Tag Archives: the little book of social media

Five Social Media Don’ts

Photo courtesy of Muffet

Photo courtesy of Muffet

There are numerous social media no-nos being commited daily by people and organizations that should know better. Here are five mistakes I’ve been seeing frequently as of late.

1. Tweeting links to content users can’t access: The Boston Globe is a good example of this. They have enforced their paywall even for the content they promote via Twitter (which means they don’t really want you to read–they only want you to subscribe).  So users click on tweets only to be taken to a message (sometimes with a short summary of the article, sometimes not) that basically tells them to subscribe. This is  a bait and switch, and a social media FAIL. (It also needlessly costs the Globe retweets and favorites.) The Globe should look to the example of  The New York Times. When the Times promotes an article via Twitter, any of their followers can read it, whether they are subscribers or not. You can’t click around and read everything after you come to their site via social, but you can read the article that they have promoted, which is how it should be! If you for some reason absolutely must tweet subscribers-only content, at least have the courtesy to warn your followers in your tweet that the link is restricted.

2. Asking for retweets. The begging for retweets has got to stop. Kellogg’s UK recently tweeted the worst kind of retweet request–one that seemed to use vulnerable people as a cause for brand promotion. But aside from that example, I see people begging others to retweet them (“Like it? Please RT!”) on every single tweet. The thing is, studies have shown that asking for retweets works. So it’s tempting. But it’s a trick that I suspect wears off, as users tire of your begging and eventually stop heeding your every demand to retweet. I follow a few business folks on Twitter who ask for a RT on every single tweet. I’m so tired of seeing it that I don’t even consider RTing them. If your content is good, followers WILL retweet. Let your work speak for itself.

3. Sharing information without checking its accuracy first. Facebook users, I’m looking at you (although other social media users are not immune). I have seen the same articles circulate on Facebook for months and years, and people mindlessly share without checking to see if they are sharing misinformation. The perfect example? This charity post that you see this time every year. It tells you not to give to Unicef, United Way, Red Cross, etc. *Some* of the information is correct, but *most* of it is not. A quick fact check is all you need. (Snopes, as shown in the previous link, is always a good start, as they’ve been investigating and collecting these posts since 1995)  Take this extra step to ensure you don’t a) share misinformation or b) make yourself look foolish.

4. Not proofreading your content, especially on LinkedIn. I belong to several groups on LinkedIn, and I can’t tell you how many times people post to groups and to their profiles without checking their spelling and grammar. And there is simply no excuse for a poorly written summary on your LinkedIn profile! Remember that potential employers are on LinkedIn, and you should always review your content with that in mind before you post.

5. Posting ridiculously long videos and podcasts. I’ve noticed that some of the so-called professional videos on YouTube and podcasts on iTunes clearly were done without any outlines, script, or rehearsals.  It’s fine to have an hour-long podcast if the content is compelling, but if your audience is watching or listening to a lot of “ums” or “what do I want to talk about next?”, you are wasting their time and you may very well lose followers and subscribers. Before you share your multimedia content with the world, think it through. What is your main point? What are the most important pieces of information that you want your audience to take away from your content? Write a script or, if that feels like overkill, make an outline of what you would like to cover. Be concise, clear, and ask yourself, is this a podcast or video I would want to listen to or watch?

For more social media tips, download our ebook, The Little Book of Social Media,  or get the Kindle version.

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More Ways To Lose Customers: The Latest Social Media Blunders

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/schuminweb/

Photo Courtesy of SchuminWeb

We wrote The Little Book of Social Media to give business owners and marketers real, easy-to-follow tips that will help them provide a great social media experience for their customers. When we were putting together the data for the book, it was disturbing to see in aggregate how many times social media is seriously misused by companies large and small. It seems like every day another company is in the news for a social media-related PR nightmare.

Last week, it was Home Depot and Kellogg’s, two big brands who certainly have the resources to support plenty of great social media content. (It just goes to show you that money does not equal quality.)

In Home Depot’s case, someone (they cited an “agency and Home Depot individual”) tweeted a racist tweet. It was subsequently removed and the agency and employee were both fired, but not before earning Home Depot a lot of unwanted publicity.

In the case of Kellogg’s, the UK branch of the breakfast food company tweeted “1 RT=1 breakfast for a vulnerable child”—an offensive retweet request that seemed to use hungry children as a marketing promotion. The company later clarified that they fund school breakfast programs. 

There are so many easy ways to prevent this type of mistake and avoid the possibility of alienating the people who follow you. Don’t let it happen to your company! Check out my previous post, 10 Ways to Protect Your Reputation on Social Media. Read The Little Book of Social Media (available on Kindle too) for 60+ social media tips, including many pointers on how to manage your company’s reputation and what to do–and not do–when interacting with customers on social media.

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Social Media Tip #4: Build a Content Pipeline

Photo by Brian Cantoni

Photo by Brian Cantoni

Here’s another excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Download the book now or get the Kindle version.

Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to figure out what content you will promote on social media to support those goals. Brainstorm topics, themes, and formats. What will you talk about? Will you produce news, interviews, or customer stories? How about ebooks, contests, or polls? What existing content can you leverage in new ways through social media? For example, do you currently have an email newsletter that contains useful tips or short articles you could also promote on your Facebook page or Twitter feed? Think about categories and keywords that describe the content you’ll create to help you envision what that content could be. The goal is to plan enough great content to fill up a 3- to 6-month social media calendar. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Interview people. Whether your subject is an employee or a famous person in your industry, interviews are popular because people are naturally curious about other people.
  • Create polls. Readers love polls, and polls can help give you additional insight into what your customers like. For example, if you run a home design shop, you could poll your customers on designs they prefer. (Always give your fans the option to view results without making them vote.)
  • Use statistics and quotes. Readers often respond to quick, easily digestible facts or statistics. Inspirational or famous quotes are also popular. Choose quotes that are a reflection of your company’s brand and culture.
  • Invite customers, fans, or industry experts to contribute. Have one of your industry stars or a faithful fan take over one of your social media accounts for the day. Give them a theme to work with, or ask them to propose their own theme. People like to see what their fellow fans are interested in.
  • Provide an introduction to your field. Create some content that helps people who are new to your industry get a basic grounding in it. (Interviewing someone who is new to your field will help you create useful content.)
  • Ask your readers and followers what they want! You should always check in with your audience on a regular basis to find out what they’d like to see more of or what new content they want you to provide.
  • Review a new product, TV show, movie, or book about your industry. For example, if you are a car salesman and a TV show about a car salesman just premiered, review the show while giving your fans unique insights into the subject at hand.
  • Talk about charities or causes you support. How did you find out about them? Why do you support them? This helps to humanize you and your company and shows your contributions to the greater social good.
  • Ask your customers to share their stories. Provide a theme or pose a question that relates to a certain time of year or historic event, or something about your cause if you work for a non-profit. Ask your fans to contribute their thoughts and stories around the theme you’ve identified. Putting the spotlight on your customers’ stories (e.g., tales about overcoming adversity, special moments in their lives, or people who inspire them) can often result in great human interest stories.
  • Help your customers help each other. Ask fans or followers to share advice on topics that other customers are asking about. This will help build a community among your customers.
  • Profile pioneers in your industry or company history. If someone in your company’s past had an interesting or unusual life, profile that person. For example, Converse might highlight the history of Chuck Taylor, who is more than just the name behind their iconic basketball shoes.
  • Turn a case study into a story. Great content is all about telling a story. Take a case study and turn it into a compelling story of how a certain customer benefited from your product or service. (Make the story about the customer, not about the product!) Short or long, a story or narrative can engage your customers if it’s well-written and provides something they can relate to.
  • Share a failure or a success. Talk about a time that your company tried something that didn’t work, or a moment when you made an embarrassing mistake, and what you learned from the experience. Being humble and honest about your imperfections will help build audience trust.
  • Encourage conversation between fans. What content will get your fans talking with each other? For example, if you run a tourism bureau for a particular area, you might encourage fans to share fond memories of that place or talk about their recommendations on the best spots to visit.
  • Create quick hits. Content can and should be short and sweet much of the time. Provide quick, short snippets of information that is useful or entertaining to your customers. Examples include top five or top ten lists, quick tips on topics your customers are familiar with, or infographics (while they might take time to produce, they should be easy and quick for customers to read and understand).
  • Provide evergreen and cyclical content. What are some basic, predictable topics that you know your customers will need? For example, if you sell pet products, create some go-to articles to help customers learn about pet care and health. If you are a florist, take photos of some of the different bouquets you sell for Valentine’s Day and have them ready to go in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day.
  • Mix up the length, format, and types of content you provide. Remember that consistency can be boring. Don’t always post the same type of content; try new formats. Use a range of content types (photos, graphics, blog posts, tweets, interactive media, etc.) to keep things interesting and keep your customers engaged.

Regardless of the subject matter, your content must provide value. Don’t constantly pitch your products or talk about how great your company is. Instead, create content that adds value to your customers’ lives by giving them information that’s useful and interesting to them. If you can do that, you’ll be on your way to creating a great customer experience.

Get 59 more social media tips: Download The Little Book of Social Media now!

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Social Media Tip #2: Strategize!


The following is another excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Get the Kindle version now or download the pdf.

Once you’ve decided that you want to use social media to connect with your existing customers, find new customers, and further your brand, you need to focus on strategy. Too many business owners and marketing managers jump on social media with no plan, no goals, and no content pipeline. They just want to do it because, well, everyone else is doing it! The social media landscape is littered with abandoned and poorly maintained accounts that are the victims of a lack of strategy. To prevent your company from being the next social media victim, review three critical components of your business:

  • Customers (or supporters, if your business is a non-profit): Who are your customers? What do they care about, and what do they think of your company? What social media sites are
    they using? What have they requested (e.g., faster customer service, more information about products, etc.) that you can provide through social media? Think about how you can use social media to benefit your customers.
  • Competition: Are your competitors using social media? Are they using it successfully? What are they doing that you might be able to learn from? What are they not doing that might provide you with an opportunity to differentiate your business? For example, maybe you own a local retail store and you noticed your competitors don’t offer special discounts to online fans. Perhaps you could take the opportunity to provide discounts to your online fans and attract some of your competitor’s customers in the process.
  • Industry: What are your industry’s best practices for social media? How are the leading bloggers and speakers in your field using it? What new tools are they experimenting with? Look at the social media accounts of your industry leaders (if they have any). You should also look at leading companies in other fields, especially if your industry is behind the curve when it comes to online marketing and technology.

Align with your business strategy
Now that you’re armed with more information about what your customers want from social media and what your competitors and industry leaders are doing in the space, focus on your business strategy. How do you want your company to be perceived? What are your short- and long-term business objectives? What can you provide through social media that will support these objectives? What benefits (customer service, thought leadership content, etc.) can you provide to customers through social media as you work towards these objectives? Think about some concrete measurements (increased sales, a certain number of new customers, etc.) that will help you determine what success looks like.

We recommend you focus on the top three business goals that social media can help you achieve. If you are that local retailer from our previous example, your top three goals might be to double your sales, expand your product line, and open a second store. Your social media activities should support all three of these objectives. We’ve created a social media strategy template (available on our website) to help you get started.

Coming up in our next post: Content strategy! And why you need to care about it as you plan your social media presence.

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Social Media Tip #1: Do Your Homework

social-media-54536_640The following is an excerpt from our ebook The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience. Get the Kindle version now or download the pdf.

1. Do your homework.
Before you jump into social media, there are a few questions you should consider to make sure it’s appropriate for your organization:

  • Is social media a good fit for your company?
    Companies in some industries, like financial services, often shy away from the
    regulatory challenges that arise when you have a direct, public dialogue with
  • Are your company politics out of control?
    If every tweet must pass through a committee, you’re better off staying away.
    Customers can sense corporate bureaucracy and condescension.
  • Do you have calm, professional staff members who can manage your
    social media efforts
    You’ll need great communicators who can write clear, engaging content. And
    they’ll have to be professional enough to interact with thousands of customers.
  • Do you have the resources to keep up a sustained presence?
    Social media is an ongoing commitment that requires content strategy and curation as well as communication and monitoring. Depending on how many sites and platforms you use, you might need one or two full-time employees, or you may need to share the responsibilities among members of your team. You may want to invest in some vendor or consulting services to help you set up your accounts and/or buy software that helps you manage and analyze those accounts.
  • Can your current workflow support social media?
    Does your existing content and communications workflow have the flexibility to absorb social media content creation and review? For example, if you already have a writer, an editor, and a legal reviewer for your customer-related communications, can those resources be used to review social media as well?
  • Think about possible legal concerns. Talk with your legal team or, if you run a small company, consult a lawyer about your social media goals and what ways you might have to protect your business. For example, you might post community rules for your social fans and followers regarding the types of content they can post to your pages, or you might create guidelines for how your employees should create and promote social media content (see the rest of our tips for ideas!).

If you don’t have the time and resources to do social media right, don’t do it! It’s better to stay away than to risk damaging your company’s reputation. But if you think social media might be right for you, the next thing to consider is strategy.

We’ll talk more about social media strategy in our next post.

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Announcing The Little Book of Social Media!

I’m so excited to announce that The Little Book of Social Media is now available!

Every day, more small businesses and non-profits are realizing the benefits of social media. Social media provides an amazing opportunity to build brand and product awareness, attract new customers, and increase sales — and it does all of these things at a substantially lower cost than traditional marketing.

But before you dive in, you need to know the ground rules so you can protect your brand and your customer relationships. This ebook outlines those ground rules in an easy-to-understand, accessible way, with 60 quick tips that you can use immediately.

You’ll find tips on how to:

  • Create a social media strategy
  • Leverage sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram
  • Identify the sites and platforms you’ll want to use
  • Create a content pipeline
  • Protect your reputation
  • Measure success, and more!

To help you start using these tips right away, we’ve also included two downloadable templates that you can customize — a social media strategy and a social media calendar.

Get The Little Book of Social Media now (downloadable pdf).

You can also buy it on Amazon.

Coming soon to the iBookstore!

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10 Ways to Protect Your Reputation on Social Media

Here’s another excerpt from our upcoming eBook, The Little Book of Social Media, coming out at the end of the month.

Misusing social media can severely damage your brand. You must be vigilant. Here are 10 ways you can protect your brand and safeguard your reputation.

1. Respond quickly.
Be on constant watch for questions directed at your Twitter user handle or posted to your Facebook wall. Respond to each one. It’s not just about the people you are interacting with; it’s also about all the other people who are watching how you interact. Use tools like HootSuite or HubSpot’s Social Inbox to help you monitor your social media feeds and make sure you are not missing any mentions or comments. You can also create Twitter lists of your customers and search them for words like “help” and “support.”

Image courtesy of Chris Waits

2. Don’t ignore negative feedback or complaints about bad service.
You are always better off responding quickly to a bad review or a complaint. If you don’t, others will fill the gap – and their messaging won’t be positive. You should respond even before you have an answer, just to let your customers (and the people who are watching your exchange) know that you’re listening and will work to address the problem. As soon as you’ve acknowledged the concern, take the issue out of the public eye by contacting the customer directly. If the customer is a lost cause, at least you will show that you tried to right a wrong, regardless of what the consumer decides to do.

3. Admit mistakes immediately, but don’t delete them.
This seems obvious, but many companies take far too long to apologize for their mistakes when they post something inappropriate. Every minute that goes by increases the possibility of bad PR. If your company made a mistake or showed poor judgment, do not delete the mistake (people will circulate screenshots of the deleted content, so your deletion will seem sneaky or even cowardly). Instead, immediately acknowledge that you messed up, and promise to do better. Take responsibility for your content and what you put out there.

4. Hire and train professional, quick-thinking people.
This may seem like another obvious tip, but you’d be surprised how often a company hires someone to manage their social media based solely on the criteria that the person knows how to use social media. While it’s helpful to already know all the tools and to be immersed in online culture, it is even more important to have the right skills to effectively engage with customers. Not every intern is cut out for social media management! Your social media manager is one of your company’s most public voices, so he or she needs to be professional and cool under fire. They also should have a sense of humor and the ability to deal with customers without acting defensive or passive aggressive.

5. Don’t talk to trolls.
Trolls are people who purposefully post inflammatory and often extreme comments in an effort to get others riled up. Attention is what they want, so don’t provide it. Don’t defend yourself from them and don’t engage in snarky comments about them. Simply enforce your community guidelines and delete any comments that don’t meet those guidelines.

6. Think twice before you sponsor or leverage a hashtag.

Twitter monetizes its service in part by offering companies the opportunity to sponsor hashtags or tweets. Make sure the hashtag you are sponsoring is not too vague or does not have a double meaning; in either case, trolls will jump on the opportunity to turn it into a bashtag (remember the #McDStories debacle?). Similarly, make sure you know why a hashtag is trending before you jump on it as an opportunity to promote your company or product — I bet CelebBoutique wishes they had done that.

7. Tweet from the right account.
This mistake is easy to make, but its effects can be hard to undo. Several companies, including KitchenAid and StubHub, have learned the hard way that it is critical that their social media managers be vigilant about keeping work and personal social media accounts separate. Each company had to issue a public apology when their social media teams posted personal (and offensive) tweets from their corporate Twitter accounts. A mistake like this really exposes your brand to not only negative attention but also a sense of mistrust – who is really behind your tweets and are they the nice people they seem to be?

8. Don’t talk politics or religion.
It’s the same golden rule we abide by in the workplace and with people we don’t know well: don’t talk about politics or religion. Unless you are an organization with a known political or religious affiliation, stay away from these touchy subjects. Regardless of your views, you will alienate many of your customers.

9. Have a plan for reacting to national events and negative PR scenarios.
Think through possible scenarios and document a plan for handling each one. Review the plans with your team. Examples might be a national emergency or disaster, a market downturn, a product recall, a scathing customer review, etc. When it comes to national or international events, your best bet is either to say nothing or to offer a simple message of condolence to those affected. Having a plan in place certainly would have helped Epicurious, the company that unwisely responded to the Boston Marathon bombings in April 2013 by suggesting that people try their cranberry scone recipe.

10. Make it easy for customers to get in touch, and be available around the clock.
Provide a connection to customer service right through your social media team. Don’t make your customers go looking for customer service, and don’t send them to a 1-800 number. It will mean more work for your team, but that is better than having a customer post a complaint about not being able to reach you. You’ll also need to keep an eye on your accounts and your account management tools (such as the aforementioned HootSuite) around the clock. Divide the off-hours responsibility among team members so nobody is “on call” to check your social media management accounts and management tools every weekend. You don’t want a customer to post a question at 4:59 p.m. on Friday and not get an answer until Monday morning.

For more tips on how to create a great social media experience for your customers, look for The Little Book of Social Media, to be released on July 31st.

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Writing Content that Customers Want

Image courtesy of Kheel Center for Labor Management, Cornell University

The following is an excerpt from our upcoming book, The Little Book of Social Media: 60 Ways to Create an Amazing Customer Experience. I’m excited to say that we will be launching the book next month! In the meantime, here is a sneak peek of one of our tips:

Tip #26. Give them what they want!

Certain content types tend to be more popular with users. Here are some tried-and-true options:

Solve a problem. Is there a common issue your customers face? For example, if you are a pest control company and it’s mosquito season, can you post some tips to help your customers combat mosquitoes or film a video showing customers how to pest-proof their yard?

Teach or educate. Help people learn about something they’re interested in. For example, if you’re a history-related organization, talk about a historical event that happened on this day 100 years ago. Or if you sell foreign language software, post a new vocabulary word or translation each day.

Provide a list. Everyone loves a list (articles that  are made up of lists have become so popular that they have a nickname – “listicles”). Sites like Buzzfeed deal almost exclusively in lists. For example, you might post an article called “5 Ways to Save Money on Your Car” or “The 10 Best TV Comedies.”

Interview someone. Whether your subject is one of your employees or a famous person in your industry, interviews tend to be popular because people are naturally curious about other people.

Use statistics and quotes. Readers often respond to quick, easily digestible facts like statistics about your industry (or about something fun and trivial). Inspirational quotes are also popular.

More stories to share with your fans and followers:

  • Causes or charities your organization supports, and why those causes are important to you.
  • Stories that customers have given you permission to share with others (for example, inspirational stories about overcoming personal adversity or ingenious new uses they have found for your product).
  • Experiences that have inspired your team to be creative or have taught you valuable lessons.
  • Profiles of pioneers in your industry.
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The Little Book of Social Media – Coming Soon!

For the past several weeks, I’ve been working  (with my husband Brian) on our latest eBook: The Little Book of Social Media. This book is the culmination of many ‘tricks of the trade’ we’ve practiced, learned, or witnessed in our many years of managing interactive projects for various companies and clients.

In the course of my work and my recent experience teaching a college seminar on content strategy, I realized that there was not a short-and-sweet, user-friendly book on the topic. There are some great longer, more marketing theory-focused books on social media and content marketing, and many informative blog posts. But we wanted to create a quick and accessible guide that people could start using right away. The book will also include some templates that readers can download (via our website) to help them get started on their own social media strategies.

Our audience is the small business owner or non-profit worker who might not have a lot of resources, but wants to do this right, and the corporate soldier who is looking for some guidelines to help his or her company get up to speed on this important outlet for marketing and communication. Our book will help these folks understand why social media’s important, what sites they should evaluate first,  what they need to do before they ever tweet their first tweet or pin their first pin, and how they can measure success.

We’re working hard to launch by July 8 – everything is in the editing phase right now. I hope you’ll watch this space for a launch announcement soon!

Happy weekend!

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