Social Media – Friend or Foe?
Are you getting the results you want from social media?
As an entrepreneur, I know that it’s important to be on social media to build my personal brand, but I am not getting the results I want. I hear small business owners talking about how many leads and business they are getting from their social media efforts, and frankly, I am envious. Hence, the title of the blog post, Social Media – Friend or Foe? Yes, it’s tongue in cheek, but there is an element of truth in it.
Although I have been on Twitter for a long time, people who started using the social media network years after me, have left me in the dust. And there is so much dust, that I cannot see my way. There is a great lesson here – because you have been doing something for a long time, doesn’t necessarily make you at expert. My follower count has stalled for close to two years now. I know that I am not as social as I should be, but I am really trying. There is so much noise with social media experts giving advice that doesn’t work for me, that the effect is simply dizzying. Based on an article I read a while ago, I took the time to create a schedule of the best times to post, and nothing happened. Most of the articles that I share are not mine – I use Feedly and Prismatic. I have spent a lot of time setting up Feedly, so I have good content to share. I went to a few magazine stores, spent about 45 minutes browsing magazines and taking photos of the covers of magazines that I thought were interesting, then when I got home, I checked if they had blog feeds, then added them to Feedly. I also bought several magazines from the stores as my way of saying thanks.
I decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself, I would try to turn things around with social media. Last week, I participated in a webinar that AJ Amyx led, and it was one of the best 60 minutes I spent on a webinar. The information was practical and not overwhelming, and something that I can manage. To be effective on Twitter you need a three-tiered plan – Power, Plan and Promote, and it takes only 30 minutes a day.
- Have a profile picture that’s a three-quarters shot, and 400 x 400 pixels. If your photo looks pixelated like mine did, use a higher resolution photo. My pixelated photo always bothered me, but I didn’t know how to change it – now I do.
- Have a cover photo that’s 3000 x 1000 pixels, which is way larger than what Twitter recommends, but it really works because it looks sharp. AJ recommends that you use lifestyle images. Your cover photo should quickly convey what you do – who you are.
- Have a rocking bio, three to four words that describe you – your life and business. Use a power statement such as, “I help X to get Y.” This lets people quickly know if you can make their pain go away.
- Make sure you have a link to your website.
You have to package yourself as an authority in your field, and following these tips help you to start doing that.
You’ve heard it before that it’s all about the relationship. I do not do this very well on social media. I am very concerned about spending all day on social media, but AJ provides a simple formula that I will share later. Here is his advice:
- Focus on relationship building. Relationships are everything. If you want results, you have to engage.
- Share content that’s valuable and relevant to your followers. Help them to solve problems – to make whatever work-related problems that’s keeping them up at night go away.
- Engage with people. Have epic conversations.
- Often when you connect with others on Twitter, they thank you, which is the perfect time to start a conversation. Instead of simply responding, “You’re Welcome!” respond, “You’re welcome! What is the coolest thing you’re working on?” or something similar. Your job is to be helpful, to help them get rid of what’s keeping them up at nights. Assume the role of a problem solver. Ask a great question, because it creates opportunities for you to act on.
- If the follower responds to your question with a problem that you have already solved, let her know that, then offer to have a short conversation with her. See how that works?
AJ Amyx recommends that you have a content calendar, tweet about nine times a day, all seven days a week, because the life of a tweet is 18 minutes. Use a spreadsheet to map out your tweeting plan. Content calendars will get you organized on social media. So for instance:
- Quick Tip
- Third Party Share
- Love (Promote someone whose work you love)
For the rest of the week, you will reorganize the sequence and let the service you use to tweet, decide what times to send each update. He recommends using Hootsuite’s Auto-schedule, scheduling the nine tweets between 8:00 am and 6:00 PM. Use no more than two hashtags in each tweet. Buffer also has an Auto-schedule option as well.
ENGAGEMENT DRIVES REVENUES
- Learn to play the follow game. Follow the followers of people who have a similar target audience.
- Follow quality people, and only follow people with complete profiles (photo, cover image, bio and regular tweets). If they do not follow you back in a few days, unfollow them. Use a service such as Manage Flitter to keep track of the people who do not follow you back.
- Make a list of the five top speakers, five authors, five podcasters, five associations, and five thought leaders in your industry, follow them and follow some of their followers.
- Spend four days – Mondays through Thursdays – following people. Take Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.
- Spend 15 minutes following people and another 15 minutes engaging, such as responding to people who tweet your content, ask you questions, and so on.
What I’m Doing Wrong
Looking at the kinds of tweet that AJ Amyx shares, my tweets are mostly third party shares, share the love tweets and retweets. I do share my blog posts, but I haven’t been as consistent as I once was – I am working on that. Surprisingly enough, I create a lot of images with quotes, but I share them on my Facebook Business Page. It’s time to create some to tweet. In terms of promotion, I am the President of the Toronto Chapter of Ellevate Network, so when we have events, I promote them on Twitter, but I do not promote myself on Twitter.
In the last year, I have started to pay attention to my Facebook Fan Page. I use PostPlanner to schedule my updates – three during the week and two on the weekends. I have more engagement, but that’s because I am a part of a closed Facebook group where the members support each other. And that’s one of the best ways I am finding to build a fan base.
I get weekly updates from PostPlanner, which tells me to increase the number of updates I share each day. I used to schedule more updates, but it takes a long time to find appropriate content that serves my target audience. PostPlanner presents content, such as quotes and engaging photos, that’s viral, for you to share. But what I have found is that although the content is already viral, my fans do not share them. The reason could be that I do not have enough fans yet, so there is no traction. But you cannot grow your fan base unless you share great and valuable content. The other thing is that I read the content that PostPlanner recommends before I schedule it, so that takes a long time.
Facebook is moving toward a paid model, so they hide your feed, unless your content is viral. There are some posts that have done well for me, not millions of shares, or even thousands, or hundreds, but much more than I was getting. I’ll then get a message from Facebook to promote the content because it’s doing well. The problem is that it’s third party content, and I am not going to spend money to promote someone’s content. The quote, “We build too many walls and not enough bridges” by Isaac Newton had more engagement and reach than usual, and so did the article, “When This Homeless Man Started Offering Book Reviews for Change, Something Amazing Happened. ” But I am not going to pay to promote third party content.
I have to increase the number of updates I share each day, but I have to create my own content that’s valuable and relevant to share on Facebook, which means that I have to look at the analytics to see what type of content people are interested in. It’s trial and error. Kim Garst mentioned a quote she created, which had over 1 million shares. That’s fantastic! On a recent Blab that Kim hosted, I learned that to increase your chances of having a viral post on Facebook, you have to post something that enhances the user experience. People also like posts, that inspire and motivate them.
There are some great tips in this post, but none of them will gain you customers, unless you are crystal clear about your target market, and what you have to offer. I started reading Buyer Personas over a month ago, and haven’t gotten very far because I am distracted. I will finish reading it this week because I need to be clear about my target market and the services that I am promoting. I will share tips from the book with you as soon as I finish reading it.
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Is social media a friend or foe? It can be a friend if you understand how to use it effectively!
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Filed Under: Article, Self-improvementTagged With: Facebook, Social media, Social Media Examiner, Twitter
Here's a sentence that Robert Thomson, the editor of the Wall Street Journal, has not said: "Facebook argues they drive traffic to sites, but the whole Facebook sensibility is inimical to traditional brand loyalty … Facebook encourages promiscuity [in viewing different news sites] – and shamelessly so – and therefore a significant proportion of their users don't necessarily associate that content with the creator."
And here's something Rupert Murdoch has never said: "We are going to stop people like Facebook or whoever from taking stories for nothing … There is a law of copyright and they recognise it … Some sites have tapped into a river of gold [by aggregating content] … They take [news content] for nothing. They have got this very clever business model."
But if you replace "Facebook" with "Google" or "Google News" in both quotes, they're absolutely what they said (Thomson to the Australian and Murdoch at a press event in the US).
Here's the strange thing, though: Facebook sends far more traffic to News International sites in the UK than Google News does, according to figures from Experian Hitwise, which monitors web browsers' (though not mobile users') surfing habits. Google's news aggregator service is the bete noire of Wapping and other traditional media outlets because it gives readers an instant hit without necessarily providing any traffic and hence advertising revenues.
In fact figures from the data collection service show that for all news and media sites, Google News UK generates just 0.67% of traffic – while Facebook generates precisely 10 times as much at 6.7%. Having 450 million-odd users worldwide, with friends linked across continents, turns out to have its benefits. At least for Facebook.
So is this another demonstration of News International's chiefs not "getting it"? Should their web teams be showing them lists of referrers, and exploring a new Facebook-bashing strategy? After all, the row over privacy settings has put the site at bay. Should Thomson do a quick find-and-replace on those Google-bashing speeches, and capitalise on the antipathy towards Facebook?
Perhaps not yet. One caveat offered by Robin Goad, the research director at Experian Hitwise, is that the above figures fail to reflect the importance of Google search in driving traffic to news sites rather than Google News.
He says: "The thing is, are people coming to read news stories via Google News, or via search in Google? If people click on a news story in the main Google home page – which can happen, because news is now included in the 'universal search' results you get when you do a search – rather than from the Google News page, then we see that as a click from Google."
That does alter the picture: Google UK (the default for UK users) ranks much higher than Facebook on those measures: it is the "upstream" , or previous, site for 21.9% of clicks to news and media sites, compared to 6.72% for Facebook.
"I think that the majority does actually come from the Google home page," Goad says. But that doesn't mean we should overlook Facebook. "It is a big and growing source of traffic, though people don't talk about it. They talk about other things – Twitter, for instance." So could Facebook soon find itself referred to as a parasite, as Thomson spoke of Google? "They don't yet," says Goad. "But maybe when they realise how much traffic it represents, they will." Where Google News has a sentence that tells you what the story is, Goad notes: "Facebook often has the first paragraph, so they're stealing – if you want to use that word – more of the content."
But Paul Bradshaw, a reader in online journalism at Birmingham City University, thinks the lack of vituperation about Facebook has different reasons. "Firstly, this isn't about content, or readers – this is about advertising. Google utterly dominates the online advertising market, and is therefore easily Murdoch's biggest competitor, and therefore biggest target. Murdoch knows the message should be simple and endlessly repeated. If you start attacking Google, keep attacking Google – don't muddy the message by changing tack.
"Secondly, Google is enormously wealthy – much wealthier than Facebook. The gamble here is that Google might just throw Murdoch a bone to shut up. Or that a government or two might decide to tax those enormous revenues and – even better – prop up the established news organisations with the proceeds.
"But finally, there probably is a fundamental lack of understanding by Murdoch. He sees his content appearing on Google and thinks it's being stolen rather than referenced. The mooted move [of News International content] out of [the news archive database] LexisNexis suggests this is isn't just about Google."
In fact there's an era ahead in which news organisations will have to get to grips with social media and its implications for their traffic and readership, Bradshaw says.
He remarks: "I think social media traffic is underestimated because it's a relatively recent phenomenon – it's taken years for people to realise how important Google was. SEO [search engine optimisation] is still only now entering mainstream journalistic processes and systems and it will take another five years before social media optimisation is also part of the furniture. Also, social media importance varies enormously from site to site, whereas Google's impact is relatively consistent."
There's another reason why the importance of social media traffic may be underestimated. Twitter is an interesting example of how social media is making it harder for news executives to know just where their traffic is coming from. For example, if you look at the data for pretty much any news website, incoming referrals from Twitter.com will likely figure in the top 10.
However, that number significantly underestimates the importance of Twitter to readership – because 75% of Twitter traffic doesn't actually come via twitter.com; instead, it comes from people clicking in Twitter applications such as Tweetdeck, which use the site's API (application programming interface) to access its database. If you click on a link in a Twitter feed on Tweetdeck, it won't show up as a twitter.com referral.
Facebook, however, is the new elephant in the online newsroom. It's the fast-growing social network and attracts far less attention than its far smaller rivals such as Twitter. And it is the users, not the site, who grab chunks of content to link to. "The majority comes from people posting it around the site, rather like YouTube videos – so it's driven by Facebook's users, not Facebook itself," says Goad.
By contrast, he points out: "Google only presents that data when you go through to search on something, so if you search for 'David Cameron' you'll see results which include those news stories." Facebook is thus more of an exercise in news serendipity, depending on your circle of friends, than Google's directed attempt to organise the world's information.
And if news executives are rubbing their hands, even as they mentally reclassify Facebook from being unimportant to being the next Google to being their new best friend because of its traffic-driving potential, there's some dispiriting news: social media sites tend to display much shorter attention spans over any story than news organisations do. Those findings, from the Pew Research Centre's report New Media, Old Media, show that consumers don't stick long on any site, and social media doesn't linger for any period on any story: a three-day lifespan is all that 53% of stories can expect.
Bradshaw thinks that we'll simply have to adjust to it. The introduction last month of Facebook's "Like" system, which any site can adopt with a couple of lines of code, so that signed-in users of Facebook will be able to recommend the page to their online friends, could have far-reaching consequences, he says. "It has enormous potential. This isn't just another Digg button. Firstly, there's the enormous difference in user base. But more importantly, it demonstrates a level of engagement that can be sold to advertisers.
"I've said previously that the next big battleground for media organisations will be identity – and I can see the Like button being a site for that battle. Unlike the big spikes of 'window shoppers' that Digg generates, Facebook can attract a long tail of users with demonstrable value." Advertisers have long recognised the value of word of mouth recommendations for building brand loyalty. However, Bradshaw concedes there is scope for development on the Like button. "There's a whole infrastructure to be built around it to make it measurable and meaningful to advertisers."
Facebook, then, is likely to become more important in news organisations' plans. Unless, of course, something else comes along to overturn it. Best not to cling to that idea, though. No site has ever been as big as Facebook – not even MySpace. And who owns that?