iMarket Solutions Blog : Archive for November, 2010

Even Though We’re Not Fans Anymore, We Still “Like” Facebook a Lot

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Facebook is a terrific way to connect to the demographics service businesses love to reach: educated women between the ages of 25 and 54 with a household income of over $50,000. There are over 45 million Facebook users who fit this demographic, and we’re willing to bet a bunch of them live in the geographic area your business serves.

While the value of Facebook for marketing service businesses is obvious, how to use it is much less clear. In large part, this is Facebook’s own fault, because they seem to have gone out of their way to structure and name their online tools as confusingly as possible.

It’s no wonder so many businesspeople are unsure about how to use Facebook as a marketing tool.

Fortunately, once you get the hang of it, it’s not that bad.

This post will review the way Facebook works and explain the terminology so that you can learn how to participate successfully in this fantastic marketing medium.

The basic idea of Facebook is simple: You join Facebook and create a personal Profile. Then, by sending and responding to “Friend Requests” to and from other real-life friends who have also joined Facebook, you build up a list of Friends. Whenever one of your Friends posts something about what they’re doing, they do so by writing on their own “Wall”. The posting appears in your “News Feed” (which lists all your Friends’ postings, in chronological order). You then have the opportunity to read the postings, comment on them, and/or “Like” them – which means clicking on a little “Like” link to show your appreciation or support. Likewise, whatever you post to your Facebook Wall appears in your Friends’ News Feeds.  If you want more private communication, you can contact a Friend via a personal message or instant messaging chat. These things do not appear on your public Wall or News Feed.

These days, it’s not just individuals who are using Facebook – as with any successful innovation on the web, businesses and activist groups want in on all the amazing networking potential Facebook offers. The principle of the business and group pages is nearly the same as the individual Profiles, but with a few significant differences. The most important is the way the Wall works. Like individual Profiles, business and group Facebook pages have Walls, but the Walls on these pages are only outgoing, not incoming. Something that is posted on the Wall of a group or business page can appear on personal News Feeds, but the things individuals post on their own Walls don’t appear on the business or group Wall. The only way to post on a business or group Wall is actually to go there and type something in.

This seems quite simple, but Facebook has complicated things as much as possible by making the page functionality for groups and businesses quite similar, but with a few small but significant differences between the two.

Facebook “Pages” are for businesses, organizations, brands, celebrities, and products that have an independent existence outside Facebook, and their purpose is to broadcast information to people who are interested in the business/organization/brand/celebrity/product in question. Pages are often created by marketing departments, whose goal is to get as many people as possible to become a “Fan” of the Page (which has evolved into getting people to “Like” the page – see below). Sometimes, though, Pages are truly initiated by fans. A good example of a fan-initiated Page would be the Coca Cola Page, which was created by two regular guys who just really like to drink Coke. (So the company claims, anyway – but considering that Coca-Cola has one of the most slick and extensive brand recognition campaigns in the world, one does wonder about the alleged “grassroots” nature of the Page).

Facebook “Groups”, on the other hand, are online entities initiated by individual Facebook users who care about an activity, identity, cause, etc and want to connect with other Facebook users who share their interest. Groups can be either private or public, and people join them with the goal of interacting online with other Group members – socially or even collaboratively. Good examples would be a college alumni group or an online strategy discussion group for local activists. One of our friends even set up a group so that she could update her far-away friends on the progress of her daughter’s recovery from surgery (fortunately, rapid and full).

Functionally, Groups and Pages are almost identical in the way they function, but there are a few differences. Here’s a summary:

  • Pages and Groups have different privacy settings. Pages are visible to anyone who is logged into Facebook, and no invitation is necessary to join. Pages are even listed in Google search results (though in some cases, you have to log into Facebook to actually see the Page). In contrast, Groups never appear in Google results, and only certain Groups appear in internal Facebook search results: “open” Groups, which anyone can join, and “closed” Groups, which require members to apply and be approved before they can join. There are also “secret” Groups, which are by invitation only and do not appear in Facebook search results.
  • Groups give administrators the ability to send direct messages to the Facebook Inboxes of their members.
  • Profiles and Groups have a limit of 5,000 Friends/members, but there is no limit to the number of people who can connect to a Page. This makes Pages a potent marketing tool.
  • Pages have a variety of applications and widgets designed to help marketers, including promotional widgets for websites and “engagement metrics” to keep track of how many people visit a Page and what they do there.
  • Pages are eligible for “vanity URLs”. These are personalized web addresses that contain the name of the business/organization/brand/celebrity/product that the page is about, such as http://www.facebook.com/cocacola. This is a great help with branding and search performance.

At first, people (professional marketers included) weren’t sure if they should set up Pages or Groups, because the two were so similar. The attractive messaging features of Groups particularly clouded the issue. Over time, though, it became obvious that Pages are better marketing tools. They’re visible to everyone, including Google, there is no limit on the number of ”Fans”/”Likes”, they offer performance analytics, and the vanity URLs preserve branding. And although Groups do offer free messaging functionality, the 5,000-member limit makes this irrelevant for most marketing campaigns.

Then, just as people were starting to figure all these differences out, Facebook confused everything still further by changing the terminology around. Facebook originally called Pages “Fan Pages”. The people who joined a Fan Page were (reasonably) called “Fans”. But then Facebook decided that people (who, we’re not sure, because polls show that the majority of users prefer the old terminology) didn’t want to make the emotional commitment required to become a “Fan” of something. Instead, they just wanted to “Like” whatever it was, just like they could “Like” people’s Wall postings. So now, Fan Pages are simply called Pages, and the people do not become Fans of a Page to join it, they “Like” it. Which makes them…“Likers”? (Don’t get us started on this.)

But, despite the confusing terminology, the same basic Facebook principle applies to Facebook Pages. The people who Like a Page (and web marketers still call them “Fans”, even though Facebook doesn’t use the term anymore) have essentially the same relationship to the business as Friends do to a Profile.

The take-home message: if you want to market your business on Facebook, you need Fans for your Facebook Page, or all your marketing messages will vanish, unread, into cyberspace.

Next week, we’ll talk about the best ways to get Fans for your Facebook Page.

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How to Incorporate Social Media into Your Selling Strategy

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The only difference between Facebook and your local Chamber of Commerce gathering is that Facebook happens 24/7 and has a much broader reach. (And you can network on Facebook in your pajamas if you want.)

It’s very useful to keep this analogy in mind as you decide how you’re going to use social media as a sales tool.

When you go to a local Chamber of Commerce gathering, do you walk in and start blasting your sales pitch in the face of the first person you see? Of course not. You mix and mingle and expand your business network. You show, rather than tell, people that you are competent and trustworthy and community-minded.

This is exactly how you should use social media for your business.

Your goal on Facebook (and Twitter) should be the same as your goal when you walk into a Chamber gathering: to expand your network and win the trust of the people in it.

The #1 rule: Your Facebook and Twitter posts should not be sales pitches. Your role on Facebook and Twitter is to provide people with useful, meaningful, unobtrusive information that shows that you are invested in your community and care about the people in it. Whatever you post on social media should help someone else besides you.

Of course, you do ultimately want to reap some benefit too – but the benefit is that you build a reputation as a trustworthy local businessperson with local ties, who isn’t fly-by-night, and who isn’t going to screw people because you value your reputation for integrity.

So what do you post on social media to establish your reputation in the online community?

  • Mostly, you should think of your Facebook and Twitter accounts as additional outlets for your blog content. (Because, of course, your blog is chock-full of useful, meaningful information, right? If your blog is just a bunch of bald-faced sales copy, it’s time for an immediate course correction!) There are even software programs that will automatically “push” your blog posts to your Facebook and Twitter pages without your ever having to think about it – ask your web team to set these up for you.
  • Building on this foundation, you should add a few unique posts that are not on your blog. Scared that your posts won’t be “cool” enough for social media? Don’t be. Social media is full of ordinary people who talk about their children, their pets, their health, what they’re cooking for dinner or watching on TV. All you need to do is come up with 140 characters that will be of interest or value to other people just like you.
  • Start with useful information – something you’d tell a neighbor just to be neighborly. Like, “It’s going to freeze tonight, so don’t forget to empty and turn off your outside faucets!” Is it thrilling? No – but how much are people going to love you after you save them an expensive plumbing bill?!
  • You can spice up your social media posts with trivia that is related to your business, like (on the first really nice day of the summer) “Did you know that you can save $80 a year by hanging your clothes outside in the sun?”
  • And, our favorite: you should post often about your community and charity work. This is a win-win: it gives valuable publicity to worthy causes, and it makes your business look like a real team player.

Of course, the best social media content in the world will only help your business if people are reading it…so next week we’ll give you some useful strategies for increasing your “Three Fs”: Friends, Fans, and Followers.

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iMarket Experts Teach Intensive Web Design and Online Marketing Seminars at the 2010 Meeting of Quality Service Contractors (QSC)

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

iMarket was the lead presenter at the CONNECT 2010 meeting of QSC (Quality Service Contractors) in Las Vegas on October 27-30.

A self-supporting business unit of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association, QSC offers high-level training programs by expert consultants to help its members run their businesses more profitably and provide a superior level of service to their customers.

The meeting was attended by 87 plumbing companies from all over the US.

iMarket’s seminars for QSC members covered all the “Power Tools for Internet Marketing”, including:

  • Website design and programming
  • Online lead generation
  • Website and online advertising metrics
  • Search engine optimization
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Social media and content strategy

The goal of the seminar series was to enable contractors to understand how to create an effective online marketing strategy for their business, and hire the right people to develop and implement it.

The seminars were very well attended by CONNECT 2010 attendees. We received a lot of positive feedback, including this comment sent to iMarket President Nadia Romeo:

“Nadia, I wanted to let you know that you and your company did an outstanding job on the website presentation last week in Vegas.  I picked up several pieces of great information that will help separate my company website from many others in the industry.  The internet is constantly changing and very difficult to keep up with.  You guys are on top of your game. I felt the knowledge behind iMarket Solutions was amazing! Thanks, Rob Basnett, Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC”.

iMarket offered the following seminars over the course of the weekend:

  • Building a Web Site – Web Design and Programming Do’s and Don’ts. Business owners inevitably have many questions when they launch a website. This seminar answered many of them, including: What are the best practices for building a website? What tools do I need to have an effective web presence? How do I tell the good web designers from the bad?
  • Branding & Lead Generation – Integration of the Internet into Lead Generation and Tracking Using Google Analytics. In this seminar iMarket experts explained how best to track customer acquisition channels and the costs associated with those channels. We also showed how to evaluate “return on investment” to determine which channels are the most profitable. In particular, we explored the valuable online metrics offered by Google Analytics.
  • Search Engine Optimization – The Basics and Pay-Per-Click Marketing and Google Analytics. In order for a website to be an effective marketing tool, it has to “speak” to the search engines—the online tools that help customers find your company. This seminar showed how to make sure that Google and the other search engines see and understand the value of your website so that your website gets strong placement in online search results. We also explained how to use online paid advertising to supplement free search engine results.
  • Social Media and Content Strategy. This session explored social media and content strategies that service companies can put into practice easily without expert help, plus some advanced strategies that are worth hiring outside experts to implement.

Click on the links above to view each presentation, or go to the full list of iMarket presentations.

Contact us if you’re interested in having iMarket present similar seminars in your area!

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