Vesta Digital Blog

Archive for February 2010

Social MediaWe all know that social media marketing can be a powerful strategy. Many articles have been written about it. This article is not about convincing or converting you, it is about setting you up and getting you started.

Facebook

Make a Facebook profile for your business and add as many people as possible. Facebook has become the digital business card for many companies. It allows you to network with old friends and make new ones. All of the people you meet or reconnect with are potential customers. Join a number of Facebook Groups or start your own group if you can’t find one that is related to your business. Create a community – a group of people who will be connected to you through a community will be open to what you are sharing. Don’t spam. Don’t push your product down somebody’s throat. Be respectful and participate in conversations. You are branding your product or service over time, not selling something overnight.

Twitter

Twitter is a social media platform that lets the world know what you are up to. People “follow” you and you “follow” people. It is not about having as many friends as possible like Facebook. You need to be smart about building your “follower” base. Pick a user name for Twitter with a maximum of 15 characters. Fill out your profile and upload a photo or business logo. Twitter is a social tool, not a classified ad. Don’t spam. Be active in the community (tweet and post comments about other tweets often.) Post useful and relevant information and try to engage in conversations.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a good way to get the business results of Facebook without the clutter of wall postings, applications and games. Linkedin has a more influential audience but fewer users than Facebook or Twitter. Like Facebook, Linkedin also lets you reconnect with old friends and make new ones – and they are all potential customers.
Linkedin’s functions surpass Facebook in information filtering and discussions. Businesses can use Linkedin groups for internal and external discussion boards. Linkedin participants are pre-authorized and that can be useful in your work overflow. Linkedin also controls the release of “approved” applications for professional use while Facebook allows anyone to post apps.

YouTube

Video is a necessary tool to complete your social media palette. Create “how to…” or “top tips…” videos and upload them onto YouTube. It has a wide reach and millions of people can see it. Also try Tubemogul or Vidmetrix for even wider distribution. When you make your video, keep the “It’s All About Me” rule in mind. It is fine to brand a video with your website at the end, but direct selling should be kept to a minimum. Humor, controversy and weird stuff works very well – don’t be afraid to experiment.

Blogs

Your website needs a Blog – it is the cornerstone for your social media efforts. A blog increases the number of “keywords” – words or phrases that search engines recognize – and boosts your website’s ranking in all-important web searches. Make sure what you write about – the content – is relevant and timely. Monitoring—and responding to—the conversations taking place on your blog is also important. Your goal is not to obtain momentary awareness but to maintain relevancy over time for your audience.

Submit your blogs to free directories like Article Base and EzineArticles. Subscribe to RSS feeds like iGoogle, My Yahoo Web and other popular RSS readers. RSS is a format for distributing news and other web content. It stands for Really Simple Syndication (RSS.) An RSS feed will increase the reach and visibility of your content.

Do you see a common pattern or thread? Social media marketing is more about making friends than selling a product or a service. So how does this help my business, you may ask. If you do it right, it will build and brand you over time as a reliable and reputable product or service. Because – ultimately – social media marketing is about “trust” and that is a rare and precious commodity in the American business landscape today.

Blogger's BlockBlogger’s block is loosely defined as the aching, painful feeling a blogger gets when the typing hands go numb and the brain goes dead. It is similar to writer’s block but it can be much more painful. After blogging for a while, it becomes hard for you to find new things to write about. But you don’t need to go to a doctor – the cure for blogger’s block is on the list below:

1) Browse the web for inspiration. The internet is full of ideas. Take a look at other blogs and write about a new or controversial topic.

2) Take a break. It’s hard to write when you’re overworked. Sometimes it’s just as simple as taking a break and allowing your mind to wander. When you return, you might have an idea.

3) Go back to basics. Use pen and paper. From infancy, we’ve been taught to write using writing instruments. So let the keyboard go and try writing the old fashioned way.

4) Explore new subjects. All too often, writer’s block is caused by the inability to find a new topic within a narrow subject. If you’ve exhausted everything, branch out into a related subject.

5) Lower your expectations. If you are planning on writing a masterpiece, such as something that is sure to hit the first page of Digg, you might have some difficulty. Instead, just focus on writing a simple, well-written post.

6) Change of venue. Sometimes a change of locale will help. If you’re writing from home, move from the office to the living room, or to the balcony or porch.

7) Look at other writing sources. You read a lot of content every day in emails, instant messages, and more. Use those for inspiration.

8) Do some research. There is bound to be some topic that’s been nagging at you. Take some time and research the new topic, then write a summary.

9) Ask your readers for some ideas. If you have a devoted following, let them give you some new material. They will know what they want to read.

10) Participate in guest blogging. Let a fellow blogger submit an article for your blog. In turn, you can submit one for theirs. Writing for a new blog gives you new subject matter and it helps you increase your exposure.

11) Write in a journal. The best thing about journals is that you can write anything in them. Writing without rules or restrictions is sure to cure any block.

12) Find an interesting statistic. Statistics are great ways to start an article, especially if they’re shocking or controversial.

13) Take the day off. Accept defeat, go home and come back tomorrow.

14) Talk about the top news of the day. Regardless of your industry, there is always breaking news. A brief summary of what’s new is always great material for an article.

15) Comment on other blogs. Not only will it give you inspiration, but it will also give you a bit more exposure.

16) Last but not least, write a blog about blogger’s block.

Red CrossThe Red Cross communicates with a large online community of donors, volunteers and followers. They listen to conversations on blog posts, tweets and comments on Facebook. They use that information to improve what they are doing.

Social media is great early warning system,” said Claire Sale, Social Media Director for the Red Cross in 2009. “This is how we hear about our reputation first. The key is that there is really no such thing as a social media expert. We just respond to online conversations with real action. We know that people are saying things out there about the Red Cross and if the information is incorrect, we use it as an opportunity to share the truth. People don’t just want an answer, they want change.”

Claire Sale continued, “The internet is a narrative and we create a sense of community by sharing personal stories from our supporters and followers.”

But the Red Cross took a passive approach with social media and although they created a sense of community, they didn’t get involved in conversations on social media sites unless they were asked. Then the earthquake in Haiti struck.

Haiti Earthquake

On January 12th, life changed forever for millions of people in Haiti. Life changed for the Red Cross as well. They sprang into action and went to work. They raised millions of dollars through fundraisers, television and radio commercials – and some very effective social media marketing campaigns.
In just over a month, the American Red Cross raised $284 million and spent or allocated $80 million of that to meet the urgent needs of Haiti’s survivors. They have already helped over 1.3 million people. 69 % of the funds spent or committed have been for food and water, 20 % have been for shelter and the rest is for health and family services.

Social Media

The Red Cross raised over $21 million through their $10 text message donation drive (text “Haiti” to 90999) which was backed by the United States State Department and is still in operation today.
They established a separate website and blog for the Haiti earthquake effort .The blog lets Haitians communicate with lost family members and loved ones. The website has a live journal from Haiti that is also posted on YouTube.

They used Twitter and Facebook to give people real time information and updates regarding the disaster.
They also used Flickr to show the public and the media photos. These photos generated over 1 million page views in 24 hours.

The Red Cross promises to invest in Haiti until every last donated dollar is gone. They promise to continue giving resources, support and training to help Haiti recover and rebuild in the years to come. They have done a remarkable job so far but there is still over $200 million left. Will they continue the excellent work and keep the promises they made? This is where social media comes into the picture again. You can be sure the Red Cross will be more active with their social media strategy now so that their good reputation remains intact.

Track Your CompetitionThe ancient Chinese wise man, Sun Tzu, once said: “If you are ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, then you are a fool and certain to be defeated in every battle.” SunTzu was talking about the military battlefield and not the business battlefield. But if Sun Tzu was a businessman today, he would be thrilled with all the information he could find out about his enemies on the internet.

Business owners have traditionally turned to their marketing department for information on competitors. Now they are better off turning to their webmaster. In fact, one of the first things your webmaster should be asking you is who your top three competitors are.

This kind of information comes at a price. Run a Google search on “competitive intelligence” and over 11,000 results show up. There are literally thousands of consultants who will help you identify and gather information on the competition but it will cost you dearly. Save your money. Here are 7 ways you can be your own online intelligence gatherer and it won’t cost anything but time. Because as another ancient wise man once said: “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

Check Back Links

A recent survey by the Pew Research found that only 50 percent of internet users actually use a search engine everyday. So what is driving traffic to a website? The answer – back links. In other words, other sites that link to your competition. Find out the back links from your competitor’s site and get linked from these sites as well. You will increase your traffic dramatically.

Look at Keywords

Take a look at the competition’s keywords. This is easy information to get from sites like Key Word Density. Another way is to look at the code of their websites. This isn’t difficult. Go to the site and click on “View” at the top of the browser, then click “Source” or “Page Source.” A page of HTML code will open and the keywords will be revealed in the code near the top of the page.

Monitor Traffic

Just as you are monitoring unique visitors, length of stay, most viewed pages, and where visitors are coming from on your website, follow these same rules on your competitor’s site. You can find this information by going to Quantcast or Alexa.

Google Alerts

Google alerts allows users to set up alerts with keywords and phrases that trigger an email notification every time that word or phrase shows up on a site, blog or press release. For example, if you interested in a competitor, set up a Google alert on that company and their top executives and you will be notified every time they are mentioned online.

Monitor Twitter

It is time to get acquainted or re-acquainted with Twitter for your corporate spying. This is the place where industry buzz starts. It is where you hear the first low rumble of something that is about to happen. But you can’t just watch, you have to participate. Try to update your Tweets on a daily basis. If you are too busy to do this, use TweetLater, one of the best apps out there for accomplishing this.

Monitor Movement

You can learn a lot about a company just by reading their “About Us” page and monitoring their job listings. If your competitor is an auto parts company and they just hired a new CEO with a background in marketing, that may be a clue about how they plan to increase sales. If a company has several listings for jobs in another state, chances are it is expanding or relocating there. If the online bios of the top executives are vague, you can research them on professional networking sites like Linkedin or Plaxo.

RSS Feeds

If all this sounds like too many channels of information to monitor on a regular basis, RSS feeds are a good solution. Many experts are fans of feeds for intelligence gathering. You can keep up with industries, customers, and competitors by feeding things like Google Alerts, Twitter, and all of your other RSS feeds into one feed. MySyndicaat has very effective tools for doing this.

New Trends in Social MediaA new survey by Pew Research reveals interesting new trends in social media with teenagers and young adults. There has been “…a decline in blogging among teens and young adults and a modest rise among adults 30 and older. In 2006, 28% of teens ages 12-17 and young adults ages 18-29 were bloggers, but by 2009 the numbers had dropped to 14% of teens and 15% of young adults. During the same period, the percentage of online adults over thirty who were bloggers rose from 7% blogging in 2006 to 11% in 2009.

Much of the drop in blogging among younger internet users may be attributable to changes in social network use by teens and young adults. Nearly three quarters (73%) of online teens and an equal number (72%) of young adults use social network sites. By contrast, older adults have not kept pace; some 40% of adults 30 and older use the social sites in the fall of 2009.

Additionally, teens ages 12-17 do not use Twitter in large numbers – just 8% of online teens 12-17 say they ever use Twitter, a percentage similar to the number who use virtual worlds. This puts Twitter far down the list of popular online activities for teens and stands in stark contrast to their record of being early adopters of nearly every online activity.

However, even as blogging declines among those under 30, wireless connectivity continues to rise in this age group. “We often look to younger generations to see where technology use might be headed in the future,” lead author Amanda Lenhart noted. “People under 30 have often been in the vanguard of internet and cell-phone use, and it will be interesting to see how much of their enthusiasm for new gadgets is a time-of-life issue, and how much will ripple through the broader culture in the coming years.”

New survey results also show that among adults 18 and older, Facebook has taken over as the social network of choice; 73% of adult profile owners use Facebook, 48% have a profile on MySpace and 14% use LinkedIn. “Blogging appears to have lost its luster for many young users,” said Lenhart. “The fad stage is over for teens and young adults and the move to Facebook — which lacks a specific tool for blogging within the network — may have contributed to the decline of blogging among young adults and teens.”

Lenhart also pointed out that many of the functions that blogging served for teens in the mid-2000s for communicating about their lives and updating their activities for their friends have become central activities on social networking sites. “Microblogging and status updating on social networks have replaced old-style ‘macro-blogging’ for many teens and adults,” she said.”

This survey was conducted last month and released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It was reported by Amanda Lenhart, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr.

Real EstateSocial media marketing is essential for your real estate career. It is not enough to have a website these days even if it is informational and well-managed. And traditional advertising just doesn’t cut it anymore – it is too expensive and it brings too few results. Social media marketing is quick, precise, measurable and inexpensive. Realtors who have implemented social media into their online marketing have been able to see immediate results. When used properly, social applications have engagement times that are 75 times greater than traditional banner ads alone.

Build Your Community

Use free sites like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Leverage your business by creating a fan page on Facebook. Don’t use your company name for your personal Facebook account because you won’t be able to use it for your business fan page. Pick a user name for Twitter with a maximum of 15 characters. Fill out your profile and upload a photo or business logo. LinkedIn is a great way to get the business results of Facebook without the clutter of wall postings, applications and games. LinkedIn has a more affluent audience but fewer users than Facebook or Twitter.
These social media sites are the new digital business cards for real estate agents. They allow you to network with old friends and create new ones. And all of the people that you meet or reconnect with are potential clients.

Pay Attention to What People Are Saying

Now that you have a community – listen! Your friends have a lot to say. Who is buying and who is selling? If you are a realtor in Florida, you will be amazed by how many people from the north still want to move to the Sunshine State – especially after a winter like this. When you participate with them on your social media platforms, you will get some very good leads – neighbors, friends, friends of friends, etc. People will tell you everything after you get to know them.

Pay Attention to Your Competition

Keep an eye on what your competition is doing. Where are they listed? Who are their fans on Facebook? What kind of promotions do they offer? Competition is fierce on social media sites, too.

Start a Blog

A business blog is a cornerstone for your social media efforts. It will increase the number of keywords – words or phrases that search engines recognize – and boost your website’s ranking in all-important web searches. Creating your own content is important, but so is monitoring—and responding to—the conversations taking place about your business and brand. Your goal with a blog is not to obtain momentary awareness but to maintain relevancy over the long term for your audience.

Brand Impressions

Various forms of social media can drive consistent brand impressions and exposure to your communities. There are ways to achieve impressions quickly and to draw impressions over the long term for effective brand awareness. The more impressions your brand has, the more opportunities for customers and business you have. In other words – if you have a friend on Facebook who becomes a buyer or a seller, chances are that person will be contacting you.

Community Popularity

Building a community around your brand by leveraging the various social media websites is important. If you are able set up, participate and add value for other members in a community, you have engaged in true social media work. This takes dedication to participate in a meaningful and creative way, however the return of investment will be great.

They say social media is about making friends and not making money. But the smart real estate agent who is savvy about social media marketing will succeed in both.

Website IdeasThere are so many web design companies out there these days it’s enough to make your head spin. At last count, Google came up with 173,000,000 search results. Don’t freak out – your search can be easy and pain-free with this simple guide below. We will show you how to select a web design and development company that will meet all your goals and not drive you nuts.

Who

Who are your customers? What information will you be providing them? It is important to have a clear idea what role your new or redesigned web site will be like. A good web designer will want to know the following:

  • Your intended market or audience.
  • The role of your new web site.
  • Your budget.

What

What websites do you admire? They may be your competition or in unrelated businesses. Sometimes the web design firm is included in the site credits or is listed elsewhere on the website. If you cannot find the credits on the site itself, don’t hesitate to contact the business and ask them which web design firm is responsible.

How

How is the web designer going to help you? Gather a list of potential web design firms and ask them this question and then ask them several more:

  • How consistent they are?
  • Do they have any testimonials that speak about their credibility?
  • Do the projects in the portfolio have a consistent quality?
  • Have they consistently given good results in the given time frame?
  • Has the web design company provided solutions to other companies in your business category?
  • Have they dealt with similar challenges to those faced by your organization?

Remember – a web site doesn’t have to be flashy or animated to do its job. Check for organization of information, ease of navigation, overall cleanliness and user-friendliness.

Why

When they tell you how much it is going to cost, don’t scream – instead, ask them “why?” Experience and fees are very much related – this is called the EF of a web design firm. The general rule of thumb is the more experienced they are, the more they are going to charge. Don’t sacrifice quality just to save a few bucks. On the other hand, don’t pay through the nose if you think you can get a better deal somewhere else.

Here are some more questions related to fees that you can ask:
Technology – What is their technological competence? Does it match with your requirements? How frequently is their technology upgraded- both in terms of software and hardware?
Deadlines – Has the company carried out the projects in a specified time? Time is one of the most important factors as the longer it takes, the higher the costs get.
Responsiveness – How promptly does the company respond to your inquiries? Are they responsive to your suggestions and questions? Do they explain issues in ways you can understand? Do they share your general vision for the site?
Communication – Poor communication is one of the major roadblocks for business processes. Ensure that the company who you will be working is comfortable with the language you speak.
Services – What services does the company offer other than designing? What kind of value-added products or services can they bring to the table?

Where

Where you end up will be determined with a proposal. Ask the finalists to send you a proposal. This will help you decide which web design firm understands your requirements best. And ask each web design firm to include a description of their development process of the project. Take these points into consideration:

  • Likeability of the proposal
  • Strength and weaknesses of the proposal.
  • Presentation and format style.

When

After you have reviewed all proposals, compare them with each other. How do they fare in terms of presentation? How do they appear in terms of project management? Do they present scalability and/or upgrade paths for your project? Is the price worth it? You should have a winner by now. Your next question should be: “When can you start?”