Social Media Tips for Small Business

As social media evolves and it becomes harder and harder to get your voice heard amongst the noise there are a few pieces of best practise that all businesses should follow.  These are especially pertinent for small to medium sized firms who are launching themselves into social media for the first time.a street with shops

1. Stick to what you know. If you’re a garden maintenance business we don’t want to hear about your views on the Alternative Vote. What we want are your tips for growing the perfect sweetpeas and a nudge when it’s time to get the tomato plants in. Remember you’re the expert and your customers will listen to you if you demonstrate these skills and give them genuinely interesting and informative information.

2. Tell me that you’ve joined the party. Let your customers know that they now have a new way to communicate with you. Put up a sign in your shop, email your customer database or add Facebook ‘Like’ functionality to your website. No one will know you’re there unless you tell us and talking to a void can be depressing for even the most optimistic of us.

3. Give me a reason to be your friend. Social media is a crowded place with everyone competing for your customers’ attention. How do you stand out in all that noise? Give them a reason to be your friend. If you’re an independent coffee shop will you be offering free refills for everyone who ‘Checks In’ with you on Foursquare? If you’re a fashion retailer can I be notified of sales and special offers via Facebook? You need to make your customers feel as if they’re being rewarded for their loyalty to you.

4. Make a plan and make some time. We all know how precious time is when you’re running your own small business and it may seem daunting to think about adding yet another task to the daily list of must-dos. The trick with social media is to plan ahead – think about what you want to post and pull together a weekly plan of attack. You can then use a service like Tweetdeck to schedule these updates well in advance and it’ll then go away and publish them for you across Facebook and Twitter at the right time and in the right place.

5. Remember that this is SOCIAL media. You need to be prepared for your customers to talk to you through these channels as well as listening to you. It might also be the case that they aren’t always saying nice things about you. If they have a reason to complain about service and they do this through social media this isn’t such a bad thing. Resolve the issue in public and show everyone just how much you care about customer service. Don’t ignore the complaint, deal with it and show all your customers how important they are to you.

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Google takes on Facebook’s Like Button and gets a little more sociable

Google social

“The web’s a big place so sometimes it helps to have a tour guide”.

This is how Google describe their +1 technology, a recommendation system that allows you to  flag interesting or relevant pages within search results, sharing these recommendations with people you’re connected to through Google.  As Facebook carries on it’s relentless expansion this is another move from our friends at the search giant to make their results and services ever more “social”.    It’s simple, elegant, easy to execute from a users perspective and in time will give a deeper more human feel to search results.   What’s not to love about this.

A Google account’s required to use this new feature and allows users to share their recommendations through Gmail, Google Chat, Google Reader and Buzz. Currently, the button is only available on the search results page, but in the future Google has plans to provide this button to companies so users can +1 their site without ever having to leave the page.    You’ll also be able to +1 Google Ads that you find beneficial.

In Google’s own words:

“Say, for example, you’re planning a winter trip to Tahoe, Calif. When you do a search, you may now see a +1 from your slalom-skiing aunt next to the result for a lodge in the area. Or if you’re looking for a new pastarecipe, we’ll show you +1’s from your culinary genius college roommate. And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop.”

And here’s where things get interesting from an SEO perspective; look again at the last line “And even if none of your friends are baristas or caffeine addicts, we may still show you how many people across the web have +1’d your local coffee shop”.

Matt Cutts recently went on record saying that one of the best things you can do to improve your ranking is to get “social”.  So, together with this statement we can see just how vital a carefully executed social media strategy is to search optimisation going forward. Getting people to +1 your content is going to deliver more organic traffic and better results.  We’re also hoping that’ll deliver cheaper paid traffic too if +1 ranking is incorporated into their data.

So all in all this seems like a great move all round.  An elegant and useful service for the user and a simple way to improve Google’s results based on the service and reputation of the sites it’s indexed.

We’re now sitting back and waiting for the multitude of “Get more +1’s at low low prices” emails from every black hat spammer out there!

To read the original Google post to go:

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/03/1s-right-recommendations-right-when-you.html

Is the Facebook v Google battle about to get interesting?

Google vs Facebook imageThis weekend the rumour mill went into overdrive at SxSW as Google once again refused to comment on their plans to take on Facebook with a social product. A Google spokesperson told The Next Web blog “We do not speculate on rumor and speculation”.

But despite the lack of any firm information it’s looking more and more likely that a big announcement will happen this year’s I/O developers’ conference in May.  Back in September Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt confirmed that a “social layer” was coming to all of their products  and we’ve seen this start to materialise as search results become more social and location based reviews are added to Google Maps.

We at the Levels are very excited by the possibility to this launch if the rumours are correct.  It’s thought that the product will be called Google Circles and that it is being developed in line with the thoughts of the ex-Google social technology researcher Paul Adams.

In a number of essays and presentations Adams says that what’s wrong with Facebook and many of the other social networks is that there’s no context given to your contacts and the information you publish.  We all operate in life with many different personas; work, friends,parent etc but when it comes to social networking all of our friends are lumped into one bucket making it impossible to target messages and communication to different social groups.   If Google find a solution to this, letting us publish and share with our different Circles of friends it will be a major step forward both in terms of use but also the privacy of information held within social environments.

After the failure of Buzz and Wave Google must be hoping that this will be third time lucky for them.  They need to crack the nut primarily in order to maintain their advertising revenues but we at The Levels would like to see an alternative to Facebook that’s driven by respect for privacy and a greater understanding of the complexity of human relationships.

What has been Facebook’s response to this? Well Mr Adams now works for them!

To read the article at The Next Web http://thenextweb.com/google/2011/03/11/google-reportedly-to-launch-google-me-in-may/

For Paul Adams presentation The Real Life Social Network go to http://www.slideshare.net/padday/the-real-life-social-network-v2

“This time it’s different” say Facebook as they acquire Beluga

Beluga corporate logoNormally when Faceboook acquire a start up they make you can offer you can’t refuse, shut you down and strip you of all your intellectual assets.  Highly effective but just a tad on the brutal side.

So, when news of their acquisition of Beluga (belugapods.com) was broken by the boys over at TechCrunch we assumed it would be just another slash and burn job.  But we were wrong.  Facebook have explicitly stated that this won’t be the case and in an open letter on the Belgua website state. “Beluga and Facebook are committed to create new and better ways to communicate and share group experiences.”

Beluga is a free mobile group messaging service so a little bit like Foursquare in that you can share your location, but just (& only) with your friends.   You can also share photos, updates etc with the group but again, completely privately.  It’s made up of a team of three bright young things who learnt their craft at Google and created a bit of a feeding frenzy when they went out into the market looking for angel funding but as we now know Facebook got there first.

So, what’s the future for Beluga?   The privacy of their users, which is so closely guarded seems a little at odds with the Facebook mantra of give us your data and we’ll sell it, but other than that this seems like a perfect fit.

Could it be that this is Facebook tacitly admitting that there are some users out there who aren’t prepared to share their life with the world?  Could this be their first move in building an alternative service where privacy is key?  We’ll wait to find out.

To read the original TechCrunch article http://techcrunch.com/2011/03/01/facebook-beluga/

Blogging falls away in the US as teens turn increasingly to Facebook and Twitter

What have you done with your life imageIn the UK we love to blog, but we’re also (horribly) aware that for the majority of time no one’s bothering to read our daily out-pouring on what ever subject’s close to our heart.  Does it matter that on one cares?  Is a blog just the modern day equivalent of “Dear Diary”? It would seem that in the US  it’s not just enough to express yourself any-more you need an audience to cheer you on.

The Internet and American Life Project at the Pew Research Centre found that from 2006 to 2009, blogging among children ages 12 to 17 fell by half; now only 14 percent of children those ages who use the Internet have blogs.  Kids who used to blog gave various reasons for why they’ve stopped including lack of time, lack of inspiration and lack of readership.  But crucially, they also said that they’ve got no need to blog now that all of their friends are on Facebook.

But is it the case that we’re losing our creativity or that we’re just changing the way we publish our inner most thoughts?  You could make the argument both ways.  We could say that Twitter is restrictive at only 140 characters and that Facebook’s breeding a generation of kids with little to no attention span who’s only ability to critique what they read is to “like” it.

On the other side of the argument Twitter, Facebook et al are giving teenagers the tools to discover their own voice, to pontificate on the issues that are important to them and share these thoughts with their friends and families.

Lee Rainie, director of the Internet and American Life Project, says that blogging is not so much dying as moving with the times.

“The act of telling your story and sharing part of your life with somebody is alive and well — even more so than at the dawn of blogging,” Mr. Rainie said. “It’s just morphing onto other platforms.”

This change in behaviour can be seen in the traffic and users on the established blogging platforms. Blogger, (owned by Google) saw a 2% year on year decline in traffic in the US alone.

So, here are The Levels what do we think?  We’ll, we could get all high and mighty and say that Facebook killed the blogging star that we’re turning into a society that can’t construct a diary entry let alone an essay or god forbid a novel.  But, we actually think that teens are the lucky ones.  They can speak to the masses via their Twitter account, share their passions, their disappointments and their joys and most importantly find their voice.

Read the full report at http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Generations-2010.aspx