Why You Should Stop Treating Social Media Like a Billboard

Why do so many business owners think that if you posting something on social media, people will flock to you, bang down your door, and buy everything you're selling? Build it (or post it) and they will come is not accurate anymore, especially in 2018.

So why is all the focus put on what is being posted and nothing else? Because that's what is easy to see. Everything else takes a little effort, but that's the difference between treating your social media channels as billboards and using social media to actually socialize with potential customers and clients to generate leads. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or countless others social media channels--it's time business owners pay attention to more. 

To provide customer service.

This is what gets a consumer to trust you. The time your manager takes to respond to questions and engage in conversation could (and should) drive sales.  

"Your social media is your storefront where customer relationships happen," said Karla Campos, Founder of Social Media Sass, an influencer marketing company. "Sure you can have great graphics but if you are bad at customer service, it's definitely going to have a negative effect on your business. We should pay attention to private messages, customer concerns, and customer sentiment."

To time everything just right.

Strategy and timing are part of the full equation. Flexibility and going in a different direction while staying on point is a strong trait to have as a manager.

This means don't schedule everything and call it a day. Be live. Be social in real time. When you're watching your favorite show and see the hashtag to use on Twitter while watching means nothing if you're watching the next day on DVR. You don't want to be late to the party on social media when things are happening now.

To go beyond branding.

Basic brand knowledge, decent imagery, and good writing skills aren't enough.

"Without the strategic pieces like targeting, creating profiles aligned with your ideal audience, regularly reading and responding to the analytics behind which posts engage (or don't) and why (or why not), posting is not only a waste of time but a waste of money," said Jamie Prince, founder of Flourish, an integrated communications agency. 

Facebook and Instagram offer great insights. There are also third-party resources you can use too, but why pay for them when the social media giants are telling you how people are reacting to your content for free? Seeing what people are liking, how they're engaging with it, and when it's all happening is vital for moving forward with your strategy.

To listen.

If you're just pushing out content, you're basically the social media equivalent of a person who won't stop talking. (Who wants to listen to someone who only talks, and never listens or responds?)

Social media is not a billboard on the highway for people to drive by and look at. If someone posts a question, answer it. And don't wait a week to do it. Answer it within 24 hours. Make it a point to log onto your accounts once a day to see what people are saying. They're telling you what they like and don't like by their interaction, or lack of, so listen.

To respond... and be social.

It is a two-way conversation with your audience, rather than a one-way conversation, that was owned in the past by traditional media.

"An effective and holistic social media strategy includes having a dialogue with your fans," said Dian Oved, a marketing strategist behind Empower Digital who works to verify big names on social media. "Asking them questions, responding to comments, and paying attention to what is trending on social media is extremely important."

To generate leads.

Remember when I said you can't just post and think people will buy whatever you're selling? That's because people have been trying that for years. Now, you need to pay those platforms if you want to be seen, especially on Facebook.

Spending some money to create a good strategy with images or video and target your ideal customer or client online can bring in quality leads over time to nurture, then convert.

To work with others.

When you post on your platforms, you're only reaching your audience. By teaming up with other brands who serve the same audience, you're expanding your reach.

When you invite influencers or members of the media to post on their social media accounts about you by tagging you or promoting you in another way, it acts as a third-party endorsement. 

To look at data.

The great thing about social media, both organic use and paid, is the access to data. You can see what works, what doesn't and modify your strategy.

"Even for the most creative brand needs to utilize data analysis tools, most of which are free," said Monica Dimperio, Founder at Hashtag Lifestyle, an agency that connects luxury brands with influencers. 

Years ago, posting for the sake of posting may have worked. Today, social media is like a science and needs to be approached as the complex marketing giant it is.

Why You Should Stop Treating Social Media Like a Billboard

Why do so many business owners think that if you posting something on social media, people will flock to you, bang down your door, and buy everything you're selling? Build it (or post it) and they will come is not accurate anymore, especially in 2018.

So why is all the focus put on what is being posted and nothing else? Because that's what is easy to see. Everything else takes a little effort, but that's the difference between treating your social media channels as billboards and using social media to actually socialize with potential customers and clients to generate leads. Whether it be Facebook, Instagram, or countless others social media channels--it's time business owners pay attention to more. 

To provide customer service.

This is what gets a consumer to trust you. The time your manager takes to respond to questions and engage in conversation could (and should) drive sales.  

"Your social media is your storefront where customer relationships happen," said Karla Campos, Founder of Social Media Sass, an influencer marketing company. "Sure you can have great graphics but if you are bad at customer service, it's definitely going to have a negative effect on your business. We should pay attention to private messages, customer concerns, and customer sentiment."

To time everything just right.

Strategy and timing are part of the full equation. Flexibility and going in a different direction while staying on point is a strong trait to have as a manager.

This means don't schedule everything and call it a day. Be live. Be social in real time. When you're watching your favorite show and see the hashtag to use on Twitter while watching means nothing if you're watching the next day on DVR. You don't want to be late to the party on social media when things are happening now.

To go beyond branding.

Basic brand knowledge, decent imagery, and good writing skills aren't enough.

"Without the strategic pieces like targeting, creating profiles aligned with your ideal audience, regularly reading and responding to the analytics behind which posts engage (or don't) and why (or why not), posting is not only a waste of time but a waste of money," said Jamie Prince, founder of Flourish, an integrated communications agency. 

Facebook and Instagram offer great insights. There are also third-party resources you can use too, but why pay for them when the social media giants are telling you how people are reacting to your content for free? Seeing what people are liking, how they're engaging with it, and when it's all happening is vital for moving forward with your strategy.

To listen.

If you're just pushing out content, you're basically the social media equivalent of a person who won't stop talking. (Who wants to listen to someone who only talks, and never listens or responds?)

Social media is not a billboard on the highway for people to drive by and look at. If someone posts a question, answer it. And don't wait a week to do it. Answer it within 24 hours. Make it a point to log onto your accounts once a day to see what people are saying. They're telling you what they like and don't like by their interaction, or lack of, so listen.

To respond... and be social.

It is a two-way conversation with your audience, rather than a one-way conversation, that was owned in the past by traditional media.

"An effective and holistic social media strategy includes having a dialogue with your fans," said Dian Oved, a marketing strategist behind Empower Digital who works to verify big names on social media. "Asking them questions, responding to comments, and paying attention to what is trending on social media is extremely important."

To generate leads.

Remember when I said you can't just post and think people will buy whatever you're selling? That's because people have been trying that for years. Now, you need to pay those platforms if you want to be seen, especially on Facebook.

Spending some money to create a good strategy with images or video and target your ideal customer or client online can bring in quality leads over time to nurture, then convert.

To work with others.

When you post on your platforms, you're only reaching your audience. By teaming up with other brands who serve the same audience, you're expanding your reach.

When you invite influencers or members of the media to post on their social media accounts about you by tagging you or promoting you in another way, it acts as a third-party endorsement. 

To look at data.

The great thing about social media, both organic use and paid, is the access to data. You can see what works, what doesn't and modify your strategy.

"Even for the most creative brand needs to utilize data analysis tools, most of which are free," said Monica Dimperio, Founder at Hashtag Lifestyle, an agency that connects luxury brands with influencers. 

Years ago, posting for the sake of posting may have worked. Today, social media is like a science and needs to be approached as the complex marketing giant it is.

Why You’re LinkedIn Profile Matters Way More Than You Realize

You may have set your LinkedIn profile up years ago and then promptly forgotten about it.

If so, you're putting your personal brand at potential risk, given how high up your LinkedIn profile typically ranks on Google searches and other online queries.

(Just for fun, Google your own name right now and see if your LinkedIn profile pulls up on the first page of results!)

More important, LinkedIn is often the top stop for potential employers, clients and other stakeholders wanting to learn more about who you are and what you're up to professionally.

So, what will they find when they come across your page on LinkedIn?

The Secret to a Successful LinkedIn Profile

To start with, let's make sure you're not making the same mistake so many others do on LinkedIn - having a profile page that reads like a virtual résumé.

Most LinkedIn profiles read this way, talking about where you worked, awards you've won and job titles you've had. 
 

Here's the big problem with that: Your ideal clients, your ideal prospects and your ideal customers could care less about you.
 

Instead, they are far more concerned with themselves - with solving their most pressing professional problems and pain points.
 

To really make yourself appealing on LinkedIn, you must create what I call a "client-facing" profile.

It's Not About You

Instead of being all about yourself, your LinkedIn profile should be all about your target audience. It should focus on what you do for clients or employers, the problems you solve for your specific target audiences through the services and products you provide and so on.

Although he never lived to see LinkedIn (or even the Internet, for that matter), Dale Carnegie knew what he was talking about when he wrote these words in his 1936 bestseller "How To Win Friends and Influence People":

"Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want. You are eternally interested in it. But no one else is. The rest of us are just like you: we are interested in what we want. So the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it."
 

When it comes to LinkedIn, you must build a profile that talks about what your potential clients or employers want, and then shows them how working with you helps them get it.

Profile Perfection Made Easy

In fact, I have an entire copy-and-paste LinkedIn profile template you can download right now to build out your profile with some of my favorite phrases and formatting tips.

Either way, you owe it to your personal (and professional) brand online to make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to par - especially because potential clients and employers are going to be looking at your page whether you like it or not.

How to Use Reddit to Build Up Your Professional Credibility

Reddit is an online platform that is often overlooked as a business tool. The site forbids marketing but is a useful place for you to contribute your expertise and learn from others. As with other social media sites, it's important to be active, professional and engaging in order to be successful.

If you are not familiar with Reddit, here's a quick overview: The plain-paged platform calls itself the Internet's front page. The content on the site is organized into many narrow and broad categories or "subreddits." There are thousands of these on the site, but popular subreddits include technology, random, online marketing, and news. The audience consists primarily of men, ages 18 to 35.

Entrepreneurs, professionals, and marketers all can gain audiences on Reddit, once they have spent time to find people with whom they share interests. Essentially, you're looking for your own niche audience of sorts. Being active on the site by adding content, comments, replies, and useful information are all ways to build relationships. Be sure not to over-extend your reach; stick to the knowledge that you have, without trying to mislead.

Share Knowledge

Content is perhaps the most important part of contributing to Reddit, so ensure your posts are useful and timely. Use your own knowledge to answer questions when you are confident in your information.

For example, if you work as an IT person, find tech subreddits to help other users with their computer questions. As others interact with you, they may start to see you as a solid contributor and even return later for questions or comments. Lawyers can offer legal advice, nurses can contribute health advice, and other professionals can do the same for their fields.

Keep your information strong, useful, and never include spam. If you mention your company or a product you care about, it should be essential information that is highly relevant to the information you're giving a community.

Ask Me Anything

One particularly notable type of post, that even has it's own subreddit, is called "Ask Me Anything (AMA)." These are conversations between notable people in a field and the members of that community or subreddit. Such discussions tend to be interesting, popular, and engaging.

Many celebrities and politicians have contributed these posts, with great reception. As an expert in your field, posting your own AMA can bring in a lot of traffic. For example, if you are a personal trainer, you could post an AMA thread and respond to questions as they come in. Some of the questions asked are outlandish or uncomfortable, but the environment is typically positive and keeps people engaged in discussions.

Learning From Others, Free of Charge

You don't have to start your own AMA to interact with others around subjects in which you may have some expertise. I see people regularly just post a question as a thread in any community or subreddit they frequent, as a way to spark discussion. If you are struggling with certain technical aspects of your craft, or think you are particularly skilled, this is an opportunity to see how others handle the same issues.

The idea here is that you can use Reddit as an opportunity to learn from other professionals, free of charge. Not only will you grow and learn, but you will also build two-way relationships.

Perfect Your Timing

Most social platforms will allow you to set media to be posted at scheduled times, but Reddit doesn't have this option. This makes it important to post during times where a lot of people are using the site.

If you spend a good amount of time interacting with people in a subreddit, you will get a feel for when many others like you are online and interacting. Often it is during the middle of the day. Be sure to set aside a few minutes during that time to read interesting posts or comment on them. If you do not interact during peak times, there is a good chance anything you post will get lost among others.

Also, understand that if you post something during peak hours, people may miss it because there's so much content arriving on the site constantly. Aim for sharing high quality content. The higher the quality, the better chance it has of being seen.

Invite People to Your Sites

Once you have established a professional reputation and built relationships, you can feel better about inviting users to your sites outside of Reddit when appropriate. Be sure you never come across as spammy and are sincere in your interactions.

Only suggest your sites if another user is interested or could benefit from your services. Returning to the personal trainer example: If a fellow Reddit user is looking for the creation of a dietary plan, send them to your site for reference or to request services.

Remember that Reddit is not a marketing tool. Think of the platform as a professional association or as a way to network and treat it appropriately. Use it as a means to trade ideas, help others, and learn more about your field from others. You or your business may indeed eventually receive some positive notoriety from your Reddit interactions, but that is because you contributed positively to a community, not because you kept promoting yourself.

5 YouTube Video Tips That Will Make You Look Like a Seasoned TV Pro

Business professionals are often surprised to hear a little known fact--YouTube viewers spend ten times the amount of time watching educational content than they do watching pet and animal videos. According to the company's Head of Culture and Trends, Kevin Allocca, if you have ideas to share or helpful advice to offer, YouTube is one of the most powerful tools you might be overlooking. 

"Learning-related content is far more popular than people realize," Allocca writes in his new book, Videocracy. It sure is. Learning and educational content drives over a billion views a day on YouTube, according to CEO Susan Wojcicki. With those kind of numbers, entrepreneurs and thought-leaders should be making YouTube a key part of their social media mix. But like any platform, some people do it better than others. 

As a media training and communication advisor for top CEO's who appear on television, I can offer five tips that will make you and your YouTube videos stand out.  

1. Lose the Script

Nothing gets in the way of authenticity faster than a person reading from a prepared text or sounding they like they've memorized a script word for word. When you try to recall every word, your deliver slows and becomes more stilted and robotic. Social media rewards speakers who appear natural, conversational and personable. Here's a tip: memorize your opening your line and your last line. Internalize the rest without committing every word to memory. 

2. Keep an Open Posture

A stilted performance means there's very little movement. For example, hands are kept tightly to one's side or arms are crossed in front of your body.  Loosen up--literally. Don't be afraid to use your hands, especially if you're animated in natural conversations. Don't "block" your body. Keep your arms open and palms turned up as much as possible. An open posture shows confidence and comfort. 

3. Dress the Part and Wear it Well

A highly compensated speaker and author once told me he always wears expensive suits or custom-tailored shirts for his YouTube videos. "Nobody's going to pay me $75,000 for a speech if I'm wearing a hoodie. Only Mark Zuckerberg can get away with it." It's good advice. Look the part. If your ideas are targeted to high net-worth individuals, look like someone who has a high net worth. Regardless of your wardrobe, wear clean, high-quality clothes. Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran once said she didn't choose to invest in chef who appeared on the show because his apron was dirty. She thought, Where else does he cut corners? Like it or not, your viewers do make snap judgments about you by the clothes you wear. 

4. Invest in Great Sound

Gone are the days when an entrepreneur can point a smartphone at themselves, post a video, and attract a substantial following. Kevin Allocca agrees that the quality of video production is increasing on YouTube. While you don't need to hire an expensive production company, at the very least invest in high quality sound. A lapel microphone costs as little at $15, but you'll get what you pay for. Paying $130 for a basic Rode shotgun microphone will pay off in significantly better audio. Adding a "dead cat" wind sock for another 30 bucks will also enhance the sound quality, especially outdoors. 

5. Smile and Have Fun

I meet many leaders who are fun, spirited people off-camera, but look like boring stiffs the minute the record light goes on. Smile, laugh and have fun. Moods are contagious. 

Jenny Doan has a lot to smile about. She's a classic example of an entrepreneur using YouTube to discover a wider audience. When Jenny opened the Missouri Star Quilt Company, business was slow for about a year. Jenny's kids suggested that she post video tutorials on YouTube. Today her videos have generated more than 70 million views and have turned the small town of Hamilton, Missouri, into a mecca of sorts for quilters. The company now employees 180 people and fifteen buildings in the small town have been remodeled to supply the thousands of packages the company ships daily.  

Spend some time on Jenny's YouTube channel. You'll note that she's personable, authentic, friendly, energetic, conversational, and professional. She smiles, has fun, clearly enjoys sharing your knowledge...and uses good sound equipment. 

Entrepreneurs and thought-leaders are living in an age when they express themselves and reach a mass audience in an instant. Give you viewers a reason to tune in by fulfilling their desire to learn something new. Make your personality stand out and they'll come back again. 

6 Social Media Habits That Will Keep You from Accomplishing Your Professional Goals

Ever since I fully embraced social media several years ago, I've been amazed at the power of different platforms -- LinkedIn, in particular--to connect me with people I would have never, ever had the chance to meet otherwise. I've also discovered my writing voice, honed my writing skills, and built a sizeable following of people who seem to enjoy reading what I have to say about the topics that interest me most.

Yet I've also seen how social media can -- in the hands of some people -- become a tool for annoying and even aggressive behavior that they would probably not exhibit if they didn't have the tools that allow them to connect with others so easily.

Let's be frank: Social media endows people with tremendous power to connect and communicate with people around the world. But with power comes the responsibility to wield it in a civil, professional, and productive manner. 

Nearly everyday I see someone commit minor offenses on my favorite social media platforms. Sometimes they get a little nasty. Here are some examples of the kinds of annoying social media habits that can hurt your business and keep you from accomplishing your professional goals (names have been removed to protect the guilty):

1. Leaving snarky or critical remarks in blog post comments.

Healthy debate founded on facts and informed opinions is a good thing. Whenever I see people disagree with me in the comments, as long as they do so in a professional and civil manner, I let the comments stand. But I've also seen comments that were clearly intended to be negative attacks without a basis in fact, and with clearly ill intent. Sometimes I'll check their recent history of comments and see a clear pattern of such behavior. 

For such people, besides simply deleting their comments, if that's even possible, there are a number of things you can do to deal with them depending on the platform you're on: Unfollow them, disconnect with or "unfriend" them, and even report them. 

2. Asking for favors before or immediately after connecting with someone for the first time.

While I'm happy to connect with people on LinkedIn, I continue to see people reach out to me immediately after connecting asking for time to "pick my brain" about a topic, introductions to people in my network, and requests to be considered for job opportunities at my company. 

While I admire their courage and gumption for making such big asks, I'm unable to respond to them because I simply don't have the time to oblige their requests, and more importantly, I don't even know who they are. 

If you're going to ask for something from someone you've only just recently connected with through social media, invest some time in developing a positive series of interactions with them. Like, share, and comment on their content. Compliment them on something they or their company have done recently. 

This may in the end yield nothing more than some goodwill between yourself and the person you're trying to build a virtual relationship with, but at least you'll have a more reasonable basis for making a request once the time is right to do so.

3. Promoting your products or content in comments.

This happens too often: A person leaves a comment on your post thanking you for sharing, and then mentions their own post and includes a link to it. This is what I call "comment hijacking," and such comments are not only subject to immediate deletion, I'll probably unfollow them or, in some cases, remove the connection completely from my network.

4. Putting people on your email list without letting them opt-in.

Some people think that by connecting with you on LinkedIn, you're giving them the permission to place you on their e-mail list so they can start sending you their newsletters. What they fail to understand is that e-mail newsletters--or any other regular e-mail communications--require the user to explicitly opt-into your list. Anything else is considered spam and is in fact illegal in the US.

5. Asking new contacts to share content.

I like to help friends out by sharing their content if it's relevant to the type of content I usually share in my feed, and as long as I have some relationship with the person. But some people I've never exchanged even a simple message with send me links to their latest blog posts with the expectation that I'll share them with my network. It's an intrusive request that I'm usually unable to fulfill. 

6. Tagging multiple people in a post.

I'll occasionally tag people in posts whom I know, and I usually call them out in a congratulatory or appreciative manner. I do it sparingly. But there are some people who tag multiple people they don't really know with the hope that they'll jump in and like, share, or comment on their post, thereby giving it broader exposure and potentially even making it go viral. 

If you want to build constructive relationships and attract more qualified business leads through social media, avoid these annoying habits that make you look unprofessional.

Don’t Fall for Fake Twitter Followers: How the Right Social Media Expertise Can Help Your Business

The New York Times recently reported how many companies, brand ambassadors, celebrities, and even journalists purchased "fake" Twitter followers as a means to inflate their social media numbers. Many claimed to be pressured by social media firms, but the results were a PR black-eye that could possibly damage their public reputation.

Social media can be a powerful marketing and communication tool for business, and nowadays there are multiple platforms from which to choose. When thinking about this area of your business, it's important that you have a well-developed plan of what you want to control versus hiring someone else to do it.

While the power of social media is huge for marketing your business, it's essential to invest in the right kind of expertise. This way you are not fooled into thinking you are getting results when you're actually not.

Here are four basic questions that I have learned to ask based on my own experiences as a business owner when vetting experts to help with social media.

1. What are your business goals and objectives for utilizing social media?

It's important to first understand what goals you have with your social media marketing so you find the right fit for your business. When I first opened my yoga studio, I hired an agency that I paid monthly to create social media campaigns and accounts to reach potential new customers.

I quickly noticed that they did not take the time to learn my customer base. Instead, they provided a vanilla service that wasn't tailored to my business. If a firm only wants to discuss their services and not your business, that is a major red flag.

2. How do they develop content?

Will they work with certain people on your team to create new content? This point person would also need to keep the social media firm updated on new developments like the introduction of a new product or service or other related business news.

You also need to know how the content review and approval process will work. The firm is the expert on how social media should be written and presented, but you will need some oversight to ensure quality control.

I learned this the hard way when posts went out with pictures that I didn't approve and had the wrong branding. Until you get to the point where you feel comfortable with the person assigned to post on your behalf be sure to have this oversight in place.

3. How do they measure success?

As the Twitter story showed, having a large number of followers is not a sign of success if those followers would never purchase or influence your target market to try your services. 

Ask any potential expert you hire about what they consider a successful social media strategy and why. For instance, ask them: what type of people do they plan to target and why based on your business goals, what type and how much social engagement (likes, comments, sharing, recommendations) do they want to achieve, and the number of new business leads they plan to obtain. Also, ask them what they look for on a weekly and monthly basis so you can monitor the results.

When I used the firm I mentioned above early on in my yoga studio business, their marketing was focused on reaching potential customers who were looking for a "deal." Once the timeframe of that deal was over, they were not a long-term fit for the yoga studio. So, it ended up costing me more by bringing in these customers because the reduced price never converted to full price.

4. Can they provide sources?

Get names of  the social media firm's current clients and talk to them about what they like and don't like about the company's services. Even if they are happy overall, there will always be something that they wish were better. This information will provide you with the right level of information to protect yourself from signing on with an agency that's not a good fit.

I have gone through many iterations of this from enlisting a social media marketing firm to hiring staff experts. There are advantages to both. An outside agency is up to date on the latest trends and, if they are good, can recommend new ways to reach potential customers. With an in-house hire, you can better control the frequency of content and when it's necessary to make immediate postings.

Social media is an evolving form of marketing and communication and used the right way can help promote your services to existing customers and potential new leads. Hiring a social media agency can help, but do your own homework. Know what outcomes you want and have a communication cadence set up, so you get the most from your investment.