December has always been a whirlwind kind of month. Long before I chose the path of self-employment in marketing, most of my employment was commission-based. Performance mattered. I was evaluated every quarter on the amount of business I produced, but no quarter mattered as much as quarter four. As many of my friends and family were enjoying holiday traditions, taking vacation time, or doing some shopping, my eyes were "focused on the prize" - meeting my annual sales goals, earning incentive bonuses, and helping my teams reach their goals for the benefit of the company. There was no time to stop and reflect and certainly no time for "self care".
I was at a WBOA meeting this week where we shared our experiences with holiday traditions, as well as special promotions we may offer through our businesses at this time of year. In all my years working as a public speaker and small business workshop facilitator on behalf of Constant Contact, I probably held over 40 "Rock Your Holidays With A Great Promotion" workshop heading into the last quarter of each year. Most small businesses make the majority of their income in the last quarter of the year, so learning how to reach new customers and value returning customers was important, and I knew that effective use of email marketing combined with social media would help them succeed. I still help many of my clients plan, schedule and execute their holiday digital promotions. I also shared that I seldom offer a holiday promotion for my own business.
This week I was saddened to learn that a non-profit organization that I have supported for many years was closing its doors. One of the reasons they felt they could no longer continue their mission upset and angered me. Right before Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and the all-import Giving Tuesday for non-profits, their Facebook page was taken down with no explanation. This meant that all their digital advertising asks for donations that were scheduled to go during that time were held in the abyss of "Facebook jail". I have my thoughts on how and why this happened, but there is no way to change the outcome as Facebook makes its on decisions. They announced their decision to close to their newsletter subscribers this week.
We have become so immersed in social media that we forget about the power these companies can have over our lives, and our businesses. Between figuring out algorithms, paid vs. generic reach, and getting found in an overwhelmingly crowded space, maybe we are reaching the tipping point. Maybe we need to re-evaluate our dependence on social media.
Thank you for subscribing to my mailing list. I am grateful the many conversations I've had with subscribers who've attended my workshops and events, my clients who have worked with me through the countless changes in the world of digital marketing and the many small business owners I've had the privilege to get to know over the years.
Here's wishing you a very happy holiday season, however you celebrate. Take care.
The digital world doesn't stand still and finding ways for our businesses to be found online can be challenging. Google announced in December that Google+ is shutting down on March 7th following a data breach and low consumer usage. Each social media channel has a different appeal and demographic but among the top platforms based on usage are YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Of all the channels, Facebook still has the broadest usage and widest demographic. However, small businesses are often frustrated with Facebook's algorithm which continually makes it harder to be seen in a crowded marketplace. The push to a "pay to play" model has made it difficult to use the platform without paying for Facebook advertising. Still, having a presence on Facebook makes sense for most small businesses in order to create brand awareness and relationships with potential users of our products and services. The good news is that Facebook is a quality not quantity network. Posting 2 or 3 times a week can be sufficient as long as the content is relevant to your audience.
Here are 5 ways to harness the power of Facebook for your business:
Recently, Facebook announced that its algorithm is changing -- again. What does this mean for small businesses who devote hours every week to their business pages?
It's no secret that organic reach for business pages has been steadily declining over the last three years. Prior to the latest algorithm change, only about 5% of what you post is ever seen by people who have liked your page. Let's put that in perspective. If you have 100 people who have liked your page, you are posting for an audience of five.
It gets worse.
On June 29th Facebook announced the newest change to their algorithm and it's not good news for small businesses. Facebook will now begin to prioritize posts from user's friends and family in their newsfeeds (hey, it's what users want, right?). At the same time, content produced by businesses will decrease. Your 5% reach may now be 2%. Is that acceptable?
What's the answer?
It may be time to take a step back from your Facebook strategy, certainly re-prioritizing time spent on content creation and frequency of posting. In order to increase reach, Facebook is making it clear that you will need to advertise. The entry fee is likely to increase due to this new demand, so be prepared to pay more for that option.
What else can we do?
You might want to rethink your "list", you know, the list of email addresses you have been gathering from people who have asked to stay in touch. Devote your time to really learning how to engage with your customers, fans and supporters. The average open rate for email is 21% and if you use Constant Contact as your email marketing provider, you will enjoy a deliverability rate above 99%.
One last thought . . . . remember, you have no control over social media platforms. It's rented space. Go with what you own -- your website and your mailing list. That's where you can focus your marketing efforts for better results.
How quickly do you respond to customer questions via the phone or email - the same day, within 24 hours, within an hour? Well, hold onto your marketing hats. Facebook thinks you should answer 90% of your messages received through your business page within 5 minutes in order to earn a "Very Responsive To Messages" badge.
A five minute response time may not be realistic for your small business unless you are glued to your computer, have dedicated staff or offsite administrator who can monitor activity. So, what can you do to make sure your business isn't negatively affected?
First, you must have Messages turned on in your settings so that customers can contact you directly. Make sure that you turn on notifications for messages in your settings. There are settings which can help set some expectations from consumers and not draw the wrath of Facebook.
1. Set an away message if your business is closed. You must list your business hours for this setting to work.
2. Add an instant reply to buy you time. If you're open for business, but not immediately available to answer a message, you can set up an instant reply that looks like this:
3. Change your response time display to more accurately reflect your response time. The recommended setting here is "automatically show your response time" but you can change this to meet your needs. Note that anything over a day will negatively affect your page.
This is just one of many changes Facebook has made recently that can impact your marketing. If you need help with your business page, I'm here to help. Call 413-539-7950 or email me.
In January, Facebook announced another change to its algorithm, the mechanism that determines what shows up on the news feed.
Not again. Why?
You may have noticed that your reach, which is defined by how many people see your post, has drastically shrunk over the past year or so. Facebook's answer to this is simple -- there are far too many posts occurring to have everything visible on the news feed. Posts are ranked based upon audience engagement, rewarding quality content by appearing on more news feeds.
So, what is quality content?
The Facebook developer team described quality content by the following:
1. Is the content timely and relevant?
2. Is the content from a trusted source?
3. Would you share it with friends or recommend it to others?
4. Is the content genuinely interesting to you or is it trying to “game” (or trick) the News Feed algorithm?
5. Would you complain about seeing this content in your News Feed?
What other changes took place in 2014?
Facebook also announced a crack down on "like baiting", in other words, downgrading posts that ask the reader to "like" something -- a page, picture or post which artificially creates higher engagement. Basically, if your content can't stand up for itself as being engaging, don't expect Facebook to reward you.
Which brings us to the changes announced in January, 2015
Stop promoting! No, really, Facebook will devalue posts that are promotional. Best practices for Facebook content follows the 80/20 rule (80% of your content should be useful, relevant, educational, engaging, etc. while only 20% should be promotional).
Here's an example of one post written two ways:
Let's say you are a veterinarian clinic, posting about flea/tick prevention.
Example #1: "Ever wonder when you should apply flea/tick medicine?" which includes a photo of a dog and link to a blog post on their website which educates the reader and includes a link to the product.
Example #2: "Don't forget - now is the time to buy flea/tick medicine for your best friend. We're offering 10% off all month." which includes a photo of a dog and link to the product on their website."
Both posts get the reader off Facebook to the website, which is good, but post #1 will be preferred by Facebook. So, whether you're a restaurant, hair salon, lawn care company, dentist, or photographer, keep the self-promotion to a minimum. If you want to promote, use the paid advertising feature.
I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook, especially Facebook for business. As a marketer, Facebook is a moving target, always changing to "better the user's experience", or so they say. Every change affects my clients and their ability to stay current in a marketplace that often feels uncomfortable.
One of the changes that has been most troubling is the downward spiral in organic reach (who sees your content) that business pages have experienced in the last couple of years. It may surprise you to learn that less than 6% of your content is being seen by your fans (people who've liked your page).
I know what you want to say right now . . . . "Forget it! Why waste my valuable time posting when no one's going to see it anyway?"
Before you throw in the towel and abandon your business page, let's look at what you CAN do in order to get more of your content seen. It all comes down to increasing engagement. Will your fans like, comment and share your post with others? Facebook rewards high quality content by letting it squeeze past their filters and right onto your fan's news feed. So what can you do to increase engagement?
Figure out how to get your social fans onto your mailing list and you won't ever have to worry about Facebook's next move again. If you need some help, let's talk.
Liz Provo, Mass Marketing Resources.