Social Media For Business Mainly a Brand Builder

Social media for business study

Social media plays a significant role in small and medium-sized businesses’ (SMBs) marketing efforts, providing both free and paid exposure to a wide-ranging—and often receptive—audience.

Most important social media platforms for business

According to a January 2013 survey from online magazine Social Media Examiner, Facebook continues to be the most important social network for most business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers worldwide, given its enormous user base. However, for business-to-business (B2B) marketers, there is a healthy competition among other

platforms. Among these marketers, LinkedIn tied with Facebook as the most important social network, while blogging followed 10 percentage points behind.

Interestingly, while YouTube was only the most important social platform for 4% of SMBs total, it is where the greatest percentage of businesses planned to make future investments. Nearly seven out of 10 marketers said they planned to increase their use of YouTube this year.

Benefits of social media marketing

The greatest benefits of social media:

  • 89% increased exposure
  • 75% increased traffic
  • 43% increased sales.

This points to social’s role as a brand builder, first and foremost.

And even as social media may seem like old hat to many marketers by now, quite a few are relatively new to the platforms. About one-quarter of marketers said they had been working with social media for a year or less. And another 30% were 1 to 2 years into their social media marketing tenure. But SMBs have quickly caught on to how important social is as a marketing tool: 79% said they had already incorporated social media into their traditional marketing activities.

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How Secure Are Your Passwords

I recently attended a WordPress workshop about website security.  the presenter, from the firm Securi, gave us a demonstration on how fast hackers can find your username and password and crack a website open, I can tell you, that was a real eye opener.
The presenter showed us how a hacker can find a user name with software readily available online and how they could crack the site open by using software and password lists also available online.

A seemingly safe password containing uppercase, lower case, numbers, special characters took only minutes to crack.  Never mind easy passwords like many still use like… password or 1234.

How strong is your password? Find out with this app and tell us how long it took..


Are passwords obsoletes, fortunately no, but we need to look at them in a different light.  the key to secure passwords is uniqueness.  I know, thatwas my reaction too, how can you find unique passwords.

The first step is to forget about common words, short terms, go for long strings and instead of thinking passwords, think long string, think passphrases, long strings take longer to hack and chances are, a hacker will give up.

The presenter recommended password management tools, companies that encrypt your log in information and safeguard your passwords

If you have a website, implement “fail log in limits”, applications that lock your site after a predetermined number of log in attempts, implement layered authentication, limit the number of users who have access to the site, keep software, plug ins, themes updated, remove any app you don’t use

The online world will never be completely safe, but it’s up to you to manage and reduce the risk

So, how long would it take to crack your password?  Tell us in the comment section.

Social Media Rules for Brands: The 10 Commandments

Ten-commandments

Social media for brands dos and don’ts, the social media rules to know

Fleeting as social media exchanges may seem, they can have a pronounced impact on business and their influence can echo far beyond a simple post or retweet.

While the anonymous, public and often informal nature of Internet dialogue often leads corporations to relax their guard, it’s important to note: Managing a brand’s social media presence is a tricky balancing act. The key to being successful? Keeping things polite and professional, and constantly acknowledging your audience’s voice, while adding value or insight to customer exchanges.

Looking to enhance your corporate social media efforts? Here are

1. Thou shalt be patient and considerate.

While many campaigns seem to go viral overnight, it’s important to remember that businesses rarely experience instant breakthroughs or meteoric audience growth on social media. More important than chasing huge follower or subscriber counts is to consistently and meaningfully engage an audience by creating helpful and insightful content that addresses key concerns or speaks to consumer needs.

Over time, through constant two-way dialogue with users, this commitment will help your business build a loyal and involved following, the influence of which may far outstrip that of larger, less engaged audiences.

Be relevant, generous and sincere. While doing so may not seem as sexy or instantly gratifying as posting a viral video or infographic, it will help you build trust, empathy and, most importantly, relationships, the currency of the modern social realm.

2. Thou shalt not be indifferent to the voice of thy customer.

When you engage in social media, you commit to playing a role in very public customer conversations. This entails consistently having to acknowledge other parties’ opinions, and embracing both the good and the bad, including harsh or critical feedback.

Instead of looking the other way when someone posts something unflattering, take a moment to objectively assess the feedback. Constructive criticism not only presents opportunities to improve our efforts to serve end-users; it also presents a chance to engage in human exchanges, and apologize and appease the situation.

In other words, the goal is to create conversations, not critiques, and optimize the level of customer support and service provided to your audience. Sometimes, simply taking a moment to acknowledge others’ voices, or answer questions directly can bridge gaps that threaten to build a gulf between you and end-users.

3. Thou shalt be true to thyself.

You’ve spent ample time crafting your brand’s mission and values across your website, marketing materials and advertising efforts. Now is not the time to abandon the positive image you’ve worked so hard to cultivate, or forsake professionalism or propriety in the name of popularity.

Given the medium’s more personable nature, social media exchanges should certainly be more human than formal. But all should be respectful of customers, audience needs and the positive image you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. It’s important not only to respect followers’ time and intelligence, but also to be consistent with your branding and messaging across all platforms. That way, fans and followers know both who you are and the values that your business stands for.

4. Thou shalt think before you post.

Trade secret: Every post or status update you share should add value for your audience, regardless whether that value comes in the form of enlightenment, entertainment or an uplifting exchange.

Therefore, make every share unique, and think about how to ensure it counts – i.e., what can you add to the conversation that others can’t? As a simple example, retweeting posts of note is an excellent way to share information, but adding your own opinion or links to further resources is an even better use of time. Likewise, if you post every single little detail or update about your brand, industry and products, fans may become fatigued. Respect your audience and think about how to make posts superlative, singular and of notable worth before sharing.

The key question to ask yourself: What’s in it for them?

5. Thou shalt be brief.

Remember to keep it short and sweet on social media. You have only a few seconds to catch someone’s attention, and even less time to keep it. Therefore, make sure your posts have an immediate impact and utilize concise language, links, references or (better yet) visual assets, such as photos, videos and inforgraphics. These quickly convey key information at a glance.

Look for ways to distill an idea down to a single statement or elevator pitch that clearly and quickly communicates subject matter, tone and target audience, and provides further points of reference should audiences wish to dive deeper into the topic.

6. Thou shalt not hog the conversation.

In many ways, social networks serve as the world’s largest cocktail party. But no one wants to be stuck with a self-centered conversation hog.

The same rule applies to your social media presence, where it’s important to listen before speaking – doubly so, as the dynamics of conversation and rules of online behavior differ depending on context and parties in attendance. Dedicate the majority of your time proactively engaging your audience, then split the remaining time between content your audience will care about and promoting your brand.

7. Thou shalt do good.

Think of social media as the world’s largest megaphone or amplifier – it can project your online voice louder, farther and faster than ever before.

Always be engaging and upbeat (negativity never reflects well on the poster, especially online, where conversational subtlety and nuance are often lost in translation), and take advantage of the opportunities presented to promote positivity. Material you post online should be less promotional than beneficial in nature, designed to help viewers save time or money, enhance learning and awareness, or offer key opinions and insights. From securing support for charitable ventures to offering deeper looks at evolving trends to helping fans and followers make valuable connections, consistently look for ways to aid, assist and uplift your audience.

8. Thou shalt keep it strictly business.

While color and personality are always welcome online, business and pleasure seldom mix well in social media contexts – personal and corporate accounts are best kept separated. Remember: Users following business accounts do so because they identify with the brand, and expect content in keeping with its core image and focus. Posting anything outside of this realm may prompt confusion, surprise or indifference, and has the potential to reflect poorly on your brand.

Communications should universally be polite, professional and on-topic. Where the risk of misinterpretation or controversy exists, play it safe and skip posting. Keep your tone and voice upbeat and respectful – avoid complaints, negative comments and stabs at the competition at all costs.

9. Thou shalt respect the hashtag.

Twitter hashtags are great vehicles for highlighting topics of relevance, drawing audience’s attention and fostering fan engagement. However, they can also be dangerous when used incorrectly – i.e., too frequently or in inappropriate contexts.

Oftentimes, brands overuse hashtags or place them in unrelated posts to drive added visibility. But doing so may leave viewers feeling cheated, especially if those hashtags add no relevant context to conversations or potentially alienate readers. This can cause a negative reaction to your online voice and ultimately your business, which will not only hinder fan acquisition but potentially detract from your brand.

10. Thou shalt not lie.

Skip the temptation to embellish, fib or inflate the truth online, especially since it can easily backfire or even lead to potential legal repercussions. Likewise, be honest with your audience. If fans and followers have questions about an evolving scenario – e.g., a potential PR crisis -– sometimes, the best answer is simply a prompt: “Apologies, but we don’t know. However, rest assured we’re working on it, and will let you know as soon as possible.”

Trust is the foundation of any relationship – real or online, and its loss can have a marked impact on both your brand and customer perception. As Benjamin Franklin once pointed out, it takes many exchanges to build a positive reputation, but only one mistake to undo it.

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FTC latest online ad rules

Advertisers should think twice about placing promotional messages on mobile and social media platforms like Twitter if those ads require disclosures or disclaimers to avoid being deceptive or unfair, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Tuesday.

The updated guidelines for online advertising represent the commission’s attempt to catch up to more than a decade of fast-evolving new technology, from the advent of the mobile revolution to an explosion in social media like Facebook and Twitter.

This year, as in the last report issued in 2000, the FTC holds online advertisers to the same standards of honesty and full disclosure as newspapers and television.

But the limited space available on mobile platforms maintained by Twitter, Facebook and others means that it is difficult to place appropriate disclosures close enough to the ad, or prominently enough, to ensure users see it.

“Advertisers should make sure their disclosures are clear and conspicuous on all devices and platforms that consumers may use to view their ads,” the FTC’s Lesley Fair said in a blog post accompanying the 53-page report.

“That means that if an ad would be deceptive or unfair (or would otherwise violate an FTC rule) without a disclosure — but the disclosure can’t be made clearly and conspicuously on a particular device or platform — then that ad shouldn’t run on that device or platform,” Fair wrote.

And the FTC discouraged the use of pop-ups for disclosures since they are so often blocked.

“Most webpages viewable on desktop devices may also be viewable on smartphones,” the FTC said in the report. “Advertisers should design the website so that any necessary disclosures are clear and conspicuous, regardless of the device on which they are displayed.”

Twitter already requires celebrities and others who endorse products to disclose that they are being paid. Facebook had no immediate comment.

“Many of the themes about social media were already surfaced (by the FTC) a few years ago,” said Eric Goldman, Professor of Law and Director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University School of Law.

He said the FTC’s guidelines placed the burden more on advertisers and users who take payments, than on platform companies such as Twitter or Facebook. “I don’t see anything that specifically tells Twitter, Facebook or other platforms how they have to design their platform.”

“The guidelines don’t have the force of law. but the FTC is trying to let industry know what it expects industry to do, and when the industry doesn’t do what the FTC wants, the FTC tends to get cranky.”

Original article

Statistics on Social Media and Purchasing Habits

Social media is not a replacement for traditional marketing; it is only another tool in your marketing toolbox. You might ask the reason you need to engage with social networks at all. Some statistics on social media and purchasing habits:

  1. Consumers are 71% more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. (HubSpot)
  2. 49% of consumers use Facebook to search for restaurants. (Mashable)
  3. 58% of Facebook users expect offers, events or promotions when they become a fan. (HubSpot)
  4. 81% of U.S. survey respondents say friends’ social media posts have directly influenced a purchase decision. (Forbes)
  5. 15.1 million consumers go to social media channels before making a purchase decision. (Knowledge Networks)

What does one take from all of this? First, you do not control your brand anymore, not in the traditional sense. Consumers are talking about your brand (your restaurant) whether you like it or not, so it is up to you to engage the “community.” Even if you are not using any social media channels, check out your business listing on websites such as Yelp and Local.com. You will see reviews of your establishment, and, yes, some of them are negative. Knowing the above statistics, you need to engage the community. If a user gives you a rave review, thank the person. If the review is negative, you need to address it and not arbitrarily dismiss it. Show the consumer you care!

What will be the big social media trends for 2013? Let’s start with mobile. More than 100 millions users have a smartphone. Mobile Internet is due to overtake wired use by 2015. Are you ready? The second big trend is video. This is such a no-brainer, especially when combined with the growing use of mobile devices.

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Companies’ Approach to Advertising on Social Media

Since the arrival of social media platforms, companies have tried to figure out how to best use them to get their messages to consumers, often with mixed results. Some brands have embraced the notion that social platforms like Twitter allow constant interaction, for better or worse, with their customers.

Others have turned away from some strains of social media, as General Motors did last spring when it stopped advertising on Facebook while raising questions about the return on its investment. The move had a ripple effect in the advertising world, with many brands questioning whether the costs of being on social media were worth it.

A new report issued Tuesday by Nielsen and Vizu, a research company owned by Nielsen, shows that brands think they might be turning a corner, specifically when it comes to paying for their use of social media.The report examined the opinions about social media marketing among more than 500 digital media professionals — including brand marketers, media agencies and advertisers — from September to October 2012.

The study found that that

  • 89% of advertisers continued to use free social media products. Nielsen did not release the names of specific social media platforms mentioned by the respondents, but they are likely to include Facebook and Pinterest, as well as Twitter.
  • 75% of the companies surveyed said they were also spending more for social media content, which could include paying bloggers to write posts about a product or using third-party technology to push videos on to the Web in the hope that they become viral.
  • 70% of the advertisers surveyed said they dedicated up to 10 percent of their budget to paid social media advertising, while 13 percent dedicated more than 21 percent of their budget. Those numbers are expected to increase in 2013.

The results come as companies like Twitter and Facebook are making more diverse advertising options available to brands. Last year, Twitter announced a number of advertising and media initiatives, including a survey product that enables marketers to ask Twitter users a handful of multiple-choice questions. Facebook began testing a new advertising mechanism using a technology called real-time bidding, which allows advertisers to place bids on ad space at specific times.

“Advertisers are starting to look at social media as an integrated part of their advertising strategy,” said Jeff Smith, the senior vice president of product leadership for advertising effectiveness at Nielsen.

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Responding to Negative Online Comments

12 basic principles for handling difficult questions, comments and statements on the social web. These apply to communications, marketing and customer service issues as much as they do HR and other activities.

Move fast. The longer you take to respond to comments, the more you risk appearing unresponsive, uncaring or, worse, secretive. According to NM Incite (pdf), users of Facebook pages expect to be responded to within 24 hours and Twitter users within 2 hours. In social media, it often pays more to be quick than 100% accurate.

Be accurate. Despite the pressure on speed, try to be as factual as possible – angry customers and bloggers love to highlight, question and poke holes in wooly or cagey responses. Make sure to double-check the facts with your sources and it you’re not confident about the answer, at the very least acknowledge the question, comment or statement, express concern and say you are looking into it. This can help buy you more time to find the appropriate solution.

Be flexible. Don’t assume that either the complaint is 100% genuine (consider carefully its motivation) or that you are 100% correct in your response. If you don’t have the full facts, say so publicly and communicate updates thereafter regularly. Appear anxious to help, as opposed to desperate to please. Backing yourself into a rhetorical corner can prove awkward when you have to extricate yourself publicly.

Be transparent. Admit if you have made a mistake. Denials, evasions insincere apologies as a means of quietening a community are often quickly spotted by the community and may simply inflame the issue. And while the tactic of trying to take a conversation offline can help diffuse difficult situations by buying you more time to assess the situation and/or find a solution, it can also be seen by the customer as a sign of weakness or withdrawal and lampooned as such.

Be sincere. If the complaint is genuine, apologize sincerely and with humility and in language appropriate to the audience. And yet an apology will mean nothing unless the problem is resolved in a reasonable manner. Sharing what you as an organization have learned through the experience is also a good way of demonstrating that your empathy is genuine.

Be human. As The Cluetrain Manifesto pointed out, ‘conversations among human beings sound human’, and are ‘conducted in a human voice’ that is ‘typically open, natural and uncontrived’. Look to use language that is accessible, engaging and empathetic while remaining at core professional and objective. Avoid jargon and respond direct to the individual or group using their actual names. ‘Dear valued customer’ doesn’t wash it with customers increasingly expecting personal attention.

Be focused. Not all customers are equal, and while social media is leveling the playing field, some – the 1% – are most active in the community. You need to identify your top influencers, make sure to understand their interests, requirements and behaviors, and make sure your PR, marketing and customer service teams understand when and how to interact with them. This is not to say you should ignore the rest of the community which, clearly, must not be allowed to feel unwanted or ignored, but be aware that complaints from highly socially engaged customers, bloggers and other influencers may impact not just the community itself but can also make waves beyond it.

Follow-up. Once you have acknowledged the issue and responded, find ways to engage direct with the customer in question on an ongoing basis. Encouraging deeper discussion on the topic will show you are willing to listen and learn, and help make them feel like you care. Equally, walking away once you have responded can make it appear as if the customer is no longer a priority.

Add value. Following up also provides you with additional opportunities to add value to conversations and hence deepen relationships and re-build trust. Look to be helpful by providing options rather than just a single solution, or be seen to go the extra mile by pointing people to useful or relevant information. People will notice – and may comment on the fact – that you are bending over backwards to help them.

Take control. Negative comments on your community should be actively managed – it is after all your channel. Proactively rebut statements that are demonstrably untrue or misleading and, above all, don’t run away from your page in challenging times as it will only make your detractors appear as victors. Ensure discussions remain within the parameters you have set in your Community Guidelines and enforce your terms regarding offensive posts, the sharing of confidential or personal information about company executives or other members of the community, third party advertising, repeat/verbatim comments etc. And remember that it is within your rights to ban members who consistently flout the rules, though you may want to explain why you are doing it both to the individual and to the community as a whole.

Avoid fights. Don’t antagonize your audience or get into online arguments: as Nestle discovered to its cost in the wake of Greenpeace’s palm oil campaign, David usually wins against Goliath in the court of online public opinion. If the situation is volatile, step back and wait for the right opportunity to engage with the customer in question, meantime work closely with the relevant internal stakeholders – often Sales, Public Relations and Legal – to develop a reasonable solution. Appearing thin-skinned will only make you appear weak and vulnerable.

Don’t censor. Nothing conveys a failure to listen and understand better than censoring or removing criticism from your official online communities or elsewhere. Realize that critical voices are a price of entry to the social web, and that deleting or demanding changes to negative posts can provide detractors with a powerful rhetorical weapon. Rather, always try to maintain the high ground, be seen to be responsive and listening and deploy a strong legal approach only as the final option: deleting content or threatening bloggers may simply result in the so-called ‘Streisand effect’ as complaints escalate and go viral.

It is essential that the teams managing official channels as well as interactions with third party online communities understand these principles and are properly trained in the art and science of handling negative opinion.

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