Using Google+ for Business [Infographic]

How business can use Google+I have to admit that I’ve had misgivings about Google+ since it launched last September. How many other social media initiatives has Google rolled out, only to have them die on the vine because of poor execution, lousy interfaces, and decreasing attention from Google developers? Wave and Buzz come to mind, among others. And it’s yet another silo for social media marketers to maintain — Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks all require hands-on management to achieve marketing goals, and adding Google+ as an additional marketing/branding channel also requires lots of care and feeding. After all, social networks are not alike and they can’t all be used the same way — each one needs a unique plan and approach.
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25 Google Plus Resources, Articles, and Reviews to Help You Get Started

Google+ (or is it “Google Plus”?), the search giant’s big social initiative, has arrived and there’s a lot to learn. Google’s answer to Facebook has been in the works for a year and has been delayed several times due to disagreements about its design, purpose, and execution. Facebook’s threat to Google’s domination of the Web was a wake-up call that ignited the development of the new social platform. Even though Facebook’s traffic seems to be slowing in the U.S. and Canada, the network’s exponential growth frightened Google’s leadership into taking action. When Facebook discovered the company’s plans, it went into  “lockdown” for 60 days and focused on completing new features like Facebook Groups, Facebook Messages, and Facebook Places.

Google refers to Google+ as a “project” rather than a product, stressing that its goal is to make Google itself more social rather than being a standalone social network that competes directly with Facebook. “It’s ‘Plus’ because it takes products from Google and makes them better and ‘project’ because it’s an ongoing set of products,” said Vic Gundotra, Google’s senior vice president of Social. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably, well, a duck. And Google+ looks like and quacks like Facebook in many ways.

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Careful, Google: Facebook Has Passed You in Time Spent on Site [Chart]

If Google isn’t already worried about Facebook, this should unnerve them.

According to the latest data from comScore, time spent on Facebook was greater than time spent on Google sites in the U.S. in August for the first time ever. In the meantime, Yahoo continues its downward slide.

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12 Reasons to Use Social Media to Grow Your Business

Social media is fast becoming an essential part part the marketing mix for brands. Companies are increasingly using social tools to monitor conversations about their products, competitors, and industry, and engaging with their customers to build strong relationships. According Forrester Research’s most recent Interactive Marketing Forecast, social media marketing will grow at an annual rate of 34% -– faster than any other form of online marketing and double the average growth rate of 17% for all online mediums:

And new research from Access Markets International Partners shows that almost 70% of small and medium businesses actively use social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to promote themselves. But simply posting what your CEO had for lunch isn’t going to help much with your branding efforts — it’s important to strategically use social media tools to increase exposure and reach your target audience.

Here are 12 compelling reasons to use social media to help grow your business:

1. Own your brand’s social presence: If you don’t create official channels online, it’s only a matter of time before your fans do it for you and create their own profiles and communities around your brand. It’s important to claim your brand name across all the major social media platforms. Here are two sites that will help you do this:

  • KnowEm: KnowEm has the highest number of sites (over 350) available for checking username availability. Simply by entering your desired username, you’ll be able to find out instantly if it’s still available. KnowEm also offers paid plans, from just signing up and registering you at 150 sites, to a full-featured plan which also fills in all profile details, complete with pictures, at 100 to 300 different networking sites.
  • namechk: Covering 72 major social networking sites, namechk is simple, fast, and easy to use. If your desired username or vanity URL is still available, you simply click through each one to claim it. If your brand isn’t consistent across the Web, namechk can help you by determining which usernames are still available on a number of the most popular sites.

2. Look like you “get it”: Your target audience is becoming more shrewd about leveraging social media sites as an integral part of their daily lives. If you want to appear relevant and in-step with the latest advances in technology, your potential customers will want to see you on these sites as well. If you don’t have a presence, you appear as if you’re not very savvy.

3. Brand recognition: You need to go where your customers are, and they are increasingly spending a great deal of time on social networking sites. Using social media enables your company to reach a huge number of potential customers. Getting your name out there is incredibly important — studies suggest that people need to hear a company’s name at least seven times before they trust and respect it enough to become a customer.

4. Take your message directly to consumers: Social media tools enable you to directly engage consumers in conversation. Be sure to build trust by adding value to the community consistently over time.

5. Increase your search engine rankings: Social media profiles (especially those on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) frequently rank highly with major search engines. Creating keyword-rich profiles around your brand name can help generate traffic for your both your social-networking sites and your company’s Web site.

6. SEO benefits: Many social media bookmarking sites use NOFOLLOW tags that limit the outbound link value of posts made on their sites, but there are still many leading sites that allow DOFOLLOW tags — including Friendfeed, Digg, and Mixx. You can also benefit from posting to bookmarking sites that use NOFOLLOW tags if people read your posts and link back to your Web site.

7. Social media content is now integrated with search results: Search engines like Google and Bing are increasingly indexing and ranking posts and other information from social networks. Videos from popular sites like YouTube can also be optimized for indexing by the major search engines.

8. Brand monitoring: Having a social media presence gives you a better understanding of what current and potential customers are saying about your products and services. If you actively monitor social conversations, you have the opportunity to correct false or inaccurate information about your brand and address negative comments before they take on a life of their own.

9. Generate site traffic: You can create additional traffic if you regularly post updates on social networks that link back to your Web site. Social media bookmarking tools like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon can also generate additional traffic to your site if you create frequent articles and blog posts.

10. Find new customers through your friends: You shouldn’t neglect your personal social media accounts as potential avenues to promote the activities of your business. Posting regular updates relating to your business and activities can remind your friends about what your company does and influence them to use your services or make referrals.

11. Find new customers through your company profile: Your company profile is a great opportunity for you to post regular updates on your activities and about important news and trends in your industry. This will attract the attention of new customers interested in your industry and increase your reputation as an expert in your field. It’s important to post regularly if you want to increase your followers or fans and convert them to potential leads.

12. Niche marketing: Social media enables you to reach very specific subsets of people based on their personal preferences and interests. You can create unique social media profiles to target these audiences or create strategies based on addressing individual interests.

Are you using social media to grow your business? Please share your experiences!


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Google Went “Code Red” to Save Google Buzz

Here’s the story of how panicking just enough may have saved Google’s answer to Facebook and Twitter.

Last week, Google launched an add-on to Gmail called Google Buzz. Almost immediately, the world howled with complaints that the product exposed users’ privacy by publishing lists of followers made up of the people a user e-mailed and chatted with most.

This made Google Buzz a danger zone for reporters, cheating spouses, mental health professionals, and anyone else who didn’t want to tell the world who they e-mailed or chatted with most.

But since this early failing, Google employees — specifically VP of product Bradley Horowitz and Buzz product manager Todd Jackson — have done a rousing job answering criticism from users and the media with rapid-fire updates to the product.

It wasn’t easy.

Horowitz and Jackson’s first move was to set up a  “War Room” for Buzz, where engineers and product managers could plot and push immediate changes to the product. Then, on Friday, the team took questions at a company-wide meeting with Google employees. With that feedback, Jackson pushed Buzz into “Code Red” starting on Saturday so that all updates to Buzz code would push as soon as possible.

With the proverbial alarm bells ringing, Buzz team members decided to stay at Google until the product was fixed. A Google spokesperson said, “Some of them [were here] straight through Friday and Saturday nights and through late Sunday, making changes.” A bunch of Googlers actually slept two nights in a row at the Googleplex.

A week after the complaints, Google corrected all the privacy flaws. Back in 2007, it took Facebook a month to figure its way out of the Beacon privacy mess.

Here’s the Google Buzz timeline:

(via Silicon Alley Insider)
(Photo:
star5112)

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Facebook Catching Up to Google and Yahoo as Your Home on the Web [Chart]

Facebook is bearing down on its rivals, threatening to become U.S. Internet users’ home on the Web.

Time spent on Facebook soared to 27.6 billion minutes in December, up from 17.8 billion minutes in October, according to data from comScore. (In December 2008, it was just 9.3 billion minutes.)

Google, where users spent 36 billion minutes in December, managed consistent slow growth in the second half of the year. Meanwhile, online rivals like Yahoo, Microsoft, and MySpace are all down.

It’s especially ugly for Yahoo.

  • Yahoo which fancies itself as your home on the Internet, has seen time spent on the site slowly decline, despite its big ad campaign.
  • Its uniques are flat, while Facebook’s are growing.
  • And, it’s not shown in this chart, but comScore says Facebook had more pages viewed in December than Yahoo for the first time ever — 44.9 billion for Facebook versus 38.8 billion for Yahoo.

Carol Bartz knows Facebook is coming. On Yahoo’s earnings call she said, “we are actually happy with the engagement we are seeing with us. We just can’t keep up with that [Facebook’s] kind of engagement.”

(Via Silicon Alley Insider, Jay Yarow & Kamelia Angelova)


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What Google’s Real-Time Search Means for Brands

Google recently announced a new search engine ingredient: Real-time search. In addition to traditional search results — Web pages, photos, videos, maps, blog posts, articles, and news stories — Google’s universal search now streams real-time results from Twitter and from public pages on MySpace, Facebook, and other sources.

Google’s real-time search is poised to have a significant effect on brands in the social media space. In the past, it may have taken several minutes for content to be indexed by the search engine. There’s no waiting period any more — the instant an item is posted and linked, it’s searchable via Google.

Here’s a quick demo video:

(If you can’t see the video, you can view it here.)

How Google’s real-time search impacts brands:

  • Every customer experience is public — and magnified. Everyone has the potential to be influential more than ever before. It doesn’t matter whether someone has thousands of Twitter followers or just a handful — they have the ability to impact the conversations around them, in real life and online. If a customer has a negative brand experience, they may vent to their friends and followers. Brands that are highly engaged in the social space will reach out. The brands that are not as engaged may let those issues linger and/or not even be aware that a problem exists.

This should be a wake-up call for brands vis a vis reputation management, since customer complaints can quickly become public. The issues that are communicated by customers are now searchable, and negative brand experiences may appear on the first page of a Google search for your company. Companies with a commitment to social media engagement, a solid digital PR strategy, and great customer service will reap long-term benefits.

  • Social media presences for brands and companies are now in the spotlight. Many companies are educating consumers, building relationships with their audiences, and being brand advocates in the social space. They are engaged in the conversation about their brand. Many other brands, though, are not engaging, whether it’s because they feel it’s too risky or because they lack expertise.

Companies of every size need to create an active presence on the social Web — it doesn’t make any difference if your social media monitoring efforts tell you that there are 9 or 900,000 relevant conversations each month about your brand, products, or employees. The more content a brand creates, the more frequently that content will appear in Google’s real-time search results. Your “social brand” is now front and center, with the potential to drive top-line results for people who are searching for your product. Maybe it’s time to rethink letting an intern manage your Facebook Page and corporate Twitter account.

  • Content will emerge  quickly through your audience. Remember that great viral video you created several years ago that you couldn’t get anybody to watch? It can now be found more easily.

A big part of social media planning revolves around content: What will your brand say, and when? How do your brand’s objectives inform the content of your YouTube channel? How will you promote your new Facebook contest? As brands work to develop sustainable content plans, it’s important that they keep their audience in mind — brands are dependent on them.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is now even more closely connected to social media. Up to now, SEO experts have been using social media like blog posts and YouTube content to drive organic search rankings, forge relationships, and generate backlinks. They’ve also been leveraging social bookmarking sites to drive traffic and links.

SEO will now play an even bigger role in real-time search. For example, hashtags will now appear in search results, and those tagged conversations can drive additional awareness and coverage of the tagged topic.

What other ways will Google’s real-time search impact brands? Please share your thoughts!

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Saturday Social Marketing Round-Up

Here are some must-see posts about social marketing for your weekend reading pleasure:

234 social media marketing examples
Image by Pete Kim via Flickr

Do you make these Top 11 mistakes with your social media?
Social media can be seriously profitable for your business. “It’s the secret low cost marketing weapon used by the leading entrepreneurs. But, it can go horribly wrong if you make these mistakes…” explains today’s 30 Days of Social Media contributor, Meredith Collins. She identifies 11 mistakes that you don’t want to make.

Social media marketing: In search of an opt-out
Lines are being drawn between email and social media marketing, but not all elements have obvious correlations. Here’s why the unsubscribe doesn’t directly translate to social media.

Social Marketing Is Rooted In The Brand
Your brand is something that lives in the hearts and minds of people out there, and in that sense social marketing is the purest expression of branding.

Utilizing Social Media for Exposing Your Business Website
Social media is a wonderful way for business owners who already have great content on their websites to expand their reach further with marketing their products.

A quick check-up for your social media marketing plan
This little quiz (which you technically can’t fail as we have not devised a scoring system for it—yet) should help you identify the areas where your organization/team is strongest and weakest with respect to social marketing.

Introducing Google Social Search
Google Social Search plugs into your Twitter and FriendFeed accounts and sifts through content based on what people have been talking about. This seems like another function that’s moving you closer to Google Wave, with everything happening seamlessly in one window of information.

Google Social Search Introduces New Opportunities Within SEO
Google has launched a new experimental feature in Google Labs that searches your social circle in addition to your regular Google search results.

Is Social Media Marketing a New Requirement of SEO?
Here’s an interesting question worth a minute of pondering for any SEO practitioner: “[I]s it now a necessity for an SEO to have practical social media skills?”

Strategies: Which social networking site is best for your small business?
In the olden days – say five years ago – it was enough for a small business to market its services with advertising and public relations. But in the last few years, an avalanche of new opportunities has cascaded on the Internet in the form of social networking sites. These sites give entrepreneurs more opportunities to get the word out about their companies, but they’ve also made many of us feel overwhelmed, trying to keep up.

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Saturday Social Marketing Round-Up

Here’s some great weekend reading in the social marketing sphere:

Is social media marketing making search campaigns cheaper?
Have you been wondering why Google’s make such a big push into display and social over the last few months? Well The Wall Street Journal has a theory: Google’s revenue growth is down 25% this year and marketers are getting more bang for their buck in search.

Toronto Twitter Tweet Up
Image by Dave Delaney via Flickr

Social Sites Send Fewer, but More Loyal Visitors than Search
While we all like our sites to have visitors, a loyal visitor—one who returns for later visits—is especially valuable.

When Two Worlds Collide: Social Media Marketing & SEO
All of the basics of SEO will still be important, but your social media presence will be a critical part of securing your search traffic. Social media will most likely become just as important as content creation and inbound links for priming the SEO pump.

Mobile Social Networking Blurs Lines
Both mobile and social are emerging channels. Combine the two of them together, and well, you have an even less mature proposition. Not necessarily a lack of marketing opportunities, but more complications getting programs off the ground.

Less than 10% of small businesses twittering
Businesses of all sorts are becoming more social, but it seems that the most recent social tools aren’t being widely used. According to a new report from BIA/Kelsey only 9% of small businesses are using Twitter to market or engage.

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