Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Socializing with an Agenda

There are certain situations in life that we go into with a clear agenda in mind. While dating, especially speed dates, blind dates and Internet dates, we're trying to find a compatible partner. Networking and self-promotion are the focus of most business-related happy hours, lunches and other conference events. Then there are purely social occasions where the only agenda is fun. Socializing with an agenda happens on social media as well. On certain platforms and in certain circles (Google+ pun intended) the agenda is clear, while other times it's more of a gray area. Having a clear agenda can make it easier to interact for some, while for others it may be uncomfortable because it may come across as an impersonal and artificial form of interaction. Some users welcome the mix of personal and business posts created by networks like Facebook, while others are so turned off by it that they leave those networks entirely.

LinkedIn provides the clearest example of socializing with an agenda. For the most part, users are interested in establishing themselves as professionals, displaying their virtual resumes and, ultimately, getting hired. This business-focused social network provides a space for virtual networking and connecting to past and present coworkers, colleagues and employers. Users can join groups, ask and answer questions, ask for and give recommendations, post to and browse a Facebook-style news feed, and search for jobs, all with that business-focused agenda in mind. There are some gray areas, but for the most part, LinkedIn is all business.

Other social networks, however, are one big gray area. Certain networks like Pinterest are mainly being used for strictly social purposes, although businesses and business topics are starting to have more of a presence there as well. Facebook tried to help users separate personal from professional by creating Pages and making strictly business use of a Profile a terms-of-use violation, but there are still people who post business-related topics to their personal Profiles. For some people trying to keep things friendly, seeing their friends socializing with a business-related agenda can be a turnoff. In other circles, bringing the personal into a business-related conversation is a faux pas. Then, of course, there are posts by businesses that people have liked or followed. Networks like Twitter and Facebook that mix conversations into one feed of information make it harder to draw the line between uses.

To prevent confusion and frustration, it may help to identify for yourself what your agenda is on each social network and stick to it. This will help you curate your accounts and hone your information feeds and contact networks. To be even clearer, you can also identify your agenda right in your profile. Personally, I have a personal Profile and business Page on Facebook, a professional and a personal Twitter account, a personal Pinterest account, this blog, and my LinkedIn profile (which I use to connect with current and past coworkers, clients, classmates and colleagues.) I make it clear to people what my agenda is on each network, and I am not shy about redirecting them to the appropriate place to connect with me. For example, if someone sends me a friend request on Facebook and I haven't met them, I politely decline with a message directing them to my Page instead. Because my business is social media, but I also use it to socialize, this helps me separate business and pleasure.

In this digital age, socializing with an agenda allows us to clearly delineate the various facets of our personal and professional brand, and helps us make sense of the flood of information created by social media.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Timing is Everything - Using Facebook's Scheduling Tool Can Help

There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. 
William Shakespeare

Companies like Hootsuite and Sprout Social have made a big business out of scheduling tweets and Facebook posts, and for good reason. Scheduling posts in advance allows admins to better manage their workflows and take advantage of high-traffic and high-engagement times of day. There are plenty of arguments out there why you should or shouldn't sign on with scheduling services like these, and what times of day and days of the week are best. The consistent thread through all these arguments is that carefully timing your posts is crucial to maximizing potential impressions and engagement. 

Earlier this year, Facebook took some of the power back from the scheduling services by launching its own post scheduling tool. If you manage a Facebook Page, congratulations! You already have access to it. This post will cover how to use Facebook's scheduling tool, and some of its pros and cons.

In order to use Facebook's post scheduling tool, your Page must first have a Start Date (this is different than the Joined Facebook date.) You can edit your Start Date in the Basic Information section of your Page, or by scrolling to the very bottom of your Timeline. You'll be asked to identify at least the year of your Start, and the type of start: Born, Founded, Started, Opened, Created, Launched. You also can fill out the Timeline story of your Start Date with photos and text.

Once you have designated a Start Date, you're ready to jump in and start scheduling your posts. You can backdate or preschedule posts by clicking the little clock at the bottom left corner of the sharing tool.

Write your post as you usually would, including adding photos or links and even tagging other Pages. The ability to tag and to more seamlessly upload photos are two main reasons why I prefer scheduling posts straight through the Facebook platform. Once you have everything set to go (if you're posting a link, remember to clean up the header and body text in your link preview box, select a thumbnail if one is available, and then remove the URL from your post text,) select a date and time for your post to go out, and click schedule. The post will be added to your Activity Log.

If you are backdating a post, clicking Post will automatically generate a News Feed story and add the post to your Timeline. If you would like to add the post to your Timeline without generating a story, click the box next to "Hide from news feed."
Prescheduled posts will appear in your Activity Log. From there, hover over the top right corner and click the arrow to change the time, publish the post now, or cancel the post. One of the current disadvantages of using Facebook's scheduling tool is that posts can't be edited - they can only be cancelled and prescheduled again. So if I wanted to change the post below and correct it to reflect the correct highest engagement time from the study, which is 3pm, I would have to cancel and repost it.

So there you have it - prescheduling and backdating posts in a nutshell. Once you give it a try, let me know what you think! If you've already been using this tool, or if you use other scheduling platforms, which do you prefer and why? What are some advantages or disadvantages? What are your Page's highest-engagement dates/times? As always, if you have questions or need help, leave a comment or send me an email. Happy posting!

Friday, August 17, 2012

How to Use Current Fans to Get New Facebook Fans

My parents always told me it's easier to get a job when you have a job, and I know from personal experience that it's unfortunately easier to find suitors when you're in a relationship than when you're single. That's because having a job or a partner shows people that you are a caring, competent individual with certain skills - someone they want to hire and be around. When you're employed or in a relationship, chances are you are focusing on those relationships instead of desperately marketing yourself in an attempt to get seen. The same goes for social media - in order to get new fans interested in you, you need to engage your current fans. 

Having a huge fan base is great, especialky in the eyes of executives, but if none of them are liking and commenting on posts or posting on your wall, that means diddly. If people aren't engaging with your page, chances are they aren't even seeing your posts in their News Feed either. In the battle for EdgeRank, a Page with 200 active fans is always going to win out over a Page with 2,000 inactive fans. An inactive Page not only suffers in terms of EdgeRank and viral reach - potential new fans who visit the Page see it as stagnant, not a community of fans they would like to join.  

One of the most important statistics in your Facebook Insights is "Friends of Fans." Think of that number as the potential reach of your posts, if your fans interact with them. It's also a pool of potential new fans. My Page, for example, has less than 100 fans, but they have a total of 48,171 friends. If I hit a grand slam and all 95 of my fans liked or commented on a post, that would be the total viral reach. Pretty huge, right?

So before you spend a single cent on Facebook advertising or bemoan your small number of fans, beef up your posting strategy. Post content that is designed for engagement and your EdgeRank and viral reach will increase, and eventually so will your fan base.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

An Open Letter to Facebook Fans Everywhere
Photo by Ambro
Dear Fans,

On behalf of social media managers and Page administrators everywhere, thank you for being a fan! Now that you've clicked "Like," we have one small favor to ask of you: could you please (and we mean pretty please with your preferred delicious product on top) like and comment on posts from Pages in your News Feed? The more you do, the better we can make our Pages for you.

In return we promise to:
  • Post more interesting things for you to click on, look at and read!
  • Avoid super promotional language (eg "BUY OUR STUFF! CLICK ON ME FOR DISCOUNTS" etc.)
  • Avoid spamming your news feed with posts at too-frequent intervals or, on the flipside, have long gaps of several days to several weeks between posts.
  • Use your interactions to customize our posting schedule to fit your interests.
  • Respond to your comments and wall posts, person to person (not marketer to person, robot to person or any other impersonal combination you can think of.)
You have no idea how happy it makes us to see our Admin Panels light up with notifications that YOU, our beloved fans, have liked and commented on our posts.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Four Stages of Social Media Engagement

These days, every business has some sort of social media presence - whether they know it or not. Customers and potential consumers want to engage with the brands they are interested in online, and they will often do so regardless of whether or not that brand is willing or able to engage with them. It's in a company's best interest, therefore, to determine which social stage they are at and to become more engaging. Here's what I see as the four D's, or stages, of social media engagement (and no, I know you're thinking it, but they're not the same as the five D's of Dodgeball):
Dead    You have zero social media presence - that you know of. The problem is, you probably have several listings set up by social media users, usually on location-based platforms like Yelp or Foursquare. You probably have some old Places listings or Community Pages on Facebook, or both, and maybe even an impersonator or two on Twitter. The process of cleaning up and taking control of these listings, once you realize they're out there, is tedious and sometimes requires copyright infringement complaints and legal involvement.
Dormant    You, or more likely some intern you had two years ago, set up some social media accounts for you a few years ago, but nobody has posted anything since. Most of your Twitter followers are probably robots, and your Facebook wall is full of spam. You definitely don't have a cover photo on Facebook. You might not have a way to contact your old intern to get login information for these accounts, or to obtain administrative access, so you might have to submit a request to the social networks to force a claim. 
Dabbling    You post maybe once a month and respond to old comments, mentions and other interactions on that schedule as well. When you heard about the Timeline update on Facebook, you posted a cover photo, but you haven't posted since then (has it really been almost a month already?) Your fans are probably frustrated with your slow response rate, and your EdgeRank (the algorithm measure that Facebook uses to determine whether users see your updates or not) is almost nonexistent.
Dynamic    Congratulations! You're active on social media - posting on a regular schedule, keeping your accounts looking sharp and responding to user interactions quickly. You've probably even gone in and filled out your Facebook Timeline with significant milestones. As a result of your consistent approach to posting and community management, users are excited to interact with you and your EdgeRank is excellent.
Wherever you are on this spectrum, the important thing is to recognize it and work towards more dynamic engagement. If you don't have the time, energy or know-how to do so, it's in the best interest of your business to find someone who does. So which social stage describes your business? Is there another step or two you would add? Please let me know in the comments section below. I'd love to hear from you there, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Next Up: A how-to for claiming Places listing, Community Pages and other Facebook Page duplicates.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Business Owners Shouldn't Like & Comment on their Facebook Pages (& What They Should Do Instead)

Dear Business Owners - please stop "liking" and commenting on every post on your business page. It's a waste of your time and money and probably isn't doing a thing to drive business or engagement to your page.

Here's why:

  1. Unless you're a "thought leader" on Facebook and have a massive following, filling your personal news feed with interactions with your business page isn't creating business for you. In fact, all it's probably doing is annoying your friends and making them hide you from their feeds. When something really exciting happens that you do want to share, they won't see it.
  2. If you're paying someone to monitor your social channels, you're wasting their time and your money. When someone interacts with your page, they receive a notification, either via email or through a little icon next to your page name inside Facebook. If they're good at their job, they will go to the page to check out the activity and clear the notification. Nothing is more disappointing for a social media manager than thinking a fan interacted with a page and finding out it was a staff member instead.
  3. You're bulking up your Facebook insights with meaningless engagement and skewing your demographic results. Wouldn't you rather know how fans are interacting with your page, who they are and what type of content excites and engages them? If you (and your other staff members) are driving up the "reach" and "talking about this" results with your own likes and comments, it will be harder to track those of your actual fans.

Instead you should:

  1. Save the likes and comments for truly exciting and special announcements from your business page, or times when a personal note from the owner or staff are necessary & appropriate. That way your friends might actually see it and not tune it out. If you're a page admin, remember to change your page settings to allow you to post as yourself instead of as the page.
  2. Interact with your customers and talk to them personally about Facebook: do they have it and oh by the way they can find you on Facebook!
  3. Support your social media staff with the information & budget they need to make your page great: advertising budget, photos, information on your business and current specials & promotions, more photos, the names of your neighbors & partner businesses, and did I mention photos?

Ending the cycle of useless likes and comments and focusing instead on real ways to increase engagement will save you time and money, make Facebook the customer relationship tool you signed up for in the first place, and keep your social media team sane.

As usual, if you have any questions or comments please share them below, or find me on Twitter (@lpmikov).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Debug Your Links for Facebook

Are you trying to link to a webpage on Facebook, but your links aren't pulling the correct title, photo thumbnail or description, or any at all? The friendly folks at have a solution for you - Facebook Debugger:

Although the terse description tells you to "Enter a URL to see some helpful feedback about your page markup," the tool actually pulls the info for you as well as debugging the link to pull the correct title, image and description when you put the link in a Facebook post or comment. This will also repair the links when they're posted in scheduling services like Hootsuite.

I discovered this handy tool when Facebook kept pulling old titles and descriptions for one of my clients' websites. I was pulling my hair out trying to update the links - working with the web guys to update the page's back end, checking and re-checking it, but to no avail. Facebook and Hootsuite both kept pulling the old cached version. Thanks to the Debugger, the pages are all updated and I still have all of my hair.

If you have any questions on debugging links for Facebook, or any social media management questions at all, I'd love to hear from you in the comments or via email.

Happy posting!