Azure Collier

my take on social media marketing and its impact on how we work, live and consume

Why I’m not participating in restaurant week: Your Facebook posts don’t link to your menu

On paper, restaurant week is a great idea. If you haven’t heard of restaurant week, it’s a week out of the year where the restaurants of a community offer special prices and menus to drive people to local dining establishments.

Pretty cool, right? Eat local! Spend local! I’m for it.

Until the restaurants and organizers of restaurant week try to execute the event online. What happens is the organizers cobble together a horrible looking website using every font available in their publishing platform, hastily throw up a Facebook page and attempt – but fail – to provide prospective diners with the necessary information.

I’m not talking about the dates and the list of restaurants themselves. What I’m talking about is what every diner who searches for a restaurant online is looking for: the special restaurant week-only menu.

Aside from reviews on Facebook and Yelp, the menu is a key factor in the decision making process for which establishment gets our money. What are you serving? Do I like it? Will my friends/kids/family/co-workers who have gluten-free/picky eating/vegetarian issues be able to enjoy anything on your menu?

For some reason, restaurant week event organizers don’t get this, and they link to everything else besides the menu in their Facebook posts. They link to the Facebook pages of participating restaurants, the restaurants’ homepages, and their aforementioned terrible event website. All the links on the event’s website are also typically to the participating restaurants’ homepages. Although they did a good job reminding fans and posting delicious food photos, after post after post on one local restaurant week’s Facebook page linked to everything but the menus.

Linking to the homepage of a restaurant does not bring me to the restaurant week menu because restaurants typically build a special page for it. The restaurant owners and workers and their marketing folks know where to find it – they spend every day on their website. But the prospective customers who may use restaurant week to try you out have no idea where that special menu is or how to get to it. They don’t use your site every day, and they are not going to spend more than 2 clicks trying to find your menu.

So you’re going to get a scenario like the one I experienced with my friends this week. We picked a day, and then chatted on Facebook messenger to find a restaurant we could all agree on. The local restaurant week’s webpage listed the homepage of 18 participating restaurants. After a few tries of searching and failing to find the restaurant week menus, we decided to try the restaurant week of another nearby town. We found the same situation with the next town’s website, and they had 42 restaurants listed. Who has the time or energy to look all over the interwebs to find the restaurant week menus of 42 restaurants?

Restaurant week fail. We gave up.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s one Facebook fan’s response to the Restaurant Week Menu Quest:

Restaurant Week Facebook Post

Do not make customers work to complete a call to action. They will give up.
So my point is this: If you want people to do something, link to the thing you want them to do. This is not just for restaurant week. This is for any marketing anyone does anywhere, no matter if you’re doing it for an event or your business. Do not make people work to follow through on the call to action. It’s that simple. You want people to come to your business. Make it easy for them to come to your business. You spend a lot of time and money on your websites and social media marketing. You want prospective customers to view all the pages of all the fabulous things you have to offer. I get it. Just get them there first. If they want to come back, and want to learn more by perusing your Facebook posts and website, they will.

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3 easy tips to make your social media content look professional

There’s a lot of noise in the newsfeeds of social media networks. A lot of clutter and sloppiness.

But your content doesn’t have to look like that. Your posts can stand out from everyone else’s. Before you share, take a moment and use these 3 easy tips to look professional

1. Shorten your links

When you include a link in a post or a tweet, avoid long URLs. They just look bad. And if you’re writing a tweet, a long link can get cut off if you go past 140 characters.

The solution is a link shortener. I’ve used HootSuite’s link shortener and bit.ly, an there are a number of others out there. I used HootSuite to shorten the link for this tweet:

Tweet Shortened Link

The benefit of using a link shortener is that many of them include tracking tools so you can see how many clicks your link got and – if you share that same link on multiple platforms (bonus points for this!) – you can see which platform gave you the most engagement. Here’s a look at HootSuite’s reporting tools:

HootSuite Summary Clicks and Referrers

HootSuite Top Clicks

2. Change how your link is displayed

When you share a link on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+, the URL is in your status update, and a preview of the webpage you’re sharing shows up below by pulling an image from the site, as well as a title and subtitle.

Once that link preview shows up, delete the URL in your post. You don’t need it because it’s still active in the preview.

Then use editing tools to clean up your link preview. These editing options are all pretty similar for Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Make sure you’re pulling in the image you want. If there’s more than one image on the website you’re linking to, you can choose to display the most relevant image. Click on the arrow below the image to flip through the options.

LinkedIn Edit Link Headline

You can also edit the title, subtitle (if shown), and the first sentence or two that are pulled from the website. Sometimes the link preview will cut off sentences once they’ve reached a character limit. Click in the editor in the link preview and clean up the text.

Here’s a cleaned up Facebook link post for one of the nonprofits I volunteer with:

Facebook Delete Link

3. Crop your photos

Did you know that each social network displays images a little differently and resizes them based on the network’s design? Make this work to your advantage. If you’re sharing a photo, crop it for the best possible display for whatever network your posting to.

This cheat sheet lists all of the photo sizes for each kind of image – from profile to cover photo to photo posts – for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube. Don’t have photo editing software to crop your images? Try a free service like PicMonkey.

I created this image in PicMonkey and cropped it for optimal display in the newsfeed. This post is for the Facebook page of the nonprofit I mentioned earlier. You’ll notice that I have a link in the text for this post because you can’t go to it by clicking the image:

Facebook Photo Crop for Post

Look great!

These tweaks take a few minutes, but they’ll make your posts look like the pros. Once you get in the habit of shortening your links, editing your link preview and cropping your photos, you’ll be able to optimize your social media content, look professional and attract the attention and engagement of your fans.

Got more tips? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

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Living in a Facebook utopia: How to remove annoying posts from your News Feed

We all have the best of intentions when we’re posting to Facebook. But let’s face it – sometimes we (me included – I’m guilty) are annoying and our friends and family are annoying. Facebook can be one big News Feed of annoying.

But I have gotten pretty good at building what I call a Facebook News Feed Annoyance Deflector by using a combination of settings and a Google Chrome extension. Here’s a list of things that I use that you can apply to your own Facebook News Feed browsing to make it so excellent that you will live in a Facebook News Feed utopia filled with only the things you like.

Facebook Settings

1. Unchecking a friend’s follow setting

For: When you love your friends, but you don’t love their Facebook posts and you don’t want to see them in your News Feed.

How to:

  1. Go to your friend’s Facebook profile.
  2. You’ll see a button on their cover photo that says Following and has a check mark next to it.
  3. To remove their posts from your News Feed, click the Following button to uncheck it. It will now say Follow.
  4. Your friend’s post will no longer appear in your News Feed, allowing you to avoid the drama of unfriending someone but also keep annoying things out of your Facebook experience.

Unfollow Friend's Post

2. Blocking event invitations

For: That friend who lives 1,000 miles away and keeps inviting you to minor events that will require you to make travel arrangements. Or that friend who has bought in to one of those work-from-home sales schemes and invites you to every virtual or in-person event.

How to:

  1. Go to Facebook.
  2. Click on the gear icon on the top right of your page.
  3. Select Privacy Settings.
  4. Once you’re on the Privacy Settings page, click Blocking from the left hand menu.
  5. Scroll down to Block event invites and then type the person’s name into the Block invites from box, and hit Enter.

Facebook Block Event Invites

3. Blocking apps and app invites

For: Anyone who plays FarmVille, Candy Crush … you know what? Just anyone who plays any annoying Facebook games and invites you to all of them.

How to:

  1. Go to Facebook.
  2. Click on the gear icon on the top right of your page.
  3. Select Privacy Settings.
  4. Once you’re on the Privacy Settings page, click Blocking from the left hand menu.
  5. To block individual users, scroll down to Block app invites and then type the person’s name into the Block invites from box, and hit Enter. Facebook Block App Invites
  6. To block apps, scroll down to Block app invites and then type the apps name into the Block apps box, and hit Enter.

Facebook Block Apps

4. Block yourself from being tagged in photos

For: That person who wants to get your attention about something like a photo of a piece of toast. And tags you in the photo. So then you get a notification and it shows up in your profile under pictures of you. Hey, I do NOT look like a piece of toast!

  1. Go to Facebook.
  2. Click on the gear icon on the top right of your page.
  3. Select Privacy Settings.
  4. Once you’re on the Privacy Settings page, click Timeline and Tagging from the left hand menu.
  5. Go to the Who can add things to my timeline? setting and click Edit.
  6. This setting asks: Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your timeline? Select Enabled from the button below.
  7. Now, every time someone tags you in photos or posts, you are notified, and can choose to add them to your timeline or not.

Facebook Who Can Tag Me in Photos

Google Chrome Extension – Just Block Everything with Rather

The Rather extension for Google Chrome is probably the greatest thing to ever happen to the Facebook News Feed.  It blocks all the things you hate by replacing them with Instagram photos of things you like.

To install Rather, open your Google Chrome browser and go to the Rather extension site. You’ll see a blue Free button on the top right. Click to add and the button will change to a green Added to Chrome button so you’ll know it’s installed.

Rather Chrome Extension

Click the Rather icon – located on the top right of your Chrome browser window – to open the editor. Fill in the keywords for things you want to block, and the hashtags for Instagram photos you want to appear in their place. Rather scans your News Feed, and posts that include keywords for the things on the block list will be replaced by Instagram photos with the hashtags of the things you like. Brilliant.

Rather Chrome Extension Editor

What are your tips?

Do you have any tips or tools to add to this list? Let me know in the comments. Your tips will help us all build our own versions of the Facebook News Feed utopia. And that’s something to be thankful for.

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3 steps to testing content for your Facebook page

A common question I hear from people using Facebook for marketing is “What kind of content gets the most engagement?” There’s no easy answer I can give you. But what you can do is test to find out what topics and types your audience is interested in. And you can also take advantage of marketing research that shows what kind of content gets a typical Facebook user’s attention.

That’s what I did recently in September when I started volunteering with the Leominster Office of Emergency Management (LOEM) and helping with their Facebook page. Before I became involved with the page, the organization had been posting text updates about severe weather warnings and links to news or information about public health, safety and emergencies. This was important information that the page’s fans needed to know, but it wasn’t getting them much engagement, spreading the word about what the organization and its volunteers does, or helping to grow their fan numbers.

What was missing from the page was original content, posts that show what happens behind the scenes at LOEM, and photos. If you want to increase your engagement, photos are a great start. Photos get 2 times the engagement of text posts. Photos are also the No. 1 content type shared by Facebook users.

So, for the month of September, I tried posting more of that type of content, and the results showed that this is what the fans want. Here’s how I tested the content:

1.       Testing Post Types

Facebook Insights Post Types

We posted 4 text updates during the month and tried 5 photo posts. The text updates included the weather warnings and information about a community event. The photos showed LOEM volunteers in action at a fire and at a booth during an annual festival, as well as a post known as a word image that combined a stock photo of a first aid kit and 4 emergency preparedness tips and a link to more information online.  It’s clear from the stats shown above in Facebook Insights that photo posts get the most reach and engagement.

2.       Measuring Likes, Comments and Shares

Facebook Insights Likes Comments SharesThough photos received more clicks than likes, comments and shares, fans are showed through digital body language by just clicking that they’re interested. Of course I’d love more likes, comments and shares on the page, but the clicks are a good start and indicate strong interest. The activity shows Facebook that these fans want to see our page’s updates in the news feed. And the actions of likes, comments and shares can be seen by our fans’ friends in their news feeds, which gives us greater reach, more exposure and potential page likes. The behind-the-scenes and LOEM in action photos are starting to help spread the word about what the organization does. Since the September tests, there have been a few fan comments thanking volunteers for their work.

3.       Posting When Fans are Online

Facebook Insights When Your Fans Are Online

In recent months, as Facebook has updated its Insights, page admins now have access to some great data about when fans are online. The stat – found when you click on the Posts tab in the new Insights –  shows an average  of how many of your fans are online during each day of the week, as well as during each hour of the day.

So I decided to post 3 out of the 5 photo posts specifically using the When Your Fans Are Online data. The majority of our fans who are online using Facebook are viewing the site from early afternoon to late evening on any given day of the week, from 4 pm to 9 pm. This is pure speculation on my part, but based on the time of day and the gender of our engaged fans (65% women, 40% of them are ages 25-44), many of them may hold day jobs and may be parents. They are using Facebook after work or after their kids are in bed, so they have time to browse Facebook. By posting during those hours, our content has a better chance of being seen in their news feed.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t solely rely on the When Your Fans Are Online stats. Make sure you’re testing other days and times as well. But the stats are a great start to helping you find a frequency sweet spot.

Results and Moving Forward

There’s a lot more that you can test when posting Facebook content, but just looking at these 3 factors helped us determine that trying visual content that showed what the LOEM was about is a great start to improving the page.  As more people interacted with and commented on our content, that engagement was seen by their fans, and that helped to influence fan growth. The LOEM page gained 10 fans in September. To some people, that may not be a lot, but to a small organization, those small gains are a fantastic step forward. We’re continuing to post photos and testing to see what other types or topics our fans will engage with.

Need more Facebook help?

Check out my other posts on Facebook marketing or ask your questions in this post’s comments.

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How to get volunteers involved in social media during your nonprofit event

I recently volunteered with the social media marketing for my local United Way’s Day of Caring for the third year in a row. If you haven’t heard of this event, it’s a day-long volunteering event where United Way chapters pair employees of local businesses with service projects at local nonprofits. I’ve written about volunteering for them before, and focused on how nonprofits can use social media to promote their events.

This year I noticed more social media participation from volunteers, which is key for nonprofits. Their volunteers are their biggest supporters, and social media provides an easy way for them to create social visibility for nonprofit causes.  What did we do this year to encourage conversation?  Check out these tips to get volunteers to share your event on social media.

My Instagram college from the Day of Caring kickoff.

My Instagram college from the Day of Caring kickoff.

Start at the kickoff

Over the last 3 years, we’ve become more vocal to volunteers about sharing their day on social media. Don’t just assume that people will take photos and post them or tweet using your event hashtag. Tell them to do it. Encourage them. The event kickoff is a great place to plant the seed. We add it to the “housekeeping” portion of the event kickoff speeches. Everyone is listening to instructions at that time, so we will list Facebook and Twitter URLs and the event hashtag on the screen, and our speaker will hold up their smartphone and reassure volunteers that they can and should use them during the day.

Send staff to the sites

The Day of Caring involves more than 600 volunteers at 62 project sites. Throughout the day, the sites are visited by project leaders, United Way staff and volunteer photographers. The organizers and photographers remind the volunteers – many of whom are already capturing their day with their smartphones – to share their experience on social media. And the volunteer photographers remind them that their photos can be found later on the United Way Facebook page.

Encourage people to tag themselves

When I posted the event’s photo album on Facebook, I tagged businesses, nonprofit agencies who have Facebook pages, and any people that I was personally connected to as friends. They’ll all get a notification that they’ve been tagged. The tagging and any activity they create when they check out the photo album will be seen by their friends in the newsfeed, and that creates social visibility among their networks.

Post when your fans are online

One of the best updates to Facebook Insights has been the When Your Fans Are Online stats. This tool looks at your fans over the most recent week, and determines the average number of your fans who are using Facebook on each day of the week and each hour of the day.

If you haven’t found this tool yet, the steps are below:

Step 1 and 2 When Your Fans are OnlineStep 3 When Your Fans are OnlineStep 4 When Your Fans Are Online

The Day of Caring took place on a Thursday, and Facebook Insights showed me that the highest number of fans were online at 9 pm on a Thursday. That’s when I shared the photo album and got great results – our content got 52 likes, 18 comments and 8 shares.

Share your volunteers’ posts

One great way to capture the conversation online during your event is to create a Storify story, which is a collection of social media content from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and more. You can do a search for your event hashtag and save all the public content that’s been posted. When you publish your story, you can also notify the people you quoted that they are mentioned in your content. Here’s a partial screenshot of the Storify story I created for this year’s Day of Caring.

Storify

Want more nonprofit tips?

Check out my previous posts on social media and nonprofits:

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Why aren’t people attending your events? 3 event marketing don’ts

If you’ve ever planned events, you know how frustrating it can be if they don’t turn out the way you thought. Fortunately for me, I’ve planned smaller meetup-type social events that aren’t the fundraising kind. Even if only a few people show up and have a few drinks and a few laughs, you and your guests can consider it a successful evening.

You would think that social media marketing would give event planners a huge leg up to get tickets sold and butts in seats. It’s summertime right now – a busy time for events – and my friends and I are checking out festivals and meetups on a regular basis.

But I’ve seen so many huge, basic event marketing mistakes that make me wonder if anyone is forking over their dollars to pay an admission fee. Here are 3 event marketing don’ts. Names and identifying features are blacked out to protect the guilty. Hey, I’m annoyed, but I’m not a jerk.

Don’t forget vital information – like the time. And LISTEN to your Facebook fans.

I recently paid $112 for 2 tickets to a brand-new music festival. Happy to do so – my husband and I love one of the bands that’s playing, the festival is 5 miles from our house, and neither of us had plans for the day.

The problem? We’ve heard about the festival for a month, and – even after buying the tickets – could not find the time that it starts and ends. Anywhere. Not on the festival’s official web page, not on their Facebook page, and not on the Ticketmaster site. Despite that, we bought tickets anyway (again – we do not have plans that day and we are really excited to see one of our favorite bands), but none of our friends purchased tickets because they wanted to know the start and end time before committing.

So I decided to ask the festival organizers to give us basic information that should be part of any event’s public-facing digital and social presence. And this happened:

Facebook Festival No Time Listed

I asked organizers about the time, and – instead of answering me – they liked my comment. What?! Did they even read my comment? I just paid $112 for tickets. Tell me when I need to show up. Why is it so hard to find this out? By the way, their answer was wrong. They officially released the schedule on their website since that post, and the entertainment begins an hour later.

If you are having an event, please make sure the time and date are EVERYWHERE. And make sure the information is CONSISTENT. I’ve never had this experience anywhere else, and it is ridiculous. Attending an event should not involve attendees begging organizers to tell them where to show up.

Don’t put the burden on your attendees. And be professional.

I love 5K races. There’s a few local 5Ks that I’ve participated in since moving to New England. I know – 5Ks are mostly an all-volunteer effort, and sometimes that means you’re not going to get top-notch, professional marketing. But you should make an effort because it could make a difference.

This email is from a 5K I’ve participated in for the last 5 years. The first year, organizers sent an email and did not use blind carbon copy. Everyone on their list was in the To: line. So unprofessional. This year’s email takes the cake:

5K Email

They sent a reminder through the registration service – my Gmail flagged it as possible Spam. And the organizer tells his potential attendees in a poorly-written email to register ASAP so he doesn’t have to deal with last-minute registrations like he did last year.

Excuse me?

Last-minute registrations are NOT my problem as an attendee for a 5K race. There are a lot of people who do wait until the last minute because of weather. Your communications to attendees should be professional (check your spelling and grammar!), provide the facts, and thank people for even considering your event. That’s it.

Be mobile-friendly

Here’s a reality: A large portion of your audience is finding your event information via mobile. And that’s because a smartphone is an important part of our daily life –  79% of adults age 18-44 have their smartphone with them 22 hours a day. We’re using mobile when we’re meeting up with and talking to our events and making plans. We’re using mobile while we’re watching TV at night. We’re on our smartphones when we’re waiting in line. We are using our smartphones as a way to plan how to spend our money and our free time.

Please make it easy for us to find information about your event, and don’t make us look at things like this:

Event Calendar

Can you read this calendar? I can’t. Unless I squint and scroll, and use an un-pinching motion to zoom in. And I’m probably going to click the wrong link because sometimes links are too close together. No matter how much I zoom, I can’t aim that well with my giant finger.

Your website and your event information need to be easy for me to find, read, and scroll on a mobile phone. If it’s not, I’m going to give up and check my email. Or check out my Facebook and Instagram apps. Make sure your font is not tiny. Don’t overload your page with lots of paragraphs and photos. I don’t want to spend 5 minutes scrolling. Give me the basics on one page. Not sure if your event info is mobile friendly? Try it out on your phone, or ask a friend or colleague to check it out. Can they find what they need right away?

What should you do?

I’ve covered the don’ts today, but what should you be doing? Check out my posts on marketing best practices. Or add your suggestions in the comments. If you’ve found examples of event marketing gone wrong or event marketing done right, I’d love to hear about it!

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How one small business creates great Facebook content

Anyone who uses Facebook for social media marketing is looking for that magic bullet of content: What can I post that will get my fans talking, make them loyal, and spread the word about my business?

One of my favorite local small businesses has figured it out. Modern Edge Art Bar is a studio in my area that offers BYOB painting classes, jewelry classes, birthday parties, and kids classes. I have taken 3 of the BYOB classes, and was thrilled as a non-artist that I could have so much fun with my friends and walk out with a painting I am proud to hang up at home.

When I first heard of Modern Edge last summer, and liked their page, they had a few hundred fans. Since then, they’ve grown to 1,200 fans and have expanded their business – last month they moved to a larger space, increased their staff, and added more classes.

I think that word of mouth had a lot to do with Modern Edge’s growth, and they’re getting great word of mouth through Facebook because of the engaging content they share. Here are 5 ways Modern Edge creates great Facebook content

1. They strike the right tone

Modern Edge doesn’t post bland text updates about products or services. They share information about their business in a friendly, helpful way. This post is about a possible painting for a future BYOB class – it got 33 comments and 133 likes.

Modern Edge Painting

2. Photos, photos, photos

There is no mystery about what happens in a Modern Edge art class. They post photos of what project the class will work on. They post during a class. They post photos of happy artists with finished projects. This is the cover photo they posted after a class I attended with my friends.

Modern Edge Cover Photo

3. Call to action/get people to share

Want to drive traffic to your products or services? Modern Edge has this down: tell people how many seats are left. Or ask your fans to share on Facebook for a chance to win a free class. This post got 47 comments:

Modern Edge Giveaway

4. They ask for their customers’ opinions

Modern Edge instructors are trained and skilled art teachers. But you can’t fill your classes if no one wants to learn what you’re teaching. They keep their classes fresh by asking their fans what they want.

Modern Edge Facebook Poll5. They’re not all business

This Bob Ross meme is spot-on. It’s about art and it’s entertaining to fans, which is why it got 53 shares.

Modern Edge Bob Ross

Need more help with Facebook marketing? Check out my other posts about Facebook!

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A lesson on Facebook EdgeRank: Fans miss out when they don’t engage

Like ButtonIt’s not a secret that – as a user of Facebook – you don’t see every single thing posted by people or pages in your little corner of the Facebook universe. It’s all based on Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm.

If you’re not familiar with EdgeRank, check out this nifty infographic by PostRocket – EdgeRank is Facebook’s formula that determines what a user sees in their newsfeed. It’s a complicated secret sauce, but the basic idea here is this: between your friends and the pages you like, there’s a lot of stuff being posted, and Facebook wants you see the posts that are most relevant to you. Relevancy is based on how much you interact with a friend or a brand page. The more you comment on, like or share posts, the more often that friend or page will appear in your feed.

Facebook has become a primary source of where we get our information about our friends’ lives, news, and what’s happening at local businesses. And if something’s not in your newsfeed, you’re missing out.

I experienced this in my life this week. It’s a small incident, but it illustrates the power of EdgeRank:

My friend Andrea and I take a Zumba class at our local gym. There are 2 instructors who teach the Zumba classes, and we prefer one instructor’s teaching style over the other. When we walked into the class this week, the other instructor was setting up. We saw a mutual friend and asked if she knew what was up – she said that the regular instructor announced on her Facebook page that she wouldn’t be teaching that day.

Not a big deal to most people, but it was to us. We left during the class, before the first song was over.

“We were on Facebook all day,” I said to Andrea. “Why didn’t we see this?”

And then it hit me: EdgeRank!!! (shakes fist and screams at the sky) I didn’t see the Zumba instructor’s post because I never interact with her content. My lack of engagement means those posts are hidden from my newsfeed.

Something else hit me: Marketers talk all the time about what brands need to do – create engaging content, share more visual content, think about the frequency of posts, and find out what days and times are best – but the fans have a responsibility too.

If you are really loyal to a business, it’s a good idea to interact with a brand on Facebook on a regular basis so the information you’re interested in is coming to you in the newsfeed. It can be as simple as liking a post, or you could take a few seconds to write a comment. Or – if it’s something you think your friends might enjoy – click that share button.

Another thing that helps? Use Facebook’s interest list feature and give yourself easy access to all the recent information from the pages you really want to keep track of.

Have you missed out on something because you didn’t see it on Facebook? Let me know in the comments!

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Want loyal customers? Take a lesson from Sephora: Teach them how to use your products

After the makeover: Melanie and I strike a pose during our post-makeover cocktail celebration.

Melanie and I strike a pose during our post-makeover cocktail celebration.

I am a member of the cult of Sephora.

Actually, I’m a VIB member – that’s Very Important Beauty – of their Beauty Insider rewards program for spending $350 in a calendar year (don’t judge; it’s not all for me – I do buy lots of birthday and Christmas gifts there!).

Why do I keep coming back? Because Sephora is not just a place where you buy makeup. You also have access to information and education – in the store and online – to help you choose the right products and learn how to use them.

This is a lesson that anyone – whether you’re a small business or big corporation – can use to win loyalty by letting customers try out products and services, and going beyond that with in-person demonstrations and social media content that provides education and best practices.

It starts with the store itself. If you haven’t been to a Sephora (or if you’re a guy and have stayed far, far away from them), they have a knowledgeable staff and aisles and aisles of makeup. Each product has a sample available that customers can try on. There are plenty of endcaps with disposable eyeshadow brushes, cotton swabs and tissues that allow you to try on the makeup (without getting any germs from the last customer). Beauty Insider members also get samples to take home and try based on purchase points earned – and a free birthday gift.

A Sephora palette from one of my Instagram photo-a-day pics.

A Sephora palette from one of my Instagram photo-a-day pics.

Sephora also offers a range of in-store educational services: express makeup application, classes and personalized consultations. Most are free, and a few are paid. A few weeks ago my friend Melanie and I made appointments for the customized makeup application, and it was definitely worth the price. The Sephora consultants were fantastic – they helped us with all of our questions on makeup application, indulged us with our “I always wanted to learn how to do ____” requests, and helped us find our own perfect colors and combinations. I had such a great experience and shared it on Facebook (word of mouth!), which is why I’m going back this weekend with 3 more friends – I’m picking up a few supplies and hanging out while they get express makeovers.

Most of their social media and email content shares that same combination – they strike a good balance of education and best practices vs. sales. The Sephora Facebook page and Pinterest boards are full of pro tips, links to Q&As with cosmetic company founders and reps, links to instructional videos, ideas, trends and invitations for fans to share their tips and photos.

Yes, Sephora is a global company and they want to make money, but they’re also providing a good experience for the customers with the sampling and educating. If you’re a customer, you can know on the spot if something’s right for you and not waste money on products that you’re never going to use. And if you’re a loyal customer, you’ll come back when you’ve used up your favorite shade of lipstick.

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How can your business get noticed in the new Facebook news feed? More visual content

A look at the new Facebook news feed (image from Facebook)

A look at the new Facebook news feed (image from Facebook)

The most important lesson from Facebook’s news feed upgrade announcement this week is this: multimedia is critical to your business’ success on Facebook.

Photos and videos will appear larger in the news feed – currently that content makes up 50% of the stream. And there’s a good reason for that. Facebook users are more engaged with multimedia than with text updates alone, or with text and a link. MBooth found that videos are shared 12 times more than link or text updates, and photos are liked 2 times more than text updates.

It makes sense. for Facebook users – your fans and followers – photos and videos are a huge part of their social media activity. A recent Pew Internet and American Life study shows that almost half (46%) of online adults post photos and video, while 56% have completed at least one photo-sharing activity.

For small businesses who are already using photos and video, the changes validate the time and effort they spend on creating that content. For those that aren’t, it’s time to take stock of your content creation for 2013, and change those New Year’s content resolutions. The top content types that small businesses in a BusinessBolts.com study planned to increase this year were written content; 53% wanted to focus on video, and 30% planned to increase photo creation. If your business placed multimedia towards the bottom of the list, your smartphone is going to be your new best friend.

The time is right for multimedia content, especially for small businesses on a small budget – no one has to purchase expensive equipment, or hire high-end professionals to show off their business. Everything you need is on your iPhone or Android. The tools are extremely easy to use, and you don’t have to spend hours on your photos or video. A couple of images in a small album or photo collage, or a short video (really short if you’re using 6 second clips from Vine) are all you need. If you haven’t already, download Instagram and Vine, and start capturing engaging, interesting visual content.

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