Facebook is Giving Google+ The Opening it Needs

I have always been a huge proponent of Facebook. Unlike a lot of Social Media folks I have actually accrued quite a bit of business on the platform for both my companies and my clients. Of course I was as enamored with Google+ as anyone when it came out, but I soon realized that without the mass of users that Facebook owned already, G+ would have a tough time becoming meaningful to my clients for marketing purposes. Although I love it’s clean layout and lack of clutter, Google+ became useless to me for social reasons too – most of my friends weren’t on it.

I wrote a series of posts and blogs advising my clients not to spend much time on G+. Until now.

Facebook’s recent decision to allow ‘Promoted Posts’ changes everything, and Facebook may doing what Google couldn’t: giving people a real reason to spend more time on G+.

Facebook’s official reason for Promoted Posts is as follows:

When you promote a post, it will be shown in the News Feeds of more of the people who like your page than it would reach normally. Friends of the people who have interacted with your post will also be more likely to see the story in their News Feeds for up to 3 days from when the post was first created.

Here’s what we’re actually experiencing:

1. In the MIDDLE of my stream, right beneath a dear friend’s post, I get this:

Facebook Promoted Post

I don’t know what in the hell makes Facebook think that I want to be solicited by some hot young chick in the midst of admiring a newborn’s picture, but they need to think HARD about that.

2. On the SIDE of my stream, flashing like its life depends upon me clicking NOW.

Promoted Post Sides Screen

I keep finding these flashing, neon ads all over Facebook now, and they actually hurt to look at. I’ve begun daydreaming about the cleanliness of G+’s white background.

3. Right smack dab on one of my Business Pages.

Facebook Promoted Post - Business Page

This one galls me the most: Facebook has clear, specific rules about what I am and am not allowed to do on my own Business Page regarding selling or promoting my business, but they’re going to make money off of someone else selling a totally unrelated and possibly offensive product there. How on earth am I to swallow THAT logic?

I have listened for years as people b*tch and moan about every Facebook change but I always shrugged it off. I knew that in general Facebook knew what they were doing. Only last month my admiration grew when Facebook allowed GM to walk away with $10,000,000 in advertising because they wanted Facebook to break their own ad guidelines. But this move? This is driving hard core Facebookers to reconsider G+.

And don’t tell me that it’s about money. I know that since they’ve gone public the pressure for earnings is on, but losing focus on what made Facebook great will get them no where but in the graveyard of Social Media, right next to My Space.

People adored Facebook because it gave voice to little people and little businesses. It allowed us, every man, to have a voice that Big Brands couldn’t just drown out. It was a place to interact with our friends and colleagues in a casual space, safe from the relentless drum beat of in your face advertising. That has all changed overnight. Add to that how slow Facebook’s servers are to keep up with all of these new posts and you have a lot of very frustrated users.

I have no crystal ball. Perhaps most of the nearly 1 billion users will get used to this and stay on Facebook because it’s become Too Big to Fail. As for me, I’m headed over to Google+ to find respite from the flashing neon and hot young chicks, so I can just connect with people the way I used to on Facebook.

Is Your Strategy More Accurately Called “Beg Marketing”?

I read a great post by Jeff Esposito about his adventures in shopping for his new home. He found that lots of retailers requested that you follow them on Social Media. He wasn’t surprised that when he did, he found the same old “push marketing” and one way conversations. It is the classic case of using a Traditional Beg MarketingMarketing approach with New Media tools: it never works.

In the comment section of this post, @annedreshfield described this approach being taken to an extreme degree when a restaurant she checked into on Foursquare hounded her on Twitter for a recommendation.

Sadly, this form of “Beg Marketing” takes place everyday all over Social Media. I see people begging their Followers to share their page and tweeting constant “deals” that ‘if you follow me I’ll follow you back.’

Like I’ve stated 475 million times, Common Sense should be your guideline in Sales and Marketing online. It’s just like dating: Desperation is totally unattractive, always.

Give your followers a reason to share your page or Retweet you. Create a contest where you gain additional entries by sharing a page. Offer excellent, informative content so that people WANT to Like or Follow You. I know, it sounds like a lot of hard work, and it is. And it should be. Think about the Brands you admire; didn’t they work hard to earn your respect and admiration?

Essential Social Media Housekeeping

This morning I finally spoke live to my Social Media buddy and Snarkster Extraordinaire, Sam Fiorella because I may need his services for a client of mine. When we hung up it dawned on me that we weren’t connected to each other on LinkedIn. I then got an invite from another Social Media pal (Daniel Newman) and by connecting with him I realized I wasn’t LinkedIn to one of my favorite chums, Margie Clayman.

How on earth did this happen? Because I became lazy about my Social Media Housekeeping.

This is nothing short of scandalous considering that I spend my days advising my clients on how to build and maintain their own marketing presence. So I created a checklist that I will make sure I review every month or so, or at least as often as I change the batteries in my smoke detector. Here it is:

1. LinkedIn Review: Am I connected to my new clients and latest Social Media friends? Do I have any recent recommendations? Have I asked for an Introduction to a target client from a connection? Have I updated my profile in the last 6 months?
2. Twitter: Have I reviewed my New Tweeps List to see if any of my newer connections belong on a different list? (If you aren’t using lists, read this.) On a less frequent basis, have I reviewed those I’m following and cleaned out the bots and other undesirables? Have I updated my profile description? Is my background still relevant?
3. Facebook: Have I checked my security settings? <-- those dang things have a habit of changing on their own. Do I really need to Like 658 Pages, or can I clean up my stream a bit by Unliking a few? Does my Timeline need a refresh picture? 4. Facebook Business Page: Is my Page Timeline pic tired? Is my Page liking other Business Pages it should be tied to? Are there any we should Unlike?
5. EVERY ONE OF THEM: Does my profile pic accurately reflect who I am now or is it time for an update? Have I put the most recent profile pic on ALL of the platforms? This last one is a personal pet peeve of mine. Be who you are in Real Life online too.

Yes, I’ve left that other one…. G+… totally off because personally I’ve fallen out of love with it, but you may have suggestions for the G+ lovers still out there.

Mine is a short but essential list of to dos that I am sure will grow over time. I’m keeping it and setting an alarm every month or two, so that I never again shock myself by my untidy, and frankly lazy handling of my most important connections. What would you add to the list?

Twitter Lists: The Underutilized Gem to Follow More People Sanely

Twitter best practices seem to confuse a lot of people; ‘experts’ give out all sorts of contradictory advise. One of the most disagreed upon issues is Follow Back Policy. Ted Coine and I have had a friendly discussion about the issue since we don’t necessarily agree. His fabulous post can be found here, and mine, here.

I was inspired to clean up my stream after Chris Brogan’s The Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011; it had become a meaningless mish mash where I was lucky if I managed to catch tweets that I actually wanted to read. I spent a couple of hours combing through all of the handles I followed and realized that a huge portion of them were people I followed back because I was so happy to have anyone follow me. Since then my stream has become very meaningful. Now almost every tweet in my stream is worth reading, and I spend more time on Twitter because of it.

So, after all of this thoughtful consideration of Follow Back rules that work for me, last week I realized I was completely wrong because I was not using the one tool that made it all possible: LISTS. In a conversation on #dadchat (Sundays at 8pm) with Mack Collier I decided I needed to explore this more and in a big way.

If I’d thought it through thoroughly, I would have made specific lists including one HOLDING that allowed me to review new tweeps and decide after consideration whether I want to keep them. I’m not stopping there. I now have the following lists that will continue to evolve:

1. Digital Marketing/PR Pros: is my most potent list; these are people I follow closely, read their blogs, and have built relationships with that are invaluable to my work.
2. The 12 Most: this is a list I didn’t create but follow because the fabulous 12Most.com community is a huge part of my online life.
3. Clients: There are times I want to communicate with my clients all at once – often to share knowledge or tips.
4. IRL: Honestly, many of my Real Life friends aren’t actually on Twitter and spend lots of time on Facebook for socializing, but I like keeping them segmented here so that I can easily reach out to them.
5. SportsSmarts: Twitter has TONS of sports chat going on; this list helps me zero in on the bloggers/critics I find most worthy of my precious time.
6. Women Leaders: Self explanatory and absolutely essential to my vision of professional sisterhood.
7. Business Heroes: This is my shortest list of Business Leaders I may never meet, but whom I admire deeply and want to emulate.
8. Social Media Favs: My personal favorite peeps on Twitter for whatever reason
9. Holding: People who followed me; I follow back and review it in a few weeks.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it IS on the front end, but having those I follow organized makes it easy to follow more people in a more meaningful way. By checking out a list I can clear away the clutter of my many interests to stay focused on the issues or thought process at hand. This will hopefully allow me to push past the mysterious Twitter Follow Limit rules and follow many more people in a focused way.

How do you keep your Twitter Stream organized?

What it Looks Like When Small Business Does Facebook Right

If you’ve ever discussed Facebook with Small Business owners you will know that there is a lot of confusion and frustration as to how to use it effectively. When I push Small Business folks on using Facebook as a tactic (yes, it’s a tactic, not a reason to ditch your Traditional Marketing) I usually get one of the following reactions:

1. Total Roadblock: This is often expressed verbally as “I don’t believe in Facebook; I don’t want my high school friends looking me up and I’m worried about security.”
2. Other No-Facebook Excuses: “My clients aren’t on Facebook.” I always find this one particularly interesting since 65% of all American internet users are.
3. Frustration: “I’ve tried for ages and I only have 75 followers.” My usual question here is “Tried how?”
4. No Time: The business owner doesn’t see the value in committing his or his employees time to Facebook.

Every business is different, so of course Facebook engagement may not be the best use of your employee’s time, but it is my humble opinion that for most Small Businesses it is an irreplaceable piece of your marketing puzzle. Instead of listing all of the reasons I know this to be true, I’ll show you what my pal (and client) Billy Sweeney has done that proves Facebook is a useful and powerful tool.

Billy owns a fast growing business called Bittly Bill’s, and here’s his Facebook Page. His first post was March of 2010, and he now has 2200 fans. (I know “Rock Star” Social Media types who can’t break 1000). His page is always active, engaged, and growing. What’s his secret? Here’s what he does:
1. Posts interesting content. That means he may break the ‘golden rule of Social Media’ and skip days that there’s nothing exciting to write. It also means that his followers pay attention when he does post because they know it’s worth reading.
2. Creates interesting content to post. Billy is always thinking, and he comes up with lots of things to keep his customers engaged in real life. Ice Cream eating contests, horse and buggy rides… there is always something going on at Bitty Bills, which makes it easy to attract fans to his Facebook Page.
3. Gives his fans something. The new Timeline layout has made this more challenging, but Bitty Bill’s has a redeemable coupon for new fans. Once you go, you’ll keep going.
4. Makes his customers the center of attention. Bitty Bill’s constantly posts pictures of customers enjoying themselves at the shop. Fans respond to this because they can relate to the real people really having fun.
5. Engages in Real Time. I am a fan of Hootesuite and other scheduling programs that allow you to pre-schedule posts, but nothing beats real life engagement. Billy often has a back and forth with followers of his page.
6. Makes it FUN. As a natural wise-cracker, Billy has no problem making people smile… which is more important than almost anything because most Facebookers are on there to socialize, not be sold to.
7. Contests Billy’s not afraid to put his money where his mouth is. When he first started the page he created his own custom contest (without the help of any programs) and gave away $100 to the first fan to refer 100 fans to the page. He grew by hundreds in a week. Any small business owner will tell you that’s not easy. He’s always thinking of new Facebook contests to encourage sharing; watch this space because he’s brewing something special up as we speak.
8. The product’s fantastic. Of course this has nothing to do with Facebook and everything to do with how you run your business; Facebook is no substitute for sound business practices. What Facebook does is keep Bitty Bill’s in the top of his customer’s minds so that they don’t cheat on him with some other ice cream shop.

The reality is that smart people always figure out how to do it, even in new frontiers where they’re not quite sure. For every Bitty Bill’s there are thousands of Small Business owners who neglect their Page or have given up completely. Watch his page; I have no doubt that it will continue to grow exponentially because he puts the energy and creativity into it necessary to keep followers on board. Is there anything unique you did to quickly grow your Facebook Fan Base?

The News of Social Media ‘s Death Is Greatly Exaggerated

There are few blogs I have time to read regularly. My friend Margie Clayman’s is one that has such timely & pointed topics that I ALWAYS have to open that email. This week the discussion focused on Social Media’s popularity, and whether it was waning. The post and many comments indicated that with the economy finally beginning to pick up, more people are too busy to check into their platforms often. The idea of the economy growing makes my heart sing, but I can’t say that I agree with the idea that Social Media is waning; it just doesn’t fit with my current Social Media experience.

One comment spoke about how the user’s own habits had changed – they used to be on Twitter constantly, and now had to remember to check in. That struck me because I was a late comer to Twitter and I’m not there yet – I still check in regularly. I signed up in 2009, and it took me a while to acclimate. Most of the participant’s on Margie’s blog are old hands; they embraced Social Media early and a lot of them have very large followings. They have watched the transformation of every platform – the coming and going of some. Their experience leads them to be more skeptical of wild claims when something new and shiny comes out. It also means that they are ahead of the curve and no longer enamored with this once new medium.

Because I trust Margie and most of her audience, I had to go and do some digging. It didn’t take long for me to come across this fabulous post on The Social Skinny that sums up Social Media usage as of 2012. You’ll read that Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are adding new users daily. And each of those new users are just starting their own journey on those specific platforms.

So why do these experienced users all seem to sense a decline in their own Social Media usage? My opinion: Many of them are marketers or responsible for building business. They’re also a fairly savvy group; my bet is that as the economy picks up they are amongst the first to get even busier… that old cream of the crop analogy applies here. So THEY, and probably many of their colleagues, aren’t on the platforms as often as they used to be.

Secondly, I think their experience is much more reflective of what many larger companies have drawn from their own Social Media experience. Back in November Ragan.com posted this article about he declining use of Social Media by Fortune 500 companies. If you read the article to the end you’ll see that the Inc. 500 fastest growing companies are expanding their use of Facebook, Twitter and Blogging.

What does it all mean? My theory is that Social Media usage is STILL growing, but that more experienced individuals like the ones on Margie’s blog are probably using it a lot less. Some companies who jumped in whole hog and didn’t see a positive result are pulling back. But lots and lots of new people are showing up and beginning that journey.

What does this mean to Small Business? It means that you would be premature, if not silly, to abandon Social Media. For most of you, your target client is still embracing Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Twitter – some for the first time. It is still a platform that allows you to hear what is said about your company, and if you’re doing it right, to respond to it. For any company with a smaller budget than the Fortune 500 companies I spoke about, there is no alternative… you just don’t have millions to spend in traditional or other online forms of marketing. And there is no other way to dialogue directly with your customer base, even when it’s negative… at least you have the opportunity to get in on the conversation.

Of course you still need a strategy for what platforms will work best and how you will man them, but you can’t give up on them. You’ll need to be careful about the amount of time dedicated to your Social Media efforts, and most importantly you’ll need measuring tools so that you know what’s working and what isn’t, and to do all of this correctly you may need to invest in an expert’s help. Good marketing is never free.

Social Media can’t grow forever, but I don’t see it going away anytime soon. Just like email never died, claims of Social Media’s demise are also a myth. We may use it differently, but it’s still powerful, and I believe that it will be around as an important tactic for small business for years to come.

A Broadcast Only Facebook Wall is Just WRONG

It may seem a bit obvious to my marketing colleagues that setting up a one way, broadcast only Facebook Business page is a terrible mistake. In the past week I’ve spoken with 1 Fortune 100 company, 1 nationally known organization, and 2 small businesses about this very topic. I sit on the board of a small non-profit and one of my smart, professional members is advocating that we turn our page into a “Our Messages Only” page.

This discussion always focuses around CONTROL, and it’s always rooted in Fear. These are the things companies fear most:

1. Losing control of their message.
2. Being savagely, verbally attacked by an angry customer
3. PR firestorms that may occur if their employees don’t handle negative comments well.

If you haven’t read The Now Revolution, here are a few choice pieces of advice you must hear:

“What you don’t control – and have never controlled – is the response and reaction to what you do..”

The book has a lot of advise and is a guide book for understanding Social Media’s impact on your business. You should buy it. In the meantime, here’s a key piece you must understand:

“…these communication tools are already in play, already being used, already affecting your business, whether you’re actively using them or not.”

So, this is how it will work if your Facebook Business Page does not accept comments:

1. Those who visit you wanting to share their positive enthusiasm for your service will be frustrated in not being able to do so. They probably won’t return to your page.

2. Those wanting to complain will instantly interpret your controlled wall for exactly what it is: fear of honest criticism. They will then find other Social Media avenues to blast you. The only difference will be that YOU may not know about them and you won’t be able to respond.

A closed Facebook Business Page is a lose/lose proposition for you. What you need to do is the one thing that usually eradicates fear: Educate Yourself. And then Educate your employees – every single one of them – as to what your Social Media Policy is and how you will handle negative comments. Your company culture should dictate to them how you would handle any customer service issue… but that’s an entirely different blog post….

The success of Social Media has been all about interaction and engagement. If it’s going to work for your brand you need to allow it to be a two way channel.

Why Auto Follow Back on Twitter is Rubbish

I constantly see Social Media “Aficionados” advise new Twitter users to ‘Follow Back Everyone.’ I also witness Twitter users complain when they’re not followed back. Both of these reactions are at best, not well thought out, and at worst, lazy or emotionally immature.

Of course we all want more followers; anyone who pretends otherwise is being dishonest. A large Social Media audience gives you power, no matter your goals. Some Twitter users think following begets followers. Perhaps to a degree it does, but what about the quality of your followers? And I don’t mean that on a ‘class of follower’ basis; I mean, just like you shouldn’t take every client that comes along, why would you follow just anybody and why would you want just anybody following you? If you follow every single Twitter Account who follows you, included in there will be bots and spammers. Why on earth would you want that?

It’s about the conversation.

You can’t have a conversation with 100,000 people.

Your time is limited… and the time you spend on Social Media, IF you are using it for business, should be judiciously measured.

If you saw Chris Brogan’s Great Twitter Unfollow Experiment of 2011 you will have learned the same lesson I did; no one can follow everyone. When you’re following thousands upon thousands of people how on earth can you hear or see any of them? What happens is that your engagement with others is often prompted by them mentioning your name… or the randomness of the Twitter feed when you have thousands of people streaming through it.

I often follow people who engage with me on Twitter; I never automatically follow anyone back. I really value the tool as a means of conversing with smart people and enriching my life. That is rarely done on autopilot.

How Much Should You Try to Control the Content on Your Facebook Page?

There is tremendous confusion among many people responsible for manning Small Business Facebook Pages concerning how much control their company should take on their own Facebook Business Page. I witness everything from total neglect – not even joining the conversation – to total dictatorship and actually stifling any real conversation.

Primarily this issue rears its head when there is a complaint or PR mishap on the part of the company. The natural reaction for many is to hit “delete” and attempt to bar negative conversation from snowballing on their page.

If that’s your tack, how wrong you are.

And even really smart, successful businesses are wrong about this regularly.

My very intelligent, internet savvy business owner friend actually stated the following to me when I told him that he could not have that total control, and that Facebook is successful because it is about free and open conversation among consumers and with companies:

“Yes it’s about conversation…but not in the way that they are using it. They can debate all they want on twitter, and their own accounts and profiles, but they are misusing the vehicle of Facebook in the way in which they are posting stuff now to this page.

The intent of a FB Page is to have you the owner put out the “Media” and for the “Likers” to have a conversation. Not for them to make your page into a discussion forum. There are many other sites that provide that service and FB Pages is not and was not intended for that.”

So along this line of thinking you, the owner of the company, starts the conversation and allows your audience to participate on those subjects you deem important; you direct the conversation.

WRONG AGAIN, smart friend.

If this is how you are using your Facebook Business Page I can guarantee that you have a small, disengaged following. That’s easy to check: go to your left column and you’ll see how many people are talking about your page.

But back to the real point: when should you, if ever, delete content that you don’t want on your page?

My answer: NEVER, unless there is vulgarity or threatening language on your page.

If your retort to me is that ‘it takes too much time’ to monitor and respond to complaints on your Facebook Page, then get off of Facebook. The entire point of Social Media is for your audience to be Social, and they’ll do it on their own time, thank you very much.

If your company has serious customer service issues that prompt complaints on your page you’d better do at least one of the following:

1. Respond to each complaint genuinely, apologizing if necessary, and stating that you appreciate all of your customers and are doing everything possible to rectify the situation.
2. Respond that you are sorry about the misunderstanding and clarify what actually happened in a VERY polite manner.
3. Repeat, again and again, that excellent customer service is your standard and you will continue to work towards making every single customer experience a positive one.

Do this ad nauseum as the situation requires. And yes, that may mean saying it again and again and again to unhappy customers.

Never ignore complaints and do not delete unfavorable comments. Any good sales person knows that a complaint or issue is actually a relationship building opportunity. Stick with it and show good faith, and you can change perception.

Here is the crux of the matter: You don’t own your Facebook Page. Facebook does technically, but really, your followers do. You own your website, your email newsletter, your direct mail campaigns and your own PR, but none of us own our own Social Media Pages.

Thinking you do assures that

a) you are wrong, and
b) your perception of what Social Media is for is very clouded.

It is NOT your marketing platform; it is your direct conversation platform. No one ever wants to entertain a one-sided conversation for very long.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how many times it’s ok to hit “delete.”

Should Scheduled Tweets be Shut Off When a Tragedy Hits the News?

This post was prompted by an exchange I saw on Twitter. A Tweep was admonishing an “Influencer” for not halting all scheduled Tweets when it appeared a tragedy was unfolding, again, at Virginia Tech last week. The complainant felt that it was callous to not halt the scheduled Tweets in the midst of such a tragedy. The Influencer felt that his work life didn’t cease every time there was a tragedy.

I side with the Influencer. The reality is that tragedies happen everyday; some draw more national attention than others. Some touch our smaller local communities. How should we react when tragedy strikes?

There is the business reaction, and their is our human reaction.

In a Utopian, compassionate world we would shut off our computers, tune into the tragedy, and cease doing business.

And we’d all go broke.

Of course we can’t shut off business when something awful happens in the world, and pre-scheduled Tweets are part of marketing for many businesses. Ensuring that those Tweets don’t offend is what your PR/Social Media department is responsible for. When a tragedy of note occurs, your Community Managers need to be even more plugged in and sensitive to the discussions on your pages/platforms.

Depending upon your customer’s expectations, you need to have your Social Media Manager(s) connected so that they know when a blow up is happening on your page and can respond in a measured, respectful and timely way to each and every dust up. This is where the oft missed STRATEGY comes in; part of your Social Media plan needs to include having the right people manning your online voice so that they know how to respond to these type of events. Businesses without such a plan leave themselves open to the kind of PR nightmares we all read about far too often.