Online reviews

wmf_biznes-017-9-04Every business tries to get listed on the first page of the search. One of the many criteria in ranking companies is not as obvious as most, and that is to have a lot of reviews for the business. Even if there are a few not-so-great reviews mixed in, it still helps. The more people talk about your business, the better.

Every time you complete a sale or finish a service you should send something to your client. Whether they bought a publication, took a class, purchased some of your inventory or used your service, it is important to thank them. Non-profits use this technique all of the time. When you thank someone for a donation, they are more likely to donate again. The same holds true with your business. When you thank someone, they are more likely to buy again.

When you send the thank you, include a request for a review. This is especially important for your favorite clients or customers. When using Google Places and Yahoo Local, you can write a review for a business. Yelp is a site specifically for writing reviews. If you think people will have a hard time finding out where to put their review – find it for them. They may be willing to write a review, but they are not going to spend a lot of time searching around for the place to do it. Give it to them and make their life easier. All they have to do is click a link and they are right at the review page.

The length of reviews really does not matter. I usually only read the first paragraph or two. Usually after that, I’ve lost interest and it’s on to the next review. You can tell your clients that a brief review is fine. They do not have to write a complete essay about your business.

We all have clients who, at one time or another, are not happy with us and post angry reviews. Do not try to counterbalance that and trick the search engines by writing your own reviews! They can tell where the website’s ISP address is registered. In other words, they know it is you. Spooky, isn’t it? You can however, with most search engines, respond to reviews.

Your blog is a whole different ballgame. You can do whatever you want there, and that includes deleting comments you dislike. Some people may get a glimpse of the comment before you delete it. When logged into the blog, it too knows when you are commenting so be careful what you post.

On Facebook, you can remove unwanted comments, but when they are posted, they go out to everyone who likes the page. While it doesn’t stay on the page once you take it down, it has been sent and most likely seen by some people.

Obviously, the idea is to make all of your customers happy. Remember to always thank them. The happiest will tell their friends. If you can get people to post their favorable reviews on social media as well as write a review for one of the search engines, that is the best result you can imagine.

Use trending topics for social media posts

jpg_diagram022When you visit your Twitter page there is a list on the left hand side of the page with trending topics. Google and Yahoo also have trending topics. Wikipedia jumped on the bandwagon with its own site. So, what are they and what is their significance?

Trending topics are what people are talking about right now. They change as people search for different things. Obviously, as events unfold, people begin to discuss them in blogs, webpages and social media. When Michael Phelps broke the record for the most medals in the Olympics, he was a trending topic all over the internet. When there is a mass shooting, like recently in Colorado, that becomes a trending topic. It does not matter if the subject is positive or negative. It can be a coup in a foreign country or someone winning an election. Some sites have local, national and international trends so it can be broken down to where you are.

How does this help with marketing?

You can write your great content either using the trending topic as an example or somehow weaving it into the subject of your article, blog or web content. By using keywords that are trending, you are automatically getting more attention and page views. The search engine bots will be trolling for those keywords and when you use words that are trending, they know. The more your comments are up to the minute, hot button items, buzzwords, trending – whatever name you give it – you will see an upswing in your activity.

Another way to use trending topics in your blog is to give your own take on a trending topic. Let people know how you feel about it. Almost always you can find something that relates to your business that happens to be trending.

When using Twitter and a hashtag, for example #olympics, it becomes searchable. Someone who is interested in finding out about the Olympics can search that hashtag and see a real time list of people’s tweets on that subject. If you are using that hashtag in your tweet, it will appear in the list. People will be reading it. Hopefully people will click on your link or retweet your statement because it is worth repeating.

Certain trending topics can be predicted like elections, back to school, holidays and the World Series. You can always write something ahead of time, knowing that your topic will be trending. Football season is beginning now. While a football related topic might not be trending right this second, you know football is something that will be happening for the next several months and will be on the minds of a lot of sports fans around the country. People will be predicting what certain players will do, how teams will do and then there will be actual news stories about players, teams, owners, stadiums, fans, mascots, and much more.

As with everything else, you need good, clean copy in your content. The internet is a popularity contest and you need to join in the fun. Put some thought into your content and then tell it to the world.

Make new friends and keep the old

make-new-friendsWhen using social media to grow your business, an important aspect is making virtual friends. This is not always an easy process, especially for businesses that have never used social media in the past. One of the best ways to get likes on a business Facebook page is by asking your friends on your personal Facebook page to like it. Without a personal Facebook page, this is a bit more challenging.

I have had retired racing greyhounds for pets for many years. Sometimes they can be a bit neurotic. The dog I have now was a little different than any greyhound I ever had before. He was afraid of everyone. No one, especially men, could come near him. Lots of business owners feel just as apprehensive about meeting people online. There is a stigma attached to meeting unknown people. Maybe as kids, when our parents told us not to talk to strangers, this became ingrained in our psyche.

My dog trainer taught us the command, “make friends.” Using a little piece of cheese to entice my dog to make a new friend, he gradually learned to trust people. While I’m not asking you to use cheese to make friends, followers or fans through social media, think of new business as your virtual cheese. Go and seek new likes, followers and/or fans – especially if they are unknown to you. This will help your business grow.

One way to achieve more activity is by literally asking. When you talk to potential customers on the phone, don’t be afraid to mention your social media sites. Ask them, “How did you hear about us?” When they answer, tell them about your Facebook or Twitter page. You want as much exposure for your content as you can get. And, ask your people to share the page with their friends.

When you send out email, add your page locations to your online signature. You don’t have to remember to tell people, because it will automatically be at the bottom of every email you send. Any print advertising can simply have the phrases, “Follow us on Twitter” and “Like us on Facebook” with the logos of the sites, and people will do it. If your business has online Yelp, Yellowbook or Superpages listings (and they should!!!), make sure you add links to your social media pages to the information.

You can also go out and get new followers and likes. There are websites like Twiends.com that help you get followers on twitter. Socialscube.com helps people get followers, likes and web page views. Those two are free. However, when taking advantage of the free sites, you might get a bunch of followers and then the next day many will be gone. You have to continuously add new people to keep your numbers steadily growing.

Sites where you buy followers are also available. Socialscube and Twiends both have paid programs as well as many others like twitterfollowersbazar.com. Microjob sites like fiverr.com also offer Twitter, Facebook and YouTube followers for really cheap, only a few dollars. On the microjob sites, most purchasers leave comments so you can see how happy (or not) they are with the results of each offer.

A much better way to get followers is to create an interesting page, good content and links and to have a great photo. Those things will get you organic followers who are actually interested in what you have to say. You won’t have to give them cheese like I did my dog! Just give them fresh and interesting content and they will want to be your virtual friend for a good long time.

Add pizzazz to social media pages

memes-for-social-networkingAs more businesses jockey for position to be the best, they use their social media pages to gain popularity. Some have one time offers, others contests and still more have funny pictures. No matter what strategy you employ, you must do something to attract new clients.

Lots of web pages have “suggest a caption” contests. Those are fun because people think of the most outrageous things you would never think of on your own. Viewers often share these funny photos. Come up with something that is thought provoking. Remember that you either need permission to use a photo or have taken it yourself to avoid copyright infringements.

You can do a lot with videos. They do not have to be professionally done. Many people use their laptop’s webcam to create video content for their site. People love watching videos and looking at photos. It is so much more interesting than straight text. Even if your website is devoted to something very serious, you can always find some tasteful artwork to go with it.

There are programs like Picasa and Instagram that will help you manipulate photos you take and make them look a little better. By using your own photos, you know no one else will be using the same image. If you don’t have the skills to take photos worthy of your blog or Facebook page, subscribe to a graphics service in order to get copyright free material to use on your site. Companies like istockphoto.com will sell rights for individual photos. Sites like graphicsfactory.com offer a year-long subscription and rights to use any graphics or photos on the site. Both are reasonably priced.

Even creating a meme, some having no artwork at all, are gaining in popularity. A lot of times they are old fashioned looking photos or artwork with a catchy phrase. In the case of I Can Has Cheeseburger, and the LOL cats seriously lacking in their knowledge of grammar, the text is often misspelled. I am told it is because cats can’t spell. Many times, unfortunately, I believe there are misspellings not done on purpose.

A meme is defined by Bing:

meme

[ meem ]

  1. cultural characteristic passed down generations: any characteristic of a culture, e.g. its language, that can be transmitted from one generation to the next in a way analogous to the transmission of genetic information.

Making your social media pages look more interesting will help get page views, likes and retweets. When you have that kind of interest, your business will grow. The more people who view your information, the better the odds are for you to get new business.

Don’t be afraid to add some zip to your Facebook or other social media pages. Jump in, and build up the page with artwork and maybe even video. You will quickly discover how much new attention you will get.

Grow and nurture your Facebook audience

nurture-your-facebookOnce your business has a social media presence, it is now time to grow your audience. Sounds simple, right? Well, maybe it sounds easier than it is.

Growing your audience doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of posting, tweeting, forwarding, sharing of your information. Maybe it is something that you need to hire someone to do for you, wink, wink, hint, hint…

I spoke to someone who owns a pest control company the other day. I asked him if he had a Facebook page. “Of course!” he answered, like he was shocked that I would ask such a ridiculous question.

I looked at the page. It literally had three likes and had not been updated since 2011. Seriously? This is not a Facebook page. It is a sorry little, shriveled up plant that no one ever waters. This page is doing nothing to help his company build a brand, have recognition in the community or anything else. It is just a placeholder. There were no photos. It contained absolutely no information other than a location and phone number. Yes, he might get one call a year from that – although I think I’m being generous.

This pest control guy could do so much with that Facebook page. He could increase interest by adding photos, maybe showing the difference between a flying ant and a termite. That is content people can use. Posting a photo that would give useful information to his audience would be fantastic. This guy does nothing, except complain about a lack of business. Adding posts that discuss flea control, roaches, ants, mice or other pests would help people. And more than that, it would attract new customers. The saddest thing is, the person knows this information like the back of his hand and would take him no time to put on his page.

It costs nothing but your time, to set up and use a Facebook page. Every business can benefit from having one.

But, and this is big, you must keep the momentum going. As people like the page, you have to post on it. A page that has no activity is not going to be popular. A page with no information is not even going to get likes.

If you spend just a few minutes each day nourishing your Facebook page, you will see amazing growth. Post on the page. Keep it active. Many businesses put special offers on their Facebook page that are found nowhere else. The offers encourage people to check back with the page to see if there is a new discount.

Use the Facebook address on any communication, whether it is snail mail, videos, newsletters – absolutely everything. It will attract likes to the page. Add it to your email signature line. Then, every email you send, may result in a new like on the page. For sure, if no one knows your page exists, they will not visit it.

Sometimes the Facebook page address is a very long list of random numbers and letters. If the address is to long for people to easily remember or type, check out tinyurl.com and shorten the web address. It is a free service that comes in handy with those long URLs. You can let the site pick a shorter address or you can customize it. If you want to tweet the address, this will leave a lot more of the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, to punch up your message.

Using social media for nonprofits

gif_Business047One of the best things about using social media is the cost. Many times the cost is low or non-existent. Non-profits, and really anyone with a limited budget, can take advantage of these sites and make the most of it.

About a week ago, I spoke to someone who runs a small non-profit organization. He told me that his organization does not ask for money at all. The entire financing is based on a one-time donation made in the 1960s! Every now and then a board member makes a donation. One died recently and left a few thousand to the organization. They do not solicit anyone for money because they don’t want to spend money on fundraising. YIKES! All of the money is tied up in stocks and mutual funds. They lost almost half of their principal during the stock market crash a couple years ago and have done nothing to build it back except invest in more stocks.

I know my eyes were bugging out of my head as the president of the organization told me about this. It was the first time I met him and I didn’t want to tell him that he was crazy – but is exactly what I was thinking!

I’ve worked for several non-profits and they all used social media, even though it was on a limited basis. It was years ago and not as commonly done as it is now. Just setting up a Facebook page or a blog that tells people to visit the website can help.

I set up a PayPal account for one non-profit and added theie “donate” button to the organization’s website. From that alone, we took in hundred of dollars a year in completely unsolicited donations. While that is not a lot of money, it cost absolutely nothing to set that in motion. And, we received much more when we actually asked for donations. There is nothing more beautiful to a non-profit than seeing a random email from PayPal that says, “You’ve got a donation!”

This might sound like common sense, but be polite. Always send a thank you note for every donation, no matter how small. Research shows that people are much more likely to donate again when they are thanked!

Another no-brainer… Always put your website, blog, Facebook and Twitter addresses in the signature of your emails. You never know when someone might click on one of them just out of curiosity. It could result in a donation. Anything you have printed like business cards, letterhead and any print advertising should also contain your web address and Facebook page.

Through use of newsletters, postcards, ezines, blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook pages, Twitter sites and other social networking sites, think of how many people your business or non-profit can reach! If you post on an ezine, Facebook or Twitter and ask people to forward, share or retweet – the number of people you reach is astounding.

You haven’t spent a penny on advertising. Maybe you are paying someone to send the original message, but that is nothing compared to what bulk mailings, yellow pages, radio, t.v. or magazine ads cost. If your Facebook post is forwarded, it is probably done by someone who knows and trusts your brand. When you advertise in the newspaper, you don’t know who is reading it, unless it is geared toward a certain market.

Give it a try. Set up the PayPal account and add the “donate” button to your non-profit web page. It will probably take a total of about 10 minutes to do that. You will see an amazing return on that investment.