Business benefits of social media

If you’re the marketing or communications manager of a professional services firm, chances are you understand the business benefits of social media. The problem, usually, is winning senior management support unless you can show that the business benefits of social media activity are aligned with your organisation’s overall goals.

The problem is compounded by the fact that online and offline, it’s almost impossible to avoid advice from social media ‘experts’. And what’s frustrating about much of this advice is the disconnect with meaningful business goals, particularly for B2B businesses.

There’s not much point in your business posting four or six or ten times a day to attract ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ unless those followers ultimately result in business and revenue growth.

That said, many businesses successfully use social media. Small firms win customers from larger, long-established businesses and some businesses operate exclusively on social platforms like Facebook.

Cover image of The Boomers Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing linking to product details on Amazon
Clicking the image will take you to the book details on Amazon

What’s useful about Kaylynn Amadio’s new book, The Boomer’s Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing is that the author explains the business benefits of social media for different types of businesses. She takes a travel guide approach to teaching social media strategies for Business to Consumer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and mixed businesses and provides a practical framework  to develop an effective strategy. She even going so far as to suggest how much time to devote to each of the platforms you use and the appendices provide information on how to set u[ your social media profiles. Amadio focuses on six platforms — Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Youtube — and, best of all, she backs up her advice with meaningful examples that business executives can relate to.

Networking and referrals have always been important for B2B businesses. In the digital economy, business conversations begun in one place — such as at an industry event — now often continue on online platforms. To keep up, senior executives need strong communications skills and, increasingly, these include social media skills.

If there is something missing from The Boomer’s Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing, it’s advice on how to deal with difficult situations online such as negative comments or trolling. There’s perhaps also scope to have included some tips on online reputation monitoring techniques. That said, this is a helpful and practical guide and, if you’re struggling to persuade your colleagues of the business benefits of social media, you could do worse than give them a copy.

The Boomer’s Ultimate Guide to Social Media Marketing by Kalynn Amadio is published by Maven House Press. [Disclosure: An advance review copy (ARC) was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review]

Search engine bias in The House of Cards

Search engine bias is a hobby horse of mine so I was interested when House of Cards introduced a fictional search engine in the fourth series.

If you’re a House of Cards fan, you’ll know that republican presidential candidate Will Conway uses the fictional search engine Pollyhop to gain intelligence on voters’ preferences so that he can get the upper hand over  Frank Underwood.

Conway is digital media savvy. He’s smart. A fast thinker. He’s not afraid of celebrity and he knows how to make himself and his family the centre of attention. He records family moments on his cell phone and shares them publicly on social media. He’s open. He’s transparent. But it’s his use of the Pollyhop search engine that caught my eye because it touches on the interesting question of search engine bias in our digital age.

What influences search engine bias?

The Internet has become our first port of call for information, entertainment and news. We search. We retrieve results We rarely need to look beyond the first page of those results to find an answer to our question. We rely on search engines to prioritise relevant, trustworthy information and we seldom cast a thought to what’s filtered out.

Yet, we know that every time we type a query into a search engine, the results presented are influenced by our previous Internet behaviour — the sites we visited, links we clicked, items we purchased online, our location and a host of other factors — many of which draw on personal data that we willingly shared.

Sometimes this personalisation is beneficial when we’re offered a deal for access to the VIP lounge before we fly. Sometimes it’s annoying when we’re emailed about products or services we’ve purchased before or have no intention of ever purchasing. And, sometimes,  our search results are influenced by external factors. Swedish author and journalist Andreas Ekström brilliantly explained this using examples of how photo results have been manipulated and the steps taken to address the problem. Check out Ekström’s  TED talk and if you’re interested in learning more about how search works, have a look at Eli Pariser’s book, The Filter Bubble.

In House of Cards, Pollyhop may be fictional but there are many real life examples of search engine bias. The question is not so much whether search results should be objective but rather whether they ever can be. And, if results are inherently biased, how can we filter and/or augment the knowledge we discover online — effectively optimising results for ourselves to counterbalance the biases of others? I don’t know the answer but the question continues to fascinate me.

How Irish businesses use social media

Image: social mediaIf your Irish business employs more than 10 people and doesn’t use social media, you’re now in the minority, according to figures released by the CSO last month (December 2015).

The CSO’s Information Society Statistics – Enterprises 2015 report found that 64 percent of Irish businesses with more 10 employees were using social media in 2015, an increase of 4 percent on the previous year.

Social networks are the most popular social media with 62 percent of the Irish enterprises now using networks like Facebook.

Fewer than a third — 30 percent  — of enterprises are using blogs or microblogs, according to the CSO stats, although the 2015 figures are up 3 percent on the previous year. It will be interesting to see if there is any upward movement in these figures next year as anecdotally it appears that more companies are now investing in content marketing.

Interestingly, a survey by Wolters Kluwer into social media use by accountants — also published in December 2015 — found a significant lift in the use of blogs during 2015 when compared with previous years.

Overall, the CSO stats show that Irish businesses are more active on social media than most of their European peers.

The full CSO survey is available  here.

How to write case studies | a template

How to write case studies
Image: © Jakub Jirsák | Dreamstime.com

When you are not sure how to write case studies, this simple question-based approach may help to get you started.

Today, most people conduct research online before ever contacting a potential service provider. Even if most of your new business comes through client referrals, you can be fairly sure that your new clients have checked you out online before contacting you.

Case studies provide helpful information for potential clients and demonstrate that your firm has the experience and skills to meet their needs. This is why more firms now include some case studies when creating content for their websites and blogs.

When writing up your case study, remember to keep your focus on the reader. Case studies are stories and like most good stories, they are more interesting when they show that difficult hurdles had to be overcome before success was achieved.

The questions to focus on are the same questions that journalists often answer in the first line or two of their reports — Who? Where Where? What? When? Why? How? Result?

WHO is the subject of your case study?

WHERE is the subject — location and/or sector?

WHAT was the client’s problem?

WHEN did the client decide to contact you?

WHY did the client decide to get help and why did they choose your firm?

HOW did you help the client?

Finally, what was the RESULT of your actions?

When thinking about how to write your case study, try to include some colour and drama. For example, perhaps you can describe how some unexpected adverse event forced the client to seek external help. Or perhaps you met unexpected resistance when you tried to implement your solution. Explaining difficulties and how you overcame them makes the story more interesting and is an opportunity to show off your experience and skills.

Remember to include a conclusion that summarises the problem, solution and result.

Finally, if your firm does not have the resources to create the case studies you need and would like some help, please get in touch to discuss your specific requirements.

If you found this article useful, you might also like these tips on how to check your firm’s online visibility.