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45 All Tweet and No Cattle

CattleToday I’m going to take on a topic that may not be altogether popular in some social media circles, but it’s a message that small business owners need to wrestle with.

Like me, you are probably sick of hearing about twitter like it’s the next coming of Sidd Finch. Social media experts will have you believe that if your business is not on twitter for hours each day, then you don’t exist.

Here’s my take, I use twitter to meet a handful of objectives, I try to write about it in practical ways, I enjoy some of the interaction, get some nice insights, get decent return on the time I spend, but it’s not for everyone, not right now at least, and here’s why.

While the odd restaurant or coffee shop may be grabbing some headlines because of their tweeting strategy, most small businesses have far greater pressing foundational needs when it comes to the limited time and resources they can allocate to marketing.

    Do not bother with twitter or Facebook or any other social networking tools right now unless:

  • You have perfected a simple point of differentiation that a narrow market truly values and gets
  • You have a killer white paper that clearly demonstrates your 7 steps to blah, blah, blah expertise
  • You have built relationships with 5 journalists that routinely call you for quotes and tips
  • You are presenting workshops, seminars and web conferences based on white paper above
  • You have a roster of strategic partners that you automatically refer and who refer you
  • Your web site/blog is chock full of education based content, articles and tutorials
  • You have a fully scripted/automated lead conversion process that you can measure
  • You have a marketing action plan and action step calendar that is focused on marketing objectives

I know the fun is in the new thing of the moment, but spending your precious time on something like twitter is likely a giant waste of time for your business if you have not build the foundation that can tap social networks as outposts for your marketing hub.

Now, to some this message may actually be refreshing, so let me throw a little cold water. I am not saying that social networks are on their own waste of time as an essential marketing activity, far from it. My real message is that social networks, including twitter are growing in importance for small business, but hold little value to the business that has not built a strong marketing foundation.

This message gets confused when people see social media gurus, some with thousands of followers and nothing but time on their hands to tweet all day, stand up and condemn those not yet in the twitter fold as somehow strangely out of touch. Here’s your test – follow the tweets and see if you find any cattle before you succumb to this line of thinking. Some of the largest advocates of social media have no real foundation, no return on their tweets, and little business, other than the occasional speaking gig at a social media lovefest – and that should be your warning to keep your eye on the real prize – your business objectives.

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33 Facebook Pages Get More Business Friendly

Update: I am hosting a live Facebook for Business webinar – Jan 21, 2010 – Listen to the archive recording here

This month’s overhaul of the Facebook interface dramatically improved the functionality of the Pages feature on Facebook. Anyone with a Facebook profile has had the ability to add something called a Page to extend some content beyond the profile page. This was a smart thing for businesses to do as you could control the content and fans could subscribe to the content. The functionality, however, was pretty limited and these pages were more like static web page brochures than anything else.

With the latest overhaul the Pages have become much more profilelike and, in my opinion, much more useful as a tool for a business build a brand and community inside of Facebook.

New Facebook Pages

On top of a new tabbed interface the most notable changes are:

The addition of the Wall function.

Fans and non-fans alike can view and join the conversation by commenting on activity and creating activity on your Page’s Wall. I believe this added level of engagement gives Pages much more dynamic community building functionality and helps your Page behave much like the rest of Facebook.

You may also notice that Facebook in general has taken on a twitterlike feel to the status update. Not surprised really, but it was a bit jarring for the Facebook hardcore, many teenagers who still don’t have a use for twitter. But, the new status update being added to Pages gives businesses the ability to put update content out and on to the profile pages of fans. This alone should get your attention. If used properly this should give businesses the ability to more effectively, yet still gently, promote within Facebook.

Custom tabs mean custom landing pages

Another significant addition is the tabbed interface that can be lined up to focus attention on important elements of your Page. Now you can create tabs for things like videos, photos, discussion, and events and by doing so you can build out subpages with a specific focus. These tabs use common Facebook applications, such as Events, to drive the page content and are simple to set-up and edit. Each tab has a unique URL giving you the ability to promote particular events or photos as well as create some custom landing page functionality.

Tricking out Boxes with FBML app

A new default tab called Boxes holds lots of potential for businesses as well. Think of a box page as a free form scratch pad. You can add up to 10 of what Facebook calls FBML elements (you must add the Facebook Static FBML application to your apps to edit these). FBML is Facebook’s mark-up language but these elements will take any HTML as well. So you have the ability to add newsletter sign-up forms, ebook downloads, and other HTML based elements. (You can add any of the default elements such as video or discussions as well.)

Once you create the elements you can slide them around the page to the get them to display as you like. Here’s a quick example – Note: If you clicked on the example link I just gave you, it took you directly to the tab page I wanted you to go to. So, in effect, you can create and promote custom landing pages inside of your Facebook Page and promote them as entry points. Great place to offer non-fans a reason to become a fan. (tech note: you can edit the Boxes page by dragging the elements around, but you must go to wall page and hit Edit the page to edit an individual FBML element)

Doesn’t play nice with apps

One source of frustration at the moment is that Facebook just kind of flipped the switch on this update without much warning so many apps don’t work with the update. Facebook’s homegrown apps, such as video, events, photos and discussion – all good ones for your Page, seem to work, but for now many other 3rd party apps don’t.

I was able to install RSS-Connect and create a Blog/RSS tab that currently displays blog posts from all my Duct Tape Marketing Coaches and my twitter feed. There is a setting that puts these in the Wall page sidebar as well.

Seriously ugly URLs

While you can promote your Page URL from outside of Facebook, the URL structure is pretty ugly and long. I would suggest creating a subdomain on your site and using that as the main promotion URL with a 301 redirect to your Facebook page. I use fb.ducttapemarketing.com to get the job done.

This is an evolving platform and my page is by no means the ultimate example of what’s possible for business using Pages, but it should get your started.

A couple more example pages
Hubspot
The Advance Guard

Additional reading
Hubspot Overview of New Features
The Advance Guard free ebook
Mashable Overview
Venture Beat
Facebook’s Overview

36 Social Media Hierarchy Revisted

A while back I wrote a post that outlined what I called the hierarchy of social media. In that post I compared the tools commonly employed in social media to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs. The primary notion being that certain tools were more suited to someone just getting started, meeting basic needs, than someone deeply evolved and more suited to more advanced needs.

As the actual social media tools, blogs, RSS, and social networks evolve over time (twitter is more useful when more people use it), I find myself reevaluating my thinking on this point. I still consider there to be a hierarchy in social media, but one that’s built around actual practices or activities more so than the tools.

So my new hierarchy or pyramid has evolved to this

Until you create a social media strategic plan based on marketing objectives, and find ways to use social media tools to listen and join the conversation going on in your markets, you may find it harder to engage and network and ultimately build relationships and sales through the use of social media tools.

I believe the process for meeting long-term marketing objectives through social media is universal, but the tools needed to meet them are not. Twitter may indeed be a primary social media tool for some, while the Facebook platform or a blog is what allows another to progress through these stages. A third organization may find they can strategically move through the hierarchy by integrating every tool in the toolbox with their offline initiatives.

Plan, listen, join and grow!

20 Automating Social Media Activity

Does automating some of your social media activity automatically make it, well, less social? That’s the question I’ve been batting around a bit with some social mediaists. See, I think that small business owners sometimes stay away from some new media tools because they seem like a lot of work with little immediate return.

EasyTweetsI’ve long preached the middle ground that brings some relief for time strapped business owners trying to juggle it all and that middle ground includes the “smart” use of tools that help you get more done with less time invested.

Now, in most cases I suggest utilizing some of these tools in conjunction with good old fashion social networking that is individual and one to one. Automation is not a substitute, more of a supplement.

Here are a couple shortcuts and resources that come to mind.

1) TweetLater or EasyTweets – allows me to auto follow back anyone who follows me and auto send a welcome message via DM. – This one gets mixed reviews from Twitter maniacs as it can be abused – don’t use it to auto send your spam selling messages, use it to greet a new follower in a fun and engaging way. I get lots of messages back from my auto greets as many people don’t sense it’s an auto generated message. You’ve still got to reach out to people and connect, but this gets the ball rolling automatically and saves a great deal of time. (I’ll do a screencast on how to do this if I get some requests)
2) Twitter Tools – A WordPress plug-in that republishes my blog posts to Twitter, effectively letting followers know I have new content on my blog. Again, mixed in with twitter posts of a more organic nature this is a decent way to keep content flowing and generate some traffic to your blog.
3) Twitter application in Facebook – posts my Twitter updates to Facebook status. I seem to have a different network on Facebook than I do on Twitter so this helps spread the content. I don’t think this is a high level use of Facebook by any means, but I do get interaction from Facebook folks from this activity.
4) Feedheads application in Facebook – I read lots of RSS feeds and using Google Reader and the Feedheads application for Facebook I post my shared Reader items to my Facebook profile each day.
5) TweetDeck – Desktop application that allows me to show Twitter searches, DMs and Replies in one screen. There are any number of tools to get this done, but I like the interface of TweetDeck
6) Facebook Toolbar for Firefox – shows status updates of network in the background as I work. This can be annoying but it keeps you in touch easily with your network. I’ve snagged interviews with journalists looking for sources this way.

So, what are some of your socially accepted shortcuts?

13 Get Your Google Alerts via RSS

Google AlertsI’m a big fan of Google Alerts because it allows you to easily monitor all kinds of names and phrases online, including the writing of journalists you might be targeting for story ideas.

The service made what I think is a nice upgrade over the weekend. Now you can get your alerts via email, as before, and via RSS. So you can subscribe to alerts and have them delivered to your Google Reader page instead of email. I like this because it allows you to more easily file, sort and share the alerts with the built in tools, but, now that it’s RSS you can bend it some other cool ways.

For example, let’s say you are tracking mentions of your awesome product via alerts. You get it sent to your Google Reader account, you like what your read so you hit the Share feature in Google Reader and the alert content shows up on the your Facebook profile via the Feedheads application or post your RSS to Twitter via Twitterfeed.

29 Do Social Network Profiles Help Your Business?

Sometimes people question the benefits of belonging to multiple social networks and building out all those detailed profiles on each.

I don’t know that I want to use this post to try to convince you on all the long-term merits of doing so as to simply point this out and let you draw some of your own conclusions.

John Jantsch on business exchangeGoogle my name – John Jantsch and you will find some of my various websites (good), some interviews I’ve done on other sites, and, as of this writing – my profile on LinkedIn, Business Week Exchange, and Facebook – all on page one of the Google results.

So, what does that mean? Well, this value could be debated by some, but from a pure reputation management standpoint, I own the content on those profiles, so that could be good thing.

So, what do you find when you search your name?

5 LinkedIn Joins the Application Craze

LinkedInLinkedIn announced publicly that they are adding a great deal of functionality to their platform by offering a directory of applications. Applications allow user to extend the usefulness of their profiles and networks and allow third-party developers the creative freedom to leverage LinkedIns very large user base.

Facebook has used this strategy very effectively.

I believe this is not only a necessary step for LinkedIn long-term, it will make individual use much more powerful.

Some of the examples of the first round of applications include:

Work collaboratively with your network.

  • Box on LinkedIn: Share files and collaborate with your network.
  • Huddle on LinkedIn: Private workspaces to collaborate with your network on projects.

Share information and keep up to date with your network.

  • Amazon on LinkedIn: Discover what your network is reading.
  • TripIt on LinkedIn: See where your network is traveling.
  • SixApart on LinkedIn: Stay up to date with your network’s latest blog posts.

Present yourself and your work in new ways.

  • Google Docs on LinkedIn: Embed a presentation on your profile.
  • SlideShare on LinkedIn: Share, view and comment on presentations from your network.
  • WordPress on LinkedIn: Promote your blog and latest posts.

Gain key insights that will make you more effective.

  • Company Buzz by LinkedIn: See what people are saying about your company.

If you are a LinkedIn user already, you will find lots more to do here. If you haven’t tried LinkedIn, now might be a good time.

12 Facebook for Professionals

Mari SmithAs social media and social network sites such as Facebook grow in popularity and utility for business, it’s no wonder that professionals are building businesses around showing other professionals how to get the most bang for their social networking buck.

For a recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I spoke with Mari Smith who has built a following as a relationship marketing specialist and Facebook business coach. We explored many of the ways that business people are finding to connect, engage and actually sell in a social media environment.

I’ve written a great deal in the past about this subject, including my top 10 business applications for Facebook that is one of my most popular posts. This category is not going away and the more people can focus on understanding how to meet marketing objectives through the use of various social media the better.

AT&TThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by att.com/onwardsmallbiz. Resources for the small business owner.

31 Top 10 Business Applications for Facebook

Introductions ApplicationIn its very generic, vanilla form, Facebook is just so-so as a business tool. Lots has been written and said about its use for business, but to me the real power comes when you hang the proper accessories, known as applications, on it and really trick it out for business and professional use.

There are thousands of application available with one click once you have a Facebook profile. But, don’t get caught up in adding every goofy dodad, just because you can. Think logically about your goals for being on Facebook and then choose the tools that will help your communicate, achieve and amplify those objectives.

Here’s a directory of Facebook applications

And, here are my favorite applications for business use.

  • Telephone – With Telephone you can call, send and receive voice messages through Facebook, just like having voicemail on your phone. All you need is the application and a microphone and you can start sending messages to your friends.
  • Slideshare – SlideShare is the world’s largest community for sharing presentations. You can upload your own PowerPoint, OpenOffice, Keynote or PDF files and view presentations shared by others. This is a great way to spread thought leadership and expertise through presentations you may have delivered locally.
  • CircleUp – For Groups and Events is a lightweight collaboration app for groups and events. This tool facilitates some of the communication needed to promote your group activity and events on Facebook and elsewhere. This is particularly useful if you’ve created and maintain your own group on Facebook or often promote teleseminars and workshops.
  • Free Conference Calls – Use Free Conference Calls to organize a business meeting on the fly. With free conference call you can call in from anywhere; your home, mobile, Skype, or any VoIP service. Using this app inside of Facebook can help make some immediate connections a little deeper.
  • Facebook Video – Facebook Video provides a high-quality video platform for people and pages on Facebook. With Video, you can upload video files, send video from your mobile phone, and record video messages to your friends. This application is so easy to use that it makes sending video introductions or message a powerful way to network on Facebook
  • Testimonials – Use Testimonials to gather your personal and professional references in one place. Encouraging customers and contacts to post testimonials about your work and expertise adds great marketing content to your profile.
  • Introductions – Introduce your friends to each other and make new ones. Ask for an introduction to a web programmer or good lawyer. Then make introductions for your friends. This application speeds the process of effective networking by helping focus on giving and receiving introductions in a systematic way.
  • Business Cards – Business Cards helps you network better on Facebook. Personalize your card and attach it to your Facebook messages! View postings and network with others! This application is much like the signature common in email messages. It’s just one more way to say business when using Facebook.
  • My LinkedIn Profile – Makes it easy to promote your LinkedIn account with a badge on your Facebook profile. Cross promoting social network activity is a great way to extend your reach.
  • What I Do – Allows you to promote your services/products to your Facebook network. Display your skills/wares on your profile box and list yourself in a business directory. Recommend your colleagues services and products too.

So, I would love to hear how you have effectively used specific Facebook applications for business.

If you liked this article you might also like to download my free Twitter for Business ebook

17 The Ultimate Social Marketing Question

questionI’ve been asked to give a lot of talks lately on the fast changing social marketing and media world and the questions I inevitably get from the audience go something like – “Should I use Facebook or LinkedIn?” or “What’s the value of Twitter?” or “How do I combat negative comments on my blog?”

In the end, these are all good, legitimate questions when dealing with an evolving topic like social marketing, but in the beginning, they are absolutely the wrong questions.

When planning your social marketing strategies, tools and tactics the ultimate question you must ask is this – “What do I want the relationship with my customer to look and feel like?

From that simple, but holistic point of view comes the filter for how you might analyze every social marketing tool, tactic, avenue and investment. (Frankly, it’s the question that can inform every marketing decision, but many of the social tools are much more about relationships.)

Once you have a picture of the way you want your prospects and customers to experience you, your products and services, your people, your brand you will be much more equipped to determine if you can enhance and amplify that relationship by setting up a Facebook group, finding and being found on LinkedIn, installing Twhirl to keep up with your Twitter world, creating and promoting company videos on YouTube, building networks within StumbleUpon or, lest we forget the obvious, blogging.

From the ultimate social marketing question you may actually conclude that you don’t need any social marketing tools, that your relationships are about conversations, connections, community – holy crap – I just defined social marketing! Now what?

So, what do you want the relationship with your customers to look and feel like?

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