The old standbys – Facebook and Twitter – will continue to be essential elements of most social media strategies in 2014 but expect LinkedIn and Google+ to make strong gains in terms of influence and reach. That was one of the many insights from a panel of Madison area social media experts at Wednesday’s Social Media Breakfast Madison at the Best Western Inntowner.
The panel suggested that businesses large and small avoid spreading themselves thin and make sure they have at least gotten off to a good start with Facebook and Twitter before moving on to other networks. However, for businesses that are already solid on Facebook and Twitter, 2014 might be the year to put a little more effort and additional resources into LinkedIn and Google+.
“My prediction is that we’re going to see a lot of businesses move from Facebook to LinkedIn,” said Collin Kromke (@collinkromke), Social Media Administrator in the Digital Marketing Department at American Family Insurance.
The panel noted that one reason some businesses may feel tempted to move away from Facebook is that the social media giant has dramatically changed its algorithm in a way that causes your posts to appear much less frequently in the news feeds of your “fans” unless you pay to “boost” the post. Tom Buchheim (@tombuchheim), who leads social media content strategy for American Family, said AmFam’s engagement on Facebook dropped from the 20%-25% range down to 5% as a result.
While that may be a good reason to explore other options, he said, American Family is going to stick with Facebook but change its strategy by posting less frequently and paying to boost those key posts.
Panelists expressed a frustration with Google+ because it lacks the popularity of Facebook, making it challenging to generate engagement. However, because it is part of the Google empire, it can be very beneficial for businesses to have a presence on Google+. Indications are that Google rewards businesses that are involved in Google+, panelists said.
“If we want to be found on search, we need to be in Google+,” said Ron Giordan (@rongiordan), Social Media/Public Relations Strategy Director for Mid-West Digital Marketing. “Start posting to Google+. Google sees that and it matters.”
“Put your blog posts on Google+ because Google will then rank them higher,” added Megan Cabalka (@mcabalka), Operations and Marketing Manager at Neckerman Insurance Services.
Social Media Breakfast Madison would like to thank the seven panelists who agreed to share their expertise after our scheduled speaker, Adrian Reif of Yumbutter, had to cancel at the last minute because weather prevented him from getting back to Madison from a trip to Guatemala. In addition to Collin, Tom, Ron and Megan, the panel consisted of Krista Ledbetter (@krittabug), Social Media Account Executive at Kennedy Communications and Secretary of SMBMAD; Jessica Underwood (@junderwood), from NBC15; and Amanda Kreighbaum (@findingamanda), Marketing Director at Jeff Havens Company.
Most panelists are longtime attendees at Social Media Breakfast Madison events, and they shared their feedback with comments such as this from Kreighbaum: “I always walk away (from Social Media Breakfast Madison events) feeling inspired and energized. I make at least a few connections and come away with good tips and a lot of energy I can take back to my job.”
“People are constantly wanting to learn more about social media,” Buchheim said. “There are no social media experts anymore. Everyone is learning on the fly.”
The panelists fielded a wide range of questions, from identifying common mistakes in social media to how to handle aggressively negative comments toward your business. Here are some of the tips and perspectives they shared:
- When you link to content, don’t send the user immediately to a form asking for their email. First give them the content you promised them. (Amanda)
- “The main thing to avoid is just not doing it. Social media is a living, breathing thing. It’s changing every day. If you wait, you’ll never do it. The main problem I see people have with social media is just not doing it.” (Jessica)
- My pet peeve is businesses that “run social media as if it’s a business as opposed to being a person.” (Ron)
- Don’t put more than two hashtags on a Tweet. (Ron)
- “You have to just be you.” And make sure that what you write “fits your brand.” (Tom)
- Don’t spread yourself too thin. “I work with agents, and the first thing they want to do is get on every social network, and I am constantly telling them to start with one, start with something and get good at it.” (Collin)
- There is nothing worse than going to a website and seeing links to every social media network and then clicking on them and finding nothing of value. (Krista)
- Don’t share the same things across different networks. “You have to customize your message for the social network you are using.” (Megan)
- Don’t be afraid to block people from your Facebook page if they use profanity or behave inappropriately. If you respond to legitimate complaints quickly and are kind, people will respond appropriately, plus other fans will stand up for you. (Ron)
- Have guidelines/usage policies that specify that people who use profanity will be blocked. If a customer/user is upset but behaves appropriately, try to take the conversation offline and work to resolve the complaint. (Krista)
- In terms of responding to complaints, “Usually what works in the real world works online.” (Jessica)
- Sometimes you can use social media to resolve situations and make unhappy customers happy. “It’s an opportunity to showcase your customer service.” (Amanda)
- When customers express their love for your business, ask them to spread the word through social media. “Just ask your customers to do it! If they respect your service, they will do it for you.” (Megan)
- “I believe Twitter is going to be the biggest explosion this year. I believe Twitter is going to continue to grow quickly.” (Ron)
- To get maximum reach out of Facebook, you are probably going to have to pay to boost posts, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Smaller businesses have fewer fans, which cost less. Divert money from the Yellow Pages or display advertising and see if you don’t get more for your money on Facebook. (Tom)
- “You should have a blog on your website. People read blogs. Write a weekly blog and pay to boost that post on Facebook because that takes people to your website. Blogs show people you are a real person. The blog doesn’t have to directly push your product. Content is king and your own content is going to help you. That’s how you’re going to get your lead.” (Ron)
- Reddit is a great way to curate content. (Amanda)
- Post pictures with your Tweets. “When you see a photo amidst the sea of links, you notice the photo.” (Jessica)
- Connecting your authorship to Google+ will help you get found in search. “Google is the owner of the Internet, and we have to play by their rules.” (Tom)
Photo by Daniel Becker, Paint Creek Photography