Saturday, September 13, 2014

10 Social Media Resources for Small Businesses

Any small business owner knows that it’s always about being short on money and short on time … which is why social media can be such a good investment. 

By carefully choosing a few social media platforms and allocating a little time each day small businesses can reap rewards including new customers/increased sales, competitive intelligence, better customer relations and greater word-of-mouth marketing. 

The question is where and how to begin. To help here are 10 resources for small business owners. 

10 Resources for Small Businesses on Social Media

1. Your Guide to Benefitting From Social Media by Bar Charts Inc is a good intro to social media for business purposes, has some helpful "Getting Started" tips and also answers the question for small business: “Why be on social media?”

2. Top 5 Social Media Platforms for Your Business by Gold Coast Design Studio covers Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest and offers reasons you should use them and a few best practices for each.

3. Small Business & Social Media by Purolator is a basic explanation of five key platforms and includes need-to-know terminology and "7 Tips for Getting Started in Social Media" for small businesses. Its Canadian focus on social media usage numbers is hardly surprising given that Purolator is a Canadian shipping and logistics company.

4. The Small Business Guide to Social Media Mastery produced by MarketMeSuite and Placester shares some powerful stats about why small business needs to be on social media and then offers useful tips, recommends some social media leaders to follow and warns against "spreading yourself too thin."

5. Unlock the Secrets of Facebook (For Small Business) by Intuit – offers solid beginner tips on the set up and operation of a small business Facebook page. It also offers a couple of friendly reminders about maintaining a tone of voice and scheduling posts on social media.

6. All About Twitter for Small Business by Search Engine People offers plenty of reasons to be on social media, insights into why customers might connect there and tips for optimizing a small business Twitter account.

7. Small Business Guide to Twitter by Simply Business is a great flow chart approach to answering questions a business owner might have about social media. Each of the 21 boxes in the flow chart then has a clickable link to a useful resource.

8. 5 Go-To Tips to Master Pinterest For Your Business by Infinista Concepts is a useful step-by-step graphic to get better engagement through Pinterest.

9. The Small Business Guide to Google+ by Simply Business consists of a nice interactive flowchart that answers questions and directs readers to more resources based on their knowledge and/or interest level in Google+.

10. The Power of the Hashtag for Small Business by The Huffington Post is a brief history and overview of hashtags and how they can be used by small business to get new customers and learn from other businesses.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of other resources for small businesses on social media available on the web, this is just a starter list. I hope it is helpful.

Class: This list has been put together ahead of a new class I’ll be offering at the Rochester Brainery. For more see Social Media for Small Businesses.

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Foursquare – The Reviews Are Mixed

The Tastes feature of the new Foursquare 

The new Foursquare arrived this week – splitting off the Swarm social check-in app for good and offering Foursquare users a much more robust recommendation app for anything its users are likely to want to do. 

The new Foursquare logo and its pink color scheme
The new logo
Foursquare now has a pink logo and a pink-and-blue color palette (perfect for a newborn) and will offer recommendations based on Foursquare's database of 10,000 tastes, which cover qualities like food served, ambience, and activity type that Foursquare has gleaned from all the user tips that it has stockpiled over the years.

So what are people saying about this new Foursquare? Not all the first impressions are glowing. A round up:

In "This Is The New Foursquare" on TechCrunch Jordan Crook (@jordanrcrook) says: "Everyone, please meet the new Foursquare, a recommendations app that has nothing to do with location sharing and everything to do with smacking down Yelp using the force of a thousand suns.

"The author is impressed by the new version saying: "… using the new Foursquare instead of Yelp for the past few days has felt like upgrading from a BlackBerry Bold to an iPhone 5s."

In a piece called "The New Foursquare Is Here, and It's Surprisingly Good" author Pete Pachal (@petepachal), Tech Editor at Mashable, says "The check-in is dead." He asks rhetorically where that leaves Foursquare before answering his own question:

"As one of the best city guides you can get on a smartphone, actually, with a fully revamped user experience that puts some of the 5-year-old company's best information front and center.

"Foursquare 8.0 is a big step forward for the app, but it's far from perfect, and longtime users may not have the patience to discover its charms," Pachal says.

On Wired the spin is "Radical New Foursquare App Thinks You Want Even Less Privacy." Senior Writer Ryan Tate (@ryantate) says the new version is "… keeping tabs on you at all times, sending your location back to Foursquare’s servers, which then push recommendations back to your smartphone, suggesting restaurants and stores to visit—and stuff to order and buy once you get there."

He quotes Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley: "To actually get an app to talk to you like a friend would talk to you. That’s what we’re going at here, and I think we’ve done a really good job of it."

But Tate thinks users' privacy concerns may be a big problem for the new Foursquare: "The data you share with Foursquare today could conceivably end up in the hands of the NSA, hackers, or private data brokers tomorrow."

"Foursquare kills off the 'social media' pretense of data collection" trumpeted Ars Technica over a story by Casey Johnston (@caseyjohnston). The report notes: "Perhaps the most surprising thing about the app is how little you can interact with it for something that is (or will become) so personalized." 

"The tip-leaving interface is essentially a one-directional version of Twitter, and there are no options to toggle location-based services," Johnston notes.

"Fortunately, Foursquare doesn't publicly share any of a user's location information unless it's in aggregate. Users can follow each other, but the only content they see is each other's tips," she says.

"This is the cleverest portion of the service's revamp: make customers feel like they are sharing nothing, when in reality they are sharing everything."

And what did Foursquare itself have to say about the launch? It seemed very pleased. In a blog post Thursday it noted that "... tastes are already one of the most popular features. In the last 18 hours, you have already added 15 million tastes to profiles globally."

The post concludes with: "With the all-new Foursquare, you don’t have to know what you want. Just say, 'where should I go to lunch?' The app knows what you like. Let it lead you to places you’ll love."

So what do you think of the new Foursquare? Will it replace Yelp? And will you use Swarm for check-ins?

Related post:
9 Ways to Maintain (Some) Privacy on Social Media, the Web

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Talking to Kids About Social Media and Other Online Activities

Parents and teens likely see social media activities differently
Parents and teens see social media and other online activities differently. A parent's best bet? Be a good listener
In what is likely no real surprise to savvy Web watchers, but may have been a rude wake up call to parents with kids who are all over social media, it turns out nothing is really ephemeral on the web.

Evidence came recently as The New York Times reported that Snapchat, the popular mobile messaging service, agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission that messages sent through the company’s app did not disappear as easily as promised and that it may have misled users about how their information is stored and shared, even if unintentionally. 

This development has likely wiped away the last traces of the "what happens on the Internet stays on the Internet" thinking.

But with younger and younger kids getting online (because even toddlers see their parents use all kinds of devices) what does this mean for parents concerned about their kids roaming the social web?

How do parents talk to their kids about being smart on social media, what they share there and who they share it with? Some ideas: 

Kids under 10: A 2013 study found more than half of children use social media by the age of 10. The good news? Two thirds (67 per cent) turn to their parents when they experience difficulties online, the poll found.

How can you help kids at this age?
  • Be there: Help kids understand they can ask you anything about online and you’ll answer without judging. This encourages them to come to you first.
  • Show them:Sometimes kids at this age are too accepting of what’s in front of them. Find gentle ways to tell them that some people share inappropriate things just to get attention and, worse, some have bad intentions. Repeat this message regularly because at this age repetition is what makes a message stick.
  • Don’t wait: It’s especially important to take any opportunity (a TV show, a conversation about one of their friends) to talk openly about the good and the bad on the web in general and social media in particular. Again, let them know they can come to you with any questions.
  • Be patient: Small doses of information, repeated as needed (not nagging) will eventually get the message there.
  • Guide them: Suggest that sharing anything online with anyone other than a family member or a friend their parents know may be dangerous.
Kids 11-13: Legally these kids are still too young to be allowed a Facebook page, for example. But the reality is that more than half of them are on Facebook and other social networks. 

In addition to the steps above how can you specifically help kids at this age?
  • Understand:At this stage kids might be unrealistically confident about their ability to handle themselves online. Gently ask questions that show them situations they might not know how to handle.
  • Set limits:Now is the optimal age to get agreement (in writing if you must be sure it’s clear) about how much time on social networks and at what time of day is OK. Modeling good online habits can also make this easier. Start with no more than an hour per day (perhaps broken up into 30 minutes after school and 30 minutes after dinner).
  • Co-opt a sibling:If there is an older sibling in the house ask them to help their younger brother or sister navigate the online world. This will depend on the age and maturity of the older child, but it can also be a way for the younger child to hear of scary experiences and learn from the other’s experiences.
  • Discuss bullying: This is the age that online bullying can become an issue. Talk about this with kids and encourage them to speak up when they see it.
  • Offer empathy: At this age they will hate the limits. It’s their job to test limits and yours to set them based on your values.
Kids 14-18: Probably the most-dangerous ages for teens online. They’re doing what teenagers have always done – trying to figure out where they fit it, how to be cool and how to push the limits – except now they are doing these things online in places that might keep public records of that activity forever.

They’re also old enough to know their way around the social networks and, mostly, nowhere near mature enough to understand the consequences of everything they do online.

In addition to the steps in the age groups above how can you specifically help kids at this age?
  • Listen:Keep track of the big things the kids talk about and the little things. Listen for anything that suggests social media is causing stress in their lives. Ask about that stress. If kids at this age are using social media to relax and communicate, that’s normal. If they are using it and its causing them to get upset, there’s a problem.
  • Ask: Come up with non-threatening, non-judgmental ways to ask your kids what they really like about a social media platform they are on. Reassure them that you’re just curious. Ask them to show you how a social network works (because it’s highly likely they’re on some platforms you aren’t). And, again be hyper aware for any signs that social media is causing distress and offer to be a set of ears.
Kids, 18 and Older: Yeah, they’re not really kids anymore, but online they are likely still acting like kids.

Despite the talk about how future employers, voters and even future spouses etc. will become increasingly tolerant of youthful online indiscretions, it is far more likely that things you do at 18 or older could and will haunt you in the future.

At this age what can you do to make them realize that the "web is forever"?
  • Show:Ask if you can show them something about yourself that was posted online many years ago that no longer represents who you are or how you’d like people to think about you. Now ask them to imagine a scenario when that posting involved something that an employer might find objectionable. Use this as a springboard to discuss such ideas as "think twice, send once" and "How would grandma (or someone else important in their life) feel if they saw this?" All the while being non-judgmental and expressing that their future happiness is your primary concern.
  • Reassure:Try to take the discussion to the next level by asking about things that your child sees or hears online that make them uncomfortable and how they handle that. Tell them that they likely have a good "internal compass" and if something makes them uncomfortable they don’t have to be part of it and you’re always available to answer questions.
So, what do you think? Are there other things parents can do to help their kids navigate and stay safe online and in social media?

Related posts:
9 Ways to Maintain (Some) Privacy on Social Media, the Web
10 Tips for Social Media Beginners
Hey baby, not on social media? This might help …

Thursday, March 13, 2014

9 Surprising Things You Can Do With Twitter

Twitter is to social media what cheese is to a great sandwich – pretty much essential for great flavor, but often taken for granted.

While many use it as a newsfeed, a trend barometer or a way to keep in touch there are so many other things you can do on Twitter … some of them unexpected. I present…

9 Surprising Things You Can Do With Twitter

There are many surprising things you can do via Twitter
1. Book a hotel stay: Loews Hotels and Resorts now allows travelers to book rooms at 16 of its 19 properties via Twitter. Interested travelers tweet to @Loews_Hotels with the hashtag #BookLoews to express interest in a room. Then a Loews travel planner joins the Twitter conversation. The same Twitter account answers traveler’ questions and occasionally offers special deals. For more see Loews Hotels & Resorts Goes Social.

2. Gift a cup of coffee: Starbucks has a Tweet-a-Coffee program that can send a $5 Starbucks eCard to Twitter friends and followers. To do this users connect their Twitter account with Starbucks. They send a tweet that starts with "@TweetaCoffee to @recipientname because…." The @TweetaCoffee account then sends a tweet on the user’s behalf to the recipient, with a message. A few seconds later, a follow-up tweet from the official account will be sent with both parties mentioned in it, providing the recipient with a link to claim the coffee. For more, see Tweet-a-coffee sign-up page.

3. Buy, sell or fundraise: Chirpify is one app that allows users to buy and sell things or raise donations via Twitter. Both buyers and sellers need Chirpify and PayPal accounts. The system works by having buyers use certain keywords, the Twitter handle of the recipient, the amount being paid or sent and the reason for the transaction in a tweet to Chirpify. That platform then sends a confirmation tweet and a follow-up email. According to Buy And Sell On Twitter With Chirpify the service can be used for such diverse things paying bills to sending a friend a beer.

4. Get recipes: Gourmet recipes written in 140 characters or less? Twitter followers know it can be done because @Cookbook, by Maureen Evans (@Maureen) posts highly abbreviated recipes for dishes that range from omelets to souffle to tiramisu. Just be sure you understand all of the measurement abbreviations!

5. Water your plants: When your houseplants need watering a company called Botanicalls has a kit for a device that allows a plant (that’s right, the plant) to tweet its needs to you. With a Botanicalls Kit, an electronic sensor, ethernet connection and a bit of patience, you can set up an electronic sensor for your plants; it will automatically send out a Twitter message when a plant needs to be watered. Users even get a thank you note when they complete the task.

A house that tweets is just one surprise thing you can do on Twitter
Tom Coates' house tweets to him and a 1,000+ followers
6. Have your home talk to you: Yes, appliances and household items that tweet at you are not new (see this 2009 Wired piece: Toaster, Toilet Lead Appliance Invasion of Twitter), but an entire house telling you via Twitter what is going on at home takes it to a new level. Such is the case with Tom Coates in San Francisco. According to a New York Times story (Home Tweet Home) the home has its own Twitter account called @houseofcoates where it shares tweets about unexpected movements inside the house and the owner’s coming and goings.

7. Manage your tasks: Remember the Milk for Twitter is a reminder app that functions across multiple digital platforms, from smartphones to tablets to Twitter. Send instructions to the app via a Twitter direct message/DM (after following the app's Twitter account, @rtm), and Remember the Milk will add the task to your account. You can also change your preferences and view specific to-do tasks using Direct Message commands.

8. Pray: Practice the centuries-old Jewish tradition of placing prayers in the Western Wall (a k a the Kotel) in Jerusalem via Twitter. Alon Nir of Tweet Your Prayers (@TheKotel) delivers 140-character prayers to the Western Wall - considered one of the most sacred religious sites in Judaism. Since 2009, Nir has been printing prayers that he received via Direct Message on Twitter and sticking them into the Western Wall on behalf of those who couldn't travel to Israel.

9. Share files: Yes, file-sharing is no terribly new on Twitter, but large numbers of users apparently still don’t know that it’s possible on Twitter. Twileshare allows users to upload files and share them with followers, all in one tweet. The files are hosted on Twileshare’s servers users are able to share a variety of file formats such as PNG, GIF, JPG, DOC and PDF files. Also on Twileshare you’re able to see the numbers of views your files get.

What other surprise uses do you know of for Twitter?

Related posts:
Twitter 101-1: Twitter – You Hardly Know Her
Twitter 101-2: Getting more from Twitter
Twitter 101-3: Getting even more from Twitter
11 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter

Saturday, March 8, 2014

5 things brands should be doing on Instagram

Instagram, the free photo-sharing application which allows users to share photos and short videos on its own service and across other social media networking services, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Tumblr and Flickr, has become immensely popular among brands and consumers alike.

The latest statistics reveal 75 million people use it every day while 25 percent of all Fortune 500 brands are active on it, as well.

And while some brands “get it” as to how to best use the platform to benefit their particular brand, some still struggle.
To those struggling to find their way on Instagram, I offer…

5 things brands should be doing on Instagram

1. Monitor Instagram for mentions, because every mention is an opportunity for marketers to engage (see No. 4 below). Since the platform introduced tagging last year (see Instagram Now Lets Anyone Tag You [Or Brands] In Photos….) it is important for brands to see what, or if, they are being tagged. When they are, and presuming it is in a positive image, brands should consider a ….

2. Regram. This is re-sharing others’content that reflects well on your brand, your products or your services and your values. A brand adding re-shares to its own Instagram is building an image-based community – it’s not just the brand’s images but also the fan’s images. To do this you’ll need one of the tools that makes this possible with Instagram. For a list of these tools see How to Repost Instagram Photos.

3. Profile yourself on Instagram. Using the Profile page feature that Instagram added a little over a year ago smart brands now use their collected images as a way to tell their story. This visual storytelling drives interest and possibly regrams of your images by others. To learn more, see  Announcing Instagram Profiles on the Web.
Ben & Jerry's Instagram profile
Ben & Jerry's successful Instagram profile
For examples of brands doing Instagram Profiles see Ben & Jerry’s with its 340,000+ followers and the NBA page with its 1.8 million followers. Notice how both use a combination of their own images and videos to tell a behind-the-scenes story and to highlight the content of real fans (see “Regram” above).

4. Engage. This can be by responding to others’ posts on Instagram, the aforementioned Regramming, offering special deals to Instagram followers and running such things as photo contests. The latter is easy to do on Instagram: Ask Instagrammers to follow your brand, give them a topic to photograph and a hashtag to use (so you can easily search for the posts). If you offer a prize or two people will remember your hashtag. Heightened engagement in this way places your brand in the social feeds of others, thereby multiplying your reach. For solid tips on contests see the Instagram blog post How to Host A Photo Contest on Instagram.

5. Feature your customers and employees. What is your brand without these two important groups? Find ways to make stars of your customers and show how they use your products and services and mix in images of your employees on the job or out in the community. This humanization of your brand will feed into the growing desire of all social network users for authenticity. By its nature Instagram images look less polished and more genuine. Displaying your people and your customers in this way will make your brand come alive for viewers.

For a great read on “…brands that are using Instagram in unexpected and creative ways…” see Stay Authentic, Build An Instagram Cult Following: 6 Brands That Get It Right from the The Idea Lists blog.

So, what will your brand do to leverage Instagram on social media marketing? Do you have other ideas? Please share in the Comments section.

NOTE: This post was originally written for the Responsys New School Marketing Blog