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.

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!

We’re getting away from Marketing 101

This is a guest post by my friend, photographer and social media marketer Dana Dillehunt. If you have a minute (or two), please check out her photography website, read her blog, Like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter!

Dana is tired of brands and businesses abusing social media marketing. She’s got 4 tips on how you can redeem yourself:

Blonde Woman with MegaphoneIf McDonald’s was showing clips of ‘80s movies instead of advertising their food on TV, we’d all surely enjoy the commercials. But we’d have no idea that they were created by McDonald’s, and they wouldn’t exactly inspire a surge of Big Mac purchases.

So why are brands abusing the largest marketing opportunity available?

Somewhere along the blue-brick road, companies lost their way. They decided it was more important to have 1 million likes than 1,000 sales directly inspired by content. They wanted ALL THE FOLLOWERS, regardless of the actual audience composition.

So they stood over their social media minions (with whips! and fire!), evilly cackling away at LOLCATZ and ehrmagerds, completely neglecting their actual message. And no one bought anything from them, ever, and they went bankrupt and the media minions rose up and bought the company and renamed it something awesome and made all the bosses work as janitors.

Don’t let this happen to your business! Here are four no-fail ways to make sure nobody ever thinks of you (or your company) as a giant douche.

1. Stop asking your followers to LIKE, or SHARE, or COMMENT. They can read (they’re on Facebook, after all). Allow your content to inspire them, to drive them to do any (or all) of those actions. Even the least savvy of followers might be dissuaded from acting, just because you told them to. (We all have a little rebellious streak).

2. Don’t exploit memes because people “like” them. We don’t need any more stock Victorian imagery over pastel backgrounds with snarky text. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Does the meme somehow communicate your brand’s message? And on the rarest, (read: RAREST) of occasions, can it be modified or stretched slightly to align with your brand?

3. Don’t capitalize on national tragedies to leverage engagement. This is the douchiest move of all. We all groaned as brand after brand posted stock images of candles or flowers and aligned themselves as keeping “the victims of Sandy Brook Elementary in our hearts.” Just don’t do it. It’s tasteless. It’s OK to NOT acknowledge awful things. In fact, a nice way to acknowledge without being a total douche would be to NOT post. By not posting your typical upbeat, on-brand (albeit trite, in the face of tragedy) message, you are paying respect without exploiting. And we all know that it’s better to do a good thing without telling everyone that you’ve done it. Trust me. People will notice.

and of course, the most important lesson:

4. DON’T POST ANYTHING THAT DOES NOT DIRECTLY RELATE BACK TO YOUR COMPANY OR MESSAGE. Just re-read that a few times.

We’re all capable of producing fresh, inspiring and fabulous content, and have no need to resort to these awful (and surprisingly still prevalent) tactics.

3 tools to analyze the impact of your personal Facebook profile

I live in the world of social media marketing geeks, where we spend all day talking about how small businesses can effectively use their Facebook business page to market themselves.

There’s a lot of tools out there to measure ROI of your marketing efforts. Facebook has Insights for business pages, and there’s a lot of free and paid tools that exist as well.

But what kind of impact are you making with your personal Facebook profile? Who is engaging with the content you’re posting for your personal networks? What types of posts do your friends engage with?

Before we go any further: I am NOT talking about using a personal profile as your business page. If your business’s Facebook account has friends – not Likes – you are not using the right account. Stop reading this right now and convert your business’ personal profile to an official Facebook business page. Trust me. You’ll thank me.

Here’s what I found to give you some insight on your personal Facebook profile:

Wolfram Alpha Word Cloud

Apparently I say the word awesome a lot in my posts!

1. WolframAlpha’s Facebook Report

This first tool – free from computational knowledge engine WolframAlpha – is the most comprehensive of the 3. Click through to the Facebook Report, connect it with your personal profile, and you’ll receive a ton of information:

  • Recent posting history – posted links, vs. statuses vs. photos
  • The most frequent times and days of the week that you post
  • The total likes and comments, average likes and comments, and average length of your most recent posts
  • What words you use most frequently – and a word cloud!
  • Your most liked post and most commented posts
  • Your top commenters and sharers
  • Your most liked and commented photos
  • Friends’ demographic information
  • Most common names among friends
  • Friends with the most mutual friends
  • A graphic that shows different combination of “friend clusters” based on mutual interests/demographic information
One of my most popular Facebook posts. Apparently my friends want more stuff like this.

One of my most popular recent Facebook posts. Looks like my friends want more stuff like this.

2. Klout

If you haven’t signed up for Klout, you’re probably not a marketing geek. Klout provides each of its users with a score that shows how influential they are on social media.

In Klout’s words:

Klout measures your influence based on your ability to drive action on social networks.

The Klout Score is a single number that represents the aggregation of multiple pieces of data about your social media activity. We compute the Klout Score by applying our score model to these signals.

Marketers like to roll their eyes at the impact of a Klout score, but it’s also a bragging right. I think it’s fun, and I have a little bit of trash talk going on about the scores with a handful of people.

Klout monitors your personal Facebook activity, plus 11 additional social networks. It gives you a look at the most popular content you’re sharing on your personal Facebook profile – the posts with the most likes and comments, and who you engaged with.

3. My Social Strand

This last tool – from the National Marrow Donor Program – creates a cool infographic about your Facebook activity and networks (and suggests possible donation matches) that you can post to your Facebook page.

Connect it to your profile, fill out some basic info (city and state), answer a few questions (Zombies or Aliens?), and My Social Strand will create something like this:

A personal infographic! Woo hoo!

A personal infographic! Woo hoo!

You’ll get some interesting facts about yourself vs. your friends, which friends are most engaged with you, and your average activity level on Facebook.

I hope you try out these tools too! Let me know if you’ve found any more tools like this in the comments.

Why George Takei is a Facebook superstar

Rainbow StarsI’ve never been a Trekkie, so I missed George Takei as Sulu in the original Star Trek series, but I knew who he was. When he popped up occasionally as Howard Stern’s official announcer (I know – shocking. I listen to Stern. Sometimes. His celebrity interviews are amazing!), I thought – hey, what a nice, funny, laid-back, sweet guy.

And that’s exactly what George Takei brings to social media.

Takei has the kind of following and audience engagement that social media managers dream of – 3.2 million Facebook fans, more than 500,000 Twitter followers, 250,000 Pinterest followers, and a hilarious Tumblr page.

When he was on WBUR’s On Point last week, I tuned in to hear the secret to his Facebook success (to hear the interview, check out the On Point podcast – the whole podcast is fantastic, but the Facebook stuff starts at 37 minutes in). Here’s what he revealed:

Show me the funny

Takei originally jumped on the social media bandwagon to promote his new musical, Allegiance. He wasn’t sure what kinds of content to post at first. “In order to get the likes, we kind of experimented. How do we get the likes?” He quickly found out what his audience wanted. Anytime he shared something funny, he got a lot of likes. But visual content hit the home run – photos and funny memes got even more engagement. This is something we’ve been hearing for a while. I couldn’t find any stats on humorous posts, but there’s plenty of data about images and video. Visual content rules: photos are 5 times more popular than text updates, and videos are shared 12 times more than links or text.

Don’t stop

Facebook fans want consistency. If they like your page and they’re engaging with your content, don’t leave them hanging. They might forget about you. And – according to Facebook’s EdgeRank formula – the more someone engages with your page, the more you’re going to show up in their news feed. “If we’re on regularly, more and more people will come to expect to find us – regularity. And so we kept growing and growing,” Takei said.

Regularity does not mean posting every hour. But don’t speak to your fans once a week either. You have to balance your content and frequency, and Takei does that well because he knows his audience. They love his content. It’s something they look forward to seeing in their news feed, so they’re OK with a few posts a day. On the day I’m writing this blog post, Takei has shared content 3 times, and I haven’t seen one complaint about posting too much. This may not be the case with your page – 33% of fans have unliked a Facebook page because they posted too many updates. The important lesson here is to test. What is the engagement, new likes and unlikes on days that you posted several times vs. just once? Let your audience tell you what their limit is.

Ask for help

Takei is a celebrity, so of course he can hire people to do his marketing – in the early days of his social media management, he started with an intern, and now has a small staff. But that doesn’t mean you have to do this on your own. If you have the money and can hire someone, or have a person on your staff that can take on your social media marketing, that’s great!

If you don’t, you can still get help for free. Reach out to other social media marketers in your industry and ask them for advice. Find a LinkedIn group in your industry or create your own. Network via a Tweet Chat. Attend free social media events in your area or start your own by creating a Meetup group. Read as many social media marketing blogs as you can for tips and best practices (thank you for reading mine!). I suggest the Constant Contact blog (of course!), Mashable, HubSpot, Likeable, Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute, and MarketingProfs. That’s just a few – there are many, many more out there. And if you have any recommendations of who to read, I’d love to hear them!

Have a digital suggestion box

A lot of Takei’s content is contributed by fans, and he makes sure to give them credit. “The material is really what my fans send me. The commentaries are mine. That is genuinely me. But I do not take credit for the memes. They are very clever, very funny, and I’m very grateful that I have those clever, funny meme creators,” he said. This is a smart move – you can’t be everywhere at once, and – even if you have a staff – you can’t find every interesting bit of content that’s out there. So encourage your fans to share. With 3 million fans, Takei has a lot of digital eyes and ears scanning the interwebs to find EdgeRank gold.

Nice guys can finish first

Though most of Takei’s content is very visual and very funny, what comes across to me most is just how nice he is. And that’s just who he is – his Facebook page is his personality. He’s the same guy on Howard Stern’s show as he is in the On Point interview, and in any news story I’ve read about his social media success. There’s no negativity on his page, which is very rare because everyone (guilty!) lets the crankiness get to them from time to time, and shares their bad days online. I think this caller – a woman named Pax – from the On Point interview says it best: “It’s how you’ve reinvented yourself now – as a beacon of kind and clever and informed humor in the face of all the fake behavior that we’re barraged with in our society that has made me a devoted fan.”

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.

Engage, inform, recruit: How nonprofits can use social media to recruit volunteers

A version of this post appeared on the Constant Contact blog in December 2012.

When you think about nonprofits and social media marketing, you probably assume that these organizations are primarily using social media tools to fundraise. Without money, you can’t provide services or pay the staff who carry out those services.

Actually, most nonprofits are going social to build relationships. When asked about social media goals for the 2012 Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report, nonprofits said their top three were growing their base, engaging members and growing fundraising. Two out of the three priorities focused on recruiting volunteers and supporters – growing and maintaining relationships.

So how can a nonprofit use social media to grow their volunteer base? That’s a question I answered recently for several nonprofits by presenting a session on social media during a November volunteer breakfast at the United Way of North Central Massachusetts.

The key is using the right content for your organization to engage your audience, inform them about your mission, and then recruit them once you’ve built a relationship.

Engaging content from the Humane Society Pinterest PageEngage

Engaging your audience means sharing content that encourages them to act – you can see how successful that content is when people comment, share, like, retweet, and repin. What kind of content is engaging?

  • Multimedia – Use photos and videos to engage your audience. The Pajama Program provides new pajamas to children in need, and their photos of smiling kids and families are a powerful way to tell their story. I couldn’t find one of the hundreds of their Facebook photos that didn’t have some fan interaction.
  • Inspirational – Get your audience thinking about what they can do to help. UNICEF has an entire Pinterest board of inspirational quotes and photos.
  • Asking a question – The Girl Scouts got a lot of mileage on Facebook recently just by asking a few questions:  “So we’d love to hear your good news about girls: what skills are they learning? What educational trips have you taken? In what way have they awed and inspired you?” That simple post got 186 comments, 422 Likes, and 35 shares.
  • Humor – Animal photos and humor are a natural fit for The Humane Society. Every one of the pins on their cute animal photos Pinterest board have been repined. Your nonprofit might not have anything to do with animals, but sharing funny content is always a good idea.

Informing Content on Facebook from Massachusetts Service AllianceInform

Social media allows nonprofits to interact with their audience on a daily basis. Take advantage of that interaction by informing your audience about your mission.

  • Share your news – This is basic, but it’s important. Regular posting of your accomplishments, announcements and events help to remind your fans of the vital role you serve in your community.
  • Education – Your knowledge is valuable – use it to educate your social media audience. The ASPCA has a Pinterest board full of pet care tips. Each pin links to a full article on the organization’s blog.
  • Events – Definitely invite your followers to events via social media, but make sure you’re posting after the event too. Event photos and video allow you to show off your hard work. Make sure you tag participants – people, sponsors and other nonprofits – in your photos to get more traction like the United Way of North Central Massachusetts did during their annual Day of Caring. As your fans interact with your content, their networks will see it, allowing you to spread your message even further.


Recruit

Red Cross Twitter Post About Volunteering

You’ve engaged and informed your followers, and formed a connection with them. They’re thinking about you on a regular basis and they support your cause. Reach out to them through social media to recruit them as volunteers.

  • Share links to your volunteer opportunities – You can post the link and add a description on Facebook and Twitter, but don’t forget about Pinterest. The San Antonio, TX Food Bank has a Pinterest board of volunteer opportunities and donation drives.
  • Talk about your industry – The Massachusetts Service Alliance, which works with dozens of nonprofit agencies, shared this Americorps infographic about what just one Americorps member contributes through their work. It shows your followers how they can make a difference.
  • Use statistics – The Red Cross has posted daily Hurricane Sandy relief updates on Twitter, including volunteer needs. They tweeted that 90% of their 5,700 workers helping with Sandy relief are volunteers, and linked to a website to sign up for Red Cross opportunities.
  • Try LinkedIn – The Heart of West Michigan United Way posts opportunities on their LinkedIn page, and they link to their website, which has a volunteer matching service.

Need more social media help? Check out my slides from my social media presentation, Engage, Inform Recruit: How to Use Social Media for Volunteer Growth.