Hootsuite: A Brief Overview of an Amazing Social Media Tool

August 19, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                        return to JayVee Media Link LLC

“What exactly is Hootsuite?”  That is a question I have been fielding lately, particularly from new coaching clients.  Here is an introductory look at the social media tool.

Hootsuite owlHootsuite is a tool that simplifies a user’s social media experience by allowing virtually all duties across a multitude of platforms to be enacted within one easy to use dashboard. When a person signs up for the service he/she configures that dashboard by securely adding user names and passwords for any or all of the following platforms he/she uses: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, FourSquare, YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr.  A WordPress blog site can also be added.  After configuration, one user name and password allows the client access to all his/her social media accounts, eliminating the need for continuously signing in and out of them individually.

Hootsuite dashboard screen shot

Hootsuite allows users to monitor activity on their social media platforms, and to post to them. Posts may be shared immediately, or they can be scheduled for release at a future time and/or date.  They can be easily edited and even deleted from the scheduled streams.

Another great feature of Hootsuite is its built in URL shortening service.  When sharing links to Twitter we can’t afford to have our 140 character maximum be taken up by long URLs. Furthermore, they are unsightly even on platforms that allow unlimited characters for posting.  We need only paste our long form links into Hootsuite’s status box, click “Shrink,” and a much more manageable version is generated and inserted into our posts.  As an added bonus, Hootsuite tracks the short links it creates. This puts the analytics for what we share right at our fingertips.

Hootsuite link shortener feature screen shot

Two features that help keep Hootsuite close by for easy use are its mobile app for our smart phones, and its Hootlet plug-in for our desktop/laptop browsers.  Both are straightforward, fully functional and very easy to use.

Hootsuite mobile app and Hootlet browser plug in screen shots

Hootsuite offers three levels of service.  Its basic level is free for use by one client, who can add up to five social media accounts.  Its Pro level allows the integration of up to 50 social media platforms, and one “team member” to assist in management duties.  The entry Pro level costs $8.99/month, but add-ons are available if a user needs to handle more for expansion of his/her social media business presence.  The final level is Enterprise, which is for big businesses with large staffs and much to oversee.

As users grow their social media presences they may find useful the more advanced features Hootsuite offers.  They may, for example, wish to configure platform streams to allow for monitoring of specific groups or keywords, including mentions of their companies.  Undoubtedly they will also want to take advantage of the tool’s integrated analytics for research and reporting.

Have you tried Hootsuite yet?  What is your impression?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Hashtags: 3 Reasons Why They Are Good for Facebook

June 24, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli         return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Facebook and Hashtag figures shaking handsHashtags have finally arrived on Facebook.  They were greeted with fanfare from devotees of the feature, chagrin from a number of others, and renewed worry over how they might affect privacy settings.  So are they a good or a bad addition to Facebook?

Originally created for Twitter, many purists claim hashtags should not have come to that platform’s main competitor.  But they are widely used across many sites these days, including Pinterest, Google Plus, Vine and even Facebook’s own Instagram.  It was just a matter of time, as well as a dose of good reasoning. Here is why I believe hashtags on Facebook are a good thing:

1. functionality

hashtag under microscope

Hashtags make conversations searchable.  They categorize topics of discussion, making them more easily visible to people who wish to follow and/or participate in them.  On Facebook, specific hashtags may be found using the search bar.  Those who wish to add their voices to the conversation can do so directly from the search result page.  Hashtags also give brands an edge by making it easy for them to track activity related to their businesses.  And engaging in the broader forum allowed by hashtags may attract new fans and followers to those brands.

2. cross-platform compatibility

hashtag surrounded by social media platforms

Hashtagged topics and posts can be accessed on a profile even if they originated on another platform that supports the feature.  What a great way to pull in and contribute to a conversation that is trending throughout the social media world!  This cross-platform compatibility is another reason brands love that hashtags have expanded to Facebook.  The move completes the circle of major social networks businesses use, and hence must monitor.  And again, the ability of those brands to reach a broader audience across a multitude of social media platforms increases the opportunity to be liked and followed by new people, who may become customers.

3. Facebook privacy

Facebook’s admins have promised that the platform’s hashtags will respect users’ privacy settings.  That said, those settings need to be checked REGULARLY.  Facebook seems to like changing them.  So be vigilant and confirm your desired settings are in force before sending EVERY post!  As long as they are in effect, hashtags will respect them.

How do you feel about Facebook’s rollout of hashtags?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

See also:  “Hashtags Are Our Friends

Does Privacy in Social Media Exist?

April 1, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                      return to JayVee Media Link LLC

magnifying glass over binary codeNews of all the social media platform changes and feature rollouts over the past couple of weeks has caused an uptick of concern once again regarding the privacy issue.  The question is, does it exist, or is it an illusion?  It’s a vexing query, for sure.

Point one:  the use of social media for marketing is positively surging.  These days, if merchants do not have an online presence they are at a clear disadvantage.  It really is out of the question to not have online profiles in our marketing arsenals.

Point two:  successful targeting of potential clients online is dependent upon how well merchants’ platforms and tools are able to gather information about the personal preferences and other pertinent information of online prospects.  Plus, most platforms that offer advertising need to do everything they can to facilitate successful marketing for their business users.  This seems to pose a direct conflict with stated claims of vigilantly guarding users’ privacy.

Point three:  By its nature, the internet is wide open.  There is never a guarantee that confidential information posted ANYWHERE will remain private, regardless of how stringently privacy settings are maintained.  This includes information shared in private messages, and even emails.  The vast majority of us maintain at least one email account on a “free” service.  But free is not free!  These services make money by scanning and selling our personal information, some of which may be garnered from topics we discuss in our email messages, to advertisers so they can custom tailor their pitches to us.  Bottom line:  if we can’t take the chance something confidential will be found by unintended recipients, we should not post the information online.

Facebook privacy shortcutsWith all that said, as 21st century dwellers AND as marketers, eschewing an online presence really isn’t an option.  But we need to vigilantly protect our privacy as best we can.  We must carefully consider the messages we type before hitting “post.”  This is especially true for platforms like Twitter that don’t Facebook post privacy settingshave graduated privacy levels.  For those that do, like Facebook, we need to make sure we set our privacy levels to the degree we desire, and monitor them fastidiously.  To review, start at the top right side of our Timelines, and work with the options presented in the little “lock” drop down (next to the gear icon).  After setting those, proceed to “see more settings.”  Go down the line, setting each option to the level desired.  Finally, do the same thing for each post.  Generally, the privacy levels we set for our posts remain as the defaults until we change them.  But it pays to make sure, just in case.

The best of both worlds must of necessity exist in cyberspace.  We need to put some information out there to be found; but we also need to guard what should not be discoverable by those who are not in our intended circles.  It’s a tough balance to strike.  How do you manage to share information while simultaneously keeping a handle on what you like to keep private?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Social Media Marketing: Consistency is Key

March 11, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                             return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Consistency is a word we hear a lot in the social media field.  It is an integral part of the online world, and is vital to growing an influential presence among both peers and prospects.

How often do we see Facebook business pages or Twitter business profiles that have been left to gather dust?  There’s no doubt each was launched with high hopes and good intentions.  Some may bear a smattering of earnest posts from those initial days of existence.  And that’s where they lay.

Unused Facebook business page with tumbleweeds blowing across it

It’s important to remember that simply possessing social media business profiles does not guarantee us desirable returns.  More likely, deserted profiles may work against us.  They exist on platforms where social behavior is expected.  Prospects and clients seek them out anticipating a cultivation of customer/merchant relationships as well as a ready conduit for enlightenment and assistance.  Peers visit them in pursuit of information and conversation that may lead to mutual business benefit. What message is conveyed when they encounter virtual tumbleweeds upon clicking onto our sites?

I was recently approached by a former client who could answer that question.  Throughout our affiliation, we worked together to successfully nurture trusting connections, share value, facilitate conversations, and assist those who needed help.  Once our joint effort ended, this client ceased all activity on his sites.  Is it any wonder why he didn’t receive a single response when he recently posted a promotion for an excellent service?  All the trust, all the relationships we cultivated, all the good will we built was gone. He needs to start over again.  But this time his starting point may be met with uncertainty. Will he stay around consistently, or will he disappear on his following again?  Trust is difficult to rebuild when it has been violated.

We come to be known and trusted by posting consistently, sharing value regularly and nurturing engagement daily.  This is the recipe that translates into better bonds, deeper customer loyalty and stronger referrals.

In what ways do you ensure consistency on your social media business profiles?  Please share your thoughts in the Facebook business page with lots of activitycomments section below.

Branded Backgrounds: They’re Who We Are!

March 4, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                   return to JayVee Media Link LLC 

As a social media consultant and coach, I am frequently asked to evaluate the social presence of local businesses.  Quite often when I do, I am surprised to find that many of these businesses neglect to maintain consistent branding across their online profiles.  Even if they are well tended and tidy, each one has a different branded image.

What is the image that comes to mind when you hear the brand name Coke?  Starbucks?  Nike?  Before the word fades, the brand’s logo is clearly visible in our minds.  Would that be the case if these brands displayed different logos on each one of their marketing sites?

JayVee Media Link LLC website screen shotWe may not be heads of huge national chains or manufacture products known worldwide.   Still, we need to strive for the same reaction consumers have for those big brands, on a scale equivalent for OURS.  The pathway to that objective begins with brand consistency.  Every platform where our businesses maintain a presence must display the same branding as our websites.

We also need to remember that branding goes beyond just logo design.  It includes details such as colors, effects, and fonts.  We need them to be an EXACT match from profile to profile.  Our designers have on file the exact colors used for all facets of our brandings (by hex numbers), as well as style and size of fonts.   If any effects are incorporated into our logo designs, those also will be catalogued.  Additionally, if our brands are represented with mottos, they must be included so they are kept consistent across all social profiles.  It’s a good idea to get a copy of all this information for our own records, too.  It needs to be carefully stored, as it is literally the physical DNA of our brands.

The benefits for our companies of being known at a glance are obvious.  Like Coke, Starbucks and Nike, we should strive to achieve widespread visual recognition for our businesses, on a level appropriate for our aspirations.  Carefully constructed, consistent branding across all of our platforms – on AND offline – is the way to achieve this goal.

What are you doing to achieve branding consistency for YOUR business?  Please share your strategies in the comments section below.

JayVee Media Link LLC branded background screen shots

Social Media Marketing? Go Where Your Clients Are!

February 25, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                    return to JayVee Media Link LLC

profile stick figures networking on laptopsFacebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google Plus.  And SO MANY others.  In the social media marketing realm there is a place and a purpose for each platform.  Of course, it would be counterproductive to try keeping up with ALL of them.  Each one requires a proper time investment.  But a strong marketing strategy will employ several, integrating them into a good, productive campaign.

After carefully selecting the best social media platforms to suit our business needs, it is not uncommon for us to gravitate toward the one or two whose style(s) we favor. That may well lead to us spending a greater share of our time on the one(s) we prefer.  But in order to court success for our clients – as well as for ourselves – we need to step outside of our own preferences and ask: Which platform are the majority of our clients and prospects using?  We owe it to them as well as to ourselves to become comfortable and fluent on the one THEY favor, and to invest a larger share of our time and energy posting and engaging with them THERE.

b to c stick figures shaking hands from laptopsAre our businesses primarily B2B?  Chances are the profile that holds the most potential for us is LinkedIn.  B2C? Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may likely fit the bill.  Do our businesses lend themselves to visual displays and promotions?  Pinterest and/or You Tube may be the best places to court and interact with current/potential clients.  These are merely generalizations, of course.  The best platforms for us need to be determined through careful analysis of our specific businesses.

To recap:  Planning a successful strategy means determining which of the social media platforms will work best to service the general needs of our growing businesses.  Smart planning will result in setting up and using the few most likely to deliver the best results for our important business metrics.  After that, the largest segment of our time needs to be spent engaging on the one or two platforms that are most heavily populated by the people who are more likely to want or need the product/service we provide.  It is our duty to become familiar and comfortable with those channels in particular, so we may nurture the most potentially fruitful connections and hence obtain the best return from our invested time.

Which platform do you feel is most heavily populated by the best prospects for your business?  How will you use that social media channel to engage with them?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

customer stick figure asking question

SEO’s Death is Greatly Exaggerated

February 18, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                           return to JayVee Media Link LLC

RIP SEO tombstone“SEO is dead.”  Haven’t you heard?  Search Engine Optimization doesn’t work anymore, so we need to come up with new strategies to boost our websites’ rankings on search engine results pages.

In truth, SEO is very much alive, and as important as it ever was.  But as new website structures and online platforms are introduced, and strategies for good online presences develop and morph, SEO is constantly changing to keep up.  The folks who conclude that SEO must be dead generally cling to the old ways of working it…or worse, try to game the system.  If any death knells are tolling, it is for those outdated or unscrupulous methods.  Any internet business that desires good search rankings today needs to be vigilant with its research as well as flexible enough to adapt to the ever changing online landscape.

Today’s SEO strategies must reflect a difference in the way optimization is assessed.  The “bots” that crawl our sites are much more intelligent than they used to be.  They are now capable of identifying most if not all the system-gaming strategies that used to go unnoticed.  Hence, a drop in search rankings COULD mean whomever is doing a website’s optimization is engaging in “black hat” techniques that no longer work.

Search engine bots have become smarter in other ways as well.  Keywords are still important – both short and long tail.  But the bots are sensitive to their overuse – a black hat strategy known as “keyword stuffing.”  And they now look for relevance between those keywords and the text that contains them.  The search bots also recognize the growing importance of social media for relevance in a merchant’s field.  They now pay attention to businesses’ presence on the various platforms, and more importantly, to what they are doing on those sites.  They evaluate factors such as post frequency; value-relative-to-field of original and shared content; ability to inspire and nurture engagement; and good client relations as evidenced by GENUINE recommendations and testimonials. That means generic, “canned” testimonials composed by paid SEO specialists as well as those written by employees of the businesses being lauded are discounted… and could even lead to a penalty in ranking.

With a new emphasis on quality content, search bots take note of whether or not a website contains or is linked to a blog page. Authorship credentials are becoming more heavily weighted in the rankings game.  Also, while still very important for SEO ranking, inbound links to blog posts are now evaluated for relevance to the business field.  Those that lack pertinence will cost both the business that gives and the one that receives them.

SEO person with thumbs upAs is the case with every facet of social media, SEO is constantly evolving.  The key to maintaining successful optimization is to constantly research and become familiar with all the emerging strategies.  And remember, the only things about SEO that are dead are outdated and unethical practices.

How do you keep up with the constantly changing SEO landscape?  Please share your strategies in the comments section below.

Do You Speak Twitter or Facebook?

February 4, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                    return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Social media is an important channel for marketing goods and services, more now than ever before.  But using the “tools” of this channel for business requires knowledge and understanding of each platform and how to best employ it.  Too many would-be online marketers do not grasp the “pull” nature of social media marketing.  Equally importantly, they fail to comprehend the nuances of each platform they wish to use.

Twitter surfing on computer mouseOne concept I’d like to address in this post is the fact that each social media platform has its own “voice.”  Each one serves a different overall purpose, and hence each is different in the way users engage.  Let’s look at the two most popular channels:  Twitter and Facebook. Twitter is a great platform for making connections.  Communication is vital, but it is necessarily concise since tweets are encapsulated by that 140 character limit.  Because everything is so “quick hit,” the action moves very swiftly on Twitter.  There are forums where good discussions take place, such as hashtagged conversations.  But these conversations move very quickly because of the brevity of the verbal exchanges.

Facebook figure with megaphoneFacebook, on the other hand, is really good for solidifying connections and building relationships.  It is the tool by which we engage more in depth with our fans and our peers; we service our clients, ask and answer more detailed questions, and really allow our brands’ human side to show.  Because of this activity, Facebook posts tend to be longer and more descriptive.  The pace seems almost leisurely by comparison.

Other social media platforms have their own personalities and functions too.  LinkedIn maintains a more professional demeanor.  Though not entirely, it is primarily a business to business platform. The interaction there is more formal than we see on Facebook or Twitter.  Google+ is somewhere in the middle:  less formal than LinkedIn, but not as casual as Facebook or Twitter.  Google+ is also good for B2B, though it’s not as dedicated to that arena as LinkedIn.

When marketers juggle multiple social media platforms, cross posting is considered a great time saver.  There are some limited situations where the practice may work, but it should never be abused.  Twitter folk often dislike seeing posts from Facebook.  The whole style of posting to Facebook doesn’t fit in a Twitter environment.  Conversely, Facebook users don’t take to tweets showing up on timelines – ESPECIALLY when they contain hashtags!  Posts on most other platforms aren’t compatible with the style of verbal exchange on LinkedIn.  Ultimately, it is important to realize that cross posting may save some time on the front end, but it may cost us fans and followers in the long run.  The best approach is to become familiar with each platform’s unique voice, and learn to use each appropriately when sharing our value.

Which social media platform “lingo” do YOU speak best?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!three platforms with megaphones

Facebook = Websites?

January 14, 2013

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                         return to JayVee Media Link LLC

Do we really need websites when we have Facebook business pages that allow us to build our customer bases, promote and sell our products/services? This question arises every so often. I have heard it asked a few times recently, so I thought I would weigh in with my views once again.

My short answer to the question “Do we need websites?” is YES! Facebook is an excellent tool for promoting our brands and our products/services. But it is NOT a good “home” for our businesses. Here is why:

JayVee website screen shot on houseThe difference between having a website and just maintaining a presence on Facebook is comparable to owning a house versus renting one. When we own, the place is OURS. We set our own rules and are able to do anything we wish with and within our domiciles. Conversely, when we rent we live subject to the rules as set forth by our landlords. We may not do as we please; indeed, ignoring the rules may result in our being evicted from our homes. Websites are our businesses’ homes. They belong to US. We make the rules, control the designs, post what we want, plan and run promotions the way we desire, and house our all important original content there. We can and should host links to our Facebook business sites and other social media channels on our websites. But while they are important, those business sites are merely rented spaces. Facebook, for one, is a stickler of a landlord! We are not free to post anything we want on our business pages, or to post in any manner we desire. We must follow the platform’s strict rules for promotions and contests. If we don’t play by ITS rules, we will be evicted. And we will lose everything in the process, with no avenue for recourse.

Facebook Terms of ServiceLet me repeat that, for it should be the most unsettling consideration for us: If we don’t follow Facebook’s Terms of Service (TOS), our business pages will be shut down. And there is no real recourse for appeal. In essence, that means we do not own or control our content when it is kept on the Facebook platform. Additionally, Facebook’s TOS frequently change. In fact, rules for the cover photos of our business pages just changed again: as of January 15th, text may take up no more than 20% of our cover photos. Were you aware of this new stipulation? Failure to keep track of such changes diligently can cost us our business pages, along with all the fans we have amassed and content we have created. Scary thought, right?

Lack of control and only tenuous ownership of our own content; small wonder Facebook is not a replacement for our websites. We need to consider this carefully and use the platform for what it is: an important tool in our social media marketing toolboxes. Facebook is wonderfully effective for sharing our posted content, engaging and exposing our brands and offerings. But for the security of our businesses, we should not make it into something it wasn’t meant to be – the sole online home for our companies.

How do you field questions from your clients about Facebook versus websites? Please share your perspectives in the comments section below!

Facebook does not equal website

SEE ALSO: “7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Replace Your Website with a Facebook Page,” by John Judd of Codeboss

Social Media Platform Ads: Research and Use Them with Care

December 17, 2012

by Jeanine Vecchiarelli                                return to JayVee Media Link LLC 

LinkedIn ads pageSocial media marketers are happily making use of the various paid ad formats offered by each of the major social platforms.  Any opportunity to increase the reach of our advertising messages is a boon to our efforts.  However, we must remember that these formats aren’t interchangeable, and they won’t necessarily work in all situations.  As with our organic efforts, the key is to research:

1. our target prospects;

2. which platform(s) might best appeal to them;

3. their possible reactions to the various ad formats;

3. the situations under which each format may or may not work optimally.

Online investigation via social media profiles and targeting tools yields more information about the personalities and preferences of our prospects than we ever were privy to before.  (Of course, we need to use the wealth of personal information we find there judiciously and respectfully.)  As we see behavioral and preference patterns emerge we will be better able to formulate more effective advertising spots.  We should also get a better feel for which specific type of paid ad will work best for these targeted prospects.

Facebook sponsored  story sampleIronically, the ads that potentially reach the largest audiences are also the ones many social platform users dislike: those that are placed directly into their newsfeeds/streams.  A company named Mediabrix recently did some interesting research.  Among other things, its findings indicate that we need to be especially careful when crafting these ads. They may invoke ire when they masquerade as friends’ stories, because our unsuspecting prospects feel duped into reading them.  Mediabrix found that 72% of Facebook users and 62% of Twitter users formed negative opinions of brands that intruded on their news feeds in this manner.  The lesson:  this type of ad should not mimic content from our prospects’ friends.  These folks also don’t appreciate having their newsfeeds/streams spammed; this is another thing about which to be mindful.

Twitter promoted tweet sampleAds are a helpful way to get the word out about our products and services.  But while researching and planning our strategies it is critical that we stay focused on the most desired effects of properly executed social media marketing.  The real benefits come from engaging, building trust and confidence, and immersing our prospects in the experience of our brands.  All the advertising in the world won’t lead to success on social media platforms unless we invest the proper time and energy into maintaining meaningful presences on those sites.

Which ad offerings have you used for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc?  Are you happy with the results you have achieved?  Please share your findings in the comments section below!

See also:

“Are Social Media Marketers Running Ahead of Consumers?” by Marketing Pilgrim’s Frank Reed

LinkedIn Ads information

“A Simple Breakdown of All Your Facebook Advertising Options” by HubSpot’s Amanda Sibley

“How to Use Paid Advertising on Twitter to Promote Your Business” by Examiner.com’s Christina Thompson