I have to say that I’m quite proud to look back and see just how far Viral Content Buzz has come in a little less than seven months. But while we’re really happy with what we’ve accomplished, that doesn’t mean we’re going to sit back and coast. On the contrary, we’re happy to announce the rollout of a bunch of new features!
Since we’ve been gradually testing and adding some, here’s a look at everything we’ve added over the last few months, as well as our brand new features:
- Pinterest Support: Share any infographics or other images that you want through Pinterest. This VCB post has some tips that Pinterest newbies will find especially helpful.
- StumbleUpon Support: Just like Pinterest, we’ve now made it super easy to use VCB in conjunction with StumbleUpon. And as with all the sites we support, you have full control over exactly what you promote and share.
- Bookmarklet: If you want to use VCB with a single click in Firefox, Chrome, IE or Safari, all you need to do is grab the VCB bookmarklet here. And if you’re on your iPad, you can get a bookmarklet for it here.
- Scheduling Tool: This makes it really easy to control exactly when you want sharing to happen.
- Customizable Dashboard: Easily switch between a traditional scrolling layout and a Pinterest-style layout that puts multiple stories on each row.
- Labels and Folders: Under “My Projects,” you can use labels and folders to keep everything organized by topic, site, client or any other structure that you want.
- Karma: Our one-liner for this feature is “the more approved posts you have, the closer you are to being a trusted member.”
- Project Report: Easily see who shared what, and when they shared it. We’ve also made it dead simple to download and/or email a report.
Last month, Ann published a post detailing what the Labs section of Viral Content Buzz is all about. While I highly recommend reading her post, we’ll go over a quick summary now.
VCB Labs is all about coming up with tools and resources to help content marketers. Currently, there are three free tools that anyone can use. They are:
- Pinterest Analytics: Get stats for all images on your site that are being shared. This tool also provides features to help you encourage Pinterest users to share your images.
- Activity Analyzer: Put in any URL (including an RSS feed link), and you can see detailed information about its performance on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon and Google+.
- Twitter Chat Client: Makes it easy to start and engage in a Twitter chat simply by using our Twitter chat application.
That’s Not All
In addition to all the new features that are live and ready to use, we’ve got several more in the pipeline. Keep an eye out for:
- Facebook Page support
- Google Plus support
- Being able to create & send multiple Tweets at once, and then they’ll automatically be spaced out based on the settings you choose (similar to Buffer)
Ann and I truly appreciate all the users who are helping to build VCB into an awesome platform, so be sure to let us know what you think about all the new features in the comments!
Using Social Media Properly
The way we communicate on a daily basis has changed radically over the last ten years. In our ever changing world of communication, social media is what’s in vogue. Everywhere you turn you can’t escape it whether it is Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linkedin or one of the many others that are cropping up daily. Social media is a way of keeping in touch with the world around us just like reading the daily newspaper used to be. How many people actually sit down and read a newspaper cover to cover anymore? Probably not nearly as many as there were going back even five years ago. How we deliver news is no longer the same.
With new forms of communication, come new rules of the game. While social media is an information delivery mechanism, it is also a way of socializing as well. Those that are really good at social media will tell you being “social” is what matters most. Building relationships is a big part of what social media is about.
Real Estate Agent Social Media Fail
There are countless industries that are really lacking when it comes to social media skills and Real Estate has to be right up there at the top. Having been a Massachusetts Realtor for the past twenty six years, I was immediately intrigued when social media started to catch on. This new way of being able to capture an audience fascinated me.
In fact I was one of the first Realtors in Massachusetts to have a Real Estate blog. Seeing some immediate success only enhanced my desire to use social media as it should be used. One of the best ways to do that was of course to emulate what other successful people were doing. By trial and error I could see that those that were having the most success followed some very simple rules of etiquette. They were not necessarily in the Real Estate industry but clearly had a grasp on making it work for them.
Some of the common denominators of success include thinking of social media as a way to form successful partnerships with others by providing information that could help them learn, laugh, think and possibly reciprocate. Those that do social media well are givers not takers. They do not look at social media as an advertising billboard. The it’s “all about me” mantra does not work well in social circles.
Real Estate agents unfortunately are some of the worst violators of many of these simple social media skills. There are many popular social media channels that Real Estate agents are using improperly. I am going to illustrate some of the more common social media blunders below and hopefully if you are a Realtor reading this you will adjust your thinking. It is also certainly possible you are not even in the Real Estate industry and have made the kind of mistakes illustrated below.
Facebook Social Media Fail
Facebook has to be one of the top social media sites for Real Estate agents making silly blunders. Social media failure here comes in what can best be described as SPAM! One of the more popular Facebook features is the ability to invite people to an event. This of course is terrific if there happens to be a local event that those who ARE LOCAL to the area will want to attend.
A good example of the proper use of a Facebook invite would be a band asking those in their local contacts to come check them out. Using Facebook in this manner is a big win for the band to get the word out and also great for those on the invite list who may enjoy good music.
A Facebook invite however is not for your entire list of Facebook friends! I can not even tell you how many times a week I get the most silliest invites from other Real Estate agents. Hey Bill please come to my pancake social next week in California. Sorry Jeff I am busy selling homes and will not be able to make it. While I am sure the pancakes will be delicious, I won’t be flying from coast to coast just to try them.
Kids birthday parties are another Facebook failure that agents just love. Hey Molly the Realtor I am sure your daughters birthday party at some Virginia bowling alley is going to be a blast but Bill the Realtor from Massachusetts won’t be able to make it. Seriously folks it doesn’t take that much longer to invite people who will want to attend your event. Do you know how absurd you look when you don’t think about your actions in social media?
Guess what happens after people get tired of constantly seeing your foolish invites? If you guessed people hit the blocked button it’s Bingo for you! The thing is you will never get a notification that you are blocked it just happens. Obviously this is not something you want!
Another thing that Realtors love doing on Facebook is boasting about how busy they are. It goes something like this “OMG I am so busy out showing homes for the third time this week blah blah blah.” A quick check of the agent boasting how busy they are reveals they have sold 5 homes all year and it is September. Please if you are going to talk about how wonderful you are doing, at least have the stats to back it up! Other people certainly will and show your competitors to boot.
Google Plus Social Media Failure
Google plus is the newest social media site on the scene and rapidly becoming one of the most popular. One of the neat things about Google Plus is how you are able to create “circles” for those that you follow. A circle is just another name for a category or group of people. If you are a Real Estate agent you could have circles for a number of things including other Realtors, family and friends, people who share an interest and any number of other possibilities.
What is really neat about Google plus is that not only can you share something “public” which will put your post into anyone’s stream who happens to follow you but also directly to a circle as well. As an example let’s say I want to share a fantastic post about why Realtors should claim Google authorship. It would make sense if I had a group of Realtors I knew well and interacted with daily, they may want to see a helpful article like this. Google plus allows me to send this directly to them. Since those in my circle know me, it is not unusual for them to get notified of a post I have created. You could certainly call this an instant notification of content worthy of viewing.
One of the ways sharing posts directly with someone in Google Plus can be considered a no-no is when you do not know them. It is not appropriate for one Realtor to send another Realtor their latest and greatest “share” if they don’t know the person. Even worse is when a Realtor sends someone outside of the Real Estate industry a direct posting.
It is really a poor assumption to think everyone wants to read or look at what you have posted. There are tons of people who could care less about Real Estate and don’t want to see pictures of the home you just sold or what is happening in your town USA. So many Real Estate agents just don’t get this. This would be akin to a dentist sending a bunch of Realtors pictures of a cavity they just filled. Most dentists wouldn’t even dream of doing something so stupid. Realtors on the other hand, make mistakes like this all too often because they think of social media as one big advertising bulletin board.
Linkedin Social Media Failure
One of the terrific features of Linkedin is the groups that you can become a member of that regularly share great information within a certain niche. Real Estate being no exception. There are quite a few Real Estate groups where fantastic ideas for growing your business are shared. As a Realtor looking to gain a new method to grow your business or finding some cool new technology, some of these groups can be a great place to visit. This of course is the case until some agent comes along and drops a bunch of his or her listings into the site.
Groups on linkedin are NOT for Real Estate listings! Seriously why on earth do you think someone in Massachusetts or anywhere else for that matter would want to see your 3 bedroom Ranch in Oregon? THEY DON’T. A professional group where you discuss ways to improve your business is not an open invitation to SPAM your listing. This again goes back to the billboard mentality that many agents have engrained into their head.
Unless you are marketing a Hollywood superstars property or some other extravagant home owned by a famous millionaire nobody cares about your dam listing. Stop putting listings into a professional Real Estate group unless of course you want to continue looking unprofessional to everyone else!
Twitter Social Media Fail
Twitter is another place that some Realtors fail miserably at. The problem here is that Realtors far too often just drop in content and then don’t respond if someone has a question. The best example again is the Realtor who will drop one of their listings into the site via a tweet and then when they are lucky enough to get someone to respond it goes unnoticed.
The thing about social media is that you need to use these sites daily if you expect them to work as intended. There is no point in dropping a link into Twitter if you are not going to respond in a timely fashion or at all.
If sharing your listings on Twitter is what your focus is then I guarantee you have failed at this social media site. Twitter is for providing great content that others can use. It is not about YOU! Your focus on Twitter should be sharing valuable information that others can benefit from. The content doesn’t necessarily have to be your own either. Sharing other peoples articles on Twitter is what builds relationships and increases your following!
Share Button & SEO Social Media Fail
Real Estate agents are notorious for using social media sharing tools that are embedded into their websites as plugins to send their content to various networks and then doing nothing else. Social media is about being social! It is NOT about personal promotion. Stop dumping your content and doing nothing else. Interaction and reciprocation is what makes social media work! All of the social media sites mentioned above are tools to build relationships with people. They are not link dumps! So many Realtors confuse the benefits of social media by thinking it is some kind of exercise in SEO.
In fact one of the more awkward things that you see from Realtors is posting their website address like this —> http://www.sellmyhomeinmetrowestma.com <—- as part of a signature in various social media sites when they make comments like there is some kind of magical SEO benefit for doing so. This is incredibly stupid and does nothing for you other than making you look like a buffoon.
Most Realtors know very little about SEO. This is illustrated very clearly when those in the industry add widgets from sites like Zillow and Trulia to their websites effectively helping those sites outrank agents for their own local keywords. For those that don’t understand what I am talking about here is an explanation of how Realtors help Zillow and Trulia gain better web position. SEO is actually a vital part of any Real Estate agents marketing arsenal. There is no doubt what so ever that having your website appear on the first page of Google for competitive Real Estate search phrases is going to help your business!
If you are a Real Estate agent reading this or anyone else in business for that matter, I hope some of what you have discovered here about social media to be an eye opener. Keep in mind that successful use of social media starts with engaging others. Provide great content of your own and share others content as well. Make sure you reciprocate and say thank you to those that help you become more visible. Do these things and you will see the long term benefit of business growth!
source: woofer_kyyiv @ flickr
“Sure, sure”, you’re saying to yourself.
This guy is clearly a nobody. He’s got no background, he’s not famous, and I think I have more followers than him on Twitter.
Why would he even dare to think that he’s better than I in social media?
Worthy reader, you’re going to read this post and think that I’m just bragging here.
But, you’re also going to leave with a set of action items that happens naturally for me and will become natural for you.
You see, I grew up with Facebook and Twitter. Quite literally. When Facebook first allowed anyone ages 13 and over to register, I had just turned 13.
And what has happened with people that grew up with social media is that we have developed the innate sense of sharing and the natural sense between great posts and TMI (too much information).
Here are three things that I do on a daily basis, things that connect with people, and things you should take away from this article.
#1. Be witty, inspirational or helpful, but only one.
With any tweet, I seek to 1) make people laugh, 2) motivate or 3) offer information. It’s the crux of getting any form of useful attention to yourself.
But, if you try to do all three at once, you’re going to lose yourself somewhere. People my age call this “trying too hard” or “too much information”.
When we see an inspirational quote, we’re launched into a brief spark of energy and deep thought.
When we see a witty tweet, we chuckle and admire the creativity of the tweet.
When we see a helpful link or tip, we have a small “a-ha!” moment.
Notice how we don’t have “a-ha!” moments when we laugh, nor do we feel motivated about life when we see a link to a blog post.
Pick one, and only one.
We send a different message with each tone, and mixing these tones will undermine whatever it is you want to say.
Furthermore, if you don’t have any of the three, your message will be lost. Lost, meaning nobody will care to look at it.
These are the Facebook statuses that get zero likes and zero comments, which is more disappointing to us millenials than you may think.
These are the messages that say “dinner and movie with the family~” or “this cereal tastes so good”. You don’t care about how good the cereal is. Now imagine how many other people don’t care.
The takeaway here: Each tweet (excluding replies) that you send should have ONE purpose: make people laugh, motivate or offer information.
#2. Avoid opinions that you have to defend.
Primarily, I’m referring to politics, the economy and religion.
When you post these opinions, the only people willing to respond are the people who care enough about one side or the other.
I mean, think about it. Mention the two words “Obama” and “good” and all of a sudden, you have divided the entire country into two halves, those who agree and those who don’t.
If you really want to express this sort of opinion, do it on a Twitter account that isn’t affiliated with your brand. That way, you avoid associating your brand with conflict and bias.
Millenials are particularly adept at this sort of indifference. When we post things on Facebook, we all have that hope that we score a certain number of likes. And sure, when we see someone blasting a politician, we might agree or disagree.
But in general, we are afraid of being parts of those disgusting, messy comment threads that others see and go “…ugh”.
And that’s a good sixth sense in the case of social media marketing.
The takeaway here: Avoid conflict. Your brand is a platform for you and your knowledge, not your opinion.
#3. Express all other thoughts you have.
It’s like the Three Laws of Robotics. Do anything you have/want to do, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the first two points.
That means that besides politics, the economy and religion, anything is fair game as long as it is witty, feel-good or helpful, but only one of those.
Growing up around social media, I have had plenty of experience that tells me that nobody will come to you asking for your thoughts. You have to put it out there on your own.
When you’re on Twitter and someone posts a cool picture, tell them it’s cool. An inspirational quote that you thought was great? Thank them for sharing.
The difference between social media interaction and in-person interaction is that social media lacks the element of nonverbal communication. You can’t see that a person is smiling, so you don’t know to ask them about their day.
Share, share, share.
This is the one way to differentiate your brand from other brands. This is the one way to show that behind a Twitter account is someone reading tweets and typing out replies.
And people love to see that someone.
The takeaway here: If you have a thought, you better share it. Few thoughts are stupid, and the stupid ones are often related to controversial opinion.
Using Facebook and Twitter for years has taught me how to capture attention (because it’s not given to you), how to avoid shooting yourself in the foot (because it can happen) and how to remind people that you’re still alive (because dead people don’t post on Twitter).
Be like a millenial and share more effectively.
You spend hours researching and writing a great blog post. After editing it several times, you finally hit publish. Shortly after tweeting out a link to it, you notice some of your friends and colleagues sharing the link on Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to this push, readers start coming and you receive several comments on your post. Unfortunately, just as everything seems to be moving in the right direction, it all stops! No more comments, visitors or Tweets. You’ve hit the point where your buzz has completely fizzled out.
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to keep the momentum going for posts that you put so much effort into creating? Since myself and everyone else I know within the blogosphere has experienced this problem, I decided to do something about it. With the help of my amazing friend and co-founder Ann Smarty, we created a new social media promotion platform: Viral Content Buzz.
Viral Content Buzz 101
The one sentence summary of this platform is that you can get more social promotion for the great blog posts you write by sharing other people’s great posts through your social media presences. This is done by earning and using credits. You get credits for sharing, and can then use those credits to get your best posts promoted. Keep in mind that all of this is 100% FREE!
In addition to being free, we feel that our focus on quality is what’s going to make VCB incredibly effective for users. Because we want to create the best platform possible for our users, we:
- Manually review submissions to ensure they meet our quality guidelines
- Only allow real social media accounts to share (no bots)
- Reward users who have taken the time to build a strong social media presence with more credits
- Tailor the posts in your dashboard to your industry and interests
Now that you know what Viral Content Buzz is all about, watch this great video that Ann made so you can see the site in action:
The Start of Something Big
Viral Content Buzz is up and running, so you can go sign up now. While we’ve already got a lot of great features, we’re committed to continuing to build on our solid base. Here are some of the additions you can expect to see in the coming weeks and months:
- Support for Google Plus, Pinterest and StumbleUpon sharing
- The addition of a table view layout and the ability to easily switch between both layouts
- Email notifications of project approvals, rejections or stoppages
- Click through reports that detail how much traffic came from users’ shares
- A browser bookmarklet for one-click project additions
- The ability to see the Wuzzrank (social buzz authority) on existing projects
As always, I want to thank you and all of my readers for your amazing support! Once you sign up and try out Viral Content Buzz, be sure to leave a comment with what you think about it!
Reddit has been continually rising in popularity since first emerging on the scene back in 2006. Today, it is one of the most popular social news sites of its kind, proving to be a great alternative for those who have grown tired of competitors such as Digg and StumbleUpon. Reddit often calls itself the front page of the internet to play on its growing reputation as a digital newspaper of sorts. And just like newspapers have categories and sections, this site has something similar known as subreddits, a feature that can come in handy for the savvy social marketer.
A subreddit is essentially a category or subcategory that has a community of reddit users built around a specific topic or area of interest. These categories are finely targeted and can be set to either public or private by the creator. Examples of popular subreddits, as chosen by the user community include:
- World News
These examples represent broad general interests, of course, but the subcategories on reddit go much much deeper. For instance, you can find subreddits on specific topics such as World of Warcraft, Indie Gaming, and even presidential hopeful Ron Paul. While each area of interest has its own moderator, community members are able to contribute by submitting and rating content from around the web that is related to the topic at hand. For everyday users, subreddits provide an easy way to quickly access the content that matters most. For marketers, they provide a way to generate visibility and meet business objectives.
Benefitting From Your Own subreddits
Perhaps the best thing to like about subreddits is the fact that anyone can create them. There are numerous benefits to setting up your own, starting with the community aspect. If fellow redditors share your interest, it could easily lead to a situation where users are commenting, sharing, and engaging in other ways that keep the community alive with activity. The site has millions of active users, all interested in something. What this means is that unless your area is built around an obscure topic like “overhanded Bolivian bowling techniques”, there is a great chance that you will be able to attract others who share your passion.
The big payoff to having your own subreddits is increased traffic. All that activity combined with solid content means it is highly likely that people will want to pay a visit and learn more about what you have to offer. Make sure your newly created subcategory is listed on the subreddits page, pass the word along to your connections on the site, and the possibilities are endless.
Some observers have gone as far to say that subreddits are what have enabled reddit to surpass Digg in the social bookmarking arena. This is not as farfetched as it may sound considering it is one of the platform’s most important features. Whether it is streamlining content discovery or building a community around your own, social marketers can make great strides by putting this essential element to use.
Now that the excitement about the HootSuite and HubSpot partnership has died down, it’s time to really consider what this will mean for small businesses’ social media efforts. Although it’s too soon to tell whether or not this will be as beneficial as it seems, there is no denying that more and more business owners are expecting to see real leads and real conversions come from social media. Because there are so many social media outlets available, companies are quickly spending money hiring social media experts and social media data analysts to help make sure social efforts are successful (and seeing leads come from social media is much more clear-cut than the types of numbers we see today). According to the HubSpot blog, the average budget spend on social media has increased 133% in just three years.
This of course begs the inevitable questions: Is it possible to increase and gauge leads from social media, and if so, why haven’t we been doing this all along?
How Closed-Loop Social Will Work
For those who are unfamiliar, the partnership involves the all-in-one marketing software HubSpot and one of the most popular social media dashboards HootSuite, and was announced this past Wednesday. According to The Next Web, HubSpot currently claims to work with more than 6,800 companies in 46 countries, which helps them to attract visitors to their websites and convert those visitors to leads and drive growth.
This partnership aims to help marketers not only connect with customers and clients via social media, but actually create real leads and bring these leads through the sales funnel. The new beta app that stems from this partnership is known as “closed-loop social.” Below is a screenshot that the HubSpot blog included to help marketers visualize the coming-soon app:
Why Utilizing Closed-Loop Social Matters
While the partnership seems to be a good one in theory, marketers are more interested in understanding some of the ways to leverage this partnership and really make it work for their company. Below is a list of some of the benefits that HubSpot explained are coming with this partnership announcement:
- Monitor key terms used by your biggest customers and clients on social sites. This will help you potentially find other like-minded potential customers as well as stay involved with your current ones.
- Nurture leads through social media, not just a follow-up email. After all, saying “thank you” via Twitter might be more effective for some (and more and more as time goes on).
- You can setup filters for certain keywords—your company name, keywords in your industry, etc. If someone tweets “I need to buy an office printer” and you sell office printers, closed-loop social will make sure you know how to find this tweet.
Overall, it seems as though this new app is the next step in social. Being able to understand what your customers are doing on social media and then putting them through the sales funnel on a medium that they really understand (and enjoy) is absolutely going to be beneficial. Although it may take some time to master, I suspect that we will see many more social tools and marketing companies working together to perfect this idea through trial and error, and I’m sure many businesses will be following along.
How do you feel about the new HubSpot and HootSuite partnership? Do you think they have a sound idea, or is it all just the latest hype? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: business2community.com
Whether it has affected you or not, a headline reading “LinkedIn Hacked: 6.5 Million Passwords Leaked to the Web” gets people thinking. Social media security has always been a constant discussion since the networks began to grow in popularity, yet as with many things security, businesses are still staying basic when it comes to protecting their accounts. While changing your password is a great idea and trying to monitor who you are connecting with might help deter a hacker, a business should be taking more serious precautions. Hackers can hurt not only your social media presence, but actually hurt your SEO if they can figure out a way into your website. This naturally brings us back to that very familiar question: What can I do to keep my accounts secure?
Tips and Tricks to Avoid a Social Media Breach
It first helps to understand a little bit about security. There are many different types of security software out there to help a business stay secure, but there aren’t many that focus specifically on social media. After all, security for other aspects of a business—finances, important records and documents, etc.—is often a bigger concern to businesses. However, security software and precautions will generally cover everything online. In other words, if you were to implement security precautions to help protect your financial information, your social media and SEO efforts will likely be protected as well.
Below are a few basic things you can do to help make sure your passwords and accounts are secure across the board:
- Bitdefender Antivirus Software – It is extremely important that you have some sort of software in place to help with your online security. I have used Bitdefender both with my company as well as for personal use in the past and highly recommend this software because it is affordable and works well with all types of computers. It was rated the #1 antivirus software of 2012 by Top Ten Reviews and is something that will help keep your entire computer protected, including your social media and SEO passwords.
- Get Patched – Making sure your computer is patched, or making sure that you have the latest software updates, will help eliminate your risk of hackers. The reason that you always need to keep your system updated is because hackers can often figure a way around certain software, so new software has to be implemented.
- Password Manager – Setting up a browser password manager will help your company create passwords that are more difficult to crack and help you remember these passwords. Although there are many different types of password management tools, I find KeePass to be one of the easiest to use and one of the most successful (and it’s free!). You can learn more about KeePass here.
There are also new software and new tactics that have emerged specifically for SEO and social media. It is important that businesses take precautions not only from hackers, but also from potential employee abuse. Below are a few different tools you can use and approaches you can take when it comes to SEO and social media specifically:
- Hootsuite Security – The social media dashboard Hootsuite has put a lot of effort into social media security. You can setup secure profiles so that you have to approve everything that gets posted onto any of your accounts, and setting up limited permissions makes certain that employees can only create drafts of all your social media messages. Finally, this tool allows you to turn on HTTPS, which will encrypt your information so that hackers cannot see your information if they try to break into your accounts.
- Avoid Add-Ons – People are usually pretty careful when it comes to downloading something onto a computer, but for some reason people are usually not as careful when it comes to social media. It’s easy to download an add-on or click “ok” when asked if the add-on can have access to your account. This is one of the easiest ways for a malicious program to get into your account and take your password and personal information.
Security will unfortunately always be an issue when it comes to online marketing, so it’s good to continually go back and check what security measures your company has in place. Security is something that needs to constantly be updated (as annoying as it may be), and keeping up makes this easier. After all, if a hacker can get into a site as large and protected as LinkedIn, there is a good chance your site could be next.
What do you do to help make sure your social media accounts and SEO efforts are protected? Do you use any tools that you find helpful? Let us know in the comments!
Photo Credit: defensemedianetwork.com
Creating an online community of loyal followers is not important only because it helps you expand the presence of your business and fulfill your goals. An online community can also help you create a new product or develop an entirely fresh approach to your present activities. However, building a community around your brand is not child’s play. It involves understanding your organizational strong points, your business goals and the staffing qualifications.
Definitely, gaining a deep insight into the demographics of your target audience is where you start. Apart from knowing what your audience’s requirements are, you also need to know the purpose and plans of your business. At the same time, it’s vital to be well aware of your limitations.
But, there’s one more thing that you need to focus on – ‘appreciation’.
If you’re really serious about building an online community around your business or brand, you need to learn how to appreciate. First you need to identify the genuine contributions of your community members and then find ways to appreciate or reward those activities (participation, loyalty and patronization) in one way or another. It’s not just the members of the community that need appreciation. In fact, you need to appreciate even the non-community members.
So, you need to know how to appreciate. Appreciating community members or customers is an excellent way to make them feel passionate about your brand, compel them to visit over and over again and encourage them to interact with the new members. That’s how you keep an online community growing and going really strong. That’s how you build momentum among the audience. That’s how you expand your business and make more money.
Why you really should care about creating a strong online community is due to the fact that it follows you throughout the company’s lifecycle.
Here’s how you should appreciate –
a) Say ‘Thank You’ publicly
b) Respond to questions in a timely manner
c) Organize contests and giveaways
d) Share your best customer stories
e) Offer rebates, coupon codes and discounts
f) Start affiliate and incentive programs
g) Give away rewards for referring others
h) Ask for your customer’s feedback and suggestions
i) Live up to your promise
Basically, there are four big reasons that would compel people to do things – recognition, power, money and sex. By getting involved, the members of your community are doing plenty of good for your brand. To build a strong online community and keep it growing too, you need to give something back and continue with it in one form or another. It’s about making something happen in the everyday life of your customers and community members.
Any online community will have both ‘active’ members and ‘silent’ members. So, it’s important to pay attention to those secret members as well. Most importantly, you need to be consistent in you efforts because community building is not a one-time activity or task. Keep on benefiting from the online community and continue to give back to get even more.
Remember, a strong online community is the proof of your brand’s genuineness and credibility. The loyal followers of your brand can quickly elevate your business to new heights. So, let them speak for your business!
What tips do you have in mind to build an online community of loyal followers around your business? Let’s talk back in comments.
It might be that you are a new startup with a limited marketing budget (and thus want to avoid the costs), or maybe you feel that yourself or an in-house employee will do a better job of capturing the right tone and feel of your company.
Whatever the motivation, there are pros and cons to both approaches. This content will discuss the advantages of both options, and then (hopefully) help you make the right decision for your company.
Writing Press Releases Yourself
After reading through this blog post, you should have a clear idea of what is required to write a press release. In short, you need:
- A good story.
- Good writing skills (specific to press releases).
There are distinct advantages of writing your own press releases, and I would fully encourage you to do so if you can consistently write well (or have an employee to write for you). If you are unwilling to invest in an employee, or unsure of how eschewing a professional PR service can help you, read through the following reasons:
A professionally written press release can cost you anywhere from $200 to $500. Considering that this is just a 1-page document, which will eventually contain information that you will provide, this seems an exorbitant price.
While press release writing services make every effort to personalize every press release, there is a distinct style for each writer and for each company as well. Personalized ‘style’ of press or media releases. A powerful example of this is Google – check Google Press for a sample of effective personalized press releases can be.
Be warned though. This is not something easy to accomplish. As press releases are terse, 1-page news items with a very big emphasis on content, it is difficult to establish a style.
Practice will help you improve, and if you feel that the identity and image of your company will be better served by writing the press release yourself rather than outsourcing it, then make sure you read many different press releases from other companies to get a feel of how to build your unique style.
Being directly involved with your industry, you are in the best position to highlight the advantages of your ‘news’ to your potential consumers and competitors.
You will be able to provide relevant, current information and your insight into your industry will also help you to pinpoint which news hook will be most successful.
Matching the expertise of a professional press release writer is a difficult task. On the other hand, in-house press release writing, especially if done by an employee, can be ‘good enough’ if due attention is paid to getting the details right.
Professional Press Release Writing
Despite the obvious advantages of writing your own press release, a professional press release service gives you specific, money-valuable benefits:
Professional press release services have the advantage of having working in this field for a lot longer than you – they have written (hopefully) dozens of press releases, and know the industry inside out.
As such, they are well placed to avoid mistakes that beginning press release writers might make and are likely to produce good, reliable press releases.
Of course, there is also a chance that the press release might not be what you are looking for – maybe the writer gets the tone wrong, or underplays certain features that you wanted to give prominence to.
The added experience will also ensure that the writer will be able to judge better whether the information you’ve given him is enough, not enough or too much. In addition, there is the value of having an ‘outside’ perspective. Outsourcing your press release to an independent PR service will:
- Allow them to present the news in a more realistic light.
- Discourage you from making a press release without having effective content.
Be careful about putting too much faith in the press release service to tell you what is right or wrong, however. The responsibility of ensuring that there is enough ‘newsworthy’ information in your press release is yours, not of the service.
A press release can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a day to write, revise and get just right. If you are part of a fast-paced company where you measure your time in hundreds of dollars, then spending that much time on a press release might seem expensive especially since you can get better results by outsourcing the press release.
Do not underestimate the time required to write a press release – for your news to be a full-blown success, every little detail has to be just right.
It’s just a 1-page document. Why does it cost so much?
I’m faced with that question every day. Considering that you will still have to provide a lot of the information to the press release service, it seems ridiculous to pay over $200 (and up to $500) for a press release. But in the end, it’s the results that justify the costs.
A professionally written press release will always have a better chance of being accepted for distribution, and the experience of a professional PR service will serve you will in making your press release successful.
Another factor working in the favor of professional press release services is their ‘package deals’ – a promise to distribute your press release at a discounted rate if you have your press release written by them.
Costs vs. Expertise
I’ve been saying this throughout the content, and I say it again:
Your press release is (almost) worthless without newsworthy information. Keep this point in your mind as you make the choice between writing the press release yourself (using the advice in thisblog post) and outsourcing it to a professional press release service. Where will that newsworthy information come from? From you.
In fact, even if you outsource the press release, the bulk of the information put in the press release will come from you, either as part of the original specifications presented, or from the questions that the writer will ask you to help him write the press release.
So what are you really paying them for?
Their experience – press release writers have considerable, battle-field knowledge of writing press releases – the kind that only comes through time. You are also paying for their language and marketing skills, as writing a press release requires a specific writing style that does not fit into traditional sales copy.
Don’t hire a sales letter writer to write your press release until you are sure they have experience in writing successful press releases.
However, if you are willing to learn and apply the knowledge from this content (or have an employee as a suitable candidate), in-house press releases can be just as successful as those from a PR service. The key is to do two things repeatedly:
- Ensure that you are fully prepared.
- Differentiate between traditional sales copy and press release writing and make the effort to write ‘in a reporting, unbiased style’.
Choosing the Right Service
While this content goes a long way towards helping you write your own press releases, the primary aim is to guide you into preparing the best press release for your company, each and every time.
And sometimes, a company does not have the time, or the technical skills, to dedicate resources towards in-house press release writing.
In such cases, outsourcing your press release requirements becomes necessary. This section, although concise, will help you in picking the right service for your company.
Hiring a PR service
If you are looking to hire a professional press release service, make sure that you complete the following checklist.
- Does the service have a portfolio or a client’s list? Make sure that you can see visible results, and don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
- Compare costs and services between different PR companies to make sure you get the best deal.
- Understand the fine print. Some PR firms may not allow for more than 1 revision, and some also don’t allow for free consultations – which essentially means that if the PR firm decides that your ‘story’ is not newsworthy, you would have ended up paying for nothing.
- Don’t automatically jump for combined packages (press release writing and distribution). Make sure the investment is worth it, and that you see a list of the media contacts (at least their names, if not their contact information) that your press release will be distributed to.
- Themed distributions are very different in impact to generic distributions, so don’t fall into the trap of paying less and actually getting something that is worth nothing to your company.
- If you like the company’s portfolio, try to negotiate a discounted package in return for bringing all your press release business to them. PR firms would normally not refuse long-term business relationships, and the promise of continued business can possibly lower your long-term costs as well.
Hiring a freelance writer
Of course, if the cost is a really serious issue, and you cannot have the press release written in-house (for various reasons) then you may be better served by outsourcing to a freelance writer.
There are several online freelance websites from where you can hire good writers – Elance and RentACoder are the most popular, and most effective.
With freelance writers, there is the advantage of saving on money – a good press release can be written for $100 or less. On the other hand, there is a risk of not getting what you really want.
I’ll not go into the details of how to ensure that you don’t get your money’s worth as there are many ”freelance hiring”guides on the Internet (some good, some bad, and some bad copies of good guides).
Just make sure that you follow the same pattern as you would when hiring a PR service – check their portfolio, and do your best to provide them with complete information.
RentACoder has many safeguards that prevent buyers (like you) from projects that go bad, so trust the system and follow their advice.
However, one bad apple does not make everyone else incompetent. Freelance websites are full of hard-working individuals wanting to earn good money – make sure that you find someone who is capable of doing the job, and then enjoy the benefits of a well-written press release for a fraction of the price.
What is your opinion on DIY vs Professional writers?
If you don’t know already, I’m obsessed with Pinterest. I use it a bit as a hobby but mostly I’m interested in browsing to see what others pin and how they organize their pins. There is so much valuable marketing inspiration contained on Pinterest, you just have to go out and find it.
Tomorrow I have a post going live on Search Engine Watch that discusses using Pinterest as a way to conduct market research. One of the things I share in the post that I discovered, is what a wealth of information you can glean to help you improve your website using Pinterest. In the end I think I’ve narrowed it down to 4 key areas in Pinterest that can help inspire a website owner.
The sheer nature of Pinterest is enough to inspire a bit of a website upgrade. The site is so clean, sleek and modern that it’s easy and simple to browse. Additionally, the site’s magazine type layout and heavy photo focus is what appeals to many.
Using the categories as well as search function on Pinterest, you can conduct a bit of research to see the images and items in your niche or industry that are popular. Whether it’s instructographics and how tos to infographics and photos of products, each of these image asset types can be developed and used on your site. Pinterest may inspire you to start a gallery on your website and add additional image assets throughout your site.
I love looking at how users pin images and organize their boards. The board names themselves are hilarious, creative and often interesting. As a website owner, you can use the boards of users pinning posts on your site to help you organize content better. Maybe several users have pinned products on your site and added them to a board called “Graduation party ideas”. If you don’t already have items categorized into a list that is easy to find on your site during graduation season then you should – and users have already done it for you. Check out that board and see what other products and items are there.
Boards can also help you to understand how a user might categorize pages on your site and products as well. Seeing this data may inspire you to set up split testing with different navigation pathways for visitors or organize content differently in the future.
Many products are submitted to Pinterest and marketed by their owners. Often these are small business owners and they know a thing or two about marketing their products. Monitoring the Gifts section in Pinterest can give you ideas to improve the product offerings on your site and show you better ways to present your items.
If you carry an item that many others carry in order to be successful you need to make yourself stand out. Pinterest can help you to see what makes others stand out and eventually you may start to see a pattern in the information, a display style and color combination that really seems to work all because you saw it on Pinterest.
While the platform isn’t heavily comment based, there are still a lot of comments to read through and glean information for your online marketing purposes. Many users simply repin or like but don’t comment, sowhen they do you should listen. Start monitoring what users pin on your site, by going to pinterest.com/source/yourdomain.com, and see what they comment on their pins.
A pin that might say “this would go well with” something else, or “I like this but in a different color”, can be used to pair a product with something else or improve a product offering on your site. Additionally the comments may shed some light on other competitors. Users are often asking each other where to buy the item in the photo. Those with the inside track will give little known places to purchase the item. These sites might be your competitors and are worthy of investigation.
Pinterest can be used for so many things, inspiration for your website is just one of them. How are you finding inspiration on Pinterest? Share your experiences in the comments below.