Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Essential Points in Improving Community Management

As brands enter the world of social business, community management is becoming one of the most used buzzwords. Marketers now view the Internet as a market where they can increase brand awareness and promote products by leveraging social media networks. Facebook has become a destination-location for both merchants and consumers as well. In fact, some business owners think that Facebook pages are the new websites (SEO specialists will disagree!), but the way Facebook has paved the way for enhanced communication and portable medium for brand information made it more than a website. Facebook fan pages offer more than what a regular website can do to establish a business' online presence.

A brand's Facebook page puts a premium on user engagement and community management. Both are essential aspects when it comes to marketing. Community management is one of the essentials in today’s public relations. It elegantly combines customer relations management and brand development in many ways. Veteran community managers know that every comment, suggestion, or rant of a customer is valuable and can help a brand improve in a significant way. Multi-national brands like Dell and Gatorade are two companies that augmented their social media outreach. Dell launched the IdeaStorm blog after the controversial Dell Hell, and then came up with its Social Media Listening Command Center to serve its billions of customers who talk about Dell online.

Photo via Brian Solis

Today, more organizations and local businesses are realizing the sheer importance of enhanced community management using their social media accounts. Obviously, Facebook consumes most of the time of users who go online. One of my colleagues at Squareberry even mentioned that for most people - Facebook is the Internet. I bet most of you will agree. Without a doubt, people are flocking the Web to log in on their Facebook accounts. And whenever a user logs in on his Facebook, it's always an opportunity for every brand to catch a potential customer's attention. Community managers are the bridge of between brands and customers. It's not enough that you use a monitoring tool like Radian6 or Squareberry. The community manager is the linchpin in improving Facebook Page Management.

Here are some essential points in supercharging your social media account whether it's your Facebook page or Twitter account:

Encourage Thought-Sharing

Content has always been the fuel of the Internet. Without content, the Web will be a desolate place. As user-generated content or UGC becomes valuable to brands, community managers should entice fans and followers to increase brand mentions by sharing photos, videos, and most importantly, thoughts.

Humanize your Page

People always want something to discuss about. Feed them relevant content and they will easily respond with substantial feedbacks. The more they feel that a brand interacts with them, the more user engagement is increased.

Think like a Publisher

Feed your followers with "branded content", this will pave the way for their contacts to notice what they're Liking or Sharing. Thus, extending brand awareness outside of your followers' network. Branded content begets user-generated content as well!

Offer your Fans "Control"

Restrictions on Facebook pages is censoring user-generated content. You have to understand that your Facebook page is like a customer service center where every suggestion or rant should be attended to and approached in an objective manner.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Tip - Facebook Pages are the New Website

Facebook Pages are the new website. As Facebook becomes an increasingly larger and more time-consuming internet experience, Facebook Pages will mor greatly become the central contact and information point for organizations.

Custom Facebook Pages

More and more organizations are seeing Facebook Pages as mini-websites complete with video, contact forms and more. Organizations know that Facebook is the largest portion of many internet users' time. To many, Facebook IS the internet. It is important to communicate your organization's purpose and brand as effectively as possible. Often, you have a very short amount of time to make that first impression on Facebook.

Having a customized Facebook Page helps your organization do the following:

  • Stand out in a crowded space.
  • Deliver a more customized message and brand.
  • Grab attention immediately with videos and graphics.
  • Capture leads with contact forms and links to other sites.

Customized Facebook Page

Easy Custom Facebook Page Maker

Customized Fan Pages are similar to many other things on the internet: you have to KNOW HOW to get them done. Often times this can be time consuming and frustrating. You may ask questions like: Does your server have SSL? Will my design fit on the narrow space allotted? How do I even add it onto my page?

There are many ways to add in these custom tabs on a Facebook Fan Page, from completely custom design to management systems. Squareberry offers an easy Facebook Page Maker for adding a great looking Landing Page to your organization's Facebook Fan Page.

You can add a YouTube video, featured events and promotions, banner image, custom text/HTML, links to websites, social sites and more, and Recent Tweets or Blog Posts. The Squareberry Landing Page helps drive your Facebook Page vistiors across the web to your complete web presence. The Featured Slider shows off upcoming Events and Promotions, helping to drive people to your real world location.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Will It Work for BlackBerry?

Earlier this month, BlackBerry users were stunned by the massive service outage. RIM customers particularly in Europe and South America have experience difficulties in accessing messages and some email delays as well. Canadian-based RIM said that the huge outage was caused by a certain bug, most pundits speculate that RIM's saturated email system is the culprit for the system to collapse. After RIM fixed the issue, they tried to make amends with their customers by offering them a wide-array of premium apps for free. Aside from that, customers will get a month's trial of technical support service and current customers will get one month extension.

Free apps? Is this enough to easen the pains of the giant lemon that RIM threw at its billions of customers? Reality checked, damage has been done. While BlackBerry has been the only reliable and instrumental communications tool during the Virginia quake back in August, customers are an unforgiving lot, customers are to be pleased and not to be asked for sympathy. Remember Dell Hell? A couple of years ago, digital journalist Jeff Jarvis blogged about the lemon he encountered with a Dell laptop. Dell's customer service was poor at that time, they ignored Jarvis. Little that they know that Jarvis' snowball started rolling which eventually turned into an avalanche of online rants. And before Dell knew it, Dell's blog post sparked a movement dubbed as "Dell Hell" which has every customer throwing their complaints about their Dell gadgets. Twitter was still an "infant" at that time, and Dell had no practical medium to use to address every complaint there is on the Web.

After months of enduring Dell Hell, the computer giant came up with Direct2Dell and IdeaStorm blog both of which aims to empower the customer while enhancing customer service. Arguably, Dell is the pioneer of social media command centers which puts a premium in customer-company collaboration. Even CEO Michael Dell started a blog so he can interact with customers by using his blog as a podium for his personal insights. Dell has redefined customer relations management by turning a lemon into a lemonade stand. So what can RIM learn from the Dell Hell ordeal? Check out the list below:

  • Admit your Fault

  • Customers don't care if you're the best mobile service provide in the planet. They always expect you to deliver, but most importantly, you have to admit if a flaw like a service outage happens. Ignore a customer's rant and tons will walk away.

  • Offer a Consolation

  • People appreciate free stuff, but if you're offering free stuff as a consolation, always assure that the freebie is useful enough to make them forget your mistake. Also, a consolation means that your apology is really sincere, and that makes a customer special.

  • Assess Consumer Behavior After A Lemony Event

  • Always remember your customer is either your bestfriend or worst enemy. But most importantly, customers are your walking ads so better to monitor what your customers are saying about your brand on social media networks.

  • Improve your Command Center

  • Establishing your accounts across social media platforms is very crucial. Let an experienced community manager handle your Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, a community manager that knows how to calm flashmobs knows how his social media tactics very well.

  • Make Sure It Won't Happen Again

  • The title says it all, always evaluate what caused the error whether it's on the technical area or a CRM issue. If you make the same mistake twice, then you are your own problem.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Do Changes Help Sustain Social Media Networks?

    For the past few months we've seen a plethora of product changes from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. From Facebook's new user timeline profile to Google+'s hashtag support that has a tie-in with search results, it seems that social media platforms continue to be spontaneous and relentlessly throwing changes at users. Social networks continue to come up with innovations that enhance their sharing functions, but most of the time users get lost when they can’t comprehend to these changes that sometimes lead to a lack of interest in increasing social activity in networks.

    Unless you're a social media manager for digital marketing agency, working for a dotcom, or still hanging out at your folks' basement, a person who's pre-occupied with his day job doesn't log in every minute on his Facebook or Twitter account. How frequent a social network rolls out such changes that we don't know, but one thing's for sure - social networks think changes help sustain their existence on the Web.

    Instant Access Increases Usage

    Arguably, Facebook is a success because of changes that present itself as improvements of their functionality. Just think of it, MySpace and Friendster were stagnant in terms of functionality and accessiblity. And when I mean accessibility, there weren't enough smartphone users when those social networks were riding the waves of momentum. It's not a secret that a glut of social media activities are being done by using a mobile phone.

    Today, anyone can log in on their social media accounts through their mobile phones. Thus, instant and spontaneous access keeps social giants like Facebook and Twitter alive and sporadic in terms of use. Friendster and the old MySpace bit the dust because they were complacent in making innovations to improve functionality, but the lack of exposure on mobile gadgets failed to increase usability through instant access.

    "New and Improved" Doesn't Always Bring Improvements

    The sub-title says it all, some changes are only good on paper. Social networks couldn’t ascertain if a new function or feature is useful or not, users determine if a new function even makes sense for their daily use. Just look at Facebook Deals, Questions, and Places, those sounded good before they were launched but were ditched after users discontinued use because interest was slowly fading.

    It simply suggests that users opt to ignore every function when it's eventually not used by a majority of users. And when people don't use a certain function anymore, it doesn't present any value at all. Recently, a survey from Mashable reports that about 56% of Facebook users who know about its recent changes actually dislike them. Facebook's much ballyhooed Timeline feature that gives a user’s contacts a glimpse of their "history" which poses some privacy issues for a number of users. Perhaps this is the reason why a definite date for Timeline's worldwide launch has yet to surface.

    Enhanced Content-Sharing

    The notable features on Facebook and Google+ are functions that urge marketers to think like publishers. Google+ rolled out its hashtag support and real-time search while Facebook launched its People Talking About metric. The former's function is very helpful because of its direct tie-in to Google search results, while the latter has given page admins and marketers something to look forward to, though has yet to present its value to ordinary users. The common denominator of these new functions is to increase user engagement through content-sharing.

    The only thing that Facebook's People Talking About metric has yet to show is the value of knowing who's talking about a particular brand or product in order to determine substantial demographics. User-generated content fuels a brand's Facebook page, marketers and page admins should not only urge fans to click the Like button beside a post, they should promote thought-sharing to generate UGC which increases SEO as well. User-generated content is essential to all social platforms, it's the fuel of every brand's Facebook page or Twitter account that helps sustain user engagement.

    The Rise of Social Advertising

    If Twitter wants to put hair conditioner ads on Justin Bieber's tweets, they can do it. Why? Social media platforms are free, but they have to monetize their service and generate revenues in order to exist. Just picture out how TV began, TV networks needed ad placements to produce shows. Nowadays, most people are not watching TV, they are watching TV on the Web. This is why the Internet has become a destination-location for advertisers and consumers.

    The use of social networks tend to consume people's time, for some it's been a routine already! And that's a clear opportunity for social platforms to monetize their service through paid social ads. It's a win-win situation, users get to use the social network for free and marketers can leverage social ads to increase ROI.

    Tuesday, October 18, 2011

    Tuesday Tip - Show Off Events and Promotions on Your Home Page

    A website's home page is the ideal location to show off real world events and promotions. In many cases, web surfers only see the home page. If your goal is to drive them to your real world location or drive participation in an event or promotion, the Home Page needs to be part of your strategy.

    Home Page Widgets - What's Happening!

    Home page widgets are the ideal way to communicate your real world happenings on your website. Rather than plopping a traditional calendar or static graphic, these widgets will auto-update to show off your upcoming events and promotions. You can select specific categories when creating your views, to limit your widgets to just those selected categories.

    With auto-refreshing widgets, you never have to worry about making sure your website homepage is up to date. You know you are always showing off your upcoming events and promotions and driving people into your real world location. Special Events and Coupons are the perfect way to get more people to your location.

    Home Page Calendar Widgets

    Easily Add a Calendar Widget to Your Home Page

    Adding these widgets is very easy. With Squareberry, you are given simple embed codes for every type of widget. These can easily be added to any website. It is as easy as adding a YouTube video. You can create customized views with certain categories, allowing you to show off just the events and promotion you want with any widget or calendar.

    The Slider Widget gives any website motion and solid content. Events and Promotions slide by, creating an eye-catching display of your happenings. The List Widget lists your upcoming happenings and auto-refreshes to show off your next X number of events or promotions.

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Like Button is Top User Engagement Tool

    It seems Facebook's plan to urge marketers and businesses to think like publishers are paying off even before launching the Subcribe button and People Talking About metric. AllFacebook reports that a white paper from Efficient Frontier shows some figures which concluded that user engagement has increased by 31% over the last year and overwhelming the 24% average increase impressions per post for the same quarter as well. Facebook's LIKE button is the linchpin for user engagement levels to increase and accounts for 84% of all Facebook user feedback.

    It only shows that content is more influential and enticing compared to paid social ads. Thanks to the LIKE button, marketers can ascertain if promoting a new product or service through their feeds is actually effective and increases brand awareness rather spending too much on ads.

    This is quite similar to my standpoint towards Twitter's advertising platform that trends are more powerful than ads. When a brand communicates and interacts on their social accounts, the more it merits a feedback because the approach is more personal which every consumer appreciates. Feed them ads and they'll probably notice yet ignore it sometimes.

    The great thing about leveraging "thought-sharing" posts on every fan page is that it's obviously cheaper yet practical compared to paid social ads. When you ask, give a tip, or share a joke to your fans, not only it's likely to be shared, mentioned, or liked, users will give feedbacks and that's instant user-generated content for a brand's page. Liking a brand or a brand's post is instant and spontaneous, no wonder it's the top user engagement drawer on the social network. The Like button is the catalyst that paves the way for more real-time engagement to happen. It's really up to page admins and community managers to inject some creative juices on their posts so users can be enticed to join the conversation to increase engagement levels.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Tuesday Tip - Promote Your Complete Online Presence

    It is important to promote all of the various places your organization is mentioned, listed, referenced or promoted online. You never know how someone interested in your organization will find you or where they will come from. Having a consistent and well kept complete online presence can help drive real world traffic from all corners of the internet.

    These online locations may include:

    • Review Sites: Yelp / TripAdvisor
    • Search Engines: Google Places / Bing Maps
    • Professional Listing Sites: Manta / Angie's List
    • Social Media Sites: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla
    social-media-online-presence [divider]

    Links Back to Your Website

    External links back to your website are an essential aspect of ranking higher in search engines. Having your organization listed across various websites and online areas gives you more links back to your website.

    Get More Followers in More Places

    Have more Facebook "Likes" and less Twitter followers? Have a bunch of Twitter followers but nobody "Liking" your Facebook Fan Page? It is fairly common to have a lopsided presence one way or the other. It is important to leverage your followers to gain more followers across social media sites.

    If you have a strong Twitter following, send a message encouraging people to connect on Facebook. If you have a lot of fans on Facebook but a small number of Twitter followers, encourage your Facebook fans to get on Twitter. Rather than just asking, it is a good idea to offer exclusive content or promotions to people on certain networks.

    For instance, you could post an update on Facebook which says: "We will be giving away a free gift card on Twitter this weekend! Follow us on Twitter to be part of the contest!". Special promotions or offerings like this can help drive followers from one social network to another.

    Encourage Reviews

    Reviews are a very important aspect of your online presence. They can help with SEO, drive new customers in and keep your reputation clean. Numerous bad reviews can turn away new people and hurt your online image. It is important to encourage people to write positive reviews about your organization online.

    Rather than just sending a message asking people to review you, you should make it easy. Find your listing on a review site and send the direct link out to your followers on social media. Make it so easy that all they have to do is click and write a short review. Not everyone will do this, but the more you try the more results you will get to improve your online presence.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    People Talking About Metric: What’s The Real Score?

    Facebook launched the newest addition to its Insights Page Analytics called People Talking About. The People Talking About metric enables users and page admins to view a fan page's various interactions such as Likes, Mentions, Photo-tagging ,and Sharing a post which are all fused into a single metric. While Google now thinks like a "publisher" with the launch its new content-enhacing tools, Facebook's making marketers think like publishers through the People Talking About metric.

    Like I've said on one of my previous blog posts, the new Facebook metric seeks to bring out more quality content out of brand’s fan pages because any user can easily view if the page's engagement is doing well. But as the new metric rolled out last week, I have yet to see the value the new metric brings to page admins and community managers.

    Where's The Value Then?

    As much I don't want to make a comparison, whenever Google Analytics releases a new metric it presents its value right away. Does the same goes for Facebook? Another column called "Virality" will be added on the Insights page that will gauge the reach of a particular content posted on a fan page. You can attain Virality figures when you have the numbers of People Talking About then divide it to the content's reach.

    The great thing about this Virality metric is if it can let page admins track the posts that bring more user engagement and increase interactivity levels within the page. Page admins can easily ascertain which videos entice more conversations or blog entries are shared the most.

    More Content to Increase Engagement

    As businesses become more social, Facebook page content isn't limited to what a company announces, promotes, or shares. User-generated content is what fuels every social media platform. But for pages to receive a plethora of UGC fuel, community managers should always be the linchpin of a conversation.

    While posting a photo or sharing a video could merit a Like or Share, it's a must for community managers to increase user engagement levels through thought-sharing. Why? While Facebook mentioned that People Talking About metric will only classify every comment whether positive or negative as one, Sentiment Analytics is a crucial factor in determining consumer behavior towards a brand.

    My Take As A Page Admin

    One of my colleagues mentioned that People Talking About will pressure page admins to increase interactivity. It's true, getting 10k fans every week to increase fan page count is already passe. Marketers and community managers should begin thinking like publishers because content triggers UGC which fuels virality in order to increase brand awareness.

    My only concern is that, how a page admin can identify who shares content or mentions the brand in order to generate a comprehensive demographics report. I know this brings another privacy issue to the table. Anyway, for page admins and community managers, I'd like to leave a message in relation to the People Talking About metric - Is the right target niche talking about your brand?

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Why Trends Are More Powerful Than Ads

    After the launch of promoted tweets, Twitter intends to leverage one of its primary assets - celebrity accounts.

    Before, advertising was limited to media such as TV, radio, and print. Today, social media platforms are making the Internet a destination-location for advertisers and consumers alike. Social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are the reason why a person who doesn't even have an email account still goes online. Indeed, Twitter is one of the most-used media of communication nowadays, so it's a no-brainer if a free service like this will monetize its service through ads. After all, free television moved in a similar way through TV commercials.

    In a recent interview with NYmag , Twitter CEO Dick Costolo explains how the social platform will monetize its service. Twitter's promoted tweets were launched recently and users didn't seem to mind if these ads were somewhat disguised as ordinary tweets. It only shows that Twitter's recent foray to monetize the service is paying up as long as they don't overdo it. Costolo aims to use celebrities who are considered influencers to catapult ads to their followers without alienating followers of a celebrity such as Charlie Sheen or Justin Bieber. If Twitter wants to put hair conditioner ads on Justin Bieber's tweets than they can. Twitter intends to use a frictionless approach, which means that they might try inserting organic ads on every celebrity's tweet. Essentially, "frictionless" in this sense means presenting ads in a discreet manner. Arguably, the most discreet way of promoting a product or a service on Twitter would be using hashtags. Wouldn’t you agree?

    While this might be a good thing to Twitter in order to maintain its service, the essence of viral marketing might be a goner here. We all know that if a trend is all over the Twittersphere, it spreads like wildfire on other media whether it's social or traditional. The notion of social media being a two-way communication between a consumer and a brand is not yet passe. The concern here however is that when you start shoving a product or an ad down people's throats or smartphones, it becomes invasive due to the interruption. Reality check: trends influence people and ads interrupt them.

    Nonetheless, people won’t quit using Twitter, people still watch free TV, right? People won't mind the promoted tweets and ad-glazed celebrity tweets. Social platforms run on user-generated content to make something viral, and there's a reason why Twitter has a Trending List on the user interface - trends are more powerful than ads.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    Facebook Launches "People Talking About" Metric

    Google launched a couple of new products last week such as the Google Analytics Real Time feature and the stand-out tag for news organizations. Google Analytics Real Time aims to improve how marketers pull the linchpin from their ad campaigns on social networks. Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Facebook is revamping their Pages Insights analytics tool. The social network announced a new metric to better assess a brand's page called "People Talking About."

    "People Talking About" is just a tentative title to the new Facebook metric. It will enable users to view the Pages below the total number of Likes. Like Google's latest content-enhancing tools, Facebook's metric puts a premium on user-generated content as well, it determines a Facebook page's rating if it has content that has deliberate impact which results into meaningful engagements. While Google thinks like a publisher, Facebook compels marketers and brands to think like publishers which is why the social network urges them to make their pages to carry more quality content to merit more comments and shares from fans.

    The People Talking About metric will gauge and measure all user-initiated activity that pertains to a Facebook page. The areas that the new metric will include are:

    • Likes
    • Posts (Page's Wall)
    • Shares (Deals, Pages, Content)
    • Comments
    • Mentions (Pages)
    • Answers to a Question Posted
    • Checking in at a Location
    While these areas are considered essential in order to gauge how a brand's page is performing, there's one aspect lacking - sentiment analytics. This suggests that every comment whether positive or negative will count as the same. Sentiment analytics is subjective in nature, hence, it should be handed down to social media mission control centers like Dell’s and Gatorade’s for further assessment rather than depending on Facebook’s analytics tool. The focal point will be the number of Likes and will remain as a top measurement for page performance. But as I wrote in a previous post, attaining your next 1 million fans is passe and that it’s time to feed your fans relevant content which will help sustain a brand’s Facebook page.