There are so many marketing options available for brands that it’s especially hard during the holidays to decide where your efforts should go. After reading a blog post on B2B marketing on Foursquare I thought about options for any brands that might be looking to use Foursquare this holiday season. With a bit of creativity there are many things you try out this holiday season.
Offer a Special
Increased foot traffic in malls or shopping plazas can mean more people near your business. By offering a special on Foursquare you stand a chance of having someone within range of your business visit your location, check in, share their location with friends, and of course possibly purchasing something to get the discount.
It’s surprising to see that so many businesses offer specials to their customers through varies medias but don’t put that same exact special on Foursquare. During this time of year especially, specials and discounts can get more traffic into your doors. It doesn’t take much to set up on Foursquare and to let your staff know about the special.
Make One-On-One Connections
If someone is checking into your business shouldn’t you say thank you? Having someone on staff monitor check-ins at your location during the holidays can help give an added personal feel to the experience at your business for a customer. Try welcoming them while at the store, offering assistance, or asking how their experience was.
Don’t Forget the Mayor
Have a few regular customers battling it out to become mayor of your establishment? Continue the battle across multiple platforms and create a contest over the holidays on Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook. This can help spark others to get in on the game, coming back to your establishment often. Have a leader board posted at your location and keep tally. Aren’t in the mood for a game? Simply offer a discount to the mayor and thank them for their patronage – few businesses do it.
Craft and art fairs, bizarres, and holiday markets are all great places to sell your wares during the holidays. Monitoring the users who check into the event and directing them to your booth is easy to do through the use of Foursquare and other social media platforms. But why stop there? Try connecting with people before they go to the event by setting up a search on Twitter, or connecting with them afterwards too. Use this opportunity to help build your client base to take you through the new year.
Offer After-Holiday Discounts
By setting up a Twitter search of all the mentions of your brand name or store on Twitter, you can be notified when someone checks into your store or mentions your brand (even if they aren’t using Foursquare). Not only should you thank them for checking in but offer them a discount code (via DM) for the next time they stop in. You have the possibility of turning that one time sale or one time visit into more. Don’t forget – it’s not just about Black Friday deals. Customers are likely to appreciate a non-black Friday deal too, so get them to come back into your store after the holiday rush.
Discussed in the post I mentioned previously, B2B marketing can be done using Foursquare quite easily. Most of the suggestions offered will require businesses to allow their employees to use social media. Limiting employee social media usage is a trend that has been decreasing over recent years. A recent “Robert Half Technology” study shows social media permitted in the workplace for business purposes becoming more common. If you happen to be in a B2B market and allow your employees to use social media try out this suggestion to use Foursquare to market your brand.
Events – Foursquare can help you promote holiday and company events, and pre-buzz through other social channels can help as well. Igniting conversation about your brands activities, involvement in the community, or camaraderie can sometimes boost sales. If you are hosting a holiday party set up an event and have your staff tweet, Facebook, and check-in on Foursquare. Encourage them to take pictures too.
These are just a few of the ways you can use Foursquare this holiday season. Have more to add? Feel free – in the comments below!
Andy at SmartBlogs.com wrote a great post about how to use Foursquare for word-of-mouth campaigns. Check it out!
It seems that nearly everyday I see more and more of the Twitter accounts I follow becoming basically one force-fed tweet after another. There are numerous programs available that allow users to link to various RSS feeds, schedule tweets and more recently a program to basically allow you to gather a tribe of your friends together to agree to auto-post all of their blogs to your personal twitter account in exchange for their agreement to allow you to do the same.
To see these posts come through my Twitter stream from people I respected in the social media community is to be honest, a bit disheartening. While I know that these services give users the ability to moderate posts before they go out, it’s evident that moderation is the last thing on anyone’s mind. It’s all about the automation, just spit ’em out…1…2…3 and keep going. They have no clue as to what is going through their Twitter account, and that’s not as important to them as the knowledge that their latest blog posts is being spammed out on their friends’ accounts.
The most obvious twitter spam I have noticed from these feeds has been the act of tweeting out a summary of someone’s tweets for that day that have been reformulated into a blog post. These posts are definitely not something anyone would purposely retweet, more for the blog owner to keep a history of their daily tweets, but these type posts are getting retweeted on a daily basis due to the trust these friends have placed in each other to only post quality content within their group. And moreover due to the lack of moderated content that users allow to trickle through their twitter streams.
Basically all of these force-feeding services promise you the world. You’ll have more time for engagement, you’ll easily be present online 24 hours a day, you reap the SEO benefits of numerous tweets of each and every blog post you write, and this will solve all of your problems with finding the time to participate in numerous social media platforms with the added benefits of their cross-posting platform! Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? Well maybe it is wonderful for automating content, but when I know for a fact that a trusted friend is tweeting posts that they have not even read (nor even seen the title of)…for me…well, I am less likely to care what they posted or even take the time to read their feeds.
Using automated content to fill your social media accounts day in and day out basically dehumanizes you and creates a more robotic feed. Force-feeding social media accounts with numerous automatic tweets does nothing but make you irrelevant and land you in the list of spammers that get unfollowed every day by people using services like TheTwitCleaner. Depending on your level of interaction, you’ll either land in the “Bots” category or if you’re lucky, maybe the “Nothing But Links” category; but even then, when the dreaded message shows above your carefully chosen Twitter avatar stating that you are 90% feed driven, chances are that your social media value has dropped tremendously to everyone. So any anticipated SEO benefits are greatly outweighed by your diminishing list of formerly interested followers.
So how can you turn it around? How can you get back to the non-spamming unique and interesting individual you used to be on Twitter? Get started by following these three simple steps:
Curate Quality Content
Your twitter account should be a reflection of YOU! You should never feel the need to retweet every post a friend writes. You should never tweet every article from every news site you like. You should never tweet anything that doesn’t reflect your high quality standards. Only tweet about articles you read that are interesting to you, articles that define who you are, what you like and dislike, or that inform the community about something you feel is important enough to be shared.
While it’s acceptable to schedule a few tweets occasionally, never ever allow your Twitter account to become basically an RSS feed of numerous blogs. If we want a news site’s feed, we know how to follow them. What most people want to see in your Twitter stream is the best content you read that day, and some personality…not every single article from every single news site or blog available.
Create Quality Content
Some users blog, others take photos, others post opinions or outrage about a current event…everyone can create something to add to their Twitter stream that lets people know they are real. Something that engages your followers and creates a unique user experience and not to mention a community of people that share your common interests. More importantly, you create a community of people that see you, once again….. as relevant.
PS. In the immortal words of the band Styx:
“Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto,
(Please thank you)
The problem’s plain to see,
Too much technology,
Machines to save our lives,
The time has come at last, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
To throw away this mask, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
Now everyone can see, (Secret secret, I’ve got a secret)
My true identity”
If you want to strengthen your personal or business brand’s visibility, then one of the top things you will want is to have strong social media profiles that rank in the top results for your name along with your website and blog. Having a strong online reputation that is comprised of nothing but content that highlights the best about your personal or business brand will allow you to keep undesirable results at bay, such as bad online reviews or mentions.
You’ve probably read lots of posts talking about how to properly optimize your social media profiles for search, and they’ve probably all sounded a little like this.
- Be active – Yes, this is true. Just like Google loves regularly updated blogs and websites, they equally love regularly updated social profiles.
- Optimize photo filenames – This only works on some networks, which I will mention below. It doesn’t hurt to upload photos with your name or keywords in the filename, but networks like Facebook rename the photo filenames anyway, so for some networks, it’s useless.
- Engage with your followers, fans, and connections – This is a good thing to do regardless of the SEO value of it. Engaging with others will keep your profile updated often, and being helpful will also lead to other’s recommending you to their audience. Search #FollowFriday to see what I mean.
- Vanity URL – From what I can tell, the URL does not count for anything but branding except on specific networks. For example, my Facebook fan page name is Kikolani, and the username for the URL is artofblogging. The fan page does not rank for art of blogging, but does rank for Kikolani. But again, it all depends on the network.
While these are great tips for your overall social media strategy, they are not the end all of SEO for your social network profiles. Certain networks use specific elements of information that you supply in your profile to optimize each profile on their network. The following will guide you to the right fields to optimize for the best possible search optimization of your social networks. The best part is that all customizations noted are using each site’s free accounts – no need to upgrade to Pro if all you’re looking for is optimization!
Quick and Dirty Onsite SEO 101
Before we get started, here are some key things to keep in mind about the following mentioned SEO elements of your social profiles. The order of importance is generally SEO Title, Meta Description, header tags (H1, H2, H3), image ALT tags, image filenames, and bolded text. Also, when it comes to search results, the typical result will look like this with the SEO Title as the linked information and the Meta Description as the details beneath it:
But what if you don’t care about the SEO?
That’s ok – this post still has some great information for you! Usually the parts of your profile that are used for search optimization are also used for the network’s own search results. So if you don’t want to think of it as SEO work, think of it as simply social optimization!
Let’s start with the hottest new social media network of them all – Google’s own Google+. Whenever you are filling out your Google+ profile, be sure to note the following areas of information that will enhance the search optimization of your presence on this network.
SEO Title: Your Name – Google+
Google+ is all about the personal branding, and they insist that you use your real name for your profile. So don’t try to stick keywords or business names in your profiles – not yet at least!
Meta Description: Your Name – Your Headline + Your Occupation
The Meta Description for your Google+ profile is a combination of different pieces of profile information, starting with your name followed by your headline (the line below your name), your occupation, your first employer listed, and then your introduction text. So make sure that the first 160 characters count by writing a great headline and occupation title. Also make sure those areas are set to be seen by anyone on the web.
Extra Search Tidbits: Your Links
From what I can tell, the links within the introduction content as well as the ones under other profiles, contributor to, and recommended links are all dofollow. So don’t shy away from anchor text as this is a prime Google property!
Assuming that not much changes when Facebook decides to revamp the fan pages as they have recently with the personal profiles, the following areas of information contribute to your fan page SEO.
SEO Title: Your Page Name | Facebook
If you didn’t consider keyword optimization when you created it, and you have less than 100 fans, you’re in luck. You can still change your page’s name. What you will want to keep in mind is that your branding may be more important than your keyword rankings, especially if you want people to be able to find you if they are searching your brand.
Meta Description: Your Page Name + Your About Description | Facebook
To edit your About information to make a great Meta Description, go to your page and Edit Page > Basic Information, and fill in the About field with a 140 character description like you would with any website Meta Description.
Extra Search Tidbits: Your Fan Page Updates Have SEO Value
Did you know that each of your status updates on your Facebook fan page have a page of their own (click the timestamp of one to see). If you’re posting a standard status update, the SEO Title for the individual page of your updates will be pulled from the first 18 characters (though sometimes it is a bit less). If you’re posting a link to your fan page wall, you’ll have an option to “Say something about this link…” – the first 18 characters of what you enter in this field are going to be the SEO Title of that status update.
If you’re concerned about optimizing your updates while considering them as individual pages under the umbrella of your fan page, then you might want to consider sticking some keywords right at the beginning of your comment. So if you’re posting an update about keyword research, just start the update with keyword research. It is a simple, effective way to keyword optimize each update.
Twitter doesn’t have much in the way of traditional SEO elements for your public profile, but it has a few important things to keep in mind.
SEO Title: Your Name (username) on Twitter
On Twitter, your name under the Profile Settings and your username are the title tags for your profile. So keywords in your username might just be worthwhile if they are still available.
Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag
When it comes to your profile image, be sure to optimize it by using your name as the filename. Twitter will automatically use your name under the Profile Settings as the ALT tag for your profile image as well.
Extra Search Tidbits: Keywords in Your Bio
While they may not come up in the standard SEO elements for your profile, your bio information is key. Services like Klout pull your Twitter bio information as your Klout profile description. FollowerWonk, Formulists, and other Twitter search engines use keywords in your bio in search results when people are looking for similar tweeps to follow. You can also include a link or another Twitter handle if applicable.
LinkedIn Professional Profiles
LinkedIn, the leading professional social network, has the most user-controlled SEO elements out of any other network I’ve checked out. Here are the areas you can customize!
SEO Title: Your Name| LinkedIn
While some people suggest adding keywords to your name field, the LinkedIn terms of service discourages this practice. Be confident that your personal branding is strong enough not to need the extra keyword stuffing that you can do later in your profile.
Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag
Just like Twitter, you should make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image. LinkedIn will use your name as the ALT tag for your image as well.
H3 Tags: Your Job Titles
Are you ready to get some keywords into your profile? Make sure your job titles for current and previous positions include some great keywords and those keywords will be in your profile page’s H3 tags. Mine include freelance writer, blog marketing expert, photographer, and guest blogging contributor.
Extra Search Tidbit: LinkedIn Search Optimization
According to the LinkedInfluence program by Lewis Howes, if you want to rank well for keywords searched within LinkedIn’s people search, you will want to include your targeted keywords in the following:
- Your Professional Headline
I also think that belonging to some industry appropriate groups that are publicly listed on your profile can add to extra keyword usage on your profile. So choose your groups wisely!
YouTube offers a lot of great SEO options, from the channel to the videos. Here is what you’ll want to make sure you include in your profile.
SEO Title: Your Username’s Channel – YouTube
This is one of the cases where your username which doubles as part of your URL counts in terms of the search optimization, so make it count – just be sure you do so with your branding in mind more so than keywords. It will be a lot harder for people to find you if they search SEO company vs. Your Uniquely-Named SEO Company.
Meta Description: Your Channel Description
Whenever you are setting up your channel, pay extra attention to the Channel Description which is under the Profile > Edit settings. This will be your channel’s Meta Description!
Extra SEO Tidbits: Your Website & Your Videos
Ever wanted a backlink from a PR 9 domain? Then your search is over – whenever you create your YouTube channel, be sure to fill in your website link. Granted it has no anchor text, but it’s a dofollow link sitting on a strong Google property.
When it comes to videos, the reason they do so well in search is because the video title doubles as the SEO Title and the video description doubles as the Meta Description. And even though Google doesn’t supposedly care about Meta Keywords, they do use the video’s tags in that space – just group multiple keywords in quotations. My search story uses the tags “kristi hines” “freelance writer” “online marketing consultant” scottsdale arizona. Keep these fields in mind to rank well in both the YouTube and Google results.
Also, be sure to get your video-specific keyword ideas using YouTube’s own keyword tool. It looks at what is searched the most on YouTube itself.
Biznik Professional Profiles
Biznik, another popular professional social network, has some areas that you can customize to optimize your profile for SEO.
SEO Title: Your Job – Your Location – Your Name
The SEO Title for your Biznik profile combines three important parts of your profile – your current job title, your city and state, and your name. It’s perfect for keyword optimization, local search optimization, and personal branding!
Meta Description: Your Google Summary
Unlike most profiles where you have to condense your About Me information into 140 characters, Biznik allows you to have a What You Do description for visitors and a separate, optimized Google Summary for your Meta Description.
H1: Your Name + Your Job
In case the SEO Title and Meta Description are not enough, Biznik also uses your name and job title as your profile’s main H1 Tag. Nothing like a little extra optimization!
Profile Image: Filename and Your Name as ALT Tag
Just like Twitter and LinkedIn, you should make sure you use your name as the filename for your profile image. Biznik will use your name as the ALT tag for your image as well.
Extra SEO Tidbits: Your Website
Your Biznik profile allows you to add one website link with your preferred anchor text (you can have two if you go Pro for $10 / month) . It’s dofollow, so don’t miss out on adding it for visitors and for search engines!
Quora, one of the hottest question and answer networks, offers a little SEO optimization for users who join their community.
SEO Title: Your Name – Quora
As is the trend for most networks, Quora uses your name in your profile’s SEO title.
Meta Property: Your Long Bio
Quora is a bit unusual in the sense that they use the Facebook Developer’s Meta Property=”og:description” instead of the traditional Meta Description for search results. For this, they pull the information that you include in your Long Bio which should be one to two sentences long. If you search your profile in Google, however, you will see that it pulls your name, your Short Bio, and then your Long Bio as the actual Meta Description snippet.
H1 Tag: Your Name + Your Short Bio
The H1 Tag for your Quora profile will be your name plus your Short Bio. It unfortunately cuts off your tag at 50 characters, so be sure to get your main keyword into your short bio first.
Extra SEO Tidbits: Including Your Websites in the Long Bio
Although the links are nofollow (and mashed up into some crazy looking code), one thing I have noticed about Quora is that you can generate a lot of views and followers fast by answering questions. So SEO value or not, be sure to include your main website links in your Long Bio box. Just type out the URL – it will automatically hyperlink.
About.me is one of my favorite online business card sites. It allows you to compile your social profile links, blog, and a short description all on one page. The nice part is that it is a well-optimized page!
SEO Title: Your Name (Your Username) on about.me
About.me is another network where both your name and your username count heavily in the optimization of your profile.
Meta Description: Your Biography
Although you can write as long of a biography as you want on your profile, remember that the first 160 characters count for your Meta Description. This also means if you use a link in your biography, it will be counted as part of the Meta Description, so try to save the links until after the first 160.
Extra SEO Tidbits: Website Links
There are two ways to add website links to your About.me profile. One is through the biography mentioned earlier. The other is through the Services as Flat URL’s. I prefer adding them in the biography because not only are they dofollow, but the coding within the biography is cleaner than the coding used for the Flat URL’s. It may not make much of a difference, but since every bit of link juice helps, it doesn’t hurt to use the most cleanly coded HTML possible.
Bonus: How to Check Your Profile’s SEO
Curious about more networks than the ones listed? Check out your social profile’s SEO by doing the following in Google Chrome using the SEO Site Tools extension.
- Logout of the network. You want to see your profile like a search engine sees it with whatever information you have made public and accessible to anyone, not just those logged into the network.
- Click on the SEO Site Tools magnifying lens button and look under Page Elements. Here you will see your SEO Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords.
- Scroll down through the Page Elements for additional information such as Img Tags, H1 Tags, H2 Tags, H3 Tags, and H4 Tags.
Chances are you will see elements in your social profiles that you can control in those tags – be sure to optimize your profile accordingly from there!
I hope you enjoyed this post! Please be sure to share it with others so they can also reap the benefits of a SEO optimized social media profile for better personal and professional branding! If you’re curious about the SEO optimization elements of other social networks, feel free to ask in the comments and I will check them out for you! And let us know what profiles rank the best for your name or brand!
This is a guest post from Lewis Austin. It is part of The 2nd annual “Bad Ass” SEO Guest Blogging Contest.
I don’t know about you, but I believe that all those one-time satisfied social networkers are FINALLY beginning to stem the hysteria that’s been surrounding the craze for a number of years now.
The original concept of social media is dropping dead, partly because more and more people are beginning to pick holes in its design and influence. Those who were quick to jump on the social bandwagon have found that the fast-growing phenomenon can only plod along for so long until it hits a big, brutal brick wall.
A lot of web users wouldn’t even have been interested in the launch of Google +, even though it is supposedly a revolutionary platform that will change the social media landscape irreversibly, because it’s automatically been compared to every other network of its kind (*coughFACEBOOKcough*). The reality of it all is that none of the features behind the best-loved social networks are new. Everything in the social media world has been done before and I’m clutching at straws trying to find anything that’s blown me away recently. If you look at the major networks and question what sets them apart from the rest, you really start to find more similarities than differences. And often the underlying reasons causing the introduction of each feature are much more flawed than you, being a fierce social networker, would care to admit.
The new features that have been released are simply expansions on what we already had. Take, for example, Facebook Places. Essentially, Facebook Places has just ripped off Foursquare and Gowalla. And for those who don’t know, Foursquare and Gowalla are location-based social networks that revolve around their ‘check-in’ feature. This means that if you’re meeting up with friends you can announce your new location to a select list of friends. Facebook decided to kill their app off, as they realised that only 6% of users had actually bothered trying it, so now the Places feature has been integrated into status updates. Which in itself is just irritating.
I’ve got a couple of burning problems with this system. Firstly, there is no need to dish out your latest physical location on a digital map for everyone to see. What purpose does it serve? Facebook makes all sorts of personal information available to others anyway, so essentially any nosy soul is set up to become your stalker; they can already look up your email address and phone number but now have the opportunity to track your current location too.
This feature is obviously raising concerns for safety of the younger generation of Facebook profilers. Despite the rules there are a lot of kids on Facebook who are clearly under 13 (a whole separate issue for a whole other blog!). Although some may argue that FB can’t be responsible for those who break FB law, these fledgling users have created a danger for themselves because their entire list of friends has full access to all of their information. It’s all too easy to imagine how less-than-scrupulous members of society would go about getting in touch with those who are slightly more impressionable.
You need to ask yourself if you want all of your Facebook friends to know exactly where you are 24/7. This isn’t a trust issue but more of a case of TMI. Quite frankly, being constantly bombarded with details about someone’s whereabouts is dull.
Anyway, the crux of the matter is, Facebook Places was not an original idea. Fact.
Now here’s one you may have spotted. Google Circles is just a developed version of Facebook’s Groups. This Google+ feature allows you to organise your contacts into particular groups, or Circles, and lets you choose how you share your data. Basically, this means you can separate dignified posts from slightly less savoury updates and distribute different types of information to different groups of people in your life. But, however well Circles took off initially, once I waited for all the Google+ hype to die down it became clearer to me that there was definitely a primitive version of Circles already available to app-starved socio-lites.
Facebook Groups were clearly the inspiration for the big G’s ‘pioneering’ feature. It must be said that Google has used this idea as a crucial building block for its platform and developed the initial idea significantly, which is highlighted in comparison to the lacklustre reception of Groups – in fact, it has to be said that many Facebook users did not really know about the feature and found no valid use for it. (…Myself included).
THE TWITTER-PATTER OF TIRED FEET
Twitter is the micro-blogging social network that has acquired 200 million users since its launch and it is safe to say that in terms of popularity, this site has literally exploded. The whole concept of Twitter is just a squished-down version of Facebook, taking all of the good qualities that Facebook offers to networkers, simplifying them and condensing them all together to create the hassle-free conversation platform that we all know and love. The process of befriending one of your peers consists of the click of a button and once you’re deemed a ‘follower’ you gain access to their status updates as and when they happen.
There is a bare minimum of information that is actually shared between users. All that’s required is a profile name, your general location and a paragraph about yourself. One of the most appealing things about Twitter is the simplicity of it all, I suppose. Updates are only 140 characters long, so all information that is shared is short and to the point (a concept that Facebook never really understood right from the beginning, with their fancy lists and whatnot). You don’t need to read through a novel of uninteresting information to find something useful. However, what is happening on Twitter is not new – the idea of ‘following’ others and checking out their updates is practically a simplified RSS Feed.
There is a mentioning feature which allows you to let someone know you are talking to/about them, but again this is a meeker version of the status tags on Facebook where you can tag someone in a post. The recent addition of the promoted Tweets feature leaves a lot to be desired, too. Allegedly set up to give businesses the opportunity to stick a short ad up alongside their relevant search terms, the idea is a spin-off of Facebook paid search advertising, which itself is an adaptation of Google’s highly successful Pay Per Click model. Despite its good intentions (for the profitability of businesses if nothing else), the feature seems to have slipped right under the radar and remained so unobtrusive to the point that many users have wondered whether its introduction was worthwhile.
THE MARRIAGE OF FACESPACE AND MYBOOK
Yet the classic case of feature-swapping is best explained by the rivalry between Myspace and Facebook. These networks were both possibly the biggest international social networks going at any time. I remember when Myspace was big. Myspace drew in the younger generation of networkers through its clear focus on custom pages and entertainment, but the novelty soon wore off as users began to migrate over to Facebook. I had a lot of fun on Myspace myself but when all of my friends began flocking to Facebook I had no choice but to join – after all, what is a social network without any friends? You’re just talking to yourself on a pretty little platform.
In an attempt to win back some users, Myspace introduced the same features that helped Facebook win users, such as photo tagging and of course the infamous like button.
We do need to remember, however, that this brutal method of prising users from the arms of the musclier, more exotic newcomer is not uncommon. Resorting to copycat tactics has always been a last ditch effort to win people back.
IT’S BUSINESS TIME
More and more businesses are flocking to social networks in the hope of building brand awareness and generating leads, but this trend isn’t a new one either. In the past, businesses simply had to go it alone. There was a distinct lack of professionalism and strategy behind social media management, with companies stabbing users in the dark with half-arsed promo campaigns, but now social media management has expanded into an actual occupation. Proof of this is that SEO companies and the like employ dedicated social media marketers (such as myself!) to manage the successful manipulation of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. We handle everything, from the basic layout to the select information we share with fans. Companies will invest in this service because, as long as their chosen social marketer knows their stuff, social networks are the equivalent to free advertising – it just takes some time to determine the methods that will work best. But despite starting every social campaign with the best intentions, we have to ask ourselves this simple question from time to time: have those very users we’re looking to influence cottoned on to our efforts? Are they so used to being ‘sold to’ that they simply shake off all our attempts to amaze them? Social networks weren’t set up to cater for big money-hungry brands.
LOCKING YOUR DOORS AND LEAVING NETWORKS THE KEY
Privacy is an issue that’s constantly niggling at the back of our minds. It’s simply human nature to want to keep our information safe and secure; hold our cards close to our chest. The on-going disputes about each user’s right to confidentiality are going to eventually determine the way in which we communicate. We need to understand that the net was made for sharing, yet still have some say in the way in which our personal information is used. Unfortunately, it’s a debate that’s not going to get resolved anytime soon, and here’s why.
Google caused uproar with its real names policy. Even though Plus was still in its beta stages, if Big G believed you were posing as someone else, you got promptly kicked off. Such was the case of Violet Blue, a renowned author and blogger who’s so highly regarded that she once appeared as a guest on Oprah. Violet was invited to the network by Big G itself, yet once the fake names policy was put in place, her account was suspended. Work that one out.
Teething problems, perhaps? I don’t think so. The Google+ team have stuck to their guns and are of the opinion that you need to pay for the privilege of joining their network by surrendering your identity. Using fake names makes it impossible for your closest friends to find you and therefore goes against the entire principle behind SOCIAL networking. But for many, the issue is this: if you’ve been using a make-believe persona throughout your entire cyber life, why should you need to disclose your true identity now? Many enjoy venting their frustrations or meeting other like-minded tech-heads completely anonymously. This ‘real name’ palaver caused problems for many and turned G+ from a convenient communications platform to a definite hassle within a matter of weeks. I reckon all the effort put into restricting usage should have been put into creating a safer, more secure environment for all networkers.
There are hugely popular conspiracy theories related to Facebook and its privacy policies. Many believe that the CIA use Facebook as a data mining system, which sees them flaunting the fact that many of us have become dependent on it and will happily choose convenience over security any day of the week.
The well-known ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous have warned that they’re planning to take down Facebook sometime around November 5th. This group of free radicals is being targeted by the FBI and have already infiltrated many government run websites that they consider against their cause. Better back up your favourite pics just in case then, hey. Targeting Zuckerberg’s crowned jewels is no coincidence, though; group leaders were furious after sussing out that Facebook will desperately hold on to your personal information, no matter what you do. If you decide to throw in the towel and delete your profile, FB will ‘hold on’ to your info, just in case you decide to return with your tail between your legs. They won’t just cling to your name and email address; they’ll make sure they store all of your activity history. If I’d have known this when I first set my profile up, I would have avoided joining completely!
Surely, the only move that will truly ‘revolutionise’ social networks would be giving users full control over their own privacy settings. Not just the ability to decide who’s allowed to tag you in their album or who’ll be able to track down your late-night video-sharing – proper, true control of your online footprint. Finding a way to make it harder for close friends and complete strangers can dig through a past that they weren’t involved in. My personal opinion is that having that information available is practically advertising it to be read, so I guess the best way to fight FB’s policy is to be extra careful about what you release.
PROFIT ABOVE PRIVACY
So, keen to overturn this dismal perception of network privacy, Google+ launched with the admirable intention of making sure everyone was upfront and honest about their identity and used their profile for the right reasons. What they fail to tell you is that, once you’ve set up a Gmail account, the bots crawling their servers can pick out keywords from your messages and use what they find for targeted advertising. They’ll pick out frequent topics from your conversations and send you useful (*cough*) ads and tailor-made discounts from relevant companies. Now, if we received our post already hacked to pieces by an over-eager mail man, we wouldn’t be best pleased, would we? So in terms of the way your account is manipulated, is this purely a case of ‘what I don’t know about can’t hurt me’? One step forward, twenty gigantic strides back, big G.
Microsoft actually took a stab at Google’s prying eye and created the GmailMan video to promote their new, slightly more ethical email service. It’s an exaggerated stab, granted, but the root of the problem is clearly raised.
REALITY AND WEB-ALITY
There used to be a clear line drawn between reality and web-ality. In real life you pop off down the pub for a pint and a catch-up; in web-ality you connect with those you never would have met were it not for the internet. Yet it seems that as time goes on the web still strives to become as realistic as possible. It’s important to remember that once you’ve ‘friended’ someone on the web, they’ve generally got unlimited access to your online movements. This isn’t like real life. In real life, if you meet a new friend, you don’t tell them everything about you. Some things they just won’t want to know.
With each ‘convenient’ update released, with each development launched, we’re told that we become closer to the ‘ultimate’ social networking experience. These platforms were set up to make it easier to connect with people, but what if we’re just victims of a communication overload?
This could be said of the latest changes that have been proposed for the Facebook layout (which, by the way, haven’t been received particularly well). The design updates, which were revealed by founder Zuckerberg at the annual F8 convention, include plans to encourage each user to share as much media as possible, allowing each of your friends to watch your online life almost in real-time. To replace traditional profile interfaces, Zuckerberg wants to roll out a vis-audio timeline of your activity, replacing streams with a mish-mash of videos, photos, audio and statuses. Facebook has received criticism from the masses – many have protested by describing the new look ‘too cluttered’ and ‘too complicated’ and are of the opinion that the site has become ‘too difficult to use and enjoy’. There’s too much going on, quite frankly, and users have been put off by the inability to easily shut off particular aspects of their life from certain friends.
The Likely Aftermath
Trying to tie together all these issues in what was supposed to be an upbeat article has been a mammoth task. But at the end of the day, I feel that many of us are still blinded by networking’s glory days and refuse to accept that the networks’ foundations are crumbling. Unless we can break down the barriers that stop social media REALLY progressing, we’ll simply keep getting fed the same ideas over and over until we fall off the wagon completely.
Listen and learn, social networks. Your users don’t want real life, they want freedom, optional anonymity and, above all, choice – three aspects of social media that are quickly slipping out of their reach. Major turn off; major brick wall.
But what do you think? Are you still enjoying social networking as much as ever, or do you feel the concept has been exhausted too?
So I’m thinking we need a secret code. Something to discretely notify someone that they’re not following you but they sure act like they think they are and engage with you! OK, I know this is petty…am I forgiven if I admit that straight out of the gate? I wrote about similar Twitter trifles once before, but now I’d like to address the sweet oblivious tweeter. You all have at least a few of them…people who retweet you, mention you, recommend you as someone to follow, and even send you hugs and smooches! And yet…they’re not even following you. How embarrassing! How to cyber nudge them to correct what is likely an oversight whilst saving face for yourself and them?
The irony is that this is precisely the type of message that should be whispered in private…and on Twitter, that means a DM or direct message…but if they’re not following you…you CAN’T send such a message! Ugh! What to do? How to remedy this awkward social media situation?
*Special note to Alyssa Milano – If you would only follow me, I could answer all of your imploring inquiring direct messages about your career path. I mean, I would be happy to help you with that if you would only allow me to reply.
I think we need to put this up for a vote. I have come up with a few invaluable ideas:
- Tweet: *nudge nudge* Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon–I mean, would you like to follow me?
- Ask a friend to mention it to them in DM…is this high school, or what?
- Tweet: Hey, ummm, Gerald, can you follow me so I can DM you? I have a really good stock tip :}
- Unfollow and then follow them again. They’ll see you as a “new” follow and will see they don’t follow you. Whereas this would likely do the trick, it may initiate some head scratching…you know, get them wondering why you didn’t resort to option #1
- We could always come up with a really subtle, sophisticated code or hashtag to use to avoid any unpleasantries inherent in a virtual knock on the head. I’ve given it a lot of thought and consideration to capture the feel of the friendly and unimposing tone we’d like to convey. Something along the lines of: #HeyYouDopeYoureNotEvenFollowingMeDuh!
But then, in the whole scheme of things, does it really mater? I mean, they laugh with you, they share your posts and make comments, recommend you on Follow Friday, maybe even send you virtual hugs. It would be kind of funny if you left it status quo and one day they DM you a question or comment and you’re left resorting to posting on the stream, hat in hand… “ummm…errr…dearest friend, I would be happy to answer your DM if you were following me” 😀 So, what do you say…number 5 is the best one, right? Dare me to use it? (Please don’t!) Thanks to my new friend, fellow G, for inviting me to tarnish his pristine reputation for high standards in blogging with my guest post. And thank you for reading and not immediately unfollowing me 🙂 I encourage you to contribute your suggestions for follow nudging diplomacy: useful, useless and everywhere in between.
Also please cast your vote in the tweet poll below.
Twitter is an awesome example of how a basic idea can be evolved into something huge. Started as the way to tell the world "What you are doing", it now has hundreds of various uses.
This is how social media works: you start a social media project and people will make it into what it should be. There is no way to control that.
Various people have different opinions on how Twitter should be used. To my mind, it is up to everyone. I am not a big fan of Twitter ethics: if you don’t like someone, just don’t follow him!
That being said, everyone has the right to use Twitter the way he wants. Would you like to know which group of Twitter users you fall into?
Here’s a quiz I made (with Gerald’s help of course) that will help you define your Twitter user type.
You are highly encouraged to share your result in the comments. You can also Tweet your result, embed it to your blog or share on facebook. Good luck!
I see this all the time: someone makes a half-hearted attempt to try Twitter and gives up after a day or so because they fail to see the point. While Twitter isn’t for everyone (or every business), I’d bet that 9 times out of 10, that person isn’t seeing the value because they’re not giving it a proper chance and don’t know what to do with it. Twitter isn’t a ride – you can’t just climb in and wait to be wowed. It’s a tool, and you do have to learn how to use it.
Here are some tips for getting ramped up on Twitter, so you can start to see the business value and have a little fun with it too.
Ever have the feeling that you just don’t get Twitter?
- Use a Twitter client
I firmly believe that you need a client to get the most value from Twitter. Most of us on the marketing team at WordStream use TweetDeck, which has a number of advantages over Twitter’s standard Web interface. (Other options include Seesmic and HootSuite.)
For one, it refreshes automatically, with (modifiable) notifications so you can read tweets as they happen. This is important because Twitter’s real value is in real-time use. Reading everything you missed over the weekend is mostly pointless. When you use Twitter in real time, you can interact with people, spot trends as they’re happening and respond to questions and problems before it’s too late. (Likewise, you can get help with questions that aren’t easily answered through search.)
Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to be on Twitter all the time. Like any other social application, Twitter can be a distraction from work. But devoting a little active time to Twitter every day will make its strengths (both for marketing and making connections) much more apparent.
- Be generous with follows at first
You’ll get a lot more value out of Twitter if you have more followers. The larger your audience, the more business contacts you can make, the more traffic you can send to your site, and the more influence and trust you can potentially wield. One of the easiest ways to build up your follower list is to follow others. Start with well-known influencers in your industry and pay attention to who they follow and interact with. Many will follow you back – if not, try sending a relevant @ reply to one of their tweets, which will help get you on their radar.
It takes time to gain a large number of followers, so have patience. Also, remember that you can always unfollow later if someone’s tweets aren’t adding anything to your stream.
- Create lists or groups
Twitter now has a native list feature, which is a great improvement; however, the Web interface only allows you to see one column at a time. With a Twitter client, you can set up columns and view multiple groups side by side.
There are a number of ways you can use columns to your advantage. You can separate those you actively engage with on a regular basis from those you follow more tangentially. You can separate by specialty (for example, if you work in search marketing, you can set up columns for PPC marketing specialists, SEO specialists, social media specialists and so on). You’ll find this organizational ability especially helpful as you expand the number of people and brands you follow.
- Create columns for mentions of you and your company
This step is absolutely key to getting the most out of Twitter. If you don’t pay attention to who’s talking to and about you, you’ll never experience Twitter as a conversation – it will just seem like a million people talking to themselves.
In both the Web interface and Twitter clients, you can save searches of your Twitter name and other terms you might want to follow (such as the names of your products), but a client makes it easier to track those mentions in real time. (You’ll get a notification when a new tweet appears in these columns.)
- Follow up on as many mentions as possible
Knowing what people are saying about you is great, but it’s not enough to monitor mentions. Respond to them! This is especially important for reputation management – if someone asks you a question or has an issue with your company’s product or service, you should respond in as timely a manner as possible. (It should go without saying, but don’t just acknowledge them; offer to help.) It’s not worth getting involved in social media at all if your business is going to seem faceless and unresponsive to existing and potential customers.
But Twitter isn’t just a tool for protecting your brand. You can follow up on positive mentions too. If someone retweets your tweet or recommends your product, thank them! If it’s someone you don’t know, follow them. This is a great way to build goodwill and grow your follower base.
If you haven’t tried the above tactics, you haven’t really tried Twitter. So get back on the horse and I guarantee you’ll at least see what all the fuss is about.
Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream, a provider of advanced SEO Tools and pay per click software for search engine marketing efforts. To get in touch with Elisa, send a note to egabbert at wordstream dot com, follow her on Twitter, or check out the WordStream Internet Marketing Blog, where she’s a regular contributor.
Thanks to a recent feature story in Entrepreneur magazine, ghost Tweeting has once again become a hotly debated subject. So, I thought I’d throw in my $.02 on the subject.
Note: For those who don’t know, ghost Tweeting is when you hire someone else to Tweet under your name.
- It goes against the whole point of social media—Call me crazy, but isn’t the whole point of social media to be, umm, social? Social media is about interacting, building relationships, getting to know one another, and just being yourself. Now, if someone else is Tweeting under your personal name, doesn’t that violate all of this? It’s like when a 50 year old fat guy in a chat room pretends to be a 21 year old blonde chick. Not cool, man.
- It can distort the brand image—Celebrities and high-profile execs are usually the ones who hire people to ghost Tweet for them, and I get it. They’re busy. The last thing they have time for is to Tweet all day, but they also want to build their brand and keep their name out there. However, I think this is a bit dangerous and can easily backfire. Even if the ghost writer is good at capturing your exact tone and personality, there’s no way they can know the celeb’s thoughts on every subject they Tweet about. Sooner or later, something will be Tweeted that isn’t in line with the celeb’s “personal brand”, and this will distort that image and confuse their audience.
- The speed of Twitter makes it difficult to edit—I understand ghost blogging because the ghost writer has time to interact with the credited author to get ideas for posts and edits on their writing. But Twitter is a real-time conversation. There’s no time for editing and approving every single Tweet before it gets published. This creates a dangerous environment where the ghost writer can very easily slip up by Tweeting something they shouldn’t, and as a result, it’s the celebrity who ends up paying for it.
Alternatives to Ghost Tweeting
- Hire a social media consultant to train you on how best to use Twitter.
- Tweet when you have time. Quality over quantity.
- Don’t Tweet at all
For those looking to spread their message far and wide on Twitter, attracting ReTweets (RT) is a must. When your followers RT your content, it can create a snowball effect.—Your followers RT it, then their followers RT it, and then their followers RT it, and so on.
But to enjoy that snowball effect, it all starts with knowing how to attract those initial RTs. Here are 13 tips for getting more people to RT your content.
- Message your friends to ask for them—I’m assuming you have at least a few close friends on Twitter. To get that snowball rolling, shoot them an email or an IM asking them to RT your content. Most times, they’ll be happy to help. Just make sure you don’t constantly bombard them with RT requests. Moderation is key.
- Include “Please RT” on your tweet—It might seem a little desperate, but adding “Please RT” at the beginning or end of a tweet can help you get some good RT action. Again, this is something you don’t want to overdo as your followers will begin to ignore you. I prefer only using “Please RT” for important causes, rather than something that just benefits me.
- Install a Twitter button on your blog—Placing a TweetMeme button on your blog makes it easy for your readers to instantly share your content on Twitter with only a single click. Make sure the button is placed above the fold so readers easily see it.
- Include @mentions to those referenced in the post—Sometimes, you might quote or reference someone else in your post. Whenever you do this, include an @mention of that person. For example: “33 Copywriting Tips found on Twitter (include link) w/tips from @Copywritings @heatherlloyd and more” These @ mentions put you on the radar of those people, and it could lead to them ReTweeting your content.
- Don’t just drop a link. Add something to it—Take a look at the 50 most recent Tweets from your followers. I bet probably half of them are links to articles or blog posts. We’re constantly being bombarded with links on Twitter. To stand out, you need to add something to your link drop that makes it more intriguing.
By now, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the reasons to use Twitter for your business. However, most conversations on the subject rarely offer specific strategies for using Twitter for your business, and instead they consist of vague statements like connect with and engage your audience or build your brand.
Today, we’re going to take a look at specific actions you can take on Twitter to help your business.
- Provide customer support—While I certainly don’t recommend using Twitter as your main source of customer support, it’s helpful as an additional option for customers. JetBlue and cable service Comcast are just two major companies that provide customer support through Twitter. Make sure the employee providing customer service over Twitter is trained properly to solve problems and to offer excellent service every time.
- Hold contests—Twitter is an excellent medium for holding a contest for your business. Last year, web hosting services company @HostGator held a contest where the company gave away an iPhone every day for a month. To enter the contest, entrants had to Tweet the details of the contest each day. This created thousands upon thousands of mentions about the web hosting company, making the contest a viral success.
- Alert customers about special sales—Many companies use Twitter to update customers about special sales and coupon codes. @MarcJacobsSales and @DellOutlet are two examples of Twitter accounts where you can learn of the latest and greatest deals.
- Poll audience for data gathering—One of the most overlooked ways to use Twitter is to gain deep insight from your target audience. Polling customers can involve anything from getting their thoughts on new product ideas to finding out which topics they’d like to see you blog about.
- Let customers know your location (for mobile businesses)—Several mobile businesses (e.g. taco trucks, ice cream trucks, waffle trucks, etc.) use Twitter to let customers know where they are. This drives foot traffic to the business, helping increase sales.
- Monitor your reputation—If your target audience is on Twitter, there’s a good chance your company could get mentioned at some point. Guess what? These mentions might not always be so positive. Subscribe to company-specific keywords on Twitter search so that you’re alerted every time someone mentions your brand.
- Tell customers when you have an opening—One of the most creative uses of Twitter I’ve seen is @Laundryroom. This Twitter account alerts residents at Olin College’s West Hall every time a washing machine in the Laundromat is available.
- Promote special events—Does your company host after hours events or special parties? Twitter is the perfect way to promote the event so you can have an excellent turnout.
- Post company news—Keep your customers, partners, and employees up to date with the latest news on your company through Twitter. This can be anything from updates on big projects to information about new products you’re releasing.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out how to get more followers on Twitter.
How does your business use Twitter? Leave a comment with your suggestions for effective business Tweeting.