Fireworks

Running a Great Social Media Contest

We’ve all seen them – giveaways on Instagram, random email drawings on Facebook, and so on. It seems like a lot of companies these days are trying to get likes on social media by offering prizes and giveaways. While this is a great way to get traffic and increase brand awareness, there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to run your own social media contest.

What is your goal?

There’s plenty of reasons to run a social media contest, whether you’re trying to increase brand awareness, highlight a new product or service, or merely get more followers on Twitter. However, if you don’t know why you’re running a contest, your efforts will come off as unfocused and won’t drive the traffic you want. Make sure to set a strong goal first.

What is the theme of your contest?

This should come pretty easily after deciding on a goal, but it’s still important to consider. Does your contest tie into a specific time of year or major event (think something like a sports playoff, the beginning of the school year, etc.)? If you are highlighting a new product, will the contest revolve around the functions/features of the product? It’s important to make a lot of these higher-level decisions first before proceeding with the more detailed aspects of your contest.

How will people enter the contest?

This should be the most fun contest for both your audience and yourself! While your options are numerous when it comes to contest entries, most contests tend to fall into one of six categories:

Connect: Like or follow the company’s social media page

Sweepstakes: Nothing required – these are mostly found on Twitter

Like: Like or retweet a specific piece of content

Share: Share/retweet a specific piece of content

Vote: Vote for your favorite option from multiple pieces of content

Create: Develop user-generated content to upload and enter

The type of content you should go with depends on a number of factors. The more you ask your audience to do, the fewer entries you will get – and younger audiences have always been found to be more comfortable creating their own content to enter. Look into the average age of your audience, as well as the audience’s size, before you decide on a format.

What will your prize be?

You might have decided this already, but if not, this should really be where you put the most creativity and effort in. Far too many companies run a generic “Win an iPad” contest, and nobody wants to waste their time with those. The trick is to find something relevant to your business – if you’re a home electronics review website, give away some fun and rare gizmo or merchandise, not a Best Buy gift card.

This could be even more fun if you don’t have a physical product to distribute. If you’re a news magazine or website, maybe your contest could be offering some aspiring writer the chance to visit your office and be a journalist for a day. The trick is always to make sure the prize is relevant and unique to your business – this will both increase brand awareness in user’s minds and make sure your contest stands out among the flood of “win an Xbox!” tweets.

 

Social media contests aren’t just for the users, either. Studies have shown that up to 85% of users engage further with a brand whose contest they have entered after the contest ends, whether or not they won. So between the low initial investment and the potential return for brand engagement and awareness, running a good social media contest might be just what your business needs.

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Groupon

Groupon and How to Use It

A lot of questions have been raised lately about what sort of effect Groupon will have for your business, and much of this seems to stem from a slight lack of confusion as to what exactly Groupon is.

More so than just a coupon aggregator, Groupon allows businesses to offer exclusive deals through their website that require a certain number of people to purchase the same deal (that’s where the “group” comes in).

Let’s say there’s a Groupon that lets you order $20 worth of food from a local pizza place for $10. You click on the coupon and enter your credit card information – you pay for your purchases on Groupon upfront, at the discounted rate – and just so long as enough other people have purchased the same coupon (that’s where the ‘group’ comes in) your discount is applied when you go to pick up your pizza!

Sure, there’s some catches – Groupon takes a portion of your discount price, for example – but for social media there are some advantages of listing your business on Groupon, at least for a time.

While coupons are inherently good for attracting new business, Groupon tends to add a new social media-focused dimension to it. Take, for example, a Groupon that your business just started offering for a good discount on a product or service you offer. And then imagine someone sees it on Facebook and really wants to get in on that deal, but it hasn’t met the minimum number of purchases yet.

Odds are, that Facebook user is going to start sharing your business on Facebook to try and spread the word to get more people in on the Groupon. Even if they don’t necessarily buy into the Groupon deal, your company is still getting plenty of impressions by this person sharing your deal, and it will still sit in people’s minds after the fact. Groupon also offers tools to track the number of impressions your deal is getting and the number of sales (and amount you’ve made from them) while they get shared throughout the Internet.

A unique example of this process in action is a charitable organization called Jolkona, who partnered with Groupon to begin a charity drive that matched every $10 donation (through Groupon purchases) to fund a training program for women in developing countries. Through Facebook and Twitter alone, the campaign page was shared by interested parties and independent users over 500 times and eventually raised over $5,000 for the charity.

But you don’t just need to rely on users to share your deals. Several Facebook and Twitter services exist to help get a large number of impressions that you can utilize for a small fee.

Take Gap for example. The popular clothing store offered a Groupon selling $50 worth of clothing for the site. Partnering with a Twitter account called @earlybird, Gap’s deal was blasted to a large number of users and by the time the Groupon had expired it had been purchased 441,000 times and made Gap a little more than $11 million. Not bad for a 50% off coupon, eh? Just goes to show what a little outreach can do for a business.

That said, Groupon likely isn’t for everyone. While it is a good way to build up a fanbase through some loss-leading, you’ll want to do a lot of research and analysis to see if your finances can include a Groupon campaign. However, if you do decide to start a Groupon for your business, integrating it with your existing social media campaigns (or even starting a new one just for it) should prove helpful for increasing conversions. And isn’t that why you’re here?

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Social Media and Organic Search

Social Media and Organic Search

Social media: we all know how important it is in today’s internet culture for establishing your brand in the minds of potential and current customers. We’ve already done a bit of explaining on how to get shared on social media, which should be enough to get your name out there in the world…but what other sort of effect is it having? Are there other reasons to want to have a big presence on social media platforms?

While the debate rages on as to whether or not social signals (a term for the amount of traffic, likes, views, etc. a page or article gets via social media) directly affect where your page ranks in Google’s search results, there is still a lot of value in how social signals could potentially affect your site’s traffic.

Linking Potential

Studies have shown conflicting results as to whether or not Google takes the authority of a Facebook or Twitter user into account when deciding rankings, it is believed that links published on social media may be considered backlinks. That is to say, a link posted to your site by a Twitter user could be considered a link to your page the same way it would from a blog or another website, although no consideration is given to who (or what) exactly posted the link.

It also plays a role in building links. Let’s say, hypothetically, an independent blogger happened to see a Facebook post from your company (or even saw someone else discussing it on Twitter, or what have you) and decides to insert a link to your site in an article they publish after reading your post. Even if the Facebook post isn’t considered a direct backlink (and again, that’s still being hotly debated) there are still organic opportunities for links to emerge from your social media participation.

Personalization

These days, most search engines would prefer you had an account with them – Google offers Google+ and Gmail, Bing works with Yahoo and Hotmail, and so on. If you’re signed into an account associated with a search engine (or sometimes even Facebook, in Bing’s case) the search engine can customize your results to reflect both their current rankings and recent activity on your friends in social media circles.

Let’s say you’re looking for the best bars in Detroit, and you’re signed into your Gmail account while browsing Google. A friend of yours happens to have recently liked the Google + page for a bar you’ve never heard of. The bar will then likely appear on the first Google results page for your search, provided the keywords line up.

What does this mean for your business? While it is limited to users of certain search engines or email accounts, it shows that certain page likes can affect the results a user sees. And who knows? You might get a new customer just because their grandma liked your site on Facebook and it made your name appear in their Bing search results.

Brand Signals

This one is a little trickier, but well worth getting into. A lot of discussion has happened in the SEO and marketing worlds over the concept of brand signals or brand sentiment, which is a measurement of how often your brand is being brought up on social media, blogs, and the like even without direct links. A patent held by Google for one of their search algorithms defines non-linking citations (essentially, someone mentioning your brand/company name without a link) as “implied links”, and as they’re a natural byproduct of social media usage they’re well worth your time. How do you do that? Simply by producing good social media content and getting people talking about you. The effect won’t be immediate, but so long as you can keep up your momentum, you’ll see some positive results soon enough.

 

There’s plenty more effects that social media could have on your organic search results, but these may be the most important ones to keep in mind when trying to track the results of your social media campaigns, or simply deciding how to increase your organic traffic.

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Social Media Analytics

What Are Social Media Analytics?

Analytics is the study of various sources of data. Social Media Analytics specifically refers to the practice of studying customer sentiment and feedback from a number of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and more.

While it might sound easy at first, there’s more to it than you may expect. Social media analytics consists of two different aspects: impressions, which is the measurement of how many users see a social post your company has created, and text mining, which is essentially the study of what people are saying about your company, and how often they say it (also referred to as ‘customer sentiment’).

Impressions are much easier to study than text, so many companies’ social media strategies revolve around measuring impressions. As different social media platforms handle analytics differently, let’s take a look at how a few major platforms calculate their analytics:

Facebook

The speed with which things can be shared on Facebook and the number of things that may pop up in your average user’s Facebook feed has led them to come up with their own criteria for measuring how many people see your company’s Facebook posts, called reach. Reach is defined as the number of people who have seen your post in their News Feed, as determined by Facebook’s algorithm for tracking a user’s interests and ‘liked’ posts. Reach is measured separately from impressions, and impressions tend to be higher than reach because impressions counts the number of times someone sees your post being shared by their friends or appearing in their feed, whereas the News Feed will only show a post once.

Twitter

Twitter provides two different measurements for impressions: potential impressions and actual impressions. Potential impressions is closer to Facebook’s impressions measurement, as it checks how many times users have posted a tweet with your company’s Twitter account name in it including retweets and posts that include your account name. Actual impressions are defined by Twitter themselves as “anytime a user sees your Tweet”, measuring the number of people that see any post your company makes. While actual impressions are a great way to build a marketing strategy, potential impressions are good for measuring customer sentiment by allowing you to see what people are saying about you on Twitter.

LinkedIn

While LinkedIn discourages using specific accounts to market your company, it still gives you plenty of tools to track your company’s reach. LinkedIn allows you to measure which of your page’s followers were gained organically (by simply finding your LinkedIn page) vs. being acquired through paid ads throughout the site, as well as how your followers have changed over time. You can also track how many visitors you specially get to your main page and your Career Listings page (if you have one, as not every LinkedIn page will have a job listings section). LinkedIn also tracks your main page’s Reach and Impressions much like Facebook, and will even show you the analytics for each of your pages’ updates.

So now that you have the data, what are you supposed to do with it? As always, it depends on what you’re trying to do. Most social media analytics will also display engagement, which is the number of people that actually click on your ad to see more about your product or business.

 

Many people will worry at first about their low engagement rate, but fret not! If you’re a newer business, you should focus on a high reach/impressions to start growing a fan base. It’s generally a good strategy to try and capture users’ attention first before trying to increase their engagement with your actual posts, particularly on Facebook but it’s a sound strategy across many, if not all of the available platforms. Once your reach has started to, well…reach the level you want (pun intended), it’s best to start focusing on engagement. That way you know the customers both know you’re out there and are willing to interact with your posts, further cementing you in their minds and hopefully turning into conversions!

 

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blog

Should My Business Have a Blog?

Blogging for Business

Even if you’ve never run one yourself, it’s entirely possible you know what a blog is. And if you don’t, there’s plenty to be read on the subject, but the short answer is “a regularly updated site or page written in an informal or conversational style”.

You’ve probably seen personal blogs here and there, and you may have even seen another company (or even a competitor of yours!) running a blog related to their business, industry, or product.

Hopefully you’ve taken our advice on social media and begun to establish yourself there, but you might be wondering now “well great, should I run a blog now too?”. The answer is yes, and just so long as you (or an employee, or an intern) have a bit of writing skill and patience, the benefits are pretty well worth it. Let’s take a look at some specific reasons to blog:

Establish Authority

You can call it building trust, you can call it demonstrating expertise, you can call it whatever you like – but blogs are a great way to show your company knows what it’s talking about.

The trick is to not make it sound like a self-serving marketing platform, and use it to address specific topics aside from ‘new products we have’. Address customer concerns, discuss trends in the industry or problems with the business, or even spread a general awareness about products and trends in your corner of the market. The more information you can provide (and the more fun you can inject into your posts) the more people will trust that you know what you’re talking about. The Whole Foods blog is a pretty good example of the type and amount of information you should provide.

Driving Traffic

This one seems obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. If you followed our advice about establishing authority and coming off as knowledgeable, people will return to your page more often. They’ll want to see what you’re blogging about now, which will get them to spend more time on your page, which will expose them to more of your products and services.

But it isn’t just for repeat business, either. Search engines will see that your blog is being updated regularly, and they’ll take that as a sign that your site is active and should be checked in on frequently so they can keep adding your new pages to their index. The benefits of frequent and/or more pages being indexed have been pretty well documented and make a pretty compelling case for frequent blog updates all on their own. Either way, more traffic to your business’ website will always be a good thing.

Fueling Your Social Media Campaign

Frequent blog posts are a great way to keep your social media accounts active, too. Posting your blog updates to your Facebook or Twitter does a lot to both keep the blog fresh in users’ minds and allow an ease of sharing to continue finding larger audiences.

Sharing on social media helps your overall site rankings, too. More and more search engines have begun incorporating social context into their search results, and between the social rankings and the frequent page indexes (that I mentioned in the previous section), the benefits of sharing a blog post on Facebook or Twitter are pretty clear.

There’s tons more benefits to blogging, if you need further convincing. But even this short list should help convince you that no matter what your business, industry, or vertical, there’s a lot your company can gain from running a blog. Now get out there and get blogging!

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social sharing

Top 5 Social Sharing Sites

The days of Facebook and MySpace being the main places to share pictures, videos, and links are long gone. People now have more places than ever to share content with their friends and followers. So what are some of the top sites people are using now?

  1. Facebookfacebook logo

Social media has grown tremendously in the time since Facebook was first released, and despite a number of controversial decisions over the years, Facebook remains the most popular social sharing platform on the Internet. When a person has a picture, video, or link they want to share, Facebook is still the first site many people turn to.

  1. Twittertwitter logo

Twitter users only have 140 characters to get their messages across, but Twitter has found a very successful niche in the social sharing world. Its interface allows users to quickly and concisely comment on and share pictures of events as they unfold in real time. Its use of hashtags makes it very easy for users to monitor what is being said about a certain subject.

  1. YouTubeyoutube logo

YouTube has become synonymous with online video sharing. There are other video sharing sites on the Internet, but YouTube is the first place most people go to for all their video sharing and watching needs. YouTube has become so popular, people have started using it as a verb (“I am so YouTubing this!”).

  1. Instagraminstagram logo

With social media, everything is about being fast and to the point. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so it should come as no surprise that pictures have become hugely popular in the social sharing world. Why say something when you can just show it? Instagram makes it easy for users to share and edit pictures of events as they happen in real time.

  1. Tumblrtumblr logo

Tumblr is built around the entire concept of sharing. Although Tumblr has plenty of user created content, if people stopped re-blogging Tumblr posts, Tumblr would be a completely and totally different environment.

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2015-social-trends

Top social networking trends for 2015

Ephemeral Social Media

Believe it or not, many people like only being able to have brief glimpses of the content other users share with them on social media. They enjoy the spontaneity of getting messages and having them disappear within seconds. More than 360 million pictures have been shared on Snapchat and has become popular enough for Facebook to offer to buy it for $3 billion. Several brands such as Taco Bell, Rebecca Minkoff, Acura, and MTV have started using Snapchat to send their followers brief messages.

(more…)

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