Thursday, 3 April 2014

Social Media – this much I know...


Today's post is all about sharing a little of what I know about social media because there have been some big changes for businesses that use facebook pages lately - and not for the better!... 

Having spent a few years regularly posting updates to my facebook page (pictured above) and gathering a loyal following, I’ve watched my page post’s average organic reach drop to below 20% of the number subscribed to my page.  Equally, over those years I have also liked and followed many, many, many other pages that I enjoy seeing updates from and have interacted with, yet recently most of those pages seemed to have disappeared entirely from my newsfeed only to be replaced by sponsored posts for things that don’t interest me at all.  I understand that facebook is a business and that they need to make money for their shareholders – but their current strategy is spoiling the experience of being a facebook user.   It has got me thinking about how better to spend my time when it comes to using social media to promote my business and discover other wonderful businesses to network with.

So, rather than sitting around wringing my hands and worrying about the situation, I put my experience as a former ad agent to good use and decided to do a bit of desk research (as any good advertising or marketing exec would) to see how it would be best to divide up my time spent on online marketing and where and how should I be pouring my energies.  At the end of the day, I have very little budget I can spend on paid for advertising, so what little I have would have to work extremely hard for me.

Knowing that I am certainly not the only business in this situation, I will now share with you some of my findings from my research in the hope that it will help other’s make better plans for their small businesses too...

Source: Breaking Copy -
A little while ago an image was being circulated online (originating from Instagram and a man called Douglas Wray) of a whiteboard with ‘Social Media Explained With Donuts’ - which is why this blog post will be illustrated throughout with my little doodles of donuts (mmmm donuts!).

My research started with asking who are the leading social media networks? who is the face behind them? and whether they own other networks?  how big are they in terms of users? Who are the most popular sites at the moment? Then for each I looked at what they offer me - what their benefits are? basically their pros and cons.

This is a summary (all be it an epic sized summary) of what I found out. Hopefully it will gather all the information in one, easy to find place...

(User stats sourced from an article on May 2013, other info gathered from Wikipedia)

So, it's no surprise that at No 1 is...

Facebook Inc, A Public company, Chair – Mark Zuckerberg, 
Facebook Inc also own Instagram.
Number of Users: circa 900 million
Businesses can create a page on facebook and then post updates, images and links to other online content in order to grow a following of ‘likers’ and promote their brand.  Facebook provides stats to page admin users so they can assess their page’s performance for each item posted, whether that’s organic (not paid for) or sponsored (paid for).

Facebook is still currently the most popular network, despite noises that its younger users are turning elsewhere. I don’t suppose that worries facebook too much, with a web savvy aging population and its massive user numbers, facebook has an extremely long way to fall. 

Facebook’s recent changes to their user feed determines how often posts get displayed and were introduced to encourage businesses that use facebook to market their brands to purchase sponsored posts.

So that there is no doubt, everyone who owns a business page on facebook should have a look at this article published on Ad Age’s site in Dec 2013, which spells out from the horse’s mouth (Facebook Inc) what their plans are:

The key sentence in that article that stands out to me is this one (from the author of the article):

In other words, the main reason to acquire fans isn't to build a free distribution channel for content; it's to make future Facebook ads work better.”

Makes stark reading doesn’t it?  And with my organic reach now so low, it really makes me question the amount of time I invest in my facebook page anymore.  That doesn’t mean to say I won’t be keeping my hand in as it’s still clearly the largest social media network.  It just means, that I shall be choosing to spend more of the time I allocate to market my business on other social networks.

So let’s look at the others...

Google Plus:
Google Inc, Public Company, Chair – Eric Schmitt, Google Inc also own Blogger, You Tube, Picassa amongst many others.
Number of Users: circa 300 – 350 million
The article I discovered detailing the user stats placed Google plus as the second largest social network! Which I found surprising as my experience of Google Plus is there are some great functions for profiles and pages, but it feels like you are a lone voice shouting in an empty concert venue over there.  It looks like lots of people have been there but no-one is around, they all seem to be elsewhere!

And that’s all I have to say about Google Plus!

Twitter Inc, A Public Company, Chair – Jack Dorsey, Twitter Inc also own Vine.
Number of Users: circa 300 million
Twitter is the most popular network for mobile, smartphone and tablet users at the moment and it’s popularity is growing steadily.

It took me a bit of getting used to twitter with its language of hash tags # and RTs (re-tweets).  Also, the other off putting thing is the number of dodgy looking fake accounts that swing by and follow you – don’t be too hasty to follow back unless there are genuine links to other legitimate websites, or if it’s someone you know – as it could be a someone up to no good eg. hackers and scammers.

I have warmed to twitter over the years, I still don’t totally ‘get it’ but I do like the way you can unashamedly do business on there – it’s very direct and with only 140 characters, there’s no time to mince your words so say what you mean and mean what you say.  The other thing I like about it is it enables you to connect with the people and topics you are really interested in as you can search for them on key word terms (hence the hash tags).  Which makes Twitter a great place for sharing targeted information (a marketer’s dream!).  The best advice about twitter I’ve found is tweet often, keep it short, helpful, relevant and interesting.

Twitter will be seeing a bit more of me from now on – especially as my average organic reach on facebook has now dipped below the number of twitter followers I currently have.  Which is a question that I think every facebook page owner would benefit from asking themselves, ‘is my average organic reach on facebook less than my following on other social networks?’  And if it is, then really your time and energy would be better placed spending more time over on those networks.

Linked In:
Linked In Corp.  Chair – Reid Hoffman,
Number of Users – circa 175 million

This is basically your online CV or Resume (depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on).  It’s a place to network with employers, clients, colleagues, suppliers and associates past and present.  To me it feels like a virtual boardroom stuffed full of suits speaking corporate jargon and showing off who knows who.

In its beginning, from what I understand, it was fairly ‘elitist’ with members having to be ‘invited’ to join by other members.  Now it’s a far more open network which allows freer access to industry groups and knowledge sharing. It also allows you to share other social media and showcase current projects.  Its main benefit, I think, is to get recommendations and endorsements from other linked in members to help validate the skills you claim you have.  Also, if you are linked in to members from a wide variety of industry sectors (I’m linked in to a number of people in the advertising, IT and finance sectors as well as lots of creative folk), it gives you lots of insights and information that you may not get from other social networks where you tend to zone in to your specific interests.

See company details above – Instagram is owned by Facebook.
Number of Users: circa 100 million users

Instagram is picture sharing pure and simple, using mobile internet networks and has grown to be one of the most popular ones.  It is rapidly rising in popularity since expanding the platforms it can be accessed on.

I am very new to Instagram having only recently purchased a smart phone (I know, I was in the dark ages – but needed to be convinced that I had a real need for one as I highly value my ‘unplugged’ time).  The rise of Instagram’s popularity over the past year persuaded me to get a better phone and get onto Instagram.  

So far, so good – I really like it, it’s like twitter in that it cuts to the chase. Content that interests you can be easily found by searching hashtagged keywords.  The thing that is most appealing is it’s all visual and has a certain intimacy as it’s great for giving little behind the scenes glimpses of your business and work in progress – ideal for creative businesses and enabling users to develop a more personal relationship with their followers and those they follow in a way that others don’t.  Instagram feeds well into other social networks and I find it works nicely linked with twitter.  I just need to get to know more about how to use it as I’m still finding my feet over there.  

Ltd Company with 140+ Employees.  CEO – Ben Silbermann
Number of Users: Circa 25 million users.
Pinterest is a virtual pinboard for inspiring things found on the web.  When you find something you love whilst surfing sites, by using a pin tool you can pin it to a board on your pinterest profile just as if you were sticking a cutting in a scrapbook.  

With pinterest allowing you to click back to the original source, it’s a bloggers delight, where you can share engaging links to your blog with your pinterest followers. I read that 95% of the images on pinterest are pinned by users from elsewhere on the web.  So, by making sure your images and content are irresistible and that your site has a ‘pin’ button, your followers will help create more traffic to your site for you when they hit that pin.

Pinterest is fairly new compared to other networks but is growing rapidly.  It is the fastest standalone site to reach over 10 million monthly users (source –

The drawback to pinterest is, days can be lost on pinterest, especially for creative types as the source of inspiration is never ending, quite frankly, it’s overwhelming and highly addictive, so self decipline and restraint on time spent over there is vital if you want to have a life!

That said – pinterest is my favourite because pictures speak a thousand words and seeing one person select to pin a particular image or group of images speaks volumes about who that person is without a single word being exchanged.  I find that totally fascinating and often think that there are people I follow on pinterest, who I’ve never met, but feel I could easily be friends with as we have very similar taste in pins – almost like kindred spirits.

Whilst searching for information about social media, I found a great article on Social Triggers site, that sets out some tips on what you need to do if you rely on your facebook page for your business. Here it is:

 It suggests that we should tell our fans what’s happening and where they can also find us on the web or subscribe to our email lists so that they can get updates that they can see.  I think that’s a great idea and here’s where you can subscribe to my email list to get my updates:

or find me on twitter here:
or on Instagram here:

One final thing, I think the social triggers article is spot on about ensuring you are building your own email list so that your business has a database that you are in control of, so here is a link to mailchimp. 

It’s who I use to manage my email list and I find them excellent for what I need. 

If you don’t have an email list set up and you have a business that you market through online social networking, then I urge you to have a look as it, it would be the best marketing strategy you will ever put in place for your business. Something so important to the future of your business (your customer database) should never be placed in the hands of something that you have little control over.

I hope you found my little bit of research helpful and informative.  I’d love to hear your views and comments about using social media to promote your business, what works for you?
Best wishes