Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Quick Guide To Facebook Pages

A Quick Guide To Facebook Pages is the first in the series of guides on social media. It's a short primer for anyone just getting started or thinking of creating a Facebook page for their business. This post is also available as a downloadable PDF on the Resources page. Please feel free to download or share. Comments and feedback are welcome.

Overview

A simple rule of business communication is to take your message where your customers are. Facebook, one of the largest social media networks with over 500 million active users (collectively, we spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook,) has grown beyond its role in personal networking and emerged as a powerful marketing tool for businesses. Facebook pages are now an essential branding tool for all organizations, helping businesses or non-profit organizations of all sizes interact and engage directly with customers or a community in a way that’s least interruptive.


Facebook pages enable you to create your own unique presence where customers can interact with you and keep in touch with your brand, product or service. By clicking on the ‘Like’ button on your page, customers can access the latest updates on your wall, read your latest blog entry or event, and view videos or photos you may post on your profile. They can also participate in discussions and post comments on your posts.

When someone likes, posts a comment or interacts with your page, their activity is visible to their friends through Facebook’s News Feed. The social nature of Facebook gives your page greater exposure, allowing you to attract more fans and draw attention to your company or organization.

Besides these benefits, Facebook pages usually rank high in search engines, helping potential customers find you easily and own more ‘real estate’ in the first few search pages. By sharing links with company-related news or other information on your website, you can drive more clicks and better optimize your site for improved search engine results.

How To Get Started

1) Set up your profile. If you already have a personal profile, just log in to your account and click on ‘Ads and Pages’ on the left hand side of your profile or on ‘Advertising’ on the bottom right of the page. Once the advertising page opens up, click on ‘Promote your Facebook page or website’ under the heading ‘Deepen Relationships.’ Next, click on the green ‘Create a Page’ button. If you can’t find it, click directly on this link.

2) Select an appropriate business category for your page and enter your company information.

3) Upload a profile picture. List your website’s URL and links to your blog or Twitter profile, along with other contact information. While creating a profile, think about how you want to project your company to your fans and what keywords you want to include in your profile and business description.

4) Click on ‘publish your page’ once the page is set up, to make it public.

5) Invite friends from your personal profile to ‘like’ your business page. If you don’t have a personal profile, it is recommended that you set one up first before creating a business page. Having a personal Facebook profile will make it easier to promote your Facebook page among your existing network.

What Should You Post On Your Facebook Page?

1) Post regular updates on new projects your company may be working on, links to latest company news, press releases, press coverage or your latest blog post. You can also post latest events, videos and pictures or start discussions with your fans, inviting ideas or soliciting their feedback. Keep your profile active to engage and retain existing fans and attract new ones.

2) Use applications such as Facebook polls to gauge what your customers think about a particular product or new service you want to introduce.

How To Attract More Fans (or Likes) To Your Page

1) ‘Like’ your own Facebook business page so that your Facebook friends learn about your page through the news feed. You can then also invite your own Facebook friends to like your page by using the ‘Suggest to Friends’ feature that shows up below your profile picture on the top left.

2) Publicize your page by adding links to it on your website, e-newsletter and blog. You can even add a clickable Facebook badge or icon to your e-mail signature that points to your Facebook page. If you wish to try paid options, use Facebook ads to publicize your fan page to a select target audience based on demographic or geographic criteria or other criteria such as profession or interests.

3) Offer quality content that would be useful to your Facebook fans. Dell is a great example of a company that does a great job of providing useful content and giving fans a reason to visit their Facebook page. Another way is to create a contest that persuades fans to participate or offer them an exclusive discount or deal to provide them with an incentive to ‘Like’ your page.

You can download this article as a PDF here (requires logging in using your existing SlideShare account or creating a new one.) Visit Prism Media to learn more about our Social Media services or to contact us for more information.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Foursquare Checkin @ Social Media Rehab Clinic

Picture Credit:
http://www.stopwritingonmywall.com/
Like a lot of people my age, I tend to embrace technology and I’m quick to adapt to the new social mediums that have sprung up as a result of technological innovation. It has made communication interesting, exciting and full of new possibilities. But lately, even I haven’t been able to stop myself from asking how much is a little too much?

Recently, I went on a weekend trip to Cape Cod in Massachusetts with my husband. Two other friends were travelling with us and the four of us – all between the ages of 29 to 31– each had an iPhone. The constant access to the Internet, email, news and social media applications made our trip quite convenient and stress-free. We could plan our local sightseeing itinerary by looking up all the relevant information during our trip itself and also easily look up nearby places to eat on Google Maps and search for reviews using the Yelp application. The long drive was also less tedious since we could keep ourselves entertained by listening to music on Pandora and checking out our Facebook updates and Twitter streams, all thanks to our smartphones.

At the same time, I could not help but notice how fidgety we all were. Throughout the trip, all of us were constantly inclined toward pulling out our phones every now and then and checking for new emails, surfing the Web or engaging socially online. Given that we had only one (slow) iPhone battery charger in our car, each of us competed and took turns in giving little bursts of life to our dying, over-used phones. When we stopped at rest areas, we ensured that we refueled not just ourselves but also our phones by carrying our iPhone charger and looking for plug points at food courts.

This may be a little exaggerated, but in some way, the continual survival of our phones seemed to have become almost essential to our existence. As this new reality sank in, I wondered: Are we over-wired, over-connected and over-indulging in all forms of media?

Part of the answer lies in this experiment called 24 Hours: Unplugged, conducted by the University of Maryland in April. Around 200 students from various majors were asked to abstain from all sorts of social media for 24 hours – this included not using any media device such as phones, laptops, iPods, and not engaging over Facebook, Twitter or online chat. The students were asked to write down their experiences during this experiment (which were later chronicled on a blog.)

Some students failed the experiment because they simply did not know what to do without access to media. Others failed because they could not avoid media – it was everywhere and inescapable – televisions playing at the gym, music blaring in hallways or their room-mates playing video games. The common responses among students included "In withdrawal. Frantically craving. Very anxious. Extremely antsy. Miserable. Jittery. Crazy.”

Many students also said they felt uninformed and cut off from others since their friendships and relationships were dependent on technology. At the end of the experiment, many admitted being addicted to technology and said while they felt ‘freer’ and a ‘little happy’ during the experiment, they also felt more disconnected and thus more discontented. Here’s one conclusion from the study: “Overall, a day without media ends up making you feel very uninformed and lost….Not being able to use media also makes you realize how much you are missing and how much time you are wasting. Media has a trade-off between its usefulness and its ability to waste your time.”

Increasingly, I find myself hearing or reading about people opting for a self-imposed exile from media-driven technology to help them overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed and dominated by it. Recently, The New York Times presented a challenge to readers, asking them to unplug for a period of time and share their experiences through short videos. Most readers took up the challenge with the objective of proving to themselves that they could survive without constantly consuming media, and thus feel liberated by that knowledge.

How do you deal with the onslaught of information and technology-driven media, which though useful can be a time-sinker that distracts you from other priorities? Some experts suggest measures such as setting aside specific times and places to use technology, and keeping computers and other devices away from the dinner table and the bedroom. Others suggest maintaining a time log to record one’s daily media consumption and also accept and recognize the fact that there is more information out there than one can possibly consume.

Do you follow a regime to regulate your usage of the Internet/social media and have you ever tried to unplug to avoid it all? How do you balance the need to participate in social media and communicate without over-indulging? I’d love to hear about your experiences.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What Does Google Say About You? Top Five Tips For Protecting Your Online Reputation

On one hand, the online world has the potential to turn you into an overnight star (yesterday’s story about JetBlue’s flight attendant, Steven Slater) while on the other hand, it can sink your ship in an instant (Remember the video of Domino’s Pizza employees tainting food and consequently, the company’s reputation?)

Thanks to the instant publishing power of the Web, anyone with an opinion (and a computer or mobile device with an Internet connection) can easily broadcast his or her thoughts into this virtual space. While this has empowered the voice of a lone consumer, a single negative comment or story, whether deserved or not, can ruin the reputation of a company and seriously hamper its business.

Recently, I was involved with helping a few clients mitigate some of the damage done to their online reputation. One of them was a local small business that had a negative comment by a customer on a notorious website called Rip-off Reports. When you searched for the company online, the comment was the first thing you saw in search results, appearing even higher than the company’s own website. As a result, the company’s business and reputation were both taking a huge hit.

So what do you do if you find yourself or your company in such a situation? Google will not remove the site with the negative comments or content from its search results, though the site’s rankings or where it appears in search results may change over time. In a lot of cases, even if the comments were deserved, they can deprive a person or organization of a second chance.

Based on my experiences, I am recommending my top five tips to help repair, protect and better manage your online reputation. But before outlining the tactics, I would recommend evaluating and identifying the right strategy for managing your online profile. Again, based on my experiences, I have found that clients are often myopic when it comes to dealing with negative content. One unpleasant experience is also often enough for them to clam up and be less willing to embrace the Internet. As a result, they make the mistake of simply wanting to push down the offensive content, without giving a thought to how they can really use the Web to build a strong online reputation.

While your objective should be to crowd out or push down negative information, your strategy should be to do this in a way that actually enhances and helps you control your online profile as much as possible. In other words, focus on creating quality content that will expand your influence, display your potential and win the trust of your clients or customers, while pushing down the negative content at the same time.

Executing the tips I have outlined below requires knowledge of both Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques -- knowing what content search engines will rank high and how to optimize that content and knowledge of Public Relations techniques -- understanding what kind of content will help enhance your online profile and how to generate it.


Picture Credit: evisibility.com

Top Five Tips for Protecting Your Online Reputation

1) Create Websites
If you don’t already have a website for your company, you must create one immediately. If you already have a website but the negative information about you appears higher than your site in search results when people look for your name or your company’s name online, it is important to ensure that proper on-page and off-page SEO techniques are applied to improve your site’s rankings. You may also want to consider adding more pages to your website, creating additional websites or adding subdomains to push down the negative content that appears on page one of Google.

Websites give you a chance to choose what information about yourself you want to put online. Since this is information that you will be creating and which you control, you should make good use of this opportunity.

2) Engage/Network on Social Media Sites
Search engines love frequently updated content so blogs can be a great way to not only get high rankings but also to display your personality or your organization’s expertise. If you can write quality content and attract enough traffic, it will help crowd out or push down the embarrassing content and help you engage with potential customers and build a strong online profile. You could also consider addressing the negative comments and presenting your side of the story on your blog but this should be weighed carefully since this would also mean drawing attention to the negative comment.

Other social media sites I would recommend using are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon and Flickr. Again, it is important to not just create these profiles but also to use them meaningfully. At all times, your strategy should be to build your online personality and reputation and engage with potential customers.

3) Get Listed on Online Business Directories
The Web has many online business directories where you can get your business listed. Sites such as MerchantCircle, Best of the Web Local, Manta, Naymz and Yelp.com usually rank high in Google’s search results, helping you easily create an additional online profile for free. If you have a bigger budget, you can also opt for premium and paid listings on online business directories, which may give you higher rankings.

4) Write Articles, Issue Press Releases
Writing articles or columns for trade publications and local newspapers can be a great opportunity to not just display your expertise but also only create highly-ranked search listings that may push negative content deeper into the search pages. If you can’t get your articles published, then you can self-publish on online sites and ezines such as Scribd.com, Docstoc.com, Articlebase.com and EzineArticles.com.

Similarly, you can write and issue press releases regularly, announcing new products, events or other newsworthy information about your company. If you can’t hire a PR agency to do this, you can write them yourself and submit them to press release distribution sites. Releases distributed through paid sites such as Businesswire.com and PRNewswire.com usually generate good results but if you don’t have the budget for it, you can even consider using free press release distribution sites such as PRLog.org.

5) Invite Testimonials
If one bad testimonial or customer review is hurting you, be proactive and invite other customers (who are happy with you) or your former colleagues/employers to present their testimonials. You can record these in the form of a video or text that you can add to your Website or blog. This will help counter the negative information and build the confidence of potential customers or employers.

Remember…
• Managing your online reputation requires continuously monitoring the content being published about you on the Web. Many large organizations opt for paid and more sophisticated online tracking services but the best way to do this for free is to set up Google Alerts. You can also try using a nifty little tool called Monitor This, which allows you to set up alerts for your keyword in 26 different search engines at the same time.

• Knowing what keywords people use to search for you online is very important. Tools like Google Analytics are a great way to monitor what keywords people use to reach your website and under what search terms the negative comment shows up. Once you determine these keywords, all content you create should be optimized for those words – whether it’s your own name, the name of your product or your company.

• Lastly, it is important to understand that the higher the authority Google gives to the page or site with the negative content, the tougher it will be to push it down in rankings. There are no easy, quick-fix solutions for repairing your online reputation and it will require consistent effort over a period of time.

Do you have any tips to share for better managing or protecting online reputation? Have you faced the consequences of a less-than-desirable online reputation as a result of a negative comment or article? Please share your experiences and comments.

Special Offer: If you or your business needs help with managing your online reputation, visit Prism Media to learn more about our online reputation management services and contact us to receive a free initial evaluation.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Does Social Media Make Us Happier, Healthier?

Ever since I read Blink, I’ve been a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell. After wanting to read Outliers for a long time, I finally got my hands on it last week. The book begins with an interesting reference to a town called Roseto in Pennsylvania, U.S. The residents of this town, all migrants from the village of Roseto Valfortore in Italy, immigrated to Pennsylvania between 1882 to 1894, working in the local slate quarries.

In the 1950s, a physician named Stewart Wolf heard something interesting about the Rosetans; a local doctor mentioned to him that in the two decades of his practice, he had rarely found any patients from Roseto under the age of 65 with heart disease. At that time, heart disease was one of the leading causes of death in men under the age of 65 in the U.S., so Dr. Wolf found this fascinating.

Digging deeper, he uncovered some strange statistics. The town of Roseto had no suicide, no alcoholism, no drug addiction and very little crime. Even though their eating habits were unhealthy and many of them were even obese, the death rate from heart disease among men over 65 was three times lower than the neighboring villages and half the average rate prevalent in the country.

After much research, Dr. Wolf found the answer: it was the sense of community that prevailed in this little village. The tight-knit community of Rosetans would often visit each other or just stop to chat with one another on the streets. Three generations of family often lived in the same home and 22 civic organizations existed in this town with a population of less than 2,000 people. The answer to their healthy and happy lifestyle lay not in genes, eating habits, geographic location or even exercise but in the community they had built for themselves in the mid-1900s.

But what does this have to do with social media? As I was reading this, I wondered if social media, could, in any way, make us healthier or at least happier? (The assumption being that we indulge in moderation.) This is a complex research question and I agree, the sense of community the Rosetans created through face-to-face communication, cannot be compared to engaging virtually on social networks.

But some similarities do exist. For one, doesn’t social media lead us to, well, just be more social? Don’t social networks spark more conversation between us? Don’t we stop by to have brief (140-word) conversations with our community of followers on Twitter? Without limiting our interaction to geographic location, social networks can be a great way (especially for immigrant communities) to keep in touch with family and friends, making them, perhaps, feel less isolated.

As I was pondering this question, I came across Jim Stolze’s Virtual Happiness Project which studies the relationship between the social aspects of the Web and happiness. According to his experiments, sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube “give people a sense of belonging and community, which is a fundamental piece of our well-being.”

Of course, there are studies that suggest otherwise. There have been many studies about how social networks lead to addiction, even isolation, as virtual interactions replace “real” ones and how we are becoming increasingly dependent on the Web (a subject I will tackle in another blog post.) Yet, I don’t think it would be illogical to assume that the sense of community we build from engaging in social networks probably does contribute, even if in a small way, to our well-being. After all, don’t we all feel happy when our community of friends on Facebook wishes us on our birthday or when we get in touch with a long-lost school friend we were once close to?

I would love to hear about your own experiences. Do you think social media or specifically, social networks, have contributed to making you a happier person? Do you know of any other studies that have measured this correlation?
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