Monthly Archives: September 2013

Using Your Personal Facebook Account for Business

facebook_logo

First, let me make clear that Facebook takes a very dim view of using your personal account to directly promote your business. That having been said, there are a number of things that you can do with your personal Facebook profile which will not get you into trouble and which will allow you to promote your business.

For example, on my own person Facebook timeline, I often put links to my blog posts and I also set my Twitter feed to redisplay everything there. I figure that my friends might be interested in what I have to say and so it doesn’t hurt to make them aware of it. That said, there are a number of dos and don’ts for using your personal Facebook page for business. Here’s what you need to know:

Allow Followers

One of the cool things that Facebook allows you to do (I think it’s intended primarily for those who are mega popular and who have approached that 5,000 friend limit that Facebook imposes) is to allow for followers to subscribe to your feed. In essence, this is a pseudo friending situation where your timeline updates will appear on the timeline of anyone who subscribes but you won’t be “friends.”

The way it works is that you set up under your account settings exactly how your followers should be treated (and indeed, whether or not there should be subscribers to begin with). To do this, go to Account Settings (click the little sprocket icon in the upper right hand corner) and then select the box next to allow followers.

Facebook followers

Of course, that’s only half the battle. Now that you are allowing followers, anything you post to your Faceook profile can be seen by those followers. So, you now need to start going to your status updates and making sure that they are set appropriately. Every time you post something to Facebook, you are presented with a number of options for who gets to see it.

Facebook update

Public means that anyone who looks up your Facebook profile can see what you wrote.

Friends means that anyone who is a friend can see what you wrote.

Friends Except Acquaintances You need to set this one up when you accept a friend request. You can set people to be acquaintances as opposed to friends so that they are considered to be less than your closest friends. This setting is actually quite good for business partners and the like.

Only Me If there’s something you found that you really like and you want to make sure you can find it again but you don’t want anyone else to see it, use this setting.

Close Friends Again, this is set up on a per friend basis. You can designate specific people as “close friends” and only they will see what you post while everyone else will not.

Limited Profile This basically hides certain information about the people who comment on your post.

Custom Even though I didn’t go in order, I left custom for last because this allows you to choose only specific friends to see something and not everyone. It’s useful if there are a small handful of friends that you want to show an update to.

facebook update options

Now the good news is that whenever you post a status update, it’s usually set to Friends so you needn’t be concerned about it showing up for everyone.

However, if you have previous posts that you would like everyone to see, including your followers, you can simply change the settings of a status update. Right next to the date is a little button which when you hover over it shows you what the update is currently set to. Just click it and choose a different setting.

facebook change update

The same settings also work with things like photo albums and videos that you have shared on your timeline. This means that effectively, you can allow people to “follow” you while showing them only the things that you want them to see and without needing to friend them.

Fix Up Your Personal Timeline

I’ll never forget years ago when I worked as a teacher, I recommended a kid for a summer job at a camp. My friend from the camp called me and told me he wasn’t willing to hire the kid. Why? Because he checked the kid’s personal Facebook page and saw that he had a rather uhm, let’s say inappropriate picture as his profile photo.

While you can certainly control who sees what from your profile (as I pointed out above), everyone will at least see your timeline cover photo as well as your profile photo. So the photo of you dancing the night away with your best friends might be great and something you want to share with them but your profile and timeline photo should look professional.

You should also be sure to put down in your “employer” section the name of your website or company. This information will be displayed to anyone checking out your Facebook page regardless of whether they are a friend or just a follower.

Check Your “Other” Inbox

This is one of the most important things that you can do and it’s actually virtually unknown to the majority of Facebook users. You actually have two different message boxes on Facebook. The one that most of us look at is the one that your friends send messages to. However, there is another box that’s labeled “other.”

I had been on Facebook for years before I ever heard of this. You know how Facebook shows you that you have a message waiting when one of your friends sends one to you? They show you nothing at all if someone who is not a friend sends a message to you.

I found out about this because someone commented on a post I’d published and said they’d sent me a private message and that I should check my “other inbox.” My first thought was, which “other” inbox? I have five e-mail addresses and anyway, how is it that you know about any of them other than the one I make publicly available on Facebook? A little Googling around and I finally found it.

I then learned that I’d missed out on a number of business opportunities because people had sent me messages which I never saw since I got no notice from Facebook that they were there. I now make a point to check my “other” inbox every now and again because otherwise, I’d never know if someone else was trying to contact me.

To check it, just click the messages icon and then click “other” right next to where it says “inbox.”

Facebook other inbox

Share Useful Stuff

Just like when you’re trying to impress your friends, if you use your personal Facebook page for business, it’s important to share things that are useful. Just keep it centered on things that won’t have your friends scratching their heads and wondering why they should care.

I mean, if you run a plumbing business, it’s probably useful to share tips on how to deal with leaky faucets. On the other hand, if you run a consultancy which deals with mergers and acquisitions, your friends may not be particularly interested in reading about the intricacies of how a Letter of Intent needs to be structured.

Do the Birthday Thing

One thing I’ve taken to doing is to always check when people’s birthday’s are to make sure to wish them a happy birthday. Facebook makes it easy to do because they’ll put up a notice for you about any birthdays that are happening that day. If you really want to make a connection with your best clients, consider friending them on Facebook and then making a point to wish them a happy birthday. It makes a huge difference.

By the way, you should also pay attention to anything else your clients say on their timelines. Often, you can make a real impact on them by trying to help them with whatever problems they’re having. Of course, this means that you need to “friend” them as opposed to just letting them be followers but for most of us, that’s not an issue. Most people don’t bump up against the 5,000 friend limit on Facebook.

Oh by the way, by wishing people a happy birthday and doing other things to interact with your best customers on Facebook, you’ll also find that people will “like” your comments on their timelines. This has two effects. First, it can help your Klout score and second, it makes it that much more likely that your updates will appear in their timelines (remember that Facebook discriminates and puts stuff in the news feed only from “friends” you often interact with).

Try Creating Lists for Clients

Another really great feature on Facebook is the ability to create lists of friends and to segment them accordingly. Thus you can create a list of your “friends” who are actually clients and then make sure that your comments which pertain to their interests will only be sent to them. You can do this by (as above) choosing a custom list when posting an update.

Use Groups and other Pages to Your Advantage

There are a large number of Facebook groups available on pretty much every conceivable issue you can think of. Just go to the main Facebook search bar and do a search for your keywords. You’ll get lots of groups and pages listed that you can join. Why are these so important? For the same reason that you should be participating in forums which are popular in your industry.

Facebook groups and pages

Think about it – if you are looking for new clients, the best places to find them is likely to be in various groups and pages where they congregate. These places are naturals for finding new clients. Now of course, you need to be careful not to just spam these pages.

Put up useful ideas and answer questions that people have when you visit them. People will then often offer to friend you and will also consider following your Facebook updates and or liking your page. This is probably the best way to use Facebook to get new clients.

However, as I have said on numerous occasions in the past when discussing social media, it is vital that you do not come across as being just another salesperson trying to get them to buy something. Be a genuine person who is genuinely helpful and they’re that much more likely to purchase whatever product or service you have to offer when they need it.

Consider Following Industry Leaders

Here’s a neat trick that I recently learned about. Just as you can allow followers on your own profile, you can also follow other people whom you may not be able to friend. This means that you can then post comments on their public updates and just possibly grab their attention.

It doesn’t always work but if you’ve tried to friend someone in your industry but have been ignored, this may be a great way to engage with them. Of course, the catch is that the very top people in any industry are likely to have set their timelines to disallow commenting on their public profiles. The reason is simple – they don’t want to have to wade through the endless spam that will result.

Remember to Follow the Rules

Of course, all of this is all well and good but it’s still important to study the rules that Facebook has for what can and cannot be done on your personal account. If you’re not careful, they could shut down your account without warning, causing you all kinds of headaches in recreating it. From what I hear, they tend to be pretty humorless when people ask them to reconsider so don’t go overboard.

Check Facebook’s Community Standards page to ensure that you’re not violating the rules if you are ever unsure of something you plan to do with your personal account.

7 Tips for Successful Webinars

webinar

I admit it – I’ve never been a really big fan of webinars. I’ve always found them to be so cliché. It reminds me of the time before the Web when a friend asked me to come and listen to a presentation about Amway.

It was a hard sell where they told us all about how wonderful this business opportunity was (Amway is one of the original MLM companies) and where very little real, useful information was offered.

Actually, about the only thing I remember as being useful from that Amway presentation was that I got a catchy slogan from it which is also a little cliché – JOB stands for “Just Over Broke.” In other words, if you just have a “job,” you’ll never make enough to be financially independent.

In large part that’s true and that’s one of the reasons that in spite of my personal distaste for them, I’ve started researching webinars.

The fact is that a successful webinar can get you some of the highest conversion rates around with rates of 25-50% or more signing up for whatever product it is that you have for sale. They’re so successful in part because you have something of a captive audience.

They work in much the same way as the timeshare presentations at Las Vegas hotels. In order to get you to stay for the whole thing, they offer a prize at the end.

So, let’s take a look at how to make your webinars super successful and worthwhile to your customers.

Offer Real Value

I know this is something that most webinars DON’T do. Virtually every webinar I’ve ever been invited to has been offered with the promise of lots of useful information and admonishments to bring a notebook and pencil. Even when the webinar is going on, the presenter almost inevitably reminds you endlessly to bring a notebook and a pencil.

The thing is, I also find that in the vast majority of cases, free webinars have perhaps 2 minutes of truly useful information. The first half is devoted to telling you how much money you can earn and how wonderful this market is and the second half is devoted to telling you desperately you need this product which is being offered at a special, low, low price just through the webinar. Sandwiched in between is a minute or two of useful nuggets of information.

Now I’m not knocking this because it does seem to work really well for a lot of people. However, I know for myself that I stopped responding to most webinar invites when I found that they were like that. The only invites I now respond to are the ones where I know there is going to be real, useful information offered.

And yes, I have been known to purchase the product being offered if I felt the webinar was actually useful and worthwhile. Want to know why? The person who spends the whole webinar making a pitch probably doesn’t have much to offer in their product which is why they spend the whole time making a pitch. The person who offers real value by comparison is going to come across as someone who knows what he’s talking about and is someone I want to learn from.

Plan Ahead

Nothing is worse than the webinar presenter who simply doesn’t know what he or she is talking about and who flounders as the webinar proceeds. If you are running a webinar yourself, have all of your slides ready, make sure that you know what you are supposed to say and when you are supposed to say it and make sure that it all meshes together smoothly.

If there is going to be more than one person involved in the webinar (and this is becoming an increasingly important aspect of successful webinars – more on that in a moment), you should do a dry run and make sure everyone knows their parts clearly and can chime in on cue. Do not allow your webinar to descend into an amateur hour presentation.

It is also a good idea to double and triple check on your equipment and make sure everything is functioning smoothly. While you obviously can’t anticipate a freak cable outage knocking out your Internet connection, you should have some kind of backup plan for getting back online quickly (maybe through a cellular data connection) so that your webinar isn’t a disaster.

If a speaker at your webinar suddenly drops from the call because their Internet went down temporarily, it’s also a good idea to ensure that you know what they were supposed to say so that you can pick up the slack and finish the webinar for them. The best thing by the way is if you can plan to jump in at any time and say thank you to the presenter as if they were supposed to drop off then and you just pick up where they left off.

Figure Out Your Goals

Not every webinar is about making sales of whatever product it is that you have for sale. At times, you may need to do something else. Sometimes your webinar is just about building trust in your brand name.

John Chow for example ran a series of webinars which were intended to do nothing more than show his list members that he knows his stuff.  He ran several no pitch webinars which really were totally no pitch webinars. They showed off the kind of ideas that he has to offer and they exponentially increased the number of people who were interested in joining his mailing list.

John Chow

Other times, you may be looking to sign people up for free to your mailing list. A great way to do this is to plan an interesting webinar which includes a free gift at the end of the webinar. Then, everyone who wants the free gift has to also sign up for your mailing list.

As long as you plan a webinar which is reasonably interesting, you can easily get almost a thousand new leads that way because the vast majority of people who come will sign up in order to get their free gift.

By the way, I recommend doing it that way instead of having people go through your Aweber sign up in order to even attend because you’ll get more people to sign up after they feel they’ve invested something (i.e. an hour of their time to listen to you) than if you make them sign up to listen to you to begin with.

Get Guest Speakers

I know that most of you consider yourselves experts in your field and are likely well equipped to discuss your own products. That’s not what this is directed at. Rather, this is directed at the issue I mentioned early on, that people tend to get turned off by most webinars because they find them to be nothing but a giant pitch fest.

Thus, unless you have built yourself a reputation for running webinars which are actually packed with useful information as opposed to being just another pitch fest (a format which is rapidly becoming obsolete as more and more people go to webinars and get turned off by them) it’s useful to have an outside speaker.

An outside speaker who is an acknowledged expert in their field can help to make the difference between 100 signups for your webinar and 1,000 signups for your webinar. People are more likely to go even if you yourself are known as an expert simply because there is a perception that this other person is there to offer value as opposed to simply selling something else.

By the way, one way to get an expert speaker is to allow them to sell whatever it is that they have for sale in addition to allowing you to pitch your own product. You can make a deal with them to offer their product at a discounted price in exchange for allowing you to ride their coattails to a larger audience for the webinar.

In all cases though, again, the guest speaker should add significant value to the webinar and should not simply be another talking head who spends the entire time pitching their product and telling you how wonderful it is. That is, unless you don’t care about getting your webinar attendees to keep coming back for more from you.

Don’t Be Afraid to Charge for Your Webinar

Want to know one of the best ways to ensure that people will stay for the whole webinar, even if there is a pitch at the end? Charge a fee for coming. If you charge people to come to hear what you have to say then they are that much more likely to stick around all the way until the end because they have something already invested in the webinar.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you are charging for a webinar it absolutely cannot be a pitch fest. Your webinar must offer real, genuine value to your customers so that they can clearly understand how something works and why it works. Your attendees must feel as if they have attended a class as opposed to an Amway presentation.

Now that’s not to say that you cannot pitch a product at the end of the webinar. Think of it as being the same as a famous speaker coming to give a guest lecture at a local museum or college. Those who attend such events know that you often have to pay to hear them speak.

And these people do indeed offer something of genuine value to the people who listen to them. They’re not there making a pitch because if they were, they wouldn’t get invited out to other venues to give a guest lecture. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t also bring along copies of their book to sell to the people who visit. In fact, this is considered one of the perks of doing such events – that they can sell copies of their book or whatever other product they have for sale.

A paid webinar is much the same thing. You can offer your customers a great event which is not a pitch fest but you can still also offer them something of additional value by pitching a product to them at the end of the event.

There is also one additional benefit to selling “tickets” to your webinar as opposed to simply giving it away for free – you avoid all the freebie seekers. Even if all you charge is $5 for entry (most paid webinars charge more BTW), you will still get people who are prepared to take out their credit cards and make a purchase as opposed to those who are only in it for the free download.

Make a Recording

In fact, make two recordings of your webinar. Gotowebinar, one of the most popular webinar platforms (though certainly not the only one – there are hundreds of them available) offers a free recording service when you run a webinar. The thing is, those recordings sometimes don’t take. Thus it pays to have someone else recording your webinar.

You can use pretty much any kind of screen capture software to record your webinar at another location. I even found someone on Fiverr who will take care of it for you five bucks in case you don’t know someone else who could do it.

Fiverr Record a webinar

Once you have your recording, you can then sell it or make it available as an added bonus to people who purchase your product. Either way, it’s a great way to recruit customers and get them to feel that they are getting more bang for their buck.

Consider Costs

Finally, consider what it’s going to cost you to run your webinar and which kind of system you want to use for it. If you are running a free webinar with a very small group of people, it may be worthwhile to consider something like Google Hangouts which will let you make a free webinar. Another great option for a free, small group webinar is Zoom (which also lets you have everyone on video).

On the other hand, if you are planning to have a larger crowd then it’s worth your while to consider paying more money for a professional service such as GotoWebinar.

Is Instagram a Business Tool?

instagram logoFor those who are impatient and don’t want to read through a long article on the subject, the answer to the above question is an unqualified yes, Instagram is most definitely a business tool. Just as much Facebook, which now owns the popular photo sharing service is a business tool even if it is also a social media platform.

Instagram, for those who are not terribly interested in social media (you should be – it’s an integral part of doing SEO) started life as a photo sharing service with a mobile app component. In essence, the idea was that you could take pictures with your mobile phone and then instantly share them to your Instagram account.

For those of a certain age (and yes, I know, I’m dating myself here), the idea was to make a play on the terms Instamatic and telegram. An instamatic camera was a popular model of cameras offered by Kodak.

Telegrams were for years the fastest way to send a message across the globe. Basically, it would be transmitted at a Western Union office in one place and then printed out elsewhere, to be delivered within hours – they aren’t  offered anymore and Western Union now. The company now focuses exclusively on sending money overseas.

Okay, enough of the history lesson (I used to be a teacher and I sometimes get carried away explaining things). Let’s get on to talking about how to use Instagram for business.

Share Photos and Videos

As I said, Instagram started life as strictly a photo sharing site which worked with a mobile app. However, today, it allows you to directly post images as well as videos to the site and share them with your followers. However, you do still need a smartphone (iOS or Android) to actually access and use the service.

One important point to remember by the way is that Instagram videos do have a very tight time limit. You can post just 15 seconds of video on the service meaning that it’s not the same as posting videos to YouTube or even to parent Facebook. Think of it as being kind of like Twitter’s Vine service (6 second time limit) on steroids.

Also, it’s interesting to note that one of the features that made Instagram so popular to begin with, namely, filters, is also available on the video service. Filters on Instagram allow you to take a photo that you created and instantly adjust it to make it look prettier. So for example, you could post a picture on Instagram using a Sepia filter to make it look like an old timey photo:

sepia instagram photo

In addition to the filters, Instagram also has a clever feature which tries to minimize camera shake while you’re taking a video, something I haven’t seen offered elsewhere. How well it works, well that’s another question and you can judge for yourself by some of the videos on the site.

You Can Use it for more than Just Visual Products

One of the common misconceptions about Instagram is that it can only be used for physical or visual products. In other words, if you run a clothing store, it’s a great service and you can easily take pictures of the clothes and send them out, etc. Or if you happen to run a photo studio, that’s a great use for Instagram for business too.

But what if you run a financial consultancy? Can you actually use Instagram to do more than put up a picture of your own smiling mug shot? The answer is a definite yes. Remember that Instagram allows you to post any image that you like.

Now most of us think of Instagram and immediately, we think that it has to be photos. Well first and foremost, even though I mentioned it already, why not put up photos from around the office? People like to deal with other people, not faceless corporations.

In fact, putting in a photo of yourself often can make the difference in getting your product or services sold while others don’t sell. That’s why so many real estate agents have their photo on the lawn signs they put out by properties they represent. Of course, if you don’t photograph well, it might not be such a good idea, but we’ll assume that you do. Or at the very least that you can use the filters on Instagram to make yourself look good.

Consider Outside the Box Photos Too

Did your company participate in a 5K run to help defeat breast cancer? Maybe your employees all got together to do a volunteer day at a senior citizen center. Or maybe you have some cool photos of you and your customers celebrating your company’s first anniversary. All of these are great fodder for Instagram.

Again, any time that you can make yourself and your company feel more like a “member of the family” and a group of people as opposed to a faceless, nameless corporation, you are doing something great. Of course, the catch here is that you need to make sure the images present your company in a professional light. Thus drunken photos of the company Christmas party are out but images of you slicing a cake with a customer on the first company anniversary are in.

Consider Using Instagram In “Out of the Box Ways”

Now, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to just photograph merchandise or your artwork in order to use Instagram. Remember that an “image” is not necessarily a photo as far as Instagram is concerned. Thus you can always post images which include graphical versions of pithy and inspirational sayings (the kind that seem to fill up half of everyone’s Facebook timeline these days).

You could also post coupons on Instagram which can be redeemed at your company. In other words, think a bit outside the box and you will find all kinds of great uses for Instagram above and beyond just the basic photos of merchandise or even of people.

Do a Photo Contest

One of the fun things about Instagram is that it encourages people to share photos of themselves doing all kinds of interesting things. So for example, you might find photos of people enjoying an ice cream cone or eating a stack of waffles. The thing is, the majority of different kinds of businesses can lend themselves to these kinds of photos.

instagram ice cream and waffles

Even if you run something like a dental practice, it’s very easy to use Instagram to promote your business through a contest. You could for example have people submit their pictures of a winning smile and then offer a prize to the best one. It’s simply a matter of being a little creative to show your customers doing something that involves your business.

Run a financial consultancy as we talked about before? How about letting people share pictures of their dream retirement spots and run a contest that way? The possibilities are endless.

In order to set up a contest on Instagram, you would start out by creating a unique hashtag for your contest. So for example, if we were to run an Instagram contest for QuantumSEOLabs, we might use a hashtag like #QuantumContest. This would allow us to identify all the contest entries easily without requiring people to specifically tell us about them (we’re not running such a contest by the way, sorry).

Once you have created your contest (remember when I mentioned above that you can use Instagram to post text using a graphic? You can do this with your contest too), you should then promote it everywhere. Not just on Instagram but also on Facebook, Twitter and more.

Get the word out to as many people as possible and get people to submit photos of themselves enjoying your products or otherwise getting involved. You should also encourage people to share their photos with their friends and ask their friends to go ahead and vote for them on your contest page. This is the best kind of viral advertising you can get.

Once you have all the entries for your contest, consider creating photo galleries of them which can be linked from your own account. You have now created something interesting for people to take a look at which helps you to brand your Instagram account while at the same time getting customers more involved.

Do the Metrics Thing

As with pretty much any other popular social sharing tool out there, Instagram has all kinds of tools available to you for tracking how well your account is doing and how you stack up to the competition. In fact, you can even follow the competition to get ideas and possibly even to get into some nice joint ventures with them.

Some of the more useful apps for this include:

Statigram – One of the nice things about Statigram is that it actually allows you to follow not just your own stats but also those of the competition. You can actually take a look at some popular brands and see how many followers they have, what their most popular photos are and the like.

statigram

Nitrogram – What I really like about Nitrogram is that it also allows you to check out how well a particular hash tag is doing. This is great for following a contest or for simply following an industry specific hash tag on Instagram.

Gramgrab – Nice little app which allows you to hover over a photo on your Instagram account and actually see some metrics on it, including the number of likes and views. You can also click on a photo to instantly download it directly to your computer.

Other Useful Instragram Apps

These are not really metrics apps for Instagram. Instead, these are simply useful tools which will allow you to interact more readily with Instagram and do more for your business with the service:

Search Instagram – Pretty much just what it sounds like. This allows you to search through Instagram photos based on keywords and or hash tags.

searchinstagram

Instagrille – As I said above, you do need a smartphone (or tablet) to sign up for Instagram and use all of the features native to it. However, if you primarily want to work from your regular desktop computer, you can use Instagrille to do the job very effectively.

In fact, theoretically, with the exception of the fact that you need a phone or tablet to sign up, you could pretty much use Instagram with this app without ever needing to touch the phone or tablet again.

Instagram Downloader – If you created lots of Instagram photos and want an easy way to grab them for use in a printed newsletter or brochure, this is a great little app which lets you grab everything from your account and download to them to your computer in bulk.

Remember to Have Some Fun

One of the biggest mistakes that people running an Instagram account for business make is thinking that the account has to be strictly related to the business. While you don’t want to post images on Instagram which will make your company look unprofessional, there’s no reason that you can’t have a little fun with your instagram account.

So consider posted the random photo perhaps with the label “just for fun.” It will give your followers something to look at which makes it feel as if your account is run by a real person and not just a corporation.

As with anything to do with social media, this is always the key – you want to ensure that you don’t come across as being too push on the sales and branding because people buy from people, not nameless, faceless, corporations.

Fill Out Your Profile

Finally, make sure that your profile is easy to read and includes a number of keywords which will help those interested in what you have to share find your Instagram account. By doing this, you’ll not only show customers that you are a professional but you can also show customers that your company is run by a person who took the time to personalize the account.

by EricHammer, on       Comments are off for this post