Wednesday, 21 August 2013

3 Strategies for Finding Customers With Social Media

Do you need a strategy to reach your ideal prospects with social media?

Are you overwhelmed by all the social media options?

If so, you’re not alone. Social media overwhelm is one of the biggest challenges businesses face.

In this article, I’m going to show you three social media strategies so you can focus your efforts on the channels that best align with your business objective and target audience.

The Simple Solution
Fortunately, there’s a simple solution for it: only focus on where your customers are.

Where are your customers on social media? Image source: iStockPhoto.

Once you find out where your customers are on social media, it becomes easier to come up with a strategy that will help you find your future customers.

Here are three strategies you should consider:

Strategy #1: Ask Your Customers

Asking is the low-hanging fruit that’s easy for small business owners to overlook. It’s such a simple thing to do and allows you to further cement the personal connection you have with your customers.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, when your customers visit your location, ask whether they use social media. If you have another type of business, figure out the best time and place to ask your customers whether they use social media.

If they do use social media, ask them what channels they spend their time on. Is it Facebook? Pinterest? Maybe it’s LinkedIn.

Maybe they don’t even use social media. By asking, you’d know.

If your customers are using social media, take it a step further and ask them how they like to be engaged on those channels. This will give you invaluable insight into how you can best add value in a way they’ll find useful.

You can also take the same approach if your business is online.

Most online businesses have an email list. Send your customer contacts an email and ask the same questions. It doesn’t have to be the subject of an entire email, necessarily; just a simple “P.S.” at the end of your weekly newsletter or part of a quarterly survey you send out should work wonders.
email ps
Ask you using a P.S. in your email.

Implementing this strategy can separate you and your business from your competitors, because so few businesses make the effort to ask. Asking removes any assumptions you may have about where your customers are hanging out online and shows them how much you care.

This is an easy way to get the important information you need to set up a successful social media strategy for your business.

Strategy #2: Use Google Alerts

I’m sure you’ve heard of Google Alerts, but are you using them?

If not, you’re missing a simple and free way to monitor what’s going on in your industry and find where your customers are online.

Google Alerts are updates you can set up in Google that allow you to keep track of a specific topic anytime it’s mentioned on the web.

For example, you can monitor if you or your business is mentioned across the web or keep track of industry news. When there’s a mention of your topic, you receive an email with a link to that search result.

How does this help you find your customers on social media?

Say you’re a small toy company that specializes in locally made wooden toys. You have an online presence but want to expand it and you think that social media might be an effective strategy. You’re unsure, though, which channels your target audience is using.

You could use Google Alerts to find this out.

You decide to enter “birthday gift ideas for kids” as a search query in Google Alerts. And the results show Pinterest boards and articles on “mommy blogs” that are relevant to your business.

When checking out the Pinterest board, you also find several other boards that are similar to your niche. Bingo! Pinterest may be one social channel you want to focus on.

Here’s how to set up your Google Alerts:

  • Go to Google Alerts.
  • Enter the term or phrase you want to monitor in the Search Query field.
  • Choose the type of results you’d like to get in the Result Type field. (I recommend starting out with “Everything.” You can always change it once you see the type of results you’re getting.)
  • Then choose how often you want to receive the results, how many results you want (I recommend “Only the best results”) and the email where you want to receive them.

google alerts

Google Alerts require a little market research, but can get you the valuable information you need to find the social media strategy that works best for your business.

Strategy #3: Use the Search Function Within Social Channels

Sometimes you may want to take a deeper dive into researching your customers on a specific social media platform. Or you may love using a certain social platform and want to know whether your customers are there too. You can use the platform’s search functionality to quickly find out if your customers use the same one.

Each social channel has a search function that gives you the opportunity to instantly determine whether your customers are using it. And this can be as simple as entering the names of some of your customers in the search box on the social platform.

You can also search on things like your niche topic, relevant industry leaders, brands within your niche and any competitors you might have.

Using the search function is another simple and effective strategy that’s often overlooked, yet it will give you great insight into whether your customers are actively using that platform.

If you have a large customer base, consider pulling together a short list selection of the typical customers you want to reach on social media, and then search for them on a social media platform. This would give you information to work with.

Use the Google+ Communities Search:

google+ community search
Google+ Community search.

Or use the LinkedIn Search:

google+ community search
LinkedIn search.
Twitter’s Advanced Search is especially effective because not only can you search by all the attributes mentioned above, you can also search within a specific geographic region.

twitter search
Twitter Advanced Search includes geographic locations.

Remember to stay up to date with changes on your favorite social platform. For example, there have been developments recently with Facebook Graph Search.

Conducting a little research on your customers using the search functions on the social platforms can help you determine where you should invest your social media marketing.

Finding Your Customers Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

Use these simple, effective (and free!) ideas to find which social channels your customers are using.

As a business, if you’re not engaging with your customers on their terms, you’re missing a huge opportunity to add value and ultimately grow your business.

Focus your efforts on the few channels that align with your customers and business objectives and let your competitors be overwhelmed by thinking they need to be on every social media platform.

What do you think? Have you used any of these simple strategies to find out which social channels your customers are using? What other strategies have you used to find where your customers are online? Let me know in the comments below.

Image from iStockPhoto.
Tags: email strategy, facebook graph search, google alerts, google+ community search, linkedin search, rick mulready, social media, social media channel, social media engagement, social media platform, social media strategy, social media survey, twitter advanced search

author: Rick Mulready

Sunday, 4 August 2013

How to Setup Social Media Discussion Groups for Business

Is networking a big part of your job or business?

Have you participated in or considered starting a discussion group?

The good news is LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ all offer options.

In this post, we’re going to look at how social media groups work for businesses and how you can benefit from them as both an owner and a participant.

#1: Google+ Communities

Let’s start with the newest kid on the block for social media groups: Google+ communities. When Google+ launched communities in December 2012, they grew at lightning speed. You can now find thousands of communities that cover every topic.

Benefits as a Member

One of the nice parts about Google+ communities is that you can participate in them using your personal profile or your business page—an option you won’t find on any other social network. This means that you can build your business’s authority on a particular topic within communities.

Google+ page participating in a Google+ community.

The challenge for any member of a community, including businesses using their page, is getting past the Google+ community moderation filter. Most posts within a group that contain links will automatically be put in moderation, and will not be published to the group until the admin or manager of the community approves it.

This means that if you’re considering sharing a link in the community, you need to be sure it’s something that the community administrators will find useful enough to share. It helps to be an active member of the community so if you do share a link, the community administrators will recognize you as a valuable member of the community.

Benefits as an Owner

When your business creates a community, you get some perks as well. For starters, your community will be listed on your page’s About tab so that visitors can connect with you by following your page and joining your group.
communities owned by pages
Google+ community listed on your business page.

In the community, your business will be noted at the top of the right column of the page for all members to see.

communities owned by pages benefits
Communities created by a business page will show the page at the top.

As an added bonus, you can add links to your business on the community page in the About this Community section. This way, every time visitors and members of your community visit the page, they’ll have the opportunity to click through to learn more about your business.

add links
Add links to your community to boost website traffic.

If you want to increase click-through to your website and build your email list, consider creating some free content that is relevant to the topic of the group. For example, Unbounce, creators of the Conversion Heroes community, could market a free ebook on conversion tips that would likely be of interest to all of the members of the group.

#2: Facebook Groups

Creating or participating in a Facebook group is beneficial simply because Facebook is the largest social media network. The only downside is that there’s no way for a business to use its Facebook Page—all group interaction must be done through personal profiles.

Benefits as a Member

So how can a business promote itself within a group using its personal profile? The easiest way is to make sure your Facebook Page is linked to your personal profile. That way, when you make an informative post or comment within a group, people can hover over your name, see your business name in the popup and click through to your Page.

facebook groups page link
Link to a business's Facebook Page from personal profiles.

To make this happen, simply edit your personal profile and add your current employment information in the Work section. Be sure that your business Page comes up when you are entering your business name in the employer field.
adding facebook page profile
Adding your Facebook Page to your personal profile.

Your most recent employment listing will be listed on the front of your personal profile as well as in the popup when someone hovers over your name throughout Facebook, including the groups.

Benefits as an Owner

If you want to create a Facebook group for your business, you’ll have to do so using your personal profile. The only ways to promote your business that all members will see is to create a post within the group and pin it to the top.

You can also add a link to the group’s description, but only non-members will see it when they visit your group Page. Once people have joined, they would have to click to the About tab to find the link.

#3: LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn is best known as the top social network for professionals. Therefore, if you’re looking to build business relationships, participating in LinkedIn Groups is a must.

Benefits as a Member

Most people on LinkedIn are there for their business, either to promote it or to find resources for it. By participating in groups where you’re likely to find peers, it can help you build strong business partnerships. By participating in groups where you’re likely to find customers, it can help you build authority in the eyes of those most likely to hire or buy from you.

You can also use groups to build your network of like-minded professionals. If you’re interacting with someone in a group often, you can click on their profile photo to see their group activity page. From here, you can add them to your network based on your mutual group connection.
linkedin connection request
Using LinkedIn Groups to make connections.

If you want to message or connect with a member whom you do not know otherwise, using LinkedIn Groups can be a great way to do it. You can even bypass the need for a premium account since you can also direct message anyone that you share a group with.

These are just a few of the many reasons that Social Media Examiner decided to move the Social Media Marketing Networking Club over to LinkedIn.

Benefits as an Owner

LinkedIn definitely offers the best benefits for businesses that own a group. While you do have to create and own the group using your professional profile, you can incorporate it into your company page by adding your group under the Featured Groups section.
featured groups on linkedin
Featured groups on a LinkedIn company page.

One of the biggest perks for most businesses and marketers to owning a LinkedIn Group is the ability to email your group members. You can set up an initial welcome message template for all new group members to receive, and then you can follow it up by sending weekly group announcements.
linkedin group announcements
LinkedIn Group announcement template.

The key to getting the most out of your group announcements is to tie in promotion of your business with the group topic. Many businesses do this by offering free content giveaways (ebooks, webinars, etc.) that are relevant to group members.

A Recommended Group

Are you looking for a group for social media marketers?

Be sure to check out Social Media Examiner’s new LinkedIn Group: the Social Media Marketing Networking Club.

Social Media Examiner hosts the Social Media Marketing Networking Club group on LinkedIn

It’s a LinkedIn Group for marketers and business owners to network, learn and make connections.

You’ll find discussions around the best ways to use social media tools to help your business.

Your Turn

What do you think? Do you belong to groups? Please share in the comments and be sure to join the Social Media Networking Club on LinkedIn!

author: Kristi Hines

Thursday, 1 August 2013

4 Ways Marketers Can Use Facebook Hashtags

Have you started using Facebook hashtags for your business?

Are you wondering how to best use a Facebook hashtag?

In this article, I’ll reveal four important benefits of using hashtags on Facebook.

I’ll also explore important considerations when putting together your hashtag strategy.

Why Facebook Hashtags?

As you’ve undoubtedly seen, hashtags are now clickable and useable on Facebook.

Using a hashtag # (or pound symbol) in front of a word or phrase turns the word into a clickable link.

When you click on the link, you’ll see a feed of public posts (or posts that are visible to you due to a friend relationship on Facebook) that include that hashtag.

Here’s how you can use Facebook hashtags:

#1: Expand Your Reach

As hashtags gain momentum on Facebook (they’ve been in use on other platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Google+), they’ll help you expand your reach to people who are looking at posts in your topic.

Hashtags have been a great way to help people interested in niche topics find each other and find the conversation.
walking dead hashtag
The #WalkingDead hashtag connects people interested in this show.

By including a hashtag in your post, you can possibly get in front of people who may not have seen your post otherwise.  But you’ll have to monitor this in your Facebook Insights.  Make sure you watch your Reach and Engagement Numbers to see if your hashtags are making a difference in your posts.

reach column
Click the Reach column in your Facebook insights to see which posts are getting the highest reach.

#2: Amplify Your Brand

Branding your Facebook Page with your own special hashtag can help an idea or new product catch on.  By branding all your posts about a new product, you can break this information out into a separate stream of information and give people an easy way to share information about that product or idea.

Think carefully about what types of things others would also be interested in sharing.  If the posts are too promotional and not valuable, you may have a hard time getting people to share them with their friends.

home depot hashtag
Home Depot uses #HDHacks to share fun ideas with their audience.

#3: Cross Social Platforms

If you’ve already been using hashtags in your Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn or Pinterest posts, it’s now more natural to use hashtags in Facebook.  You can save some time by being able to post the same content across several platforms.

While I don’t recommend doing this for every post in Facebook (some people are annoyed by the hashtags entering into the Facebook realm) it does work to your benefit to occasionally cross platforms with a single post.  Plus many people have already been doing this with their own posts from Twitter and now the hashtags are more searchable in Facebook.

starbucks hashtag
The Starbucks #treatreceipt hashtag has been in use on Twitter in the past and is now searchable on Facebook too.

#4: Promote Specials and Events

You can use a special hashtag in your posts to promote something special.  For example, this can work really well for a #contest.

jasons deli
Use a specially branded hashtag to help promote a contest across several platforms.

Realize that you can’t have people enter your contest on Facebook by including your branded hashtag like you can on Pinterest, Instagram or Twitter.  Because of Facebook contest promotional rules, you can help people find the content across platforms by including the hashtag in your Facebook posts.

If you know some popular hashtags that fit your marketing goals—such as offering a special coupon or deal—then you can include them in your post as well.  I don’t recommend stuffing your posts with tons of hashtags that aren’t relevant because that doesn’t look good and may turn off some of your fans, but a few relevant hashtags are OK.
back to school hashtag
You can also attach a hashtag at the end of your post that's relevant to people looking for special deals such as #backtoschooldeals.

Important Considerations When Using Facebook Hashtags

1.  Privacy settings are still in effect.

If you’re using hashtags on posts on your personal profile, they’ll still have the privacy settings set up according to how you control your privacy on your profile.  Just because you use a hashtag doesn’t make that post suddenly public.  If you add a hashtag to a post that you only share with a certain group of your friends, only that group will be able to see that post.

privacy settings
Your privacy settings are still in effect even when you add a hashtag to your post.

2.  Hashtags have to be all one word.

If you wanted to use #Facebook Marketing as your hashtag, it will need to be posted as #FacebookMarketing or #facebookmarketing (see the next tip).

3.  Capitalization doesn’t matter.

You can choose whatever capitalization you want in the words themselves and the hashtags will show the same results.  #FacebookMarketing and #facebookmarketing show the same search results.

4.  You can make up whatever hashtags you want.

There’s no “hashtag registration” or “database of approved hashtags”, you can make up whatever hashtags you want to use.  Consider your goals.  If you want to brand your own hashtags, you can, but make them short and easy to use and understand.

A hashtag that’s overly complex or hard to read won’t get much traction.  If you’re abbreviating, make sure it’s clear what point you’re going for – a hashtag like #IKPMTTTRWD won’t mean much to many people.

5.  Research your hashtag before you use it.

There have been some recent embarrassing cases of brands using a hashtag that’s already in use for an entirely different purpose that doesn’t align with their company message at all.  Take a look at the social sites where hashtags are in use such as Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ and see if your hashtag is already being used by people.

6.  You can easily look for hashtags on Facebook by URL.

Easily search for hashtags or bookmark their results by using the URL: then just include your keyword on the end.

For example shows you the results of posts that include #facebookmarketing or #FacebookMarketing (or any alternate capitalizations).


I strongly recommend you test out hashtags as part of your Facebook marketing strategy and measure your results.  Use them sparingly (not in every single post) and don’t over-stuff hashtags into your posts.

While some people may not be as excited about hashtags on Facebook, they’re firmly entrenched in other social sites and aren’t going away anytime soon.

How about you?  Have you been using hashtags in your posts?  Are you going to give them a try?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!

author: Andrea Vahl