Connecting 101: Google Plus

bwgoogleplusGoogle Plus arrived on the scene in late June, 2011. Although considered a social “late bloomer,” the platform made up for the lost time in a big way. A little over two years later, Google Plus continues to acquire hundreds of new users and unique visitors every month. I became an early adopter and started using Google Plus during those times when people often referred to it as a “ghost town.” Many predicted Google Plus would die slowly and quietly, just as each of Google’s other attempts at social media had before. I ignored the naysayers and chose to stick around. Along with many others, I rejoiced as Google Plus eventually began to blossom and evolve. Trust me – Google Plus is no longer a ghost town and I personally doubt it ever will be again.

In February 2013, GlobalWebIndex named Google Plus as the second most-used social media platform worldwide. In other words, more people are turning to Google Plus as their network of choice for engaging online. Many people still think of Google Plus for its SEO (Search Engine Optimization) benefits and for online searches. Google Plus continues to introduce and enhance its social features, making it a powerful social media platform as well as a SEO booster.

Are you new to Google Plus or simply interested in connecting with more people there? The following basics will help you build your network.

Getting started on Google Plus

Google makes signing up for Google Plus easy and efficient. Having a Gmail account makes the process even easier, but it is not a requirement. Going to this link will walk you through every step: http://memarketingservices.com://www.google.com/+/learnmore/

After you register, your very first step should be creating your profile. Start by adding a profile picture and cover photo. The cover photos are huge, so keep this in mind if you are creating one of your own. The dimensions for cover photos are between 1060(w) X 590(h) pixels (minimum) and 2120(w) X 1192(h) (maximum). Associating your image with your profile lets others “see” you are a person with whom they are connecting and engaging. This should help increase the chance that people will connect with you. Other information you can add to your profile include: (1) where you live, (2) where you currently work, as well as your employment history, (3) where you currently attend or previously attended school, and (4) any other information you want people to know about you – as much or as little as you prefer.

Connecting with intent on Google Plus

Now that you have a Google Plus profile of your own, you are ready to start connecting with other people, brands and businesses. One of the unique features Google Plus offers is known as “Circles.” As you start connecting, you are able to categorize your connections. This allows you to communicate with as many or few people as you prefer. Google Plus allows you to share anything you like to the “public,” but Circles may be more appropriate for some of your content. For example, you may be planning a family gathering or high school reunion. Rather than shouting out your plans to the world, you can contain them within a circle of those who fall into a “need to know” category.

One way to build your network on Google Plus is to start “circling” people you know from other social media platforms. As you begin circling each other, Google Plus suggests other people you may know. As you begin having conversations with people currently in your circles, as well as sharing your own and others’ content, you are provided with other people you may choose to add to your circles.

Another great way to connect with like-minded people is through Google Plus Communities. These are groups of people, brands and businesses who share common interests and engage in conversations related to certain topics. Most Communities are open to anyone, but some are “secret.”

 

This article is only a brief introduction to connecting on Google Plus. There are several other features – such as the photo sharing and video “Hangouts” – which require a separate article (or more) to fully describe their capabilities. Google Plus has so much to offer and is, in my opinion, one of the best social platforms out there. Just like the other platforms though, the quality of your own personal experience on Google Plus depends very much on your own level of involvement. The more time you spend giving other people “+1’s,” comments and shares, it is more likely they will do the same for you.

If you have any questions or suggestions, I would be glad to hear them! Feel free to leave a comment below, tweet me @jennghanford – or “Circle” me on Google Plus (gplus.to/jennghan).

 

Previous Connecting 101 Posts:

Next week: Connecting 101: Facebook

Connecting 101: Instagram

Instagram 3.5 - FeedWhen Instagram was created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger and launched in October of 2010, the service brought a whole new meaning to online sharing.  Instagram is known for its photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to capture pictures and videos, apply a vast selection of digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

Instagram has grown exceptionally fast for a new social media platform, and part of the growth may have something to do with Facebook’s $1 billion purchase of the app. While I heard many complaints from users that the social network would ruin the new photo-sharing app,  I think it is safe to say it only increased its popularity and allowed a wider stage for connections.  As of September 8, 2013, the popular social media platform reached 150 million users—which is incredible! With the large audience Instagram entails, it is an excellent way to connect, and stay connected, with others all around the world.

  • Connect through Photographs
    You’ve heard the old saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And that’s absolutely true.  It is easy to connect with others by capturing the world from your viewpoint with Instagram. Images allow us to connect with one another on a different platform simply by displaying a message to one another. Whether the message be about your experience at a concert or your favorite food, Instagram allows for others to discover and understand the world through photographs.
  • Connect through Exploring
    One of the easiest ways to connect with others on Instagram is on the ‘Explore’ tab. This feature consists of 15 most popular ‘liked’ images from all over the world. This allows you to venture out and view images you may not see on your normal feed. While also providing different content, exploring can connect you to other users. The great thing about the explore tab is that it is constantly changing. It updates the most popular 15 pictures every few minutes, allowing us to connect to even more people.
  • Connect through Hashtags
    If you are looking to connect with new Instagram users, adding a hashtag to the picture you upload is a great way to do so. Displaying a specific hashtag connects you with more like-minded people. This feature allows you to share your photo to a wider audience who probably would not have seen the photo without it.

Instagram is a great social media platform that provides people from all over the world to share their personal photos with friends and family, and it is a great place for users with common interests to connect and come together to share and discuss content.  How do you connect with Instagram?

 

Connecting 101: Twitter

Social media conept in word tag cloudI opened my first Twitter account in the fall of 2010 for the intent purpose of following University of Georgia football. Never in a million years did I think I could actually make friends and connect with businesses. It’s now my favorite social media platform to use for business. It’s the platform I’ve gotten the most clients from too.

Like any other platform, you must have INTENT when you use it and connect on it.  You can’t just tweet to tweet or follow just to game your numbers. Twitter is wild, fast and crazy so you have to do a great job of keeping your account in check. You get spam messages every day, people wanting you to buy 1,000 followers for $5 and people simply following you to get you to follow them back.  So much for intent there.

I’ve written two previous articles on Twitter following – 8 Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter and 8 More Reasons I Won’t Follow You on Twitter – that really touched on some general, cosmetic points. However, in this post, I’m giving you some deeper connecting tips for Twitter that will make you a more seasoned and polished Twitter user.

Connect with like-minded people.

In any business, reputation management is very important. People will look and judge you on who you are surrounded by. By following like-minded people, you will find a community you can grow with and learn from.

Tweet people you want to get to know.

Even though that person you want to meet has 100,000 followers, if you don’t tweet them and let them know you are there, they may never find you. I’ve developed relationships on Twitter with people I normally would not have access to simply because I started tweeting (and retweeting) them and started a conversation. Anyone reputable on Twitter will not ignore someone who is trying to strike up a conversation. It may take them a day or so to respond but the serious ones will respond.

 Give credit where credit is due.

Did you like a blog article and tweet it? Give the author credit in the tweet. Liked a tweet and agreed with it? Again, credit the author in the tweet. When you credit the author it’s mentioning them and they will take notice. Taking the time to give credit to the original author or tweeter will show that you care and are purposeful in using Twitter.

Why do you connect with people on Twitter? What’s your intent?  Share with us in the comments below.  While you’re at it, if you’re not following me, I’d like you to invite you to connect with me on Twitter (@memktgservices).  I will warn you though, I do tweet a lot about college football during the fall 😉

Previous Connecting 101 Posts:
Connecting 101: LinkedIn
Next Week: Connecting 101: Google+

Connecting 101: LinkedIn

iStock_000026315698SmallI signed up for LinkedIn in 2007. I had yet to discover Facebook and Twitter, so LinkedIn provided me with my first “social” experiences. I originally used LinkedIn as a tool for researching people and companies as part of my job requirements. Eventually, I began joining groups and connecting with people from all over the world as an open networker. Making connections helped me realize the power LinkedIn holds as a social platform where professionals interact and engage with others.

According to Wikipedia, LinkedIn reports more than 225 million acquired users in more than 200 countries and territories. Wow! That number represents a lot of potential connections. Know that you do not have to be connected with thousands of people to have a robust network – the size and quality of your network is up to you.

First things first, you never have to pay to make connections on LinkedIn. The free version provides you with the same connection and networking abilities as the paid version. Secondly, you do not need to be an “open networker” to connect with anyone you wish, but know that most users prefer to connect with meaning and intent on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, LinkedIn attracts a lot of spammers, but the platform does provide easy ways to report and ban them. If you do not mind occasional spam and want to connect with a large volume of people from all over the world though, you may consider joining open networker groups.  

After determining with whom you want to network and why, the next step is connecting. Are you a new LinkedIn user or are you interested in connecting with more people? These are some of the basics to get you started.

Put your best foot forward with your LinkedIn Profile

  • Your profile gives people their first impressions of you so make it count!
  • Make sure your profile is complete and current with a professional picture, employment information and relevant qualifications.
  • Always be honest with the information you provide, especially if you are seeking employment or potential clients. 

Where to find your connections on LinkedIn

  • One of the first places to find new connections is on LinkedIn’s home page when you are signed in. There is an entire section called “People You May Know.” Based on information you have filled out for your profile, LinkedIn makes suggestions for you. Do not be too surprised when it shows you people you may not really know.
  • You can also find people with whom to connect through the advanced search function. This allows you to search for people by name, company, job title or location.
  • Another way to meet people is through joining and participating in LinkedIn groups. People typically join groups in order to network with like-minded people. With a group association, it becomes easy to connect since you most likely have common interests.
  • As you connect with people, you become “1st-level” connections with them. You are then able to view their connections; their 1st-level connections are now your 2nd-level connections. You can also see when your 1st-level connections make other new connections. As a result, you now have a larger network and more people with whom you can connect directly. 

Mind your manners when connecting on LinkedIn

  • When you are ready to connect, make sure you are sending personalized invitations. Introduce yourself when sending invitations to people you have never met, and briefly explain why you would like to connect with them.
  • When you accept someone’s invitation to connect or they accept your invitation, it is good practice to respond and thank them personally.

 

What other suggestions do you have for connecting on LinkedIn? I would love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to leave a comment below, tweet me at @jennghanford or connect with me on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/jennghanford).

 

Facebook Changes the Rules – Again – and Takes My Beef With It

4106332271_517207aeecFacebook has almost entirely negated my biggest beef with them. As you may have seen already, Facebook has changed their contest rules. Anyone who knows me or has read my blog long enough knows my biggest social media pet peeve was people & businesses who ran contests on Facebook that were against the rules and my beef with Facebook was their policing of them.

Well, now I step down off my soapbox… sort of.

According to the new Facebook contest rules, you can now –

  • Collect entries by having users post on the Page or comment/like a Page post
  • Collect entries by having users message the Page
  • Utilize likes as a voting mechanism

So, that “Like and Comment to Win” contest you see on every other clothing or monogram boutique post is now Facebook legal.

HOWEVER you cannot require someone to share a post on their personal timeline to be entered to win. So see, I don’t have to step down entirely because I know there will a number of businesses that skip that line in the rules and require people to share graphics.

Now, this change can and will be beneficial for non-profits and smaller businesses with little to no budget for social media. They will see their likes increase. They may see increased engagement… but then again they may not. Most people enter a contest to win, not to be an active fan of that page.  How many pages have you liked in order to enter a contest and then never engaged with that page again?  5? 10?  I’ll be the first to admit I’ve done it.

Even though businesses can now do these contests from their wall, that doesn’t guarantee increased engagements and sales. They will still have to continue to provide quality, industry-related content to keep the fans engaged.

You will never see me run a contest on my Facebook wall.  I will still continue to use a third-party application like EasyPromo Apps or Heyo. Other than the fact they shoulder the weight of handling the contest (and the legal jargon required by Facebook), they just look much more professional than a graphic posted on a Facebook wall.

Several friends chimed in with their takes on this and I suggest you check out their posts – we all have great, valid points on this matter and with all of us living, working and breathing social media we can see this from many vantage points…

Back To Basics: Why The Facebook Contest Change Might Not Be All That Awesome!” by the Social Solutions Collective

7 Reasons I Won’t Run a Facebook Contest on My Wall” by B Squared Media

New Facebook Contest Changes Save Time and Money” by Heyo

What do you think?  Is this good? bad? about time?

Now I’m off to spend a few hours updating all my blog posts where I talk about Facebook contests…

Lead Generation: Increase Your Social Media Reach

01 (219)I always think of the philosophical debate about the tree in the forest when I write about why brands should increase their social media reach. You know the debate: whether a tree falling in the forest makes a sound if no one is there to hear it.  As a brand or business, you may be producing the best content ever. But how effective are your words and messages going to be for lead generation when they fail to reach your target market?  

Many businesses produce online content such as blog posts, infographics, images or videos for the implicit purpose of lead generation. When more people share your words and messages, it becomes more likely for someone in your target market to view them. One of the first steps you should consider taking to increase lead generation for your business is to increase your social media reach.

Read More

Lead Generation: Best Practices for Your Small Business

Photo Credit: HubSpot

Photo Credit: HubSpot

In her recent article, Mandy Edwards brings up excellent information about why businesses need leads, as well as ways to use social media for lead generation. I am going to piggyback and share a few recommendations for best practices. Marketers and small business owners understand the need for generating qualified leads in order to keep their businesses afloat. Businesses accomplish lead generation in a variety of ways, but it is important to remember there are no one-size-fits-all solutions.

Businesses generate leads through two forms of marketing: (1) inbound marketing or (2) outbound/direct marketing. For inbound marketing, your business uses online activities such as blogging and posting on social media to attract leads to your company’s website. For outbound, or direct, marketing, you use more traditional marketing techniques such as phone calls, direct mailers or in-person networking to bring leads to your business. Businesses also use a combination of both, known as integrated marketing, in some cases. One way is not better than the other; the type of marketing you implement depends on your target market and your business’ available resources (i.e., financial and personnel).

Mandy and I are both members of a fabulous group of professionals and bloggers called Social Solutions Collective; SSC is a multi-author social business solutions resource and news site. My niche within the group covers lead generation, lead nurturing and lead conversion. I regularly read and research pertinent content and data in order to stay on top of the current trends in lead generation.

The following are two sources I trust to provide the most accurate and current best practices for your small business and its lead generation requirements. Here is what they have to say in regards to best practices for lead generation.

Eloqua

Eloqua suggests that lead generation begins very early in the buying cycle now. Many potential clients begin researching products or solutions online well before they are ready to purchase them. These buyers then begin seeking out organizations that offer what they need for the price they want to pay – but only when they are ready. The best practice Eloqua recommends is to provide potential and current leads with timely and relevant content over time – either online or off. Doing so assists your business with not only lead generation, but also lead nurturing.

Marketo

Like Eloqua, Marketo believes the lead generation phase begins before, then extends beyond, a lead’s initial discovery of your business. Unlike Eloqua however, Marketo keeps its focus on inbound lead generation for businesses. The best practice advice Marketo offers revolves primarily around blogging, social media and your organization’s website. Marketo recommends that you become as creative as possible when creating content for your blog, social media platforms and business’ website. Doing so helps your business “cut through the noise” to become the top-of-mind choice for potential leads when they are ready to purchase.

Do you agree with these best practices for lead generation? I would love to hear what works best for you and your business when it comes to generating leads.

Why College Students Should Blog

Bryant Park, late Apr 2009 - 21In today’s opinionated society, almost everyone feels entitled to give their ‘two cents’ on various discussion topics.  For college students, many resort to expressing their feelings or opinions on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter.  What most college students don’t realize is the power and advantages of student blogging.  Blogging is a prevailing way for college students to develop a voice, learn new skills, make connections, and above all, demonstrate your knowledge.

  1. Develop a Voice
    For most students, finding what you are passionate about can be difficult at first when presented with several different options in college such as majors, clubs, organizations, and of the like.  If you find an interest in a certain field, or in several fields, blogging about it can be a way of talking it out with yourself and sharing it for others to partake in and/or give feedback. Blogging about an interest will encourage further study of that field and as you learn more, you may come to realize a new passion in life.  Overall, blogging is an excellent way for students in college to develop a voice about a topic they truly develop an interest in. 
  2. Learn New Skills
    Blogging in itself is a skill that entails many different qualities, especially for college students.  It enables them to become a better writer, develop more tech-savvy knowledge, aid in marketing services, and have more networking experience.  These are all valuable aspects that only add to an arsenal of abilities which can make students more qualified as a future employee.
  3. Make Connections
    Blogging is a great supplement for college students to show off their capabilities and expertise.  A blog can even be used as an online business card that showcases your work, if so desired.  Because of this, it would be best to network your blog rather than your Facebook or Twitter account.  Networking your blog looks more professional and lets others have an inside look on your opinions and topics that matter most to you. 
  4. Demonstrate Your Knowledge
    In a world where origination is such a necessary component of success, hiring individuals who have the ability to think about situations in unique ways is an increasing style.  For college students, blogging is where you can explore issues within a desired field, take stances on views, and step outside of the comfort zone to view a situation from altering angles.  Employers are thirsty for young minds that will be able to develop new ideas.  Blogging is one of the most successful ways in demonstrating your knowledge and showcasing your communication and grammar skills for future employers.

As a college student myself, I’ve grasped the understanding of the necessity for finding my voice, expressing myself, and becoming passionate about what I do.  Blogging is an excellent, easy, and most often times, free way to do so.  I strongly urge every college student to consider adding a blog to the to-do list.  If you’re serious about gaining contacts in your field, marketing yourself, and learning more about your industry, a blog is the perfect place to start.

Ways to Generate Leads Using Social Media

Lead generation is important in any business. Without those leads (or referrals as they are sometimes called) you would have nowhere to start. Leads (referrals) can come from friends and family or a business organization or online. You may have a portion of your clients that found you on their own but at some point every business will have to go after clients, either through advertising, social listening or your traditional sales call.

Recently I was asked by our BNI (Business Networking International) Director to list out some ways that people could use social media for referrals. As I created the list I realized that are numerous ways one could use social media for lead generation. I know I am not inventing the wheel here, but these are common ways people are using social media to generate leads.

  • Use social media to create that relationship and build trust & loyalty. Post content that shows you are an authority in your industry and you really do know what you are talking about. After time, you will have people approach you to hire you for your services. I recognize this is a long-term plan, but it’s highly effective.
  • Use Twitter’s advanced search to search phrases that relate to your industry, really listening to what the general public is searching for.
    • Example: You are an insurance agent. You go to Twitter and search “my rates are too high” or “I am so mad at my insurance agency”.  You can search worldwide or locally. Reach out to those who are complaining with a simple “Hey! I saw you are unhappy with your rates. If I can ever be of help, just let me know.” You do NOT want to start off with a sales pitch, just broach the topic gently.
  • Have a LinkedIn profile that is completed to 100% and connect with those you are in your target market. ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS create a personalized connection message.  Do not use the generic, standard message.  You are trying to reach out and connect, so personalize it.
  • Take advantage of LinkedIn groups – join those that are industry-relevant or those that target your target audience. Be careful not to spam or give a hard sell to these groups.  Most have rules against it.
  • Be active on social media.  The more you are out there, the more people will see you and request information for your services. If you choose not be active (and I’m sure why you would) how will people find you?
  • Take advantage of Facebook ads.  Facebook ads give you the ability to target the specific person you want to reach. Using their Power Editor can give you even more targeting options.
  • Have an opt-in on your website and promote it through social media. For those unfamiliar with opt-in, they are something of value that people will give you their email address for.
    • Example: You are in pest control. You have a place on your website for people to get a copy of a white paper you have called “10 Simple Ways to Keep Your Home Bug-Free”. People would give you their email address and in return, they would receive this piece. You then have their email address to contact with new customer specials, on-going offers and general information.
    • Opt-ins can be promoted with a Facebook ad directing them to sign-up on a custom tab on your Facebook page, a sponsored tweet with the link, or just a simple post on your various social media profiles.

There are many, many ways to generate leads using social media so these 7 are not the end-all. Let me ask you, how do you generate leads via social media?

 

Why Do You Blog?

What no one ever tells you about bloggingBlogging can be a fun adventure for any online marketer or business.  There is a lot that goes into building a blog, but have you stopped to wonder who’s going to actually read it? With the amount of time you invest in blogging you need to keep your target audience in mind. I did a little bit of research as to certain demographics on bloggers and readers.

About the bloggers (according to Pingdom)…

  • The blogging population is mostly between the ages of 25 and 35.
  • The average reader is 41 years old.
  • 55% of bloggers are male.

When you blog, who/what do you target? From my experience of reading a variety of them, I realized that most people do not write on gender-specific topics. Most are for targeted niches, such as sports, art, social media, business, etc.

About the readers (according to Magnet Social Media)…

  • 23% of the total time spent on the internet is devoted to social media sites and blogging.
  • 77% of Internet users read blogs.
  • 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs.

Blogging is a very important part of a company’s marketing strategy. According to Hubspot, 82 percent of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer from it, as opposed to 57 percent of those who only post monthly. Both are pretty remarkable stats but a 25 percent increase in the possibility of gaining another customer is crucial. Anything that is going to gain the interest of a new customer is well worth your time.

Blogging does take effort and is something that should not be entered into lightly.  You must have a plan.  Like with any other part of your marketing plan, there must be intent behind it.

Let me ask you, why do you blog?

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