How To Help Your Communities And Attract More Prospects

Group of people

 

“Every successful individual knows that his or her achievement depends on a community of persons working together.” Paul Ryan

I’ve been networking for my offline business for a number of years. It’s all about making connections, building trust and becoming the go-to person when a prospect needs help in your area of expertise.

Does this principle work online too? Well, it’s usually referred to as getting involved in communities rather than networking, but if you do it right it can build your client base.

There are two types of communities you can get involved in. A community of your peers and a community of your prospects. You have to know what to do in each of them for best results.

Peer Groups

There are two types of peers, those with whom you are in direct competition and those who offer complementary products or services to yours. Both can help you get clients, but it may be easier to approach the complementary group because they are not in direct competition with you and so may be more willing to listen to proposals. I’m not saying that competitors will never enter into a mutually beneficial arrangement, but there are often barriers to overcome.

Business and industry focused groups, mastermind groups, and so on all exist to help you educate yourself further and provide connections. Once you have established trust in the community you can start to get clients through ‘word of mouth’. Peer groups also offer opportunities for joint venture (JV) partnerships which can widen and expand your audience.

Prospect Groups

Prospect or audience groups are the best place for you to spend your time because they are often full of your ideal potential clients. You can locate these groups by looking for relevant Facebook Groups, searching for groups on LinkedIn.com, and searching for and joining message boards and forums devoted to your particular niche.

The way to make these groups work for you is to join the group, freely answer questions for them and let them come to see you as part of the group. If you are on a forum let your signature line speak for itself and do not try to sell your services or products at all. Your prospects will come to you when they see that you offer what they want. Your job is to establish a level of trust through sharing your expertise.

What To Focus On

“Social media is not about the exploitation of technology but service to community.” Simon Mainwaring

Be a free and open source of information regarding your niche. This is how people will get to know you and trust you and start seeing you as someone they can use, work with, or refer to others.

Spend more time in communities that are made up of your ideal prospects than with your peers. You should certainly participate in peer communities so that you can become known as a community expert, but you don’t want to spend most of your time in a group of competitors.

When you join either type of group you should realise that when you first join, you are the new person and you are unknown. No one is going to trust you immediately. Take the time to get to know others before mentioning your products or services, and get to know the culture of the group. Let your signature line act like a business card and start the selling process for you. Make helpful participation your goal and you will be more successful in attracting prospects and turning them into clients.

Is the next phase of video marketing begining to appear?

Video player with mouse cursorIn the last couple of months two of the largest companies online have rolled out services that could have a massive impact on the future of video marketing.

Facebook Live has raised its profile considerably this month. A couple of weeks ago a Californian man broadcast the birth of his son, though he later revealed he hadn’t realised the video would be seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world. In just the last week a video of a woman laughing hysterically whilst wearing a Chewbacca mask was watched by more than 50 million people the first day it was released.

There is great potential here for marketers.

Live currently lets you broadcast from your smartphone for up to 90 minutes, but it looks like within a matter of weeks you could be able to keep on streaming for as long as you like. The rumoured drawback is that you won’t be able to release a recording. Nevertheless, this seems like a great opportunity for those who do live webinars to promote their business.

It has been estimated that Facebook video is up to four times more shareable than any YouTube content posted on the site. Facebook users can send invitations to friends to join them on live streams and the degree of interaction is also increased, with Facebook Live content generating ten times more comments than standard videos.

The prospect of targeting Facebook Live the same way you can target Facebook advertising means that content could be delivered to precisely the  audience it is aimed at.

Other anticipated upgrades to Facebook Live includes the use of metrics to identify which portions of a live video create the most viewer engagement. This will enable later viewers to skip ahead to the most popular parts of the recording.

Also in the last couple of months Amazon has announced Video Direct, a move seen by many as an attempt to challenge YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook.

However, Amazon seems to have set up their new service so that it is most likely to be used only by professional video creators. This makes it an obvious opportunity for media companies, music promoters and online marketers. Currently the service is only available in the UK, US, Germany, Austria and Japan. Content can be monetised by playing ads before viewers can access the content or the content can be bought or rented advert free. Recorded content can also be made available for free to Amazon Prime members. Just imagine the potential audience.

There is also the option to package a set of videos together and offer them via a subscription. A potential opportunity for any online marketer who already has a video-based course in their product range.

As with Facebook Live this latest development from Amazon also holds great potential for those wishing to target a specific audience. With the amount of data Amazon has regarding what people have bought and what they’re most likely to buy, you can imagine how that can help identify and target an audience for a specific set of products.

Change is the one constant online. The latest developments from Facebook and Amazon could point the way to new opportunities in internet marketing. With millions online watching billions of videos it’s surely an opportunity too good to miss.

Could Facebook Instant Articles neuter your content marketing?

Using a mobile phoneFacebook Instant Articles (FBIA) is a new mobile format developed by Facebook and made available to everyone last week. It allows your readers on Facebook to access your content instantly without leaving Facebook, using the Facebook mobile app.

It’s quicker and more mobile friendly than linking to a website and Facebook believe if readers can access your content faster they’ll be more likely to consume it rather than leave because of slow load times.

Together with the latest Google algorithm update in May, it could be seen as another indication of how important mobile access to the internet has become, but as I’ll address later, it could also lead to a change in how and where content marketing works.

Is Facebook Instant Articles for You?

Some large publishers are already publishing Facebook Instant Articles, including Buzzfeed, The New York Times, National Geographic, the Guardian, and NBC News. Use the Facebook app for iPhone or Android to take a look at what they are publishing. Get an idea of the type of material they are using with FBIA and whether your content will work in the same format. If your content is best accessed via a desktop monitor then FBIA may not be for you.

What You Need for Facebook Instant Articles

If you decide you could use Facebook Instant Articles there are some things you should have in place first.

  1. A Facebook Page
  2. The Facebook Pages app to preview your instant articles on your smartphone.
  3. If you want to automate the publishing of your content to FBIA you’ll need an RSS feed that displays the full content of your articles.
  4. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site you can use an official plugin or the PageFrog plugin to publish your content directly from WordPress to Facebook Instant Articles.
  5. You’ll need 10 articles to submit to Facebook for approval before publication can begin.

If you don’t have 10 articles resist the temptation to quickly put some together. If you’re going to use Facebook to spread your content you’ll want it to be good quality material.

You can sign up here and there is a step by step guide by Social Media Examiner.

How FBIA could neuter your content marketing

The basic idea of inbound content marketing is that it gets the attention of your prospects, and draws readers to your website or squeeze page. As a massive source of traffic Facebook has played an important role in this process for many online.

However Instant Articles cuts this flow of traffic and keeps it on Facebook. There are no links to websites, sales pages or squeeze pages.

This is a coming trend. Google and Twitter have recently launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), and LinkedIn is also working on a version of mobile friendly content that will keep readers on their site.

It seems that the big platforms are going to become dead ends. Our ability to convert readers to customers using content is going to be reduced.

At the moment I think it’s too soon to see what we can do about this. There may be an opportunity within the process that hasn’t yet revealed itself, or perhaps someone will come up with or further develop a platform that will be more content marketing friendly.

As always the internet keeps us on our toes.

The new Facebook Emoticons: Thumbs up for Facebook advertising?

Facebook logo thumbs up like transparent SVG
Last wednesday Facebook rolled out it’s new emoticons. A reaction to the complaint that there was no ‘dislike’ button, these new emoticons have been tested in Ireland and Spain since October. Now they’ve been released globally.

In addition to the usual’Like’ response you can now use ‘love’, ‘haha’, ‘sad’, ‘wow’, and ‘angry’ tags. To access these new emoticons just hold down the ‘Like’ button on your mobile device or hover above the ‘Like’ button on a desktop computer and the new emoticons will appear. Then you just tap one of the buttons to add the selected icon to the post.

Generally these new options are seen as a good thing. However there is some potential for confusion. During testing there was a ‘yay’ button, but that was dropped as it emerged people didn’t really understand what it represented. Sooner or later some disaster or tragic event will occur and people will want to express how they feel. The ‘sad’ emoticon would seem the obvious response, but it’s expected the ‘love’ emoticon will also see excessive use in this circumstance and will hopefully be an expression of sympathy for the victims and relatives, rather than a ‘I love it’ reaction.

However the new icons don’t only represent an opportunity to better express ourselves. There’s also the use of the emoticons to gather data about how we react to posts. Advertisers will be able to use this data to improve targeting and deliver more effective advertising campaigns.

This data is not available now. Facebook have not revealed when they will make it accessible. Currently every emoticon that is used to respond to an advert will be counted as a ‘Like’. This seems a strange decision as it means for now Facebook will be assuming that you want to see more of the same type of content, even if you’ve used the ‘angry’ icon. Facebook have said they will decide later how the new reactions will affect a person’s newsfeed.

Advertisers were hoping they would be able to take advantage of the new emoticons sooner. For example, you can imagine how useful it would be to have a more accurate way of measuring responses to political advertisements in an American Presidential election year. Each campaign could more easily target people who didn’t like seeing posts from or about a political opponent.

The new icons would also help tweak an advertising campaign. Advertisers could check that an intentionally humorous ad was getting mainly ‘haha’ reactions, or that an ad they assumed would be favourably received was not getting too many ‘angry’ responses. It could also influence ad placement, with advertisers monitoring the icons placed on posts near their sponsored post and moving it away from posts getting’angry’ or ‘sad’ reactions and placing them nearer ones with more positive reactions. This would bring a new dimension to split testing.

Facebook receives over 96% of its total revenue from advertising. Presumably the more information an advertiser has about how we use these new reactions buttons, the better targeted we will be. This means an ad campaign can be made more effective, and that means advertisers will spend more money with FaceBook. I really can’t see this information being kept from advertisers for too long.

Earn Social Proof If You Want To Market Online

Facebook Likes and LinkedIn sharesSocial proof is about building trust with your customers and potential customers, as well as showing that you’re a reliable and honest business person. It’s a factor in people judging how reliable you are and can even influence your website’s page rank in search engines.

Be Social

Newbie marketers often get the balance wrong when using social media to market themselves. My grandmother often used the saying “Self praise is no recommendation” and it’s true that some people can be suspicious of those who blow their own trumpet. Being social should not be about shouting how great you are from the rooftops. It should be about helping your community, showing yourself to be honest and trustworthy, and displaying what you have to offer and it being so good that it impresses people enough for them to share it with others.

Friends as influencers

Your friends, colleagues and acquaintances can be influenced by what you are doing, saying and buying. The actions of the influencers in your life probably help determine the actions you might make. Studies have shown that your closest friends influence not only your happiness but also your net worth. If you can spread the word about your products and/or services via the right connections on social media to one of your most ideal clients, and they share, it will likely end up in front of more of your ideal clients.

Encourage Word-of-Mouth

Most people will trust word-of-mouth recommendations for products and services more than they trust any other type of marketing or advertising. I remember being more impressed by a student’s account of his success than I was of his mentor’s assurances that internet marketing was a great way to make money. If someone you trust says they found value in something that you are also interested in, you’ll probably be more likely to look into it with a favourable frame of mind. The challenge is to present your product or service in a way that encourages word-of-mouth. This means it should be interesting, impressive, and easy to pass on.

Be an active participant

Growing your social proof happens through interactions on social media, blogging, and participating in your community. Being an active participant will go far in creating the social proof you need to be seen as a trustworthy source of information. The more people who friend you, follow you, and spread a positive impression of you by retweeting your information and quoting you, the more positive social proof you will gain.

Link your online presence

Creating branded social media accounts with a consistent image and profile will help people recognise and know who you are. Mention and link to your articles and blog posts in social media and once a person reads, enjoys, likes, shares, and comments on something you have written, they’ll be more likely to see your work appear when searching online in your niche. The more of your work they see and enjoy or find useful, the more likely it is they’ll share.

It’s well known that customers are more likely to tell others if they have a bad experience with a product or service than if it was good. However social media seems to have led to a shift towards positive reporting. Today, a person who likes something may share their opinion online with hundreds or even thousands of people. Which can only lead to the conclusion that earning social proof is too big an online marketing opportunity to ignore. Building a presence in social media that has others recommending you to their friends can really grow your business.

Ten Amazing YouTube Facts You Probably Didn’t Know

Ten years ago this Saturday saw the launch of the beta version of YouTube. The service was created by three former PayPal employees in February 2005 and in those ten years the site has produced some amazing statistics.

  1. The first video uploaded to YouTube was just 19 seconds long.
  2. The number of hours people spend watching videos on YouTube each month is increasing 50% year on year with people watching hundreds of millions of hours of content and logging more than 2 billion views every day.
  3. Five years ago over 24 hours of video was being uploaded to the site every minute. By last year this had increased to 300 hours of video every minute.
  4. YouTube was bought by Google in October 2006 for $1.65 billion. YouTube is now the fastest growing search engine in the world and its videos can be part of Google’s search engine results, leading to exposure on one of the few sites that gets more traffic than YouTube itself.
  5. Half of YouTube views are on mobile devices.
  6. Cisco have predicted that online video users will reach 1.5 billion in 2016. They also predict that in 2016 55% of all internet traffic will be video related.
  7. Social Media Examiner has reported that 76% of marketers plan to add video to their sites. This makes it a higher priority for them than integrating Facebook, Twitter and blog posts.
  8. Webdam have reported that videos on landing pages increased conversions by 86%.
  9. It’s not just a place to post videos. You can use a YouTube channel as a basis for a social network where people subscribe so they know when to return to see your newest content. This means they could be finding out about your latest offers.
  10. With so many people uploading videos on the most popular content the depth of relevant videos has greatly improved. These days it’s likely you’ll find a number of videos on any topic. Just five years ago results were much more haphazard. Checking my notes from back then I see that after  watching a video on how to put an opt-in form on a blog YouTube suggested I watch: three music videos, including the official Lady Gaga video for Telephone, a vlog about having a son with ginger hair, and a video of a fight between a porcupine and a lion. Today I repeated this search, chose the first video and every alternative video presented down the right hand side was related to setting up an optin/squeeze page.

The bottom line is if you want to have an online presence, but you’re not planning to have a channel on YouTube, you are probably handing an enormous advantage to your competition, and this is only going to become more true in the next ten years.

Increase traffic and grow your list while sharing content on social media

One of the ways you can use sites like Facebook and Twitter is to share other people’s content. Share information that is relevant and of good quality and it can help you build a reputation for being someone with their finger on the pulse in your niche; the go-to person for the best recommendations and advice.

The downside of sending your social media readers to other people’s content is that they may not return. However, there is a tool that allows you to send people to great content while also creating the opportunity to direct them to your own website once they have consumed the content you recommended.

The tool is called Sniply and for a limited time you can use it free for an entire year. Usually it costs $300 for 5,000 clicks per month, but for now you just need to submit your email address to get access.

Sniply produces a pop-up that appears on the web page you’ve recommended on Facebook or Twitter. The colour and shape of the pop-up can be customised so it suggests your branding, and you also have a number of choices for where the pop-up appears on the screen.

Add your picture (which could be your gravitar) to the pop-up, specify which page you want people to visit after they’ve read the content you recommended and it’s ready to use.

So now you can send your readers to other people’s websites while giving yourself the opportunity to redirect that traffic back to your own site. There are a number of ways you can use this opportunity. For example, you could have a line of text in the pop-up that says something like ‘Would you like to know how to…?’, while the button says ‘Yes’. When they click they are sent to a relevant blog post, an offer, or an opt-in page for a resource.

It seems a great opportunity and the only drawback I can see is if it is overused and readers become blind to it or resent its presence. Much like other pop-ups, yet admittedly they still work well enough to be considered a viable tool.

Once Sniply is set up and you’ve started to use it there is a dashboard that allows you to track how effective it is at sending people to your own pages. This a useful feature as it will enable you to decide whether it is working well enough for you to invest in once the free year subscription expires.

For more information see http://www.appsumo.com/sniply/

Can I Use That Image?

Montage of imagesHas anyone else noticed we are seeing more images and video being posted on Facebook?

As capacities of memory and bandwidth have increased there is been an undeniable rise in the use of image-based content. This is particularly important for online marketing as using attention-getting images on blogs, social media posts and platforms like Pinterest can greatly increase response and conversion.

As a marketer it would be foolish to ignore this growing trend, but it would also be foolish to believe that the use of images is based on ‘finders keepers’.

Too many people seem to believe that searching Google images and taking what they want is perfectly okay. However, unless you’ve created a unique image yourself, or have purchased an image together with the permission to use it in the context you are going to use it, there are some checks you should make before posting online.

It is best to assume that every image created is given a copyright. This gives the image creator the right to stop the image being copied or distributed unless they give permission.

This means if you want to use an image you have not created yourself you have to locate the creator and asked permission. However this could drastically inhibit the use of popular images so it is possible for the copyright holder to place the image into one of three categories: Fair Use, Creative Commons or Public Domain.

Fair Use

This gives the right to use an image only if it is to be used for educational, research, or personal use. If you are an online marketer giving away content as part of a sales funnel or other process aimed at benefiting your business it is best to assume you cannot claim the image is purely for educational purposes and therefore does not come under Fair Use.

Creative Commons

This is where the copyright holder allows the use of the image under certain conditions. These may be, for example, that the image is not changed in any way or that the image is clearly attributed to the copyright holder. If you want to use an image under Creative Commons you will have to ensure you meet the conditions given.

Public Domain

Images in the public domain have no copyright restrictions. This may be because the image creator has chosen not to use the copyright on their images or because a certain period of time has elapsed since the creator’s death. This period of time varies for different countries around the world, so unless you can locate an authoritative statement that the image is in the public domain you will have to check that the appropriate period of time has elapsed.

The above is an overview and I’m not claiming to be an expert in this area. However, generally if you find an image online that you would like to use you have to either ensure it is in the public domain, purchase the image from a legitimate company, meet specific conditions if it is protected by creative commons, or gain permission from the original copyright holder.

An exception to this is if you want to use an image you find on a social media platform like Facebook or Pinterest. If an image appears on these platforms it is usually assumed, unless stated otherwise, that the image was intended to be publicly viewed and therefore it is acceptable to share it. However if the image was not originally intended to be seen by the general public you cannot assume you have permission to use it.

A month for anniversaries

This month two major online elements that have drawn people onto the internet are celebrating anniversaries.

One is blogging, which is 20 years old. It is estimated there are over 152 million blogs online, with two new ones created every second. The blog has enabled people and businesses to showcase their expertise and opinions, as well as connect and take part in conversations that result from blog posts.

The other is element is Facebook, which is 10 years old this month. In that time they claim there has been over 201 billion friend connections, nearly 8 trillion messages sent and that there are over 25 million small business Pages. Apparently Mark Zuckerberg had to be persuaded to add photo sharing to the site. Now there are over two and a half million images uploaded every 20 minutes. Two years ago Facebook even paid a billion dollars for the photo-sharing app Instagram.

The rise of Facebook has been much more high profile. With a film to highlight its inception, legal issues amongst its founders, a less than impressive start in financial markets (it lost half its value in weeks) and frequent criticism over its approach to privacy.

But what will happen to these two established online elements over the next decade or two?

Some believe that the growth of social media platforms will mean the decline of the blog. On the other hand a recent Princeton University study said Facebook is on the decline and it expects 80% of Facebook users to abandon the social network within the next three years.

Personally I’m happy to keep my blog as the central hub for my online presence, linking in other sites as I grow them. The advantages include having much more control of the pages and content.

A blog usually has (hopefully) more considered and structured content. This should encourage more considered interactions with my audience when it comes to comments, criticisms and points of view. A blog rarely consists of short snippets posted whenever something arises, with the occassional temptation to share a little too much information.

So who knows what lies ahead? Change is a fundamental part of the internet where even the most dominant sites can be swept aside. Just ask Bebo and LiveJournal.

In Marketing, Specific is Terrific

Recently I’ve received a number of emails promoting software designed to make posting to Pinterest easier.

Using social media can be effective and since it is usually free it can be incredibly tempting. But I’ve never found it as easy as some sales pages would have you believe. If you get it wrong you can discover vast amounts of your time have disappeared into Facebook, Twitter and the others.

So before you start Tweeting, blog posting, uploading videos to YouTube and placing pictures on Pinterest give it some thought.

The first thing to realise is that each social media site has it’s own preferred audience. While many people will visit a number of sites there is usually one that is prefered by certain demographics. If you want to avoid wasting the effort you put into social media marketing you need to pick the specific sites that cater best for your specific market.

Like any form of marketing you have to communicate with your target audience in a way they will appreciate and understand.

It’s also a good time to remember how the 80/20 rule works in business and marketing. You’ll probably be getting 80% of your results from just 20% of the social media sites, so it doesn’t make sense to immediately jump in to as many as you can.

Identify the two sites that are most likely to be visited by your potential customers. As so many people are using Facebook that’s likely to be one of them. The other could be LinkedIn if you are looking for business and professional contacts, Pinterest if you want to reach women (though it is shedding its ‘women only’ reputation), Tumblr if you want to interact with Generation Y, etc.

For a more specific breakdown of the demographics that use specific social media sites take a look at this article.