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1. Tagging Random People in Photos

Please stop tagging people you barely know in photos that have nothing to do with them. It’s one thing when your buddy tags you in an unphotogenic pic, then sends it out to friends for some laughs, because, hey, at least it’s you. But the people I’m talking about upload photos and tag as many people as they can to try and gin up as many likes as possible. This is a classic move by spammers so be cautious of anyone who does this.

2. Liking Your Own Posts

So you’ve just posted the cutest cat or baby picture ever. That’s cool, I guess. But then you go ahead and like your photo too. Well, I know you already like the post, aren’t you the one who just shared the damn thing? Besides being annoyingly repetitive, the real reason people feel the need to do this is that the action of liking the post will again show up in the streaming news ticker, giving the post even more exposure (it’s potentially seen twice). These are typically the moves of self-proclaimed “social media gurus” or people who just feel insecure about their status posts.

3. Overdone Like Buttons

Somehow I’ve ventured over to your blog only to be greeted by an alarming pop-up Facebook “like” box baiting me to like your page. And then, when that goes away, I can barely even see your blog post because of the 100 “like” buttons strategically placed throughout your site.

4. The Ridiculous Event Invite

I’m honored you want me to come to your poetry reading in Siberia, but I’m not quite sure I’ll be able to make it. When you send mass requests to a bunch of people you don’t really know, it makes you seem inconsiderate and pretty much paints you as a spammer.

5. New Page Invites

Look, I understand you need to create a page for your business, but please stop inviting me to your half-ass Facebook pages. Instead post interesting content to your own page, share it on your profile as well (so your friends see it), and if people find it interesting they will follow. It’s almost not your fault, as creating a page and inviting all your friends can be tempting, but most of your friends won’t like your page and maybe they won’t like you anymore either. And the ones who do like it would’ve probably found it anyways without your begging them to do so.

6. Off-base and Mass Messages

Stop sending mass messages with dozens of people attached. You’ve seen these before, like “please like my page” or “vote for me in this ridiculous award I can’t win,” etc. People loathe being addressed in this style, and if you really have something to say at the very least personalize your message to each individual or, better yet, refrain altogether from sending out mass messages.

7. App Requests

If you’re on Facebook all day playing Farmville, that should be embarrassing enough, and the last thing you should ever want to do is invite your friends and alert them to your nerdiness. And I can’t even explain to you the ill feeling I get when I receive a request to join Klout, for example, even though I’ve already registered, from one of my less intelligent friends.

8. Adding People to Random Groups

This one’s a big pet peeve of mine. A classic text-book spam artist move, people will add you to random groups without your knowledge and all of a sudden you’re signed up for every single notification for each posts to the group. If this happens to you, make sure to leave the group or at least turn off the notifications within the group settings, as well as question the friendship with the culprit who added you. You don’t want to be the person known for doing this on Facebook, it’s a huge red flag.

9. Suggesting Friends

Please stop suggesting I friend somebody else. You playing match-maker is a little creepy and I might start to question why you and I are friends instead. And it’s actually worse than creepy because, you see, on Facebook expert spammers pair up and start suggesting up to 50 random friends for each other. By doing this, the people they suggest will get the notification (in their friend requests) and may mistakenly think the spammers requested the friendship. In reality, the spammers want you to commit the first step by adding them as friends (essentially tricking you to friend request them). Facebook penalizes people for requesting too many friends, but spammers who pair up and suggest friends for each other escape notice since they are not actually doing the requesting.

10. Cross-Posting From Twitter

Look, I understand you’re a little short on content and things to say. We all basically post the same stuff on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. but at least have the decency to not automatically send your Twitter tweets to Facebook. For one, you’ll get much less engagement posting to Facebook via any third-party app let alone Twitter which basically disregards Facebook etiquette.

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Create Content!
Being a participant in social web requires that you create content, and certain kinds of content at that. Regardless of your industry, to create buzz you need to educate or entertain your target market, and well executed content will make people want to share it.

Improve the “Linkability” of your Content
Having “static” web pages, e.g. brochure-style or storefront pages, are definitely useful for product information. But to optimize a site for social media, we need to increase the frequency and linkability of the content. My favorite method is to add a more-personal blog that shows your personality and thoughtfulness about a particular topic area. Other types of content, like white papers or aggregated selected links to related articles, are also quite useful for potential readers. Remember, the idea is to create something valuable beyond your core product offering to keep potential customers coming back.

Enable Easier Bookmarking and Sharing
Once a reader thinks your content is worth sharing, make the process as easy as possible for them! Adding website features like ReTweet and ShareThis buttons are a great way to allow your users to spread your content via their preferred channels. I also like to make sure each page has concise meta tag data (Title, Description, etc), because it will be easier for places like Facebook to import and show pertinent information about your link. As mentioned before, make sure your content is valuable and interesting because buttons-alone cannot get people to share your work.

Encourage Inbound Links
Inbound links from other blogs and websites are crucial to enhancing your search optimization and overall rankings. Listing trackbacks with each article or post will entice users to link to your site in the hopes that you will reciprocate a link. However, be aware of trackbacks from unrelated, spammy blogs or sites that are merely republishing your content without permission. For these reasons, I like to approve trackbacks manually before allowing them to enter the comments.

Help Your Content Travel
Building multiple channels of distribution for content can be a very effective way to gain exposure and attract links. Use Email newsletters, RSS subscribers, Facebook status updates, Twitter updates, content syndication, video syndication with YouTube, etc can all improve your social reach. With the number of possible channels on the web increasing, you need to make sure to stay current with popular services in the industry

Encourage Video Sharing
Online video is a growing medium, and in my opinion a rich and effective channel for entertaining, informing, or just getting a message across. If you have the resources to create compelling video content, please give it a shot. Since distribution is VERY inexpensive, especially with YouTube and embedding capabilities, you can potential receive a high return on your efforts. Encourage and embrace others who republish your videos.

Participate in Conversations
Let’s say you have a decent social presence – your Facebook page has fans, your blog is receiving comments, people are contacting you through your site. Take the time to connect one-to-one with these active readers, they’re often your best customers! Foster dialog in whatever public forums you have, but also think about dropping a quick email or note in private to create a more personalized relationship. Show your true passion for the topic at hand. You just might be connecting with a top influencer or champion of your service.

Get to Know Your Audience
As long as you understand your subject matter and that community’s interests, you’ll be able to set yourself for successful social media connections. Don’t stray too far from your niche, leverage the latest tools and industry trends, and try to stay focused on content that will drive interest in your expertise.

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There are well over 200 million Tweets per day.

Just imagine, if we always say you have a split second to convince a visitor to your site to stay a little longer, what do you need to do to get your Tweet noticed and get people to click or perform some type of engagement with it?

We are clearly in an attention economy, we are no longer fighting for attention with our direct competitors but with just any other kind of content. My Tweet about social media is next to a Tweet about Lifestyle Design and my prospect can go either way depending in too many variables.

Content can be king only if it’s noticed. We are not going to argue that your focus needs to be on producing remarkable content and products, if you do that the rest of the pieces will eventually fall in the right places, but if today you are fighting for that attention perhaps you could start with looking at optimizing your outgoing messages on social media to reach their full potential.

Here is an infographic by Fuse Works Studios that shows you a few ways Tweets get more action.

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Both local search providers and their small business customers can benefit from a stronger grasp of where the industry is heading and growing trends among their peers.

1. Local Businesses Are Increasingly Looking For One Point Of Contact

As Neil Salvage of CityGrid explained, local businesses today are so overwhelmed with just running their day-to-day operations that exploring the evolving world of local advertising is proving too difficult for many. Increasingly, local businesses are looking for one central point of contract to help advise and execute their integrated advertising strategy across print, online and mobile.

Salvage said that the local search industry has a significant opportunity to simplify the process for local businesses and offer a variety of solutions to attract new customers. He noted that local search providers are beginning to see their offerings as part of a single product since “the small business owner doesn’t care if his new customer comes from the phone book or the Internet.”

Going forward, I think local businesses want and will benefit most from integrated, one-stop solution approaches to their advertising. This will enable businesses to participate in meaningful interactions with trusted advisors who understand their specific industry and know which combination of advertising options will make them successful in attracting and retaining quality customers over the long-term. It will also prevent local businesses from being responsible for playing middle-man between several local advertising vendors and paying for redundant advertising solutions.

2.  Demonstrating ROI Is Challenging, New Methods Are Emerging

In today’s extensive and fragmented media environment, it’s increasingly difficult for local search providers to demonstrate the individual performance of local advertising initiatives. With that in mind, many companies are developing innovative approaches and cutting-edge tools designed to give local businesses the reassurance they need that their advertising is paying off.

In a panel discussion on changing sales trends in the local search industry, Ken Ray, vice president and chief marketing officer, AT&T, noted that metrics alone are simply not enough to satisfy local businesses:

“Most of us have moved into SEM so we’re looking at cost per click and cost per lead,” said Ray. “We’ve made real learning around pay per call. Now the whole conversation has changed. What kind of call is it? … How long was the call? … Was it a local call? We’re working with customers to really figure out what makes them comfortable about the calls.”

A presentation at the conference by C.J. Arseneau, director of marketing at Telmetrics, a call measurement solutions company, focused on several offerings that I think represent a good start in the industry’s efforts to tackle both the metrics and the “quality” aspects of local advertising measurement.

One tool allows local providers to attribute calls to specific advertising campaigns. Phone numbers on advertiser websites are dynamically replaced with call tracking numbers based on how the user arrived at the website, so local businesses can determine where calls are coming from – whether it’s a search engine or another local search provider.

Another tool automatically tracks and transcribes calls and provides data for advertiser review in real-time. Detailed analytics on the keywords used on calls help inform marketing, sales and operations departments at businesses about the impact of their advertising strategies.

In a separate session, Daniel Shaked, founder and CEO of NO PROBLEM, described his company’s approach of allowing consumers to post their service need, and then enabling local businesses to bid on the service in real-time based on their immediate new business demand. Interestingly, each business’ cost per call is based on their unique bid for the call. The advantage of this approach is that if an business decides not to bid on a job at all, they do not have to pay for a potential call.

These are just a few examples of the types of tools now available to local businesses to help them better understand and appreciate the impact of their advertising and only invest in tactics that work.

3.  Print Business Directories Continue To Provide Quality Leads

There is a great deal of excitement about new local advertising platforms, but one should not overlook the significant role that print continues to play in driving leads to small businesses. As the local media environment continues to evolve, many local businesses still rely on print as their greatest source of local leads and a foundation of a successful advertising strategy.

Just look at the numbers. Print Yellow Pages attract 11 billion references annually by consumers searching for local business information, according to our annual Local Media Tracking Study conducted by Burke.

Statistics also show that 54% of consumers said they referenced print Yellow Pages in the last month, which is within single digits of the 58% of consumers who said they referenced search engines. Furthermore, almost 7 out of 10 adults surveyed (68%) said they contacted a business after finding it in the print Yellow Pages.

Print Yellow Pages offerings include the same ROI components as advertising on other platforms, so local businesses can keep a close eye on the ability of their print ads to attract quality leads.

4.  Daily Deals Show Promise, But Real Test Will Be Repeat Business

Many of us have personally experienced or read articles about how daily deals sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial are providing local businesses with an unprecedented avenue to attract large-scale and rapid sales for discounted services. However, not much has been said about whether or not these opportunities provide real long-term benefit to local businesses, which make a significant investment in offering the deals.

Rich Razgaitis of Reach Deals and Martin Tobias of Tipper participated in a panel about the growing daily deals space, which currently boasts more than 500 daily deals sites.

The two noted that while advertisers discount their products and services and share profits with the daily deal provider, they’re not being asked to pay anything up front – a very attractive model to some small businesses looking for new customers. Different than coupons, the daily deal model incentivizes quick purchases and promotes engagement with purchaser’s networks.

When asked to explain the difference between the daily deal and coupon model, Tobias cited the extremely high and fast redemption rate as compared to coupons – around 70% are used in the first 30 days of purchase.

To be a win-win for SMBs and consumers, daily deal companies will need to encourage relationships with merchants over time, as opposed to selling as many as they can in one day. This will allow for a particular business to repeat this model in a month, three months, or even quarterly.

Nonetheless, in the meantime, daily deals are providing an exciting and effective new way for local businesses to promote their offerings.

5. Mobile Is The Next Frontier Of Local Search

Growth in smartphone use – including iPhones, Androids and BlackBerries – is rising fast, and the impact on local business advertising will surely be significant. The challenge for local search providers, however, will be creating services that successfully leverage the growing array of mobile opportunities and help small businesses integrate the platform into their daily operations.

Today, stats on mobile growth are off the charts. Smartphone use grew 54% year-over-year and now reflects 28% of total US mobile users. GPS capable handsets rose 16% year over year and now represent 73% of total US mobile users.

As a result of these trends, mobile advertising is expected to increase from 15% of the online advertising market to more than 60% in 2015, according to Borrell Associates. Furthermore, there are a variety of new and potentially game-changing mobile offerings on the horizon.

As Neil Salvage, EVP of advertising at CityGrid Media noted in his presentation, lat / long detecting applications, push offers, card-linked offers and mobile payments will play an important role in the local space because their return-on-investment can be easily tracked. It’s clear that local businesses that haven’t started to develop and activate a mobile advertising strategy are already behind and could be putting potential new leads at risk.

6.  Social Media Is A Natural Extension Of The Local Search Experience

Many of us who live and breathe local search understand the growing value of integrating social media into the advertising strategies of our small business customers. But finding ways to convey the importance and opportunity of social media to small businesses—and how it fits into their existing (or yet undeveloped) digital strategies—is not always an easy task.

In a keynote speech at the conference, Facebook’s director of North America sales, Yvette Lui, provided a clear and compelling case for why social media should be a component of local advertising.

According to Lui, personal networks are playing a growing role in driving purchasing decisions. Instead of coming online with a topic in mind, Liu said consumers now “come to listen and learn” from the people and businesses they care about. She said this presents a perfect opportunity for small businesses to gain an advantage, because they too are essentially social by design.

Based on this approach, Lui offered the following advice to small business owners:

  • Create an authentic identity to foster relationships
  • Advertise to build a community
  • Bring people to your business with social ideas
  • Make the point of sale and in-store experience social
  • Run sponsored stories to amplify the word of mouth and help new people discover your business.

Lui also noted that amplified word of mouth via Facebook has the potential to reach a large audience at an extremely fast rate. With the average Facebook user having 130 friends on the social networking site, connecting with one loyal customer can mean potentially tapping into 130 more people that know and trust their friends “likes,” “check-ins,” or comments.

By incentivizing customers to check into a store and share their opinions/experience with their friends, the ROI potential from this investment in engagement is potentially significant.

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Facebook and other social networks are great for engaging and keeping in touch, but nothing beats owning your data (such as customer lists) and being able to reach prospects or customers in their inbox with your personal and pertinent message.

While Facebook should be part of your marketing strategy, don’t forget the value of email marketing. Strong email marketing allows you to nurture prospects and build relationships with existing customers. So, a powerful marketing strategy needs to incorporate both email and social media marketing.

Successful Email Marketing

When used correctly, email is an extremely viable platform for marketing products and services. Since e-mail took off in popularity in the mid-’90s, email marketing has evolved. Junk mail folders have rendered spam all but useless, and those emails that make it past bulk mail filters are often overlooked based on the subject line alone.

The increase in mobile device usage means consumers are looking at emails on smart phones and tablets, usually while on the move. Often, those users only open emails that are relevant to them, scrolling past any email that doesn’t immediately grab them.

Taking this new technology into account, savvy business owners can find ways to launch successful email marketing campaigns.

“It is more imperative than ever for digital marketers to adopt and integrate mobile marketing tactics into email and their overall marketing mix,” said Kara Trivunovic, vice president of agency services for digital marketing strategy firm StrongMail. “Email marketers who are serious about garnering and maintaining consumer attention in this new era of mobile need more than just a solid strategy; they also need the right tools and resources to execute.”

In 2012, a successful email marketing campaign needs to follow these guidelines:

  • Make your subject line pop. Today, it’s all about the subject line. A good one may get your email opened, but a bad one doesn’t stand a chance. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and decide what key words encourage you to open an email.
  • Keep it brief. Your customers are busy, so if you don’t get to the point quickly, they’ll move on to the next email. If you include images, keep in mind your customers will be reading your emails on mobile devices and be sure to optimize them for viewing on small screens.
  • Give the customer what he or she wants. Whether it’s a coupon, exclusive discount or informative content, your customers are reading based on what’s in it for them. Several national restaurant chains consistently offer coupons via email, which not only increases foot traffic, but prompts people to open the emails when they appear alongside the offers for “Free Daily Deals” and “Special Holiday Sales.”
  • Avoid newsletters. Your customers won’t read them.

Successful Facebook Marketing

While some business owners claim to be suffering “Facebook burnout,” the truth is, Facebook is still the most popular social networking site in the world. One of the most appealing things about Facebook is its demographic. According to marketing executive Ken Burbary, 50 million of the site’s users are between the ages of 18 and 25, with another nearly 30 million between the ages of 26 and 34. Since most marketers know that 18-35 is the ideal demographic for influencing purchasing decisions, it’s no wonder Facebook has become the go-to place for businesses to market new products and services.

  • To be successful, small businesses need to modernize their marketing efforts to meet today’s Facebook environment. Since there’s more competition than ever for social media member attention, it’s important to market to consumers without making it seem like you’re marketing. Here are a few tips for competing in today’s crowded Facebook business environment:
  • Encourage likes. Your customers can’t read your status updates if they aren’t seeing them on their newsfeeds. Consider a giveaway or discount in exchange for likes on the site. This will increase the range of your marketing efforts, improving your odds of success.
  • Keep it short and snappy. Your status updates should be brief and to the point, giving consumers information that is useful to those reading it. Remember, your consumers are tuning in to find information they can use.
  • Interact. Social media isn’t a one-way street. If you post a poll or information about your product or service, respond to some of your comments. By having an interactive presence on your Facebook page, you’ll show customers you care.