Advertising on Social Media

There are nearly countless methods of social networking on the internet, with the numbers growing every day. Naturally, a few names standout as the top platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. Small businesses likely cannot afford to choose more than one of these platforms, though the visibility is certainly worth the investment.

Where will you receive the best results?

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of advertising on the top social media platforms:

Facebook

Pros: Facebook has the largest number of users (over 1.19 billion and of those at least 700 million users are active daily) and will give you immediate visibility with a wide range of audiences. It offers advanced targeting options so that small businesses can advertise to their specific clientele. Targeting options are: location, gender, likes/interests, workplace, relationship status, and education.

Cons: In comparison to other sites, Facebook’s provided metrics are very small. Additionally the expense for a small ad may not offer increased traffic enough to justify its cost.

LinkedIn

Pros: The user base is made up of mainly business professionals, which gives the platform a high conversion rate. Categories like employee title, location, and demographics allow targeting to specific audiences. The platform is growing swiftly, particularly in markets such as India.

Cons: Click-through-rates are fairly low, though the ones that do click are usually invested. Compared to other platforms, advertisements are expensive. Additionally remarketing options are not available.

Twitter

Pros: With its use of hashtags, Twitter allows targeting of users based on their current interests. Like Facebook, Twitter has a dedicated user base (over 320 million active users, with 1.3 billion total). Its ad format is much more straightforward via promoted tweets, which appear like any other user’s tweet. Promoted accounts and trends are additionally beneficial.

Cons: Apart from hashtags and keywords, Twitter’s selection of interests to choose from is fairly limited and makes it difficult to target by interest. Twitter keeps quiet about its ads’ success compared to other platforms. Also the cost can be unthinkable for small businesses, especially for “promoted trends.”

Google+

Pros: As a search engine itself, Google knows how to use SEO benefits. Its audience is more tech-driven (a pro for some companies and a con for others). The advertiser does not pay for their ad unless someone clicks on it and at that point, pays per click.

Cons: Google does qualify hovering over the ad for two seconds or more as a click. This platform does not receive as much traffic as the other sites mentioned, with a mere 300 million monthly users (although this includes use of Google’s other products like YouTube). Also targeting options are limited and promotion policies are restrictive.

 

Improve Customer Interaction on Social Media

Social media is an essential staple of customer interaction in today’s business world. No matter what your company’s focus is, social media is a tool you must take full advantage of. Here are a few steps toward improving your social media presence and engagement.

Facebook is your friend! The companies with the best customer-interaction strategies come up with new and unique ways to connect with their followers. It is important to present the company as a group of real people, with familiar faces, personalities, and an eagerness to connect as friends. Try highlighting your employees via your Facebook page. Emphasize their individual quirks and interests – try pairing current pictures with their baby photos or asking a weekly or biweekly question (“What are you listening to?” “What is the name of your pet?”).

Similarly try using Facebook to highlight your followers. This has the advantage of attracting interest and offering advantageous exposure to those you do feature. It helps make your viewers to feel part of the company and a fun, diverse community.

social mediaDon’t hesitate to get personal. Send shout-outs on Twitter to followers to compliment their achievements, record personalized video messages through Vine, thank someone for sharing your content, answer or ask questions. Similarly don’t avoid leaving a personal stamp on the Tweets. Some companies include the initials of the Tweeter inside the message or the Twitter handle of that person. It adds a very human touch and authenticates the interactions. Always respond to those who tweet toward your company to show that you appreciate the shout-out and value their input – whatever it might be.

If you have a LinkedIn Company Page, take advantage of their group functions which allows you up to three groups. Not only does this give your company more visibility, but it also gives you an additional opportunity to be involved in your industry’s discussions.

Pinterest also is a growing platform for customer interaction and sparking interest in your company. You can create company pins to promote your products, special offers, or announcements. Also you can collaborate with other users for that personal connection. Invite other users to pin to certain boards. Follow similar boards or users with similar interests. Comment on and repin other users’ pins. Make sure to use the platform for interaction as well as promotion.

Another place to maintain a presence is on Foursquare. Leaving tips and pieces of advice at your locations shows your investment in customer ease of action and connection. Try leaving a joke to emphasize your personable side. You can create lists as helpful resources for other people and promote visibility for your company.

The hashtag is a useful tool for encouraging interaction and offering customer promotion. Use Instagram’s personalized hashtags to stand out. Encourage your followers to utilize your hashtags and feature the best pictures on your page at the end of the week along with credit. At the end of the day, you will have a fun community, pleased customers, and increased traffic.

The only downside of having a variety of social media platforms is that maintaining the interaction and customer service is nearly a fulltime job. Expectations for response-time, personalized answers, and immediate solutions can be overwhelming. Be sure that you are prepared to handle these expectations and demands, as customers can be easily disappointed and emphasize the negative experiences. The best strategy is to select which platforms will give your business the best visibility and where your current and potential customers frequent. If you have the capability for a presence on a large variety of platforms, go for it! If you have any doubts about being able to keep up with the interaction, start small and add in additional platforms eventually.

Facebook Launches “Universities”

Facebook in the last 12 hours launched Universities on Facebook, a page geared to encouraging interaction between people attending universities. The page also provides deals on goods and services from popular brands like Utrecht Art, NewEgg.com and Eddie Bauer. While some of the offers still need to be ironed out, the prospect of network-specific content starts to rise.

For a enterprise level Facebook Application I’m working on, I have been trying to use the Open Graph API to determine where a user’s network, current city or states (of interests) exist and then serving up content based on the the response. If you’ve seen anything from popular fast food chains such as McDonalds and Burger King you’ll know that not all goods, services and specials are offered nationwide. McRib is a good example: despite availability of ingredients, labor for processing etc, the McRib is only ever around for a short period of time and in certain markets. If a brand like McDonalds wants to promote the McRib on Facebook – they can but they have to add a ton of disclaimers saying ‘price and participation may vary.’

Facebook Ads can be targeted at a particular user group, why not target your custom applications’ content? At the end of the day, a lot of brands utilizing Facebook‘s platform, like Yelp, are trying to provide more accurate, socially relevant and locally available content. While I want to be the first to provide the service, we can all benefit from network-relevant content. Universities – and Facebook’s other programs attempt to target types of users with relevant content and best practices.

I ‘like’ Universities and I have a major take away from this campaign (albeit only a few hours old):

I can target the set-up of my content on a demographic and then through carefully planned code I can target sub-groups of my desired demographic.

I keep harping on Facebook campaigns, but what are some of the focuses of your Facebook campaigns? I know part of how we target the ASPNix Facebook content is to be informative, among other initiatives. What is the focus of your Facebook (or social media) campaign?

Facebook Places, Privacy and Bowling

Facebook Places launched last week. It has been dubbed a competitor to Foursquare and other location-based services, a compliment to existing Facebook features and another means for “over-sharers” to continue to broadcast their nonsense. PC World describes Facebook Places as “an obvious banshee cry to Foursquare and other location-based check-in services.”

Facebook’s purpose is to create a vehicle for sharing. Not just for you to share and broadcast about you, but to enable others you’re connected with to share their content. The main advantage in any of this share is the idea that connections (i.e. users) can experience each other’s shared content without being in physical proximity to one another. Facebook Places brings another level of location-free sharing: by actually enabling the sharing of physical locations.

There are some privacy concerns about friends tagging friends in posts and with the launch of Facebook Places, concerns arise around tagging. If you actually watch the video I linked a bit earlier, listen to the scenario the ABC’s Linsey Davis says:

Let’s say I happen to tell my boyfriend I’m working late tonight. And then I go out to the bar with some friends of mine. Someone someone unbeknownst to me can say ‘Hey guess what, Linsey Davis is at this bar.’

Let me digress for a moment: I will accept that different social networks allow an individual to reinvent themselves, their persona, personality etc. But one fact remains true throughout life: lying and deceit is bad and there are repercussions for involvement in bad things.

In Linsey’s scenario, and in may other nay-sayers about Facebook places, the idea that I can tag you in a check-in is something you may not consent to, you don’t want your boyfriend finding out you aren’t working late or that after working late you went to a bar. Sorry Linsey: fact of the matter is independent of Facebook people have the ability to see you at the bar, to call up your boyfriend and tell him where you are and who you’re with. If you step outside your home people can see you. Maybe later in the day, maybe later in the week, someone may say “hey have you seen [you] lately?” and the response may be “yeah I saw them outside of their home yesterday.” It may not seem like it but this is the same sharing interaction as Facebook Places.

Still, people will inevitably complain about privacy concerns and being automatically opted-in to such functionality. You know the real way to solve your Facebook privacy concerns regarding Facebook Places: talk to the person who is an arm’s-length from you, checking in and tagging you. It’s not Facebook’s fault if someone tags you and it is by bar easier to talk to someone you trust. By the way, someone has to be a friend of yours on Facebook in order for them to tag you, so it’s not like it’s some random paparazzi following you around reporting on your location. And communication with your friend(s) is far better than to gripe at Facebook about their privacy settings.

Enough on the negativity, how can you benefit from Facebook Places? Compared to other location based networks, Facebook Places lets you share your check-ins with your Facebook network. (Advantage over a group like Foursquare, who requires one-to-one friend invites/acceptance.) Claiming Facebook Places (as a business owner) is pretty simple, takes maybe a few hours for Facebook to send you a confirmation to then administer your Facebook Place. There’s even an API to allow read and writing to Facebook Places, which can be pulled just like all other Open Graph data. You’ll get to create promotions for your Facebook Places, similar to the game-like promotion activity offered by Foursquare.

But most importantly, I would wager that for small businesses that have a tight or non-existent budget for marketing, Facebook Places allows for them to have a mobile presence aside from a website or Facebook Business Page. I personally am still waiting for more local businesses (especially my clients) to jump on the idea that they don’t need a website, they just need a perfected Facebook Business Page and (now) a strong Facebook Places page.

Facebook is currently rolling out Places to the US markets, there are a few threads about it’s progress – it seems the west coast (San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, et al) have already been deployed. I would estimate international availability for Facebook Places to be near the middle-to-end of September.

What I’m interested in now is how will non-brick-and-mortar businesses benefit from Facebook Places? Moreover: how does any business that doesn’t have a storefront or physical space to take advantage of location based services? My immediate reaction is: get out into your local community and make a temporary location centered around an event. Good example: if you are a business in Denver, Colorado go throw a party at Lucky Strike, create a check-in location (on Foursquare, etc) for the “Nick-is-Awesome, Inc. Party Hosted by Lucky Strike.” Check-ins warrant a free drink or hour of bowling care of “Nick-is-Awesome, Inc.” and any achievements earned by users get some kind of promotion. Keep in mind: using Facebook Places does mean your users will automatically have the visibility to their network – which means your brand will have visibility to their network – but don’t neglect other location-based services. Foursquare lets you create your own places, too – you can play location-based services against each other by promoting each one for different/same events. For our example: free drinks if you check-in via Facebook Places, free hour of Bowling if you check into the party via Foursquare, etc. As it turns out, claiming a Facebook Place is easy, if you have a ton of business documentation. Yielding Facebook Places as a great local business directory and Foursquare a great ad-hoc (and event-based) location based service for business.

What’s Better For Business: Facebook or Twitter?

When examining a social network, you should remember to use the network the way it was intended. Despite the fact that deploying a Facebook Page, multiple Twitter accounts or even a managed LinkedIn profile can help you establish a reputation or a brand online, you must cater to your audience.

Think of it this way: LinkedIn is like a Rolodex, Facebook is a little black book and Twitter is a cocktail party. In short: LinkedIn is for business connections, Facebook is for amicable connections, Twitter is for ad hoc connections. Users don’t use Facebook as their primary tool to search for real estate listings; they don’t use LinkedIn to find friends to go to happy hour with; they don’t use Twitter to shop for groceries. Each tool has an appropriate purpose and appropriate audience.

In the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world, we preach about having quality content, and how, without quality content, no SEO campaign can be successful. A similar approach applies when promoting your business through social media networks. What is your quality content?

If our focus was promoting a creative agency, market your services – such as your branding, design for print and film and media – it doesn’t have to be your best work, but it does have to be high quality. Before you start promoting your business, you must acknowledge that people will search for your company online. At some point they’ll have seen or heard enough about your company to try and find your website. If your services are your quality content, have your general info, track record and reputation established in the actual content on your website. Once your website is clear on what you do (what your service offering is), you can begin to target an audience on social networks to promote your business.

What is it you are really trying to accomplish? Generate leads? Establish a reputation or customer loyalty? Share relevant industry information and opinion with (anyone)?

If you want to generate leads, demonstrate your expertise on LinkedIn: answer questions in topics relevant to your service offering. Create a company profile page and encourage employees or consultants to be linked to your page. Reach out to existing or former clients requesting recommendations of you or your staff. Establish your brand and expertise through the professional network.

If you want to take a strong stance and establish a social reputation online, create a Facebook Page for your business. using Facebook applications, connect your blog, Twitter, videos, photos, (the whole nine) and encourage your existing or past clients to be fans of your business profile. Start discussions around your industry perspectives, tag your clients, friends, etc in your posts: tags allow users’ to see themselves (or their pages) be mentioned and encourages them to offer a recommendation, referrals or references for the work you do. If customers have a problem with your product or service, there’s a chance they will post content to their Facebook profile. Perform regular searches for your company name, abbreviations or products offered to be sure to address any client or prospect complaints that may be circulating. LinkedIn is assumed to be completely professional, while Facebook is assumed to be more fun and where actions seldom result in long-term consequence is. Both require a degree of tact to manage your brand online: reputation management, albeit reactive at times, can appear proactive if you address customer concerns, suggestions and comments quickly.

If you want to share relevant industry information, perspectives, random ‘whatever’ with anyone on the internet, use Twitter. The 140 character limit requires you to be concise and engaging. You can put links in Twitter content, while they take some of your character allotment, they can help drive traffic to (anything). Twitter, as mentioned before, is a cocktail party: you can choose to follow, pay attention, subscribe to any conversation at the party. Likewise, you can be the center of attention one minute and suddenly everyone has migrated away to someone or something more interesting. Like with anything else, quality content is key.

What If Facebook Started Its Own Web Search Engine?

A while back, Facebook’s number of weekly hits surpassed hits to Google. This has brought about discussion related to what (else) Facebook could accomplish if it put effort towards other market segments in addition to their social network. Could this milestone be a sign that Facebook, if they so desired, has the strength and means to enter into Google’s search market?

Bing’s search engine is what currently powers the web-based search results provided by Facebook. A big part of the reason why Google is successful is they go out of their way to provide exceptional service(s) for users. Facebook, in a way, already does this: users on Facebook who utilize the search function are most likely looking for Facebook-related material.

In an article from InsideFacebook.com around the same time, there’s a blip about how the recent redesign of Facebook’s layout creates a better opportunity for users to find what they want by searching, rather than combing through sub-links and multiple profiles. Moreover: Bing, being the web-search-engine powering Facebook, is now incorporating meta data from user statuses (which likely means tags as well) into search results. Facebook’s UI and interactions seem to change on a daily basis, but the 30,000+ servers used to support Facebook have changes rolling out constantly and by regions – it’s difficult to tell when everyone has the same search results or expected behavior from Facebook.

I believe the question we should try to answer would be: ‘What if someone tried to encroach on Google’s Market (related to Search)?‘ Facebook, as a social media application, is not the application to do it. Bing, however, powered Facebook meta-data, may be a better candidate to analyse for taking on some of Google’s market share (in search). That said, modify the focus of the question to be “What if Bing starts using Facebook data to power their search results, what will that mean for Google’s market related to search?” Zombies Oh My God: the Privacy Policy wars would wage on for years!

Facebook will not get into web-based search like Google and Bing. The key component of Facebook is the social network(s) that are available to users: Friends, family members, co-workers, etc. A recommendation on a service provider, restaurant, church or concert from a friend of family member (or someone you trust (within reason) who would be a connection on said social network) is more valuable than a web-search result. To Facebook’s advantage, said services and amenities often have Facebook Pages. A co-worker can recommend a service provider, through Facebook, linking to an appropriate page, also on Facebook and the user never leaves the social networking site. Also, it turns out if you are running Facebook Ad campaigns, if you link to a Facebook page, post or profile with your ad, cost-per-click rates are considerably less than linking off of Facebook.

Therefore, I would offer that Facebook may create a niche within search that allows users to search for service providers, amenities or what-have-you and each result is paired with meta-data from trusted members of your network. Ex. Searching for a restaurant or happy hour location yields a list of 5 local results, 3 of which have Facebook Pages, of which one of those Facebook Pages your best friend or sister is ‘a fan of.’ This yields instant credibility, as associated with someone you already trust, for a business or service provider.

Facebook: Adding the ‘Like’ Button

So at some point I will give a general ‘why social media and why you should care’ story, but let’s not waste time with that now. Let’s get right into the thick of things. Have a WordPress blog or WordPress-powered website? Want to add a ‘like’ button? Ok, let’s get down to business. The first thing you’ll want to do is change the namespace of your HTML document. Get into the header.php file of your theme. Typically located in /wp-content/themes/[themename]/header.php – You’ll find these lines of code right at the top of this file. We want to change the attributes of the HTML tag.

<?php
/**
 *
 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage DeptofAwesome
 */
?>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" <?php language_attributes(); ?> >
We’ll want to change the xmlns (XML Name Space) of our HTML document. Note that changing the header.php file will update all pages that use this include file will be affected. We want to add the Open Graph protocol and the Facebook protocol like this:
<?php
/**
 *
 * @package WordPress
 * @subpackage DeptofAwesome
 */
?>
<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"
     xmlns:og="http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/"
     xmlns:fb="http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml"
     <?php language_attributes(); ?> >
Adding the following code attributes to your <html> tag allows for Open Graph and Facebook objects to work on your site:

xmlns:og="http://opengraphprotocol.org/schema/"
xmlns:fb="http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml"
Now to add the ‘Like’ button to your posts. The button is based on a page’s URL. If you have a blog that’s showing multiple posts, we just have to define the button to pull the URL for each post. A simple and standard button code looks like this:
<?php
/**
 *
 */
?>

<fb:like href="yourlinkhere" show_faces="false"
     width="300" font="arial"></fb:like>
There are additional configuration options, little tweaks to the button to try and match the motif of your design, but we’re just keeping things simple for now. You’ll want to now go into your main index template found in /wp-content/themes/[themename]/index.php – there’s a tag that’ll have a class of id named ‘postmetadata’ that we care about. In this example, the post meta data (tags, links, comment count, etc) are all contained in a custom function called ‘othergoodness’ – which we can ignore for now. Add your ‘Like’ button code within the tag labeled ‘postmetadata’ and immediately after all other functions are called (you can change placement later). It should look something like this:

<p class="postmetadata">
  <?php othergoodness(); ?>
  <fb:like href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" layout="standard"
     show_faces="false" width="450" action="like" colorscheme"dark"
     style="padding-top:10px;"></fb:like>
</p>
Note there are a few extra parameters for this example, just trying to show a little more detail and how you can control some display elements.

Our link, defined by the href attribute, utilizes the permanent link for that particular post. So on a page of 3 posts, each post has unique meta data and a unique link associated with it, we are piggy-backing on that predefined info by calling the_permalink() function for our link.
You’ll also want to add the like button to your single-post and page templates. You can use the same code snippet from your main index template on both of those pages. I recommend you place the code near your comments-template declaration. If you have comments turned off within WordPress, still add your like button near where the comments would be. In our example, the single post page, typically found at /wp-content/themes/[themename]/single.php becomes:

<fb:like href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" layout="standard"
     show_faces="false" width="450" action="like" colorscheme"dark"
     style="padding-top:10px;"></fb:like>
     <?php comments_template(); ?>
Adding the button to a page will work the same way. Find your page template and drop the same code. Page template is typically at /wp-content/themes/[themename]/page.php – and you can place it just before the comments template again. I add it after any admin-specific functionality that’d be relevant to post content to keep interaction elements (likes, comments, etc) separate when visually editing the front-end of the site.

<?php edit_post_link('Edit this entry.','<p>','</p>'); ?>
<fb:like href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" layout="standard"
     show_faces="false" width="450" action="like" colorscheme"dark"
     style="padding-top:10px;"></fb:like>
     <?php comments_template(); ?>
And that’s pretty much it, now the Facebook ‘Like’ button will be on all of your relevant pages and posts. The ‘fb:like’ tag works like any other ‘a’ tag where you can add it to just about anything.
The key to everything with the like button is the URL. What we learned here was how to just go in, drop some open graph and FBML code to dynamically pull the URL per-post or per-page so you don’t have to worry about it. On static sites, naturally you’ll have to add the button to every page with the appropriate URL. There are other methods to add meta data and social interaction to pages and posts, but we can cover that at a later date.
Due to goofy glitches, I cannot add the code within this post (hence the images) I have, however, put together each snippet into a text file, which you can grab here. Use the code at your own risk, etc – feel free to post comments or questions here or in the forums if you get stuck.

ASPnix Monthly Newsletter – April 2010

April Newsletter covers ASPnix Facebook Fan page, Rate Point User Feedback, Community Forums update and ASPnix Knowledgebase.

ASPnix Joins Facebook:

Facebook has been around for quite a while now and has become the largest and fastest growing social networking portal. Some of its finer features include News Feeds which appear on every user’s home page, photos section allowing users to upload albums to their profile to let other people view it. Notes, a blogging feature which lets user use tags and embeddable images.

Recently ASPnix has launched its Facebook page. Through this page we will be updating our members and community regularly, and collecting feedback to make our services superior. Our Staff members will be adding notes to the page to keep you up to date with latest news and information about our hosting services, offers, and technologies.

Please become a Fan of ASPnix on Facebook Today and get a chance to win one free year of Shared Web Hosting: http://www.facebook.com/ASPnix

Independent Feedback at RatePoint:

RatePoint is a Massachusetts based company launched in 2006 to promote online and offline business quality and at the same time enhancing the relationship between consumers and businesses.

ASPnix recently received a Business Excellence Award from RatePoint, thanks to the feedback from our customers who are more than satisfied by the services we offer.

The RatePoint ASPnix independent feedback page can be accessed at http://ratepoint.com/profile/32249

Please post your reviews about ASPnix at RatePoint. Your feedback really matters to us and helps us find new ways to make our services better and more reliable.

Community Forums:

Our Community forums have always been a good source of discussions regarding our services and web hosting in general. Our experts and staff personnel are active members of the community who are more than willing to engage in discussion related to the services we offer and development in general.

The community is growing as we add new categories for web development and design, server management, graphics design, new 3rd party tools, new techniques and more!

The community forums are based on vBulletin which is very widely used and well known for its flexibility, security and scalability.

Forums can be accessed at http://community.aspnix.com/

ASPnix Knowledgebase:

ASPnix Knowledgebase is ever growing support for our clients to help them with queries regarding our services and technologies. Knowledgebase articles are categorized to help our clients search for a topic with ease. It is always growing since it is based on the frequent queries of our clients and our experts are always adding new topics to make the knowledge base more useful.

ASPnix Knowledgebase can be accessed at: http://support.aspnix.com/index.php?_m=knowledgebase&_a=view