Wednesday, September 12, 2012

7 Mistakes Businesses Make on Facebook

I often see so many websites with nice looking Facebook buttons on the page but when I click and go to the actual page on Facebook, there is complete disappointment. The pages are so badly maintained that I feel like telling them that they are better off without those icons on the website. Obviously badly maintained pages do more harm than no presence at all.

I have observed some very common mistakes which businesses make on Facebook. This article describes 7 such common mistakes and some suggestions on how to avoid those.

#1 Incomplete Page Information
Facebook offers great options to brands to position themselves properly and create a nice image. Brands often neglect the About, Contact Info and Basic Info sections and fill those out with some incomplete information. Remember to treat Facebook page as important as your website with accurate and complete information.

Secondly, there are things like Cover photo, profile picture. These offer you great way to create visual appeal on your page. Make sure you don’t ignore Facebook’s guidelines while designing the cover photo.  Create a profile picture which is visible in your posts. Creating a profile picture with brand logo which gets cropped in smaller size creates a very bad impression.

Facebook also allows you to carefully select top 3 tabs for your page. You can select those so that you can integrate other things like Twitter handle, YouTube Channel for your brand, Contests etc with  your Facebook page. Set nice images for those tabs which go well with your brand.

#2 Lack of Theme
By theme I mean the content theme. The job does not end with creation of a page with nice photos and profile picture. In fact, it starts after that. Before you join the social media bandwagon, please do think and decide your social media objective. What are you going to use Facebook for? Don’t use it for posting some random things or don’t treat it as another advertising billboard. Create a theme for your page. Let people connect with the theme. Let them look forward to your updates.

#3 Lack of Consistency/ Too much Posting
This is something which I have observed with many pages.  There is a whole bunch of activity during the initial period or during some major event. But as the time progresses, the activity reduces. There are no updates, the page information is old, the page shows incorrect phone numbers/ website URLs, questions by users are not answered etc. On the other hand, some pages get over excited and start posting even if someone sneezes. Anything extreme is not acceptable. Maintain consistency. Attain engagement. Identify the ideal time when your users can be best engaged by posting only relevant updates.

#4 Incorrect Handling of Negative Comments
Most of the brands are scared about negative comments on social media. They choose either to ignore them completely or handle them very poorly. Handling negative comments on social media is tricky but one fundamental rule you need to remember is that you MUST respond to all negative comments. Never delete those leave or leave them unattended. When someone posts something negative, use that as an opportunity to take care of the issue and turn an unhappy user into a loyal brand advocate.

#5 Ignorance to Messages
Did you know that your users can send you private messages in your Page’s inbox? Make it a habit to check those and respond. Many times, people are not comfortable vouching their concern publicly on timeline or need to bring something to your attention through a private message. Respect that and respond to all private messages.

#6 Quantity over Quality 
Your main focus on Facebook cannot be only increasing the fans. There are numerous ways to increase the fans – including purchase of fans. I would strongly recommend not going by this way. If your objective of being on Facebook is to connect with your users, get them involved in your brand and provide them an additional platform to interact with you, then the fake profiles do not add any value to your page.

#7 Lack of Engagement
Ignoring user comments, not answering the questions, not acknowledging appreciations, not paying attention to grievances – all these things tend to lack of engagement on your page. Unlike advertisement, which is essentially one way communication, Facebook offers you an opportunity for two-way communication with your product/ service users. Isn’t this a great opportunity to listen to them, know what they want, provide immediate solutions to their problems and get them involved in your brand? Why not utilize it to the fullest?

Have a critical look at your page and see if you are committing any of these mistakes – knowingly or unknowingly? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Your 10 Most Common Social Media Questions Answered

When I meet with small and medium size business owners to discuss with them their marketing objectives and offer actionable advice, I often come across lot of questions about social media. It could be because: it’s not very old, it’s evolving very fast (with new platforms coming up every day),  it’s important (everybody seems to be using it!), there are lot of success stories but it has to be done differently for every business (requires creativity) and there is confusion about ROI and so on.  

I agree that no two businesses are same, however, since I do discuss similar topics quite often, I thought of putting together the questions and the best practices I suggested.  If you are faced with similar issues/ questions, you will enjoy this read  :- )   

#1 Do I really need social media?
This is the MOST commonly asked question. Many businesses think that they don’t really need this new media. After all they are just doing fine without it so far. But then I ask them: aren’t you worried that you might miss on some new lead generation methods? You might miss on some very valuable customer connection and engagement opportunity? When brands worldwide – right from Fortune 500 to the small cafes around the corner are benefitting from it, aren’t you willing to give it a thought that there might be some merit in it?

Getting involved in social media allows you to be more engaged with your current and potential clients.  The word “transparency” was probably most clichéd word used to describe social media some 3-4 years ago, but it’s very true.  Social media allows companies to have a voice and to show the public that your company is willing to listen and gather unsolicited feedback.  Social media also allows your brand to provide that extra customer service option outside of the traditional email and phone media.

So while you need to definitely look into if your target audience is on social media or not, you should not reject is outright without giving it a thought.  

#2 Which is a better platform? Facebook or Twitter?
What would you answer if you are asked “Is T-Shirt more appropriate or a formal shirt?” Well, you would say “depends on the occasion” right? Now apply the same principle. Whether Facebook is better or Twitter clearly depends on your objective, purpose, your target market and your user group. Both the platforms have their own merits, purpose, usage guidelines and benefits. You need to understand your marketing and communication objective and then choose an appropriate platform. You need to also consider that people’s behavior on Twitter is different than on Facebook.  Twitter timeline moves faster than Facebook so you really need to post almost like real-time updates on Twitter. It provides the kind of immediacy. Whereas; on Facebook, you have better opportunity to have more in-depth conversation around a topic. Picture sharing is more appreciated on Facebook than Twitter.  So I would say that if at all you have to choose, apply a simple test: Choose a platform where your audience spends more time :-)

#3 Can I use LinkedIn for promotion of my business?
I would not recommend this. LinkedIn as a platform is for connecting with individuals, getting in touch with professionals and experts and interacting with them. Mostly I have observed people using LinkedIn groups to promote their business. This is strict NO. Discussion Groups, as the name itself says, are for discussions. Use them to discuss interesting topics, share point of views and learn. Don’t dilute the purpose by commenting with product promotions. Do it ONLY IF you truly believe that your product offers the value in line with the discussion which is going on.

#4 Does Google AdWords work better than Facebook ads?
Both the types of ads have shown great results for businesses. Fundamentally, although both work on the principles of Pay-Per-Click or Pay as Per Impressions, there is a slight difference. Google ads are more keyword driven. You choose the keywords for which you would like to show your ad, put a bid you are willing to pay and you are done. In Facebook, you can choose to show your ads based on interests like photography, reading, writing etc. Essentially you show your ads to people who you think would be ‘relate’ with your ads better.

Secondly, you need to remember that there is always intent on Google. When someone does a search on Google, he/she has come there with some intention (of either making a decision, making a purchase, research etc).  On Facebook, mostly people are for networking and connecting with friends. So the intent is not explicitly there.

Consider all these options when you take a call.

#5 Does Social Media work for B2B?
Absolutely - Just that you need to use it in a different way. With B2B, use social media to build thought leadership, gather reviews and opinions and educate people. Don’t make the mistake of using social media as any other marketing campaign. Focus on two-way dialogue with your audience rather than one-way messaging. Be patient and you are sure to go long way with this.

#6 How do I create a viral campaign?
Unfortunately there is no formula which can guarantee your campaign to go viral. Of course there are some common elements of a successful viral campaign. Here is one of my previous articles speaking about viral campaigns in detail.

#7 How to get more followers and fans?
You will find numerous articles describing how to increase your fans and followers. But the first thing you need to remember with social media is that it is better to have 10 engaged followers than 100 non-engaged ones. Yes, numbers do matter to create an impact, but do not compromise on quality for the sake of quantity.

Having said that, you can achieve numbers as well as quality with well thought out strategy and plan. Sharing useful and insightful content, initiating meaningful dialogues, making it easy to find you on social media and offering exclusive content on social media are some of the ways which can help you get more engaged fans and followers. In case of Facebook, you can run Facebook ads to drive audience to your page. Do remember to have a concrete execution plan in place to keep the audience engaged. Otherwise, you are sure to lose them in no time.

#8 How much will social media cost?
If I say social media does not cost of anything, I will be lying. Although most of the platforms are free, you do need to spend quality time for using those platforms effectively. So there is investment of time – which is not free :). There are paid options available like pay-per-click ads, promoted tweets etc, but you can very effectively use the platforms without spending money on those – just with your creativity.   Make sure to keep your audience interested in being connected with you, value their connection and offer them something worth their attachment with you, get them involved in your brand – emotionally as well as through some gestures like discounts, exclusive offers etc.

#9 Will I be able to measure the ROI?
Definitely yes! Don’t believe those who tell you that you cannot measure ROI on social media – they don’t know how to measure it. The ROI with social media can be both qualitative as well as quantitative. Here is one of my past articles on how to measure ROI with social media.

#10 How to handle negative comments on social media?
This is one question which is asked many times. There is a common misconception that social media opens a can of worms with lot of negative comments. But actually thinking, if at all there are negative sentiments, at least social media is offering you a platform to KNOW about those sentiments which you would have never known – but your customers and others would have definitely known. With such negative comments on social media, you are at least getting an opportunity to address those negative comments/ sentiments and regain the confidence of your customers, whom you would have probably completely lost. In this article, I have described a simple 3-step approach on handling negative comments on social media.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article. I have also co-authored a book ‘Are you Socially Shy? to help small and mid-size business owners get started with social media. This book describes getting started with 6 popular social media platforms in 8 hours. The platforms covered in this book are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, SlideShare and Blog.

Look forward to hearing your comments! 

Note: This article was originally published on at

Monday, May 7, 2012

What Twitter Means for Film Celebrities in India

Everyone worldwide obviously cares about social media and it is no wonder that in India as well, the transition has happened from mere curiosity, experimentation to active usage. India is one of the top 10 Tweeting countries (based on number of tweets coming from the country). India is also one of the top three countries in terms of user base on Facebook. When such is the case, it is no wonder that celebrities, including actors, singers, sports people and politicians have made their presence felt on these platforms.

Twitter, of all the platforms, seems to be more popular among the celebrities. It could be because of reasons like: a) posting updates is easy from smart phones even while being on move, b) quick and easy connect and c) broadcasting can happen to a large number of people. And of course, not to forget, it’s free and it’s has become a style statement :-)

I looked at Twitter accounts of three Bollywood personalities. Each one of them has a certain tweeting style.

Amitabh Bachhcan (@SrBachchan): As in May 2012, Amitabh completed two years on Twitter and must appreciate the regularity with which he posts updates.  The tweets range from updates about IPL matches, festivals, promotion of new shows, film rehearsals and personal opinions. Until recently, there was lesser interaction with fans and mostly the activity was restricted to posting tweets. But now, Amitabh has become even more active on Twitter and tries to respond to @mentions. I liked the way he has written his bio as “Actor ... well at least some are STILL saying so !!and has given a cross-link to his blog from the Twitter handle.

What I liked: He has introduced a unique style of numbering the tweets. The last I saw, it was somewhere around 750. The tweets don’t revolve only around films or promotion. In fact, such tweets are very rare. There is a nice variety in the tweets which make them interesting. And of course, very personalized responses to the @mentions - sometimes in Hinglish which make them even more appealing :)

Priety Zinta (@realpreityzinta): In October 2009, Priety’s Twitter presence was triggered because apparently a fake account was created in her name and she wanted to get rid of that. I think that has influenced the word ‘real’ in her Twitter handle. Her Twitter bio has link to Kings XI Punjab website which is the IPL owned by her. She has maintained nice tone and language in her tweets. Words like ‘Ting’ match the real her :) Her Twitter timeline is full of responses. This shows the active connection she maintains with fans and responds to almost all @mentions. She even took help of her Twitter fans for coming up with a name for her chat show on UTV Stars.

What I liked: The tone of tweets that matches her personality. She has started a cool thing of Sunday chat with handle #pzsundaychat wherein she picks a topic from suggestions given by her fans and chats with the fans on Twitter.

Priyanka Chopra (@priyankachopra): Although referred as one of the celebrities with large number of followers, I would say this is fairly ‘typical’ twitter account – bio, website link, tweets - everything I found very standard. Active account but no novelty. Tweets are about travel schedules, upcoming movies, endorsements and responses to @mentions. Yes, there are some RTs too but mostly for the tweets by other celebrities.

What I liked: Well, nothing much.

In general, although in terms of follower counts, the celebrity accounts are flaring, I was disappointed to see lack of innovation and creativity in way the accounts are managed. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Social Media Influencers - Who They Are and How to Recognize Them?

With a disproportionate ability to spread information and add credibility, influencers are human TV stations and magazines.” Jay Baer, Founder of Convince & Convert, Co-author The NOW Revolution

Smart marketers have started taking a serious note of social media influencers. With information overload from various online and offline channels, today buyers trust opinions of friends and experts, more than the advertising campaigns by brands.

As observed by Ian Carrington, Sales Director for mobiles at Google UK, during the Google+ event at Social Media week in London, “Consumers were 300 percent more likely to buy a product recommended by a friend.

So who really are the social influencers? Celebrities with hundreds of thousands of fans and following? Friends and colleagues whose opinion we tend to trust more? Experts in a particular field? Well, I would say that social influencers can be any or all of these – depending on the product and brand.

For example:
1.    For a medical instruments brand, a well-known doctor’s opinion will be valued more than a well known personality’s opinion.
2. At fashion shows, celebrities have started making their mark because for young generation, those are the fashion icons.
3.  For baby food, organic and earth friendly products, credible Mommy bloggers have become real movers.
4.    A grocery store once sponsored a cooking show where the show chef used items from the store and made exotic dishes. Now, for the store, the chef was the social influencer.
5.    After the Tsunami, Japan Tourism saw a sharp decline in visitors. Therefore, to make an impact, Japan tourism had proposed to start a project inviting bloggers and people who are active on social media to come and visit places in Japan by offering them free flight. The proposal was that the bloggers will visit the places which had got affected by Tsunami and then write about how the places been recovered successfully.

Considering the variety in the types of influencers, the question comes to mind is that how to know if you, as a marketer, are choosing a right influencer? Well, I think the real social media influencers have some common characteristics such as:
  •  They have a very engaged network. They are in touch with their network well. They don’t just broadcast messages but are well-connected with their network and they are able to influence conversations. 
  • They are credible for people to take notice. They opinions are valued because they ‘know’ what they are saying – either because of their professional expertise or general experience.
  •  They have reach – The reach could direct or indirect. Either they are able to directly reach out to masses or they can reach out to people who can in turn reach out to masses.
  • They have their own style and people appreciate them for their style and with that style, they can keep the people engaged.

It is undoubted that in the coming years, a major trend in marketing is going to be social influence targeting. As brands are realizing the value of social influencers, they have started forming more close relationships with them. But I believe that social influencers should never ‘endorse’ any brand. That makes them loose their credibility. Then it starts appearing like advertising. Social influencers should maintain clear, unbiased, informed and well-thought of opinions to retain their credibility.  

What is your take? Have you ever made any purchase decision because of social influencers? Share your thoughts, experiences and comments. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Did Online Marketing and Social Media Change 4 P’s of Marketing?

All MBA students, marketers, advertisers are taught the 4 (important) P’s of marketing. Invented in 1960s, these P’s have formed integral part of marketing education since then. All elaborate marketing plans for brands and businesses are (or were?) based on Price, Promotion,  Place and Product.

But, with the growing influence of social media and online marketing, have these 4, well at least 3, P’s of marketing changed? Let’s look at each of those in this light:

This P of marketing says that you should price your products or services competitively across distribution channels. But do you really think you can do that when there are so many deal sites and comparison sites? 

Today, price is one of the major factors because of which consumers join social media sites – especially in case of travel. Are companies not forced to let the market decide the price?

Additionally, with Internet, mobiles, social media, it has become very easy for consumers to identify inconsistency in pricing if you have introduced any. This can be very dangerous for the brand image because consumers will immediately find that out and even worse, talk about that more openly and to a wider audience. 

So Price can rarely be of marketing advantage.

With rising costs of traditional advertising and lack of ways for measuring effectiveness, many companies are turning away from costly advertising media like TV commercials or billboards. In past as well, many brands have succeeded without costly advertising and marketing.

For example: With its umbrella marketing strategy, Amul spends only around 1% of turnover for marketing. 

When around 3.5% of revenue is being spent on advertising by fashion retailers, the popular Zara brand spends just 0.3%!

Ferrari, the Italian sports car manufacturer does not spend a single penny on advertising space. They rely completely on special exclusive events, word of mouth and of course social media as their marketing weapons.

Google started advertising only recently and Facebook also did not reach the valuation to the tune of $100B with advertising.

But, with Internet and social media, word of mouth and forming a close connection with customers and users seem to be the key to promotion. Conventional promotion mechanisms are no more being banked on when the world has become such a smaller and well connected place with Internet.

Does place really matter in the Internet age? With so many online shopping sites, eCommerce sites, reviews and social shopping sites, aren’t consumers going on web for shopping? Most of the large stores like Shoppers Stop also have special offers for online buyers.

I think, therefore, the ‘place’ parameter has seized to have significant place in the strategic marketing planning.

So we are left with last P –Product. ‘Product’ definitely has not have changed. No matter what you use for promotion, what price you keep and where you sell it – you got to have a great product.

Yes, but one thing has changed. In this age of social communication and connection, you have to not only make products that meet the needs of consumers but also make them newsworthy. Today the verdict about product on social media reaches the consumer before the company’s advertisement. So make sure your product delivers the value beyond the expectations of the consumer.

Users did not want an iPad until it was built but now they wonder how they lived without it for so many years. The key here is building great products, newsworthy products and enjoyable user experiences. 

I think Kotler’s conclusion “The best way to hold customers is to constantly figure out how to give them more for less.” holds very true – even today! : - )  

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Save Your Content From Failing

Creating great content is not easy. It requires real efforts, knowledge, domain understanding and lot of dedication. A well written and executed content can build a lot of credibility for your brand. By content I mean the content in various forms such as a blog article, a presentation, a video, a whitepaper, a brochure or even a website.

Here are some of the reasons because of which, according to me, content can fail:

#1: Multiple Point of Views
Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many viewpoints can make a great piece of content highly non-useful. Your content needs to convey ONE strong message. It should not confuse the reader. Present one viewpoint and provide supporting material for the same. Multiple viewpoints will showcase your lack of understanding, as a writer, of the subject matter.

#2: No Proper Targeting
Of course you are writing for the audience. But who is your audience? Identify and zero in on whom are you targeting. That will help you address the needs, sentiments, emotions, understanding and knowledge of the audiences. You will be able to use THEIR language and that will make them connect and engage with your content and break the barriers. Writing for too broad an audience is not going to help.

#3: No Good Title
The title is the ‘first impression’. A well-written title will attract the readers to read your content and a poorly written title can make them ignore it. Make sure that you provide a very concise, specific, appealing and attention grabbing title to your content. It should convey the essence of the complete material and should convey what the content is going to present. Many a times, writers put up a fancy title just to attract readers but the real content is completely disconnected with the title. This is a fail strategy. Your title MUST be in sync with the content. Avoid making it too long or two short. Definitely don’t use non-standard abbreviations.  

#4: Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
Great idea, great content and great viewpoints – everything can fail if your content has spelling and grammar mistakes. I personally get put off by such content, no matter how interesting the topic is. I have seen commonly made mistakes with ‘it’s Vs its’, ‘affect Vs effect’, ‘Your Vs You’re’. Very simple things but make a huge impact. Please do pay special attention to these finer details before you finalize your copy.

#5: Long, Complex and Forgetting Content 
Many think that if the content sounds complex, it is going to win the hearts of the readers. Wrong. It is often seen that content which is simple to understand and comprehend and is interactive is more appreciated than long and forgetting content. Don’t be aloof. Make sure that you ‘converse’ with your readers through your content.

#6: No Promotion or Marketing Plan
What’s the use if your content is kept under the wraps and not promoted well? Only you will know that it is a great piece.  Go all about promoting it properly through appropriate channels. Gone are the days when businesses used to say ‘If I have built this great thing, people will come’. Today, in this age of information overload, appropriate promotion is essential

#7: Not Easy to Socially Share
Don’t make your content socially shy. Make is easy to share. You can’t reach out to all. If someone has liked your content, make it easy for that person to share the knowledge. Make life easy for them and encourage sharing. Social media plugins are extremely easy to integrate and create huge impact.

Hope this comes as a easy checklist for you next time you create any content. Have any more suggestions? Please add.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fly Right with Your Social Media Strategy

For any business, small or large, social media can be a wonderful experience. It provides exciting opportunities for approaching, connecting and engaging with your target customers. It also offers tremendous potential for generating buzz through viral effect.  All this is possible only if the strategy is rock solid, the planning is perfect and execution is flawless.

Let us have a look at some of the aspects to ensure you have success with your social media initiatives:

#1 Define Objectives Clearly
Most of the social media plans fail because the objectives are not clearly defined. It is true that with any kind of marketing, businesses want to see results in terms of increased revenues. But with social media, businesses need to fine tune their expectations because it is different than traditional marketing. It offers great opportunities for you to connect and engage with your audience which otherwise was not possible. So when you start off with your social media efforts, define your social media objectives very clearly. What exactly are you looking for through social media: are you looking for connecting with your customer, are you looking to gather product or services feedback, do you want to offer technical support for your products or do you want to create a engaged community of your product users. You need to clearly define the objectives. Once the objectives are set, it becomes easier to match the results vis-à-vis the expectations.

#2 Pay Special Attention to the Content
Remember that there are different social media platforms with a purpose. You can’t get away by sharing the same kind of content on all the platforms and expect people to appreciate the same. I have seen many companies blindly linking their Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. That’s a fail strategy. People do not connect with you on different platforms to see you post same content everywhere. Understand the platform and the intricacies of the same. Then look at the kind of followers you have on each platform and then define the content strategy according to that.  Along with this, each platform also offers different benefits. Exploit those benefits. For example: You can have a visual impact in your post through picture album on Facebook. Or you can quickly share an important update with mass followers on Twitter. Understand the difference in each platform.

#3 Converse and Engage
I have seen that many companies think that social media platforms are like free advertising boards. They go all about promoting their products and services on social media. While occasional self promotion is alright, it’s certainly not advisable all the time. It is called spamming in the world of social media. You have advertising medias for that so stick to those. Utilize social media for its core purpose – conversation and engagement. Social media offers you wonderful opportunities to connect, converse and engage with your audience. Here you have an opportunity to understand their views, share knowledge, provide solutions and also learn in the process. This was otherwise not possible with traditional mediums. So utilize social media to the fullest for these.

#4 Don’t Go After Only Fans and Followers
Provide value and you will get fans and followers - it’s as simple as that. You can’t simply go crazy after fans and followers and forget about the other important aspects like conversation and engagement. Provide value to the audiences in terms of your attention, your knowledge, special tips, offers, value-added services and they will cherish the association. Remember: the key is engagement and not the numbers. You have other matrices to measure the effectiveness of your campaign which go beyond the fans and followers numbers.

#5 Measure the Results
Don’t believe if someone tells you that social media ROI cannot be measured. It’s just that the measurement matrices are different than the traditional media. Here, conversation is more important than conversion. Engagement is more important than numbers. Quality is more important than quantity. But this does not mean that measurement of ROI is not possible. For each platform, you have metrics to measure the effectiveness of the engagement you are having with the audience. For example: ‘Facebook Insights’ gives you various metrics which show how many people are engaged with your business page. On Twitter you can watch “replies”, “Retweets”, Klout score etc.  Do keep a watch on these factors vis-à-vis the goals and objectives you have set. Do the review from time to time so that you have an opportunity to fine tune your strategy.

Once you have the well planned strategy, defined execution plan and a great team to carry it out and Means to track the efforts, you are a winner! Don’t wait any further, start with Social Media NOW!

This article was first published on at