Making the move to Instagram

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Now that we have all written off Facebook for content and marketing engagement, we have to find another content outlet to try spice things up. Instagram at the moment is trying to rev its engine up a bit by going more exploratory and in the process suggest new ways for people to follow like minded post from Instagram users. This is an interesting move as it is generally regarded as the next step towards advertising and promotional ad space. Instagram’s growth has been phenomenal. Look at the stats published so far and you know what I mean.

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So before Instagram gets into the same Facebook act, by forcing you to advertise to get seen, there is no better way to ride the wave than now.

How to Ride the Wave for Free

I peered into my crystal ball and have seen the future. Instagram will soon have its algorithm and that means you are going to have to fight to get noticed but until then, here are some rules to follow.

Encourage User Generated Content

In any B2C business, UGC is the best way forward. They are your ambassadors, and you don’t have to do the heavy lifting. Now as a business owner, when was the last time you thought of your customer’s satisfaction and UGC? How many times have you come across a boutique that supports or encourages UGC? Or for that matter a retailer that was UGC friendly? Forget the luxury goods store that protects the design of it products. It won’t work there coz they charge so much for something which can be copied for a fraction of the cost, hence the ‘no photography’ rule but what about general retailers who want to make a difference? Allowing your customers to browse, try things out and even take a selfie when trying an outfit is going to generate eyeballs and in the process generate awareness and branding. Restaurants and cafes already offer free WIFI for customers, and this makes for an easy check-in and free advertising to their friends who will come by.

Make use of the 15 Seconds of Fame on Video

If you want to create interesting content on your own, then try posting a video. 15 seconds is pretty easy and if you have an app like MeiPai, which is mentioned in another of my blogs on video apps. There are plenty to choose from and some like MeiPai even offers auto editing to make your job easier.

Instagram allows for Editing in Post

Another new feature from Instagram this time, you can edit all your earlier post without having to worry about what you left out the last time. Previously, you had to delete the post and repost them. Well not anymore.

IGeditThis means you can link your post to your G+ site, webpage or FB Pages (if you haven’t already dumped it) on a later date, or for that matter add in your twitter links. We all know that sometimes when you generate a shortlink, the process becomes cumbersome on mobile.

Location data can also be edited. So if you moved shop for some reason and need to re-edit all your older post, you can do so now. Having a check-in location gives your business credibility. So remember to make use of the new editing feature to stay current.

Achieving Business Succes in Instagram

There are plenty of competing platforms when it comes to video and image post. For example, in Latin America, the de facto choice is Mobli. While for China, Instagram is still blocked so you only have access to Storycam, which is an app from the same folks who brought you WeChat.

All of these apps have cross posting capabilities so you can of course post to more than one social account or for that matter duplicate the post in different social account.

Instagram will in the future change its algorithm to match that of Facebook. Until that time happens, you better start building your audience on Instagram now.

 

 

 

SEO: Why ccTLD Domains Matter in SERP

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There has been a lot of discussions on TLD (top level domains)  and ccTLD (country code top level domains) and this was one of the least recognized SEO trick in the book. TLD are domains ending with just .com,.biz,.org,.net….etc. These are generic TLDs and highlights the use of such domain signatures to indicate the sort of business you are in. This unfortunately no longer applies as even porn sites have .org.

The next thing to come out of the SEO equation is ccTLDs. Americans in general have problems understand this and there has been much critical press about the validity of this. Unfortunately, the bible for SEO has already been written by Google on the matter. The except of which is quoted below.

Multi-regional and multilingual sites

A multilingual website is any website that offers content in more than one language. Examples of multilingual websites might include a Canadian business with an English and a French version of its site, or a blog on Latin American soccer available in both Spanish and Portuguese.

A multi-regional website is one that explicitly targets users in different countries. Some sites are both multi-regional and multilingual (for example, a site might have different versions for the USA and for Canada, and both French and English versions of the Canadian content).

Expanding a website to cover multiple countries and/or languages can be challenging. Because you have multiple versions of your site, any issues will be multiplied, so make sure you test your original site as thoroughly as possible and make sure you have the appropriate infrastructure to handle these sites. Following are some guidelines and best practices for creating multilingual and/or multi-regional sites.

And there is another clue here that people seem to forget. Your ccTLD should be hosted in the country of origin, even though the SERP will not reflect this if you are using a CDN, countries with established Internet hosting infrastructure should not skirt this.

Server location (through the IP address of the server). The server location is often physically near your users and can be a signal about your site’s intended audience. Some websites use distributed content delivery networks (CDNs) or are hosted in a country with better webserver infrastructure, so it is not a definitive signal. Other sources of clues as to the intended audience of your site can include local addresses and phone numbers on the pages, the use of local language and currency, links from other local sites, and/or the use of Google My Business (where available).

 

How Does this All Work?

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Good question. It is not for people browsing the web for general SERP but for users from that country looking for information provided within their national boundaries. This means if a person is doing a search in Spain for spanish related content or key phrases, then Google search will serve up .es pages which are hosted on Spanish servers (through IP detection) in preference to .com results. Through the use of Webmaster tools, you can also make your site appear on a top page of a SERP by targeting ONE specific country, as quoted here from Google.

You can use the Country targeting tool in Webmaster Tools to indicate to Google that your site is targeted at a specific country. Do this only if your site has a generic top-level domain name. However, don’t use this tool if your site targets more than a single country. For example, it would make sense to set a target of Canada for a site about restaurants in Montreal; but it would not make sense to set the same target for a site that targets French speakers in France, Canada, and Mali.
Note: Because regional top-level domains such as .eu or .asia are not specific to a single country, Google treats them as generic top-level domains.

This means, you can be top dog for SERP in one particular country as long as your business is targeted for it.

Why  use ccTLDs?

People generally like .com addresses for one simple reason. It was the first to come out and the most recognizable. In many countries, it is an absolute PAIN to register a ccTLD.

Many ccTLDs are controlled national domain registries in that country. This means it becomes harder for people to register a ccTLD if they do not meet the criteria. There are normally 2 criteria for registration of a ccTLD.

  • A company or business entity with a local set up in that country.
  • A person who is not a foreigner in that country.

It also cost more to register a ccTLD, and in some countries, up to US$130 bucks a year. However if your intention to get a good ranking in a country specific SERP, then it makes perfect sense.

Who should use ccTLD?

Simple as pie. As a local business operating within a specific country, searches originating from your country will be better served. Even for online businesses like Amazon, we have seen these giants operate from ccTLD. By serving up pages of content in the local lingo, you have validated your intentions and this goes without say, having to pay to get to the top of the page. Sure, things get more difficult if your business is generic, like the hotel business, but it will serve up better if you include the local address with a local contact number.

The whole idea behind searching is to find things from a local perspective. If your search phrase is more generic…like “how to use a toothbrush” then it won’t matter what comes up. However if people are searching for “Spa in Iceland” you are better off having an Icelandic ccTLD.

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Content Creators Flee From YouTube, Flock to Facebook for Videos??

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Social Bakers, the most trusted name in Facebook marketing has come out to bash video sharing sites in a blatant attempt to promote Facebook’s own Video sharing program.

First let me assure you that the above statistic is skewered towards Facebook. As a former market intelligence analyst who played with numbers to make charts look good, this was relatively easy for Social Bakers to achieve since they have used a sample criteria that basically promotes feeds on FB. The sample size too is suspect…if you get my drift.

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No where in the statistic were there mentions of paid or organic reach. Nor was there any mention if any of the brands or page owners advertise exclusively only on Facebook.

Content Creators Get Paid on YouTube

Yup. You want to be a top video content producer, you need to earn money. Forget about the brands which have a truckload of cash to get a full video team to produce a short clip. They have plenty of money to spare and putting up a video on Facebook is not going to dent their retirement fund. True content creators do this professionally as they expect to earn their keep on the videos they post…that’s why they end up on YouTube.

Video Content Becomes Vapourware on Facebook

If you don’t exactly know, you can’t search for a particular video post on Facebook. The post is promoted via a Facebook algorithm and once it has lost traction and engagement, it sits on your FB page. So if someone doesn’t know your page, your video will never get that organic reach you have been dreaming about in your wet dreams.

What Happens in Facebook, Stays in Facebook

Here is another lesser known evil. If you are not a Facebook user, then you can’t view videos. Facebook is like North Korea. Your video content does not exist outside of its borders.

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Ever tried sharing a link you found on Facebook? Well you can do that provided Kim Jong Urn is also on Facebook. If he’s not on Facebook but on Google Plus, you might as well send him a fax.

Conclusion

Social Bakers will still provide insightful statistics to Facebook usage but don’t believe everything they put out. They don’t even have a social disclaimer to say that their staff or management do not hold shares in Facebook. If they did, I would believe them. But when they don’t even care to mention something this important. Then it’s North Korea or bust.

Facebook Organic Reach to hit Zero by end 2014

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Organic reach is going to hit ZERO percent at the end of 2014 for Facebook Page post. In June this year, Brian Boland of Facebook hinted in a Forbes article that the drop in organic reach from 12 percent in 2012 to 6 percent in Feb 2014 is a reflection on where FB is headed with its content algorithm.

Organic reach is basically determined by unpaid views. This means you can post to your Page timeline and get a totally free view from an audience (totally unpaid) courtesy of the Facebook Content algorithm that matches the interest of the person to your post (who in this case can be a follower or a person who likes a post which was shared to him/her from a third source) The organic reach stats is going to get a helluva different come year end when that reach is further tuned to zero. This means you won’t be able to see a single newsfeed posted and shared without you paying for it? Well, it’s not entirely true.

Shifty Shades of Grey on Facebook

Facebook post has gotten more expensive over the years. Boosting and gaining followers three years ago is more easier than it is now. A new post these days is determine by a content algorithm, and what you need to do is optimize that posted content to meet the criteria of that post. Each post you make have to meet a few basic criteria and if it goes viral, Facebook won’t charge a cent for it.

Content Optimization Post

I call it COP (content optimization post) for Facebook as it exist only in the FB environment, and there are three basic rules to this. The chief one is to get a proper CMS to show the blog content in the right light and this cost you money upfront. Relying on the boring FB layout is going to doom you eventually as people need to be convince you have something to offer. WordPress for example can help you track and verify your views without relying on Facebook Page management tools. You can also track where that view is coming from and even find out if there are fake followers created to follow you. This is not a widespread problem as yet but many who have advertised for followers on FB have found ‘grey’ followers. These people apparently have no info or background profile and have little or no post at all on their timeline.

Once you have optimized the CMS to track this, you can find out if Facebook post promotion is really for you. Always do a due diligence analysis to find out what you spend is worth the eyeballs you are getting and for that, how much does that translate onto ROI. Never trust Facebook to deliver the results of a promoted post. You need to know where that eyeball is coming from and how relevant is that for your business. Local businesses will only concentrate on a very smaller target

Return on Investment is a term used in advertising to find out the cost versus benefit of a campaign. In the advertising world, the cost must return at least 3 times the cost you spent on a particular campagin. For example, if you spent US$100 on a Facebook campaign and got US$300 in ROI, then it would be worthwhile exercise. If your campaign is only returning US$50 on ROI after spending US$100 on it, then you have to quantify that loss into some sort of goodwill benefit to your page or business or else it is a lost cause.

For COP to work, you should adhere to the following:-

1. Get Followers to Switch on ALL POST Notification

This is entirely up to you. Even if you have a post, your followers will not see them on their timeline. To avoid this, Facebook tweaked the features earlier this year to allow for this to happen. So you can get a post on everyone’s timeline if you know how to get them to switch it on.

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How you do this is entirely up to you but a trick is to offer freebies periodically and asking people to “get notifications” to have the best chance of winning them. This can be time related offers or food porn that come with vouchers. The concept here is to meta-link your rewards to a worthwhile experience. For example, you can give away coffee vouchers for Starbucks even while you business page deals exclusively on services like fashion and tailoring. You can’t possibly be giving away clothes related vouchers alone to boost your business. That’s too self vested and it shows.

The first hurdle is still to get followers. And for this you have to spend money on it. You can get friends of friends to like your page but they do not necessarily get all your notifications.

 

2. Create a WordPress site as a Facebook Page

Your Facebook Page has one or more Facebook accounts with varied roles similar to WordPress pre-defined roles. A Facebook account with content creation capabilities for a Facebook Page can grant permission to your WordPress site (a Facebook application) to post updates to the Facebook Page on his or her behalf.

You can then edit the connected Facebook Page for your WordPress site on the Facebook Social Publisher settings page in your WordPress administrative interface.

Allow new posts to a Facebook Page from the Facebook Social Publisher Settings page in your WordPress administrative interface

Select “Allow new posts to a Facebook Page” to grant your WordPress site additional permissions for your Facebook account.

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Your WordPress interface should present of list of Facebook Pages your associated Facebook account has permission to create new content. Select a Facebook Page name from the list and save your changes to associate Facebook Page publishing credentials with your WordPress site.

A Facebook page can be totally replaced by a third party CMS like in the case of WordPress. Why? Coz your WordPress site can communicate through a Facebook Page via a “https” enabled site. This is the SSL credentials you need to activate this or else it won’t work. There are themes which you can use to make a great landing page for fans. There is nothing to stop you from customizing responsive WordPress themes that come with a blog. These blogs will be your content. There are also HTML 5 templates that do the same thing so if you don’t know how, please engage someone who knows how to do it.

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3. Make Great Content to Engage Followers

There is a very fine line between “like baiting” and engagement. However bear in mind that your post should not have people just liking them only but to engage with them. This can be done via comments, by asking your readers for feedback. It is this feedback that gets people talking, and this will lead to organic sharing. People who like your post or find it useful will share them on their timeline and this is the organic reach that is still possible.

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If you have no idea on what makes an engaging post for sharing then refer to the “reasons to share on FB” graphic to get a better idea.

Moving Forward with a Content Strategy

This is the difficult part and not everyone will understand the underlying reason for a content strategy. The concept is simple. Post and Engage. But how you do that depends on your content strategy.

Facebook is not a cheap place to promote your business. You need to spend an average of US$200 just to get enough people to like you and that is very costly to a small business outside of the US. In America, spending US$200 is peanuts in advertising dollars. But that amount does not in any way guarantee you any form of engagement. For that you need to toss in even more money to promote your post to followers.

Having a custom Facebook Page is a leap of faith and is NOT free. You need to spend money on the CMS, get the damn thing working right and have someone create the content that suits your needs. Facebook content hosted within a CMS makes much more sense as the content is there for all to see.

Facebook is Incestuous

With ZERO organic reach coming like a ton of bricks at the end of the year, your post to Facebook will practically reach only people who like or follow you. Repeated attempts to harvest some form of return in investment will be futile if no new blood is infused into your following line. That might sound find for some but tapping repeat customers isn’t going to grow your reach.

This is why Facebook insist you PAY to gain followers and PAY again to reach out to them. It’s a business principle which is what a Jewish banker would want you to sell your soul into. Sounds like a plan doesn’t it?

Content Creation with Canva

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I am broke! I don’t have money to buy Photoshop, nor do I know how to use it. I need help with my Images and I don’t know a darn thing about photography!

Sounds familiar? Well it should, after all not everyone has a gifted sense of design or the ability to capture a thought provoking or interesting image content to post to FB, Instagram or for that matter, any social media engagement platform.

Creating content might sound like making Apple pie but there is always a problem associated with it—either you don’t have time to do it or don’t know where to start. Canva  is here to help you but a word or warning, it is still in Beta so do expect some kinks.

What Canva can do for You

Photoshop is great, but heck, it’s not easy to use. Then you have the other stuff like illustrator to add in text and graphics, which Photoshop isn’t too useful for. Those are very expensive to purchase so instead of doing that, why not use something simple like Canva?

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As a digital imaging web app, it does not have the same usability as say, Photoshop Express found on your mobile app. It is a different sort of animal. Previously I had written about Graphic Memes and how some mobile apps can create beautiful content without you ever trying. Canva is similar. But what makes it different is that it can create a whole more lot of stuff for you using purpose designed templates.

Creative Freedom with Templates

I have noticed that over time, people tend to get lazy with technology. Optional templates are the way to go for creation enthusiast. No thinking required, and with just just a minimum of design sense you can probably hack something up within five minutes.

For a start,  you have a slew of pre-selected templates for your Twitter, FB page, business card, poster, etc, etc. You can also design a PDF flyer if you so desire or a call to action brochure for print or web use. I won’t even dare to list the number of things I can think of in which you can design with Canva so let’s stop here.

Templates are a boon at least for those who have no design sense. You pick a template, create a graphic for use and drop in the desired images, you then change the text to suit your needs and you’re ready to go.

Such simplicity will be a mind blowing experience for many and I am sure even seasoned pros like myself won’t deny how much it helps to solve the problems of creating something out from scratch.

Web Apps versus Desktop Apps

The cloud is where your apps will reside one day in a connected world but this is far from perfect. People still prefer to use a PC software like Photoshop instead of using the Cloud based version for one simple reason…your Internet connection is just too slow to upload or download large files.

This is probably Canva’s only weakness. I know some of you out there are pretty fond of uploading large pictures and have that scaled down to fit the graphic parameters of your design, and this is probably one of the problems that are being addressed at the moment.

Smaller files work perfectly (those under 1MB) but the whole design process will start to crawl on its knees once you start uploading multiples of 5MB photos.

During my test, the replacement of the background graphic becomes a problem when manipulating large files. The webapp starts to lag and sometimes it stops working altogether.

Besides uploading your preferred files directly up to Canva, you can also pull images from your Facebook account. This is nice, and I hope they would add more image platforms like Google Picasa and Yahoo Flickr. This would make selecting images very easy, but I am not sure if that would be the right intention.

Canva needs to monetize its service by selling stock images and designs. So for every design created that makes use of Canva’s image stock library, they make some money from it. Each image cost only US$1 buck. They don’t obviously make that much in the end, as they have to pay both the stock image library and the photographer who took that picture. That’s one tough business proposition.

Browser Problems

Presently, Canva only supports Chorme, Firefox and Safari. There is no IE or Opera Support so you gotta switch. Chrome compatibility is relatively poor, at least on the Mac as I have encountered numerous freezes and unresponsive features. Firefox is cool but suffers from lag. That said, Canva is still in Beta and they will need time to sort this out.

Creating Content for Pinterest, Google+ & Facebook

Canva is ideal for content creation and this is where it gets top marks. The graphic elements, tools and optional images which you can purchase will make this a go to place for all your social media content creation needs.

It is fast, effortless and cool. Take for example a poster, you could create one that post to your social media pages. All you need to do is edit the text elements to suit your needs and you’re done.

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If you have pictures to upload, you can do so as well but you have to make sure it has the right pixel parameters to match for what you want to do. For example, if you are creating a Facebook page background image, you don’t need high resolution images. But if you are going to use it as a Poster, you will need that to fit the requirements.

Canva has a lot of potential to succeed but I am not sure they can sort out the problems at the Beta stage right now but there is nothing to stop you from tailoring those beautiful templates to suit your current requirements as long as you’re not too ambitious.

 

Facebook Marketing gets Expensive

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I remember that about five years ago, the Facebook content marketing made so much sense. It was great for small businesses, and effective enough for medium size companies to start a campaign. The response on Facebook pages was awesome. Many who gained followers found a way to monetize them right away.

Today, the only person trumpeting Facebook is Mark Zuckerberg, who announced record revenues for Facebook for Q1 2014. Mark reported that revenue increased 72% in the Q1 and net income nearly tripled. Advertising grew at its strongest rate in three years, with 59% coming from mobile ads — double the level of a year ago.

How Awesome is that?

Well, it is for Mark but not for you. As a small business owner, you have to deal with a empty news feed if you don’t know what to create as part of the content, and even if you DO post something on your FB page, what you will get is this:-

1f7592b Post 1 is what you see when you create an awesome post for your FB page, and post 2 is a paid promoted post. This is assuming that you have less than 10,000 fans or likes on your Page. The ballpark for each promoted post is US$10. Even then you’re not seeing the total reach increase by very much after promoting a post. It never hits 100 percent. One of the problem with this is that your real clients could be that 10 percent that you don’t reach. Humbug! You could increase that with a credit card on standby for Mark to swipe.

Let’s not delve into the technical issues of content marketing. You don’t have engaging content, chances are that a promoted feed will be ignored the same way as any other newsfeed item.

Can I post Porn Links to Bring in the Eyeballs?

I think there is a rule against that even though on paper, borderline porn seems to work a lot better but that’s not the issue here. Facebook itself is detuning your reach.

1787d3fYou won’t find new sources of customers as the organic reach is very low. So low now, it could even qualify as a member of the Hobbit community. This says a lot about the effectiveness of a post versus what you think you are able to reap from it.

Change Strategy to Improve your Reach

Don’t put all your eggs on Facebook. That’s it. Remember Twitter and Instagram? They have an audience too but unlike Facebook, they are not the great white shark on top of the social media chain. Instagram will transition to a model similar to that of Facebook, eventually. For now it is anything goes so remember to strike when the iron is hot.

Google+ is a good place to start working that page for your business. Post useful stuff and find the right audience. You will be rewarded. Right now, the G+ pages are not well managed so everything shows up on the timeline. The post are often too big and people get a heap of stuff served to them at any one time. But there are no restrictions on what you post and how you post them.

Hashtags, which were made popular with Instagram and Twitter is used on G+ pages. It makes for easy searches if people used hashtags to find stuff.

Content can be duplicated across Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, G+ and Pinterest without even touching Facebook. For the most part, Facebook can be used as an afterthought. There is no need to work those post into your Facebook feed alone if you don’t have the money to promote those post.

Diversifying your Eyeballs

The Internet is a very loud place, sometimes you can’t even hear yourself talking. There are people screaming all over and just to get heard, you need to be screaming at niche markets to gain attention. These audiences lurk just almost anywhere and it is your job to dig them out.

Facebook was the coolest place to hang out your business billboard in the past, now you just have to keep it there and find other social media outlets to do that same thing.

Expanding your reach isn’t going to be cheap. It will cost you lots of time if you do this on your own and it will also cost you lots in money if you don’t want to spend the time to do by engaging a digital agency to do it for you.

Gone are the days where it was a free ride on Facebook. So please do not think for one moment that going digital to promote your business is going to be any cheaper than putting an advert in the local paper.

Strategy versus Reach

Let’s face it (pardon the pun) the real intention you put up a Facebook page was that it was free and effective, not to mention cheap. Once it is no longer cheap, would Facebook still make a difference?

Facebook has one feature that often helps you get discovered, that is when people check into your shop or outlet. This is crucial as they are able to obtain more information about that particular outlet. You can also try reach out to your past customers who have patronized your business.

So far, the check-in mechanism is probably something you’d find more useful, not including the fact that in terms of SEO, your Facebook page will get listed on Google searches. Your engagement on FB Page also counts towards your overall SEO.

The idea here is to maintain that Facebook page even though it won’t be used to draw in the bulk of your customer. This sort of presence, however small, will go a long way to helping your SEO ranking in the future.

FB Pages allows people to find you, it’s like hanging out that billboard sign to point to where your business is and no matter how much traffic it generates, it will help your business in some ways. It doesn’t matter if you don’t advertise in FB to promote your post. You don’t have to as long as your presence in other social media networks such as Instagram, Pinterest, G+, Tumblr, Foursquares and Twitter. It is the engagement of choice if you get what I mean. You will funnel those eyeballs to your website once you have these activated.

Facebook is also a lovely place to make friends and in turn show them your wares. As a business owner, that counts heaps even though you may not promote any of your post on FB. Customer who have never heard of you may walk right into your shop, befriend you and in turn become a life long customer. That sort of social linking makes a difference.

The best strategy to do everything for free is to get your Likers to follow you on Instagram or Twitter and funnel that to your website of choice. Facebook alone is just too expensive and won’t deliver the results unless you have money to advertise. That said, it would work very well  if you had money to throw at them.

Likers who follow you on Instagam will get a regular feed with pictures. Twitter does the same thing so for this, you’re pretty safe from FB.

So keep that FB page humming even though you don’t have the organic reach to justify it. The strategy to diversify your business post will pay dividends so keep that going. Pick and choose the social platforms you want to be active in and don’t get blown away by neglecting them. That is not the way it works.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Mobile Friendly Blog Apps

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There are some statistics thrown about that a businesses that host a blog has a 55% greater reach than one that doesn’t. So this means one thing. You need content baby! Don’t even think of letting a moment slip so for this you gotta be mobile.

I have in the past given you a whole list of stuff you could do for social media marketing but creating engaging blogs or content isn’t easy if you don’t know where to start and for small businesses, this is getting more difficult as we roll along.

Don’t bet on Facebook pages. It is suicidal if your post only reaches out to 4 to 6  percent of your fans thanks to its algorithm limit on business type pages. You gotta pay Zuckerberg and gang to gain a bigger reach. This is money out the window even before you start rejoicing at your wildly charismatic blog post you made in the hope to drawn in those eyeballs.

Let us assume for one moment that you are going to stick to your guns and bit the bullet and create your own content and connect your post with Twitter. Should you want something specific to your locality, you need to hire writers from where you live and not from outside of say….Guam. So if your needs are non-technical, why not do it yourself while you are on the go?

The Best Mobile Blogging Tools

Sadly, there isn’t many around. Mobile blogging tools are created in a linear format, allowing you to easily create a post with pictures or movies on the go but editing and tweaking the features is another thing coming.

Pay your Way to Host

For those with money, there is Squarespace. It cost just under US$200 a year to host a blog and a online boutique to sell your wares. Based on the templates available, it looks to be a more upmarket boutique than an online pizza store. Squarespace recently updated its iOS app to make it more user friendly. It looks fab but the Android version isn’t ready as we speak.

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Pictures are scaled automatically upon uploading for served in appropriate sizes for tablets, smartphones and desktops. There is no restrictions on bandwidth or storage which is nice. Until it makes it to Android, I won’t be reviewing this. There is another, weebly.com, which does a similar deal but it appears to be buggy—they don’t tell you which is a PRO feature and the app won’t post. But let’s focus on those which are free, which I am sure is what attracted you to this site in the first place.

WordPress Mobile App

Value for money. That’s the term for what I would associate with WordPress for now. Over the years, this open sourced platform has come of age and its mobile app is one of the best free apps available now for mobile blogging. You can of course host your own website for less than 100 a year these days with a domain name thrown in for free with a free domain hosted email management account. Going with WordPress.com for the full works cost more. a blog with e-retailing cost US$300 a year. WordPress themes are now based on responsive web design principals, so you don’t have to worry about getting scuffed when surfing from a smartphone.

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The WordPress mobile app rocks. It has everything from posting pictures to video and blogging tools. But I must warn you that e-commerce themes don’t often work that well with WordPress apps. A basic wordpress blog is free to register so if you don’t want to pay to host, WordPress is a good start.

What you can do on your mobile app is amazing.  Go ahead change your theme, view stats of your blog site and even has a Reader option for you to read wordpress blogs that you follow. The app is free and it doesn’t get any cheaper than this. WordPress is available for both iOS and Android.

Blogspot or Blogger App

To be fair, this is not the most responsive blogging platform. It does not have a lot of the bells and whistle themes found on WordPress. However the themes can be customized by a geek and if you are good with code. You can add stuff onto it. Responsive Web Design principals is not on tap for all the themes available on the Internet. You can of course download the Google approved version but at Blogspot, you can upload third party themes. This can present its own problems. For example, third party theme features such as a picture slider is not supported on the mobile app.

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There is no e-commerce engine that comes along with Blogger but you can still link it to a webstore that is hosted outside of blogger. Editing the theme will need some coding skills so you have been warned. Android and iOS mobile apps can be downloaded from their respective stores and is free to use.

The mobile app is good but not great. Blogger isn’t the most advance blogging system on the planet but it does it job without being too complicated. All you can create are linear type blog post to your site. It won’t even allow you to create or edit individual pages. So for this it gets the thumbs down.

Blogger is free with your Gmail or Google account registration. The app does very little in terms of giving you control over your site. There are no statistics, now does it allow you to change themes. All this has to be done from the desktop browser (which you can access if you happen to have a large Tablet). As a mobile blogging app, it does the job but is severely limited.

Tumblr App

In the last 12 months, the smartest buy on the planet has to be Yahoo when they purchased Tumblr for US$1.1 billion. It is very easy to see why Tumblr is the most happening blogging platform on the planet. Besides being the most popular, it is also a content savvy place. Tumblr has a good mobile app, it is literally idiot proof and very slick. This also means that it does all the basic stuff like posting text, photos and videos without much effort. Some of the tricks like stats and fan mail messages are found only on the desktop browser version but for general mobile use, Tumblr is a great app to have.

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You can buy themes on Tumblr that will do almost everything EXCEPT ecommerce. Yup, it sucks but heck, you can’t expecting a dancing bear to drive a car can you? Tumblr excels as a blogging space. It can also be used as a company blogging space, a corporate website, portfolio for artist, etc. The premium themes cost US$50 a pop, well worth it if you are in the market to look different but remember that it depends on your content. If you happen to have an image library to show off, then pick a theme that best demonstrates this. You can register and use your own domain but no email domain support. Tumblr is free to use for everyone.

Tumblr’s own mobile app is easy to use, with all the blogging capabilities of its web browser cousin. Both the Android and iOS app are free. The management tools are not supported, so you need to go back to the desktop version to tweak code. If you have geek like talents, you can even edit the themes you bought to show up Adwords advertisements, but there is no automatic integration for that on the mobile App. Right now the danger is that Tumblr will start to monetize your site. This means even more ads will show up but we have to wait and see if this happens. This might eventually conflict with your need to get advertising in the future.

WTF, Just tell me which is the Best for my Blog?

Sorry but there isn’t one that is perfect. If you think that anyone is going to create a kick ass mobile app well it has to be WordPress. Nothing out there comes close to this. To realize the full power of the WordPress blog platform, you need to have unlimited hosting. This means you can add widgets and extensions with impunity. But a word of warning on those who have not used WordPress, some of these third party extensions are dodgy, and riddled with scam ware. Some pretend to help you do stuff but instead they hijack your site to another URL. These same extensions can be downloaded directly from WordPress themselves and is by no means safe.

Tumblr is probably the most user friendly. It is both a blog reader and a blog client. For me, this gets top marks for ease of use. Blogspot or Blogger on the other hand is spotty, but you can’t ignore Blogger at any one time since it is part of the Google squad. Your search rankings depends on this.

The bulk of the mobile blogging apps available all suffer from platform woes, some support only iOS while others have taken the scenic route in porting the app to Android.  Drupal and Joomla have very weak support for mobile clients  even though they are CMS leaders in their own right.

Mobile blogging is a very important part of the Content Creation sphere. You cannot be at your desktop creating post. Instead, you can do that on the go, at a moments notice when you have time to spare. It might seem like hard work but it’s a fantastic way to engage customers and clients.

 

 

 

Facebook Video revises Copyright Algorithm

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No more messing around with those songs and videos which you have spliced from movies. Facebook is at it again, this time taking on copyrighted videos and songs posted by users to the social media site.

It won’t affect you as long as you don’t post a song/movie/video via manual uploading. This means that if you spliced that cute video of your kid playing in the garden to the tune of Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, chances it will be rejected if you tried to upload it directly to Facebook servers. Apparently this also applies to Brands whose commercial contain copyrighted songs that are uploaded to Facebook directly.

What Does this mean for Content Developers?

Well, it won’t hurt the large brands as much. They can appeal the decision via the link provided once any sort of copyrighted songs and videos are detected.

fbcopyWhat’s amazing about this detection algorithm is that it taps a huge database of music and video signatures and you can’t possibly bypass this. No more free rides for you baby! That’s what Facebook is saying but more importantly, it hopes to avoid any possible lawsuits from copyright owners. Those affected by this new ruling would be those who fall in the following categories.

Fan Page Owners: you can’t post short clips of movies or video taken directly from copyrighted material

Business Page Owners: Who use copyrighted music in background video clips

Personal Pages: You can splice and cut your own music video by adding copyrighted music

No Way Out

You can still link a video from a third source like Vimeo or YouTube without them asking for it to be removed so that’s about all the bandwidth you can have for now. Facebook seems to want original content, in the same way YouTube wants original content. This means you gotta get more crafty with your content development. Maybe even resort to using local music that isn’t copyrighted.

What’s more, Facebook hopes to save on those gazillions of megabytes in storage once you stop uploading anything remotely copyrighted. Sounds like a good idea for now but let’s see how far it is headed.

DMCA Takedown

With other video sharing sites, the applicable laws pertaining to DMCA will suffice. Say that an offending video or music has been used on a YouTube post, it is up to the copyright owner to launch a complaint. Failing that it stays up. Copyright owners are loath to use DMCA as it means a full time division has to be set up to police the Internet. So many of the stuff shared on YouTube stays there until someone discovers it. But not with Facebook. They don’t need a DMCA complaint filed against you to take you down. They do it the moment they detect a copyright infringement with an algorithm database.

So if you happen to have a video to share with friends, please remember to avoid using Facebook. That’s the best way to stay kosher.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Responsive Web Design for Mobile

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I want a website! I don’t want one that SUCK! What Should I do?

In the old days, at least during my time, the only option to show off your website was to create one on a web host with code. Then came desktop programs like Pagemill from Adobe that sort of help iron out the rough edges but that was no guarantee it would not suck! The problem back then was browser compatibility (it is still the problem now but to a lesser extent). The only way to bypass that was to use Adobe Flash (hence its popularity).

Since Adobe has scaled back on its support for Flash, it has become a veritable nightmare for browsers as a new breed of surfers emerge to take its place. These new breed of web surfers are now referred to as mobile web traffic.

Mobile Web took off in a big way in the 21st century. Data has to be transmitted and understood by devices with a peculiar set of protocols. In its day, WAP and Docomo’s i-Mode were highly popular and due to limited bandwidth on mobile, TCP/IP standard didn’t enter mainstream until much later in the late 90s thanks in part to EDGE/3G services giving you much faster data access.  I won’t bore you with the details but responsive web design in the old days meant that you had to put up a WAP site along with your standard website. I-mode in  was only happening in a handful of countries before it died prematurely in the hands of the iPhone. The iPhone in particular spearheaded the rapid demise of all other mobile protocols.

Now, why would you want to put up a website to meet the demands of both desktop web surfers as well as mobile surfers? Good question. According to Gartner and Cisco’s report, the dominant traffic of the Internet future will be from mobile devices!

  • The Gartner Institute is projecting over one billion smartphones and media tablets will be sold globally by 2015
  • Global mobile data traffic grew 70 percent in 2012
  • In 2012, mobile data traffic was nearly twelve times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2012
  • Average smartphone usage grew 81 percent in 2012
Gartner statistics on mobiles and tablets

Responsive Web Design

It sounds like a big term that only geeks can understand but really, it  just means you gotta have a website that scales to size to meet the needs of a mobile experience.

Using Adobe Flash isn’t kosher anymore, largely thanks to Adobe abandoning its support for the mobile platform by saying it can’t be done. So let’s not go there.
There are ways to create a mobile/desktop site without much worry if you care to spend some money. Or if you prefer, use a CMS/blog platform such as WordPress, Blogspot, Tumblr and a host of other CMS platforms like Weebly and Squarespace. There are just too many to mention. You can create blog sites, corporate sites and even e-commerce sites that are responsive to all devices using these platforms. Some are more user friendly than others so you gotta know what you want before you begin.
For example, not all CMS platforms support e-commerce engines. This is pretty tricky and hosting as to be secure enough for you to use. All e-commerce sites will be targeted for hacking at some stage so choose well.
Developing your own RWD Site without CMS
 
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This is the golden question everyone is asking. Can I not use a CMS host and create my own site? Of course you can. If you care to ante up on one of those web tools, I suppose you can do anything. Some takes more work than others and this is probably the only leg work you need to do. You can use something like TOweb, a site creation program that basically allows you create everything you need for a website but it doesn’t support blogging. Download it, install it and run it. It’s not very intuitive but if you want complete control, you have to learn the ropes. Move a ahead a bit more and you’ll have HTML5 compliant building tools such as Tumult Hype.
This is a drag and drop experience and with all the content ready at your disposal, it should be quite easy to build a site up within a day. However, the e-commerce part might be a bit more tricky so keep your eyes peeled for things you don’t understand. Whereas Tumult Hype is not for the uninitiated, it has many powerful features to create everything from interactive elements to multi-touch support but to fully utilize its power, you need to know how to code.
From Website to Mobile App
Yes, this can be done too if you are wondering why no one seem to mention about it. That’s because it takes a bit of tinkering. First, there are several Mobile App Builder platforms available online, just Google the reviews up and you’d get an idea on what I mean. Those which are free to use are pretty basic, and you need to also pay for the App to go live on a store. So far, only Blackberry doesn’t charge anything for listing a mobile app. It cost US$19 for the Windows store to US$99 for the Apple store. So please remember that the freebies are not free when you decide to list your app.
responsive-design-mobile-web-mobile-apps-you-pick-the-strategyHow does the Mobile App Maker Work?
First, your content is your key. If you already have a standalone website that is not hosted on a CMS platform, you need to find out if the App Builder of your choice is able to support it. If not, you could choose an App builder that takes your feed manually with RSS.
All app builders are made to have some form of intelligence. They might not be able to play a game of chess with you but they sure as hell know what is a content feed when they see one. From here, you can add maps with bells and whistles like video and flickr photo feeds.
Paying to use a platform is normal, if you don’t pay, expect an advertising banner to be displayed on your mobile app. This is not a good way to start if you are running your own business.

Enabling Responsive Web Display for WordPress

This is much easier to tackle if you are running the latest WP on your site. Just do the following:-

Go to your DASHBOARD > APPEARANCE > enable MOBILE

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You can customize those options if you like and see how it goes. But beyond this, it’s not going to cost you anything else. Older versions of WordPress would take quite a fair bit of juggling with extensions, where a third party extension is used to enable mobile device viewing.

You’d be surprised how it looks in the end as the theme you use can be highly responsive to mobile displays to the point you can’t tell the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website.

Multi-Touch is not Included

You are bound to arrive at this point asking, what is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile website if you can’t visually tell the difference? Well here are some pointers to remember :

  • Native mobile apps might display content in a similar way but on a native mobile app, multi-touch actions are supported.
  • Mobile websites do not support the fancy transitions you often see on native Mobile apps. You need to code in HTML5 and use Javascript to have that capability. This requires coding knowledge.
  • Native apps are hand coded. They do not use templates or themes, thus making them feel more unique to the end user and is totally Greek to the uninitiated who try to code one from scratch.
  • Native mobile apps support for Social Media is seamless. The app can integrates more tightly with your content and social media feeds.

Remember how to Deliver your Content

Content matters. If you have lots to share, then you should put more thought into it but first know how often you are going to update it. If you are going to have lots of updates and plenty of content to share to engage your customers or fans, then it is better to start off with a CMS system with RWD enabled for your site. A mobile app is sort of a calling card these days even though they carry the same content as your website. You need to find out if you really need a mobile app to begin with.

Your content strategy should be sound. Customers are not going to download and install your app if all you do are annual updates.

Think for a moment, if all you are producing is vintage vinegar, and you don’t have much to share, then having a mobile app would be a waste of time. Even your Twitter feed will be empty until you have a fresh batch to announce for delivery.

Content has to be original and engaging and not just brochure-ware. The term brochure-ware is just that, a company brochure that has been regurgitated into an online form—which in this case would be your mobile app.

Don’t just create another mobile app just cause you think it is cool. Have a defined content strategy in place before you do as this is a very time consuming process. Content has to be curated or developed and if you don’t have the time to do it, then you have to engage people with the right expertise to help you.

Having a budget before you proceed is very helpful. Sort of like having an advertising budget, you carve out a part of that advertising budget to support SMO and SEO activities. Failing to do that will cost you even more time and money….and customers when you take them for granted.

How to create Awesome Content to boost your Google Authorship

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Gunning for a top rank on Google search? Have you started building your content credibility with Google’s authorship program? Haven’t? Better get cracking now before it is too late.

In the past, anyone can pen some nonsense and share that to the world. This hasn’t changed of course but what is written has. According to the latest Hummingbird SEO metrics, long form content is more important than those 100 words rants you post on Facebook.

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To ensure that the long piece of text is rightly attributed to you, Google changed the Hummingbird metrics to weigh in on WHO is providing the content. This is where Google Authorship comes in to diss you down if all you ever post are rants about your mother.

This whole authorship thingy might sound really complicated but it isn’t. All you have to do is to create an active G+ profile and link that to all your blogs. That’s it!

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What makes for an active G+ profile is simple. Make sure you fill in all the information about yourself, with a picture and a list of stuff you do. Think of the G+ profile as your link-in calling card to everything you do on the web.

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

I hate to say this but what your fifth grade teacher said about being able to write well is probably more true today than ever before. Google SEO and Facebook SEO is different. For Google, it is a text type search engine whereas Facebook places more importance on sharing visual things like pictures and video.

I won’t touch on pictures and video as this requires more skill and dexterity to produce. What I will tell you is that text based content is really much easier to start with but you have to be truthful about the first thing that comes to you, that is…are you able to write something decent that can be understood by humankind.

I have seen in my career many failures with people often bearing college degrees, Masters and PhDs who can’t write a line interesting enough to be shared. This is no fault of yours of course, you can write a thesis like a text book and people will never read them except maybe for your college professor.

Text content only needs to fulfil two things.

  • Interesting and informative writing
  • Entertaining and witty writing

How not to be your Boring English Teacher

Remember the time when you were in school, you flipped those school text books and fell asleep reading it? They will come across as really informative but dull to read. Your teacher’s job is to make sure you learn it and he or she has to make it sound interesting enough for you to pick it up. So remember this golden rule…

Informative articles  may not be interesting, if you want to offer great content you have to make it Informative and Interesting at the same time for it to be any use to people reading it.

This is a talent that you may not have and it is best to admit it before you embark on the journey to gain world wide authorship rankings. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you decide to hire a writer to do this for you. Just make sure this is kosher with the writer as they sometimes write for many people and will reuse bits of what they have given you.

Google will not fault you on informative content, as facts are facts and there is not need to fictionalise content to meet Hummingbird metrics. How you choose your words to explain the content matters.

The Art of Making Stuff Interesting

If you are knowledgeable, then this would be pretty easy.

Give examples based on everyday facts to things that people can relate to!

People often give dimensions and measurements in numbers, this is fine but you should also give it a dimension that people can relate to, like the size of two football pitches, or the length of a candy bar.

Write about your own experiences with the subject matter!

Your own experiences to validate a point is crucial to making that yours and no one can steal this from you. Those ‘epiphany’ moments makes for great writing and this can help others relate to what you are talking about.

How to Be Entertaining as a Writer

To me, this is perhaps the most difficult thing when you’re not up to it. Everyone has their bad days so if you are asked to write something entertaining, it better be on a good day. There are some rules to follow which will be helpful:-

Ante up on that Thesaurus and increase your Vocabulary

You need words, lots of it, to throw at would be readers to keep them nimble. Language is used to communicate but sometimes we tend to have different words to describe similar situations. Having a vocabulary the size of a Blue Whale will help somewhat to conquering the authorship world.

Be Visual and Graphic about your Experiences

Your sense of observation is important when writing about first hand experiences. It’s like a painting. You fill it with color which then allows your eyes to dance with it. Color, smell, touch all give a visual account of what you are experiencing.

Exaggerate the facts to be witty

I have discovered that comedians, when using their punch lines often resort to exaggeration as means to be funny and witty. Just look up all the comedians and instead of enjoying the stand up action, analyse what they say and the words they use. Ask yourself why the punch line was so good. Once you get an idea on how to do this, sprinkle it around your writing. Bear in mind that you don’t need to be funny at every paragraph, otherwise it will read like a nonsensical feature.

Poke fun at Cliches and Social Norms

There are a lot of cliches that are cultural and you don’t have to resort to anything derogatory. Political cliches work best, racial ones only alienate your readers. Humans are creatures of habit. They take a dump every morning, have coffee and read the morning news. This in itself is a good cliche for everyday humor.

What Google Authorship Does for You

Online credibility. That’s the one thing that ties you to the SEO. If you take credit for all you have written, and people find it useful, they will start to share it.

By taking credit for what you write, you are in fact protecting your turf as a writer. No one can take that away from you even if they steal your article. Once Google has built a depositary of your work, they will rank your contributions higher on the search results. In time, you will become an authority on what you write about.

How to Protect any Written Content?

This is a trick I learnt from the folks at Google. If you want to catch someone copying your content, well first select a very unique sentence from your written content and paste that into Google Alerts. Once the search engine comes across this sentence, it will send you a notification to your Gmail account. Simple.

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Some sites will give you credit while others will steal wholesale from you. It’s up to you to file a DMCA complaint. That said, it’s never easy to get a take down as long as the offending site lies outside of the US. But to me, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Google Authorship knows that the written piece came from you and for that alone, it will thumb down the offending site in search engine results.

The Dark Art of Gaining Followers

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How do you gain followers on Social Media? I mean I need this to show off my site and, how the heck does it work? Do I need to put up a Selfie?

Ever heard of a vanity license plate for a car? Well in the Internet World, gaining busloads of followers does the same thing for you. It is a magnet of sorts to tell people that you have arrived.

That said, social media license plates are really not that difficult to get, at least not legally. Now, gaining followers is not that difficult. There are millions if not thousands of accounts in social media that are positively fake. They exist only for one reason, to be your follower.

Why is it difficult to find Genuine Followers

Social apathy or plain laziness is probably the answer you are looking for and you’re spot on. People who think that the Internet world is full of would be social activist are so wrong footed that it would even be fatal to take up line dancing.

Surfers are often very indolent people. They sit back, give their two cents worth if they really have the time for a comment and flip to the nearest porn or Internet channel for a daily dose of Entertainment.

Content Creation for Baiting Followers

I have said before in my earlier post, you need to create engaging content to win over followers and the content should fall into TWO categories.

  • It has to be useful to the follower. This can be useful bits of information on how to reuse cat litter for garden decoration to ways to tune your car into a Porsche for as little as $1.95.
  • Content must be entertaining. Yes, smart, funny, witty stuff are tops…even beautiful naked women or men can be entertaining if you posed correctly.

Once you have this, just rinse and repeat. You are bound to find followers who appreciate your nuggets of wisdom or entertainment.

How Not to gain Followers

The first rule is not to promise people things you can’t deliver. Like a snake oil sales man trying to sell a broken record, do not offer freebies and stuff when you sincerely can’t even get your own paws on.

Nor should you promise them home remedies or DIY tips that don’t work, like how to tune their car into a Porsche for as little as $1.95.

But I need a Vanity License Plate!

If you sincerely must have that busload of followers, you can do this. Buy those followers. A thousand followers on Instagram will cost you roughly US$13. For twitter, it cost only US$40 for 2,000 followers. Now, that sound like a steal but remember that this is temporary. Some stick around for a month, others for a full year. It really depends on the people who run the business.

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Followers are only worth their weight in salt. And that’s might cheap to have if all you need is a vanity license plate. You could buy hundreds of thousands of followers if you could afford it but seriously, who the damn cares if all you sell online are geriatric diapers? Would Barack Obama or Sarah Palin be jealous of you if you did have more followers than they did?

How the HELL did it all disappear?

If you care to check your followers, some are real, some are not. Most of the time, you’d find how the hell did those ‘bought’ followers ended up following you for a brief time and in the process, had unfollowed you as graciously as they followed you. There is a distinction between a fake and a real one based on the fact that one is a living person with that account, the other is a virtual doppelgänger of an online creation.

The fake followers are easy to spot. They have no activity except may one picture posted in the last century. I am pretty sure it is easy to register fake followers by the hundreds or thousands if you care to use a unique username that has yet to be used.

The real followers are a dumb found. How could they sign up to follow you? Well in case you didn’t know. There are sites out there that promise you free followers with one caveat, they get to use your login and password credentials.

You see, some web sites that SELL followers also have a weapon, they call it a ” running train” where people hop on board to get free followers. The onus is on you who join for free. They get to control your Instagram or Twitter password and login. Once they have this, they start messing up the system by using your profile to follow a paying customer and they to follow you back. It works a little bit like incest. You join a big family to have social media copulations.

The sites that charge you money to gain followers are in fact, running a sister or brother site that gains the passwords and logins for free in return for more followers. The sign up server runs automatically with dedicated APIs that run scripts to follow and unfollow people at the opportune time.

This is also why all the free-follow sites ask you for your password and login the moment they join. It’s their way of making money off you while you gain just more followers. Imagine if they had a thousand people sign up every day, and another thousand who buys followers from them, you’d have 1,998 free followers a day.

Worst Kept Secrets ?

To get found out that you are using fake or paid followers is nothing new. Mitt Romney was judged to have done it during his campaign but I seriously don’t really care.

Paid followers do not necessarily translate to your bottom line even if you only sell quality online Eskimo porn. It might give you some credibility at some point but if all you ever post are ugly selfies of yourself, well then, there is going to be trouble later down the line.

In a virtual world, everyone is entitled to mask their real intentions. Creating good content can take too much effort if all you need to boost your public image is a load of would be followers. Buying them seems like a nice option. That, is entirely up to you.

Social Media Marketing for Noobs

It doesn’t take a lot to know that the English speaking world has only a few social media properties which make any sense, or cents if you care to invest your time and money in the hope of a return. Contrary to popular belief, it is not as complicated as it seems though many social media management platforms like to think so.

These can be put in their place with the following infographic. Easy to understand and sans the usual sales talk you hear from Internet Marketeers.

Social-infographic1Social Media marketing, what’s that all about? Good Question.

There are a sizeable number of them that claims to be the be all and end all management tool but I beg to differ. They all allow you to manage your social media connections, and from the chart alone you’d get a good idea on what’s how there in the Anglophone world.

Even though Facebook is localised to suit many non-English countries, there exist a huge community of social media platforms that is out of bounds of this chart. For example in Japan and China, Facebook is a non-connector. And those two countries make up the first and third largest online consumers in the world by revenue generated online. They consume everything from games, online content to e-commerce to downloadable porn.

What’s more, Japan has it’s own social network that are targeted at their own native market. Facebook to them is just an afterthought. Then you have China, where Facebook is…banned.

Internet Marketing for Social Media

Almost all Social Media Management sites casually forget to mention that you need to have engaging and useful content on hand before you start any Internet marketing. WTF? You mean I can’t pose a selfie to get the ball rolling? Not unless you’re an up and coming porn star.

Making awesome content takes talent, but none of the Internet Marketing agencies will tell you this upfront. You could of course do it on your own by using one of the many social media marketing tools. Just look up Buffer, Hootsuite, Oktopost, Zoniz or marketmesuite, all of them want your money at some point so be forewarned.

These social media marketing and management tools are aimed at different consumers but somehow, when you look at them closely, they all seem to offer a cookie cutter type social media marketing solution. They give you the freedom to schedule post, manage your Facebook Page and get all the statistics associated with it but none of them tell you how to make awesome content for your social media feed. They all assume you already know how to create awesome content in the first place. However there is a way out, you can always curate your content from various other sources. This is by far the cheapest option if you don’t mind sitting around the whole day looking for stuff on the Web or Internet. It is a very labor intensive workout so remember to make a big pot of coffee before you start.

Checklist for Content Development

To make things easier for you. Just consider the following:-

  • Can you write decent copy in English? And by this I don’t mean ‘SMS text’  with emoticons.
  • Can you take a decent photo that people will often admire? And I am not referring to pictures of food or selfies you post daily on Instagram.
  • Can you stage and capture a decent video clip for sharing? By this I don’t mean those borderline porn clips you share with your girlfriend or boyfriend on Snapchat.

If you happen to answer ‘no’ to all of these, please get help coz you are gonna need it. How much you are willing to spend depends on you. There are cheap and super cheap content developers. I hear that a 15 second Bollywood video production cost you only $1.95, so if that’s your budget, go for it. But be forewarned, you get what you paid for.

The Low Down on Social Media Marketing

The start and end point for all your awesome content is always the same. You want to bait as much traffic as you can. This is the basis of all Internet Marketing strategies.

content strategy.001

Once you have your content settled, then it’s time to hit the social media circle. Post, cross-post and cross link all your content with the various social media networks. Which to choose? I leave it to you.

I have designed the simplest diagram I can think of for Noobs. There is a more complex one that I will share on a later date. So get cracking on those awesome content!

Expedia Gets taken down by Hummingbird!

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I am shocked that the Wallstreet Journal has published a report that Expedia.com could have been the target of Negative SEO. This is pure rubbish. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why Expedia’s SEO ranking fell off a cliff on Google searches. Just tick off what you don’t see on the home page and you’ll know how poorly designed the site is.

Epic Page Optimization Failure

The landing page itself is not SEO friendly. No Site Map, just pure sales links. No quality inbound or outbound links. The Page SEO is fucked. Just look at the damn page and tell me that there is useful content in there somewhere which will be of use to users? Nothing!

To make matters worst, Google Hummingbird zeroes in on content optimization and penalizes pure sales sites. I have said in an earlier post that Hummingbird is designed to take down pure sales sites and Expedia is one that was designed in the 90s with no SEO sense.

Sales, sales and more sales. That’s all the home page is screaming. No wonder they got taken down a few notches.

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Massive Content Failure

There is no content. Ok, I found a some content buried in the “Things to Do” topic but trust me, that’s not content. It is pure sales talk. The tone that it is written in is a third person, describing what you can do. It could have been written by a man with a gun held to his head. Who knows?

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Useful Content is not about giving the facts, it’s about experiences, especially in this case where travel is concerned. They could have at least featured something written by a customer or blogger. But they didn’t. Content to Expedia is a waste of time so here’s another few notches taken down for that.

Total Social Media Failure

sharingHere is something else I noticed. The lack of Social Media engagement. Sure, you have a Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and G+ button that LEADS to your sales pitches. There is no content there except that it screams Promotions! Sales and Marketing pitches. Again no content to share with fellow users. 

Social Media accounts are used to generate more sales. So here you give  Google credit for taking it down a few more notches.

Failure to Engage Users

Just look at the “Things to do” topic and you’ll also see that there is no user comments or inputs. That is pretty fucked up. The site has no qualms about asking you to put down your money but makes no attempt in getting any feedback on the promotions they have. Here Google pummels Expedia down with a right hook and sinker. The result? You get to be on the THIRD page of the search baby!

Negative SEO is over hyped

Before Hummingbird, Google will send out warning emails to site users who have very poor inbound links. That’s to stop people from exploiting a loophole in the algorithm where they suspect a site has been paying other sites just to put a link to them to boost their rankings.

In a Negative SEO scenario, a competing or rival business can put up poor links to your site to take your SEO ranking down. To me, this is totally irrational and far-fetched as the competition is better off using Black Hat techniques to BOOST their own ranking over yours in keyword SEO during the Penguin and Panda era. Unless your rival in business has got an axe to grind with you, they are better off using their money to increase their rankings than to take you down.

Negative SEO in Expedia’s could have been attributed to poor sales sites designed by incompetent Expedia staff to boost their own web traffic. No content type sites are purely to blame and for that, Expedia’s got plenty of them.

Was Negative SEO to blame for Expedia’s Failure?

Several blogs mentioned that there were some old sites set up by Expedia’s many divisions to boost their rankings and this could have resulted in a Negative SEO hit. This is plausible but these pundits fail to realize that Google’s new Hummingbird algorithm is designed to take down content unfriendly sites.

This is by far the most telling result of Expedia’s failure in its SEO optimization. So what should be done to improve rankings?

Get more travel related content by tying up with travel bloggers and content providers

Each should be written in a first person narrative that provides useful travel information instead of the usual brochureware associated with it. For the money you make off booking, having a travel blog to help your travelers isn’t all that difficult. It cost Expedia loose change just to get original content. Why it hasn’t been done? Well maybe their team doesn’t know how important content is in the Hummingbird age.

Optimize the Home Page to provide Travel Content

Everywhere in the world, national tourist offices will offer you quality content on selected destinations. By integrating the content with travel information, you get to boost your SEO rankings. Bear in mind that national and government-funded tour offices do not offer sales pitches. They offer you seasonal or festive content and all you need to do is work with them to promote a destination.

Revisit Home Page Optimization 

Create quality inbound links. Tie up with travel content entities such as travel magazines and websites to create quality inbound links. Branding is important to Expedia and it should tie up with content providers and pay for these content to be featured on their site. Nothing is free in this world. Once you have content, you will have  comments, and social sharing. These engagements will definitely boost your SEO ranking.

The Cheapest Alternative for Not giving a Fuck

Expedia as a multi billion dollar business entity that can afford to pay for a top level listing on ANY Google search result. This is what Google wants Expedia to realize. You don’t become a multi-billion dollar company and hope that the poor excuse for a website gets top level listing for free.

Expedia can set aside a multi million dollar budget just to advertise alone, and still see positive results without even bothering with content optimization. If Expedia doesn’t give a fuck about content, then advertising for click-thru search results is the best way to go.

Battle of the Titans

Lastly, it is unfortunate that Expedia has become Google’s target. I see this purely as a battle for business by two industry titans. Google owns the search engine space, Expedia owns the travel booking space. Google is discreetly telling Expedia that it wants its fair share of the pie by making it known that Google searches can and will affect Expedia’s stock price. If Expedia can afford to take this hit, well, good for them. If doesn’t, then its time to recognize which turf you are on.

Facebook Page Tip: Move your Page to Groups for Better Exposure

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Facebook organic growth will drop to Zero and with that in mind, they want you to show better content. So what qualifies as better content? The recent dumbing down of the algorithm, means you will have to spend money to boost your post as well as attract eyeballs from a chosen region—while dealing with fake Facebook likers who come from massive click farms found all over the world. How can you spread your influence, engage and convert such eyeballs through Pages?

When starting your FB Page, the first thing you rely on is to get your friends to ‘like the page’ but that’s not enough. It ends there and you have to gain new  followers to your Page and not leverage only on your friends. The only way is to advertise in FB to get people to like your page that exist outside your immediate circles. For this, Facebook requires  you to pay for the first tier of service. Then after that hit you with a second tier payment plan to ‘boost your post’.

For large corporations, paying FB isn’t a problem. The problem is with SMBs or small medium businesses who have a limited advertising budget.

How do SMBs avoid paying such fees? Facebook says you have to create good content, the content should engage your audience. To do this, here are two golden rules.

Comments count as Engagement

This is the most basic rule. You need to get people to engage with your content and not just like it. Liking it is pretty useless these days. What makes for great engagement? Interesting or controversial content which gets people to put their own spin or two cents worth into it. Now that might seem like a lot to ask but it’s not that difficult if you constantly bring up interesting issues. Once people leave their comments behind, it counts towards your engagement scores. Again, brands try not to be controversial as it goes against their corporate image. Small businesses won’t have such a rigid policy so they will have more freedom to post stuff that big brands won’t indulge themselves in.

Content that is Most Shared will earn you Free Publicity

Yes, you see how things go viral. There are tricks to doing this that goes against the grain of popular brands. For example having a list of 10 things you can do with a particular product and how it can make your life easier. Content that is often shared are simple things, like using baking soda to clean stains…which big Brands are loath to discuss since they might have a $19.99 cleaning solution that does the same thing.

Other contents shared include entertainment, scientific facts and even local news pertaining to current affairs. What people don’t share is their porn sites so don’t go adding this to your page time lines.

Liking a post isn’t enough anymore. This is part of the algorithm that Facebook wants to snuff out.

Likegate is a thing of the Past

Likegating competes with Facebook’s own ad serving system to promote apps, and these can be web apps to mobile apps. This is probably the only reason why they issued a Jihad banning such acts.

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, check-in at a place or enter a promotion on your app’s Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

What FB doesn’t tell you is that if you incentivize people to ‘switch on ALL notifications’ for a particular page, you can reach out to 100 percent of all your followers. This is something they do not want even though the feature has been introduced for anyone who follows a page.

Page and app owners resort to collecting data and getting you to approve the permissions needed to post to your timeline but often this is a tricky affair. What shows up on a person’s timeline might not show up on others. Liking a page does nothing now for organic growth. It will not bring you fame or fortune or encourage fans to throw their used underwear at you in adoration. It is through sharing and comment engagements that determine your content’s life span.

Now, Facebook Pages will not be serving up anything from now on to benefit you, as a Page and business owner. You have to get smarter so what’s there to call?

Move your Facebook Pages Activity to Facebook Groups

Often ignored, Groups is the nerdy cousin of Facebook Pages. I have stressed this before in a previous post and now there is even a far better reason for this. Facebook groups has its own mobile app on iOS and Android.

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So what can you do on Groups? How can I brand myself for Group Activity? The answer is pretty simple. You have to reshape your content to suit users instead of just spamming them with the latest offers and promotions.

Hey, if I do that for Pages, would it work too? Technically it might but with a lid put on FB Pages now. You’re not going to get any eyeballs without paying Mark and his team. Remember I mentioned the ‘boost post’ feature for Pages posting? Well your likers or followers will not be seeing any of your post if you don’t ante up on the money.

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Facebook Group App has Newsfeed notification numbers to alert you on updates

 

Groups Mobile App does everything you wish your Pages would do. For example, it has a list of groups with number notifications. This means that even when a person does not turn on all notifications from your Group, he or she will still see the number of newsfeed updates the moment the app is open. This is very useful for people who use this app to keep in touch with the groups they follow. At any time, they can engage with the group and peruse the news items within each group. Group post can be moderated so if someone starts to spam your group, you can kick them out.

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All your comments and engagements will result in a group notification. This bodes well for brand owners who take the trouble to answer to every post and comment made within their own user group. What’s more Groups is immune to the algorithm set up by Facebook for promotional purpose. The Group Mobile app will allow you the chance to engage with your fans who have signed up with your Page without having to pay for the ‘boost post’ fees stipulated by Facebook.

Reinventing your Page Post to suit Group Post

This is relatively easy. Put yourself in the shoes of your consumers. What would make a good content for them to read and engage with you. Don’t just ask them to buy something outright or come down to get a promotional service. The secret here lies in a strong content strategy. Here are some tips.

Develop, create and curate content that would be useful or entertaining for your group members

Post blog items that relates your business. Give useful information that they are not aware of. Don’t assume the role of snake oil salesman and try sell members again and again with a sales pitch.

Engage with Questions and Surveys

In groups, you can conduct your own research with a click through survey question to determine how they feel about issues and questions they might have about your business and service practice. Remember to reward them for taking part.

Post Epubs Files to Members

In your group dashboard, you can post PDF publications (limited to 25mb) where members can freely download. Here you have a chance to go more in-depth with your business and services of even for that matter, serve up a promotion catalog of all your products or services.

These steps will help you build brand equity that is pretty hard to come by these days in the online world. It is certainly worth the effort to go this way instead of subjecting yourself to the new algorithm set up by Facebook. Your content strategy is not about sending out promotional invites but instead offer knowledge that puts your business or service in better light.

So spend some time, develop a cohesive content strategy and get ahead of your competitors. The lazy ones will always get left behind so don’t be one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative Content: Why you should worry about Free Speech

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Content is king but what is it? Technically speaking we derive no differentiation from negative or positive content as long as someone reads it. This is a dangerous precedence as content creators might be inclined to use negative content to bait eyeballs. Boston University’s Krystal Blanco at Boston University developed a mathematical model of how rumors are spread. In this model, individuals are either ignorants, spreaders, or stiflers of information. In addition to these categories, Blanco and co introduce a category of quarantined users who are unable to contact other members of the population and so are unable to spread their messages. This is also how Net censorship is taking place in some countries though not with the use of a mathematical formula but one that is based on keywords.

There is no Such Thing As Free Speech

I have often pointed this out to people who ask me about what makes for popular content. Being popular can be both a negative and positive experience. Positive if you are going to get loads of traffic to your post, negative if you happen to give a spiel on a competitor or as an avid blogger giving a heartfelt review of what one has experienced.

Caroline Doudet from France wrote a review of Il Giardino, an Italian restaurant in Cap-Ferret, France in August of 2013 on her blog Les Chroniques Culturelles.

She got sued by the restaurant for affecting the business.

While the court only asked Doudet to alter the headline of the article, she chose to delete it entirely following the court proceedings — only after, though, she was asked to pay a 1500 Euro fine and an additional 1000 Euro fee to cover the legal fees of the case. “If bloggers do not have the freedom to write negative reviews, positive reviews make no sense either.” Doudet’s case is the first in which an unpaid, nonprofessional blogger has been fined for publishing a less-than-positive post on a restaurant.

 
Taking a Cue from the Movie “The Chef”
 
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This little movie that came out of Hollywood is another testament of what can happen if negative reviews are used as popularity gauges. This is very dangerous as online reputation these days is largely based on your virtual popularity.
 
In the movie, a Chef’s reputation was completely destroyed with social media, and this can happen to any business that solicits social media approval.
 
Countering Negative Content
 
The first rule is not to fight back. Negative content can be disarmed but you need to identify if the person leaving it is indeed unhappy about a product or service that you provide or is just another Internet troll. Taking your troll to court is probably too far fetched unless you find a way to subpoena him or her.
 
You must first examine the negative content, be it in a blog post, twitter feed or a blogsite. This is very important as at this point, you will have to decide to engage the blogger who posted the content. In any business, there are so many ways to get a negative feedback. It could be a lapse in due diligence or a product failure.
 
After having establish this as fact, you can of course engage the person via his blog or your postings on social media. Accept the fact that you have done wrong and apologize. It is the best way out of social media flame war
 
If you feel that you have been wronged in some way, you can also choose to engage the customer directly by offering a refund or a replacement if that person came to the shop personally with the defective item.
 
The PR stunt here is have the person in the shop accepting the goods. This is a grand occasion for you to make good on something and this is how social media will work in your favor. Being humble about your mistake and making good on your service quality will create goodwill and that is the tip of the iceberg.
 
Engaging your customers socially with such content is a sure fire way to bring in more customers as it is free publicity for you. The Soviet era of having it your way or the highway in customer engagement is a death trap in the Internet age. So don’t do it.
 
Taking down a troll is easy but you have to prove they are acting erratically. If you find content that is disturbing, you can always tell the community owner to take it down. This can also happen in social media where trolls may post seemingly negative content on everything they touch. Cutting them off from their own social media community is the only step you need to take.
 
Free speech is a myth. Don’t you believe it exist on the Internet. This is where you also get to learn that leaving stinging reviews on your competitors is not a content strategy you can use lightly. It has consequences and will backfire once it is traced back to you.
 
 
 
 
 

Facebook Groups: The Zero Sum Game for Facebook Marketing?

FBGrpsYour Facebook Page has negligible organic growth, you are not going to advertise or pay to promote your post so what other choices have you got? Marketing on Facebook has suddenly become an exercise of diminishing returns as the effort put into your content creation, marketing strategy isn’t bearing enough fruit to justify the time you spend on it. Here’s a secret, start your own FB user group for your product or services and you can claw back those lost numbers.

Facebook marketing has become a zero sum game with the use of Facebook Groups. It helps to equalize the lost eyeballs and you have to change track if you don’t want to be spending a huge chunk of cash just to stay in the limelight. For example FB Marketing for Newsfeed post promotion starts at US$0.04 cents per person but that doesn’t even guarantee you anything but a bill from Zuckerberg Inc. Post promotion is not the way forward if you think people are going to click on a link that doesn’t first entice fans to something juicy.

Why FB Groups are Profitable

Facebook has explicit reasons to keep you dumbed down for Pages Newsfeed, but it has no reason to keep this same leash on Facebook Groups as it doesn’t apply the same Newsfeed algorithm to it. Facebook groups is more Notification Marketing, and is less intrusive. These post don’t appear all the time but the notifications are there for members to see.

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Signing up is real easy. Just create a group, put in a description and keep it open or closed depending on your business strategy. You could even close it to people who are your sworn enemies, or your evil twin who happens to run a similar set up as you just round the corner or for that matter invite people to join your group via email if they don’t already have a Facebook Account.

FB groups works best for small and localized businesses. The reason for this is that it’s not for brand building alone but for customer engagement. This engagement is a two-way street and as long as your product or services needs customer feedback and adoration, then you’ve hit the home run.

FB Groups are Engaging Eyeballs

FB groups are never used for marketing but for sharing a common interest. I have to disagree with a lot of Internet Content Marketeers on this as the marketing odds are in your favor if you know how to create quality and engaging content for your FB group. Think for a moment about the Facebook Page algorithm. The have included a “like baiting” algorithm to discourage you from engaging your audience. These means that those likes are not going to translate to much anyway. Why waste time on it?

The idea behind FB groups is not about getting organic growth, instead you should be focusing on your existing customers and market to them. Repeat customers are often the most neglected since everyone is focusing on organic growth but there is money to be made from customers who are happy with your product or service. The best way to go about starting a group is to have set up a FB  Page and then create your group, and from there funnel your Likers to becoming Members of the group.  Setting up the FB Page will cost you money but that is where you should be parking your money for this one time. Once you have generated a localized mass, you shanghai them to your group. There is nothing about the Facebook algorithm that prevents you from doing this. Think of a way to cajole them into joining and once they do, reward them with a gift coupon or voucher.

CALL TO ACTION

Turn on Group Notification

Get your followers to turn on their Notification Settings to receive everything you post on the Group. These settings can be found the moment they get into the group. Call them into action by rewarding them with regular redeemable vouchers.

groupfbOnce they do, group members will be receiving post notifications on their notification channel. This is very important as every post made on the group will send out a notification to all who subscribe to it.

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Create an Event for Members Only

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Members are known to you and by creating a members only pre-sale or promotional event, you are engaging your most loyal customers. One of the best use of FB Groups is that you know your members from the list generated within the group. Such a call to action campaign to generate business is priceless.

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Create “How-To” Content or Curate them for your Members

By keeping your members engaged, you get to keep their eyeballs as well. If you are selling accessories, use articles you find on the Internet to teach people how they could customize your product with it. Learn to up sell your product and services to further complement your business goals.

FBshareEngage your Members with Group Videos and Photos

Not everyone is born with a creative streak and you can reward those who can help you further your business aims by asking them to post video or photos of what they have done to the products you sell. For service based industries,  you can create videos to show what goes on in your business or give them ideas on the services you provide as a whole. Get your members into the action by showing off their own creations or ideas and reward them with prizes.

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Share Files and Documents

Words with pictures are often the easier alternative to creating  awareness if you don’t have the means or time to produce a short video.

bargroupContest rules, FAQs, Pre-order of new products, and affiliate marketing documents can be downloaded instead of having it repeated on the Group Newsfeed when someone ask the same questions. There is always someone out there who needs a document which they can use on their smartphones or tablet and this is one way to share them. The limit on the file size is 20mb so there is plenty that you can share with this feature.

Files in these cases can be anything from brochures to informational flyers can be deposited here for all to download to their mobile devices as opposed to having them get on-line to read them.

The downloaded document or file is a powerful tool to get people to action. It can be a charity drive for the local community your business is concerned with and this is a way to tell your members about it.

The Last Word on FB Marketing

FB Group marketing is Notification Marketing as it gets a lower priority on your members newsfeed. Often a post in the group will seldom appear on a member’s newsfeed unless they are actively involved in commenting on it. This means your content has to be more engaging to get people to react, which is sort of similar to “like baiting” so to speak.

The strategy for FB Group marketing is different as it is more subtle since it doesn’t show up on a newsfeed but this is where you get to tip-toe around Facebook’s Pages algorithm and keep your marketing cost low. Measure your results by the effort you put in. If content creation isn’t your forte, get a freelance blogger to help you along.

Facebook Page marketing is a totally different beast. It is expensive and doesn’t promise any tangible results which leads a lot of people to suspect that they have been had. You need to pair that marketing strategy with great content and this is where Facebook fails to mention so people assume Facebook will do double duty to get your post noticed. A majority of page owners have seen their number of fan engagements plummet to the depths of the Titanic and recovery is not any option at this point. Your post isn’t going to be worth jack even if you paid for it and gets ignored. It is high time Facebook puts some real world guarantees into its vaporous advertising drives.