6 Social Media Customer Engagement Guidelines Small Biz Should Follow

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Remember in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie when they talked about the “Pirates Code” being more like guidelines than rules? We have something similar in the Social Media world. There are some things that through trial and error we’ve learned you shouldn’t do— unless you want to drive away customers, followers, readers, etc. Not rules, but pretty good guidelines.

Posting is a big one. Don’t over post. Don’t under post. Don’t post irrelevant content. Posting content is what I do for clients, so I do have accumulated experience in this area.

To arrive at the above-mentioned findings, Sprout Social surveyed more than 1,000 Facebook, Twitter and Instagram users to determine what annoys them about brands on social and what drives them to unfollow.

Then the folks at CJG Digital Marketing sifted through the data to produce the following Infographic.

6 Social Media Behaviors to Avoid in 2017 (Infographic) - An Infographic from CJG Digital Marketing

(Embedded from CJG Digital Marketing )

Main thing to absorb is that 2.8 BILLION people use social media. If you are a small business owner or an entrepreneur THOSE are a lot of customers to be ignoring if you aren’t on line— and a lot to be ignoring if you are on social.

To repeat, the six no-no’s that Sprout Social focused on are:

  1. Posting too many promotional messages.
  2. Sharing irrelevant information
  3. Tweeting too frequently.
  4. Using jargon or slang awkwardly
  5. Staying too quiet
  6. Not replying to messages

Think about it and it makes sense. You are on social media not to scream from the rooftops about how good your service or product are. You are here to directly engage with potential customers, not to waste their time.

If you need help with consistent posting of blogs, FB posts or Twitter, feel free to contact me.

What Do You Write? What Is Your Passion?

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“If I don’t dance one day, I notice it. If I don’t dance two days in a row, my audience notices it. If I don’t dance three days in a row, I should get another job.”

Famous dancer Fred Astaire lived by that motto. Now replace where you see dance with write. And by no means do I equate myself with Mr. Astaire’s singular achievements in his chosen profession, but that is something I have tried to live by. Writing something every day.

Problem is, of late, I’ve been writing for my clients but not me, or you.

I was in my favorite breakfast place this morning (Brothers Taverna, nicely spaced out seating and the breakfast arrives mad fast!!!). My waitress Tara asked if I was going to use my computer (they have WiFi) and when I said yes, she directed me to a corner booth. Then I opened my bag to find I had left my tablet at home.

But I told her that I do most of my work on the cell anyway. She asked what I did. I said social media. And then Tara asked the leading question:

Oh, what do you write?”

I started giving her a list of my clients but she said “no what do you write, what is your passion?” It was then and there that I realized that the recent, modest success I have had writing blogs, tweets and Facebook posts for clients had edged out my own writing. I hadn’t written anything here for quite awhile. Even though I was sticking to the motto of writing every day, I wasn’t writing for me, or for you. I wasn’t covering the news I wanted to share.

So Tara, I’m back in the saddle, so to speak, thanks and let’s see what the week ahead brings for topics.

Your Blog Intro Paragraph, Setting the Correct Hook

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Introductory paragraphs are fishing trips ripe for disaster; launch yourself using the wrong hooks and lures, and you’ll lose all the fish before you get to the end paragraph.

reelingAn early blog of mine covered this topic and I thought it was time to repeat it for those of you small business owners who are piloting your own blog along the internet waters.

Noted social media influencer Jeff Bullas had recently outlined several literary devices to enhance the enticement and engagement levels of a blog’s first paragraph. I, in turn, shared insights on three of them, based upon my own over 30 years of experience as a print & broadcast writer.

Why not start with a question?

  • I’ve found asking a question to be among the most intriguing openings. By posing a question right away, you drive readers to start thinking; you challenge them to come up with an answer, an answer that lies beneath the waves of paragraphs to come.

Just the facts ma’am

  • On the other hand, years of writing experience have led me to accept statistics and percentages as the most difficult hook, because if done improperly you turn off readers and they swim away. (Bullas dressed this up by suggesting you attribute the facts to a person, thus making the numbers come alive).

To “quote or not to quote”

  • I’ve used quotes as teaser openers in my blogs, articles and columns many times over the years. Find something catchy that your interviewee recounted or advised that relates to your topic in such a way to set the mood, while at the same time “giving away” the sense of what story you are about to tell.

Metaphor.

  • This is an additional option I would suggest; in fact I employed it to kick off this blog. It is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

This option, as do all the others mentioned, set the readers off into a thinking mode, anxious to read on.

And that is the goal of the first paragraph, isn’t it?

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Directing Customer Traffic on Your Small Business Social Media Highway

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CARE, which stands for Customers Are Really Everything was an an employee training program I went through early on in my career. It was likened to an auto manual in how we were to treat customers, the force which drove our business.

Later, there was a newer model defining customers as both external, being the people who show interest in purchasing your product/service and internal, being employees who show interest in promoting your product/service. That’s right. EVERYBODY is your customer. Get that, and you’ve won half the battle.

Customer service is not an intangible, abstract, invisible force. You can see it and hear it everyday in the way employees interact with people interested in what you have to sell. Dynamic Social Media expert Skarlet Shuplat and I will be exploring aspects of customer service in respect to social media in a back & forth between our blogs over the next few weeks.

She correctly opens with this statement “You need to be social with your fans anSkarletd followers.” And follows up with three key areas of focus:

  • Find Customers Where They Are
  • Take Feedback to Heart
  • Be Available & Responsive

To read Skarlet’s full conversation (which already started, ladies first), scoot on over to her blog at FoxFireSocial.com

Feel free to jump in with your own thoughts. Because…. as our readers, you are our customers too!

But, for my first blog on the topic of social media presence I am going to… (cue the wavy screen to simulate a flashback)… look at the mindset of business people in regards to customer treatment.

You may have noted in the first paragraph I described customers as “both external, being the people who show interest in purchasing your product/service and internal, being employees who show interest in promoting your product/service.” I did not say buy and sell. For me, customer service has been the process of dealing with interested parties before, during and after interaction — whether a sale took place or not.

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nenetus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Whether it is face to face, or online, your external customer’s “care experience” will be influenced by your internal customer’s attitude.

That person who walked into your store, called, emailed, or flitted through your website, might not have purchased today, but depending on the “customer experience” could be back tomorrow for something else.

Ever go into a cute little boutique store in the mall, look around and never be acknowledged by sales staff behind the counter because they’re too busy gossiping or even bad mouthing management? Ever go back?

That was a Customer Service fail.

My daughter, as a teen worked at a cool, goth store obviously aimed at active, young adults. One day an elderly (ancient by their standards I would guess) woman in a wheel chair entered the store. The sales crew, having a pity party about job unhappiness, essentially ignored her, assuming she didn’t realize the youth culture of the store and would just roll on out.

My daughter who had been doing stock, (and is a smart kid because Rachael had asked for my advice when going into retail sales) came out to talk to the lady as she was about to leave the store. Rachael explained what the store was all about and the clientele it catered to. The woman thanked her and left.

Next day she came back, asked for Rachael (my kid, beaming dad here), and proceeded to buy over $500 worth of goth shirts, pants, jewelry, etc, for her twin granddaughters who had just “graduated” from middle school and needed to look good for junior year of high school.

That was pay-off to the “Before, During & After with no sale” customer service experience.

Customers Are Really Everything. Had the other two sales staff felt better about their own “customer” experience working for the store, perhaps they would have not let the elderly woman – or any other non goth-looking client leave untouched by a positive customer experience.

The same mindset applies to customer service translated and transmitted through social media. As Skarlet’s headline asks Is Your Social Media Presence a One Way Street?
Just because you have a social media presence on Facebook or Twitter does not mean you can stand behind the counter and ignore people, whether they are paying customers or not. Every question, every comment, every shopper should be acknowledged.

Then Directing Customer Traffic on Your Small Business Social Media Highway will yield positive results.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Why Your Small Business Needs Blogs— And Me

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BlogsB2C companies which feature blogs on their websites generate 88% more leads per month than those that do not. This is according to HubSpot, the world’s leading inbound marketing and sales platform. Let that settle in. Businesses which generate blogs about interesting things (along with their services or products) generate 88% more leads per month than competitors that don’t.

Well-thought-out, well-written blogs work because storytelling is a powerful way to attract readers, share information, open the lines of communication to foster engagement, build understanding of potential customer needs and convert these followers into loyal brand ambassadors.

More people looking at your store shelves. More people walking into your restaurant or bar. More potential income.

When I saw that 88% statistic I had a flashback to this line from Independence Day:

10 Years Social(Copyright © 1996 by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

Over the years, I’ve worked in print & broadcast media. People do not buy newspapers for the ads. They buy for the news. People do not listen to radio for the ads. They listen for the music.

In other words, people seek out something that will emotionally engage them.

And I have been saying for years that people are not on social media for the ads. They are there to share and engage, because they want to be emotionally connected. Repeatedly telling them what special you have for today is a disconnect— they may come in, but they are just as likely not to come back. You may have made a sale, but you didn’t convert them into loyal customers and certainly not created an emotional connection to recruit them as ambassadors for your business.

Granted, you want to keep using Twitter as a way of driving people to your website and Facebook pages. Equally so, you need to keep pace with competitors in the Facebook auction space for ads.

But, once you have funneled prospects to your website, then what? A few seconds of looking at ads or a contest. Maybe you hook them, maybe you don’t.

Consider generating two or three blogs a week to balance out your Facebook and Twitter self promotions. Give followers a reason to check back to your website several times a week. Provide some insight on how you do something. Recall a funny incident. Promote a survey. Give some free tips. Comment about something going on in the community.

Convinced, but you don’t have the time to write blogs? You don’t have the editorial skills to cultivate content? That’s where writers (such as myself— full disclosure) can assist you. Prices being charged on various websites range from as little as $5 for a simple blog up to and beyond $1000 for a complex blog.

As a veteran community writer, I’m on the more affordable side of that price bar. If you’re interested let’s talk. Let me help you SHARE information, so you can ENGAGE your readers, UNDERSTAND their needs and CONVERT them into customers.

It’s not about you anymore. It’s about them.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Selecting a Content Writer for Your Small Biz Blog

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If you don’t have the time or skill to write a twice weekly or even weekly blog to entertain & inform the customers who make use of your small business products or services, then you should find the time to select someone who does. There are at least seven steps involved.

As I have said (it’s over there on the left side of the page) “If you operate a small business in the 21st century, you need to ‘be’ on Social Media.”

So how do you select someone who shares your values, your voice, your interests?

But there’s more to it than that. Julia Peterson, a content marketing specialist and a private English language tutor who currently writes reviews at her educational blog AskPetersen.com, and is a contributor to such websites as CollectiveEvolution, FreelanceWrite.About, and Business.com, recently offered some advice.

Providing guest content on Susanna Gebauer’s The Social MS blog, Peterson presented a step by step game plan on how to flesh out a writing “partner”:

  • Experience and Education
  • Availability
  • Price vs. Quality
  • Turnaround Time
  • Interest In Your Topic
  • Diversity of Portfolio
  • Reviews or References

Price is the biggest stumbling block, in my opinion. Whereas many small businesses may “get” that they need to be on social media, they just don’t want to pay for it. Writers can charge $25, $75, $100+ per blog. This is where some small biz fall into the “relative, staffer, college intern” trap.

A word or two of caution; if you decide to give control/responsibility of your small business blogging and tweeting to a staff member or college intern, consider this. While they may excel as self-taught consumers of social media, they are not trained as marketers or customer service strategists.

This is critical, as a small biz operating a brick & mortar store on Main Street America, you need to decide the purpose of your blog. Is it a sales tool? Is it a customer service link? Is it a community public relations effort?

Only then can you determine how you want to rate the return on investment. Increased sales. Increased followers. Increased word of mouth about your business in the community.

Peterson very usefully closes out the article with sources for free lance writers, once you’ve made all your decisions.

(Anthony M. Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied. Follow https://twitter.com/amssvs)

Small Biz 2016 Resolution: Improving Customer Communications

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“As 2015 comes to a close, small businesses look to 2016 as a new year for growth and opportunity. Budgets and plans are in the process of being finalized. Communicating and connecting with customers are paramount. And small businesses should always be looking for ways to improve those lines of communications and customer service.”

Customer profile

Wow! Ann Marie Van Den Hurk, Contributing Columnist at Kentucky.com phrased that so succinctly (“In the new year, small businesses should focus on the customer”) that I won’t even bother with rewriting or paraphrasing. Read the article, it may have appeared in the Lexington KY Herald-Leader but it is applicable to Salem, the North Shore and anywhere.

She writes, “Organizations need to use all tools and channels available to customize the customer experience based on what the customer needs as well as wants and not just what the organization wants.”

Key areas she focuses upon are Millennials (an oft-reported upon topic here, because, well, they are important to small biz) and mobile.

For example, did you know that the oldest segment of the Millennial group will be 34 in 2016? They are not just kids. And they are not just making entry-level income. Spending power is theirs now. Just as the Baby Boomers were the elephant in the room during the 70s and 80s, the Millennials — with the added aid of social media — control the commerce conversation.

Blab, Meerkat, Periscope could very well be the wave of future methods of conversation with customers. As is mobile now. Your websites need to be mobilized! Over 50 percent of searches are now from mobile devices.

Van Den Hurk also discusses how “culture” has come into play in trying to reach your customers.

As I’ve stated often enough, if you operate a small business in the 21st century, you need to not only ‘be’ on Social Media, but also provide ‘value’ through well-written content. That value could be in how you appeal to the cultural needs of your customers.

Content on blogs and Twitter need to be well-researched and well written — and not left to a family member, intern or an employee whose only qualification is that he/she has a Facebook page. You can hire a professional social media strategist full time, on a part time basis, or on an as-needed basis (but you’ll find you need it more and more as the lines of communication with customers successfully — and profitably — begin to open wider).

Social media is THE way to not only reach customers but is the new way to provide immediate customer service, if you take the time and effort to do it the right way.

Resolve to make 2016 your year of the customer.

(Anthony M Scialis is a social media strategist focusing on blogging & tweeting as a two-step customer service effort in bridging the gap between the wants of your small business to grow and the needs of your customers to be satisfied.)