10 Steps to Steal the Competition’s Social Media Followers

social mediaIn working on this article, I keep thinking of the famous line from The Godfather about how it’s nothing personal and it’s just business; plus, there’s old line about how you have to “go to the mattresses.” Well in this case, while you are trying to grab customers from the competition, you’re not actually doing anything illegal or even unethical. Instead, this is really just doing business online in 2014.

The best part by the way is that even if you manage to grab your competition’s social media followers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll lose them, meaning that potentially you both win by having great customers.

I’ve divided this guide into a 10 step process to make it easier to do this. You can however skip around if you prefer. It’s not like it has to be done in order (well, except for the first step, which does in fact need to be done first).

1.     Figure Out Who the Competition Is

Before you can even think about trying to attract the competition’s social media followers, there’s a very basic thing that you need to do – find out who your competition actually is. Now I know you probably have a vague idea of some of the big guys in your business but it’s also worth spending some time to do research and find out if there’s anyone else that you’re not familiar with.

Start by doing a search for your primary keywords on Google and noting the top businesses in the industry. Of course, this is just the first step. Once you’ve found the companies in question, you then need to do a little checking to see what their positions are on the various social networks including Google +, Facebook and Twitter.

You will need to cross reference the various websites with their social media profiles. So for example, if I were to do a search on Google for “buy dog food,” I’d get the following results (well, yours may differ slightly as Google tends to personalize results depending on where you are and what your previous searches have been):

social media followers --- google results

Now, I’d take these results and start searching out their social media presence. For example, Chewy.com, the very first suggestion on my list has an extremely active Facebook presence with 247,000+ followers:

chewy.com Facebook

By comparison, Mercola, which runs Healthy Pets doesn’t seem to have any Facebook presence, at least none that I could find. On their home page, it appears that they’ve gotten a relatively modest number of likes, 1,688 for the page we found in our initial search. Thus this is likely not a good candidate for stealing social media followers from.

Mercola

2.     Check Their Facebook Pages

Now of course, even once we have actually found out whether or not a particular company has a strong social media presence, the next thing to do is to check how active their followers actually are. It’s entirely possible that they have a lot of robots following their tweets on Twitter and likely them on Facebook because at one point or another, someone was trying to grow them in any way they could.

One of the best ways to check them out is with a tool called Fanpage Karma. Basically, this site will let you enter any Facebook page and find out just how active it has actually been in the past few months. As we can see, even though Chewy appears to have a pretty active Facebook page with over 247,000 followers, it’s actually got a pretty modest Karma rating of just 2.2.

Fanpage karma

They also have just .6 posts per day which means the page is active but not super hopping with raving fans who constantly drop by and visit the place. Out of 247,000 fans, they rank just 9,600 talking about them in the recent past…

Overall, I’d say that Chewy is a mixed bag. In a business area like buying pet food, it’s likely worth trying to poach some of their followers anyway but it’s not like it’s going to be the very best choice available from a Facebook perspective.

3.     Check Out Twitter Next

The next step is to check out the Twitter feed of the company in question and to see just how active that happens to be. Generally, if you found that the Facebook page was active, they’ll also have a pretty active Twitter account. However, it’s not always a given that this will be the case so do check both of them.

In the case of Chewy.com for example, their Twitter following is much, much smaller than the following they have on Facebook with just 2,836 followers (and they are following over 1,900 people which means they’re still working actively to build their following):

Twitter Chewy.com

Now while we can get some basic information by simply checking the Twitter feed, which is public, a better way to check out the competition is to go granular and get to all the nitty gritty details of exactly what it is that the company has going on. One of the best ways to do this is to check the site in question on a website called Twitonomy.

The basic service will provide you with a listing of all the recent tweets and other relevant information about the competition. As you can see, they provided me some basic information on Chewy.com:

chewy twitonomy

However, if you want to get much more information, including who their most influential followers are (i.e. the people you want to try to grab for your own list) as well as their most retweeted tweets (i.e. this will show you what your potential customers are most interested in reading about), you need to go for the premium service. This information can be invaluable though as it can help guide you on whom you should target.

Either way, we’re ready to start looking at Google + and Pinterest. Then, we’ll look into how to grab some of these people for your own network.

4.     Check On Google+

The next step is to check on the Google+ page of your competitors. When we look at Chewy.com’s Google+ page, we don’t get a whole lot of information. All we can see here is the number of views:

Google Plus Chewy

Interesting but not super useful. All we know about them so far is that they’ve managed to garner nearly 60,000 views at one time or another since their page was launched on G+. However, I did find a different service which provides much more details analytics of Google+ pages. Simply Measured can tell us much more about the competition’s social media efforts:

simply measured

It looks like over the past few weeks, Chewy.com made a few reasonable efforts at engagement but then ignored their page completely, without a single hit going up. This tells us that their G+ followers may be looking for someone else to follow in addition to them in order to get more information about pet food (of course, it could also mean that pet food doesn’t really get people excited but that’s another story).

5.     Check on Pinterest

Finally, let’s take a look at how the competition is doing over on Pinterest. On Pinterest, Chewy.com seems to be doing quite well. That’s to be expected though given that they do sell pet food and Pinterest is the sort of social network which lends itself to that kind of sharing (after all, half the Internet seems to be memes with dogs and cats these days).

chewy pinterest

They have a respectable number of followers and they seem to be doing pretty well. However, if you’d like to know more about how they’re doing, you can use a free service at a company called Tailwinds which does some additional analyzing for you. It’s really intended to help with your own Pinterest page, but I found that it does provide some good analytics for any page and as I said, it’s free:

Tailwinds

6.     Grab Your Competitor’s Facebook Followers

Okay, enough research. Time for action. The first thing you need to do is go back to our results which we found in step 2 on Facebook. You’ll want to hunt down the most active Facebook users of your competitor’s page. Thanks to the analytics we received from FanPage Karma, we can actually find out who the most influential people are as well as those who use the page the most.

Armed with this information, it’s time to start going after them. Click on their public profiles and see what other pages they follow. Be sure to try to be as helpful as possible whenever these people post questions. The more often they see you elsewhere, the more likely they are to check you out and want to know what it is that you have to offer.

The key here as with anything involving social media is that you want to ensure that you don’t come off sounding like a corporate hack who is just interested in making another sale to them. Instead, you want to be yourself (obviously use your personal account, not a corporate account) and simply answer questions as a fellow human being.

Ultimately, you’ll find that the people you help on Facebook are more likely to check you out and offer to friend you as well as like your page and follow whatever it is that you post there. The best part of course is that you are sharing a follower rather than actually taking away from someone else (of course, your goal is to get them to shift some of their purchases to you but that’s another story entirely).

7.     Go After the Twitter Fan Base

Okay, now that you’ve gone and grabbed some followers on Facebook, it’s time to do the same thing on Twitter. Fortunately, grabbing those Twitter followers is just as easy as grabbing the Facebook followers. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, the key to making it big on the social networks is to be friendly and a real person who is really helpful.

Using the information we identified in step 3, we can see who the biggest influencers are who follow the competition’s Twitter feed. These people are also likely to be posting a whole bunch of questions on Twitter – questions which anyone can answer. So jump in and start being helpful. Be sure to come off sounding genuine though or you’ll blow it.

Another thing you may want to do is to selectively follow the same people that follow your competition. Even today, when you follow someone on Twitter, they’ll often follow you back, allowing you to build your Twitter base.

Finally, look into following some of the hashtags that your competition is using to attract their own followers. These things likely work because if they didn’t, the competition wouldn’t be using them. You can both post your own comments using those same hashtags and you can follow the trends with them in order to answer questions and gain followers organically.

8.     Get the Google+ People On Board

The first thing you need to do in order to grab some of the competition’s followers is to install a plugin for Chrome or Firefox (sorry, it’s not available for IE or Opera) called CircleCount. This plugin will allow you to immediately check out who the most influential G+ people are who shared a post on their own circles.

Go back to your competitor’s Google+ page and start using the same service to find out about the posts that they wrote which got shared. You can use it by clicking “see ripples for this post.”

You’ll instantly know whom you should be targeting with the same kind of personal service that we offered in Twitter and Facebook. The same kind of personal answering of questions and attention to your customer’s needs is the kind of thing that will get you noticed by them and get them to follow you here as well.

9.     Don’t Forget Pinterest

Pinterest is a bit different than the other social networks because it tends to be less about asking questions and more about sharing images. However that doesn’t mean that you can’t steal some of your competitor’s Pinterest followers as well. The first thing to do is to start following the feeds of people who follow your competitors. Just as with Twitter, it’s quite common for people to follow you back.

Now however, what you want to do is to create more of the same of the kinds of stuff that the competition uses for their own feeds. So for example, with Chewy.com, that would mean adding in many more animal memes with witty captions which the same people are likely to be interested in.

10.Sell Stuff to Your New Customers

Finally, while it’s all well and good to be grabbing some customers from the competition, it’s also important to actually do something with your newfound followers on the social networks. This means that you need to start selling them your own products. Do this casually and slowly rather than engaging in a hard sell.

Be sure to have a link to your own website where your products are sold available on your own Twitter/Facebook/G+/Pinterest pages so that people will know where to find you and consider as well occasionally offering a discount coupon to the people who are following you. This will allow you to gain some new customers who wouldn’t have otherwise considered you or likely even known about you since they first found you via the social networks.

Bonus – Other Ideas

Okay, so there you have the 10 steps to success in finding new customers for your business using the social networks. However, there are a few other ways to grab new customers including new followers on the social networks:

Network – The fact is that a guy who sells dog food in Portland, OR is unlikely to be the competition for you if your pet food store is located in Boston, MA. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t share valuable insights with each other. So network with owners of similar and ancillary businesses. Even those who are direct competition may well be willing to network with you because they sometime have too many customers to handle.

Do a JV

Consider a joint venture with your competition and especially with ancillary companies as well if you would like to ensure that you are getting the maximum number of new followers and as a consequence, customers. This works especially well when you work with people who are ancillary rather than direct competition for you.

Guest Blog

Finally, consider some guest blogging opportunities, including the opportunity to share some guest materials on the competition’s Facebook page. Often, they’ll welcome you with open arms and this can in turn lead to additional followers for your own social media campaign. Of course, you do need to ensure that your guest blog is actually a very high quality piece of writing which will attract more people to you as well…

4 Secrets of Great Customer Service

great customer service

I’ve written about customer service in the past but it’s worth revisiting here and now because frankly, customer service is the single most important ingredient to the success of a business. I mean, yes, obviously good products are important and decent prices attract people too. However, what keeps customers coming back over and over again is when they feel as if you as a company actually cares about them.

So I’ve been spending some time reading up on some of the most innovative customer service techniques being used by leaders in their industries in order to find out how you can improve your own customer’s experiences. Here are four ways to make it happen:

Tell the World

Are you familiar with the new Discover Card commercials where they have people who play customer service agents on the Discover card line? They have conversations with an alter ego of themselves and the tagline is, “Discover – we treat you, like you’d treat you.” In other words, Discover card, which obviously is not as popular as Visa/MC or even American Express is showing off their customer service instead.

Of course, that’s just one way of showing off how good your customer service is. Many companies actually get ratings for their customer service from independent third party organizations which take polls to find out who the most respected companies in a given field are. So, take the time to share with the world how great your customer service is.

Discover Card

If your company offers personalized service, don’t be bashful about it – trade on that and tell people that’s why they should choose you. Of course, then it does mean that you need to follow through on that..

Use Video

Video has become incredibly popular today and there’s a good reason for that – we live in the age of the soundbite. People tend to think in short bursts of information rather than in longer form and as such, video is all the rage. In fact, YouTube is the second most popular search engine after parent Google’s own search engine.

Why not put the concept to good use and respond to customer queries by creating videos which they can use to see answers to the questions they have about your product? By offering this kind of a creative approach to answering customer questions, you are in effect pandering to what they want. Plus, it builds up a stable of videos which can then be shared on YouTube to further expose your company and make your customer service work for you.

Ditch the Form Letter

Don’t you just hate when you get some kind of a stale form letter from a company that you wrote to with a question? Wouldn’t it be nice to get something personal from them, even if it’s just one or two lines which tell you that they actually appreciated what you had to say? Well guess what? Your customers feel the same way that you do.

Take the time to write back to customers individually, even if it’s just to tell them thank you for writing to you and to point them to the FAQ where their answer is posted. Yes, it take a tad longer to actually respond as a real human being but it will make a world of difference in getting your customers to recommend you to their friends and family.

Don’t Be Too Proud to Answer Phones

CEO doing customer service

We mostly deal with small businesses here at Quantum SEO Labs. However, even smaller businesses end up needing to hire support staff before long. However, if you really want to impress your customers and make them happy, don’t be too proud to answer the phone yourself instead of fobbing it off onto some poorly paid worker in a third world country. It will make a big difference, even if you only participate occasionally.

11 Ways to Speed up Your Website

Speed up your website

You are losing customers and SEO juice on a regular basis. This is true unless you’ve optimized your site so that it works as fast as it possibly can. I’ve written about this in the past but it’s worth revisiting this today because the technology has changed in the past few years. Not to mention that there is infinitely more competition now than even just two years ago so your site needs every advantage that it can get.

For those of you new to the world of SEO and Internet marketing, there are two excellent reasons that you need to make your website work as quickly as it possibly can. First and foremost, there’s a question of SEO. Google’s bots will not stay on your site if it loads slowly. They’ll simply move on and not bother indexing you. Or at best, they’ll come back later and flag your site as a slow loader.

In addition, you are likely to lose customers if your site doesn’t load quickly and efficiently. The fact is that with so much competition out there today, your customers have 20 different choices of where to get similar products or materials and if you keep them waiting, even for just an extra 5-10 seconds, they’re likely to look elsewhere.

So, here are eleven modern ways to ensure that your website loads quickly and gets you the maximum SEO and customer appreciation:

Flash

This is getting to be less and less of a problem as more and more websites have phased out their use of Flash and in fact, Adobe is no longer pushing it as HTML5 has started to take over the web. However, that having been said, if your site does use any Flash, be sure to use it sparingly as these things do tend to increase the load time for websites.

Here's a great example of a flash site in overdrive: http://media.noob.us/thankyous.swf

Here’s a great example of a flash site in overdrive. Check it out here.

As a side note, the old flash only websites of a few years back were always a bad idea because they got zero SEO juice since they were not capable of being read by the search spiders. In addition, there was the issue that cutesy animations quickly grew annoying for people to sit through. Fortunately, this is an all but dead phenomenon so it’s no longer the issue it once was.

Use a Good Back End

There was once a time when you would have wanted to use a custom built back end for your website (i.e. the system that actually delivers your content, also known as a CMS or Content Management System). These days however, it makes much more sense to just use something off the shelf (that is, unless you have a site like Amazon.com, in which case you likely do need to use a custom system).

The best and easiest choice for this is, in my humble opinion, WordPress. While you can certainly get an expert to help you run a site with WordPress, the nice thing about it is that the back end is simple enough for you to do the management of the whole website yourself. No need to hire anyone to take care of it unless you don’t have the time to do so.

In addition, WordPress has an endless array of plugins and add-ons which can be used to extend it for almost any kind of website imaginable. This makes it an ideal option for all of your content management needs regardless of what you are doing.

That said, if you do want other options, Drupal is also quite robust and is less blog oriented than WordPress is (though as I said, WordPress can be configured for lots of other kinds of systems).

The catch with both of these is to limit your use of plugins and add-ons though as that can easily make your site take longer to load. Speaking of which:

Limit the Plugins and Add-Ons

There are tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of different plugins available for WordPress and Drupal. They both have extremely robust ecosystems. That having been said, these things do add to the load time of your website and so they should be kept to a minimum as much as possible.

Mind you, that’s not to say that you have to choose to do without lots of cool features. Many WordPress themes for example include a great many add-on features built right into the theme, minimizing your need to use lots of extra plugins. The nice thing is that if the theme is well coded then it will not take nearly as long to load up your website as it otherwise would have.

Wordpress plugins

Drupal similarly has plenty of great themes with built in features. Again, this is all a matter of how the theme is programmed. The best of them will include extra features while making your site load just as fast as it would have with fewer features.

That having been said, there’s nothing wrong with a handful of plugins and add-ons. For example, I cannot imagine effectively managing a blog without having a spam filter for the comments (I like Akismet personally but there are free options available as well).

Get a Good Web Host

I have bad news for everyone who has one of those so called unlimited service packages from the major web hosting companies. They’re not unlimited and they may actually hold back your business. The fact is that nobody could possibly offer a true unmetered web site. I mean if they could, you could literally create a site the size of Amazon.com then pay ten bucks a month to host the thing.

In reality, when your site starts to get too big or pull too much traffic, your host will shut it down and tell you to upgrade to either a virtual private server or a dedicated server. When you do that, you find out that you actually pay a set fee for storage and bandwidth. The difference of course is that these dedicated servers of VPS arrangements are designed for real businesses, not the average joe with dreams of making it big online.

So why does this matter to you though? What if you’re just starting out and you don’t yet need to have a ton of bandwidth or storage for your website? Maybe you can get away with one of those shared “unlimited” packages. Well, yes and no. To understand why this may be an issue, you need to understand how these things work.

In order to offer you an “unlimited” package, web hosts will cram as many websites as they are able to cram into a single server (ultimately, every website simply exists on a physical hard drive inside of a computer somewhere on the planet). This means that there may be hundreds or even thousands of sites on the same server that your site is on.

Most of the time, this doesn’t matter because most sites get very little traffic. However, the more sites there are on that single computer, the slower it’s going to be about serving up your website to your customers. Effectively this means that those unlimited deals are not so great after all because they could cost you money in the form of lost customers and or SEO.

Instead, look for a web host which guarantees that they put a specific limit on the number of sites that a given server actually has on it. This will help you to ensure that your website loads smoothly, even from the proverbial shared server. Hint: this means looking at some of the smaller guys, who specialize in providing boutique service to clients who understand the difference between a junky server and a real web server.

Don’t Have Too Many Sites Making DNS Lookups

If you’ve ever seen some websites which have lots and lots of advertising (a prime example of this is the Jerusalem Post from Israel – the site is ridiculously saturated with ads), you’ll notice that the site is endlessly loading up. That’s in part because the sites are dependent on lots of other websites to pull content from. However, it’s also because of numerous DNS lookups.

jerusalem post

DNS (Domain Name Server) is the system used to translate pretty web addresses (i.e. quantumseolabs.com) into the IP addresses that the Internet actually uses when it is looking up a website. The problem is that every time a website needs to find a new IP number, it needs to take the time to go and look it up. This slows down the whole system and makes your load time take that much longer.

Of course, it’s not just about advertising. Embedded videos from YouTube and third party image hosts can also slow down your site even if you don’t have a ton of ads (which by the way is a huge turn off to most visitors to your site). So try your best to keep the extras to a minimum while still keeping your site going strong.

Get a Great PHP Accelator

The fact is that this is kind of an obscure thing but important. Most web hosts include a PHP accelerator with their websites as a matter of course. However, there are some that don’t and that’s important to know about. Since most popular websites make use of the PHO programming language, you want to ensure that you have an accelerator to make things run as quickly as possible.

By the way, in case you weren’t aware, WordPress and Drupal are both written using PHP and as such it’s important to have this kind of feature built into any website you have built using those platforms. The best way to make sure is to check with your web host and or the webmaster of your site to make sure that this is in place.

PHP Accelerator

If your site uses a different system (Java for example), you can safely ignore this since there is no such thing as a Java accelerator.

Watch Out for Broken Links

You may think that broken links are merely an annoyance as opposed to something that can slow down your website’s loading time. However, that’s not the case. Every time the browser (or the web spider) loads a page, it also does something called an HTTP request to find out about any links on the page. This can slow things down tremendously if there are too  many links regardless.

However, even when there aren’t that many links, the broken links are simply a waste of time which you can ill afford if you are determined to keep your customers happy and to please the Google gods. In addition, broken links indicate to the Google spider that your site is not being maintained and tell your customers that you are unprofessional.

It’s easy enough to use a broken link checker on your site and to go in and manually fix any problems that arise from this so be sure to do so from time to time.

Cut the Size of Your Images

If you ever visit a site like PhotoExpress to get images for your website (many of the images there are free but you need to find them using a different service such as EveryStockPhoto), you’ll find that the images that you download tend to be massive. That’s because they need to be able to accommodate any kind of usage, including being used for high quality magazines and brochures.

However, the fact remains that you don’t need such a massive image on your website. In fact, very often, when you do load such a big image, the site’s backend (i.e. WordPress or Drupal) will lower the total size of the image that’s displayed. However, what it won’t do is lower the overall resolution. In essence, it just puts up a really high quality version of the picture which can be clicked for a full size render.

The problem of course is that those huge images tend to take forever to load up and can make your website seem to drag on forever in its load time. I personally like to use Snagit Editor to quickly load an image and resize it before I put it on the web. However, you can use virtually any photo editing product, even Windows Paint to do something similar so that you don’t waste valuable bandwidth needlessly loading a massive image.

Use a CDN

I’ve mentioned this in the past and it’s still very worthwhile to mention it again. There are a number of Content Delivery Networks available for your website. In some cases, they may even be included for free with your web hosting package. In all cases, you want to ensure that you use one because they will improve the load time of your site dramatically.

The way these services work is that they keep a copy of your website cached on local servers throughout the world. This allows your customers to get the content faster than if it had to bounce all over the Internet from the one server that your site is originally located on. After all, distance does still make a difference.

Cloudflare

The one I like to use is CloudFlare. It’s included for free with my web hosting service. However, there are any number of other similar services which can do the job for you as well as they can.

Have a Mobile Ready Version of Your Site

This probably won’t have any effect on your SEO however, if you don’t have a mobile ready version of your website, you may lose some customers. The reason is simple – while most modern mobile browsers are perfectly capable of loading the full version of a website, regardless of what the size is, it will not be optimized for reading on the small screen and it will load that much slower over a slow cellular network.

Thus it’s worth your while to ensure that the theme you use has a mobile option built into it or alternatively that you use a plugin which includes a mobile ready version. One word of caution though: if you use a mobile ready WordPress theme, check whether or not it includes your advertising. Often, they will simply strip away any advertising and that’s not good if you rely on advertising for revenue. The ideal mobile option will include an option to get mobile ready ads inserted into the site.

Don’t Overdo It with Sharing

Finally, while it’s very important to include social media buttons, it’s also possible to get too carried away and cause your site to slow down as a result. The fact is that there are now tens of thousands of different social media networks out there but there are no more than a handful of them which you seriously need to have sharing buttons for.

Social media sharing overkill

If in doubt, just go with the big four – Facebook, Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn. There are of course others worth noting such as Delicious and Stumble Upon but again, the more of these icons you add in, the slower your website will ultimately load, costing you both customers and SEO juice.