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Setting Goals, Objectives and Metrics for Achieving Your Desired Outcomes with Social Media Marketing (Sponsored Post)

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Does this story sound familiar to you?

Your boss calls you in.  She wants to know if all this social media marketing is accomplishing anything; if it is impacting your bottom line. Is it?

You know social media is very important in today’s world. You, or an entire team in your organization, have been investing your time and effort to make sure you’re regularly posting and sharing great content, following relevant people, tweeting and retweeting, pinning, liking, writing thoughtful blog posts and sharing your knowledge. On top of that, all of the constant changes on the various social platforms and new marketing tactics that you must learn to employ keep you incredibly busy.  It’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it, and if it’s making a difference.

It’s very often the case that your social media activities are not closely tied to the larger purpose, vision, and overall goals and objectives of the organization. If we dive into social media without clear goals, we might not be prepared for that boss’s question.

Goal Setting Aligned with the Larger Purpose and Vision

How do you justify the investment and prove that yes, social media marketing is helping to contribute to your success? How do you plan your campaigns and goals so that they are in line with the larger purpose of your organization? How will you measure and prove your social media marketing efforts are valuable? You do this by creating a social media plan.

DragonSearch’s presentation at NMX in Las Vegas in January, 2014 will follow the same format as our workshop on how to create your social media strategy. In this post I will talk about the first steps in the process:

1.     Understand Your Purpose and Vision

In his book, Social Marketology, Ric Dragon focuses on outlining a framework for creating a social media marketing strategy and process. As he describes the first step of the process, Ric dives into the importance of focusing on desired outcomes and how every social media activity needs to be tied back to the organization’s purpose, vision and goals. The purpose and vision are principles that guide and inspire your goals and objectives.

“… [vision, values, and mission] bring cohesiveness to business actions, provide teams with focus, and act as a heuristic or innate set of rules guiding bigger actions.”

“Values provide us with what I call passion points – things that our organization’s leadership and culture get behind passionately and that allow us to connect with people.

The importance of values becomes even more pronounced in social media marketing, where great agility is needed. The individuals working for a brand need a framework.”

“By having clearly articulated passion points, marketers can focus on communications that people will want to be a part of. In the process, the brand’s association with those values will be stronger, and the sense of brand personality will flourish.”

– Excerpt from Ric Dragon’s “Social Marketology” book.

Landscape of desired outcomes from Ric Dragon’s Social Marketology book.

Landscape of desired outcomes from Ric Dragon’s Social Marketology book.

2.     Set Goals and Objectives

For anything you do in marketing, your first step should be to set your desired outcomes. Desired outcomes are your goals and objectives outlining the benefits or changes you aspire to achieve with your work. Setting goals and objectives for your social media activities should be based on the purpose and vision you identified in the first step in the process.

“We all know social media is changing marketing. We know it’s changing customer relations, product development, human resources, and other key areas. We know we need to be doing it. But we’re often unsure of the bigger picture, or how we’re going to create real sustaining value. In marketing in general, we need a clear understanding of what we want to accomplish. If we jump in and start activities without first tying them to organizational goals, we won’t even know when and if we’re succeeding.”

– Excerpt from Ric Dragon’s “Social Marketology” book.

Why Set Goals?

You could go ahead and start tweeting, Facebooking, and posting on all the social media platforms right now – and many organizations and individuals do just that. But how will you know what you achieved and if you were successful? How will you make decisions when situations arise if you don’t have that guiding light in front of you showing you the way? The only way to know is if we understand where we want to head and what results and benefits we want to achieve.

What Should be Your Social Media Marketing Goals?

At the end of the day we all have the same ultimate goal; to make money. But we also have a larger sense of purpose behind why we do what we do. It’s not only about the money.

This is especially true for social media. Why are you doing social media marketing? It should not be just about driving sales. If you approach it like that you will fail. People don’t care about what you want to sell to them. Your social media marketing should be about adding value for your customers.

Examples of Setting Goals & Objectives

Take inspiration from Ritz Carlton. Their purpose and passion is to “create indelible memories that last a lifetime” for their guests. Their social media goal is to deepen the engagement with current and potential customers and be central to storytelling in social media. In line with this, they can plan their micro-goals and objectives and then map metrics to measure their progress and success.

Example of mapping out your purpose, goals, objectives and metrics for social media

Example of mapping out your purpose, goals, objectives and metrics for social media

As a blogger your goal might be to establish yourself as an authority in your subject matter. Based on this you may set objectives, like writing well-researched blog posts and building up your following and engagement on social media.

As a next step you’ll want to focus on defining some metrics you will use to measure your success.

Use SMART Objectives

Setting SMART objectives will help you create realistic, measurable plans for achieving your goals.

I like the way the Virtual Knowledge Centre to End Violence Against Women and Girls uses the SMART criteria for setting campaign objectives and how closely it can apply to social media marketing:

 “Specific” doesn’t imply “unchangeable”: As the campaign is unfolding, its different elements and the internal and external actors and factors influencing success need to be constantly monitored. Substantive positive or negative changes may make it necessary to adjust the objectives.

“Measurable” does not necessarily mean “quantifiable”: For example, in social campaigns aiming for behavior change, qualitative observation tends to provide a more accurate picture of the complex processes campaigns may contribute than numerical data.

Being “realistic” doesn’t mean being pessimistic: If a campaign is grounded in robust research, a clear idea should emerge as to what can and what cannot be achieved within the context and the resources available.

“Time-bound” is for planning purposes only: Time limits need to be adjusted as the campaign unfolds (see also above, “‘specific’ doesn’t imply ‘unchangeable’”).

3.     Map Out Your Metrics

Map 3 to 5 metrics with milestones to each goal and objective. Measuring is very important so you can track your progress and know what is working and what is not.

Depending on your goals and objectives, metrics may be similar to the examples in the illustration above, i.e. number of comments on your blog, number of shares on Twitter, etc.

Excerpt from the Desired Outcomes Worksheet used in DragonSearch’s social media strategy workshops.

Excerpt from the Desired Outcomes Worksheet used in DragonSearch’s social media strategy workshops.

Quantity or Quality? How About Both?

Keep in mind that quality is just as important as quantity. As Patrick Lencioni quotes Jim Collins in his book: “qualitative field research is just as reliable as the quantitative kind, as long as clients and readers attest to its validity.”

How Do You Measure…

Not everything can be measured and some things are hard to measure. Social media allows us to have a direct relationship with our customers. But how do you measure those relationships in terms of ROI? How does owning your brand and messaging affect customer perceptions? What is the value in having an engaged audience? What can consumer loyalty and trust do for your brand? Brand awareness, loyalty, engagement all have tremendous value and are difficult to measure. However, with a well-planned and executed social media strategy, there are ways to map these metrics to your goals.

In his SMX Milan presentation about measuring social media ROI, Ric Dragon talked about a landscape of social media values.

Why Measure?

Measuring will help you:

  • See if you are on the right track to achieving your goals
  • See if what you are doing is working
  • Know when to adjust your strategy and how
  • Know when you achieved your goal
  • Justify your budget or position. Or even get you a raise
  • Justify your investment into doing the great things that are hard to measure

Follow these 3 basic steps for setting your social media marketing goals, objectives and metrics and you will have the structure in place that will guide you through everyday tasks and help you make important decisions on next steps. Whether you work for a large company or are a blogger working for yourself, this approach will help you make the most of your social media efforts. Most importantly it will help tie your efforts into your big picture vision and purpose so you can achieve your desired outcomes.

What are Your Experiences and Approach?

Are you ready for that conversation with the boss now? What are some of your goals and how are you tying them into your larger purpose and vision? What metrics do you use to measure your progress?

Please share your experiences or ask any questions and I’ll do my best to help you get started.

Hope to see you at our presentation about creating a social media marketing strategy at NMX in Las Vegas.

A Day in the Life of a Social Media Marketer [Infographic]

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We love this infographic from our friends at RazorSocial (especially Ian, who will be speaking at NMX 2014), which outlines what a productive day looks like for a social media manager. We love all of the great tools mentioned (see below for links to all of them). What are you favorite tools to help you stay productive during the day? Leave a comment below!

ADayInTheLife_Infographic_2_600_MED

Here are the resources and tools mentioned in this infographic:

Don’t forget to leave a comment mentioning your favorite tools to help you be more productive during the day.

Five Quick Social Media Tips for Brick-and-Mortar Businesses

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bigstock-Thinking-11766491 It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million views, 13 years for TV, four for the Internet. Facebook got there in nine months. The iPod got there in a couple days. How do brick and mortar businesses keep up? Social media isn’t optional anymore.

We’re out of the Technology and Information Ages and into the Participation Age. The hallmark of this age is “sharing”, which is why social media is so big. It allows us to share on a multitude of levels. It is a lot less expensive than advertising and when done well, is much more effective. How do we get our arms around it?

Don’t panic. Social media is just another communications medium, like radio, TV, fax and email. Except it is much more interactive and participative; like the phone, except at your leisure (you don’t have to answer right away).

Here are a few quick principles I use dealing with social media:

1. Pick just one or two entry points that can be highly integrated, that can push traffic to each other, and go deep.

In 2007 I picked blogging and Twitter. I would highly recommend that you blog (some are questioning that these days, I think it is still by far the best social media platform available), and then interact with people on Twitter about their interests. Or you can pair up Facebook and Google+ (some people use it to blog now). Or Pinterest and Google+, etc. Whatever you do, start small so you can actually participate and learn, not spam. You can expand later if you find you have the bandwidth, but stay focused until you are sure.

2. Become the expert in something.

Again, BLOG IF YOU CAN!! It’s by far the best way to use social media to become an expert. Write comments on other people’s blogs, and offer your material to others to repurpose it. Check out this post on the 10 reasons you need to stop making excuses and start blogging for your business.

3. Be INTERESTED, not just INTERESTING (and be interesting as a result of being interested).

Social media is all about discussions, not self-promotion. Example – join existing conversations on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. Support others in their comments and blogs, answer questions, and eventually they will want to know what you have to say and will visit your blog or community group. If you only promote, promote, promote, no one will care what you are saying.

After you have established yourself as someone who can contribute to others’ communities, maybe start your own Google+ hangout, forum, Facebook group, etc. Learn first, then invite your existing friends to join you. If you just self-promote, you could even get kicked out or banned, depending on the community. Build a network, don’t do networking! SERVE, DON’T SELL. Do NOT use social media to attempt to get a zillion new friends! All the research shows you should target your social media at your existing raving fans. SERVE them, and they will bring you new readers and new customers

4. Further your education by reading.

Read Rework by Fried and Hannson. Read Seth Godin’s blog and 37Signals.com’s blog. Find other blogs that you respect. (Editor’s note: Check out the NMX speakers list for blogs by authorities in the new media industry). See how they provide something of value. Don’t completely copy their content, just follow their lead – serve others with interesting content.

5. Search for local relationships and develop them online as well as off.

Connect, then offer offline opportunities. About 85-90% of all conversations about a product start off line and then move online. And again, starting with local relationships allows you to use social media to support your existing friends, who will then bring you more viewers and customers. If you go after herds of new people with your content, your friends will smell that and walk away.

Don’t see yourself doing this? There is a growing number of credible people who can help you by ghost-blogging, and by managing your business social media. (I would never let anyone else manage my personal Twitter account.) If you are going to hire others, make sure the public knows it’s not you – be authentic.

There are a bunch of other things you can do t boost your social presense, but if you start with these, you’ll be on the right track. For more great social media and blogging advice for businesses, check out the Business Category right here on the NMX blog.

Image credit: Bigstock

Influencer Driven Content Marketing: Lee Odden Explains this Powerful Tool for Businesses

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lee odden Last year, you couldn’t walk ten steps down the hall of any business conference without hearing the words content marketing. Bloggers have been doing it for years, but the idea of content marketing and how it can help your business has been thrust into the spotlight.

More recently, however, the mummers I hear center around a different buzz word: influencers. Influencers aren’t the people in your industry who start trends or break new ground. They’re the people in your industry who spread the trends and report the news. They turn a kernel of an idea into something everyone is talking about. So, business owners are starting to realize the advantages of connecting with influencers and turning them into brand advocates.

But what happens when the worlds of content marketing and influencer marketing meet? As Lee Odden suggests, the result is something even more powerful. In a post on his TopRank blog, Lee writes,

“Influencer driven content marketing is one of the best examples of how digital marketing and public relations are converging. The integration of messaging, content, social media and engagement right along with performance measurement and business outcomes should be the focus of any business that wants to differentiate and grow.”

Working with influencers not separately, but as part of your content strategy, means doing more than just connecting with the right people so they talk about your business. It means integrating them into your plan for spreading educational, inspirational, and entertaining content. Influencers don’t even need to mention your brand to have a serious effect on your bottom line.

Let’s go over three steps to get started with influencer drive content marketing:

  • Step One: Identify the influencers.

These are NOT necessarily the people with the most social followers. Quality is more important. How likely are those followers to do what the influencer says? I know people on Twitter with millions of followers who don’t have the influence that someone with ten thousand has.

In addition, someone who has a ton of influence may not be right for your specific needs. How likely is the audience to be looking for the kind of content you have to share? The more targeted the audience, the better.

  • Step Two: Determine the type of content you can create.

Every influencer will be different, and your budget also plays a factor here. One of the best options is to have an influencer create content for you in the form of blog posts and videos, but the bigger the influencer, the bigger your budget needs to be (unless you have something else to trade, like free service/products, a large audience, etc.).

You can also look at ways to create content that puts more of the work on YOU. Interviews, for example, are an awesome way to have an influencer create content for your brand without you needing a huge budget. You can also quote them in your blog posts (like I’m doing in this post for example) or do case studies. Most influencers will share content where they are featured.

Lastly, you can also create content that answers questions an influencer poses online. In this case, you’re targeting that influencer, but in an indirect way. This is the easiest option, but also has the lowest potential of an influencer sharing your content.

  • Step Three: Reach out to the influencer and begin building that relationship.

When you publish a post that features someone or answers a question, let the influencer know. One of the biggest mistakes I see people making (and a mistake I’ve made in the past) is creating awesome content, but being too humble or shy to reach out to the people who should be spreading this content. Don’t spam people with links, but let them know when you’ve published something of value to their audience, especially when it features them.

Also important: if you’re paying for an influencer to create content for you, make sure you discuss promotion as well. If a large parenting blogger writes about your brand of cereal but doesn’t tweet the link or pin an enticing image, that post might go unnoticed. Always set clear expectations not just for the content creation, but also for the promotion of the content.

Don’t Forget About Our Giveaway!

I’m featuring Lee today not only because his advice is super smart, but also because we recently announced that he’ll be presenting a keynote at NMX 2014 in Las Vegas this coming January. If you missed the keynoter announcement, check it out for more information about all five of the keynote speakers we announced.

To celebrate, we’re giving away previous sessions from all of our keynoters. Yes, they are completely free! Get access here before time runs out!

“Own the Good You Do”: Scott Stratten’s Advice for Businesses on Twitter

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scott stratten Every time a business joins Twitter, an angel gets its wings. It means they’re going to at least try the social media thing. Getting businesses to realize the power of social media is half the battle.

Whether or not they use this platform well is another story. Recently, I like the advice Scott Stratten wrote on his blog, UnMarketing, about the art of engaging with your fans, not just responding to customer complaints. Writes Scott,

Own the good you do. Value the positive voice.  It’s too easy only to focus on the negative.  You need to make time to thank customers who love what you do.  Be proud and say thank you. […]

Don’t leave all those high-fives hanging.  Take time away from fighting fires, and seeking out new customers, to thank the ones you have. This is the where the opportunity for brand endearment begins.  Don’t value your customers based only on purchases already made.  A happy customer is your best marketer.  Grow those relationships.”

There is absolutely positively no better marketing tool than word of mouth, and that’s not something you can buy. Think about it: when you’re going to make a large purchase, what’s more important: what the company says about themselves or what others are saying about the company? I will spend more money based on a friend’s recommendation, and I’m not alone. A 2010 study by Opinion Research Corp revealed that 59% of consumers consult friends and family members to get their opinions before making a purchase.

All it takes, sometimes, is a little recognition. A simple thank you on Twitter is the equivalent of a smile and a “come again” when someone is leaving your brick-and-mortar store.

Check out the rest of Scott’s post and his entire UnMarketing blog for more advice on using Twitter for your business.

Did you see our recent announcement?

We’re proud to announce that Scott is presenting a keynote at NMX 2014 in January. He’s always one of our highest-rated speakers, and we loved his keynote in 2010. See more information about Scott and the rest of our recently-announced keynoters here!

Want a free recording of one of Scott’s previous sessions? Check out this giveaway!

An End to EdgeRank: What Does Facebook’s New Feed Algorithm Mean for Your Page?

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facebook like button Facebook EdgeRank has officially been retired, but that still doesn’t mean every single user will see every single post you write. Facebook has a new feed algorithm, and if you’re managing a page on this platform for your business, blog, podcast, or web series, it’s important to understand how Facebook’s changes are going to effect you.

Storybumping: It’s Good News

The feature everyone is talking about right now is called storybumping. In the past, Facebook annoyingly decided which posts users would and would not see based on a calculated value. A post that got a lot of attention quickly could go viral, but if you didn’t post at exactly the right time, it didn’t matter what your update was about: people wouldn’t see it. In a few hours, that post would be buried by newer posts.

Now, Facebook is “bumping” stories that you haven’t seen yet, instead of just looking at the publish time. That means Facebook users still have a chance of seeing your posts, even if they’re older. Post timing isn’t as important as it was before.

The results are extremely positive for those of us wanting our page updates to be seen. In initial tests, TechCrunch reports that these changes mean an “8% boost in interactions for stories from Pages and public figures” and that people are seeing about 70% of all possible updates in their stream, as compared to just 57% in the past.

As a user, this means that Facebook will be more interesting for you, since you’ll see new updates whenever you log in, even if the posts are a bit older, instead of just seeing recent stories that you’ve already read.

Last Actor: It’s Even Better News

Even more interesting that storybumping is the “last actor” concept. This way of showing posts to users runs on the theory that the people/pages you’re interacting with most (by looking at their profiles/pages, liking, commenting, browsing their photos, etc.) are the updates you want to see.

This is good news for anyone actively engaging with users on Facebook. If people are interacting with your page, that means they’ll be more likely to see updates from you in the future. It keeps your most rabid fans involved with what’s going on with your page.

So What Does This Mean for Your Page?

It’s all pretty good news, in my opinion, for people who are consistently sharing awesome content and actually engaging with fans on Facebook. It’s bad news for people who just “check in” occasionally, even if your posts do tend to be interesting.

But more importantly, what it means in a broader sense is that if you market a business online or create content online, you have to be flexible. The rules for any platform are fluid, so being stuck in your ways of doing things will bite you in the behind in the the end. Always be experimenting, learning and evolving, on Facebook and otherwise, so you can continue to tweak the way your share and create content. If you stop, you’re really just going backward.

Are You Setting Yourself Up for Online Business Success? All You Have to Do is SMILE.

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smile Here at NMX, we have an all-staff meeting the day before the show to make sure everyone is on the same page and the event can run as smoothly as possible. Since I’ve been a part of NMX (and I’m assuming even before), one of the points our CEO Rick Calvert always makes is that we set the tone for the conference (find out more about the show here). Even when there are problems or we’re frustrated and tired, you’ll see us smiling in the halls, in sessions, and on the show floor. If the entire staff walks around grumpy, it won’t be long before everyone at the show is grumpy too!

It’s advice that has stuck with me and overflowed to my personal life as well. If you just smile, even when things are going wrong, y set yourself up for success. For me, however, smiling is about more than just putting on a happy face. That’s only step one. For true success, you can’t just smile…you have to SMILE: Share, Mingle, Initiate, Learn, and Empathize!

Share:

Whenever I am at NMX or even just “meeting” people online, I also try to share in whatever success I have. Even if I don’t overtly ask it, the question on my mind is always, “How can I help you?” Too many people in the business world are only concerned with, “How can you help me?” But if you share opportunities and help people as much as possible, others helping you takes care of itself. When you need a favor, people will jump to help you because of all the help you’ve given them in the past. Send people links (without being spammy), answer their questions via social media, and connect people via email. Share as much knowledge as possible in your industry so that people see you as the go-to person.

Mingle:

In every industry, there are cliques. It can feel comfortable and safe to only mingle with people you already know, especially if you are an introvert like I am. But if you truly mingle and get to know other people, your network will grow exponentially, which means more opportunities for you over time. Yes, it is important to strengthen the relationships you already have, but be aware that others might perceive you as being in this elite clique that isn’t interested in getting to know other people. Even online, you should spend time looking for new people to bring into your flock, rather than just following the same list of profiles forever. Check out these tips for finding new blogs to read.

Initiate:

A lot of people are shy. Really shy. Not only do you have to initiate the mingling, but you also have to initiate follow-up contact afterward. Even people who aren’t shy tend to be extremely busy. Be the person who sends holiday cards, emails just to say hello, and randomly promotes someone else via social media. Be the person who keeps relationships alive instead of relying on others to do so.

Learn:

The “L” in SMILE stands for “learn,” which means that I take the time to learn about other people. With the Internet, it’s not hard to do! When meeting someone new or even talking to old friends and colleagues, especially when uncomfortable with social situations, we have a tendency to talk a lot about ourselves. Flip this on its head. Ask questions and learn as much as you can about the other person. Then, make a note of what you’ve learned and learn more afterward by looking them up online. When you meet the person again, you want to be able to say, “Yes, I looked up your blog, and here’s what I think…” or “I signed up for the mailing list you were telling me about…” or whatever the case may be.

Empathize:

Lastly, an important part of the SMILE concept is learning when not to smile. Sometimes, people have problems and are upset at you, the situation, or the entire world. Learn to empathize, not just put on a happy face and placate people. Most people understand when you are insincere versus when you are actually trying to help them. So, when problems arise in your company or personally, really listen to people and come up with a solution as quickly as possible. It’s easy to feel defensive (guilty!), but most times it just makes more business sense to swallow your pride. Even when people are being mean, kill them with kindness.

Do you SMILE online? How can these concepts help your business?

5 Mistakes Your Small Business is Making on Twitter

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business on twitter

As a small business owner, it can be challenge to keep up with best social practices. One of the most common questions I’m asked is, “What am I doing wrong?” If you’re not seeing the results you think you should from Twitter, here are a few mistakes you might be making:

Mistake #1: Broadcasting Without Interacting

The entire point of social media is to promote your business, right? Well, yes…but in a social way. It’s about more than just broadcasting. Sure, you can send out tweets that include links to your website or blog, but you also want to interact with your followers. Jump into relevant conversations. Be helpful when someone asks a question. Follow others in your industry and those who are potential customers. If you aren’t using the “@” reply function often, that’s something that needs to change. Southwest Airlines is a great example of a company doing this right. They are constantly retweeting and replying to their customers.

Mistake #2: Blurring the Lines Between Personality and Personal

When using social, I think it’s great for the personality of your company to shine through. You aren’t just a giant logo. There are real people behind your social account. But there’s a difference between showing your personality and getting personal. If you’re a business or brand on Twitter, you don’t need to tweet out pictures of your meal or rants about your flight being delayed. Save that for your personal account. Keep your Twitter interactions relevant to your business. Bill Gerth (and Frank Eliason before him) for Comcast does a great job at this at @comcastcares. Talenti Gelato (who we profiled here) and GrubHub are also awesome at letting their personality shine through while still making it about their respective businesses.

Mistake #3: Going on Hiatus

If you can’t commit to tweeting daily, get off of Twitter. No, really. It looks bad if someone asks a question on Twitter and you don’t reply quickly. An abandoned Twitter account is worse than having no Twitter account at all.

Mistake #4: Promotional Updates

Promotional updates are okay. After all, you’re using social media to promote your business. However, if you’re only promoting yourself, your tweets can get old quickly. A really great option is to start a blog and also promote your links to education or entertaining topics. If you run a lawn care company, don’t tweet yet again that you’re available for landscaping. Tweet a link to your post on the “10 Best Celebrity Yards” or “How to Get Rid of Summer Garden Pests.” Get people reading on your site through content marketing and then sell them on your products or services once they’re a fan.

Mistake #5: Not Following Relevant Hashtags

Lastly, are you following hashtags in your industry? Hashtags (using the # symbol before a word or phrase) allow you to see what people are saying about a specific topic. Following these hashtags allows you to identify problems, jump into conversations, and find new followers (and potential customers). Always be listening to what your target market is saying.

What’s the biggest mistake you see businesses making on Twitter? Leave a comment!

Class in Session: Social Media Lessons from the Nation’s Best Schools

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Many of the nation’s best universities have discovered that social media is an excellent way to reach, impress and attract top-notch students. Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania are among the most active schools in this arena, turning to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs and message boards to inform, entertain and recruit.

Can business owners, Internet entrepreneurs and job seekers learn from the example being set by these and other prestigious institutions of higher education? There’s little doubt that methods similar to those being used to attract the world’s best students can also work to get the attention of potential customers, employees and employers.

Stars, Presidents, and International Projects: Showing Off Your Assets

So what is Harvard doing to enhance its online presence? A recent visit to the school’s Facebook page provided a look at two diverse but equally interesting subjects: a relatively nearby system that is turning out new stars at a staggering rate and the 16th president of the United States.

If you spend a little time on the Harvard Facebook page, you’ll find out that the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is a joint collaboration of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. This information might not mean much to you if you plan to study Economics or Marketing, but, if you think your future will have something to do with what’s out there beyond planet Earth, glancing at the school’s Facebook page might convince you to take a closer look at Harvard.

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Along the same lines, you might be impressed to know that in the school’s Houghton Library collection, you’ll find a piece of the earliest surviving work by Abraham Lincoln: math exercises he wrote in 1825, at the age of 16.

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If you are considering a future in engineering, you may want to visit the University of Pennsylvania Facebook page. There you’ll find information about the Penn Engineers Without Borders program, complete with a photo of two Penn students working on a project in Cameroon.

Bottom line? Use social media to highlight your assets. Share information that your business has, even if it doesn’t directly rate to making a sale. Use your online presence to make your company a trusted authority.

Sharing Information

Here are some other ways universities across the country are tapping into the social media gold mine:

  • The job market – Using LinkedIn and other options, universities are putting their students in touch with employers and recruiters.
  • Sharing knowledge – Colleges and universities are sharing knowledge, experience and information online.
  • Seeking the best students – Many potential students use social media to connect with one another and learn about the world around them – and find out what specific universities have to offer.
  • Online learning – Online education gives students the option to learn on their own schedule.

These outreach efforts and opportunities make universities more valuable to students (their “customers”) and more visible to potential students.

Get Their Attention

Whether you are seeking a job or, as an entrepreneur, you’re looking for new business, it’s important to remember that you first must get the attention of your potential customers. Once you do that, here are a few tips to help you use social to keep them interested in the service or product you are offering.

  • Connect with your customers by posting on your Facebook page once a day, tweeting a few times daily and writing a regular post on LinkedIn.
  • Don’t use lingo or language that your customers might not understand. You should show them that you are interested in helping them, and you should try to develop a bond between you and the people who will be buying your products and services.
  • Offer special prices or services that are available only to the people you reach through social media to give your customers and potential customers a reason to follow you regularly on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Blogging will enhance your presence in the world of social media. You can establish a blog on your website and use it for Facebook and Twitter posts.
  • Join conversations on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. This will help you establish yourself as an expert in your field.
  • Don’t ignore your competition. You might be able to copy some of the things they are doing in the world of social media. There’s nothing wrong with investigating what others in your industry have done, and it’s okay to copy* the things they have done right.

If your business depends on your ability to use social media to attract and retain customers, take the time to learn from some of the most prestigious schools in the United States.

(*Editor’s note: we’re talking about “copying” ideas here to make them work for your business, not plagiarism, which is NEVER okay. Be ethical in your business practices when reviewing your competitors.)

What Happens to Your Traffic when You Stop Writing at Your Blog?

Author:

I taught a Marketing with Social Media MBA course at a fully accredited university in Silicon Valley earlier this year. The class ran from Feb 9 – April 28. There were 73 students enrolled. Just over 50 survived to the end.

During the last day of class I asked my students, “How many of you have been angry at me some time during the past 11 weeks?”

They all raised their hands. Some raised both hands and waved them violently. Thank goodness there were no single digit waves … I think. But it was clear the students had had enough of blogging no matter what I called it – marketing with social media, content marketing, inbound marketing, whatever. They were done.

Indeed I was curious to know what would happen to the traffic to their sites when they stopped writing.

Now I know.

Take a look.

Aggregate After

This screen shot reflects the aggregate traffic to all the students’ sites.

It is clearly visible that the traffic is increasing overall.

Increasing?! When most of them had stopped writing?! And all of them are writing less!

Indeed. The traffic continues to grow.

And be sure to take note where the traffic is coming from. Organic traffic is far outperforming the biggest social network on the planet.

Case Study – Info-Nepal

A look at one of the student’s stats is particularly enlightening. Her site is dedicated to Nepal. It would be a great complement to a travel agent site dedicated to Nepal as a destination.

Not a couple of days AFTER the class was finished, look what happened.

After class

I wrote to her, “Very sudden and very nice jump in your traffic! What’s going on?”

Her reply:

“Yeah it all started about 3 weeks ago. All of a sudden I am getting a lot of traffic. It increased from 40-50 per day to almost 300 per day. I am excited. I need to write more frequently. Thanks for keeping and eye on it.

In other words, she did nothing special. Just plugging away, and even writing less than during the class.
We can see where her traffic is coming from.

Lesson Learned

The crystal clear message: Creating good content results in good residual traffic, sometimes known as the long tail.
When traffic is purchased (think adwords) or pushed via social networks and social bookmarking sites (think referral traffic from other sites) traffic will come as long as it is pushed, driven. But when the buying and pushing stops, so does the traffic.  Not so with good content that is on topic and created at the home site. It’s the content that keeps on giving, um, pulling.
Content marketing is inbound marketing. And it can’t be beat long term.
What is your experience with creating content compared to buying traffic by hook or by crook? Got case study? Wanna share? Feel free to read the students’ firsthand experiences at BillBelew.com. And by all means, reach out to me if I can help you see similar results at your site(s). See you in the comments.

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