iMarket Solutions Blog : Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Facebook Reveals New Changes

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

If you have been on Facebook in the past few days, you might have noticed some significant changes. In order to compete with the new Google+, Facebook has changed its friend lists to allow more privacy, added a subscribe button, and added a real time feed with the latest updates. But this is only the beginning of  the alternations that Facebook has planned. At the F8, its annual conference, Facebook announced that it would be releasing a major overhaul of user profiles, as well as new apps for music, video, and social news.  An example of a feature is timeline, which will display all of your important events of your life (that you shared on Facebook) on a single page.

To learn more about all of the changes that Facebook is planning on roll out, check out this video on Mashable.com: http://mashable.com/2011/09/22/facebook-f8-live-video/#26983Timeline-Mobile

Continue Reading

Twitter Analytics

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011

Twitter is one of the main social media tools, businesses as well as people are able to share their 140-character tweets to connect with their customers and talk about special deals. But does Twitter actually drive traffic to your website? Or are you only getting to your customers thru Twitter itself? To answer this frequently posed question, Twitter recently announced that it is releasing a web analytics tool to show businesses not only how much their content is being shared on Twitter, but also the amount of traffic that is being driven from Twitter to their main website. While only in beta right now, Twitter plans to roll out the full verison to everyone in a few weeks.

To learn more, check out this article on Mashable.com:  http://mashable.com/2011/09/13/twitter-web-analtyics/

Continue Reading

Easy Ways To Get More Twitter Followers

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Twitter is an excellent way to keep in touch with people and companies in which you have an interest. It is also a great way to promote your own company. Twitter, like all other social media, is a way to connect to your customers and build their loyalty. It lets them get to know you on a more personal level and interact with you more often. This helps create not only loyalty but also top of the mind awareness, so you are the first one they call when they have a problem you can fix.

It takes a little time to learn how to use Twitter, but it is very easy once you get the hang of it. The hardest part is getting started. Here are a few ways to start building your Twitter Following:

  1. Follow other people: an easy way to get more followers is to start following other people and companies. Focus on local companies and organizations. Try to reply to things they post and some of them will begin to follow you.
  2. Tweet about local events: they are more likely to get “retweeted” and thus bring more people to your Twitter profile.
  3. Make it easy for people to follow you: put a link to your Twitter page in a newsletter or email signature.
  4. Tell your customers about it! Offer exclusive deals or contests for your Twitter followers.
  5. Retweet (forwarding another user’s Tweet to all of your followers) things you think are interesting:
    • Find a Tweet you think is interesting
    • Click the arrow in the top right corner of the post
    • Choose the “Retweet” option

If you have done any of these five things you will have increased your number of Twitter followers and hopefully learned a bit about how to use Twitter for business. If you need help with the basics on how to use Twitter, check out their Twitter 101 Guide.

Continue Reading

Five Easy Ways To Get More Facebook Fans

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Facebook is a great way to interact with your customers and help build their loyalty. But if you are new to Facebook, how to use your company page effectively might seems a little confusing. The most important thing you need to know about Facebook is that it is a way for your customers to connect with you and get to know your company better. It is also great way to get involved in your local community. And if you have customers who are already fans of your company in real life, it isn’t too difficult to translate them into facebook fans. Here are five easy ways you can get more fans on Facebook:

1. Invite people to like your page

  • Go to the Get Started option on the left sidebar
  • Import your contacts (Outlook, Constant Contact, .csv file, etc)

2. Get your company involved. Ask your employees to “like” your page and ask them to tell their friends
3. Make it easy for your customers to “like” your page; tell them about it, include a link or call to action in your newsletter, on your business cards,  or in an email signature
4. Offer special Facebook deals, contests, or promotions that are only available to people who “like” your page
5. Create good Facebook content that appeals to your local audience:

  • Talk about local community events (local kid wins spelling bee, ABC HVAC is sponsoring the Toys for Tots program, etc.)
  • Ask questions
  • Give trivia or helpful hints
  • Tell jokes
  • Respond personally to whatever your fans post

Doing any of these things will increase your popularity on Facebook, and the longer you have a Facebook page the more “likes” you will get.  Good luck!

Continue Reading

Bing, Facebook, and Google +1: Who’s Going to Dominate Social Search, and What It All Might Mean for HVAC, Plumbing, and Electrical Service Businesses

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

As we discussed in some previous blog posts, Bing is making a bid to challenge Google’s dominance in the search world. We’ve already looked at Bing’s deal with Blackberry, which may give Bing a lot more traction in the mobile search market. Now we’re going to look at Bing’s deal with Facebook, which adds an exciting “social” aspect to Bing’s search results – and Google’s attempt to strike back.

Here’s how it works. Bing search results will now include “Likes” from Facebook. If you’re logged into Facebook when you make a search – say, to find a local plumber – you’ll get a list of plumbers’ websites, and if any of your Facebook Friends have “Liked” any of the websites in the list, you’ll see a little thumbs-up “Like” icon and the name of your friend(s) who “Like” the site.

Of course, when your Facebook Friends make searches in Bing, they in turn will be able to see which websites you have “Liked”. To make it as easy as possible for everyone to contribute their opinion, There’s even a Bing toolbar that lets you “Like” a website right from your browser controls – you don’t have to hunt on the website for the little “Like” icon.

It’s certainly handy to be able to see at a glance if one or more of your Friends “Likes” a website – especially when you’re trying to evaluate something you don’t know much about. Many people rely primarily on word-of-mouth to choose heating, plumbing, and electrical contractors, and “we think consumers searching for service businesses will quickly come to use “Likes” to choose one contractor over another.

But the Bing/Facebook integration goes deeper than that. Bing will actually use your Friends’ “Likes” to help calculate the search engine results it presents to you – that is, the sites that your Friends “Like” will get a higher spot in the listings. And because each person has a different group of Facebook Friends with different “Likes”, Bing will present a different set of search results to each person – a truly personalized search.

For businesses, this means that it will be increasingly important to encourage happy customers to register their satisfaction online. There are some great ways to do this, and we’ll revisit this topic again in future blog posts.

Continue Reading

How to Encourage People to Connect to You on Social Media – a.k.a. Let Me Bribe You to Become My Friend

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Some people, especially satisfied and loyal customers, will become your Facebook Fans simply because you ask them to. But many people are starting to become a little jaded and wary when it comes to online contacts. They have suffered too many spam attacks and received too many urgent fundraising emails, and they want to be sure that it’s worth their while before they give away their online contact information.

A recent Dilbert cartoon showed Dilbert bribing a woman in his office to become his Facebook Friend, making her a “Frienditute”. As long as you do good work and treat your customers well, Frienditution won’t be necessary, but when you ask people to become your Fan or Follower, you will probably need to follow it up with a value proposition of some kind. This basic proposition should be part of your “please become our Fan on Facebook” speech that you’ve trained all your employees to give.

Your Facebook/Twitter value proposition can be simple and doesn’t have to cost more than your usual advertising:

  • You’ll offer tips to help people save money and avoid expensive repairs (this only costs the time it takes to write and post the tips on Facebook or Twitter)
  • You’ll offer Facebook- or Twitter-only specials (you probably offer specials periodically anyway – this is just a different place to publish them)

If you’re finding that your basic value proposition isn’t sufficient to overcome people’s reserve, you can offer people specific rewards for signing up, such as:

  • A coupon that they’ll get immediately when they “Like” your Facebook page or sign up to follow you on Twitter. The better this coupon is, the more Fans/Followers you’re likely to get.
  • A year’s membership in your service plan. (This will not only be a great enticement to “Like” your Facebook page; it will also build repeat business by showing customers the value of your plan.)

Of course, whenever you offer coupons or specials, especially big-ticket ones, you want to offer them for a product or service you want to get people excited about/hooked on anyway.

You can also offer people something that has absolutely nothing to do with HVAC, plumbing, or electrical services. This will be appealing to the many people who hire you because they are not actually interested in the mechanical aspects of their homes – and who may not get that excited about coupons for services.

For example:

  • You can team up with another local business to offer coupons or gift cards. (A great choice is to work with a business that sells products that appeal to women, since women are often the decision-makers when it comes to services for the home. What woman will be able to resist a coupon to a local spa?)
  • You can enter your new Facebook Fans/Twitter Followers into a drawing for something really exciting. For example, one of our clients has a drawing every month to give major league baseball tickets to one of their new Facebook Fans. This is a great choice, even for female customers – a lot of women are sports fans, and those who are not will feel like heroes when they present the tickets to friends or family members.

One caution: you should only offer major coupons or other big-ticket items as incentives if you have a well-developed plan for your Facebook Page – that is, only if you already have an outside provider or have designated someone on your staff to be responsible for updating your Page regularly. Otherwise, you may be wasting your marketing dollars developing a channel you won’t use.

But here’s a Facebook/Twitter development strategy that is always worthwhile, even if you never use Facebook or Twitter again: connect your social media efforts to local charities. For example, a local bank in our area is donating $5 to the local animal shelter for every person who becomes a Fan of their Facebook Page. Another organization in our community is giving a pair of warm winter gloves filled with candy to needy kids for every new Fan. Both campaigns got free front-page mention in our city’s newspaper, including the actual URLs where people could go to sign up.

This is a win on so many levels!

  • You help a charity you care about
  • You build up a Fan and Follower base
  • You’ll attract people who may not know much about you but who care about the charity – and then you’ll be able to use your social media posts to win them over as customers
  • You’ll enhance your reputation in the community
  • You may get free publicity in your local paper (especially if you send out a press release)
  • You’ll get great word-of-mouth publicity – all the people who work for/care about the charity in question will talk it up to their friends and neighbors
  • You’ll do all this for the cost of a donation that you would probably have made anyway

We can’t recommend this strategy enough. Be creative, have fun, and do some good this holiday season!

Continue Reading

How do I get Friends, Fans, and Followers?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

It’s simple. Ask.

And, keep in mind the old German saying: Fragen kostet nichts. It doesn’t cost anything to ask. It doesn’t cost anything to ask people to be your Facebook Fans. Or at least, it doesn’t have to cost very much.

Now, of course, because you’re a business, you’re not looking for Facebook Friends – those are for your personal profile. What you’re after is Fans (people who “Like” your Facebook Page) and, if you have a Twitter account, Followers for it.

There are all kinds of elaborate, even high-tech, strategies for increasing your Fans and Followers. We’ll talk about them next week, and you can implement some of them if you want. But start with the low-hanging fruit: use your existing channels of communication.

There are lots of ways your business already communicates with customers and prospects, such as:

  • Your company website
  • Yellow Pages advertising
  • Other print advertising (newspapers, etc)
  • Broadcast media (TV, radio)
  • Print or email newsletters
  • Sales brochures and business cards
  • Bills/invoices
  • Door hangers
  • Refrigerator magnets
  • The sides of your company trucks
  • Your dispatchers and techs, who talk to your customers every day…

You get the idea.

Use all these communication channels to let people know that your business is on Facebook and/or Twitter, and then simply ask people to connect with you.

Here’s how:

  • Add Facebook and/or Twitter icons to your email newsletters and to every page of your website, and ask your customers to become your Fans and Followers. Customers who are already online only need to click a few times to seal the deal. This is the most opportune time to make the request, because you’re asking them to do something easy. (Want some suggestions for how to do this? See the bottom right of our homepage, or scroll down to the bottom of this post. You can download Facebook and Twitter icons from the Help section of each website. Note that when you use the icons, you may not change the way they look.)
  • Get your own “vanity URL” for your Facebook Page (a personalized web address that contains the name of your business, i.e. http://www.facebook.com/cocacola). Then, publish your Facebook address everywhere you publish your company name – in all of the media listed above. Let people know that you’re out there on Facebook. When the moment is right, be more explicit about what you want – specifically ask people to visit your Facebook page and “Like” it.
  • A great moment for asking customers to connect to your Facebook page is right after they’ve indicated to you that they are happy with the work you’ve done. Say, “We’re glad you’re satisfied! The best way to thank us is to go online and become a Fan of our Facebook Page and tell your Friends about us.”

All these methods are easy and cheap. You make a simple addition to your website; when you use up your current supply of sales materials and invoice forms, you add your Facebook and Twitter information to them for the next print run; when you record your next TV or radio ad, you include your social media contact information in the script. Probably the most expensive change will be to paint your Facebook URL on the side of your trucks.

And of course your conversations with your customers are absolutely free – and those are by far the most effective way to increase your Friends, Fans, and Followers. So if you do nothing else, make sure you teach all your employees how to give your “please become a Fan of our Facebook page” spiel.

Of course, as the parent of any small child knows, sometimes asking is more effective when followed by an incentive. Next week we’ll talk about how to use incentives to increase your Friends, Fans, and Followers.



Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading