Azure Collier

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

Need proof that social media marketing works? Check out the movie Chef.

Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) starts a Twitter feud with a food critic in the movie Chef.

Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) starts a Twitter feud with a food critic in the movie Chef.

When I went to the theater to see the movie Chef last weekend, I expected a quirky independent comedy with a lot of delicious cooking scenes. And I wasn’t disappointed. But what I didn’t predict is a subplot about the power of social media and how it helps small businesses. It’s a movie about marketing!

In case you’re not familiar with the film, Chef is about a Los Angeles celebrity chef, Carl Casper, (Jon Favreau) who gets in a public Twitter feud with a food critic and loses his job. He decides to start a food truck with the help of his son and a former co-worker.

The trio finds their footing in the food truck biz by taking a culinary road trip across the South, and this is where the marketing kicks in. Carl’s 11-year-old son Percy starts tweeting – using his dad’s Twitter handle (which has tens of thousands of followers thanks to the feud with the food critic) – about their itinerary. And he creates a Facebook page that is quickly filled with road trip and food photos. They’re greeted with long lines in each city and the movie does a great job visually of showing how social media helps generate new customers. The folks waiting in line start typing on their smartphones, and Twitter graphics appear like thought bubbles over their heads as they write tweets about the food truck. Once the customers press “tweet,” the tweets turn into a flock of Twitter birds that fly off to spread their messages to the followers of each person in the line.

Boom. Social visibility and word of mouth marketing.

I know it’s a movie, and in an ideal word, every single customer would tweet about their favorite businesses like the people in the food truck lines. And every business would send out interesting, relevant messages to their followers and be greeted with lines around the block.

But don’t ignore the reality here. Social media does work. You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be visible and use social media as an extension of who you are and what you do. If you have the right amount of personality and engaging content, you can connect with customers who will spread the word about you to their networks and attract new customers.

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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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Ask Azure: Should I link to my email newsletter signup form in more than one place?

QuestionOne of my friends – who is a marketer for a small business – recently asked me this question:

Q: When people request a free sample or download our manual, there’s a link on those pages to sign up for our newsletter. I was thinking of adding the link to the automatic email they receive after they fill out the form for the sample or manual. Is that too much?

A: The short answer is no.

And here’s a long answer and explanation to back that up. When I switched careers from journalism to higher education PR/social media marketing about a decade ago (oh man, I’m old), I had a tough time with content reuse and using the same links on multiple web pages. “Won’t people get sick of seeing the same thing all over the place?” I thought.

But here’s the thing: People don’t pay attention. They’re not seeing the same thing over and over again. Why?

  • People don’t enter your website through the same place and take the path that you use or laid out for them to discover information. Maybe you have a link to your newsletter on your homepage (which you should have anyway!). But what if your most popular page is your events calendar? What if people find your blog first when they do a Google search? You never know how, when or what page people first enter your website. So if there are important resources or actions you want people to take, make that part of your template for every page.
  • Your audience is not the same group of people across your platforms. Your website visitors, blog readers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Pinterest board followers might have some overlap, but all of those people are not going from channel to channel to follow your every move. Some might not know you have a presence in other places. Or they might forget to check! That happens to me all the time. I’ve been a fan of HGTV on Facebook forever, but did not even think about following them on Twitter until I saw one of their commercials that featured fan tweets. And right after I typed that sentence, I realized that I was not following the HGTV Pinterest boards either. Done! My point:  If you’re posting to one network more than others, the people on your other channels who aren’t following you there might miss it. And – for those of us who are following you on other channels – we’re all getting flooded with content, so even if we are following you on Facebook, we might miss a post there, but could see it in your newsletter or on Twitter instead.
  • No one is going to notice but you. Who knows every link, every photo, every bit of content on your website, blog, email newsletters, autoresponder emails, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+? You, your boss, and anyone else who works on marketing for your business. Everyone else is coming and going quickly, and bouncing along to the next thing. You are the only one scrutinizing your Facebook page for hours and hours. Reusing links and content is going to only look repetitive to you because you’re the only one seeing it everywhere.

Got a question? I’d love to hear it! Feel free to ask in the comments or send it to askazurecollier@gmail.com.

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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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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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Why reviews matter

Gold Star AwardI am a crazy cat lady. Three felines live at our house, and – like most pet owners – I sometimes go nuts on the pet products. I have a loyalty card for and receive emails from one of the big chain pet stores. I’ve been looking for one of those pet water fountains, so I was psyched when I got an email with a link to a sale.

I ended up not purchasing anything though. Why? The reviews for all of the water fountains were so bad that I bailed. Everyone who purchased one ended up returning it because they leak, make noise and/or break.

Turns out I’m one of the 32% of Americans that trusts total strangers when making purchasing decisions, according to Forrester. There’s often speculation about reviews. Are they true or fake? Are people being paid by the company to write favorable reviews?

A 2012 DemandForce infographic shows that review writers have good intentions. When asked why they post reviews, the top 3 reasons were about being helpful:

  • To help other consumers make good decisions – 90%
  • To share experiences on consumer reviews – 86%
  • Because people rely on consumer reviews and posting reviews is a way of giving back – 79%

Although I have run into the occasional questionable review – one store that I will not name promoted a review for one of their products from a Worchester, MA customer (Caught ya! It’s Worcester, you fakers!), I like to think that many of these reviews are true, because that’s what I feel I encounter in real life. I’m a huge shopper, and want to hear my friends’ experiences – good and bad – when they purchase something, whether that’s a car, a book, or a sweater. I’m also happy to share my experiences – especially the good ones.

The DemandForce infographic shows I’m not alone in this – 70% of consumers look at up to 10 reviews before making a decision, and – when it comes to local businesses – 67% of consumers read the reviews.

I am willing to take time to read reviews before I purchase something, especially if it’s for something I have little to no experience with, like when I purchase anything for my nieces who live out of state. I don’t have kids, so when I want to buy them clothing, I head to one of the best sites I’ve seen for reviews – Old Navy. I trust the moms who write the reviews there (there are TONS, which is amazing because clothing is seasonal and the products change pretty frequently), and they seem to be in consensus about the products. Either something’s cute and it fits right, or it’s not-so-great.

I definitely trust the people who write reviews who are by people like me. Whenever I start looking for a new pair of winter boots or a coat, I skip over anything written by anyone outside of New England. If you don’t have to dodge ice and slush for 6 months out of the year, I am not going to care why you like those boots. Give me a hardy New Englander and a description of how a pair of cute-but-functional boots helped them climb snow piles in a parking lot.

While some parts of the Internet are anonymous-and-mean-spirited-gone-wild or overshare city, reviews are kind of a warm and fuzzy haven. They’re a common ground, a community, and a place where you can find people who want to help their fellow man save a few bucks.

What are your opinions of reviews? Like ‘em? Hate ‘em? Worthwhile or not worth your time? Let me know in the comments!

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How your business can prepare for Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

Facebook’s big Graph Search announcement today was a wake up call for businesses. Essentially, Facebook is the next big search engine and local search app. Your potential customers are on Facebook, and if you’re not using Facebook for marketing, you won’t be found.

If you’ve been on the fence about using Facebook for marketing, or you haven’t done much with your page, this is why Graph Search matters:

So, you can see where this is going. Facebook is where we’re going to find the products, services and recommendations we need. A lot of this searching is happening when we’re on the go with our smartphones – which people are already using to access Facebook. Graph Search is how you’re going to be discovered.

This is a win for businesses and marketers. We’ve all been trying to figure out how to beat EdgeRank to make sure our posts show up in our fans’ news feeds, because – due to the EdgeRank formula – only 16% are seen by your fans. As more people use Facebook as a search engine, your chances of coming up in a search will increase because of the content you’re already creating.

How can you prepare your business for Graph Search?

  • Fill out all of your profile information – even if it’s already complete, give it a second look. Is everything current? What keywords could you add to your description that would benefit you in a Graph Search?
  • Make sure you’re regularly adding visual content because photos and videos shared on Facebook will also come up in a Graph Search. It’s a good idea to do that anyway – posts that include images will get 120-180% more engagement than just text.
  • Grow your fanbase. A no-brainer, but Graph Search results are personally tailored based on what a Facebook user – and their friends – like. So make sure you are:
    • integrating your marketing efforts. This sounds basic, but only 19.5% of small businesses have a link to their Facebook page on their website. Make sure there’s a link in your email newsletter, your blog and anywhere else you’re listed (LinkedIn, Twitter, Yelp, etc.) in your profile or about information.
    • creating engaging content to keep your fans interested, improve your page’s EdgeRank, and amplify word of mouth. The more your fans interact with you, the more likely you’ll show up in their news feed. And the more your fans interact with you, it will appear in their friends’ news feeds.
    • preparing offline. Do you have signs or decals in your store that promote your Facebook page? Do they have the entire URL (facebook.com/yourbusinessname) or a QR code so they’re easier to find and Like by smartphone users?

Want more info on Graph Search? Check out this business guide on the Facebook Studio site.

What do you think of Graph Search? Let me know in the comments.

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How one small business built Facebook buzz – before opening its doors

Thumbs upI first heard about the Rail Trail Flatbread Co. when my husband and I were in Hudson, MA a few weeks ago looking for a place to eat dinner. We drove by the restaurant’s downtown storefront – a new brick sign spanned the building, and the windows were covered up. It wasn’t open, but I was intrigued. What was going on with this restaurant, and when would it open?

Not long after that, I saw a Rail Trail Flatbread Co. ad on Facebook that included a picture of the storefront. I liked their page, and was immediately surprised to see that the page already had 400 likes and wasn’t open for business yet!

How did they do it?

Mystery

Hudson is a small town. So when someone starts a business, people notice. And, like me, they want to know what the heck is going on. A quick Google search revealed that plans for this restaurant were announced a little over a year ago. Shortly after that, the Rail Trail folks started their Facebook page. Good move – anyone who Googled the restaurant would find the Facebook page. And they would like it to be in the know.

No Update is Too Small

Throughout the fall, as the restaurant neared completion, the owners posted updates about their progress a few times a week – no marketing-speak, just quick posts about hiring staff, painting, finishing the bar, putting up the sign, and testing ingredients. These updates helped add to the excitement, and served as a reminder to fans that the opening was happening soon.

Photos, Photos, Photos

Images are powerful – especially on Facebook, where 70% of all activity is based on photographs, according to a study from Overgram.  The study shows that using images can boost your Facebook engagement by 120% for a single photo, and 180% for a photo album. If you’re curious about the new restaurant in town, you’re probably dying to see what it looks like. And, if you’re a beer connoisseur, a Facebook photo of Rail Trail’s 20 taps is going to rock your socks off. That image got 61 likes, 15 comments and 1 share, and demonstrated the power of social word of mouth.

Welcoming Their Future Customers

Rail Trail started participating in community events before their opening and posted photos on Facebook – they handed out candy during Hudson’s downtown trick-or-treat walk. They invited people to get an exclusive preview as part of the annual holiday stroll. On more than one occasion, they thanked local businesses and vendors for their help with the renovations, and thanked the community for their support.

Rail Trail Facebook Thank You Post

By taking time out to get to know their neighbors and show their appreciation, Rail Trail is forming relationships with future customers. Posting on Facebook is key – fans are used to seeing them in their news feed, and they’re getting to know the business.

Facebook Ads

By early November, Rail Trail’s Facebook page had around 200 likes. With the opening day a few weeks away, they amped up their fan count by buying Facebook ads – when I finally liked the page toward the end of the month, they had reached 400 fans. They were up to 500 around the week of their quiet opening. Ads allow small businesses to directly target potential fans, based on demographics and geographic information. It clearly worked – they doubled their fan count in less than a month!

Social Media Success

I haven’t had a chance to visit Rail Trail Flatbread Co. yet, but I’m already impressed – they’ve proven that you can easily generate buzz for your small business by marketing on Facebook with the right content, and the right mindset.

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Is anybody checking in?

foursquare buttonsI recently celebrated my third anniversary with foursquare. Since 2009, I have checked in more than 3,700 times on 988 days. I have 64 badges, 21 mayorships, and 48 friends, and follow 54 businesses.

After seeing last week’s Pew Center for Internet and American Life report, Cell Phone Activities 2012,  I started to think “Why am I doing this?” Location-based apps/check ins were not among the report’s top 8 cell phone activities. Pew did a study back in May about mobile location-based services, and only 18% of smartphone owners use them. Crazy coincidence? 18 percent of my Facebook friends are on foursquare.

At first, it was about trying a new social media site. I loved the bragging rights for mayorships, and I was one of very few people using it in my area, so I had lots of mayorships. I loved getting the badges too, but I’m not earning too many these days.

So why am I still doing this?

A large part of it is the routine. I check in every – single – day. It starts with the elevator ride to my office – check in to work (I don’t have a foursquare location for my house because my husband would rather keep that private). As soon as I pull up to the parking lot of any of my destinations, I get out of the car, click my remote key thingy to lock it, and open up the foursquare app. When I was in London earlier this year, I bought an international data plan so I could check in (and use the Internet and other apps) – I scored lots of points and got a sweet London Calling badge. My friends who attended Boston’s Social Media Day with me over the summer hovered over a table of social media giveaways – we each walked away with a complete set of foursquare badge buttons.

I think the other part that keeps me going is the possibility of getting a discount. But those are few and far between too. The Gap’s occasionally had some foursquare coupons, and so has Newbury Comics (a funky CD store chain in New England). Lots of places have partnered with American Express to offer coupons or deals, but I don’t have an American Express card. I get more benefits from loyalty cards (especially Panera Bread, Sephora and DSW) than I have in 3 years of foursquare check-ins.

It seems like there hasn’t been enough interest to sustain an app like foursquare. Most businesses aren’t aware of it, and the ones who are haven’t been leveraging it to appeal to loyal customers. They’re relying on those loyalty programs that give them better access to customers, who have to provide the company itself with their valuable personal information in exchange for an account or card. Some of its functions can be completed with other apps that have the advantage of ubiquity and popularity – check ins with Facebook mobile, and reviews/tips with Yelp.

Is checking in worth it? Not for me, not lately. One day, I’m going to get to the office and decide to check my email on that elevator ride to work instead of checking in on foursquare. That day is coming soon.

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Why we should shop small

As you’re beginning to see in my posts, shopping takes up a bit of my spare time. I’ll admit it – I visit big box stores (mostly Target and I’m the mayor of my local Target on foursquare), and I am a huge fan of giant malls.

Something happened on Small Business Saturday that makes me want to pull back from my habits.

I visited Chelsea’s Boutique, a little shop across from the post office in downtown Leominster. I’d passed by it many times in the 8 years I’ve lived in Massachusetts. The funky dresses and colorful paper lanterns in the store windows always caught my eye, but I was too busy to stop in. I made a point to shop there on Small Business Saturday. The owner, Susan, was there – she’d had the store for 20 years and knows a lot of people in the community. I could tell by her conversation with a 20-something customer that she was a friend of Susan’s family. She was unflappably kind, and had a crazy amount of discounts for Small Business Saturday – she was practically giving some things away.

As I was paying for my purchases (top secret Christmas gifts for my nieces – I can’t reveal what I bought!), Susan asked if I’d followed her Facebook page – she said she uses it to announce new products, like one of the hair accessories I was buying. “People have been asking when those were coming in – they’re one of Oprah’s Favorite Things this year.”

I walked back to my car – satisfied that I’d finally gone to Chelsea’s, and happy to participate in Small Business Saturday.

A few hours later, Chelsea’s was gone – a massive fire took down the boutique’s building, the former Columbia Hotel.

Chelsea’s customers flooded the Facebook page with kind words and offers for help. Volunteers and community members stepped forward to assist business owners and tenants in the retrieval of their belongings. They made donations. They’re helping them rebuild and move on.

As I read Facebook posts and local newspaper articles about the fire, and people’s thoughts about the loss and rebuilding of these businesses, something occurred to me: If a Walmart burned down, would you see the same thing? Would people be emotional? Would they rush to the scene, bearing supplies and donations and offering to participate in the cleanup efforts?

Would they personally know the owners and workers – would they be friends of their families, or former classmates? Did they shop at the big box because of the  relationships and their emotional connections to those people? Did the owners know them by name? Did they know that they were asking them to order some of Oprah’s Favorite Things so they could buy them as Christmas gifts?

Yeah, probably not.

This is why we should shop small.

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