Archives for audience

Catalyst

With the American economy mired in the mud and fears of a double-dip recession looming, the professional world, it seems, has stagnated.  These can be worrisome times for businesses, as comparisons to the Great Depression are being regularly drawn.  However, a lot has changed since the last time this country has seen such financial turmoil, so entrepreneurs have more options available to them as they navigate the morass and lead the way into the future.  With fewer employees, the time it takes for those retained to do specific jobs must be balanced with the expense of keeping them on staff.  Thankfully, there are many tools which are available that can help this idea become practical.

Internally, software development has allowed businesses to streamline and increase productivity exponentially.  Doctors’ offices are now able to use medical billing software from companies like Kareo, freeing up office staff for more important tasks.  On a much smaller scale, improvements with small business accounting in programs like Quickbooks and Peachtree almost successfully automate the financial process.  There are also companies that can remotely manage your payroll, help you set up your company’s 401k, and other services.  In choosing these things, the company must (again) balance the expense and needs against such investments.

Externally, one of the most important innovations to date is the emergence of various social media outlets.  Businesses now have the ability to advertise their services in a forum where many different pairs of eyes can see, and consumers have the ability to show their like or dislike of businesses, services, even individual employees. With these new ways to externally promote and streamline your business, customer traffic can increase, and customer service can be refined.  In the past, most marketing was the result of many months and thousands (or millions) of dollars invested in make sure the product or service would be accepted by the public.  Now, in the world of viral videos and SEO, those results come in real time, and are measure through actual results of both use and opinion.

In addition to the external and internal, there is the “gray area” which exists in the form of apps and other resources available to the owner.  Adding to this smorgasbord are various phone apps, many of which are free.  Whereas cell phones used to be a novelty, most people have one now, and use them for far more than just making and receiving phone calls.  Foursquare, for example, is a free app that allows users to let their friends know where they are, and what is going on there.  If you happened to be the business that is being discussed, this will not only bring more people to your door, but it will also tell you what is noteworthy to your customers.

The thing to remember in your business is that there have been many who came before you, who felt the same apprehension and doubt that you are likely feeling now, as you watch news reports and listen to accounts of Wall Street.  But fear not!  Through innovation and maximum usage of the resources that are available to you, you can maximize your chances of success and lead your business into the future.  Whether that success is aided by medical billing software, or a simple points system generated by a social media outlet, is entirely up to your company.  The promoter which pulls your company to the next level may be something as simple as the organic nature of social media, or the many different adjustments made both internally and externally.

Social Score: Measure your Impact in Social Media

 

Stacked Coins

How do you measure up in Social Media?

Influence, engagement and reach are words often tossed around in social media, but how are these elements measured and assigned value? The average social media user definitely influences and engages with their followers, and although the audience might be small, your reach can extend beyond your social network.

Measuring influence, engagement and reach can be difficult, but these criteria all factor in to a user’s overall social media value score.

So how do you measure up? There are many quick ways to see how your social media use compares to others on the general index:

Follower counts:

You can get a quick read on your social impact simply by looking at the number of followers you have on any of your accounts. Assuming you are practicing white hat audience building (ie: not paying for followers or using follow-back apps that tend to falsely inflate your numbers) your follower count is an excellent indication of just how many people value your input on social media. This is also a rough gauge of your reach, as your followers constitute your direct audience and often your most easily influenced contacts.

Total RTs, @ mentions or posts:

Another quick gauge of your audience impact is the number of times your information is shared, or someone shares information with you. A glance at your Twitter RTs and @ mentions will tell you how influential you are among your network, Similarly, your Facebook wall will often give you a good sense of how engaged your network is with your posts or your profile. Most social networks are net up to provide notifications to help you monitor your pokes, messages, comments, likes and mentions. Check out your notification settings to see what information might help you measure your engagement.

Third Party ‘Scores’:

Your daily social media activity and data can also be summarized by companies like Klout and Peerindex, who calculate and assign you a score which reflects your social capital. The upside of these services is that they are free (at least at a basic level) and they collect data from multiple social media profiles automatically. On Klout, for example you can connect not only Twitter and Facebook, but now YouTube, LinkedIn, foursquare, Instagram, Flickr, Tumblr, Blogger and Last.fm accounts to factor in to your score. Peerindex is more limited, but offers Quora integration.

Another popular ‘tool’ is EmpireAve, which works like a stock index of social media users. The site works like a large monopoly game, and makes it fun to invest in and support others. Your value on the index is both a factor of your social media activity and your use of Empire Avenue; not a true social score, but an excellent means of comparison. If you are an avid social media user, these tools are the easiest way to gauge your overall influence; however you can also glean insight on your topics of influence, the users you influence most, and the users who influence you!

Good old Google:

Last but definitely not least, is the good old Google gauge. Google has set the bar for tracking data on the web, with rich analytics and evolving algorithms that try to fairly sort, rank and categorize information. Social data is no different, and a quick Google search can give you an idea of how prominent your social presence really is. When Google reintegrates real-time searches (temporarily turned off, at the moment) you’ll also be able to see your reach, impact and influence in real-time; not to mention the Google+ project which aims to eventually index and assign rankings to all social data on the web.

 

Whichever means your choose to apply when measuring your social influence, engagement and reach, remember that the value is subjective; don’t be discouraged by what you perceive as a low score. Set goals around increasing your scores and monitor them carefully to discover how your social influence, engagement and reach truly measure up.

 

The Big Question: Facebook Polls

Facebook recently introduced their version of the most tried and true feedback tool in the box: Questions. Now anyone can easily create a poll to gather data on anything that comes to mind, and can link back to that poll through their Facebook account or Facebook Page.

However, there is a strategy behind successful polling – just ask Nielsen, or the census committee. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your efforts to ask for feedback.

 

Create a Debate

Which is the most financially savvy gender?
a) Male
b) Female

Giving your users a limited number of answers to choose when replying to a controversial topic will almost always create a debate – in this case, the good ole’ male vs female argument. You don’t need to be inflammatory either; political opinions can be just as strong as say… culinary ones. Avoid offering answers that let people sit easily with their position (ie: no ‘maybe’ option) so you can stimulate a conversation around the difficult options in the comments section.

 

Solicit Suggestions

Where is the best hamburger in the city?
a) Joe’s Local Resto
b) My backyard BBQ
c)…

Leaving the Question open to multiple answers enables a different type of data collection through this Facebook tool. Rather than using a poll to determine a fixed outcome, it can be used to build a list of resources from your audience’s suggestions – in this case, good burgers. This is a fantastic way to engage your audience, solicit feedback and potentially target the next sponsor for your company BBQ.

 

Let them Decide

For our next giveaway, would you rather win…
a) an Apple product
b) an Amazon gift card
c) cash

Never forget that your audience loves to influence you – and you should let them! The impact of a fan-driven decision can bring you greater success, for example in running a contest, and can give you a story to hang the campaign on. Although people can be fickle (and you probably shouldn’t base any major decisions on a poll) this can be a great way to check the oil before you rev up for future initiatives; or if you’re lucky, you may get an incredible idea from the crowd that you would never have thought of on your own.

Build Your Audience: Find a Fan Base (part 3)

The success of online content relies on both traffic and ongoing engagement, which demands a dedicated audience; a fan base. This series first discussed the importance of converting users to fans, and followed with simple ways to generate a connection with your audience and ‘prime’ them for loyalty. The next step is to generate a true fan base that can be a source of ongoing growth through your fans’ social investment.

The bigger your audience, the better chance you have to connect with a casual visitor and convert them to a fan; but it takes particular users to build a solid fan base. Fans are the people who not only read content, but are also willing to get behind it and share it with others. Fans tend to click, comment, enter contests, and generally be more active in the social media conversation. They will also attract other fans just by engaging with your content.

So, how to convert the casual users in your online audience, and identify fans? Here are a few suggestions.

Rewards: You can actively reward your audience and essentially ‘buy’ fans. Though contests and giveaways are easy and most immediately effective, avoid bribing people to click your content; instead try to integrate the rewards, so that the value of your content is reflected. Involving the user in the rewards process will also create a fan following. A simple example would be to have users submit a photo or video entry to qualify for a contest, and then feature their submissions on your site. You could even allow your audience to select a reward by vote, or elect a charity to benefit from your contest. All easy ways to identify and develop a fan base out of your general audience.

Recommendations: You can also solicit recommendations from outside authorities, to help convert a casual audience member to a true fan. Engaging with acknowledged experts around a subject, or having experts participate in your content by commenting or endorsement, lets you potentially benefit from a pre-existing fan base. In general, people take greater interest in supporting content when other people seem interested; having a recommendation from any user immediately validates your value and will attract the potential fans in your audience.

Referrals: Ask your audience for referrals, and ensure your fans can easily promote you to others. The share button itself is the easiest way for a user to ‘refer’ their friends to your content through social investment, essentially recommending your content by posting it to their social streams. Like a medical practice posting a sign in their lobby, make sure your audience knows how much you value referrals and fans.

By adding referrals and focusing on your fans, you’ll build a motivated and loyal audience willing to invest their social capital in your online content.


Corina Newby is a social media strategist, writer and community manager for Supernova.com. She’s also an anti-drama queen who fights crime in a future time @corecorina

Build Your Audience: Connections (part 2)

Woman singing on a vintage microphone

Is your voice reaching your audience?

This is the second post in a three part series on building your audience. Read part 1.

Connecting with an audience encourages deeper page views and repeat visits, but more importantly it encourages greater loyalty to your content. It’s easy to make your audience feel more closely related to your online material, and it will usually pay off in ‘social currency’ as connection drives the desire to share with others.

Establishing this relationship relies on presenting a clear and consistent voice, which can be easily overlooked. Language, tone and style are as important as design in online content. Are you and your brand the same thing? If there’s a strong alignment between you and your audience, it might be a good idea to feature yourself (visually and by name) in your content. However, if you’re representing a distinct brand, then consider the best way to connect with your audience; striking the appropriate level of professionalism vs personality is key.

Connection also thrives on emotional empathy, and even professional content can have an emotional impact on the audience. Ideally, your content will present something insightful, controversial or extraordinary, but in a factual way. To maintain your integrity and keep the audience on your side, avoid taking too strong a stance on any one issue; rather leave it open to debate so that your readers can get involved.

Cementing a link with your audience relies on your ability to involve them in the conversation. If you invite creative involvement from them, they are likely to seize the opportunity and become socially invested in the conversation. The best way to achieve this is to engage them in an open conversation about your content.

Even if your content isn’t open to debate, presenting open ended questions and easy email access to the author can stimulate the audience’s sense of involvement. Comment modules are familiar to the user and often the best route, especially if you can afford to leave them unmoderated. If you can, offer blog and comment subscription options, so that your readers can continue the conversation and feel more involved.

Establishing this connection with your audience will let you slowly convert users to loyal fans. Once you have content that has clear relevance to them, it’s only natural that people will want to share it. Developing a motivated fan base, willing to invest social capital in your online content, is ultimately what drives success.


Corina Newby is a social media strategist, writer and community manager for Supernova.com. She’s also an anti-drama queen who fights crime in a future time @corecorina

Tweet me, tag me, tell me…how do you talk to people?

* This is a re-post of the guest post I wrote for The Inspiring Bee

Lauren MacEwen and David MacEwen talking

How do you talk to people?

When people are getting into Twitter and Facebook , they usually want to know: How do you talk to people?

This might sound like a beginner question, but it really isn’t.  Whether you are a business or an individual, this is an issue you will struggle with throughout your social media life.

So, how do you talk to people?

Learning how to use social media is more than just posting an occasional update on Twitter or Facebook.  Let’s look at some tips to make sure you are reaching your audience, starting conversations, meeting people and adding value.

  • Do you have a voice?
    You need to know what your voice is going to be. Are you Personal? Professional? Advisor? Jovial? Cynical? Are you centering this on yourself or your business? Finding your voice is central to your branding and an important key to talking with people.
  • Are you posting at the time of day your audience is on Twitter or Facebook?
    You want to make sure that your extremely valuable opinion is being expressed when your audience is online. Make sure you are active when you audience is active.
  • Are you reaching your audience?
    Do you know who your audience is? Peers? Potential clients? Topical blog readers? Shoppers?  Who are you trying to reach – and are you talking to them?  Many times I have seen people with good Twitter followings, but when they are trying to reach potential clients they are only talking to peers. Then they wonder why they don’t get leads.
  • Talk to your audience
    So you found your audience, but are you talking to them? Reach out and do not be afraid to make the first step. If you are on Twitter, mention them in a tweet. If you are on Facebook, comment on an interesting wall post or post a “Nice to meet you” on their wall.  All you need to do is reach out, and most likely the person will respond. And if they don’t? Don’t give up on one try. Reach out again.  Even if you don’t reach them, you might reach some of their followers.

Twitter

  • Hashtags will get you in.
    Hashtags (a pound sign next to a keyword or topic, e.g.#business) let people searching for a specific topic easily find tweets about that topic. They are a great way to join in on a conversation.  If you are posting about a topic, research the tags being used for that topic and use them.  Even if you are not responding to someone else’s tweet, someone might see yours and begin a conversation.  This is great for finding a topic-related audience.
  • Retweeting
    Retweeting is a great way to start an exchange. If you see something you like, retweet it and share it with your followers.  Most likely the person will thank you for the retweet, and this opens up the opportunity for a chat.
  • Join the conversation
    If someone asks a question and you know the answer to it, tweet them the answer. If someone is having a discussion that is interesting, jump right in. If they didn’t want people to participate, they would not be having it publicly. Instead of doing just a simple retweet, do a retweet with a comment like “Great post” or “Interesting, did you also like….”. Comments like this will help foster discussion.

Facebook

  • Go Like pages!
    Find pages you like and are compatible with your social media goals; networking, branding, sales, clients, peer relations. Go out and be generous with Liking other pages. After all, it doesn’t cost you anything but it can bring you benefits. After you Like them, post something on the wall, even if it is a simple hello.
  • Tag Tag Tag
    Tagging people in a post is the best way to passively network.  To tag someone, all you have to do is type @ and then their name, or the name of a page.  This will put a link to the person or page in your post.  By tagging, not only are you linking to them, but your post will also appear on their wall.  Now all their friends and fans can see your post and you might get some new friends/fans.  It is also a great way to casually introduce someone to your friends/fans, which is usually highly appreciated by the person you tagged.
  • Join the conversation
    Hop on your newsfeed and see what your friends and favorite pages are posting, then comment on their posts. Everyone likes interactions on their posts, so why not interact?  If you see a lot of comments, then definitely join in the conversation. Add something to the discussion, or comment about the original post. Your comment goes out to every person who commented or Liked the post before you. The networking opportunities are amazing!

Lauren MacEwenLauren MacEwen is a social media strategist and avid blogger. She focuses on engagement marketing, a style of marketing designed to help you reach and communicate with your target audience. She has blogged extensively about social media, and often speaks about blogging and social media strategy.

Follow her on Twitter @laurencubed Find her on Facebook

Read her blog at www.smcubedconsulting.com

James Franco makes Oscar (and Twitter) History

James Franco getting ready at the Oscars

A pic posted by James Franco on his Twitter stream #oscarrealtime

There have been many critiques about James Franco’s performance at the Oscars. Where his performance on screen might have seemed lackluster, his performance on Twitter was certainly not; in fact, he just made Oscar history. James Franco was tweeting, posting pictures and videos from behind the scenes in live time.

The Academy tried to appeal to a younger audience by choosing younger hosts.  Though many people feel they ignored social media, that is not exactly true. The Oscars did try to capitalize on the social media culture. They created a Fan Page and a Twitter stream – but most of the buzz surrounding the Oscars was not created by the Academy.  In fact, I did not see people interacting with, or retweeting, the official Twitter stream.  However, people were tweeting about James Franco’s tweets and using their own hashtags for commentary. There was a lot of social media buzz about the Oscars, just not much created by the Oscars themselves.

Where the Oscars failed, James Franco did not. This is a perfect example of popularity vs. influence, though of course Franco has both.  With 248,000 followers he is also influential. His twitter stream was being watched attentively by an audience that commented on his tweets being more interesting than the show itself.

Throughout the show, James was tweeting pictures and videos from behind the scenes. Though ABC had created a paid app to see behind the scene, theirs was typical. James found a new voice; he gave us the viewpoint of a host in a way that was relatable to the non-Hollywood audience.

At the beginning of the show, James walked out holding his camera phone.  Many people in the audience did not realize that in a couple of minutes that point of view was making its debut on Twitter:

Meanwhile people were tweeting about the fact that he was filming for Twitter.

Many of his other videos were filming himself being filmed. He brought us covertly onstage with a pocket cam, where all was dark but you could hear what was going on. This featured walking through corridors and nearly black footage that captured glimpses of backstage life.

James managed to engage the Twitter Oscar audience in a way that he did not engage the TV viewing audience.  His behind the scenes videos seemed like moments of time stolen and filmed on the down low.  They were artistic and raw and gave a perspective of the Academy Awards we have never had before.

Finding your voice

Cartoon drawing of a woman saying "I Love my voice!"

You may love your voice, but does your audience?Are you speaking to them in a way that resonates?

Finding your voice is an important part of the social media process.  It seems like this should be easy, but it is not.  We all have ideas about what we want our online identities to be when we start our social networks.  People usually just decide to be themselves. As a business, one generally has an idea of the business “personality”. However, Twitter and Facebook are very different kinds of networks and ask for distinct kinds of interactions.  So, our personalities often adopt diverse expressions in these different networks.

However, the crafting of your personality needs to be carefully based around your objective and your audience. Although you may have an idea of who you are online, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be what elicits the most responses from your audience, or drives the most sales.

When I first start working with a client, I take a splatter approach to posting.  I experiment with a variety of posts, with different tones and  content.  I do this to begin establishing what their audience will respond to.  Your online followers are a unique group, thus you cannot base your communications on the success or failure of someone else.

I had two separate clients who essentially shared the same audience.  Client A mainly talked about his family. Client B mainly talked about controversial issues.  When Client A tried to talk about controversy, it was not well received.  When Client B talked about his family, he had very little interaction. The reason for this related to the branding they had done. Client A was seen as a family man and that was how his audience wanted to engage with him. Client B was thought of as a dissenter and someone who was fighting the people in power; the fact that he was a family man as well did not seem to interest his audience.

If our online personalities are a product of our branding, they can also be extremely formative to the evolution of our branding.  Pay attention to what your audience responds to, because if your goal is to reach them for sales, support or awareness, you need to know what approach and tone will engage them.

Nail Your Presentation – 18 Tips

close up of a microphone in front of a large audience

Here are some valuable recommendations to help you give great presentations:

  1. Know your topic: Confidence in your knowledge will overcome nervousness, and you will be able to field any question. Make sure you know your stuff!
  2. Back up! Many presentations require Powerpoint or slides.  Have multiple format options because one will fail, another will turn out to be the wrong format, and you might lose one! If you have multiple copies and formats then one will certainly work.  I usually have 3-4. I bring a disc, a flash drive, my computer and then have a backup online.  If you are wondering if I have actually had 3 out of 4 fail, the answer is YES!
  3. Over prepare: Spend time getting familiar with your presentation.  Sit with it.  Make sure you know how to answer questions and still be able to get back on track, draw it out if you are moving to fast, or speed it up if you are taking too long. If you are comfortable with your presentation, things will be less likely to throw you.
  4. Bring everything! Bring business cards, pens, paper. Bring your computer power cord. Bring chapstick, kleenex. Bring water. If you think there is a remote chance you are going to need, it bring it. Because whatever you don’t bring will be the thing that you wish you had!
  5. Early Bird: Get ready early. Leave your house early. Get there early. If you do not have any time pressure, you will be more relaxed. I just heard a story from this guy who got to his presentation venue 3 hours early because he wanted to hear some of the other speakers. When he got there he discovered they had moved his time slot and forgot to tell him. So he was actually not 3 hours early, he was on time.
  6. Extra! Extra! I just gave a talk that went great. I had my video camera set up to capture the magic.  I discovered after the talk that my SIM card filled up after 4 minutes. I did not even get a usable clip.  So make sure you bring extra batteries, memory cards or whatever you need to make sure you don’t miss the magic.
  7. Eye Contact: Find someone in the audience you can look at. Find one person you can keep returning your gaze to and make eye contact with. You’ll always give a better presentation if you look at your audience, but finding one person to connect with can help calm you down.  It is better if it is someone you know.  If you don’t know anyone, try to talk to some people beforehand and then look at one of them.  Even knowing someone for 2 minutes can be a comfort to you.
  8. Stay Focused: It is easy to get off track.  Use your Powerpoint, or note cards to help keep you focused.  If you get frazzled, take a second to get your bearings (drink some water to give you a moment to center) and get back on point.
  9. Don’t Memorize: If you memorize your talk it will sound canned.  Don’t memorize, learn.  Memorizing can be daunting. It is a lot of text to learn and  if you get thrown off track it is a lot harder to get back on point. If you know your topic, practice some key phrases and know what you want to communicate it will be much easier to actually speak and engage with your audience.
  10. Test your Tech: If you are using PowerPoint, make sure you know how to get from slide to slide. Using Prezi, know how to maneuver your mind map. If you are counting on having a video of your talk, make sure you have tested your camera. If you are supposed to use a computer provided by the venue or organization, think about bringing yours as a backup.
  11. Get involved: Let people know that you welcome questions and comments. An engaged audience is an attentive audience.  Don’t think of yourself as talking at them, think of it as though you are talking with them.
  12. Questions in the middle: Don’t save questions for the end.  If you end your talk by saying “any questions?” and you hear the crickets chirping, it ends your talk on a down note. Also, people might forget what question or comment they had at the beginning.  Integrate questions into the flow.  Encourage people to ask questions during your presentation, or ask them to come up to you after the talk so you can address them one on one.
  13. Ask your own questions: Don’t be afraid to ask your audience or your panel questions.  I was recently on a panel with other social media people. There was a discussion about SEO.  I asked a question to the SEO expert that I wanted to know, and I thought others might wonder about but not ask.  I asked the question, he complimented me on it and proceeded to answer.  Questions will help make your talk more dynamic and interesting, so don’t be afraid to include them occasionally.
  14. Breath Mint: Make sure you don’t have coffee breath (or something more noxious).  You will be addressing a group, but at some point you’ll be face to face with someone and it might be someone important. Don’t kill them with halitosis.
  15. I don’t know: If someone asks you a question and you don’t have the answer, do not be afraid to tell them that you don’t know. Then get their email and phone so you can follow up with them after you refer to your notes or do some research. Nothing is worse than someone trying to come up with an answer when they don’t have one.
  16. Solicit feedback: If you have someone at the talk that you trust, ask them how you did. Solicit honest feedback so you know what you need to improve upon and what you excelled at.
  17. Its ok to be nervous: Most people get nervous before they get up and speak. There is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t let it run you. You can use your nervous energy to keep you on your toes. Remember to breathe.
  18. Go to the bathroom: Remember you mom asking if you had to go, and you always said no? Then 10 minutes into the car ride you had to?  Take mom’s advice: go even if you don’t think you have to. Trust me – you do not want to be distracted by “whoa, I really gotta go” while trying to show your audience how brilliant you are.

You are talking but no one is listening: Understand your audience

a 1950's movie audience wearing 3D glasses

Understanding your audience is an important part of marketing strategy.  Who are they? What are their age ranges?  Are they predominantly male or female? Unfortunately, you can know everything about the demographics of your audience and still not reach them. An important factor that is often overlooked is: when are they active?

Knowing when your audience is online is important for a number of reasons:

1.  If you want to be sure your target audience is reading your posts, then you want to make sure you are posting when they are online.

2. Posting relevant content at relevant times shows them that you are part of the group, participating in the conversation, rather than someone from the outside trying to broadcast information

3. Work smart not hard.  If you don’t get traffic on the weekends, stop posting on the weekends.

People are always trying to figure out how to drive more traffic.  The best way to do this is to thoroughly understand your audience.  By knowing when they are likely to be most active you can optimize your time by using it effectively.

There is no shortcut for this.  You can read all the stats you want and see when people tweet the most, and what days are best to post to your blog.  Ultimately every audience is unique.  What works for one person might not work for you.  Keep track of your stats, watch your traffic, monitor your engagement.  Pay attention to when your audience is paying attention.  Once you know them it will be easier to get them to know you.