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.

Where will social media show up next?

Today I attended a funeral and was told that I could have stayed at home and watched live streaming video instead. I turned around and looked. Sure enough, mounted up high on the back wall was a video camera. There really is no privacy any more. You can now attend some funerals from home or anywhere you can grab some wifi.

I am not sure if I am comfortable with that or not, but it does really show that all sorts of businesses are on the “live streaming video” bandwagon. Maybe caskets will someday be covered with advertising like race cars so people viewing will see their logos. How far will it go? No one knows for sure.

Some religious services are also streamed live. Not feeling well? No worries. You can attend services via the internet while sitting at home in your jammies.

If you can stream an event, people will watch, if you get the word out. You can stream events through several sites including You Tube, Livestream and Ustream. Google+ has hangouts, where multiple people can chat live via webcam and millions more can watch. Using this technology can, not only help grow your business, but actually change the way we all do business.

I can remember way, way back when I was in college. A professor told my class about how we would one day have a card, similar to a credit card, that would allow people to travel with no cash. Money would come right out of a person’s checking account. Every business would accept them. Of course, we know that debit cards exist now. But back in the day, that sounded crazy.

Online coupons that are scanned from cell phones at the cash register are already available. PayPal and credit card companies offer gadgets that connect to a cell phone. The business owner can simply swipe a credit card through the gadget. The client signs the phone with their finger to make a charge or payment. Can you imagine what might come next?

I talked to a friend the other day about business cards. He predicts there will be a business card where the image changes and maybe even has video. How far are we from that? There are already animated picture frames, why not a business card?

Even though social media is my business, I am hearing about new apps and sites every day. Some are great, some not so much. But the technology is changing daily. To stay on top of things with your business, you need to change with the technology and not fight against it.

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.

Social media year in review

jpg_2013_bursting_open_boxThis has been the most spectacular year for those of us involved in social media. The entire industry has grown in leaps and bounds. More entrepreneurs and companies are using it to help grow their businesses. Athletes, musicians and individuals are so involved in social media that they use it multiple times every day.

Here are some of the highlights of 2012:

  • Facebook stock goes public. Mark Zuckerberg gets even richer.
  • Facebook buys Instagram for a big pile of money.
  • Obama is called the “cool” president, has impromptu visit on Reddit and crashes the system.
  • Infographics are on the rise, using pictures and words to get a message to huge numbers of people.
  • Twitter had a record number of tweets during Super Storm Sandy.
  • Angry Cat and other fun memes flood social media.
  • Pinterest becomes 6th most popular social media.
  • Finding lost kids is enhanced with social media. Since it is incredibly fast, it gets the word out almost immediately.
  • Gangnam Style goes viral. Do you know how to do that dance?
  • Find lost pets, rehoming pets. Gets the word out faster and to more people than traditional methods.
  • The new MySpace – it’s bigger, better than ever and making a comeback.
  • Instagram changes policy, people get angry, Instagram changes it back in a matter of a couple days.
  • School shooting in Newtown, CN has social media ablaze with outrage, gun control opinions, tributes and an outpouring of emotions.

No one wants to read text these days. That’s why this list is a list, in bullet form. Infographics are snowballing in popularity because the graphics make it simpler than a paragraph of words, to get the information to the masses. People all over the world want instantaneous information and they do not want to spend a lot of time reading it.

The best thing that happened in 2012 with social media is that people now take this method of communication seriously – more now, than ever before. So, here’s to the end of 2012 and to watching social media grow even bigger than anyone ever imagined in 2013!

Instagram chief bends to pressure

instagram changing their policyThe people have spoken. After the deluge of people bombarding instagram over their recently announced policies to take ownership of all photos beginning Janaury 2013, they have scrapped the idea.

Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom wrote, “The concerns we heard about from you the most focused on advertising, and what our changes might mean for you and your photos.”

While claiming that people misunderstood his intentions, Systrom continued, “Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010.”

Once again, this is proof of how powerful social media is. In just a matter of a couple days, the photo sharing app changed its plan. The announcement was made, people were appalled and began deleting the app or simply stopped using it.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, purchased the popular Instagram in 2012 for about a billion dollars in stock and cash. With over 100,000 million users, he could not afford for everyone to switch to another way to share photos.
Twitter is ramping up its photo sharing feature. It is now more flexible and user-friendly to compete with other apps. People can post pictures directly from the Twitter app. I often use this photo sharing feature when I am posting on Twitter.

When using a photo app to grow your business, there are so many options. During the past two days, I tried a number of other apps, but didn’t find anything that I liked as much as Instagram.

While Pinterest is a nice app, without the photo editing options Instagram has, it has a different focus. Pinterest is more about sharing photos you see on websites and less about promoting your own photos.

Since I am one of the multitude of Instagram users, I am thrilled that they will be changing their proposed plans. And I feel good about using the app again.

Ice hockey and social media

IMG_1372My nephew Jake plays ice hockey for the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) and because it is a club team, they do not have good attendance or recognition for their efforts. Don’t get me wrong, they play as hard as any hockey players. The games are certainly not televised and the webcasts are not the greatest. They have a website and Facebook page and at one time there was a Twitter page, but it did not have a lot of activity.

I believe the wifi is not very strong at the arena. Using a webcam for a wide shot of an entire ice rink is not the best way to shoot a sporting event. But, they use social media to their advantage with the home games webcast from the arena. They basically use a laptop webcam and broadcast on LiveStream, a website that shows webcasts.

Isn’t that a great idea? Why not broadcast your events? Grow your business through webinars.

If you use Google+, you can create a hangout where up to ten people can have a live video conference call and millions more can watch. And it’s all FREE! What if you gave a webinar about your business and had people from all over the world watch, some can ask questions (the ones who are on the conference call). No fancy equipment is necessary. Really, all you need is a laptop with a camera and an internet connection. If you have headphones with a microphone you can get fairly good sound.

Plop a vase of flowers on a desk to gussy it up a bit, and aim the webcam at your face – you’re ready to go! Maybe put a few notes in front of you, but you know about your business. You don’t really need a lot written materials, just enough to keep you on topic – and you don’t want to read from a script.

If you announce and promote the event on your website, blog, email and through social media, put it in your newsletter or ezine – any way you want, you will get results. Encourage people to send questions in advance so that you have time to prepare great answers.

Be sure to offer this complimentary webcast to your ideal clients. Give them good information, stuff they can use. Encourage them to hire you at the end of the talk.

As you are prepare for your webinar, take a break now and then and watch or listen to a Terps ice hockey game!

Remember the old networking methods

lgw_jobs111As you enter into the realm of the social media, you can’t forget about the old ways. Tweeting, posting and sharing are all great ways to get your brand to a lot of people. However, meeting people in person, networking, making phone calls – those methods all still work.

Today I went to a luncheon for business women and they were quite a hoot. As I generally spend my days hunched over my computer tapping away at the keys, getting out and seeing other humanoids was enriching, if nothing else! Just like giving a polar bear at the zoo a giant ice ball with a fish in the center of it, meeting some people in person was my enrichment for the day.

The women I met were from various fields, only one other spends her entire day alone with a computer. While immersed in cyberspace, we tend to forget about how important it is to do networking in person with other business people to help grow our businesses.

Check your community and find a networking organization. Most allow visitors to attend at least one or two meetings without joining the organization. Get a feel for the group and see if it is a good fit for you. You don’t have to meet everyone at once. I felt a little intimidated at the first one I attended. If you just make a few connections, the next time you go, you will know at least one or two people. Then, it becomes much easier.

Always take a big stack of cards, even if you think you will only give out a few. It’s always best to be prepared. If you don’t have cards – shame on you! Get some. There are reasonably priced places online like vistaprint.com where cards are very inexpensive (some are free, you just pay shipping). Vista Print offers designs already made up for a variety of businesses or generic cards. If you need help, get in touch with me. I can design something for you at a reasonable price.

Take advantage of all the ways to connect with others and grow your business. Don’t limit yourself by relying completely on the internet.