Archive for Facebook

Facebook Pages Offer an Online Store – Do I Still Need a Website?

A while back, Facebook partnered with Shopify to create a “Shop” section for Facebook Pages. This enabled businesses to sell their products directly, making it a little easier for some of those businesses to have their Pages become true online stores. If your visitor clicks on a product, they can either be pushed from Facebook to your primary website, or you can let them check out directly on Facebook. Payment processing and transaction tracking is handled by Shopify. Facebook will not (at least for now) take a cut for items sold on the site. So the question is; do you still need a website if you’re selling on Facebook?
The answer is a resounding YES. And here’s why;

It may be hard to envision, but Facebook could eventually lose favor. As social media continues to evolve, other sites, like Google+, may become more popular or an entirely new site or technology not created yet may emerge. It’s impossible to predict. But by choosing Facebook instead of a website, you are favoring the short-term over the long-term. You are investing your time and energy in a platform that may not pay you back over time. It may benefit your short term goals but you can never be sure that it’s going to benefit your longer term goals.

In the meantime, without a website, people who don’t use Facebook become incredibly difficult to identify and reach. Not to mention that they may not be able to find you as easily.

You can’t control what Facebook does with its design, its user interface, its functionality, or ad displays. You’re limited in how you can optimize the experience, and your insights (or metrics) are only what Facebook itself decides to pass onto you. Using Google Analytics on your website provides many valuable metrics to help understand your visitors so you can make the most out of your site.

Many businesses received a rude awakening when Facebook adjusted its algorithms so that only the most popular status updates would be seen by most fans of a page. Statistics range anywhere between 8% – 16% of fans see your posts. If you want to reach ALL fans who’ve liked your page, you now have pay for it. If you post 40 times per month, you could spend hundreds of dollars per month to get your message to all your fans.

That said, it’s true that Facebook, with over 1 billion users, has attractive qualities to anyone building an online presence. So you can’t ignore Facebook, but just realize that you don’t call the shots.
At the end of the day, a website is the most effective way to deliver information to your audience. It is a storehouse of information, customized in any way that you choose, to deliver information to your current and potential customers. This is because you are in total control over what is presented.

When people seek information, they usually use Google, or another search engine, to find it. People won’t be inclined to visit Facebook if they have a specific goal or information they’re seeking. Why? Because Facebook is a connection tool for people to stay in touch in a very organic way. It’s not about structured information delivery, but conversation and social engagement. At least that is the current perception. A website, on the other hand, serves as a hub for all people who are interested in your work and are seeking more information or updates directly from you. It doesn’t matter if they heard about you online or offline, people are trained to use their mobile devices, tablets, and desktops to search for more information, and your website is a 24/7/365 resource waiting for them.

Many times, people find out that you’re on Facebook because they’ve visited your website, which also offers many other benefits for your visitors. Aside from having an e-mail newsletter, you may offer ancillary materials they would enjoy, such as additional resources, e-books, Q&A, etc.

Sure, you may need to invest some money for a developer to build your website and assist with an upgrade, redesign or functionality add-ons over time. But for anyone with a long-term goal, this is one of the best and most critical investments you can make.

So yes, use Facebook as ONE of the many arrows in your quiver of marketing methods but don’t discount the need for a website. You might be cutting off your nose to spite your face (as my Mom used to say), and end up being sorry in the long run.

So I’m on Facebook, Now What Do I Do?

If you are a small to mid-sized business that started up a Facebook account because, well, that’s what all the “in” companies are doing these days, then this post is for you. Good for you for choosing this high-impact, popular social media option as part of your brand identity and communication strategy. Of course it’s only strategic if you implement and operate it well. Here are a few guidelines to help increase your impact and improve your returns on Facebook.

Who Are You?

With the advent of the “Timeline,” Facebook pushed businesses to become more human. Now a company is expected to act more like people. The focus on building relationships has grown from there and now it is likely that a place of business will add pictures from the company picnic or party to the timeline, and perhaps both informational and entertaining links to other websites. Facebook offers a big chance to build a relationship with your customers. You’ve probably heard or seen this quote:

“People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~ Maya Angelou

You can’t “feel” a machined product, a technology, a building, a telephone wire, a baked good, or whatever your business. Ask yourself “what would I look like on this Facebook page if they took away my product?” What remains is exactly what you talk about the most. Your ability to inspire, connect, communicate and build real relationships. Now you don’t want to be completely devoid of shop talk, but this deeper approach allows you to present your products and services by way of your unique, personal bond that you develop with the audience member.

Think, “How does my product/service connect with the reader to make their life better? How does my company’s existence enhance life for somebody out there; what do we do to make things better in the world?” Rather than opening with “here’s what’s interesting about ME,” let your customer know, “We understand our customers…,” “We are motivated to create the blah blah blah because of these specific things our customers need,” Talk about how connected you are with your readers. On top of that, maybe you donate something, or recycle on a large scale, or fund some kind of research or aid education. Perhaps you are involved in some way that stretches beyond the scope of your product or service. Whatever it is, it is part of your values and says something about who you are. All of these connections are important building blocks between you and your customers. Talk about it and get them talking about it.

Focus on Value or Forget it.

When it comes to online content, keeping customers engaged and wanting more is a balancing act with a focus on quality. Is specific attention placed on high-value content based on serving your customers’ needs? Or are you primarily collecting “likes?” Research shows that 98% of folks who click the “like” button do not return to the Facebook page again*. In the digital marketing game it is critical that a business maintains a high value paradigm or not even bother. To push idle chit chat and fun games is okay for a coffee break, and certainly not every Facebook page has to be too restrained. But if value-driven take-aways are not the priority, your audience will move on to some else’s page where their needs are king. According to Moore, if you are not investing in long-term value relationships by providing content your audience trusts you just might be short for the digital world of business.

Is Facebook Enough?

Be watchful when planning your social media strategy. While employing Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn makes for wise marketing moves, you are playing by someone else’s rules. Absolutely take advantage of the reach and impact these sites offer, but be certain that your website is up-to-date too. The company website, if well-designed and well maintained is the one online marketing source that you own and control in this mix. No one knows what happens to your Facebook page in 6 months. Would your readers seek you out if Facebook ceased to exist and a new social media site went up suddenly? How can you ensure this? It always comes down to building trust, offering relevant high value, and creating strong relationships. Also be sure to point all of your social media messaging to your website where you have complete control of your representation of your brand and values.

So long as you keep your communication efforts aligned with building trust and long-term relationships, you will be likely to make good choices for your online content. Be sure to keep writing and stay on top of your news and information. An up-to-date source of information is much more likely to garner trust and better business. The bottom line, make Facebook, other social media, and your website work for you – and not the other way around.

5 Simple Steps to Online Success: What Every Small to Mid-Size Business Must Know

If you are a small to mid-size business with more energy than cash to get started in the online arena, this is for you. These actionable tips can be done on a reasonable budget and are the bottom line necessities for any small to mid-size business today. This article is stripped of heavy techno-lingo and allows most anyone a jumping off point whether they go it alone or are about to meet with their agency and need a guideline of must-do’s.

  1. Have a Website. While you might have a Facebook page, and that is important, it is not a substitute for a Website. Your website must be well-constructed and up-to-date (see step 4). It is important that your website is visited (see the rest of the steps) and visitors stay once they find it.
  2. Be on Social Media. Though it takes time, getting known and building “social” relationships builds a solid market where once there was none – and you can drive those followers to your blog or website to build even more activity for your business. I suggest Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And to manage your time, try Buffer, which allows you to delay your links and other information to be posted to each of your social spaces when your readers are most likely online for the best impact.
  3. Be Graceful. All of your actions should not be self-promoting. Take time to promote others’ work and business as well. Link to others. They will notice and be more likely to treat you well in return. Also be sure to provide superior customer service to keep everyone talking about you.
  4. Blog and Create Content. You’ll keep your website higher on results pages with updated blogs because search engines tend to pick up the quality content found in blogs. Moreover, because your blog regularly changes, you have an excellent way of keeping your website fresh and up-to-date. No time to blog? Ask your staff to submit short articles, or hire a writer specifically for this task.
  5. Connect Your Way to Success. Your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever social channels you choose, must connect to one another. Don’t forget to point your offline and online marketing efforts to each other as well. These connections make up the smartest, most effective way to impact your market.

As you apply this information, keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Be certain that your information is not only compelling, but that it is clear. Have someone outside of your business try out your website for ease of use and clarity. Be sure your customers are getting the best care you can offer. Here’s to your success and be sure to share this with someone you know.

(Parts of this article from 5 Tips for Boosting Your SEO on a Tight BudgetBusiness 2 Community by Ken Mueller)

Is Facebook Hurting our Families and Friends?

I joined Facebook a little over 3 years ago because that’s when we started our business and became specialists in Social Media. We are in the business of promoting Facebook for business. It’s just what we do. Along the way, I started using Facebook more and more for connecting with friends, family and “blasts from the past”. Lately, I have been questioning whether this is a good thing or a bad thing and here’s why:

      1. It has reduced the number of phone calls and actual interactions. While I believe this may be good for business (and not all of the time – face-to-face contact is a good part of an overall business strategy), I am sometimes saddened that the only place to catch up with family or friends is through Facebook. And it really blows my skirt up when someone uses the “I didn’t see it on Facebook” as an excuse.
      2. It has caused unwitting arguments. I had a certain incident where I liked a page that happened to be a competitor of someone close to me. The page was beneficial to us from our marketing standpoint, but I was called out on it and basically forced to “unlike” the page due to this conflict of interest.
      3. Sometimes people post things that they are feeling, which may have a profound impact on another family member or friend. I have had family members or friends remark to me that they were hurt or upset about comments or postings from other family members or friends. While I understand that “intent” is a key factor, sometimes it’s just a post where it didn’t enter someone’s mind that someone else might be hurt before that enter key was pressed. When we post on Facebook, we are generally posting our feelings. Unless privacy controls are strictly set to restrict certain people, everyone gets to see what our feelings are, be they happy or sad. This sometimes causes old wounds to resurface and an argument to ensue or it may just remind a person of losses, things they wish had been different, things they wish are different. You get the drift.
      4. Arguments or “discussuments” with family members or friends happen. Does it hurt you or help you that you can keep up with what’s going on in their life because you can still see the status on Facebook? And if they hide their statuses or, God forbid, the dreaded “UNFRIENDING” occurs, you may find yourself at a point of anger, frustration, hurt, fear or apathy. How does this affect this relationship? If you were not online, wouldn’t you pick up the phone more readily and try to come to an understanding?
      5. Old Wounds. Have you “friended” someone from the past and had it bring up an old wound? I bet most of us have – whether it’s an “old love”, an ex-spouse and their family, or a memory of being ignored by the popular kid in high school. How about a once very close friendship that managed to just disappear? Somehow you manage to reconnect on Facebook but it doesn’t rekindle that once close tie.

When we taught the Facebook class for social media at the local tech college over the last 2 years, one of the examples we gave as “what not to do” was this one:
Now this may be somewhat of an extreme, but it is an example of how things might slip out that others could be hurt by. And, of course, much of the comments that we see may be taken much more to heart than the writer intended. This same type of thing occurs in email.

Emotions are hard to read when you’re not looking someone dead in the eye or hearing the sound of their voice.

I’m in the process of evaluating whether or not staying connected with family and friends on social networks is something to reconsider. If I come to the conclusion that it isn’t, and I start the un-friending process, please don’t be offended – it’s not personal. I’d much rather talk to you over the phone or visit with you in person. I am a huge proponent of family and friend get-togethers and meaningful relationships. The featured photo in this post is of my grandmother and my son a long time ago. It is a photo that memorializes a connection that just can’t be made online.

I know there are lists and I know that I can segregate my comments to specific audiences. This thought process is in its infancy stages. We, as a business, will of course stay on Facebook both through transparent personal profiles and our business page. I do believe that Facebook is a fantastic place for businesses to connect.

What are your thoughts? Is this what the future holds and you need to just “deal with it”? Or would you prefer that IRL (In Real Life) interaction with your family and friends? Is any interaction better than no interaction? Are we too internet focused? Is instant gratification the “all important”?

I don’t know about you, but I need a hug.

Blending the Old with the New

We’ve said it many times before; more than 70% of consumers are using the internet to find their goods and services.  Your goal, as a business owner, is to get as high a ranking on search engines as you possibly can so that you broaden your exposure and drive more traffic to your website or blog or Facebook Page or…wherever.  If you think consumers are still picking up the Yellow Pages you’re fooling yourself.

There is still a need for offline promotional media however.  I just gave a presentation on Social Media Marketing to a group of business owners.  A majority of them had a LinkedIn profile, but most only used it sporadically.  Less than half used Facebook for personal reasons and less than half of those had a Facebook Business Page.  When I asked about Twitter, only a few people raised their hand.  I expressed the importance of having an online presence and gave examples of how they could use Social Media to strengthen their brand and attract new customers.

I also told them that traditional marketing activities can still be effective but that whenever they hand someone a physical marketing piece, whether it be a business card, brochure, flyer, or advertisement on paper, include a URL pointing them to other forms of online advertising and information.  Say you have a restaurant napkin; it could include a link to your website, a promotional offer or a loyalty rewards program. A new type of offline-to-online link is called the QR-Code (Quick Response) which is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background (see picture).

The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.  More common in Japan, this type of “offline-link” is becoming popular in the U.S. for many companies.  Imagine the effectiveness of marketing when someone can use their smart-phone to “read” the offline QR-Code from a paper ad and it sends them to a site on the internet.

I may be getting ahead of myself here but you can see the possibilities.  The bottom line is this; put URL’s on everything, no matter what form it happens to be in.  Use them to direct your customers to things such as special offers, email newsletters, sign-ups for free products…etc.

Whether you’re an offline business that’s in denial and avoiding the online world, or you’re an online business that thinks your next customer is only a tweet away, you’ve got to remember that with a healthy blend between the old and the new techniques in marketing, your business can find people where they are, not just where you happen to be more comfortable.