Consumers want more than content online — they want to make a human connection. This means it’s no longer enough to push information out to your audience. ‘Social consumers’ are ready to engage with their favourite businesses and non-profits.
The question is: are you ready to engage with them? Customers want to know you care about them as well as their business. They want to make a connection. And as marketers and business people, everything we do — online and offline — comes down to making these meaningful connections with our customers.
While consumers generally are showing a desire to engage with businesses online, they are also more discerning about which businesses deserve their time, attention and patronage. So how can you engage the busy social consumer and make that important human connection?
Make a two-way connection
Everybody has an opinion. And most people like to share their opinion with others, including businesses. Here are three ways to get an engaging conversation with your customers started:
1. Ask your customers for their input
Post a survey, poll or open-ended question on Facebook asking customers to identify their biggest challenge or most pressing concern related to your business or cause in 2011. Report back to your audience on the results and use them to spur other conversations.
2. Start a conversation
Send out a thought-provoking question related to your industry on Twitter. Make it something people care about — an interesting trend, results of a study, a surprising report or something in the news. Link back to more info on your website, blog or Facebook page. Use a Twitter hashtag, which marks keywords or topics in tweets, to keep track of the conversation.
3. Be open to communication
Weave the results of your social conversations with customers into your content, across media channels. Good conversations seed good content, and vice versa. Write about things that people will want to talk about and share on their social networks.
Social consumers want to engage and interact with businesses in two-way conversation. Be sure that once you start a discussion, you’re present to monitor and participate in it. When a topic catches fire and gets people gabbing, jump in and fan the flames to keep the chatter going.
It’s about finding out what resonates with and engages your audience. Do some experimenting to determine what sticks. What you share and how you share it is up to you.
The 5 Characteristics Of Social Media Websites That Go Viral
There is no formula for a site that goes viral but you can see what’s missing from those that don’t.
With the advent of the web 2.0 comes a shift from simple and bland web pages to dynamic and interactive web platforms. It is now possible to create a social media site that does not only attract new businesses, but also foster relationships and create opportunities for other people.
The possibilities are endless and the barrier to entry is becoming ever thinner that one has no other choice than to key in to the new phase. Or rather, the new craze.
Every day, we see another social media site popup with the claim to become the new Facebook or the new Instagram. Even more, we are bombarded with jargon such as likes, comments, shares and viral content – words previously that never had any significance in the grand scheme of things.
But internet entrepreneurs are not giving up on the dream to create their own social networks using newer ideas and strategies. According to get2growth, there are about 472 million entrepreneurs worldwide running 305 million start-ups annually, out of which 1.35 million are internet based.
Some of these entrepreneurs, who run social media networks, have found that the proven path to success is to have an intuitive idea plugged into a quick go-to-market strategy. Nevertheless, most importantly, finding the sweet spot between what’s important for the customer and what intrigues them is an important trigger for virility.
That is why the easiest way to create a social media website or forum today is to create a platform that is positioned to go viral. So, how do you go about that? This article provides some useful tips.
1Know what’s important to the users
What the user needs is the first consideration when you want to create a social media website that goes viral. Without fulfilling this need, there will be no need to create an online community in the first place.
That is why the first question to ask is, why should people use your site instead of the other available platforms? How do you create a unique social media site so that users will always have a reason to come back?
Think of it this way: Will a user become so excited about a feature or tool on your site that they encourage their friends to use it too? Or will your site help the user connect with their friends in a way other social networks do not?
If you can find the things that are important to the users and create your site around those things, then you would have a community that others will really want to be a part of.
2Integrate features that encourage interactions
Online interactions are the fuel on which online communities thrive. The desire to interact is why there will are forums and social networking sites, so it’s important that you integrate features that foster interactions and encourage users to create exciting content.
A good way to do this is to use a platform that provides powerful tools for creating beautiful social networks. Here you have two options: Use white-label social network creators; Ready-to-go solution like Ning; or build-it-yourself frameworks like Django (Python) or CakePHP (PHP).
The most important features to consider are the site layout, community building options (such as forums, pages and groups), call-to-actions, and the site navigation. The plan is to intuitively provide users the freedom to choose how they want to interact.
3Provide powerful visual and creative tools
Users make the rules when it comes to what is shared or recommended online, so it’s wise that social networking sites provide the tools to encourage required users’ behaviours.
For example, users tend to spend more time on sites that encourage some creative activity. If that activity produces a visual result and the option to share, the user will be more likely to share it with a friend.
A survey published on Adweek revealed that users are more engaged on Instagram than on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Instagram is cozy. This lends credence to the claim that visuals and creative tools can help keep social network users engaged and even more willing to recommend content.
As you may know, Instagram allows more visuals than all the other platforms, with users sharing full-size landscape and portrait photos that may fill the whole of a viewers screen. This gives more content visibility and increase in user engagement and sharing, which is no surprise seeing the immense growth recorded by the platform even before it was acquired by Facebook.
4Push notification is a must-have
Creating a social media site that goes viral requires keeping users updated on the activities happening in their network. You never know which notification about something a user cares about will trigger an engaging discussion with potential to go viral.
Push notification provides real-time access to content on devices, especially mobile, and encourages return visits and more on-site activity, which are useful metrics for the growth of social media sites and any other site type for that matter.
Not incidentally, users tend to value push notifications more when the content delivered is useful. According to this survey, 70 percent of users were happy to enable push notifications on their favorite apps. This reportedly doubled click through rates when compared to email notifications and a higher response rate compared to when notification was not deployed.
Activities such as these improve the chances of making a social network go viral and quickly increase user growth.
5Create the set-up with “shareability” in mind
Building a successful social network requires that the end is considered right from the beginning. All functionalities must be planned according to the user behaviors anticipated. A social network set up to go viral will therefore, have to consider shareability right from the beginning.
The site setup should include layouts that allow users to easily access, interact, and share content. Features such as sharing buttons, call-to-actions, tagging, image size, and site layout can encourage sharing among groups and help position content in places where they are more visible.
The better user-interface, the easier it is for users to navigate through the site and access more useful content, which increases user engagement and shareability. However, do not forget to analyse and measure your social activity – the Holy Grail of engagement.
So, what plans do you have?
Creating a social media site that goes viral is never an easy task, but if you know what you are doing from the beginning and have a workable plan, you should be able to find some success.
You just need to come up with a strong idea that your users believe in. Something like a unique selling proposition that actually feels a need for the majority of users.
A simple change in the way a user report a story, tag photos or share their passion can be enough to make your social network the rave of the moment. But you need to have a unique plan to take you from zero to hero.
So, what is your plan?
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How To Talk Your Way To Success With Podcasts
Podcasting is taking the world by storm. Not only can it be extremely profitable, but it can be a great way to grow and market your business.
The rise of the average Joe
Some of the most successful podcasts in the world were created by relative unknowns.
Tim Ferriss’s 2007 book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich was a phenomenon. The self-help/business book spent more than four years on the New York Time’s bestseller list and has been translated into
35 languages. To date, around 1,3 million copies have been sold. It’s fair to say that every author on the planet would be happy with this sort of success. When it comes to book publishing, it doesn’t get much better than this.
Now compare the success of The 4-Hour Workweek with that of Ferriss’s podcast, The Tim Ferris Show. At the end of 2016, the show reached 100-million downloads, meaning that since the creation of the show, individual episodes have been downloaded more than 100-million times through iTunes and other podcasting channels.
Ferriss hadn’t anticipated that level of success. In fact, he started podcasting on a whim, just to see what the response would be.
“I was burned out after The 4-Hour Chef, which was nearly 700 pages, and I wanted a casual but creative break from big projects,” says Ferriss on his blog. “Since I enjoyed being interviewed by Joe Rogan, Marc Maron, Nerdist, and other podcasting heavies who really move the needle, I decided to try long-form audio for six episodes. If I didn’t enjoy it, I would throw in the towel and walk.
“My rationale: Worst-case scenario, the experience would help me improve my interviewing, which would help later book projects. This is a great example of what Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, would call ‘systems’ (win even if you lose) thinking.”
So, he saw it as a win-win. Even if the response wasn’t great, it would have been a worthwhile experience. Ferriss also applied one of his regular approaches to podcasting, asking himself: What would this look like if it was easy? Some popular podcasts, like Freakonomics Radio, for example, are highly produced and have a strong narrative structure.
Ferriss knew that he was most likely to stick with it if he made it as easy as possible to do. So, instead of a complex podcast that required a script and heavy editing, he opted for a freeform conversational structure. He simply turned on the microphone, and started talking to people.
Monetising a podcast
Even though podcasts are generally free to download, they can create a nice revenue stream. But, as is often the case in the digital sphere, it’s a numbers game. You need some real traction before the money starts to roll in. Like banner ads, podcasts work on a CPM (cost per impression) model. Popular podcasts have sponsors who pay for a pre-roll message/ad at the start of the podcast. A typical figure is $18 (R234) per 1 000 downloads for a 15-second spot, or $25 (R325) for a 60-second message. Many podcasts have more than one sponsor, so you could make more per 1 000 downloads. Also, as the popularity of a podcast increases, the CPM rate also goes up.
“Premium podcasts tend to charge between $25 and $100 CPM. By ‘premium’, I mean high-converting, single-host, iTunes top-50 podcasts,” says Ferriss.
So, if your CPM is $50 and you’re getting 100 000 downloads, you multiply 50 with 100 to get an income of $5 000 (R65 000) per sponsor per episode.
Tim Ferriss could be making millions a year from his podcast alone, but he chooses not to monetise too aggressively.
“If I wanted to fully monetise the show at my current rates, I could make between $2 million and $4 million per year, depending on how many episodes and spots I offer. So why only ‘if I wanted to fully monetise?’ Because ‘fully monetising’ — bleeding the stone for all it’s worth — is nearly always a mistake, in my opinion,” says Ferriss.
“I want to convert casual listeners into die-hard, fervent listeners, and I want to convert casual sponsors into die-hard, fervent sponsors. This requires two things: Playing the long game, and strategically leaving some chips on the table. As a mentor once told me: ‘You can shear a sheep many times, but you can skin him only once.’”
Indeed, if you want to create a successful podcast, it’s important not to try and monetise too early.
“Novice podcasters (which I was) and bloggers get too distracted in nascent stages with monetisation,” says Ferriss. “In the first three to nine months, you should be honing your craft and putting out increasingly better work. Option A: You can waste 30% to 50% of your time to persuade a few small sponsors to commit early and stall at 30 000 downloads per episode because you’re neglecting creative. Option B: You can play the long game, wait six to twelve months until you have a critical mass, then you get to 300 000 downloads per episode and make 10x per episode with much larger brands. If you can afford it, don’t be in a rush. Haste makes waste. In this case, it can make the difference between $50 000 per year and $1 million per year. To reiterate a phrase more often used for blogging: Good content is the best SEO.”
Of course, you could argue that a self-help guru like Ferriss has a much easier time launching a podcast than your Average Joe, and he certainly has an existing audience, but he believes that anyone can start a great podcast. Being a ‘famous’ person doesn’t guarantee success, and some of the biggest podcasts around were created by relative unknowns.
“Coming to the party with a pre-existing audience isn’t enough. Celebrities, YouTube icons, and bestselling authors start podcasts every week that get abandoned three weeks later,” says Ferriss.
“Like everyone else, at one point, I had zero readers and zero listeners. We all start out naked and afraid. Then your mom starts checking out your stuff, or perhaps a few friends give a mercy-listen, and the fragile snowball grows from there.”
Creating your own podcast
Starting a podcast is relatively simple and cheap. All you really need is a microphone, a guest and an iTunes account. As mentioned earlier, it’s better to start small, gain momentum, and then think about monetisation down the line.
“Upload at least two or three pre-recorded episodes when you launch your podcast. This appears to help with iTunes ranking, which — like bestseller lists — can be self-propagating. The higher you rank, the more people see you, the higher you continue to rank,” says Ferriss.
He also recommends that you keep things simple. “Most would-be blockbuster podcasters quit because they get overwhelmed with gear and editing. I decided to record and publish entire conversations (minimising post-production), not solely highlights. I also use a tremendously simple gear set-up and favoured Skype interviews for the first 20 or so interviews, as the process is easier to handle when you can look at questions and prep notes in Evernote or a notebook.
“As Tony Robbins would say: Complexity is the enemy of execution. You do not need concert hall-quality audio. Most people will be listening in the subway or car anyway, and they’ll forgive you if recordings are rough around the edges. Audio engineers will never be fully satisfied with your audio, but 99,9% of listeners will be happy if you’re intelligible and loud enough.”
Other ways of making money
The CPM/sponsorship model is not the only way to make money with podcasting. You are, of course, also free to approach companies about sponsorship outside the CPM model. If you’ve got a podcast that will align well with a specific brand, you could approach the company about funding the show.
You could also ask your audience to sponsor the show. Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris has a popular podcast called Waking Up, which is created entirely through audience contributions. Harris doesn’t believe in the CPM model, since he thinks it can sometimes seem a bit greedy and also forces listeners to sit through a lot of ads.
The popular Joe Rogan Experience podcast typically has around 12 minutes of ads, while The Tim Ferriss Show usually has about six minutes of ads. Harris has no ads, but does ask his listeners for donations. Of course, only a fraction of listeners will ever decide to pay for the content you create, but if you have enough listeners (Harris has around 800 000 every week), a relatively small number is enough to make it worthwhile.
You can ask for donations through your own website, or through a service like Patreon, which is an American Internet-based membership platform that provides business tools for creators to run a subscription content service.
You should also keep in mind that a podcast can be a smart investment, even if you make no money from it whatsoever. A podcast can be a great way to position yourself as an expert or thought leader in a particular industry. So, instead of trying to monetise your podcast directly, you can use it as a form of content marketing to promote your products and services. Importantly, though, you should not be too aggressive in your marketing. If the podcast feels like nothing more than an extended ad for your business, listeners will be put off. Instead, focus on creating great content that will drive people to your online channels.
A podcast can also be a great networking tool. You might not be able to get a meeting with a successful CEO, but you could invite him or her onto your popular podcast. Once that relationship has been created, talking business becomes easier. You could also offer your podcast to customers as a platform to discuss their own business successes and challenges. Regardless of how you choose to utilise the medium, podcasting provides an excellent opportunity to speak directly to an audience that no entrepreneur should ignore. EM
“Like everyone else, at one point, I had zero readers and zero listeners. We all start out naked and afraid. — Tim Ferriss
Did you know?
Podcasts are the single fastest growing medium in the world.
The rise of Gimlet Media
Gimlet Media in the US was created a few years ago specifically as a podcasting company. Gimlet’s first season of its first podcast show, Startup, follows the launch of the company. It’s a warts-and-all look at how the company tried to secure funding, find offices and hire staff. If you want to get into podcasting, it’s definitely worth a listen.
Why Your Business’ Social Media Marketing Strategy Is Probably Wrong
Social media platforms weren’t designed with sales pitches and marketing slogans in mind.
Social media platforms weren’t designed with sales pitches and marketing slogans in mind. All the leading platforms started with ordinary people talking about their ordinary lives. Ten years ago, Jawed Karim posted the first-ever video to YouTube.
Only 18 seconds long, the video, entitled “Me at the Zoo,” features YouTube cofounder Karim, at the San Diego Zoo standing in front of a bunch of elephants. It was the start of a storytelling revolution. People had stuff to share and things to say – and today the internet remains the best place to do it. The key to good online marketing is storytelling.
Brands worth their salt (and even those with tight budgets) know that they need to join and start conversations between real people in their most intimate spaces.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
Since then, ads and promoted content have become a norm across all platforms, but the essence of user experience remains true to the original purpose. People want to connect, share, experience, learn, chat, engage, gossip, protest, moan, like, love and feel loved. They’re less interested in your latest promotion or one-time-only sale – and more interested in their friends’ new pets or how many people liked their holiday photos.
If your marketing manager doesn’t get this, then you might as well hand out flyers at the traffic intersection. Just don’t try to do it on platforms like Instagram and Twitter. Regular users of these platforms are highly averse to content that look and feel like sales leaflets from daily newspapers.
Brands should think, talk and sound like people – real people. They should be prepared for people to talk back and that what they say probably won’t be “brand friendly”.
If you see people only as a target audience and your aim is to capture leads, the invitation to storytelling will frustrate your marketing goals. But if you see people as lovers, adventurers, romantics, wannabe rock-stars, athletes, dreamers, parents – the list is really endless – you will move beyond targeting. Instead, you’ll want to touch and connect with people who experience the fundamental ups and downs of being human. You will be less bothered about reach, and more concerned about reaching out and having a conversation.
Google and Facebook love the fact that companies are willing to spend their hard-earned cash on online ad campaigns. Sure, these campaigns can be highly effective if done well, but they can also be a total waste of effort with very few qualified results. Just because you have budget to boost your content, doesn’t mean you should.
Take another look at your content. Stop asking if it’s catchy enough. That’s the wrong question. Rather, create from the core of your story to reach the hearts of people who are interested in what you’re offering. Social media platforms were not built for showcasing your latest stock, but to be launchpads for stories. From the mundane to the jaw-dropping crazy, there’s been no better time than now. Get out there and go for broke.
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