Social media for SMB’s: asset or waste of time?

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There is no doubt about the influence of social networks on our lives. A simple tweet can bring down the price of company shares on the stock market, or a video can make the whole world addicted to K-pop. But what does it mean for businesses?

social-media-questions

Are social media really so essential? When we see that 2/3 of the world population has a profile on a social network and 400 million tweets are sent per day, the answer seems obvious. But, as with most things, it comes down to a combination of considerations to really determine how to be effective as a business over social media networks.

 

SOME QUESTIONS YOU SHOULD ASK YOURSELF BEFORE GETTING STARTED ON SOCIAL NETWORKS

If you are a small organization with limited resources, it is necessary to think about the goals you wish to achieve by launching a new strategy that will cost you time or money, or both.

1. Why would I want to do this? (The answer “because everyone does” is not the right reason)

2. How much time and/or money am I willing to spend on social media?

3. Should I even expect a return on investment while I am establishing my social presence?

SOME SOCIAL MEDIA CONCEPTS THAT DO NOT WORK FOR SMBs

 ”We will increase our sales through social media”

It is extremely difficult today to measure the return on investment of a strategy based on social media because this requires transforming human interactions in quantitative data. You can use measuring tools such as Google analytics, Klout, Pinpuff, etc. to discover more about user behaviors, but social networks are by nature extremely difficult waters to navigate for marketers and that problem is compounded at a local and hyper local level.

 ”We will increase our brand awareness and enhance our brand through social networks.”

facebook

In 2011, Facebook introduced “people talking about” metric. This is the number of Facebook fans who interacted with your page during the last 7 days. After two years of hindsight, it is interesting to note the large amount of SMBs page with over 5,000 fans and 15 people interacting. Is an active page with little interaction better than no page at all?

“We will improve our position in Google with social media.”

Google is the only one to know which social networks influence ranking and search placement in their Search Engine’s results. While we can be certain some networks do influence the ranking, such as Youtube and Google+ (it’s likely no coincidence that both companies belong to Google), Google’s position is that participation in other mainstream networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, provides no positive influence on search rankings.

ARE SOCIAL MEDIA NECESSARY TO INSURE THE ONLINE SUCCESS OF YOUR BUSINESS?

Large companies are able to apply creative and inventive techniques over social media to create audience engagement, focusing on a trend or creating a buzz to keep their online audience spellbound. The more popular strategies include contests, video teasers, coupons, discounts, promotional gifts, etc., all of which come at considerable cost to the company.

If you are a large enough brand, such as Coca-cola, Danone or Barack Obama, there is no doubt social media is an important part of today’s marketing strategy. For large brands, marketing on social media makes sense because of their broad audience appeal. Consumers expect to see promotional information and advertising regardless of where they are investing their time. But, for a small business with a limited budget there is no real way to create sufficient local audience around special offers, or other realistically achievable marketing strategies, making the road to gaining ‘likes’, ‘fans’ and ‘followers’ very complicated unless you have the capability to generate meaningful, compelling, content for your target audience.

TIPS FOR SMBs

1. Focus on one or two social networks. Sometimes less is more.

2. Do it in-house; you know your company and customers better than any agency.

3. Use social etiquette; do not talk only about yourself, your company and your products. Participate in the broader social narrative by sharing opinions, articles you liked, industry blog posts, etc.

4. Do not overestimate the impact of social networks on your results. Do not underestimate the time you’ll have to spend on it, either.

5. Be creative. Though easier said than done, not simply copying the strategies of others is one factor that can help you stand out in the crowd. You don’t need to come up with something as viral as Flash Mobs, the Harlem Shake, Cute Animals, etc., etc., you simply need to find a way to best represent who your company is and how they are valuable to the local community. Find your own style!

Finally, it needs to be stressed that without some type of regular, and engaging, social media output, be it light-hearted or informative, the social media networks of SMBs are going to be filled mainly by family, friends, and friends of friends. So, before you embark on your own social media adventure, take a little time to think about what social media works best for you and view it as an investment in the future. When done right, it can be a great way to extend your network of loyal customers. When done wrong, it can be off putting and diminish your appeal to potential customers.


Happy 10 year anniversary LinkedIn!

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LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional social media network, celebrated its 10 year anniversary on May 5th. To commemorate a decade of success, the LinkedIn team put together a really interesting infographic about their history and evolution, with numbers, dates, milestones and photos from their archives.

LinkedIn-Logo

From a slow start to one of the top leading social media

 It’s kind of hard to imagine life before LinkedIn, as it’s become such a mainstream channel for professionals of all sorts and businesses large and small around the world. But it wasn’t always so popular. 10 years ago, this whole social media phenomenon was just taking its first baby steps. Just think, when they started, Facebook hadn’t even been founded yet! So LinkedIn’s beginnings were understandably a bit slow. A week after they first launched, they had 2,700 members, and a month later the number hadn’t even doubled, sitting at 4,700.

Despite the challenges getting things going and getting traction for what they were trying to do, they were eventually able to make tracks in the social landscape, leading them to the incredible success they enjoy today. As of now, they have 225 million members around the world – a far cry from those early days. They also offer their platform in 16 different languages. Apparently, two new people join LinkedIn every second!

The challenge of innovation

It’s not easy to stand out online with the plethora of sites and social media networks vying for attention. One way LinkedIn was able to enjoy such incredible success was thanks to their focus on innovation. Their address book functionality, for example, was one early tactic that allowed them to make headway. Enabling the powerful and very popular recommendations feature in 2006 was another huge boon.

2012 was a year of big changes – product innovation and transformation were the name of the game, all revolving around 3 main concepts: simplify, grow, everyday.

At Agendize, we can definitely relate to LinkedIn’s journey and what it’s like to startup a business that revolves around technology and a concept that hasn’t really hit the mainstream yet. When we first started with our customer service software and tools, it was still a pretty new idea. Seeing things like Click to Chat and Online Scheduling on a website was a rarity. But we believed in what we were doing. We saw that this was the way of the future. And we stuck with it. That’s what the journey to success is all about!

 So, LinkedIn we salute you and wish you a very happy birthday!

Are you a LinkedIn member? How have you used the platform to advance your career or your business? Let us know in the comments.


Judge a Person by the Blogs They Read (Or Don’t Read)

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Title too mean? Maybe a little. The truth is people often judge each other by the way they look, dress, what car they drive etc. Focusing on the inside of a person, not the outside and finding the good parts in everyone is what counts. Agreed? Discovering the types of blogs a person reads can tell us a lot about someone. It can indicate common interests, hobbies, dreams, goals, hidden secrets and more.

I figured a great way to get to know the Agendize team is by exploring the content we read daily. Also…we didn’t want you judging us on our looks.☺

Here’s what a few of us had to say:

Phil – Project Manager

Tech: www.gizmodo.com

News: www.cyberpresse.ca/blogues

Celebrity News: www.wwtdd.com

Sports: www.deadspin.com

Humor: www.petitpetitgamin.com & www.stuffyouwillhate.com

✩ Fave Blog: Gizmodo - I love gadgets too much!

Alex – CEO & Founder

Tech: http://www.gizmodo.fr

Marketing: http://sethgodin.typepad.com

News: www.rue89.com

✩ Fave Blog: Rue89 – I learn new stuff, discover new faces and news that you don’t usually find on the big news channels. Different points of views help me broaden my thoughts about people and life in general.

Chris- UX Designer

Tech: http://www.engadget.com

Design: www.lukew.com/ff

News: http://www.lefigaro.fr/blogs/

Humor: http://www.chucknorrisfacts.com

✩ Fave Blog: http://www.good.is

Matt – VP Product

Tech: http://www.techcrunch.com

Company: http://www.37signals.com

News/Everything: http://www.boingboing.net

Entertainment: http://warmingglow.uproxx.com

Humor: 27bslash6.com

Other: http://w5.montreal.com/mtlweblog

✩ Fave Blog:  Boing Boing - It’s really well-rounded, covering news, technology, music, literature and any other weird stuff going on in the world.

Nancy – Marketing Communications Manager

Tech: http://mashable.com/tech

News: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/

Marketing: http://www.copyblogger.com/

Celebrity News: http://www.zacktaylor.ca/

Other: http://www.treehugger.com/

✩ Fave Blog: Treehugger – interesting stories for the green and geek in me!

We opened the question up to our friends on Twitter. Montreal-based Web Developer, Alex Poitras was the first to answer our tweet: LifeHacker for sure! http://www.lifehacker.com/

Q: If you could only choose one blog to read for the rest of your life , what would it be? Post your answers in the comments section below. Our ✩ fave response will win $15 of free Agendize credit.

Nancy E.

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Share Your Way to More Web Traffic with Agendize

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Sharing is caring. In the online world, sharing is caring about visits, conversions and your brand. You’re probably already familiar with the “Share” button, but do you really know how it can benefit your website or blog?

“Share” helps spread your content through the web, helping readers share, save, bookmark and email posts and pages using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Delicious, MySpace and many more social bookmarking and sharing sites. We’re also working on adding Google+ to the list!

Using a share button is an easy, proactive and free way to expose your new products, posts, press releases event details, infographics and more. You don’t need to be a programmer to create, install or manage a Share buttons. Simply copy and paste the code to your website and blog in minutes.

From a SEO point of view, sharing content that contains backlinks to your website will drive more traffic and increase your link popularity. With the latest changes to Google’s algorithms, social signals seem to be carrying more and more weight. The more your content is shared, the better you’ll rank in the search results.

Do your share of sharing. Share this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Nancy E.


If McLuhan was alive today, would he tweet and text his friends?

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Earlier this month, @BrianSolis blogged about “The Number One Least Asked Question in Social Media…Why?” He discussed why asking “Why” is important in all aspects of business, including social media. As we embrace a social media culture, Solis proves that Marshall McLuhan’s world aphorism “the medium is the message” (and palindrome: “the message is the medium”) is still valid today:

In an era where information is democratized and influence is equalized, the message is now also the medium. There are prevailing cultures unique to each social network. What you create for Twitter is different than what you might say in Facebook and certainly not at all how you would say it in Google+.

The real importance in understanding McLuhan’s quote is to remind us of the potential dangers of new “mediums” (technology)…like instant messaging.

@BrianZimm1 says that “digital conversations via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn can be very dangerous to the future of communication.” Research proves that a message is correctly interpreted approximately 20% more over phone than email. Without verbal communication, many opportunities of connecting with customers, leads and colleagues are lost.

McLuhan said, “Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.”

Therefore, if we discover that a new medium brings along negative effects in the way we do business, it’s our duty to intervene during the technology’s development and set it on the right track. Maintaining the right balance between digital and face-to-face conversations is key for maintaining healthy business and personal relationships. Every instant messaging tool such as email, text message and Twitter, must be complemented with a human touch engagement tool like Click- to-Call. By adding the right ‘combos’ of communication tools to your websites, blogs and marketing campaigns, you can keep up with new technology, without neglecting the importance of verbal communication via phone calls, video chats and live meetings.

Nancy E.


How Not to Get Dumped by Your Angry Customers

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Building a business is like building a relationship. We all slip up at some point and make mistakes. It’s how we deal with our shortcomings that really matters…and learning from them.

As a dissatisfied customer, I learned three important lessons in customer service today:

  1. Don’t annoy your leads/clients
  2. If you do irritate them, respond to their frustration in a timely manner
  3. Not matter the situation, be polite and professional

Receiving  customer complaints via web forms and email is proving to be less and less effective. The main reason: response time. Our follow up expectations have skyrocketed in this digital age of real-time data.

How long is too long? Many users would agree that a response within 24 hours is necessary. Others are less patient.

So you or one of your employees made a boo boo. As a business owner, what are the right steps to take when responding to your customers’ complaints online?

Help your customer one to one:

  • Use Click-to-Call and Live Chat on your site so people can get in touch with you immediately (and free). Don’t anger your customer more by forcing them to wait on hold and pay for it.
  • Set up Twitter/Facebook pages and monitor them regularly. It’s important to know what people are saying about your company–good and bad.
  • If a customer complains, respond honestly, transparently, professionally and address their concern. Don’t try to hide and ignore bad reviews/Tweets. It can backlash into a bigger issue.

Always try to move the conversation to a more private setting. Offer to help your customer over email, chat or phone. New ways to complain in real-time are developed every day. Don’t risk getting a bad reputation and put your customers first.

Nancy E.


1 Easy Tool to Save the Date and Increase Attendance at Your Summer Event

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With social media booming from all corners, adding Google+ to the family this week, we’re realizing it’s easier to host events online in order to increase and organize attendance. From a business point of view, online brand visibility (via webinars, Live Chat, Livestream etc.) is essential for companies wanting to reach more people and gain trust.

Summer months are ideal for hosting online and offline events since guests have more time, energy and enthusiasm to network and participate. So if you plan on hosting a webinar, gala, BBQ or wedding that will be promoted on your website, blog, or mass email make sure to use the appropriate tools and methods of communication to spread the word.

Adding a Save to Calendar button to your event guarantees you won’t waste your time or money on guests who arrive too “fashionably late” or never show up at all. Also, the automatic email and text messaging notifications function is proven to increase attendance by 40% and more. It takes one simple click from your invitees to save your date to their personal calendars, making your event info accessible offline and on the go.

Other features include:

  • Compatible with Google Calendar, Outlook, Lotus Notes, Entourage and iCal
  • Customizable user interface and API available
  • Easy-to-install by copy and pasting code to website, blog or email template
  • Google Analytics integration helps track all of your guest’s actions and your company’s networking/conversion goals

Nancy E.


5 Terms to Remember When Measuring Your Campaign ROI

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It took some time for many of us to believe that social media has a true ROI. Now that we accept this fact, we’re left searching for the right tools and methods to test it. Integrating social media to your business marketing strategies has many benefits such as increasing public relations and enabling customer service. But at the end of the day, B2B campaigns are mainly measured on generated revenue and leads.

In his blog post on social media metrics on Radian6@DavidBThomas settled the “confusion” surrounding the words: listening, monitoring, measurement, analytics and ROI. It’s important to remember that these buzzwords can also be used to discover the value of marketing campaigns beyond social media. Keep them in mind when measuring your conversion tool campaign ROI too.

Here’s a brief version:

  • Listening: is the process of learning what people are saying about you and where.
  • Monitoring: adds the 24/7 component to listening and attempts to make sure you capture all relevant mentions.
  • Measurement:  is the first step toward integrating the results of your social media activities into your larger business processes.
  • Analytics: Understanding the analytics of your social media activities is no different than understanding the value of your PR or marketing activities; you have to do the hard work to tie your activities to conversions, whatever that means for your business.
  • ROI: in social media is thorny, in part because some people expect it should be easy to track because it’s online. You can, but only if you do the work of building the connections.
  • Conversion tools like Click- to- Call and Book an Appointment can be great for ROI since they welcome more visitors to call and schedule real meetings with your business.

    Nancy E.


New Facebook app turns your fans into loyal customers

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If Facebook friends are real friends, then your Facebook customers are real too. Yes, ALL of them!

As a matter of fact, Facebook, blogs, Twitter and customer reviews are considered the most effective tactics for mobilizing consumers to talk up products online. (Etailing Survey of 117 companies, September ’09)

No matter what industry you’re in, developing your social media presence should be one of your company’s top online marketing priorities. On his blog, young tech entrepreneur, @stanleytang offers 41 Top Tips To Growing Your Social Media Presence. His advice: engage in conversations, be supportive, create a unique/professional profile and treat social media like a cocktail party!

After reading Stanley’s advice and listening to our users’ feedback, we decided to create a Facebook app that will develop any company’s social media presence by converting their visitors into loyal customers. The final product is our very first Facebook app, Online Scheduling with Agendize!

This app allows your Facebook fans to book appointments online with your company 24/7 in real-time, while reducing the numbers of no-shows with automatice and text message notifications. This way, your visitors don’t ever have to visit your webpage to contact you for a question, demo, interview, etc. They can do it all from Facebook where they spend most of their time anyway.

If you already have an Agendize account, it takes one click to add Online Scheduling to your company Facebook page. If you don’t already have one, sign up for Agendize in less than 5 minutes and get $5 in free actions.

Nancy E.


3 Amazing Resources to Learn More About SEO

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Customers often ask us how they can attract more users to their site so they can convert even more. This week, I decided to learn more bout the powerful world of search engine optimization, to answer all your questions on how to generate more Click-to-Calls and Live Chat sessions . I’ve always imagined that SEO is an easy topic to research online. It took one click to prove me wrong.

On the bright side, my search was anything but empty.  Google- searching the famous acronym led me to a giant list of SEO companies, platforms, articles and more—1, 730,000,000 + results. On the other hand, I found myself spending quite some time sorting through many useless links, picking out the true hidden treasures.

MY crème de la crème list of worthy SEO resources:

1. The Beginners Guide to SEO by @SEOmoz

The ultimate bible for understanding and implementing SEO .This 10- chapter tutorial takes you on a educational journey —full of real examples, infographics and useful tips. You’ll also find a chapter on how to measure and track success. Put some time aside to go over this one. It’s thick. I downloaded the PDF version and read it over a few days.

2. The Unscary, Real World Guide to SEO Copywriting by Ian Lurie @portentint

I came across Lurie’s guide on AppSumo.com and it was worth every dollar.  It provided me with a solid 31-page introduction on how to make write and format my content in a SEO-friendly way. I especially appreciated the many examples of good SEO text vs. bad SEO text.

3. SEO Beyond Your Site by @Alex_Galasso

This short article explores the new age of SEO, following the  rule of “always putting your users’ interest first.” Galasso “breaks down the importance of social signals into two main categories: virality and social media presence.” He proves that sharing content on Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites can boost your SEO ranking. Galasso’s article tempted me to scope out the new social networking site, about.me . It took me less than 5 minutes to create a custom splash- page- style profile that links all my social media accounts, websites and blogs:

About.me is definitely a creative and fun way to generate more leads to your website/blog.

Pay it forward and share your SEO tips below.

Cheers,

Nancy E.
@nanceEss


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