Archives for January 2014

Social Media Marketing – is it REALLY all that new?

new2Let’s be real – Social Media Marketing isn’t really all that new…

We were clicking, viewing, commenting and sharing, long before the term ‘social media’ was coined.

The world of business is going mad for social media, with a recent study suggesting 92% of businesses in North America are using it in some way.

This is exciting of course, but in this excitement, many seem to have forgotten that while some of the technology may be new, the phenomena is not.

In fact, this interactive methodology has been at the core of internet marketing since its very inception. Web pages are, after all, interactive and multimedia by their very nature. We were clicking, viewing, commenting and sharing, long before the term ‘social media’ was coined.

In fact, ‘social’ has always been as aspect of marketing. So, how can the lessons of the past inform the way we approach social media marketing today?

Mistaken identities

What is new to many businesses trying out social media for the first time is the idea of anything other than direct selling. On your website, if you want to you can say what you do, why you are the best at it, ask people to buy and no one will bat an eyelid. The same goes for advertising, of course. But in the social media space, this is not so. Or at least, it can’t make up the majority of what you say.

If you’re familiar with networking in the real world, this will come as no surprise, but if you’re not and you try to use your social media profile as advertising space, you’ll be sorely disappointed at the results. Put simply, your social media profile should be more akin to your whole business persona, not just the advertising part of it.

In real life, you wouldn’t just sell, sell, sell (I hope), you would be informative, knowledgeable and helpful. Knowing the value of word of mouth, you would build connections, have conversations and generally get involved in your community. You would take an interest in others and sometimes, your conversations would be with a view to selling, but sometimes they wouldn’t.

Once you think of it like that, your social media strategy should look a whole lot clearer.

Same game, new pitch

So once we accept that social media goes beyond simple advertising, what else can we learn from the marketing that went before? What can we do to ensure it’s not just chat for chat’s sake?

Three techniques that can work wonders in the social media space are: offering free information, helping promote others reciprocally, and giving exclusive offers to others in the online ‘community’. But, again, these techniques are much older than the space they now inhabit.

Ever given out a free fact sheet to anyone that visits your office? Or helped out a person you meet at a conference by passing on the details of a third party? Or offered a ‘buy on get one free’ deal via your shop window?

These classic promotional techniques existed way before social media, so what’s the lesson here? A lot of social media marketing isn’t about reinventing the wheel, it’s about taking what we’ve collectively learned from other marketing activities (in our offices, at networking events, on our websites) and looking at how these can be carried through to our social networking personas.

Making it work for you

The beauty of social media is that the initial outlay is exceptionally cheap compared to many other forms of marketing. Get yourself a profile and then listen carefully to the buzz that’s happening around you. Follow people you’d like to emulate, and those you’d like as customers. Engage as a useful resource long before you begin to add straight sales techniques to the mix, and above all, keep it up. Again, just like any other form of marketing, social media is about keeping a consistent presence. Drift away, and so will your audience.

Need some help with your Social Media Marketing strategy? Give our Mentoring tryout package a try!

 

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Seven Sins of Internet Marketing

This article originally appeared on Business Zone

Untitled designNikki Pilkington looks at the mistakes entrepreneurs all too often make in a bid to get noticed online.

It’s so easy to start promoting a business online that many people seem to launch into it without much thought for the image they are portraying or the consequences of their actions.

Here are seven internet marketing faux pas, and the preferable alternatives.

1) Unfocussed, mass emailing

You acquire a huge list of random email addresses, tap out a nice salesy email about your business and send it out to everyone on the list in the hope that someone will find your offer relevant. Good marketing model? No. Spam? Yes.

Mass emailing with no target, and worse, no permission, is spam, pure and simple. Your mailing list should be entirely ‘opt in’ and the content you send should be relevant and useful to the recipients, even if that means writing slightly different mail outs for different groups.

2) Irrelevant content

You have read that lots of fresh content is the key to getting your site noticed, so you scour the internet for any free to use bits and pieces that vaguely relate to your offering and post them all over your site.

Posting any old nonsense on your site just to bump up content is a very, very bad idea. Not only could this be to the serious detriment of your credibility, it is also very unlikely to pull in relevant visitors, so you won’t benefit in real terms.

3) Content theft

In your quest for relevant, useful content, you come across some great posts on other people’s sites – perhaps even competitors. With a quick bit of cutting and pasting, you have reams of fresh, high quality content on your site.

Lifting content from other sites and publishing it on your own without permission is a seriously inadvisable. Unless clearly stated otherwise on the content owner’s site, you should always seek permission before republishing content. You should also include a credit and a link back to the original source.

4) Spamming forums

You want as many people as possible to hear about your new sales promotion, so you search for any forum with a relevant-ish topic and post your promotion verbatim on as many threads as you can. Before you know it, there are hundreds of references to your offer all over the web.

And the result of your efforts? You are seen as a spammer, banned from several forums, probably attacked in others, and people are generally rather annoyed with you. Remember, internet marketing via social media is about conversations, not shouting the loudest. By all means mention offers when they are relevant to the topic, but don’t expect to get results without putting time in to build relationships.

5) Falsifying testimonials

You’ve had a lovely new site developed for your new venture, and in the left hand column there’s a special section for displaying your best testimonials. In time, you’ll have some great things to put there, but right now, you’ve got nothing. You decide the best this to do is make a few up using generic names like Joan S and Bill P. It can’t hurt, can it?

Using false or unsubstantiated testimonials is another quick route towards losing any credibility and trust you command. Instead, use the space for something else and work on getting real testimonials by providing a great service.

6) Puffed up claims

Your company is newly formed, so you don’t feel you have many legitimately impressive claims to make yet. You know your employees have collectively worked for several blue chip firms, so you tell a little white lie and claim your company has served those firms. Well, it’s kind of true, isn’t it?

Bad idea. You could be threatened with legal action and suffer irreparable damage to your reputation. Be honest, work with what you’ve got, and publicise your achievements as they happen.

7) Abusing social media trends

Social media trends – the topics users are talking about most – can be a real temptation for internet marketers. Take Twitter, for example: it seems all you need to do is put the ‘tag’ for a current trend at the end of your ‘tweet’ and you’ll get seen. Who cares if the tag isn’t relevant if it gets you an audience? Well, your audience cares.

Abusing social media trends with irrelevant content has landed a few companies in hot water in recent months. Most famously, a ew years ago, a Habitat ‘intern’ caused some serious damage to the brand’s reputation when it put out promotional messages tagged with a reference to the Iran elections. Use tags honestly so that only those interested in what you offer will see your messages.

So the bad news is that it’s easy to get internet marketing wrong, but the good news is it is possible to get it right and get great results, so long as you have the time to invest and are willing to learn from the mistakes of others.

Want to get it right? Check out my Social Media Mentoring services!

 

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Online reputation management – what to do about negative reviews online?

What to do with negative reviews online_One of the great things about the Internet is the level of freedom of speech that exists there. If we experience bad service from a product or service provider, we can tell other people, so they can weigh up the pros and cons before choosing to spend their money with the same vendor. This has really accelerated the way that word of mouth travels via the Internet, allowing your best customers to sell your products and services for you through their positive feedback and reviews.

However, the trouble is, that the freedom of the Internet that allows people to have their fair say have also allowed people to use the same processes to damage your reputation online. Whether their comments are negative, truthful reviews written by people that didn’t get the customer experience that they should, or negative, fake reviews written by competitors, disgruntled employees or ex-business partners, it’s important to know what’s being said about you.

So what do you do with negative reviews? It’s all about managing your online reputation and there is a lot that you can do.

Okay, so what happens when you Google your company name and a string of negative comments appears on the front page of Google? No doubt you’ll start losing customers immediately and that could be incredibly costly for your business. Let’s face it, Google is the greatest shopping directory ever invented and if you come up negatively on the front page, you just have no idea of the damage to your reputation because you can’t count the number of potential customers that you lose from it.

The first step to take when you discover a negative review is to check its veracity or verify if the complaint is a genuine one. In lots of cases, it could easily be a lie published by a competitor or just someone out to cause trouble for your business.

The next step is to find out if there are more complaints like it elsewhere on the Internet. You do this by Googling ‘your company name’ plus words associated with negative reviews such as ‘complaints’, ‘feedback’, ‘scam’, ‘problems’, ‘bad service’. I’m sure you get the point.

If you’re absolutely certain that the reviews or comments are not genuine, then you can politely email the sites that are publishing those reviews and offer them your side of the story and ask if they would kindly remove it. The trouble is that not all review sites will let you challenge a review and some will just flat-out refuse to remove anything from their site, even if you have proof.

If they refuse to do anything or ignore your messages, then see if you can add a comment of your own to the site setting the story straight. This at least shows that you are aware of the problem and were willing to do something about it. If it’s genuine, you have the chance to please a disgruntled customer, if it’s fake, people will see that you made an effort to address the situation at least.

If it is indeed a genuine problem, use the opportunity to resolve the issue and post the resolution on that website. More often than not, if you successfully resolve the complaint, the complainant will remove the complaint from the site.

If neither of these simple approaches works, you may need to go deeper. You can post a message on your website that’s optimised for the same searches that bring up the negative review comments. Let people know that there are issues and that you are working to resolve them. This works particularly well if the complaints are lies, but obviously highlighting problems is not a great sales tactic.

If the negative reviews only appear when your company name is searched for on Google, then you need to drive the reviews off the front page by ensuring that your name appears positively enough times on the front page to push them further down Google into the abyss. Using blogs, review sites, online profiles and other high profile websites are great for this.

Ensure that your own site features plenty of positive reviews so that you can point out how ‘out of place’ and ‘wrong’ the negative reviews are.

The best thing that you can do is to set up a level of monitoring regarding your company and its online reputation. You can do this for free by setting up Google alerts or use an application that will regularly check what’s being said about you online. Remember, it’s vital that as a business trading on the web that you are absolutely 100% sure of what’s being said about you in the public forum of the Internet and take steps to respond accordingly to any negative reviews that you find there.

But if all else fails, it may be time to bring in an online reputation management specialist that can wipe the negative reviews off the net for you.

If you need help fighting negative reviews and managing your online reputation, then we may be able to help. Nikki Pilkington is an expert in Internet and Social Media Marketing, and in some cases can help companies to manage their negative reviews and increase their awareness of what’s being said about them online. To find out more, email nikkipilk@gmail.com

 

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What’s new in 2014 for NikkiPilkington.com

What's NewWell, it’s 2014 – a new year, and lots of exciting plans ahead here at NP Towers! The first working week was spent putting alot of plans and infrastructure together. Processes have been mapped out, and customers imported into a CRM and Project Mnaagement tool (http://www.apptivo.com).

Now it’s full speed ahead for 2014!

New office hours

As of January 1st, my working hours will be:

Monday: Closed

Tuesday: 8am – 6pm

Wednesday: 8am – 6pm (this is my out of office day for meetings so I’ll be checking in on my phone)

Thursday: 8am – 6pm

Friday: 8am – 6pm

Saturday: Closed

Sunday: Closed

As a separated mum of a 3 year old, I’ve taken the decision in 2014 to be very rigid about my working hours. Mondays are ‘Mummy and Livi’ days (she goes to nursery the rest of the week, and weekends are for fun things. As the saying goes, no-one says on their death bed ‘I wish I’d worked more’…

New office

The second half of 2013 was the time I experimented with being in an office again – and to be honest it didn’t work well. Although it allowed me to separate work from home in principle, it didn’t really worklike that.

Internet issues, travelling time and other problems meant that I was still working late into the night – something I want to avoid in 2014.

So I’m moving things back home – the plan is to convert the loft into an office later in the year, but for now I have a lovely area set aside to work in and will be pretty strict with my time.

New packages

I’m working on some new packages based around logging, SEO and Social Media – feedback from potential clients have helped me to put these together and I’ll be rolling them out over the next few weeks.

New prices

I spent a lot of time over the Christmas and New Year period chatting to various business mentors and reading a lot of business books. And it has become clear that I need to change my pricing – somehting I’ve been very wary of in the past.

So, after looking at competitor prices and reading lots about ‘value perception’, I’ll be overhauling all of the pricing.

I still want to work primarily with small businesses, so it won’t be anything too drastic (for example the Bonkers Blogging Offer will be £150 instead of £99), but I only have so many hours in the day, and this will allow me to focus more on the customers I have, rather than constantly adding more to my workload.

New philosophy

After a slew of issues in 2013, personally, healthwise and businesswise, it has become clear to me that I need to be more strict about how I spend my time. I’m well aware that working from home can lead to disorganisation and distraction, so I aim to be very hard on work vs. home time! No avoiding writing that blog post because the washing up needs doing, thinking ‘I’ll deal with that once I’ve loaded the washing machine’, etc.

Home is home and work is work – never the twain shall meet!

Tell me in the comments what YOU’RE doing to change things for your business in 2014?

Online reputation management: what to do if your reputation takes a beating online

(This article originally appeared at Mad.co.uk)

Sad face

Sad face (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s every business’s worst internet nightmare: you head over to Google, tap in your company name to see how your web presence is coming along, and there in prominent position is something far from positive about your brand. Deserved or not, this entry could be damaging your business with every passing second.

Depending on the context, there are four main options available to you when faced with the threat of brand trashing: address it, remove it, bury it, prevent it.

Address it

Let’s look at bad mouthing. The power of the internet means that you can’t possibly control what people write about you – but your reputation can be made as much by how you respond to criticism as by the criticism itself.

When you stumble across a bad review, your first action should be to assess the comments as objectively as possible. Ask yourself, “Is this true? Have we done something to warrant this review?”

It’s all too easy to jump in and post a reply that’s defensive and perhaps even aggressive, but answering badly can just make you look worse. Instead, keep emotion out of it and aim to post a considered reply that answers the criticism calmly and factually.

If the review is warranted, it’s best to admit to any wrongdoing and say what you’re doing to fix the problem. This shows that you value your customers’ opinions and that you’re willing to correct your mistake. It’s then vital to follow up on any promises you have made.

It’s important to respond publicly, so even if you can’t give the full details, something as simple as, “Thanks for your comment, I’ve emailed you to find out more” could show that you’re working to address it and stop criticism spiralling further.

If you manage to resolve the problem at the root of the bad review, you can then post an update, and even encourage the original complainant to do so too.

Remove it

If a review or comment on a public forum is completely untrue, you can contact the site owner with an explanation and ask for it to be removed. However this will usually be down to their discretion so won’t work in every instance.

Sometimes, even deleted mentions can remain present in search results in the ‘cache’ – a sort of snap shot of how the page looked the last time the search engine checked. In such instances, you can submit a request that the search engine update their records (using Google’s webpage removal request tool or Bing’s support request form, choosing the ‘Content Removal Request’ option).

In the social media sphere, if you find someone pretending to represent your brand, sites such as Facebook or Twitter will usually respond quickly to remove imposters. Simply report the profile with evidence that it’s false.

If someone sets up a website with claims to be part of your brand, however, things aren’t quite so simple. If they won’t take it down on request, you next need to decide whether it’s worthwhile fighting it legally. In some cases, it might be that the fraudulent site has very little search engine visibility, so is only a minor threat that can be managed using a technique called ‘burying’.

Bury it

If a reviewer or site owner simply refuses to remove their content, no matter how unfair or untrue, you might wish to bury it. This involves ensuring that when your company name is searched for, mainly good things come up.

Let’s say your last client has said on GetSatisfaction that your service is rubbish. That review is here to stay and you don’t want other potential clients seeing it, so the objective is to dominate at least the first ten search results with positive things about your brand, effectively driving any bad mentions off the front page.

Social media profiles like Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as directory listings such as FreeIndex and BT Tradespace are perfect for this. Make sure those profiles are well populated with regularly updated content to keep them at the top of the search engines.

Prevent it

As with anything, prevention is better than cure. Don’t wait until you’re faced with a negative mention to start ensuring good things appear when people search for your brand.

It’s wise to buy up all likely domain name permutations of your brand (particularly your own country’s domain, plus .com), and sites like http://knowem.com/ or http://namechk.com/ will help you similarly reserve your brand name on social media sites.

Next, make sure anyone responsible for speaking on behalf of your brand online understands what they can and can’t say as company representatives.

Finally, have your response procedure planned out in advance, so you know exactly how you will deal with any problems well before they arise. If things do go wrong, be ready to answer criticism, keep emotion out of it, request removals where possible, and bury anything unfair that remains.

Need some help with bad publicity online? I am the owner/founder of NikkiPilkington.com, a 20 year old  internet marketing company based in the UK and France – drop me a line at nikkipilk@gmail.com and see if I can help!

 

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