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March 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_March12_CIt's a sure thing that if you say 'social media', the vast majority of people will think of either Facebook or Twitter. These are two of the largest networks that are used, with users often having accounts with both. Because of this, it's not uncommon to see a trend develop on one network and expand to the others. One of the more common trends is the use of the hashtag (#). Do you know what it's for though?

The hashtag (#), commonly referred to on telephone systems as the pound key, is a character first used by users of the popular social network Twitter. According to the help forum on Twitter, "It is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages."

Look at nearly any Twitter message and there will usually be hashtags attached. If you were to search for the term e.g., #Cloudbackup on Twitter, you would get a list of all tweets that have mentioned the above example. When Twitter talks about a 'trending topic' it means a subject that has become popular.

This way of categorization has become so popular amongst Twitter users that it's starting to spill over onto the other networks. Instagram for instance has given members the ability to add hashtags to pictures, so that they can be added to groups which can subsequently be searched for. Even Google has gotten in on the act, with Google+ and YouTube both supporting this system.

With Facebook, the hashtag has come to give context to a status. You've probably seen some status updates such as: I love Mondays #sarcasm #bored. This should be read with a sarcastic and slightly bored tone.

Because of the usefulness of the hashtag, some users have become overzealous in their use. Reading a Tweet that says '#Friday is #awesome, here comes a #fun #weekend.' just looks unprofessional and could put off followers.

While effective, there are some basic rules you should follow to help get the most out of your hashtags. Here's four.

  1. No long hashtags. Hashtags are meant to be short and associated with one word. Don't make the mistake of adding more than about two words together, as the likelihood of users finding the tag will decrease. e.g., #Cloudservicesareawesome should be avoided, use #cloudservices instead.
  2. Minimize their use. It can be tempting to hashtag every keyword in messages, however makes them look weird, while decreasing their readability. It is a good idea to limit use to one or two per message.
  3. The hashtag is special. Don't use it for everyday words. Instead use it for product names, or a special part of the announcement. Remember that you don't have to use hashtags in every message. Check out Samsung Mobile's Twitter feed to see a good example of proper use.
  4. Use a unique hashtag. If you can, try to use a unique hashtag, something that followers will be able to associate and relate to you. The key here is that when it's used, the user is referred to you, and only you. Do a quick search on Twitter for the hashtag you would like to use, to ensure it's not taken. Many companies will shorten their tag to initials or a shorter term, which is perfectly acceptable.
Hashtags, when used correctly, can be a great way to build brand identity and increase social media presence. If you are looking for a social media plan, please contact us today to see how we can #expandbrands.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 13th, 2013

SocialMedia_Feb12_CThe Internet has brought many changes to both companies and the people that use it. One of the more popular Internet based services is social media. Almost everyone with an Internet connection has a presence on at least one site, companies included. While most companies use social media for marketing, and connecting with customers, they can also use it to learn more about potential new hires.

Here's three steps you can employ to learn a bit more about potential hires before they come in for an interview.

1. Google them Googling yourself can be seen as vain, however putting a potential hires name into Google Search is smart. You can enter their name along with specific queries that can help you narrow information down. One thing you can do is enter their name with double quotes around it and the city they are based in, this will help you find their presence on related social media sites. You can also put their area code, zip or postal code to narrow down the search.

The point of this is to help you find more information about the person without having to search on individual social media sites. This will also return results like photo albums, recent account activity and maybe even some hobbies and interest groups. Searching on Google, or other search engines is a good way to see if the prospective employee is legitimate.

2. Take a look on Facebook Almost everyone and their dog are on Facebook, so don't forget to search for them on this popular service. With the recently announced Graph Search, this should make searching a lot easier too. Enter their name, along with some specific interests or information from the resume and the chances of finding this person's profile go up.

While some would argue the ethics of doing this, you may see information or posts that counter information in the resume, or even paint a better picture of the applicant. For example, you can ask them about their family when they come in for an interview. It could prove to be a great ice breaker.

3. LinkedIn Most social media sites focus on the social aspect of people's lives, while LinkedIn focuses on the more career and professional oriented areas. Searching for the candidate on LinkedIn can often shed more light on their history, and may even showcase common links between you and them. If you notice that the candidate worked for a previous employee, you could contact that employee to see if they have any thoughts about the candidate.

Researching your future hires is a good idea because it can help you learn more about them than you might otherwise do from just an interview. It also gives you a bit of a deeper understanding of if they would be a good fit for the company. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage social media in your company please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
January 16th, 2013

When it comes to most technical systems, there is so much change in one year, that it can be a bit tricky to predict what the next year will bring. Social media is no different. While there are a number of trends that will continue on from last year, there are going to be some surprises along the way too. What we can do however is take our best guess based on what's going on right now.

Social goes mobile The way people view information is changing thanks to increasing adoption of tablets and mobile devices. The adoption rate is forecasted to rise in 2013, with the number of users who view your content on mobile devices soon overtaking those using a more traditional browser.

Because of this, the use of web technology that resizes text, images and other content to any screen size, will become even more popular. What this means for social media managers is that you will need to keep mobile users in mind when developing content and ensure it can be easily viewed on tablets and smartphones.

Visual marketing Visual marketing is the use of video, images, infographics, etc. to get your message across to your target audience. The key to this type of marketing is that it enhances brand memory, recall and identity.

Social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, are perfect platforms that, with effective use, can create an awareness that resonates with target groups, creating increased engagement.

While this marketing concept isn't new, you can expect to see more companies focusing on developing more content that's visual in nature throughout the next year and beyond.

Content marketing (B2B) When it comes to B2B marketing on social platforms, companies have been using content as the main brand driver. This takes many forms, including: Papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, etc. For example, infographics have proven to be valuable tools in increasing brand awareness. Most companies are well aware of this and it's hard to find a business that doesn't have some kind of content on their website.

In 2013, you can expect to see many enterprises turning to social media platforms like Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, etc. to develop and share content. Couple this with an increase in visual content and there will be an increased trend for smart marketers to develop engaging posts that are also visually appealing.

Google+ is a Google must Google is playing the long game with it's social media platform, Google+. While it currently isn't anywhere near as popular as Facebook, Google is making changes to the platform and turning the service into a central hub for managing your online presence - when it comes to Google that is.

Last year, Google rolled out a number of services, such as Local, into Google+. This forced businesses with a Google presence to use this service to manage it. This trend will likely continue over the next few years, with the slow release of valuable services that are exclusively for Google+ users and force users to switch to them.

In other words, for companies using Google's services: Google+ is a Google must.

Facebook remains king. For now! Despite a disappointing IPO last year, Facebook is still #1 when it comes to social media. This likely won't change in the near future. Facebook is well aware of this and will continue to take steps to keep users.

We can expect Facebook to introduce a premium version of Pages, along with increasingly powerful analytics tools. Alongside this, their mobile advertising service will likely mature into a viable business option. What this means for businesses is that they will need to keep on top of these offerings and figure out how to best leverage their content.

These are just five social media trends for the coming year. Have you identified any more? What do you think will be the biggest change to social media in 2013? We're interested to hear your thoughts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
December 19th, 2012

One of the more popular communication debates these days is whether employees should be allowed to access their personal social media accounts while at the office. There are many valid arguments on both sides of the debate, but few present the viewpoint of what many employees actually think. A recent report has done just that and raises some interesting issues.

The report, published this past summer by Kelly Services reported on social media in the workplace, and highlighted findings and opinions from three major regions: The APAC (Asia Pacific), The Americas and the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa). Below are some interesting results on the use of social media in the business environment.

Social media at work by region Social media and it's use in the organization is a hot-button topic. Many argue that by allowing employees to access it at the office, they will spend all day surfing their personal accounts and not doing any work. The study found that an average of 30% of employees across all regions feel that it's ok to access their personal accounts while at work. Interestingly enough, the APAC has the highest percentage (48%) of users who think social media access at the office is acceptable, while The Americas had the lowest (16%).

Social media use at work by generation Going a little deeper into the use of personal social media accounts at the office, the survey breaks down the numbers by generation. Not surprisingly, Gen-Y (36%) are the most inclined to think it's acceptable to access social media while at the office. What is interesting about this is that 30% of Gen-X also think it's fine to access these services while at work.

These statistics go to show what most people already know: Younger generations are more embracing of social media. This does run counter however to prevailing thought that all Gen-Y and X want to do, and think it's okay to do, is access social media in the workplace.

Impact of social media on productivity Experts are always saying that social media can help improve productivity in the office. While this may be true, the study found that over 40% of respondents find that social media hampers productivity in the office.

You might predict that Gen-Y, with their higher levels of embracing social media, would think drastically different from other generations. However, the findings say otherwise: 49% of Baby Boomers, 44% of Gen-X and 40% of Gen-Y believe social media hinders productivity.

Impact of social media on work/personal relationships Look a little deeper at the downsides of social media in the report and you find that slightly lower than half of all respondents, regardless of age or location, feel that mixing work and pleasure connections can cause problems in the workplace.

What do the numbers mean? By themselves, the numbers really confirm what we already know - social media is important but the way it's used and viewed differs enormously. Put the findings from the survey together and an interesting picture emerges. The acceptance of social media is growing, and will continue to do so younger more social media savvy generations join the workforce. Social media may be a main form of communication outside of the office, but when it comes to personal use in the office, the majority are not as comfortable with it.

While use and acceptance is growing, this report's findings highlight that many employees still feel that social media is more of a hindrance than an improvement to the working day. This is interesting, because a decent percentage think it's acceptable to log onto such sites in the office, while arguable knowing it causes a decrease in productivity. This is a conundrum all businesses are facing: Do we allow social media to blur the lines between work and life, or resist it? Look around, it's plain to see it's creeping into work and being met with mixed results.

The question this report raises, and doesn't answer, is whether social media and its use by employees at work for personal reasons is a good idea. The truth of the matter is social media isn't going away and reports and findings like these emphasize a need to understand how people embrace and use these platforms. From this understanding it's essential to develop policies that everyone feels comfortable with. Above all, it shows large differences of opinion which indicates a real need for flexibility.

We'd like to know what your thoughts are on social media and how it's currently used in your office. Do you embrace or resist? Let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
November 21st, 2012

Brick and mortar stores are dying a slow death. This is especially true for smaller operations. The reason for this? The Internet. Traditionally, small to medium businesses were limited to the areas where they had offices. Now, thanks to the Internet, you can sell your products to anyone, anywhere. This 'e-commerce' has become an integral part of business and with it, marketing your products and services to those online. One way companies do this is through social networks, and one platform that is proving to be fantastic for commerce is Pinterest.

Pinterest is different from the other main social networking services in that you don't usually share written content, rather you pin photos to an online pinboard that other users can view and share. If a user shares, or 'pins' one of your pictures all their friends can then see it and can repin it on their boards, and so on. The potential result of this is that one picture can be seen by hundreds of thousands of users - commonly referred to as 'going viral'.

What this means for you is that there is potential for your business name/brand to gain massive exposure and an expansion of your existing customer base. Here's how to get your Pinterest marketing started.

  1. Take pictures. As Pinterest is all about images, you should take pictures of the products you sell, or interesting aspects that define your company.
  2. Create an account with your company's name. You should do this soon, as Pinterest is the quickest growing social network; many of the more popular usernames are being snapped up.
  3. Create a relevant description. If users have never heard of you but like the content you pin, they will usually check your description for more information. This means your description needs to pop. The most effective descriptions give a brief overview of what you do, specialities, interests and links, so users can find more information. Don't make the text too long, users won't read it (that's what your website is for).
  4. Identify and create boards. Based on the pictures you have taken, and your main business offerings, set up boards based on these images. Many companies take the product categories from their website and create a board for each, then add related pictures.
  5. Invite people to view your boards. Using other social networking services, email, newsletters or day-to-day conversation, invite your friends, employees, colleagues and customers to view your boards.
  6. Promote yourself. To get existing friends, customers or otherwise to view your boards, place a banner on your website and a Pinterest sharing button near content you already have on your boards. If people are browsing your website and find a picture or some content they like, and have a Pinterest account, they will be more inclined to share.
  7. Branch out. As this is a social network, you need to be social. Follow other users, companies and friends. Along with that, create boards that allow you to pin and share other content.
The seven tips above help you understand how to go about starting a Pinterest marketing campaign, but many businesses are still asking the question, "Should we be on Pinterest?" If you run a product based website e.g., restaurant, jewelry store, clothing store, etc. then it's an amazing site. Take a look at the infographic published last month by FastCompany: 12 of the top 15 categories are associated with commerce. If you run a shop that sells products that cater to a female audience, Pinterest is almost a must as nearly 80% of the users are female.

For other websites, Pinterest can help bring out the human side of marketing. By sharing your interests in products that are somewhat related to yours, or the values of your company, people can get a better glimpse of who you are, what you're about and what you do. For example, if you run a small restaurant that focuses on locally grown or sourced food, pictures and sharing interests in the local area can help emphasize this.

As with any social network, you do need to be active on a regular basis. Aside from that, don't use Pinterest to sell, instead look at it as a tool that helps users get a glimpse of what makes your company special. This then encourages them to visit your website, where the selling happens. If you're new to Pinterest or would like help with your social marketing, please contact us, we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
September 19th, 2012

There’s no doubt as to the use and value of social media for professional organizations and companies of all sizes. It’s the new way to communicate and create rapport with customers. Each service has it’s unique uses and one that’s business oriented has been adopted slowly by SMBs. LinkedIn is a great tool for businesses to connect, on a professional level, with the world at large.

Here’s four reasons why your business should have a presence on LinkedIn.

  1. You have more than 1 employee. With a company profile, you can pick how many people work in your organization, and many small businesses pick 1-10 or 11-50. In these two categories there are over 1.5 million businesses with accounts. Lots right? Add into this the ability to filter companies by industry, location and relationship and you have a powerful search tool that can help you stand out locally.
  2. You want to connect with your peers. Facebook is a great tool for connecting with nearly everybody, while LinkedIn is better for connecting to your colleagues and peers who are constantly sharing topical information and discussions that could be of great use when you’re stuck, or need advice.
  3. You are hiring. LinkedIn is also one of the best job boards for mid-level and higher professionals. If you have a job opening, you can post it on the site and people connected to you and your friends can be recommended for the job. You can also target the posting at professionals who you want to apply, no more having to wade through unqualified candidates.
  4. You don’t want to deal with games/links to cat videos/senseless sharing. LinkedIn is a professional network, as such, there aren’t many time wasting features. If you haven’t bought into, or are tired of notifications about games or other activities, LinkedIn is a great alternative. Just be warned, you won’t connect with your customers on a close basis like you can with other networks.
If you feel it’s time to get on to LinkedIn and would like to know more about the process, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
August 29th, 2012

Brick and mortar stores are on the decline, the vast majority of people in many countries now prefer to shop from the comfort of their own home, over the Internet. One medium of online sales that many small businesses haven’t explored to its fullest is social media. There are many marketing benefits to using social media, and almost all lead to sales.

Using social media to advertise or sell products and services, commonly called ‘social selling’, should be an integral part of your marketing and sales promotions. Here are five reasons why your sales force should be social.

  1. Cost effective. Of the main marketing and sales pipelines, social media is by-far the most cost effective way to connect with people and build a solid marketing funnel.
  2. Level playing field. The best thing about social media is that there’s no size requirement. One man companies can benefit in exactly the same way as multinational corporations. With a well crafted and executed plan, you could see your company achieve Internet fame and increased revenue as a result.
  3. Less investment of time. Marketing and sales is a full time job, and using a website or other technical mediums requires the time of other departments as well. With social media, sales people can run campaigns themselves thereby reducing the demands on other departments.
  4. Highly trackable. Social networks like Facebook and Google+ have built in analytics making it easy to track nearly anything related to social media sales. If a mistake is made changes can be made quickly and results will show instantly.
  5. Drives loyalty and brand presence. With successful social media interactions, customers will often be more loyal as they feel a connection with the brand and will be less willing to change to buy from other companies. Social media also gives customers a chance to truly let you know how they feel, and other customers can see this. Visible comments are one of the most effective ways to build brand identity.
Using social media to conduct social selling is a great way for small businesses to not only grow their business but also market their brand. If you’re not using social media in your company, or would like to know more about how social media can help your business grow, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 17th, 2012

In the early days of social networks, there were only a few, it was almost easy to pick which network to be on, or even easier to dismiss social media as a passing fad. Fast forward to the present day, and there seems to be a social network for nearly everything. While there are a number of networks, five really stand out.

Here’s some important information about each of the top five, as of 2012, social networks, that as a whole make up social media.

  1. Facebook. With around 900 million users, Facebook is “the” social network for connecting with nearly everyone and has become one of the main forms of communication among the younger generation. In general, over half of users are between the age of 18 and 34, and spend an average of 405 minutes a month connected. If you’re looking to connect to customers, while driving brand awareness, your company should be utilizing this network.
  2. Linkedin. Linkedin is the social network for professionals to connect with other professionals, share their experience and find a job. There are around 150 million users, 55% of whom are between the ages 26 and 44 and spend, on average, 21 minutes a month logged in. If you’re looking to connect with your colleagues, other businesses or potential employees, this is the network that allows you to do so.
  3. Twitter. Twitter is the social network that allows users to announce, or find events going on nearby. With a 140 character limit, twitter is great for those who are efficient with their words, which is apparently over 550 million people. The majority of twitter users are between the ages of 26 and 44 and spend an average of 89 minutes a month logged in. Twitter is a great way for small businesses to broadcast announcements and promotions, with the goal of driving traffic to other social networks.
  4. Google +. Google + is the closest competitor to Facebook with many similar features. There are two major differences however. The first is the userbase is quite a bit lower, around 170 million users. The second difference is users only spend 3 minutes a month, on average logged in. If your business has a Google Places page, you’re already on Google +, and with recent changes to the platform, it should become a solid network to connect with your customers in the near future.
  5. Pinterest. Pinterest is the network to discover new content and products and is one of the fastest growing social networks. Founded in 2010 and coming to prominence in 2011, the userbase is around 11.4 million and growing rapidly. What’s intriguing about Pinterest is that users spend, on average, 90 minutes a month logged in, second only to Facebook. This network is a great way for companies to drive interest in their physical products.
These five networks are by far the most popular in terms of both users, time spent logged in and overall content. What social networks you use and why do you use them? We look forward to your comments below.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 19th, 2012

The use of social media by companies to connect with their customers and drive brand awareness is commonplace among companies of all sizes. Using a site like Facebook and its numerous features allows small businesses to tap into a potentially large customer base. What many owners don’t know is that there are some hidden features that they could be using.

Here are four hidden features you can use.

  1. App Settings. This setting tab lets you view and manage all the apps you’ve installed to your profile. From your profile, click the grey arrow near your name at the top of the window, select Account Settings and Apps to view your apps. Clicking the X will delete the app, while Edit will allow you to edit the settings. This feature is good for managing your profile.
  2. Archive Facebook. There’s a hidden feature in the Account Settings page that allows you to download your wall posts, everything you’ve shared and your friend's email addresses. You can also download an enhanced archive which includes info like IP addresses. This feature is in the General tab in Account Settings and is underLanguage. If your company wants to backup its Facebook data, this is the way to do so.
  3. Customize Username. You can customize the username attached to your Facebook account, which in turn changes the URL of your profile to the username selected e.g., www.facebook.com/myprofile. This is useful for businesses as it allows them to have a unique username that they can use on their websites, newsletters and other communication to encourage visits. To change your username, click the grey arrow beside your name at the top of the Facebook window and select Account Settings. Under the General tab, select Edit beside Username. Be aware that at this time, Facebook only allows you to change your username once, so make sure you’re okay with the selection.
  4. Facebook email. Did you know that you can message Facebook users from any email account? All you have to do is enter username@facebook.com and anything you type will be sent to that user’s messaging tab (the speech bubble in the top left of the screen). This is a great feature that allows you to quickly and easily send a message to your friends without actually opening Facebook.
These are just four of the many useful features of Facebook that you could use in your business to help further your brand, or make it easier to reach out to your followers. If you’d like to learn more about utilizing Facebook in your business, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 24th, 2012

Social media, typically viewed by companies as a marketing platform, has started to reach a new level of maturity and branch out. The next big step is to get a company's customer service, traditionally a physical aspect, social. This is called social customer service and should become the next step in a company’s social media plan.

Social customer service is a bit of an ambiguous term with no real established meaning. Before you pursue this strategy, you should be clear on exactly what it is and the benefits it can bring your company.

What exactly is social customer service? Think of the last time you had a problem with a program on your computer. Did you contact tech support? Or did you turn to your friends on social media? If you turned to social media, this is one of the main elements of social customer service.

Customers are starting to go to social media sites when they have questions, many times contacting the company directly. Having customer service elements on social media to answer these questions or field complaints is social customer service. A great example of this is OPEN Forum, run by AMEX. It allows customers to interact with one another, while giving the company a channel to feed technical help and information to them.

Benefits of social customer service There are four main benefits of leveraging social customer service in your business.

  • Increased customer satisfaction. By offering a way for customers to interact with you on a medium many are already comfortable with, you’ll find customers to be more satisfied.
  • Meeting consumer expectations. Let’s face it, the majority of your customers are using social media with many now expecting you to as well. If you meet their expectations, there’s a higher chance they’ll stay your customers.
  • Increased loyalty. One of the main reasons companies should be on social media is that an effective campaign can help improve customer and brand loyalty. Social customer service is an extra service that can help further increase loyalty.
  • Decreased customer service costs. If you offer customer service on social media, you could potentially decrease your total costs. The expenditure required to setup and maintain the online service is fractional compared to the physical operation.
While there are some distinct advantages to social customer service, it’s not a good idea to shift all of your customer support onto social platforms. Rather it should be viewed as a supplementary service, or another way for customers to get in contact with you. If you’d like to know more about how to integrate social customer service into your company's social media plan, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media