Put the Stage Hook Down, Companies Can be Funny!

When it comes to business, there are several things that one can do to help promote and enhance their interactions with their customers. Now for the time being, it seems that the most effective way to market to clientele is through social media. While sounding like a relatively easy and simple process, there are many facets that go in to effective communication through various social media websites. Humor is a delicate area that should typically be handled with care when engaging with potential customers. One wrong step, and a business can risk damaging their reputation, losing customers, and even worse find themselves in the middle of a controversy.

To some, it may come as a surprise that humor would be considered an effective way to advertise to current and prospective clients. Integrating humor with your social media presence is found to be a highly strategic method of obtaining people’s attention. The logic behind this approach is that if you are able to appeal to one’s emotions, you will be able to find a stronger and longer lasting connection with them. This can be crucial to a business’ success because it will help the customer develop a strengthened understanding of who you are as a company.

There are several areas that a company should consider before taking their stand-up act to Twitter and Facebook. The golden rule when representing a brand and using humor is that what you think is funny, not everyone thinks is funny. If by chance you post an inappropriate response, there is a very real possibility that you can lose clients over it.

In order to protect the success of a business and reputation, you should always consider the fact that humor is a risk. Humor is 100% subjective to its audience, so it is always smarter to take the safe route and keep your posts clean. If you’re about to make a post and it relates to something that people have an opinion on, chances are you will receive negative responses in some degree. This means you should always steer clear of controversial issues such as politics, gender, or religion. It goes without saying that a good rule of thumb when posting something humorous on social media is “when in doubt, always leave it out.”

However, other strategies will make a positive impact on a company’s growth. When responding to people who have engaged with a company’s social media account, wit and banter is a highly overlooked tactic when it comes to online conversations.  As with everything else, the stance of a response needs to be professional because the company’s reputation is still at stake. However it is safe to say that most people will appreciate a slight degree of sarcasm and cleverness in their interaction with a company. The reason it can be appreciated is because users do not typically expect to a personal response from an account that represents something that is more machine than human-like. In a sense, it will catch a user off guard and they will naturally want to interact more to see what a company’s next response will be.

When it comes to selling your brand online, you should always remember that even though you represent a serious business, it doesn’t mean that your marketing has to be. It may not sound like an orthodox business practice, but in some cases, it is more than acceptable to not take yourself so seriously. People will respond to spoofs and parodies in a much more positive way, than if you responded in a way that made the company show a lack of light-hearted nature. People in general are playful, so when it comes to online engagement, it is more than okay to embrace that area of interaction!

While there are many ways that a company can use humor in their online presence, there are three main things they should always keep in mind. Its humor (not comedy), keep it clean and sometimes it’s okay to be silly. Using humor as a strategy can result in a very positive growth for a company in the business world.

Paid Promotion & Social Media Strategy

If you know a musician, say the phrase “pay to play” to them. I guarantee they will groan, complain or roll their eyes. Pay to play means that an artist is paying the club or venue to perform, and the performer will (hopefully) earn their money back if enough fans come to see them. Of course, if no one shows up…

Last week, Instagram dropped the news that users will be seeing “an occasional ad” in their feeds. Their CEO has promised that these videos will be tasteful and light, and that they’ll only be coming from brands that have a lasting relationship with Instagram. It has been pointed out that Instagram’s video capabilities will offer advertisers commercials on 150 million screens—whether those viewers want them or not.

In a similar blog statement, Foursquare has opened up a self-service advertising platform for smaller businesses. This just seems to be the newest platform for Foursquare to try to jump into the pay to play market. Foursquare’s pitch is that small business owners will be able to tell if a customer “actually walks into their store” with simple analytics. I’m not sure how simple this approach will be, though.

Is the world of social media going to a paid promotion format? It’s no secret that promoting Facebook ads with cash helps. It gets your brand in front of more people, and even targets different demographics. It works. So, logically promoting your business with Foursquare or even Instagram (eventually) will help as well, right?

Paid Promotion is a tool. It’s just like scheduled Facebook posts and Google Analytics. Clients will come to you, frantically waving their smartphones and asking why you aren’t promoting their Foursquare presence. Keep it cool; you really need to do your homework before jumping right into pay to play. Ask yourself some questions.

  • What do I know about this? Have you researched paid promotion in the past? Have you dug into how it will help that particular brand? If not, you shouldn’t start spending money yet.
  • What am I trying to achieve with this? Paid promotions are great for getting your name in front of a lot of people. However, it won’t help you engage with your current fan-base. If you’re trying to get more engagement, consider another option.
  • How much should I pay for this? Facebook allows you to boost your posts at a variety of levels with different dollar commitments. These different levels are very important based on your fan following and size.

Make sure you also know if your client is even ready for paid ads. Are they, quite frankly, punching at that level? Theoretically, a boosted Facebook post or two could help a business at the beginning of their social media life. But once the initial flash is over, it’s time to get down to the real work of engaging with your new found followers. That means interesting, appropriate content aimed at the right people. Content marketing is heavily discussed and analyzed for a reason.

So what does this all mean?

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom wants to see his app “on every platform, on every kind of phone and tablet and wearable…” I don’t know if all the marketing content on there will be paid for or organically created. In a world where you can see ads through your watch, it will be quite important that those ads are engaging and well-crafted either way.

Marketing With Big Data

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could know exactly what your customers need before they start looking for it? That thought is now a reality with big data.

Big data is a large collection of your customers’ data (or potential customers) from both internal and external sources. This data includes digital sources such as social media, CRM and web behavior, but also includes traditional channels such as phone records, financial records and shopping habits. All of these things help you understand your customers in a unique way by analyzing their patterns and buying behaviors.

Think about big data like this. Imagine that you’re at a party and you see someone that you haven’t seen in awhile. Last time you talked, you told them about your new job promotion and that you just adopted a dog. When you run into them months later at a party, they ask you how your new job is going and inquire about your dog. This person remembered what you last spoke about and you two already have somewhat of a relationship. This concept should carry over into business, and businesses should have this same rapport with their customers.

Less than 10% of of marketers say they are currently using what data they have in a systematic way, while 71% of marketers say they plan to implement a big data analytics solution in the next two years. Why? Because you can give customers information before they even know they need it and engage with them in a personalized manner. Using big data, you’ll be able to give people the right kind of recommendations and a perfectly tailored message for where they are in the customer journey.

So how do you use big data for marketing? There are four steps to follow:

1. Listen. This step is where you monitor your customers’ social media, buying history, mobile activity and more. For example, let’s say you’re a restaurant that uses a POS system to put in orders, make reservations and take payments. Listen to the information you get from the POS system, including what your customers are ordering each night, how often they come in, what nights you sell the most wine, how much a customer is typically spending and so on. Every move your customer makes, you should be listening.

2. Gather and Analyze Data. Before you try to analyze your data, figure out what the problem is that you are trying to solve. What areas of your business need to be improved? Are you trying to predict customer behavior? Do you want to analyze your customers’ eating habits? Decide what you are trying to figure out before digging through the data. While you are bringing data together and analyzing it, understand the right message for each customer. Data analytics can be done with software tools that are commonly used for predictive analytics and data mining.

3. Assemble the Message. Now that you have analyzed your data, it’s time to transform it into a message to a target audience. Cut out all the information that you don’t need, because a lot of the data you collect won’t matter. When assembling the message, remember that you are using big data to to send a specific message to a specific group of people…this is not meant to be a message for broad demographics. This message should be used to create a meaningful interaction between the consumer and your business, so create different messages to target different audiences.

4. Deliver the Message. Once your message is targeted and put together, you have to get the message out to your target audience. Check to make sure that you have a responsive email design to deliver the correct message to someone on an iPhone versus an Android. Each message should be tailored correctly to the device being used; this is where customer segmentation comes into play. Delivering the message doesn’t only correspond to email, it can be used to help determine specials and coupons. For example, if you own a restaurant and notice that a large amount of your customers love IPA, you can “deliver the message” that you know what they want by creating an IPA special such as $3 pints of IPA on Thursdays. Whatever your message might be, you need to get it out to your target audience in the correct manner.

Use big data to stay one step ahead of your customers. Your business can start to make data-driven strategic decisions to understand your customers in a unique way and deliver a product/service that they need or want in a personalized way.

Selfie: Branding on Instagram

I’ll be honest. There are plenty of articles on Instagram out there. If you’re curious about how many times you can take a picture of your dog before someone wants to throttle you, you’re set. Google it and you’ll have the basics of Instagram etiquette. The problem is that no one explains how a business should behave on Instagram. And trust me, your business needs to be on Instagram.

What is Instagram?

Let’s back up a minute. Instagram is a social media tool. It’s a free app you can use on Android and iPhone platforms at the moment. Unlike other social media, it’s less about words and more about pictures. People typically post snapshots of their lives and share them with friends and followers. Others can like those pictures and leave comments on them. If you’re familiar with Twitter (using hashtags and following interesting people), you’ll be comfortable with Instagram.

How is it good for business?

So what does this have to do with your business? Well, you should already have a general understanding of the benefits of Instagram, but let’s review. Instagram has more than 15 million active users on it right now. Those users aren’t just looking at each other’s cat pictures; they’re researching. Does a trip to Paris actually look fun? How does that water filter look in a real house? Is the food at the local Greek restaurant appetizing? With the world at their fingertips, consumers are doing a lot more research at this point. So, you need to wow them before they even get near your store. And more importantly, you need to let them see your branding quickly and easily.

Step One: Have a theme

Before you start converting those followers into customers, you need to know the basic protocol here. When you start an Instagram account, try your best to tie it into your other social media. If you’re Bob’s Jerky Shack on Facebook, then you are BobsJerkyShack on Instagram. Don’t make people hunt for you. Since you’re Bob’s Jerky Shop, you should probably focus your Instagram theme on jerky. Get a picture of your shop and use it for your profile picture. Follow people who are also in the jerky business. When someone visits your Instagram profile, they shouldn’t be confused by a lot of dog pictures.

Step Two: Picture do’s and don’ts

Speaking of dog pictures, don’t do that. Unless you have dog as a store mascot, keep your greyhound out of your pictures. This is about your business—you can get a personal account. Also, avoid using stock photos or screen caps. People don’t want to see a picture off of the website, they can get that on any other social media. Even worse, do not “borrow” (i.e. steal) other people’s pictures. It is the height of bad taste.

What should you be taking pictures of? Your business, but not just shots of what you’re selling and prices for them. People are on Instagram to see interesting, striking shots. They can get a marketing picture of beef jerky anywhere. Show them pictures of your store, your staff and interesting things around your shop. Do you have a big moose statue in the middle of your sales floor? Take a picture of it and explain why it’s there. And then tag it, so people know where they can see this crazy moose. If the businesses around yours have interesting qualities, that’s more photos you can capture. Then you can find out if those businesses have Instagram accounts and you can tag them, hopefully leading to some cross-promotion between you and your neighbors.

And this should go without saying, but I will say it: keep it professional. Also, do not spam people. This can take many forms—from liking every picture you see to begging for likes and follows. It will have the opposite effect you want, I promise you. People will like you if you’re interesting, so just be yourself! See, mom was right.

Step Three: Be social

While you’re being yourself, also be social. This is social media, after all. Follow leaders in your brand and engage with them. If they have a really sweet picture of a beef jerky waterfall, like the picture and comment on it. Find people that might be interested in your brand, start following them and engage with them as much as possible, but keep it honest. If people or brand leaders don’t follow you back, don’t sweat it. After you gain some momentum on Instagram, they’ll come back. If someone is starting to spam you—or connect your brand with uncomfortable topics—then you have my permission to unfollow.

In closing, follow the competition and learn. Take some risks. Maybe every picture won’t be directly about your store, and that’s okay. People that see you as a satisfying and original source of content will reward you with follows and comments. And that is worth a thousand marketing words. Next week, I’ll be talking about hashtags, and how to use trending topics to help your brand.

Where you are @: Twitter Etiquette

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake know far too much about Twitter. Perhaps you saw their heavily internet-rotated video about the excessive use of hashtags on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. If not, go watch it here. I’ll wait.

Okay, are you back now? Funny, wasn’t it? It’s funny because it’s relatable. Anyone that’s used Twitter for more than two minutes is following someone that uses more hashtags than words in their tweets. This over-use is annoying if you’re a regular person. If you’re a company, it’s downright harmful.

I’ll admit, at first Twitter etiquette might seem like an oxymoron. Certain pop singers and sports celebrities barely seem capable of writing a full sentence, and they have amassed tens of millions of followers. With a 140 character limit and a rapid-fire set-up, it hardly seems reasonable to expect anyone to use proper grammar. But we’re talking business here, and Twitter means business. Look at the numbers. Every week, a billion tweets get sent out. Out of all the people on the internet, 30% are using Twitter. And the social media site has over 200 million active users.

Not impressed yet? How about the fact that every 10 seconds someone tweets about Starbucks? Or 64% of consumers have made a purchase based on social media content? Twitter is big business (11 billion dollars as of 2012), and getting involved can mean real sales for any business. But that can quickly dry up if you aren’t utilizing these social media tools the right way.

There are entire websites devoted to creating good twitter copy (this one for example), and I could spend pages talking about optimizing Twitter posts. But before you worry about targeting followers or adding graphics, you need the basics. Those are your tone and your word use.  Without mastering these two basic principles, you can forget about any sustainable Twitter business.

Let’s start with tone. Sure, Twitter is a conversational place. In fact, you’ll look like a fossil if you try to approach Twitter with a conventional marketing tone. You need to engage with your followers in a personal way. That doesn’t mean you’re talking to your friends—or even your co-workers. Keep in mind that the people you are talking to are strangers, and ultimately you are hoping those strangers will convert from followers to customers. That happens when your tweets are tight and clean, as well as personalized and engaging. Also, try your best to avoid getting into any sort of debate or argument on social media. If someone is unhappy with your company or product, use it as an opportunity to show that your company values their opinion. You need to respond quickly and efficiently. Do not be dragged into a battle. If it doesn’t seem like it would be a good idea to say a comment in person, it’s not good to say it on social media either.

That brings us to word use. Try to avoid shortening words. “U shod c this fal day!!!” Sure, you seem like a real person instead of a business, but you also don’t seem like a very reliable source. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but usually you can rewrite your tweet. Most likely, you’re being too wordy. Sometimes less is more. Also avoid swearing and slang. Even if your company is a little more liberal and relaxed, you want to entice as many followers to your tweets as possible. That’s best done with a clean mouth. On the other end of the spectrum, use basic language. I’m looking at you, tech companies. If the secretary has no idea what you’re talking about, you need to reword that tweet.

In closing, keep your tweets sweet and simple. And keep learning. I recommend following Wishpond, for starters. Not only do they give you decent little tips on Twitter, but they link you to larger articles as well. Keep your eye out for good advice. And pass it on! Next week I’ll be talking about Instagram, and how best to use photography in your social media.

The Rise and Fall of QR Codes

As technology continues to evolve, it’s no surprise that the e-fads of today may be deemed completely irrelevant next week. So what happened to all of the Quick Response (QR) codes I was seeing a few years ago? These QR codes were ubiquitous, and more often than not, I would scan the code and…nothing.

So what exactly is a QR code? Essentially, it is a glorified barcode, just like what you would find on a can of soup or package of socks. What sets them apart is the fact that they can hold roughly 350 times the amount of information that could be stored on a one-dimensional barcode. The QR code was invented in 1994 by the Denso Wave company in order to track the vehicle manufacturing process. It wasn’t until 2010 that the first QR code scanner and reader applications were released for smartphone platforms in the United States. Since then, different companies have been experimenting with this form of digital advertising, using QR codes in their marketing strategies.

I blame a lot of the failure (or soon to be) of QR codes on a lack of education. Creating a QR code is free, which happens to be both a good and bad thing. The good part is that it is a free marketing service to any business owner. The bad side is that most business owners do not know how to set one up in order for it to be an effective marketing tool. This alone might be the downfall of this marketing feature never truly catching on with the general public.

Simply scanning your code is not going to make me ‘Like’ your Facebook page or instantly become a consumer. As a consumer, if you scan enough codes that do not take you to a mobile-friendly site or codes that simply fail, sooner or later, you will stop scanning them. Another downside is when the destination is a virus or malware, corrupting the person’s phone and possibly stealing their personal information.

One of the worst things a business can do is spend part of their marketing budget to put up an ad on a billboard right off the interstate and place a QR code on it. Talk about a waste of money and time! They could be giving away one million dollars through that QR code and no one would be able to scan it. Even putting one a vehicle doesn’t make much sense; you’re basically asking a person to scan the code while they are driving down the road, which is as bad as texting and driving.

When you are selling a product or service, educating your customers is the key to success. Sure, over time a person might get it after trial and error, but only if you’re lucky. A person’s attention span is less than nine seconds, so how confident are you in your product? The QR code lacked education for both the consumer and business owner alike.

My rule of thumb is this: once my dad understands it, it is ready for the general population. And my dad has no clue what a QR code is or what it does.

Do you use QR codes for your business? What results have you found from using a QR code?

Increase Your Work Productivity With Social Media

Some people might say that social media is a distraction from your work, but here at Dream System Solutions, we think that social media can be used to increase your productivity! Whether you’re looking for ways to efficiently collaborate with your employees, how to measure your online success or better marketing methods, there are so many different niches in social media that there seems to be a platform for anything you want to achieve. Here are a few suggestions of some of my favorite tools to use to help improve your productivity.

  • Yammer: Software that is used by more than 200,000 companies worldwide, including 85% of the Fortune 500, can’t be wrong. Think of Yammer as your own in-house social media network, which is available for your desktop and smartphone. No one likes sitting through meetings, so you can use Yammer to have conversations, group discussions, share files, give deadlines, ask for feedback and more. The chat feature is reminiscent of AOL chat, and Yammer even incorporates the use of hashtags. I once worked for a company in which you would “clock in” and “clock out” with the use of a hashtag in Yammer. All in all, it’s simple software to keep your office connected.
  • HipChat: If you’re looking for a different kind of in-house chatroom, HipChat is gaining traction as a contender to Yammer, being used by brands such as Pinterest, TED and Wired. In HipChat, you have all the features of group and individual messages, but you can also bring in guests. If you have a vendor your work with, simply add them to one of your message strings to keep them in the know. And everyone likes to have a little fun at work, so incorporate some of the 150 emoticons and memes available into your messages! The fact that the chat history is searchable is a big plus, too.
  • Nimble: Nimble pulls your contacts into one place so you can engage them across any channel, whether it be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, email or more. Through Nimble, you can connect not only your contacts, but also your calendars, emails and social communications, in addition to being able to listen and engage. What I like about Nimble is that all of your social media can be viewed through one screen. Instead of hopping from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, you can view all three in one place, which saves you time.
  • Glyder: Glyder was created with the small business owner in mind, allowing owners to communicate with their customers easily and quickly. Glyder can format your marketing message for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, email, text message, MailChimp and more, all from a free iPhone app. You simply choose a template, apply a style, add your message or offer and distribute it, which is great if you want to send something out spontaneously from an event or trade show. Ask for engagement, send out today’s special or simply say thank you with this easy app.
  • PitchEngine: If you want to get the word out about something, sometimes an email attachment just won’t do. PitchEngine makes it easy to create quick, engaging content for a sales flyer, press release or announcement that’s attractive and modern. You can share your “Pitch” with friends, customers and online influencers via social media and manage your account with multiple logins and an easy-to-use dashboard. If you want to gain traction with an announcement, it’s always good to create something eye-catching, new and different, which is what PitchEngine aims to do.

What social media tools do you like to use to help increase your productivity?

 

What Goes Into Social Media Management?

So you’re thinking about becoming a Social Media Account Manager? On the surface, the job looks fun and simple, socializing on Facebook and Twitter with people on behalf of a company. But social marketing takes time and effort to run a successful campaign. In order to be successful, you have to have goals and a strategy, and that strategy includes more than simply the fluff of posting cute animal pictures and making an office Harlem Shake video.

Every organization is different and the workflow is catered to work towards achieving your goals. But what really goes into social media management? Let’s break it down a little bit to help get a closer look.

  • Updating social networks by posting text, photos, videos and comments
  • Planning, publishing and socializing blog posts to the right audience
  • Research and planning, sourcing both internal and external content
  • Reading different feeds in your field, filtering through content and sharing it
  • Listening and monitoring brand mentions
  • Keyword searches
  • Building relationships and creating conversations by responding to follows, mentions, dialogue, questions and comments
  • Damage control!
  • Research
  • Community building
  • Strategy, planning and brainstorming
  • Analytics, measurement and reporting

 

In addition to all of these duties, Social Media Managers have to stay on top of the latest trends in the social media world. If there’s a new platform coming out (and it seems like there always is), you better be testing it and seeing how to jump on it to give your business leverage above your competitors. Conference, meet-ups and community events are vital for networking and learning new tricks of the trade. Also, you have to remember that unlike a regular 9-5 business, the internet never turns off.

Social media management is more than Facebook and Twitter; you have to be an expert in all platforms and networks from Google+ to LinkedIn to YouTube. It is a field that is always evolving and continuing education is a must. It is a demanding schedule of tweets, meetings, updates, replies, blogging, editing, designing, marketing and even sales. People skills, humor, flexibility, resourcefulness and creativity are all part of the job. Can you say multitasking?

Being a Social Media Manager can be a fun and rewarding job, but it is also one that is tough, demanding and time-consuming. Social media never goes to sleep. Do you think you have what it takes to run a thriving campaign?

Twitter Optimization

Twitter Optimization

Twitter is a great tool for brands’ to use to engage potential customers, but are you using this social media platform to its fullest? Twitter optimization is critical to ensure your tweets are relevant for your audience. Get the word out to a wider audience and make sure that you’re tweets are being seen using some of these quick tips to improve your social media marketing. It’s one thing to use social media, but it’s another thing to do it the right way. What other tips do you have for using Twitter for business?