How To Use LinkedIn To Stand Out Among the Crowd: Professional Social Network Hacks That Work

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According to a recent Mashable article, 37 percent of surveyed job recruiters identify social (professional) networks as one of the most important sources for hiring. Additionally, 90 of the Fortune 100 companies use LinkedIn’s corporate talent solutions to find future hires. Whether you are about to graduate, just started classes, or are somewhere in between: you must seriously consider utilizing LinkedIn as a career tool!

I often have undergrads asking what the difference is between LinkedIn and Facebook, as they see it as ‘just another social network.’ That notion could not be further from the truth. Facebook is more about establishing personal relationships, while LinkedIn is more about conducting business.

Profile Basics

As you enter your profile details, do not think of your LinkedIn profile as an online resume, it goes beyond that. LinkedIn allows you to create a profile that can showcase projects you have worked on that relate to your career and goals. It also allows you to use keywords that align with what you currently do, what you have done in the past, and what you ultimately want to do in the future. Thus making you “findable.”

You can visually illustrate your skills with rich media, such as pictures, video, projects, or even a presentation you’re especially proud of. Include these if they are professional and relate to your overall goals and career aspirations. Help recruiters visualize what type of talent you bring to the table.

As you set up your profile, know you can come back and add to it and tweak it as well. Remember:

1. Post a photo! Use a professional headshot if possible.
2. Professional presentation is important on LinkedIn, but do not omit all of your personality. LinkedIn is a social network- creating personal connections is important. Also important is engagement and relevancy.
3. Consider your goals. Think long and hard on this as these goals will shape how you create and maintain your profile. LinkedIn offers some suggestions here. Are you looking for a job, are you creating a personal brand, are you making connections now for when you graduate and/or change careers?

By now I hope you see the importance of a LinkedIn profile. Take a moment to click on the hyperlinks within this post and bookmark them for later reading. A great article to start with from U.S. News that outlines some great tips can be found here.

Groups and Connecting with Thought Leaders

Not only does LinkedIn allow you to post your own profile, you can view others and connect. Unlike Facebook, connecting with folks you do not actually know is not seen as ‘creepy.’ It is a great personal branding tool for students to post relevant information, a photo, and interests, as well as connect with those in their industry. In addition, LinkedIn offers many groups that are industry specific that can be used as a sounding board, for advice and even support. For example, you may be interested in the SNHU Alumni Group or the Graphic Design Group. Search LinkedIn for your particular industry.

LinkedIn groups are a great way to engage directly with others in your industry and establish yourself as an active contributor rather than a passive spectator. Mashable suggests one of the best ways to get noticed is to participate in conversations and ask smart questions. Be professional and do a bit of research (or at the very least a Google search) before you ask a question.

Connect with your friends, current and past co-workers, professors and industry leaders; always remember you are judged by the company you keep!

Recommendations and Endorsements

A recommendation from someone in your desired field speaks volumes to your ability to stand out from the crowd. Seek recommendations from those who have a good sense of your work ethic and accomplishments. Those you ask for a recommendation will have to write a bit, so keep that in mind. Alternatively, an ‘endorsement’ is achievable with a simple click. Note it is common practice to reciprocate an ‘endorsement.’

Research

Always check out the pages of your targeted employers, or those you will interview with. By visiting company pages, you can conduct valuable research on the business, its policies and more. This kind of company research on LinkedIn can help keep you ahead of your competition. You may also discover an internship in your research. Several companies list these wonderful opportunities on LinkedIn.

Get Started: Focus on the value you bring to a potential employer.

The Huffington Post suggests that having a LinkedIn profile in an age of technology is absolutely crucial for college students. Utilize these (free) tools LinkedIn provides to brand yourself as the employee the company you want to work for will WANT. It does not happen overnight, but the connections you make will prove to be a great source of support, information and encouragement.

There are multiple tutorials on how to use LinkedIn efficiently for various purposes. Click and save to your bookmarks:

LinkedIn for Students

LinkedIn Guide and Checklist

Again, Be sure to click the hyperlinks within this post! The curated links will assist you in crafting the most effective profile for LinkedIn. Please do not hesitate to connect with me at any of my social touch points!photo credit: Graela via photopin cc


Graduate School is nothing like Undergrad: 5 ways it is more Rewarding

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When talking to undergraduate students or even those in the workforce considering going back to school for their Master’s, I am always asked, “How is it different?” It is very different, and in a good way.

I waited close to three years between my bachelor’s and master’s. I chose to graduate with a double major in Business Administration and Marketing, continue working full time and make a dent in my student loans. When I was ready to start the process of applying to graduate school, I found out my employer would not pay for courses in “Marketing” because I was working in a technical department within the telecom industry (with the hopes of a marketing department transfer). Instead of getting a Masters in IT or being deterred, I went ahead and switched jobs and made my preparations for grad school. Looking back, this was a great thing. Not only did I get my Master’s, I avoided massive layoffs, seeing my employer investigated by the SEC and the collapse of one of the largest telecom companies in the United States. Gotta love the ‘90s!

The biggest concern I had about graduate school was the GMAT. I felt I never tested well. Once the test was taken, the results printed, I was on my way to two years of fun. Truly, I loved every minute of it. And here is why:

Level of Maturity
I was 25 and mature enough. By 25, you usually have your personality developed, aspirations in mind, goals set out and a picture for the future — what better time to devote about two years to bettering yourself? I had some professional experience under my belt, which would prove to be useful in my course work, and had a clear idea of what I wanted from my graduate program.

Career in Progress
I was not as concerned about hurrying and finishing my degree so I could get a “better job,” as I was during my undergrad years. I worked part time my freshman and sophomore years, and full time during my junior and senior years. I was so determined to graduate and get a better-paying job that I overloaded each term by taking 21 to 24 semester hours. This time around, I was making better money and was able to pay for each class as I took it. Not to mention, while in school, I could defer my previous student loans.

Industry Specific
Probably the main reason I loved my Master’s program so much was that each course was directly related to my area of interest: Marketing. What’s not to love about Consumer Behavior, Global Marketing, Marketing Managements and Promotions? Graduate courses are focused on topics you may have experience with or will have experience with as you develop your desired career. These courses also make readings, case studies and projects more relevant and applicable. In contrast, my undergraduate courses varied and typically were dealt with subjects I had little interest in until I reached my junior and senior years.

Connections
In my graduate career, I had some great instructors who took an active interest in me. The classes were smaller, and we were able to get to know one another better. Many of these instructors kept in touch after graduation, and ultimately it was one of my grad-school instructors (turned Department Head) who hired me for my first adjunct teaching assignment. These instructors see what you are capable of doing and can be a great source of information and guidance — they can also write killer letters of reference! Similarly, I was able to create friendships with my peers that transcended into valuable professional contacts. Now with social media, it is even easier to stay connected to instructors and peers, and explore networking beyond graduation.

Like-Minded Individuals
Have you ever felt out of place with friends? Most of my friends had very little interest in business in the depth I did. Most had careers in different sectors or were married with children. In grad school, I was surrounded by like-minded folks who shared my respect for education, valued hard work and had the potential to be thought leaders in my field.

I am not saying obtaining a Master’s or an MBA is a piece of cake and one big social party. It is hard work, but when the end result is one you desire and the topic of study is one you love, it really can be enjoyable. And don’t forget: There are plenty of organizations that value an MBA.

Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from pursuing something so awesome! If someone you know if ‘thinking’ about a Masters/MBA, be sure to share this post with them.


Day 2: The Shoe

Well, I have officially finished Day 2 “training” for my first 5K. If you’re lost on how I went from writing about Social Media Marketing to also writing about running, catch up here. I value you as a subscriber, so know this additional content will have some social element to it, please do not unsubscribe! ;)

No outdoor running today, my little dude decided he wanted to build “Lego City” indoors instead of biking along with me, so we stayed indoors. But I assure you, at around 4pm he will beg me to go outside to “practice running”. Those in Texas in July know why this is a terrible idea.

5 year old Asics are better than my 1 year old " Cute "Asics..

5 year old Asics are better than my 1 year old ” Cute “Asics..

So, I began my short run on my Precor. For those who decided to try the 5k with me for the first time, how are your feet!? I ran for such a short distance this morning and on day 1 (I am embarrassed to even write it), and my toes are killing me this afternoon. So much for cute running shoes, cause they don’t make you run very cute. So I tried my old 5 year old Asics I ruined with enamel paint when we renovated my Laundry Room in Jan (more on that here, AND it is Social Media Marketing related). Interesting fact, did you know your feet can grow up to a full size when pregnant? Mine did, and I am still grasping the fact I am no longer a cute 7.5, apparently I am not even an 8!

Tip 1: Get a better shoe. Replace 5 year old running shoes!

According to RunnersWorld I need a few different pairs, so I am researching inexpensive but ‘good’ cross-trainers, in a size 8.5 and NOT 7.5. I have ordered a pair of shoes ($41) from Amazon and supportive socks; they should be here in two days. Thank you AmazonPrime! In the meantime I have been Googling about my toe pain and shin pain!


Tip 2: Take shorter strides to avoid Shin Splint, and possibly Stock up on KT Tape?!

Hopefully my new shoes come in time for my next short run, Day 3! I am very motivated and know I can reach my goal of running 5k in 60 days- I ran a decent amount of time today given the circumstances. I am hoping with some added comfort on my feet I will be able to meet my goal for the week, and easily add 1-2 minutes on next week!

And as usual, LoneStar CASA could use your donations for the 5k! Sponsorship opportunities are still open!
For more, click here.


Every Child needs a Hero, but Abused Children need SUPERHEROS!

I typically write about social media marketing related topics but today I am sharing something a bit different and bit more personal! I decided to run my first 5k, The SUPERHERO 5K, to benefit LoneStar CASA! This is a big deal to someone who literally lasts 2 minutes on a treadmill- I am not cardio fit even for a former Certified Personal Trainer!

Monday I started my “training” so to speak with my son (almost 5) who says he wants to take part. And I have not even told him we are both going to dress up as SUPERHEROS! He rode his bike, I ran-ish. He lasted 1.2 miles! So, I had an excuse to head back home. Here we are red faced and pooped after finishing:
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I will periodically share our “training” with you Via Twitter, FaceBook, and this blog in hopes to inspire others wanting to try their first 5k! If you would like to join me, please comment below and I can share my (very easy) training schedule that only will require 10 minutes of your time the first week…. we will build from there to achieve a 30 minute jog = 5k! You may also want to view my Pinterest Board with helpful hints and charts to go From Couch to 5k!

I do hope you share this post as well as I am seeking sponsors for the 5K to be held on 11/1! If you, your business, or someone you know would like to be a sponsor, please let me know. Sponsorships starts at on $100. You may contact me (form at bottom of the post) or visit LoneStarCASA.org

Sponsorship Options
$5,000 Champion Sponsor
$2,500 Victory Sponsor
$1,000 Fantastic Sponsor
$500 Super Sponsor
$250 Defender Sponsor
$100 Caped Crusader Sponsor Booth
Secret Sponsorship (protect donors identity)
Volunteer on race day!
Other contributions (food, beverage, “race packet” items, etc)

All proceeds from the SuperHero event will benefit abused and neglected children in Rockwall and Kaufman Counties. Lone Star CASA is a registered 501©3 organization. Donations are tax-deductible. THANK YOU…

The SUPERHERO 5K benefits LoneStar CASA. CASA believes every child who’s been abused or neglected deserves to have a dedicated advocate speaking up for their best interest in court, at school and in our community. To accomplish this, CASA educates and empowers diverse community volunteers who ensure each child’s needs remain a priority in an over-burdened child welfare system. When the state steps in to protect a child’s safety because the people responsible for protecting them have not, a judge appoints a trained CASA volunteer to make independent and informed recommendations and help the judge decide what’s best for the child.

Here is a video from last years 5k


How not to suck at social

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All year I have been writing about several underlying concepts one should have a grasp on in order to be a more marketable social media professional. We have covered everything from being flexible, Analytics, SEO, content, and integration of social into a traditional marketing plan and beyond. For a re-cap, read here.

These concepts are not only necessary for today’s marketer, they are almost demanded. By this I mean they may not be skills that one would encounter in one specific job description. But, they are skills that will over lap from department to department. Having an understanding of their application to not only your specific role, but others as well will give you a broader view of the overall marketing picture while also making you more desirable, more effective and ultimately more successful. We have made it to the last concept in the series, and perhaps the most basic yet often overlooked and underutilized.

Do you know who the top Influencers are in your sector? Your competitors? Industry specific trends?

For my Social Media Marketing graduate students, I suggest that they follow a few Social Media Marketing thought leaders and companies on Twitter, follow a few blogs, and read a few books. This applies to the seasoned professional as well. Please take a moment to click on the previous links to bookmark, save, share etc. As you browse the internet and search and read about topics of interest, you will notice several names pop up continuously. These will likely be your thought leaders. By reading related blogs and keeping up to speed via other social channels, you are more able to identify and connect with other like minded professionals, identify industry leaders, identify and track competition, and often identify opportunities.

Be proactive and use social tools to stay informed and relevant even if you are not a social media marketer.

For those within the SMM industry, you are likely already doing this. If not, please be sure to take a moment to read “20 Minutes a Week to More Connected and Intelligent You: Are You Ignoring These Basic Social Media 101 Concepts?”.

Blurred Lines

As social business progresses, I feel that the departmental lines are getting blurred (more on that here). Roles and functions are being re-defined and those working in one field that may not seem to be related at all to social media marketing are being impacted by social media in one way or another. Yet another reason I love the field of social media marketing and subsequently chose it as my research focus in my doctoral work.

Historically, skills that are valuable in one department were not as valuable in others. In this social age, this is no longer the case. The marketer who has an understanding of SEO and Google Analytics is far more valuable than one only proficient in writing basic content. That is not to say that every marketer will need to address SEO And Analytics, but it does help if everyone is on the same page given marketing projects related to social tend span several departments. This is not a new concept. Businesses and marketers know that communication between departments is key, but more so now than ever with the all encompassing role of social media.

Get a move on

Today’s ‘real time” business environment makes it necessary for all departments to move quickly and nimbly. With this increase in social media use for Marketing comes an increase in the need for departments to seamlessly present one brand and communicate in one voice. This consistent image and voice contributes to not only the customer relationship with the brand but also the customer experience.

More here…

photo credit: ePublicist via photopin cc


SEO, Cross-departmental Communication and the Extinct Career in Social Media?

Last January, when I wrote 15 Concepts to Make You a More Marketable Social Media Professional, I had not really planned to base an entire year of monthly blog posts on Maximize Social Business around it. However, once I wrote it I wanted to elaborate on each concept a bit more to cover some of the top concerns and questions I get in my Social Media Marketing courses.

After Analytics, the next topic I have some confusion in the classroom is SEO. Some students had not considered it a function of Marketing, but it is one of the best tools we have. As a marketer, some basic knowledge of SEO, why we need it, what it does, and how to best utilize it is a handy tool to have in your belt. While you may not be an SEO specialist, you should have an understanding of it in order to be a more effective marketer.

SEO, or search engine optimization, in my opinion boils down to great content. I am not an SEO expert by any means. However, relevant and timely content will drive visitors to your site. In order for this content to be discovered, it should have a headline that grabs the target audience’s attention and is actionable. By actionable I mean, likely to get clicked and shared. Rankings on search engines will be higher with the more frequency of sharing. Social media has a direct impact on this sharing by making it not only quick and easy to share and also making it easy to share across multiple networks.

Some quick tips:

* SEO should be strategic, not an aspect of “design”.

* SEO is long term, ever changing, and continual. Do not expect to address SEO and forget about it.

* SEO must align the website with set business goals.

* SEO can be the most highly leveraged, most productive item of a marketing budget.

* Tags are not categories, they are more specific but the two complement each other.

* Tags should be up to 3 words long

* Go easy on the “tags”. The more the merrier is not true in this case.

* Tags should not be redundant.

* Be helpful. Customers are looking for information, give them what they need and answer the questions they’re seeking. If they value it, it is shared.

* Word of Mouse is the new Word of Mouth.

* Social Sharing is good. More shares of your content, equals more inbound links and traffic.

* You must track web performance data to understand what people are looking at and what you could do to better improve the experience. Recall this is my number one topic I find students struggle with.

* You cannot improve what you do not measure. Consider one of these Analytics programs: Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, Clicky, Adobe SiteCatalyst, Webtrends Analytics, IBM Digital Analytics, iPerceptions, Yahoo Marketing Dashboard

* Website goals should be clarified and then further tied to how these goals apply to specific departments.

* Cross-departmental communication and aligning departmental goals with business goals helps produce an effective SEO strategy.

* Social media is not just for the marketing department. Keep in mind, functions in other departments may overlap with Marketing because of Social Media.

I saw an interesting piece targeted to Millennials with tidbits of career advice from Fox Business Network’s Cheryl Casone. Towards the end of the piece she suggests a career in social media will not exist in 5 years. While I agree to an extent, I felt she presented her position terribly. Those hoping to make a career out of simply tweeting are in for a rude awakening. Social Media is a tool for Marketing, Human Resources, Sales, etc. So yes, “Twitter Ninja” is NOT an idea career path. One must be a Marketer first, with a specialization in Social Media (as it applies to marketing) just as any other marketing related job like logistics, branding, or merchandising. However, unlike some of these other areas, social media will be tied to nearly every department within an organization in some way.

For all of the Millennials who saw that piece, “social media marketing strategist” or simply “marketing strategist” may be a better career option. Social media will be here in 5 years, but the need for someone who knows how to tweet will not. There will be the need for strategic thinkers and those who can make sense of all of the data we are accumulating; not simply folks good with “tactics”.

Suggested reading for the month:

Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

Content Rules By Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman


Social Media Inspired by Kmart Big Gas Savings

I recently Tweeted about how much I liked the new Kmart Big Gas Savings advertising and subsequent social media presence, and what do you know Kmart tweeted back. Not only did they know I tweeted about them, but they also engaged with me. My post had no customer service request or action needed, I just wanted to share the advertisement and my thoughts with my followers and Social Media MBA students.

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In the past, I have posted customer service requests with mixed results. If I do get a response from one of my tweets, it is usually immediate and faster than a phone call initiated at the same time. Other times, the response via Twitter comes within 24 hours, or not at all. My non-scientific study on customer service response rates via Twitter versus phone call always begins with dialing the brand while simultaneously posting a tweet. Not only is utilizing Twitter easier for me as the consumer, it is actually faster (with a handful of exceptions). Imagine sitting on hold with AT&T for 2 hours. Now imagine a tweet from me, a call from AT&T directly, and a resolution in less than an hour. Other timely resolutions I have had via Twitter recently have been with @westelm, @LifeProof, @summerinfant, @Hootcampus, @coursesmart, and @AskADT to name a few. Then there are the small percentage that did not reply at all, possibly because of not monitoring their brand via social or not knowing the importance of social media monitoring and engagement.

Social media gives us the opportunity to hear from consumers, both the good and the bad. I would prefer my customers complain to me so that I have the opportunity to “fix” the situation. Those consumers reaching out to brands via social are offering the brand another opportunity to repair troubled relationships. To ignore this is to fail.

Social media allows brands to actively monitor conversations and arrive at resolutions more quickly than ever before. Brands must be religious about social media monitoring for customer service opportunities and initiate conversations on behalf of the customer. Social media monitoring is used to identify, predict, and respond to consumer behavior. Listening to the conversations surrounding our brand is key to getting great results from a social media campaign.

Choosing a monitoring tool will be very case specific and relates back to your business and campaign objectives. I my Social Media MBA courses, I choose to suggest (or highlight) free tools for the students to experiment with. Some of those selections are (in no particular order, however I depend on the top 5):

1. Buffer Can manage multiple Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, with the ability to spread out your posts to not bombard followers with tweets. It also allows for fast sharing of content right from the page you are viewing (add on to Mozilla Firefox). As a bonus, it includes detailed analytics for all your posts. Upgrades are available for a small fee.
2. HootSuite Allows teams to collaborate across multiple social networks from one dashboard. It is a web-based dashboard that includes the ability to create custom reports. Upgrades are available for a small fee.
3. Klout Assists in finding influencers in your audience.
4. Google Alerts Sends email updates based on your preferences
5. Pinterest Web Analytics Allows you to see how people are interacting with pins that come from your websites.
6. Pinpuff Very much like Klout, but targeted at Pinterest.
7. TweetDeck Desktop and and mobile application similar to Hootsuite in that it helps manage your social media accounts. However, it does not offer the analytics that Hootsuite does.
8. BackTweets Allows the user to track people talking about your brand. Users can search tweet archives for URLs sent via Twitter (and those posted via a link shortener).
9. Icerocket Monitors the web, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and puts it together in a one-page report.
10. Social Mention Offers real-time social media search and analysis that curates user-generated content from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Google, etc. into a single stream.

You must embrace connecting with current and prospective consumers directly. These deeper connections can lead to higher-level interactions, including advocacy and loyalty. Brands should use keyword search, start conversations, mention, and listen (both for your own brand and competitors’). Also consider the concept of ‘social proof’ in the buying process. Customers are online researching before they purchase, if they search your brand via social what will they see? Use some of the tools mentioned above, search Twitter, or simply Google your brand. As a consumer, I hope to see relevant content from brands as well as dialogue with consumers. I hope to not to see consumer requests going unanswered or one way dialogue only from the brand.

Some ways to connect with consumers beyond a simple reply to posts could be (in no particular order):

1. Post photos and videos. Photos are shown to increase engagement tremendously. Consider posting behind the scenes photos of your business, recent functions, or even share photos of your customers using your product (with their permission of course). However, not all photos (or content for that matter) should be of your products, services, or offers. You may also want to ask your audience to share photos.
2. Offer contests or sweepstakes. I like the idea of contests, but be careful not to over use this tactic. Nothing says spam (in my opinion) like posting and re-posting about a contest on my Facebook or Twitter Feed. This will be a quick way for folks to un-follow you, remove you from their feeds, or opt out of email.
3. Post some clever questions. These types of posts will inevitably spark a discussion that could provide valuable insight on your target audience. You could also incorporate a poll on Facebook or your blog.
4. Show that you are listening by responding to comments on your Social Profile (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
5. Post infographics that your target audience will appreciate. Again, this goes back to providing content that is relevant and resonates with your target. If it meets these criteria, it will likely be shared or commented on.
6. Include a little humor. Incorporate some fun into your Facebook posts, Tweets, Google+ etc. Pinterest can be a great source for fun quotes and photos to share.

The replies I received from Kmart made me smile and restored my faith that brands are listening via social and embracing social media as a way to reach consumers. The advertisements were just a way to start up a conversation that had gone stale.

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The entire unedited post can be found on Maximize Social Business.


Cheerful Givers – My Birthday goal is to make some children’s Birthdays more special

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I am now volunteering for a unique nonprofit organization called Cheerful Givers which provides toy-filled birthday gift bags so that less fortunate parents can recognize their child’s birthday with a gift. In the coming months I will be collecting crayons and pencils for the birthday bags. I am hoping to have a ton of supplies by my Birthday in March. Please help me spread the word and even donate some crayons and/or pencils! I plan to pick up donations 3/14.

You can also impact the lives of less fortunate children by joining the Cheerful Givers Birthday Club with a $10 (or more) recurring donation which will happen automatically each month via PayPal. You decide when they stop. Help provide a toy-filled birthday gift bag and a lot of self-esteem to a child living in poverty. Cheerful Givers is a nonprofit which has brought birthday joy to more than 700,000 disadvantaged children since 1994, but the need to do more is great. http://www.cheerfulgivers.org

Please reach out to me if you would like to donate crayons/pencils jessicar@consultant.com
Or contact Cheerful Givers directly
Karen@cheerfulgivers.org



Dear Abby, Crowdsourcing and Social Media Marketing

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Pauline Friedman Phillips (aka Abigail Van Buren) was loved across the US as the author of the very popular Dear Abby syndicated column. January 16 marks the one year anniversary of her death. She was 94.

In honor of her widely ready column, I want to extend the invitation to my readers on this blog, as well as the two I contribute to Maximize Social Business and {grow} to submit their Social Media Marketing questions. These questions will drive my posts on several platforms (these blogs included) for the next year.

Why
Over the past 2 years I have addressed topics I wanted to write about, topics I enjoy. Now, it is your turn to ask some questions! I encourage my MBA students chime in on topics they enjoyed or want further clarification. I urge small business owners to voice their concerns as well. I hope higher ed folks jump on board and also add topics of interest and/or concern.

You may comment below or email me direct at jessicar@consultant.com
Questions sent via email will remain anonymous

photo credit: Marco Bellucci via photopin cc


Social Media Strategy: Look for successes AND Failures

When planing a social strategy, we want to consider:
Who? Who is your target audience, where are they online, how can you reach them?
What? What are your primary objectives? These could be building brand awareness, building online credibility, providing education about your brand; increase sales. Again, these tie back in to the overall organizational objectives.
When? When will you evaluate the social media strategy, and how will you evaluate it? Often organizations have no real set time-frame in which to assess objectives to ascertain if they are on target or if plans need to be re-evaluated or possibly revamped.
Where? Where does the social strategy fit into the overall business? When utilizing such tools as Twitter and Facebook, brands are realizing that social media sites can provide support for not only the marketing and sales departments, but can also assist with educational endeavors, public relations, and even customer care. A social strategy often spans over different departments and objectives should be formulated accordingly.
Which? Which employees/departments will oversee social media, be responsible for posting, and reporting?
How? How will you differentiate yourself from the competition? Identify your competitors strengths and weaknesses as well as your own, this will help in planning your social strategy.

Beantin webbkommunikation / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

As we prepare for a social campaign strategically, one of the first, and arguable most important steps we take is identifying what we will measure, and how. These directly correlate with our set objectives. I make sure to stress to my graduate social media marketing students that we will not (and should not) simply measure our social presence, or the number of fans and followers of our profiles on various platforms and blog. Social media revolves around the notion of engagement, not just activity. Engagement with your social network or tribes will ultimately be affected by the perception of “value” in what you post or share. Via social, I have surrounded myself with like-minded people that I can have a symbiotic relationship with. Many of the folks I follow on Twitter I follow because I can learn from them and I value the content they produce. This holds true for B2B and B2C social relationships as well.
Measure and Review

Measuring value makes significantly more sense than passive “likes” and quantity of followers. Measuring value can be done by considering “action”. What actions occurred because of value offered: Did visitors to the blog subscribe? Did a subscriber convert to a customer? Was a donation made (non-profits)? Did Facebook fans or Twitter followers share content from the blog? These build sustainable relationships that for businesses can increase revenue.

Clear, specific objectives, and measurable KPI’s need to be identified early on. Over time, effective social reporting can illuminate the impact (or lack thereof) of social media actions on customer activity. There are several very useful dashboards that give the user the ability to track and measure multiple platforms. Such as Hootsuite and Google Analytics (two of my top 3) Others worthy of mention (various levels of analysis and reporting) for you all to consider are:

AgoraPulse.com
Buffer (one of my top 3)
Cloze.com
Crowdbooster.com
Cyfe.com
Commun.it
Facebook Pages Manager App
GaggleAMP.com
LinkedIn’s Skills and Expertise page
PostAcumen.com
Reachli.com (formerly known as Pinerly)
SproutSocial

Measurement is an ongoing process, compare numbers weekly, or for some monthly. Plans must be flexible and be easily modified based on results and analysis.

Analyze Social Actions to Identify what Works and Identify New Opportunities

Look for the successes as well! Of course, acknowledging failures is a great learning tool, but identifying successes allows you to also identify possible opportunities you may be overlooking. Also consider missed opportunities. Both missed and overlooked opportunities are most often a result of lack of monitoring and/or engagement. Social media is two-way dialogue. Listening and replying when appropriate are key! Consider a classic missed opportunity to engage during Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s speech and sip of Poland Springs Water in February 2013. This was a huge missed opportunity for the brand to engage with the public, tweets that included the terms ‘Rubio’ and ‘water’ peaked at 57,466 mentions. This particular case would be best addressed in real time, but other not so obvious opportunities can be missed such as the opportunity to create loyal customers, nurture brand advocates, or even benefit from un-intentional crowdsourcing of ideas on a Facebook page.

By systematically reviewing data and comparing it, brands are better able to understand their fans, followers, and customers. In the case of my MBA students and our blog, previous semesters have found many opportunities for our “brand” to flourish! For example, some blog posts were shared and commented on more than others. By reading the comments carefully it identified a topic our readers really were interested about and wanted to know more about. We also looked at what posts were shared more on Twitter than others. It was found that some of our posts were more shareable than others.

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