Why Social Media Is Crucial for Your Business in 2014

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() Social media networks were a novelty 5 years ago, but today their importance is no longer debated. Yes, businesses have definitely realized the power of social media and accepted that social media marketing has to be part of their marketing and PR mix.

In Social Media Examiner’s 2013 End of Year Report, marketers now place very high value on social media marketing:

  • 86% of marketers stated that social media is important for their business
  • 89% of marketers stated that increased exposure was the number one benefit of social media marketing

These are the definitive benefits of social media marketing that are listed:

  • Increased exposure
  • Increased traffic
  • Developed loyal fans
  • Generated leads
  • Improved search ranking
  • Grew business partnerships
  • Reduced marketing expenses
  • Improved sales
  • Provided marketplace insight

Social Media is the Game Changer

It’s obvious that social media will continue to have a significant impact in 2014 on marketers and business owners: They now have the ability to reach out and communicate on a personal level with their target audience on a daily basis. This is a game changer for businesses engaging in marketing, sales, customer service and other business activities. This is very powerful and has never been available with traditional marketing!

The success gap is widening between businesses that are using social media in an informal, ad hoc manner and those taking a more planned, strategic approach.

This has significant implications:

  • Businesses that use social media strategically are more satisfied with the results than ad hoc users, who are more skeptical about the value of social media.
  • Businesses that use social media as part of a planned corporate approach are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to anticipate revenue growth than ad hoc users.

Much has changed over the last year in social media, and it will continue to change in 2014.  Here are my Best Tips for Successful Social Media and Digital Marketing in 2014.

Some Powerful Stats and Information from 2013

  • Check out this infographic from Digital Insights on social media facts, figures and statistics from 2013:

  • Facebook is still the leading social media network and continues to grow. Here are the latest facts and figures:
    • Facebook now has 1.26 billion users
    • Facebook averages 1.23 billion monthly active users
    • There are 128 million daily active Facebook users in the US
    • Facebook averages 945 million monthly active mobile users
    • Facebook usage is highest in North America: Facebook has 59% of all Internet users in North America as active users. Google+ only achieves 15% and Twitter 25%.

  • Google+ is now the second largest social network at just over 50%with Facebook still dominating at 70%. Keep in mind that a Google+ account is mandatory whenever a person creates a new Gmail account. This is pushing up the account ownership stats. But no other social network has Google’s web assets leverage. Read more on how important Google+ is for Your Business and how it has a major impact on search engine results for your biz.
  • YouTube is more popular than cable television: YouTube reaches more adults than any cable network. In the United States, the number of people who watch television has fallen behind the number of people who watch YouTube on a regular basis. This makes it clear that televised content is undergoing a decline, online consumption of video is on the incline. Many companies have taken advantage of this by releasing their ads or marketing campaigns on YouTube first before they debut on TV.  Take many of the 2014 Super Bowl XLVIII ads (like Budweiser) that were released on YouTube before the big game and were rewarded with triple YouTube views.
  • LinkedIn is still the largest professional business network and continues to grow but not at the pace of Pinterest,Google+ or Twitter.  Here are some numbers from Visual.ly.
  • Pinterest is the fastest growing social network right now. The visual web is driving the rise of Pinterest and Tumblr with growth rates of 88% and 74% respectively over the last 12 months. Pinterest is also one of the leading referral sources for organic traffic, which is a good for high search rankings.
  • Some social media networks have a more active user-base than others. Statistical research has revealed that more than 95% of Facebook users log into their account every day. That number for Twitter is 60% and for LinkedIn is 30%.

What are 2 key factors driving the social web in 2013 and 2014?

According to the Global Web Index study it is:

  1. Mobile – the number of people accessing the Internet via a mobile phone increased by 60.3% to 818.4 million in the last 2 years.  In the USA, there are now 101 million daily mobile users. Facebook’s 101 million US daily mobile users make up a whopping 78% of its 128 million daily US users.
  2. Older user adoption – On Twitter the 55-64 year age bracket is the fastest growing demographic with 79% growth rate since 2012. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook’s and Google+’s networks are the 45 to 54 year age bracket at 46% and 56% respectively. So maybe that’s the reason your parents and grandparents aren’t visiting that much anymore — they are too busy on Facebook and Twitter!

The top challenges businesses have in using social media are:

  • Lack of time
  • Inability to measure value
  • Difficulty integrating social media with other business activities
  • Lack of budget

I absolutely agree with this, and hear it first hand from many of my clients. But these challenges can be overcome, if social media is planned and done strategically!

Social Media Channels – Which One to Choose??

Business owners should pay attention to which social platforms help them reach their goals with relevant audiences, whether that’s generating sales or greater visibility. Part of my job is helping business owners decide which networks are best for their business. Read my blog on “Which Social Media Channels Should I Use For My Business?

Here are the most popular ones:

And of course, blogging is key! Here are some tips to generating great online content to feed your social media networks!

Integrate! 

Social media is not an end unto itself. It MUST be integrated and work hand-in-hand with all your other marketing and PR initiatives which should be continued to reach all your marketing touch points and your ultimate success. These can include:

  • Email Marketing and growing your email list
  • Search engine optimization
  • Event marketing (speaking and networking)
  • Direct Mail
  • Online ads (Google Adwords)
  • Print display ads
  • Sponsorships
  • Mobile Marketing
  • Radio/TV Ads

Sharing is Caring! 

I know this sounds basic, but make sure your website, blog and email newsletter include social “share” buttons for people to easily share your content on ALL their social networks.

Add your social network links on your email signature.

Read my blog on Make Your Online Content Sharable! Best Plugins & Widgets (Free)

So, What Will Social Media Do For Your Business?

Making social media a priority for your business will allow your business to:

  • Be found!
  • Establish a stronger brand
  • Boost sales
  • Share expertise and knowledge
  • Tap into the wisdom of customers
  • Interact and receive valuable customer feedback
  • Free advertising: satisfied customers talk about your company, this is the strongest word-of-mouth-marketing
  • Build a community

Social media definitely needs to be part of your marketing mix in 2014!

10 Tips for Creating Content on Facebook That Gets You Thumbs Up!

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(Megan Marrs) With the recent release of our brand new infographic documenting Facebook’s failures, I thought I’d write about how you can make sure that you yourself don’t have any Facebook face-plants. Here are 10 tips for creating awesome Facebook content that will keep visitors interested and engaged.

  1. Post Content that Interests Your Customers

The key to developing a winning fan page that builds fans and pushes your business forward is to post content that genuinely interests your customers or clients. Don’t focus solely on you or your business. By providing valuable information to the reader you will build a stronger relationship with current and prospective customers.

Red Bull on Facebook

Red Bull knows that their energy drink customers are likely to be interested in extreme activities, so they post videos they know customers will enjoy, even if it doesn’t relate to Red Bull directly.

  1. Post a Variety of Content

Let’s imagine you own a pet grooming business. On your fan page, you’ll want to share a variety of content like:

  • Blog Posts – what’s new and happening at your business? Did Spot the puppy turn 1 this week?
  • Photos – in addition to photos of your store, take snap shots of workers and customers. Upload social media images and pics from events you’ve attended or hosted, like your canine Best in Show event.
  • Press Releases – let customers know about the updates and improvements you’ve made
  • Videos – do I need to even tell you how many adorable kitten videos are on the web?
  1. End Every Post With a Question

I hate to sound like a scrooge, but the truth is that people are pretty self-absorbed. Fan page visitors are much more likely to pay attention and respond to your posts if you address them personally and encourage them to get involved.

Pairing your posts with questions is a great way to accomplish this. You’ll get more engagement and better response if you post a link with a question or call to action, rather than just posting a link solo. Invite conversation whenever possible, with each post you do.

Ben & Jerry on Facebook

Ben & Jerry know how to get their customers chatting.

To go along with our pet grooming example, you might post a link to an article with “Five Tips for Cutting Your Dog’s Nails at Home” (trust me, this is not easy). Include a question with the link, such as “Do you have any special tricks for keeping your dog relaxed?”

  1. Don’t Post Too Frequently

According to a research study by the University of Colorado Denver Business School, the No.1 reason people dump Facebook friends is that they get annoyed being continuously bombarded with useless posts (if you are looking to lower your friend count, just download a couple of Zynga games and you’ll be golden).

Plastering a fan’s news feed won’t make them like you any more.  Make each post count!

  1. Allow Fans to Write on Your Wall

This might go without saying, but you really need to enable visitors to write on your wall. Disabling this feature means you might as well not have a fan page at all, since the whole point of being on Facebook is to get into dialogue with customers.

  1. Don’t Share Twitter Posts on Your Facebook Page

You’re talking to different audiences with different needs and expectations. It’s fine to have an announcement you want to share across Facebook and Twitter, but re-write it accordingly. And definitely remove the #&@s or people might think you’re saying some not-so-nice things.

  1. Use Contests, But Use Them in Moderation

Of course we can’t forget about contests, the bread and butter of fan pages. Contests are great, but they should be a fun and exciting event, not the norm.

Pumpkin coffee and apple cider are awesome reminders of fall because you can’t get them just any day of the year. Similarly, you shouldn’t be hosting contests so often that they lose their edge.

  1. Get Creative With the Contests

Try an essay, photo, or video contest to get a higher level of engagement with fans. It’s great to incorporate seasonal events, like a “Best Pumpkin Carving” or “Cutest Pet Costume” contest for Halloween. The Wildfire web application is a great tool for making interactive content like contests, quizzes, and surveys.

Boo the adorable pumpkin-dog!

Boo the adorable dog would win any contest. Because he is just too adorable.

If you run a social media photo contest, tag your customers so that the post appears on their wall too. That way you’re furthering your sphere of influence by reaching out to friends of your fans.

  1. Try Selecting a Monthly Topic

One idea in attempts to keep fans engaged is to select a different topic for each month. Talk about and post links to sites that cover that topic.

Having a different topic you address each month demonstrates that you have a continuous online presence, making you appear much more interesting (even if deep down you are incredibly dull). Which brings us to our final tip…

  1. Be Interesting!

After I got a PS3, I decided to follow the @AskPlaystation feed, which provides fascinating insight into topics such as how to clean your PS3 and ways to keep it ventilated. OK, to be fair, it is a customer support feed. But boy-howdy is it boring.

Ask PS3

Fascinating stuff.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wants to look at a boring Facebook page. There are some environments where an air of professionalism is necessary, but that attitude will only come off as dull on Facebook.

Hopefully these tips got you thinking about ways to generate interesting and engaging content with your Facebook fans! Spread the love.

What are your tips and tricks for creating great content on Facebook?

5 Benefits of Social Media Business Owners Need to Understand

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() While the importance of social media marketing is generally accepted, the fact that people don’t question its value is all the more reason to think about exactly what its value is. The goals of social media marketing can’t be just to gain likes, fans, and retweets. These things are not ends, but means to an end. Social media marketing is far more than an online popularity contest, and the better business owners understand that, the better they can use it for their companies. Here are five benefits to social media that business owners need to understand.

1. Increase brand awareness
One of the main benefits of social media marketing is the easiest to recognize: Social media is an excellent way to introduce people to a brand. Despite the Field of Dreams notion some business owners have that “if you build it, they will come,” if people are unaware of a business or a website’s existence, they can’t shop there (Kevin Costner was dealing with ghosts, who have a lot of free time to meander around cornfields). Because social networks are used by more than two-thirds of the country, and given the way content spreads virally to others, social media is the perfect channel to promote a brand to potential customers. Relevanza reported that 78 percent of small businesses attract new customers through social media.

Research shows just how valuable this brand awareness can be. According to Adroit Digital, 75 percent of online Americans said product information found on social media influences their shopping behavior and enhances brand loyalty. They also report that social media is the second most likely way U.S. Millennials will learn about a new product (26 percent of respondents), just 3 percentage points behind TV advertising (29 percent). In the future, social media may be even more important than TV ads for introducing new products to consumers. Similarly, research from eMarketer has shown that 33 percent of consumers cite social networks as the way they discover new brands, products, and services.

2. Legitimize a brand
Another way social media marketing helps with customer acquisition is by establishing a brand as legitimate. When Internet consumers discover a business or retailer they want to use but know little about, they often check their social media page to learn more about it. Many small businesses have static websites that change little, if at all, after being initially set up by the designer. Social media pages, on the other hand, should be constantly updated with new posts, comments, etc. A website establishes that a brand exists, but a social media page establishes that the brand is active. Similarly, the number of fans shows how popular a brand is and Facebook reviews can reassure buyers by showing them that other consumers like a business. Research from Ballihoo found that 63 percent of consumers who search for local businesses online are more likely to use businesses with information on social media sites.

It’s worth noting that poor social media marketing can also delegitimize a brand. If a new customer goes to a business’s social media page and finds that a post hasn’t been made in a few months, that customer may assume the business is defunct. If customers are asking for help in the comments and they’re being ignored, they may assume the company has poor customer service.

3. Increase sales
In the end, social media marketing needs to help increase sales and revenue. That’s why it’s called social media marketing and not simply social media public relations. To be fair, improving brand awareness and legitimizing a brand should, by themselves, help increase sales. But there are ways to use social media to directly steer consumers toward the sales funnel. For fans of the business, business owners can write posts that link to products, sales, etc. Marketers can also use promoted content and advertisements to sell products to target audiences who haven’t become fans of a brand yet. The ability to target particular audiences is one of the greatest benefits of social media marketing. Social networks know a lot about consumer interests and demographics, so even though there are hundreds of millions of fans, marketers can accurately target the right people with the right message.

There are also a lot of ways that retailers can sell products directly from social networks. On Facebook, business owners can set up a Facebook store with apps like Ecwid or Beetailer. On Twitter, retailers with Amazon.com pages can allow Twitter users to add products to their Amazon checkout straight from their Twitter feed. There are also ways to sell products on Pinterest, YouTube, and other social networks.

4. Improve customer service
Another benefit of social media that’s easy to overlook is customer service. Even if a business has a dedicated customer service department, telephone number, or email, it’s important to handle issues via the method of communication the consumer prefers. The fact that people use social media to ask customer service questions is reason enough for businesses to ensure their ability to help customers through social media. This also goes back to establishing a brand. One of the key concerns of consumers when they shop online is the responsiveness of customer service. People want to be assured that if they have a problem, they can easily find help. By being receptive to customer needs, business owners can increase customer loyalty to a brand.

5. Distribute content
Social media should be a part of any content marketing distribution system. Social media accounts for a huge portion of referral traffic on the web. People are looking for content that interests them and they want to share it online. A joint study by AOL and Nielsen found that people spend more than 50 percent of their time online with content and an additional 30 percent of their time on social channels where content can be shared. Business owners who want to gain customers through content marketing need to use social media and promoted content to make that happen.

All of these points and data show that social media marketing is a huge benefit for business owners, and exactly what the benefits are. Besides increasing brand awareness and establishing the legitimacy of the brand, social media marketing can affect the bottom line of a business by increasing sales. Learning about the importance of social media for marketing should also underscore why these efforts need to be continuous and the harm it does when social media marketing isn’t up to consumer expectations. Long story short, social media marketing is something that every business needs to do and needs to do well.