Social Media By the Numbers at Enterprise Center

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One of the major problems that Social Media Managers have when dealing with their clients is the distorted levels of expectations about ROI (return on investment… of time and money) by the clients. Social Media is not an over night wonder pill. If only the merchants of Main Street USA could understand the statistics, or as we call them the analytics, by which SMM gauge progress, engagement, results, and forecast “their next move.”

We on the North Shore are fortunate to have an organization such as the Enterprise Center at Salem State University which plays a pivotal role in helping foster the growth of small business by offering an interactive speaker series, not by teachers but by individuals who are in the trenches living the subject matter everyday. Case in point, this Tuesday I attended a session driven by Justin Miller on Understanding Social Media Analytics.

Miller, the guiding force behind the dynamic InnoNorth community start up, brought his expertise to a packed room of the curious and functioning business owners who want to understand social media from the numbers angle.

Miller was ready from the start to give everyone pause:

“Understanding your social media analytics is essential for businesses today, but it isn’t easy when no two platforms are measured in the same way.

There’s a difference between knowing what metrics mean and knowing which metrics are meaningful.”

I won’t go into the class particulars; Miller did it a lot better than I could explaining where to find data and how to understand it before applying it. Another class will be given in the fall. You can sign up for it then.

My point is whether you handle the social media campaign for your small biz or you hand it over to a “big” firm or local boutique social media manager (those are the ones I write blogs, posts and tweets for), it’s in your best interests to understand that the numbers by themselves don’t represent the picture of your business.

You may not have the time or skill to do A/B testing, or know the difference between impressions and likes, but taking a class or two at an educational presence such as the Enterprise Center which brings in top notch lecturers like Justin Miller is a way to understand and be able to work with the SMM to help your small business better engage with your target market community.

(And a personal P.S.to Abby Grant at the Enterprise Center, thanks for the excellent customer service in squeezing me into the class at the last minute!)

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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)

Do You Know What “Social Care” Is?

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Social care, simply put, is the combined efforts employers & employees make through social media to care for customers. I would venture to say many small businesses do not practice it. And as such, most of them let opportunities to attract, engage and convert slip by.

social careHootSuite had an insightful article by Dara Fontein, How to Deliver Exceptional Social Media Customer Service  filled with very interesting facts and suggestions relating to social care.

  • 51 percent of consumers said they would give up on a purchase after trying to reach customer service only once. In other words, customer service has become a no phone zone
  • On average, consumers only tell 9 people about a good experience, but they will tell 16 about a negative one. Ouch!
  • And, this is a wake up & smell the coffee item: 50 % of consumers now use social media when seeking/expecting an actual response from a company about a service issue.

Fontein writes “Social care is not only being used by young digital natives, but is consistently utilized across all ages, languages, genders, and income levels.”

So, whether you are on social media or not, customers are and they are talking about you. Social care is a way of measuring how well you are listening and how quickly you are responding to them.

To that end Fontein includes a very informative instructional video on how to monitor multiple search streams involving your brand on HootSuite.

Easy to do you say, for a big operation able to hire a social media team, but what if you are a small business like the one mentioned in a reader comment:

“How would you best manage responding in a timely manner if you don’t have the resources to do so? Many businesses seem to be a 1 person operation.”

My response is that there are social media strategists (gurus, wizards, etc, etc) who provide affordable free lance service, operating in niche areas. For example, as a writer I can contribute with blogs & Twitter engagement. My friend John is a photographer and could assist with Pinterest & Instagram.

As a small business owner you can design & develop your social care plan with such affordable free lance input. Select the social media platforms in which you feel comfortable to handle, and delegate the others.

Learn how to listen; determine when to join the conversations and when not to. It will show that your small business is social and that you care about customers.

(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.)

Millennials Said They’d Rather Do What Than Call Your Customer Service Dept.?

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Millennials would rather get their teeth cleaned than call a customer service line.

So says Rachel Burger in her Customer Think.com article Don’t Talk, Chat: 4 Ways to Tailor Your Customer Service to Millennials. (CustomerThink is a “global online community of business leaders striving to create profitable customer-centric enterprises.”)

There are 80 million millennials in America alone, with an estimated total $200 billion in annual buying power. Wouldn’t you like to know what they are saying about your small business?

Consider this a customer service wake-up call — or rather a non-call — as a recent survey by Kelton Global for Salesforce’s Desk.com also indicates that when millenials have a problem with your product or service, they WILL NOT call. Twitter, Facebook, and on-line chat are pathways they will use to contact you.

Salesforce’s Desk.com is a platform that helps companies organize their customer service channels.

Yes, there are channels. Not just a 1-800 number. Or your store line. Social media channels.

This is a follow-up to my last blog Company Social Media Response Times to Customers Are Unsocial. 

As further proof, Lauren Brousell, who writes for CIO website, refers to that Kelton survey in her article Millennials Skip Traditional Customer Service for Online Troubleshooting. (CIO serves Chief Information Officers other IT leaders).

Brousell reports “81 percent say they would contact brands through social channels. And again, the other generations are also getting in on the action; 63 percent of Gen X-ers and 44 percent of Boomers would use social media for customer service.”

man phone1I found this interesting; most people to date would want to walk through a technical problem with a live person. But if millenials will go to great lengths to avoid a live CSR on the phone for a tech question, why would they bother for a simpler question?

In Burger’s article she points out that in terms of using the phone “32 percent of millennials say that their biggest gripe with customer service is that they cannot reach a live person when they want to.” And that “Millennials prefer live chat because there are no hold times, it’s convenient, and it automatically provides a record of the conversation.”

That preference applies to conversations on Twitter, Facebook and on-line chat.

All this to say that whether your biz is a corporate monolith with fingers stretching across the globe or a single brick/mortar on Main Street USA, customers control how they want to express their needs & frustrations. You can’t force them to talk to you only on the phone and only during your customer service hours.

Again from Burger’s article “Research shows that 78 percent of millennials prefer to receive customer support on Facebook, 43 percent on Twitter, 25 percent on Instagram, and 13 percent on LinkedIn. ”

You might want to listen when they speak. But you better have your Facebook, Twitter and other customer service channels monitored regularly by staff or a social media strategist to hear them.

(Photo courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

Where to Focus Your Small Biz Social Media Buzz

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Social media is not comprised of one size fits all platforms. The platforms serve different functions. They show different sides of businesses. They appeal to different sexes and ages. If you’ve relinquished social control to a staff member whose “social business experience” is that he/she has an Instagram or Facebook account, those facts may not be known.

Perhaps that’s why the platform your small biz is using has not been delivering results, that is increased sales, followers and communication? Could be.

Let me share with you an article Hootsuite offered up; it’s a travelogue to walk you down the ins and outs of how Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc. affect and are affected by different industries.

By no means are all covered. For example, the restaurant industry— one of the most prominent here in Salem— isn’t highlicon blog 1ighted. The article should really have delved into that area because unlike most other businesses, this service industry also has to deal with review sites— of which you usually have no control on the content.

(If you were asking me, I would say because an eating establishment is visual, go with both Instagram & Pinterest— but don’t neglect word of mouth that can be generated by Twitter and blogs, which can also deflect the occasional negative review on consumer opinion sites.)

Author Evan LePage suggests the following symbiotic relationships (you’ll need to read the article for the supporting reasons):

  • Retailers go with Instagram
  • Manufacturers go with YouTube
  • Media go with SnapChat
  • Government agencies go with Instagram
  • Technology go with whatever comes next (think about it, if you’re a tech company you should be on whatever is hot— or even before so— to prove how cutting edge you are).

What about Realtors, amusement attractions, tourism outlets and social organizations, all of which have a strong presence in the Salem business mix? Well, what do you think would not only showcase those businesses yet also allow for the all-important communication with customers?

(Photo courtesy of Kromkrathog at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

How to Use a USA Today Survey to Benefit Your Small Business

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Being aware/involved with surveys that pertain to your home customer base is a powerful and inexpensive way to build community support.

Salem MaCommunity involvement is critical when you are a small business. You need to have local shoppers know you, support you and care about your business to have it succeed. But it’s a two-way street.

For example, consider this current promotion:

Halloween 2015 is fast approaching, and USA TODAY 10Best is on a mission to find the best fun and spooky attractions and experiences available. We need your help! Vote once per day for your Halloween favorites in the categories of Best Halloween Destination, Best Theme Park Halloween Event, Best Haunted Hotel, Best Ghost Tour and Best Extreme Haunted Attraction. Voting ends on Monday, October 12 at noon ET, and winners will be announced on Friday, October 16.

This is the “Current Leader board” link for Salem MA in the Best Halloween Destination category.

If you are a restaurant on Washington Street, or an attraction on New Derby Street, or a craft-themed store on Essex Street then informing and motivating your current customers through social media to participate will go a long way to spread the word that your Small Business supports Salem MA (or whatever your community if this blog is being read outside of Salem).

Again, according to USA Today:

The witchy women of Salem’s infamous past have haunted the town since their unfortunate trials in 1692. The verdict for the town’s tourism industry, however, has been nothing but sunny. An entire industry is built around the city’s spooky and strange history and that all culminates come Halloween time when Salem Haunted Happenings brings pumpkin carving, parades, haunted cruises and all manner of history-based events for all ages. The city’s beautiful architecture really helps set the mood.

The synopsis could have highlighted the fact that Haunted Happenings is a MONTH-LONG celebration. It could have added that we have real witches walking about and working in our community. It could have also mentioned that we provide a Tourist Info Booth to help enhance a visitor’s experience so he or she spends more time at an attraction rather than looking for it.

So you take the initiative: point out those contributing factors in your company Facebook posts, tweets and blogs, as well as in your Instagram & Pinterest themes, etc.

Let the public know that you support the goal of winning the survey. Vote for Salem!  And Salem will vote for you.