Social media for business in 2014

what's new this year in social mediaOne of the biggest changes in the past year in social media has been advertising. Now there will be video ads on Facebook, ads and sponsored tweets on Twitter and sponsored posts on Instagram. Many apps, like ESPN, have added small banner ads across their pages.

People, especially the 18-35 demographic, are using their cell phones more and computers less. Ads are showing up everywhere in the mobile realm.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are leading the pack for social media right now. Of course, that can change almost overnight with social media. Because of the nature of the beast, things happen in an instant.

To keep your business on the cutting edge of the social media revolution, you need to be active. Whether or not you advertise on social media sites is up to you, but you should get involved in some way if you are going to keep up with your competitors.

What will happen in the coming months? No one really knows. Little apps or sites that no one uses now, might just be the biggest thing since Facebook. Social media users are fickle.

Check your Klout.com score. See how you stack up against your competition. Get analytics for your website and see if your clients are coming from social media sites and whether they are using computers or phones to reach you. Look at your website on a mobile phone and see if it looks the same as on your computer.

Let’s say goodbye to 2013 and welcome faster, more sleek apps, social media and mobile sites in the coming year.

Use images to your advantage

social media image is everythingIn cyberspace, much like real life, image is everything. Do you have your logo or a photo on all of your social media pages? The black silhouette on LinkedIn or Facebook and the empty egg on Twitter give people the impression that you are either new to the site or inactive.

A professional studio photo is best, but really just having some kind of image is better than nothing. Put your business logo if you do not want to show your face. If you do not have a logo, use a photo, illustration or icon of something that relates to your business.

If you repair cars, you could have a photo of a car. A chiropractor could show an image of a spine. Computer programmers can have an image of a computer. You get the idea.

Let your clients and prospective clients see that you are an active business and post on your page often. People love photos, videos and infographics. Instead of posting a statement, add an image to pique the interest of your audience. These images help to shape your brand. This is not just for your Facebook page, your website should have images as well.

You have only a few seconds to get the attention of your prospective client. Photos work really well to help grab people and keep them on your page.

Do you have Google Analytics? We’ve talked about this before. If you do, check out your website’s bounce rate. That is when a person only looks at your main page and “bounces” rather than looking at other pages on your site. In print media, this is the equivalent of someone reading a front page news story and then going to the page where it is continued. If they “bounced,” they would only read what is on the front page.

Are you grabbing people’s attention? If you are, you will have a low bounce rate. If not, you need to figure out what your prospective clients want to see and give it to them. Add images that relate and add them often to get the best response to your website, social media pages and blog.

Making the most of trending topics

make the most of trending topicsWith a Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Vine or other social media page to help grow your business, you should take note of what is trending. Try to connect something from the topics to your business. Many times social media is trending. Everyone who has a social media account can relate to that.

Other times there are sports figures, politicians, criminals, natural disasters or other current events trending. Anniversaries of big news stories often make the list.

What are trending topics? These are the most popular topics on social media right now. They change, usually many times per day. But the big stories always are on the list. Search engines also list trending topics so you can find them on Bing or Google.

By using the hashtag (#) and a trending topic on Twitter, your term becomes searchable. So, if wild fires are trending and you put #wildfires in your post, people who search for that hashtag will find your information. You need to stick to the topic for this to be effective. You can send good wishes to people who are in danger of losing their homes from the wildfires. If you have a product, say smoke detectors, that have a natural connection with the trending topic it works best. You can use that to your advantage and help funnel traffic to your social media pages and your website.

Make sure it is a natural fit. If you check trending topics every day, you will find something every now and then that works with your business. You cannot force the issue. It can backfire and result in people making negative comments.

Keep posting on your social media pages. Make it a daily habit. You will find that you gain new followers, likes and connections.

Create content that gets attention

Frequent social media posts are recommendedOne way to attract people to your business is to create great content on your social media sites. Whether it is a silly meme or a serious article, you need to do things that bring awareness to your brand. The difficulty lies in making statements that get you noticed by your target audience.

Is it funny? People love looking at funny pictures and anecdotes. There is plenty of funny material out there, just make sure that you use something that is not copyright protected. There is nothing funny about taking someone else’s work and using it as your own. Silly situations that are highly unlikely or even impossible, make the viewer smile, which helps them to like you.

Inspire your target market. Sometimes the post can be a statement or blog that gives your audience something to ponder. Inspirational quotes are popular ways to get attention. Maybe the quote hits home with someone you know and want as a client.

Does your status update have the wow factor? If you post information that some people find unbelievable, but yet is true, you can attract a lot of attention. People, some of whom are potential clients, like to make comments on and forward posts that contain impressive information.

Other posts pull at your heartstrings. Sad puppies than need homes, veterans who are out of work or homeless people are issues that bring up emotions in most people. Those deep feelings bring attention to your post.

If your comments are not politically correct, you may end up with the wrong kind of attention. You want to make people smile or think, not incite a riot. Stay away from religion, politics and current events that are highly polarized. You can certainly post that information on your personal pages, but you do not want to alienate any group on your business pages.

All in all, people respond to content that pertains to them. If it is interesting, funny or emotional to your friends, connections, followers or people who like you, the relationship is there. Try to correspond with your audience as often as possible, daily if you can manage it.

Which social media sites are best for your business?

social media with social squidsIt seems that every day a new social media platform arrives on the scene. Trying to figure out which ones work best for your business can be confusing. It does not matter whether your business is business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Here are some clues to help with the decisions.

Everyone can benefit from the mass appeal of Facebook and Twitter. There are so many people on these sites that you can use the shotgun approach to finding business. That is when you send you message to so many people, a percentage of them must be interested. You Tube also has a wide appeal, but you have to have to create interesting videos that people want to see.

If your business can show before and after” photos like home improvements, makeovers, dog grooming, etc., the more visually oriented platforms will work great. Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and Vine are excellent ways to let the visuals do the talking. For businesses that are creative, like illustrators, photographers and web designers, the visually oriented apps are your best bet. Show off your work!

An accountant, lawyer or medical practice can benefit from using blogs. A blog can be more targeted, especially if you use appropriate bookmarking sites to spread the word. Blogs can have a mass appeal as well, especially if you have a topic that is appropriate for a wide audience. By offering tips, you let readers know you are an expert in your field.

All social media helps you get your business name in front of an audience every time you post. Conversely, if you only post occasionally, you are losing that audience. By using the right social media platforms, you will become a household name. Once that happens, people will begin to think of your business when they need to hire someone in your field or make a purchase.

11 ways to make the most of QR codes

QR code business facebook pagesoQR codes are popping up in all sorts of places. These weird, little, square symbols are the new way to take smart phone users to any web page. How can you use QR codes to help with marketing your business? Here is a list of ways you can make these scannable codes work for you.

Signage: There is only so much space on a sign. QR codes are found on large posters or signs in bus shelters, in bathroom stalls, on public transportation, schools, sporting events or other places where people walk past. Get more traffic by adding a QR code to your sign.

Advertising: Magazine and newspaper ads are using QR codes more and more to encourage people to go to the website of the business to get special offers and company information.

Borchures and flyers: Brochures and flyers can be found on retail counters, left under windshields, in doctor’s offices or handed to people. A QR code can give much more information or take potential clients to a video or slide show.

Packaging: This is a great way to go from someone purchasing your product to someone learning more about the business that produces the product. Get people to go from purchaser to devoted fan.

Name tags at events: Scan in business information about a person on the spot.

Business cards: There is barely any room to write much of a message on a business card. A QR code will let people read the whole company mission.

Real estate for sale signs: As potential buyers see a house for sale, they can stop and scan your QR code, which can take them to a virtual tour or lots of pictures of the interior before they decide to call the agent about the house.

Subscription links: If you have a brochure, sign or flyer and want people to sign up to be on your mailing list. A QR code will quickly get them to the right page.

On an interactive map: A map of an area can add QR codes for readers to get details about interesting landmarks.

On giveaway marketing materials: Key chains, refrigerator magnets, nail files and even pens have little space for more than a logo. Adding a QR code will take them to your site to see details about your business.

RSVP on invitations: Make it easier for people to let you know whether or not they will attend your event with a QR code for yes and another for no.

I need a QR code for my business if you need a QR code for your business.

The new look of Pinterest

If you are unfamiliar with Pinterest, this is a social media platform for photos. Imagine a room full of bulletin boards. You see a photo that you find interesting and you pin it to one of the boards. That is the focus of Pinterest.

That is all well and good, but you probably want to know how can it help you grow your business. If you embed your web address in the photo using photo editing software, such as Photoshop or Picasa, your website will be on that photo forever. If people repin your photo, or post it to their own Pinterest page, your message will go along with the photo. You can also simply type a message with your web address in the comment section that goes under the photo. If someone repins the photo, they have the option of typing their own comment and your comment will be gone.

You can show what your business does and then pin that photo to your board. If the comment has a call to action, a person may be prompted to email or call your business. Of course, some businesses lend themselves to this visual medium. Others do not. People in the fashion industry, a retail business, real estate agent, etc. would do well with a Pinterest page for their business. Other businesses may not benefit as much from an account. If you can show before and after pictures of a service you provide, Pinterest would work well.

Most people use Pinterest for fun and not for business reasons, which is why getting your brand and message across is a bonus. If you can post non-blurry photos that are clever, funny, awe inspiring or amazing, you can attract people to your boards. Not all of your boards have to be business related.

When I was little and my brother and I would fight, he would often slap me up high and punch me in the stomach and say, “While you are looking up here (slap!), I’ll get you down here (punch!). He is five years younger, so I guess it was acceptable back then! My point is that while you have people looking at your pretty photos, you can sneak the punch in with your brand and message.

The new look of Pinterest was made to be more user-friendly. It was purposely made to look much different than Facebook, according to CEO Ben Silbermann.

Cover photos are now larger to help get your statement across. When you view the boards, you see the cover photo and four smaller photos of pictures within that board. The profile information is now across the top of the page instead of along the side. The profile photo itself is much larger. On the right side, you can see the latest people to repin any of your pins.

Swinging out on Vine

At first I was apprehensive. Isn’t that the way with every new social media? I want to try it, but it’s different. Along with most people, I am not so good with change. And social media is constantly changing.

So, what is Vine, anyway? Think of Instagram with a 6-second video. In fact that’s what Twitter is calling it and they are the company who released it. It’s a video sharing app, but here’s the fun part… the videos are only a few seconds long and they are on a continuous loop.

Here’s a link to a Vine video.

All you have to do to take the video is hold your finger down. Let go, reposition things, hold your finger again. You can take a continuous video, or start and stop several times. It is user-friendly, which makes it more fun and bound to be a huge hit.

How can you grow your business with Vine? I don’t mean to put down consumers, especially since we are all consumers, but the majority of people have the attention span of a gnat these days. A 6-second video is just what is needed to get a quick point across to the consumer.

Do you have an amazing product? Show it! Take one second from far away, get a little closer for a second or two, keep moving forward and adding to the video until you are close to the product. There’s your video.

Do you clean houses? Show a messy room for a second, a person dusting for a second, vacuuming for a second, etc. In the end, you show the clean room.

Have a clothing store? Show someone trying on clothes. Make it like a time lapse series. A person wearing one outfit, then another and another. There is your video.

Teaching your dog to sit? Same thing. Show it!

Once you create your video, you can share it on Vine, Twitter and/or Facebook. You can “like” and make comments on other people’s videos as well.

They are organized by hashtag (#), which categorizes the videos. Be sure to add a description and hashtag when posting your videos.

There is a bit of bad news for anyone without an iphone or ipod touch. It is not available for other formats just yet.

Instagram, the inauguration and growing your business

make the most of instagramWhile those of us in Baltimore are still celebrating last night’s Ravens win, the rest of the country is getting watching the inauguration and enjoying MLK Day. According to CNN, this will be the biggest event in the history of Instagram. Never before have so many people been able to use their cell phones to send messages out to the while world.

As photo sharing programs grow in popularity, you too can take advantage of this media to share photos of your business. Millions of people are out there waiting to see your images. Make them interesting and engaging and you will surely succeed.

How do you accomplish that? One way is to add a comment that is a call to action. Pose a question that you hope will elicit responses. Put a photo of a product you sell and ask people about it. Try to make your photos interesting and not just a picture of an item with a plain background. Have someone hold it, shoot it from a bit of an angle, do something to make the photo come to life.

Blurry photos are never good. No matter what filters you add or what program you use, it will still be blurry. Take a little time to get it right.

A funny or amusing photo will often get people to comment or share the picture. Adorable animal photos are extremely popular as are funny baby pictures. Photo bombing pictures, where a person or animal seems to have popped up out of nowhere taking over the photo, are always a favorite.

If you are well-versed in Photoshop, it can make all the difference in the world. Using filters, special effects and cropping will enhance the picture. Effective use of Photoshop to add a humorous element to the photo will add a little magic to your image.

So on this inauguration day, think about ways you can engage and entertain your own audience with the passion that this day holds for Americans.

Great content gets great results

great content gets resultsMost websites are full of words, but how good is that content? Some sites have SEO (search engine optimization) articles that, while they have all the necessary keywords, the articles either do not make sense or the keywords are over used. The articles seem wordy and walk around the subject, never actually getting to the point.

Conversely, sites with interesting, interactive or unique content will grab the attention of the reader and urge them to read more. People return to those sites over and over again.

One of the easiest ways to grab attention is to change the information on the site. Of course, that is how blogs work. Hopefully, you update your blog often to keep people coming back. Giving high value content entices people to the site.

Content does not have to be words. Everyone loves a good photo or piece of artwork. Add graphics, photos or infographics to your pages, follow up by using Instagram and Pinterest to promote them. You will see more activity on your page.

By using Google Analytics, you can see what social media works for you and what does not. Just add the code to your website and you can start using this tool free of charge. If you use Blogger for your blog, there is a built-in Blogger version of Analytics that is already in use. You can find it in the “overview” section and it is called “stats.” If you use social media, you really need to make sure it is working and if not, change what you are doing.