to share with your audience. Whether it’s opinions based on your experiences, photos, videos or something else, by getting out and experiencing life, you bring more to the table for your audience.

If you look at all this again, you’ll see that being unique really comes from bringing your best self forward. If you want to stand out from the crowd, dig deep to find that best self and serve your audience faithfully. The benefits will be worth it.

When You Know Your Target, Social Networking Gets Way Easier

Know Your TargetIf you’ve been operating your website and business for a while, you probably have a good idea who your target market is. But your social media audience could be considerably different. Plus, each network is unique, so how you approach each one might be quite different.

It’s important to take the time to explore your target market because the more deeply you understand them, the easier it will be for you to create a connection and keep their attention.

To get to know your social network target market, here are a few things to look at.

Know Where Your Customers Are

Ideally, you want your social media following to be reflective of your target customer base. There is no sense in building up an audience of people who have no interest in buying your products. It seems obvious, I know, but I’m always surprised by people who are more concerned with follower numbers than actually building a targeted connection.

This report from comScore can give you some clues on how certain demographics of the population are spending their time online, giving you some ideas where your market might be. You can also gather this information by engaging your own audience on your blog and elsewhere to find out where they might be.

Pay Attention

Pay AttentionPay attention to what your current followers like. Take note of what they respond to, comment on and share. Look beyond their interaction with you and look at their own profiles. What is common to the people who seem to follow you?

Ask Them

Engage your followers in conversations, so you can get to know them better. You can even create polls and ask them direct questions about what kind of content they’re interested in, what questions they need answered and more.

Shape Your Own Target

You certainly have some control over your target market as well. If you share certain types of content, you are more likely to attract a certain type of audience, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Add to that, you can shape your following by following targeted people as well. Follow companies and individuals whose social network presence resonates with you. Get involved with their conversations and connect with their audience as well.

Using This Information

ApplicationOnce you have a good idea about who your target is, you have to deliver the content they are looking for and this may take some experimentation. This is the time to put aside your personal preferences and find out what really gets their attention and engages them.

To help you start formulating the right kind of content, ask yourself the following questions:

– What are their key interests?
– What beliefs are vital to them, as it relates to your niche?
– What are their goals?
– What challenges do they have?
– What are their dreams and wishes?

When you have this deep understanding, you can start delivering things that satisfy the questions above. Remember, to experiment with different types of content. Whether it’s images, video, text, links to blog post or just about anything, find out what they like and deliver more of that.

Tips to Grow the Best Social Media Following for your Business

We’ve all seen pages on Facebook with thousands…even millions of followers. We’ve seen the same with Twitter and other social networks. It may seem a little overwhelming if you’re starting with a small following and it may feel like you’re just not going to get anywhere if you don’t have a huge following.

Over 1 million followers - Mashable.com

What you really want is the right followers — a targeted following is always your best bet. While you should always work toward growing your following, you can still get results from your well-cultivated following. So keeping pushing forward. It’s worth it.

To get you started, here are some tips for growing your following:

Invite Your Website Visitors

InvitationWhen someone visits your website, one of your main goals (if it’s not for them to buy a product) should be to get them on your email mailing list. That way, you can contact them directly over and over again through your list. But another thing you want new visitors and even regular visitors to do is follow you on social media. Having multiple avenues to communicate with your audience is a good thing and allows you to stay in the mind of your prospects.

Include buttons on your site that allow your visitors to follow you directly on your main social media networks. While, it may be tempting to offer up a ton of options and include buttons for every social network you’ve joined, do consider these pitfalls:

– By including too many choices, you decrease your chances of getting your visitor to do anything. The old saying that “the confused mind always says no,” is absolutely true.

– Add to that, when you include buttons for networks you’re not that active on, you don’t provide a very good experience for your following.

Instead, keep it focused and limit your follow buttons to the networks where you participate readily. In addition, include invitations to follow you on social media in your blog posts and other content. Don’t just rely on buttons in the side bar…ask them to follow you directly.

Invite Your Mailing List

EmailSending your mailing list to follow you in social media gives you yet another way to communicate with your audience. Include follow buttons at the end of your emails, but also mention some of your interesting posts inside the emails you send. For example, if you posted a video you know they will want to see, send them to Facebook to view it. Or if you’re online and are available to chat, start a Hangout on Google.

Just one tip…make sure the updates you share are public. While it might make sense to make them private, so people have to follow you to see them, it can be frustrating for your subscribers. After all, your subscribers have ALREADY told you that they’re interested in your stuff and have ALREADY given you their email address. Don’t make them jump through hoops to see your additional content.

Make Friends in Your Niche

One of the easiest ways to grow your social networking and online following is by making friends with others in your niche. That effect is even more dramatic when you make connections with influential people in your niche. Always spend time on developing meaningful relationship with likeminded people because it has a lot of benefits:

– You can share one another’s content
– You can share ideas and give each other advice
– You can cross-promote products

And we’re talking about meaningful relationships here. Not just simply following someone on Twitter and hoping they’ll notice your @ replies. You need to connect them directly, meet them in person or offer to help them in some way. Real relationships don’t develop through liking someone’s Facebook status, so do the work necessary to grow your network of friends.

Get Involved and Interact

Even though liking someone’s video on Facebook isn’t going to make you best friends, interacting regularly with people can help you get noticed. Provide useful commentary on content that is complementary to your niche, get involved and be visible. If people can use you, they are more likely to follow you.

Of course, balance this with the important of keeping your schedule and avoiding distraction. Always be very purposeful about your participation and you will reap the benefits.

Remember, Growing a Following Goes Both Ways

It goes both waysRemember, that growing a following through SM goes the other way too. Get people to share your content on social media, so you can drive that traffic back to you. Getting that traffic back from social media helps you grow your list and sell your products.

Always make it easy for people to share your content. Include sharing buttons on your blog posts, free report download pages and just about anywhere you publish content. The easier it is for people to spread the word, the more likely they are to do it.

More Advice Coming in the Next Couple of Posts

Obviously, the most important key to gaining and retaining your following is to be interesting and useful. These are huge topics that deserve some discussion of their own. So we’ll be talking about just that in the next couple of posts. Next up, we’ll examine how to be interesting by understanding your target market and really getting a grasp of who you’re talking to. Then we’ll talk about being useful and providing something unique that others in your niche don’t. When you master that, it’s much easier to grow and nurture your following.

Getting Lost on Social Media: Managing Your Social Networking Time Effectively

Time is MoneySocial media is one of the most important business communication developments in a long time, but it’s also one of the biggest sources of distraction and is often a time suck for otherwise productive business owners.

Learning to manage your own social networking time will help you leverage all those great benefits and help you get rid of those unwanted side effects.

Here are some tips to get you going…

Know What You Want to Do

Have a planBefore you log into another social network, make sure you have a very clear idea of what you want to accomplish with your social networking participation. While you should know where you’re going before you go there in all aspects of your life, it’s even more important on social media because it’s just too easy to get distracted. Whether it’s political stuff that gets you all fired up or a funny meme of a cat saying something hilarious, we’ve all been there.

I’m also talking about knowing what you want to accomplish on a large and small scale.

You should know what you want over the long term (ex. expand your reach, get more loyalty from your audience, etc.) and what you want to do on a daily basis (ex. respond to comments, post a new video). Whether you use paper and pen, mind map software or voice memos to yourself to plan, record your ideas, so you have a rock solid plan for what you hope to do.

Limit the Networks You’re Involved In

Too many business owners try to be everywhere at once. It’s a recipe for burnout and it isn’t likely going to grow your business because you won’t have time to work on your actual business. It’s important to select only a handful of key social networks and if you’re just getting started with social networking, simply start with one network and move from there.

Of course, finding out what works best for your business will take some experimentation. Just don’t rush to do everything at once because you need to dedicate the appropriate time and effort to seeing what produces the most benefit.

Finish Other Tasks First

On a daily basis, work on your core business tasks first and then try saving social networking for the end of the day. That way, you can ensure everything that needs to get done gets done. This strategy also allows you to do more exploration on social networking so you can find new people to follow, interesting information and more.

Carve Out Your Time

Know how much time you are going to spend and what you’re going to do before you log into any of your accounts. Setting a limit is important, particularly if you have other business tasks or personal things to attend to when you’re done. Making sure you have your tasks outlined also helps you stay on track…instead of following that link to a YouTube video of an amazing 5 year old opera singer.

And always remember, when you log in…serve your audience first. You can’t go wrong by focusing on your audience.

Have a Notification Strategy

NotificationThere’s nothing more detrimental to productivity than being interrupted all day long with emails telling you about new retweets, likes and comments. You can limit these interruptions in a few ways:

– Turn notifications off completely. Rarely, is there a social media emergency and if you’re already checking in regularly, you don’t really need to get an email notification for everything.

– Some networks, like Pinterest, allow you to get a daily digest of notifications, instead of receiving an individual notification of each update.

– Don’t send the notifications to your main email address. Choose an address you check less frequently, so you aren’t constantly distracted by the new updates.

Keep Your Business and Personal Accounts Separate

While you may share some personal information on your business accounts, it’s easiest if you keep your business social networking activities separate from your personal ones. There are actually a few benefits to this.

The first is eliminating distractions. So if Aunt June sends you a private message and your friend Steve post a funny picture of his toddler, you won’t distracted from your to-do list.

Keeping things separate also helps you stay informed about your niche and makes it easy for you to be a useful for source of information for your readers. So follow personal connections on your personal accounts and follow industry leaders and information providers on your business accounts. That way, your news feeds will be relevant to what you are working on.

And finally, it makes you more relevant to your followers. Many online business owners broadcast business related information to their friends and family when it doesn’t really make sense. And the reverse problem is true. If you’re posting a lot of personal information, it may or may not be of interest to your business followers. You can avoid this, by separating your social media activities.

Get Help

There’s no reason you have to do all your social networking yourself. Even if you’re a solo entrepreneur, you can build a team or have someone alongside to help you. You can have someone help you with:

– Posting updates
– Scheduling updates you’ve prewritten
– Creating and collecting images and other useful content you’d like to share

Building a team that represents your brand puts a lot of pressure of your and allows you to focus more on strategy and business building.

Use Tools

Use ToolsWe are going to talk about various tools that can help you in a later post, but there are plenty of tools that can help you schedule updates, allow you to view your various network streams in one place, compile analytics for you and more. These are very useful tools to ensure you keep tabs on your interactions, allow you to participate more efficiently and can help you rework your strategy for maximum effectiveness.

What is Right for Your Business? A Closer Look at the Big 5 Social Networks

If you’ve ever looked at Wikipedia’s “list of major active social networking sites”, you’d see they list over 200. That’s a lot of social networks to potentially get involved in, but of course, you can’t be in al those places. Nor, do you need to be.

You may find that some of those networks fit perfectly in with what you’re doing, but for the most part, you’ll probably focus your efforts into the some of the 5 big networks we’re going to talk about in this post. My goal is to help you understand what these networks are all about and how they might fit in with your marketing plan.

Facebook

Facebook

Facebook was launched in 2004 and reported they have 955 million monthly active users at the end of June 2012. They are the largest social network by far that reaches a wide audience and age ranges.

With Facebook, you can create a Facebook Page where your audience can sign up to receive your updates. Over the past year, Facebook has become a much more visual network with companies and individuals sharing more photos and videos.

A wide variety of businesses benefit from participation in Facebook. Businesses can also advertise cost-effectively to grow their following and Facebook provides “Insights” which provide Analytics to help understand the effectiveness of posts.

It is also a very interactive network that allows for the sharing of detailed content and the commenting system makes for an even more cohesive interaction.

Interestingly enough, Facebook is a more closed format than networks like Twitter and Pinterest, in that it’s more difficult to have your content seen by people outside your direct following. Still, with the large number of people on Facebook, it’s difficult to go really wrong with your Facebook presence if you built it strategically.

Twitter

Twitter

Launching in 2006, Twitter now has over 500 million active users and receives over 1.6 billion search queries daily. Twitter also reaches a fairly wide demographic like Facebook does.

Twitter’s uniqueness comes from it’s 140 character limit on updates, creating a need for businesses to create interesting, entertaining and concise content for their users. While, you can upload photos to Twitter, it is a more text-based social network and that works very well for some businesses.

It is also a very open format where, unless your Twitter updates are made private, users can search and easily find content from people they don’t follow. As I mentioned, the site has over 1.6 billion queries per day which presents a tremendous opportunity for businesses sharing content on popular topics.

LinkedIn

The oldest of these big 5 networks, LinkedIn was launched in 2003. While considerable smaller than Twitter and Facebook, they are a more focused network. With 175 million followers, LinkedIn’s focus is on professionals making connections.

Service providers do very well on LinkedIn, but most businesses can benefit from a LinkedIn presence. The site is a source for not only finding employment and clients, but also allows like-minded business people to share ideas, advice, connect to work on projects and more.

Google+

Google+

A relative newcomer, Google+ was launched by the search giant in 2010. They have over 400 million users, but only about 100 million are active on a monthly basis. Google+ attracts a more technically-mind audience, but offers interesting possibilities due to its connections with Google’s other products, including search.

Like Facebook, Google+ allows for the sharing of lengthy content, creating discussions, sharing photos and photos. And while Google+ doesn’t necessarily reach the average social media user, the strength in Google+ comes from a number of sources and a couple of notable ones are:

The +1 button: On the network and throughout the web, Google users are able to show appreciation for content by giving it a “+1”. The +1 can help grow word-of-mouth audiences, but also can have an impact on traffic through search engines.

Hangouts: Sophisticated video / audio conferencing software is built in to Google, allowing businesses to make more meaningful connections with their audience. Even the President of the United States and other public figures have held their own Hangouts.

Bottom line is, if your audience is on Google+ (it may or may not be), it’s a good idea to explore the possibilities.

Pinterest

Pinterest

Pinterest is social media’s current darling. They officially launched in 2012 and according to Comscore, by January 2012, had 11.7 million users. While on the surface, it seems like they have a very small audience, it’s a unique network that many business strategists are keeping an eye on and many businesses are tapping into.

This is the most visual network by far, as it’s focus is on sharing photos (videos can be shared too) of things that interest its users. These shares are called “pins” and allow users to create virtual “pin boards” in a variety of categories. The site also attracts considerably more men than women, giving you something to consider in your participation.

If your web content tends to be very visual or your product photos are visually appealing, there could be a place for you on Pinterest. Like Twitter, Pinterest is a very open network and you will find that your Pinterest content is readily seen and shared by people who don’t directly follow you.

Parting Thoughts

Where you put your focus, is up to you. Just remember it’s always better to do one or two things really well, instead of a bunch of stuff haphazardly. If you’re just getting started with social media, pick one to get your feet wet. If you’re already involved, consider if you’re putting your attention into the right areas and perhaps make a plan to explore new areas or dig deeper into existing ones.