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This entry is part 9 of 10 in the seriesIs Social Media a Time-Suck?

In an earlier article in this series, we covered using your social media networks to get informal opinions from your followers and friends. Now, let’s cover how to solicit more structured input. There are a number of ways to create and post “official” polls or surveys, none of which involve getting a paper survey printed, and sending it out via snail mail to your followers. Here are some options that are much faster and less expensive:

  • Google Docs. Create a simple survey in Google Docs (docs.google.com) and get your results in spreadsheet format – for free! You can even brand the survey with your own colors and logo.
  • Survey Monkey. If you want to email out your survey, check with Survey Monkey at http://surveymonkey.com. You can create surveys quickly and easily, and aggregate answers from up to 100 respondents for free. Get more surveys and more answers for a small monthly fee.
  • Facebook Polls. Facebook makes it really easy to add polls or surveys to your Facebook profile or page. Just go to http://facebook.com/survey to be walked through the free process.
  • WordPress Widgets. There are a number of WordPress widgets and plug-ins that can be added easily to your WordPress blog or website. Check out WP-Polls, Poll Code, Snap Poll, and Vizu.

Polls are perfect for the following circumstances:

  • You want to increase engagement among your followers. Polls are a perfect way to gather information and use it to further discussion. Most people don’t just want to weigh in with their position; they want to discuss it, too!  If you need a reminder, consider all the Facebook posturing in support of your friends’ political candidate of choice.
  • You want to use current events to spark conversation. Does your audience think the latest Google search algorithm changes will affect their business? Do your blog readers agree with the experts’ national college football rankings? Ask them, and you’ll establish yourself as an expert by hosting the conversation.
  • You want input from your followers and volume of responses is more important than speed. If you are in the process of developing a new product, you can find out if people would prefer an audio, video, written, or multimedia product. If you’re thinking of visiting a few cities on tour, you can see where your pockets of fans reside.
  • You want to gather demographic information about your followers. Want to know how often your followers golf, how much money they spend on equipment, and what their biggest challenges are? A survey is a great way to solicit that type of information.

The post Execute a Survey or Poll appeared first on Ken Ivey.

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the seriesIs Social Media a Time-Suck?

Make a choice: Would you rather spend the December holidays with your crazy Uncle Bob the roadkill taxidermist attached to your hip, or spend the afternoon trying to troubleshoot your computer modem by phone with your cable company? If you’re like most people, you’d ask Bob to pull out the photos of the lifelike armadillos. Let’s face it; these days, customer support can be a pain in the rear, not to mention a huge time suck.

Thank goodness, you can turn to your social network to help you out. Here’s how:

  • Tweet first. There are a number of major companies, including Zappos.com and Comcast, who have customer service reps following twitter streams and searching for their brand name in search of unhappy customers. If you can post your issue in 140 characters or less, go for it! Hint: make sure you use the company name – spelled correctly – in your tweet, and employ hashtags where warranted. In other words: “My #HP OfficeJet 5600 won’t print from my MacBook Pro. Anyone have any ideas?
  • Take it to Facebook. Many companies have branded Facebook pages where you’ll receive a personalized response within hours, or even minutes. That way you can go about your business instead of sitting on the phone, frantically working your way through the automated telephone tree. Hint: Post a message on their wall rather than trying to contact them via Facebook message. The public aspect of your plea for help will ignite a faster response.
  • Try their website.  Bypass the 800 number and email in favor of a live chat. You can get a live person immediately (or within a minute or two) instead of playing hurry up and wait on the phone. Live chat not available? Try the email contact form. You may have to wait 24 hours for a response, but you can use that time productively.
  • Record a video. If all else fails, record a video and post it to YouTube. You never know what a visual plea for help, or a bad review, will do for cutting through the red tape. Be calm, though, and leave room for a response; if all you do is spazz out, they’ll just write you off as a nut.
  • Record a screenshot or screen video to demonstrate your issue.  I’ve found this to be tremendously helpful, especially with software issues.  Nothing is more frustrating than to describe your problem and hear “well, it works on our end”.  The video evidence often reveals what the true problem is.  Use a tool like Jing which can save your captured video and gives you a hyperlink you can share on social media.

The key here is to take control of your own time rather than letting someone else determine your destiny. Don’t let “them” tell you that you must sit on hold for 45 minutes before you get a living, breathing person to listen to your problems. Save time and take it online.

The post Cut Through Customer Support appeared first on Ken Ivey.

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the seriesIs Social Media a Time-Suck?

You’re changing the name of your podcast. You just gave birth to a baby girl. You’re heading to Los Angeles for an upcoming trade show. You are releasing a new online product. All these are perfect opportunities to use your social media networks to help spread the word far and wide.

When you have something that you want to share with the widest possible audience, leverage your networks – all of them. Here are some tips to make sure your news gets the attention it deserves.

1. Don’t be afraid to post it more than once. Particularly on Twitter, stuff gets lost in the noise. If people don’t catch it the second you post it, it may be gone forever. Use a tool like Tweriod.com to see when most of your followers are online, and post during those times. And post it a couple of times over the course of a day or so. Those who already read the original post will just delete it without thinking twice about it. 

2. Create an opportunity to connect. Turn a newsy announcement into a way to engage with your audience. Instead of just saying “My new product launches next week,” say, “Check out this sneak peek of my new eBook that I’m launching next week. Let me know what you think!” Or, “My daughter is here – here’s her birth photo. Guess her birth weight and the person who’s closest will win a free 30 minute consultation with me.” People are looking for new and different. Give it to them.

3. Talk about the news before it happens. Telling people about what you have in progress not only helps them feel engaged, it also serves as a subversive way to promote yourself without sounding promote-y. Say, “Just finished the last chapter for my eBook. Have you signed up for early notification?” Or, “I’m interviewing so-and-so next week for my next online class. Do you have any burning questions you’d like answered?”

4. Interconnect your social media networks. Place an announcement on Twitter that sends your followers over to your blog to read more. Record an announcement on YouTube and then post it on Facebook. The stronger the interconnections between the spokes of your network, the stronger the overall network.

As an aside, it’s also important to note that with recent changes in the search engines’ algorithms (the mathematical equations they use to determine if your website shows up in the search engine’s results for a given query) the recommendations above are now considered “Social Signals” – and may give your website an unexpected boost!

So, get a jump on press releases and publicity, and don’t sit back and wait for the newspapers to find you. Instead, you can do some promotion yourself by leveraging the members of your network.

The post Share Important Announcements appeared first on Ken Ivey.

This entry is part 6 of 10 in the seriesIs Social Media a Time-Suck?

Whether you’re working in an office or at home, taking regular breaks is essential for your mental and physical well-being. In the traditional office, you could head to the cafeteria for a cup of coffee, or head down to the proverbial water cooler. But when you work for yourself, taking a break to join into humanity is a little more involved. You can get in the car and drive to Starbucks for a quick latte, but that takes time and money.

You could call up a friend to check in, but who talks on the phone anymore?  Instead, here are a handful of things you can do to take a much-needed mental vacation, all from the comfort of your own home, all via your social media networks:

  • Head over to Facebook and see whose birthday it is using the notification feature. Then leave them a birthday message on their wall (time: 5 minutes)
  • Catch up on your favorite non-work-related blogs. Or read a few of the industry movers and shakers and leave them a thoughtful comment, linking back to your own site. (10 minutes)
  • Post a question of the day (hashtag #QOTD) related to your niche, but in a “just for fun” sense. For instance, “What’s the last ___ you purchased for your ___?” This is a fun way to engage your Twitter followers, as well as gather some informal intelligence. (5 minutes)
  • Yes, go ahead and succumb to the Farmville or Plants vs. Zombies pull and log in to play for a limited time. Set an egg timer next to your computer and stop when time’s up. (15 minutes)
  • Check out the latest videos in your niche (did you know you can subscribe to other video creators’ YouTube channels?). Leave a comment or create a video response. (15 minutes)
  • Log into LinkedIn and update your status. Then check in on some of your groups and see what the hot topics are. Offer your expertise where appropriate. (15 minutes)
  • Do the same with Facebook. Visit some of the groups you belong to and leave questions on the wall, comment on others’ posts, and leave links where possible. (15 minutes)
  • See who’s commented on your blog lately and visit their websites, leaving comments and thanking them for visiting you. Reciprocity goes a long way to establishing relationships. (10 minutes)
  • Go to the iTunes store and see who hosts the leading podcasts in your industry. Visit their blogs and start establishing a relationship with these movers and shakers. (5 minutes)

Any of these ideas takes less time than a trip to the local Starbucks counter – or a trip to the water cooler, for that matter! Use your break time wisely and you’ll receive the double benefits of refreshment and audience engagement.

The post Take a Quick Break appeared first on Ken Ivey.

[box color=”green-mute” type=”round” icon=”caution”]UPDATE: Google is now merging Maps, Places and Google+ into what they’re calling “Google+ Local”, so all features can be found in one place.[/box]

Google Plus

Worried about the sudden changes Google has made to Google Places?  Wondering how the new Google Plus Local format will affect those all-important business reviews?  Well, you can relax.  Google Plus Local is actually a great change – and one that will enable customers to leave even more comprehensive, detailed, and accurate reviews than before.  What’s more is that Google has made the whole process super simple, even for those completely unfamiliar with the Google Plus user interface.  Want the details?  Here are instructions for how to set up a Google Plus Local review in five easy steps:

Create a Google Plus account.  You must have your own Google Plus account in order to leave reviews.  However, you can now leave reviews from either a personal Google Plus profile or a business Google Plus page account.

Visit the Google Plus Local page of the business you want to review.  This is simple: log in to your Google Plus account and search the left hand side of the screen for a vertical tab menu.  See the “Local” tab?  Click on that to access the Google Plus Local search.  Once you are on the appropriate page, you click on the “Write a Review” button in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Rate the business.  The new Google Plus Local rating system – called the Zagat scale – will ask that you rate the business from 0 to 3 on a number of different aspects related to the particular business you are reviewing (food and service categories when grading restaurants, for example).  The numbers you enter are then calculated according to the Zagat scale formula in order to deliver an overall rating of 0 to 30.  This score is also broken down into specific categories so that page visitors can accurately assess different aspects of the business – including its strengths and weaknesses.

Write a review.  Underneath the Zagat scale rating section is a text box in which you can write your business review.  Take your time and be sure to provide plenty of detail, as well as specific tips and suggestions you would recommend potential customers follow when dealing with the business.  Also, be sure to go over your review once you’ve finished it, in order to add any missed information and edit mistakes.

Publish your review.  Once you are sure that you have rated and reviewed the business to your satisfaction, it is time to publish the review.  Click on the “Publish” button underneath the review text box to publish it to the business’ Google Plus Local page.  The review will be listed under your profile, and anyone who sees the review, including the business itself, will be able to check out your profile page.

Take advantage of everything Google+ Local has to offer! Visit http://kenivey.com for details.

The post How to Set Up a Google Plus Local Review in 5 Easy Steps appeared first on Ken Ivey.

[box color=”green-vibrant” type=”round” icon=”caution”]UPDATE: Google is now merging Maps, Places and Google+ into what they’re calling “Google+ Local”, so all features can be found in one place.[/box]

Google Places Business Listing

Lately, there is a lot of talk about Google Places – Google’s newest web offering that seems to be revolutionizing the way businesses reach customers and market online.  If you are responsible for marketing for a business, then you simply cannot afford to miss out on all the talk.  That is because Google Places can be one of the most powerful tools you have when it comes to establishing a strong business presence on the Internet.  Interested in knowing more, but not even sure where to start?  Check out these five most asked questions about Google Places:

How does Google Places help people find my business?  Google is the number one search engine in the entire world-wide web, encompassing a network of web-based applications (like Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Voice, and Google Directory Search) and other partner websites.  When you set up your Google Places listing, your business becomes a part of that network.  That means that any time someone uses Google to search for either your specific business name/location, or even for a business category related to yours in your area, your business listing is likely to appear in the return results across the entire Google network.

How can I make the most of my Google Places listing?  First of all, make sure that it has a score of 100 percent (based partly on completeness).  Also, upload as many photos/videos as Google will allow, encourage customers to post reviews, and employ search engine optimization (SEO) strategies when writing your Places page content.

How do I get a Google Places listing?  Start by creating a (free!) Google account.  Then visit the Google Places homepage and click on the “add business” option to claim your business location.  Once you have submitted all of your information, you will have to verify your business by providing a valid telephone number or document, and then wait for Google to publish your listing.

What will it cost to use Google Places?  Google Places listings, and every feature that comes with your Google Places pages, are absolutely free.

Is it possible to advertise my Google Places page on Google?  Yes, Google has made it simple and easy to advertise for Google Places using Google Adwords Express.  Access Adwords Express through your Google Places account page.

Take advantage of everything Google+ Local has to offer! Visit http://kenivey.com for details.

The post The 5 Most Asked Questions about Google Places appeared first on Ken Ivey.

[box color=”blue-vibrant” type=”square” icon=”caution”]UPDATE: Google is now merging Maps, Places and Google+ into what they’re calling “Google+ Local”, so all features can be found in one place.[/box]

Yellow Pages Dead

Does your business have a Google Places listing?  If you answered “no,” then you need to get on the task of setting up your Google Places listing, and right now.  There are a number of very compelling reasons to include Google Places as an integral part of your business marketing plan.  If you need some convincing, then you should look over this list of reasons for why having your business on Google Places is so important:

The Yellow Pages is obsolete.  Studies show that 97 percent of all consumers use the Internet to search for and choose local businesses.  Most of those people haven’t touched a Yellow Pages book for years.  Look at it this way: if 97 percent of your potential customers are searching the web for businesses just like yours and you are not there, you are missing out – plain and simple.

Your Places listing will work for you, even when you are sleeping.  The Internet never sleeps, and your page is always accessible to potential customers, even long after you shut-down your shop.  You can even link your Google Places page to your website, so that customers can make transactions while you catch your Z’s.

Branding.  Google Places is especially effective when it comes to your business branding (which, in today’s market, is essential to your business’ success).  By uploading photos and videos, and customizing your content to speak for your unique niche, you can go a long way in strengthening your brand.

Reaching your target market.  You can create content for your Google Places listing that speaks specifically to your target market, and then count on the Google search engine to deliver targeted traffic straight to your virtual-reality door.  There are very few types of advertising that enable you to reach exactly who you want to by means that are within your control, and Google Places is one of them.

Google Places is free advertising.  Regardless of how successful your business is, you have a business budget . . . and you simply cannot argue that many of your business choices come down to the bottom line.  Unless you have a limitless marketing budget (and who does?!), you need all the free help you can get.  It just doesn’t make any sense not to take advantage of such a powerful marketing tool when it won’t cost you a single cent to get involved.

Take advantage of everything Google+ Local has to offer! Visit http://kenivey.com for details.

The post Why Having Your Business on Google Places is So Important appeared first on Ken Ivey.

[box color=”blue-vibrant” type=”square” icon=”caution”]UPDATE: Google is now merging Maps, Places and Google+ into what they’re calling “Google+ Local”, so all features can be found in one place.[/box]

internet marketing

Google Places can be an invaluable marketing tool for your business, no matter how big or small it is.  As a matter of fact, studies show that over 97 percent of all consumers looking for a local business use a search engine like Google to find it.  If you want to take advantage of this massive market, then you need to have a Google Places listing.  However, it is also important that you optimize your listing in order to reap the full array of benefits offered by Google Places.  How do you do this?  You start with a complete and detailed listing.  Here are five essential components of a good Google Places listing:

Your Google Places score.  Google scores your Places listing – up to a 100 percent – based on how complete your listing is.  Ensure yourself a top spot in the Google rankings by scoring a 100 percent on your Google Places listing.  This means putting information about your business in every single blank in your listing information.

Photos and videos.  Google Places allows you to upload images and videos to your listing.  You should upload as many as Google will allow for, as studies show that Internet users are more responsive to images and videos than they are to textual content.

Positive business reviews.  Encourage your satisfied customers to write reviews for your Google Places listing, so that people evaluating your business for the first time – going solely on your Google places listing – will be more likely to choose you over the competition.

Keywords.  Using keyword-rich content in the body of your business listing information will improve your listing’s SEO and ultimately get it ranked higher in the search engine results.  Take some time to research strong keyword phrases, and be careful not to overuse them.  Consult with an SEO professional if you need help in this regard, as using keywords appropriately can be a bit tricky.

Third-party directory listings.  If you are not taking advantage of third-party directories, you should be.  Sites like Bing, Yelp, Yahoo! Local Business, and Foursquare actually link back to your Google Places listing and can therefore get it ranked considerably higher on Google search engine results.  These business directories are free to use, and are an integral part of the overall success of your business’ Google Places listing.

Take advantage of everything Google+ Local has to offer! Visit http://kenivey.com for details.

The post 5 Essential Components of a Good Google Places Listing appeared first on Ken Ivey.

[box color=”blue-vibrant” type=”square” icon=”caution”]UPDATE: Google is now merging Maps, Places and Google+ into what they’re calling “Google+ Local”, so all features can be found in one place.[/box]

Google Places

If you aren’t using Google Places to market your business on the web, then you are seriously missing out on an unparalleled opportunity.  A Google Places listing can be one of the most powerful money-making tools you have, and it’s time you claim yours.  Still need some convincing?  Here are ten advantages of using Google Places:

It’s free!  That’s right – your Google Places listing and page won’t cost you anything to set up.  When you consider how strong a tool Google Places is when it comes to web marketing, it’s almost mind blowing to know that you don’t have to pay a cent to use it.

Google Advertising.  Once you have your Google Places page completely set up, you can then take advantage of the array of Google Advertising options available to you.

Customer review forum.  Your Google Places page is an ideal spot for satisfied customers to post glowing testaments for all to see.  It is also a great place for you to publicly handle customer complaints, so that potential customers can see firsthand that you are willing to work with your customers to make them happy.

Google Maps.  Along with your Google Places listing, Google will also place a marker for your business on Google Maps, making it easy for new customers to find you.

Better than the Yellow Pages.  Studies show that over 97 percent of all consumers search the web to find local businesses, making the Yellow Pages nearly obsolete.  If you want to get noticed, you need a business listing on Google Places.

Mobile users.  Most people these days use their smart phones to view the web even more than they use their PCs.  Mobile users have full access to Google Places listings, so you won’t miss out on this valuable market.

Targeted demographics.  It is possible to tweak your Google Places listing so that is it seen by those people who are most likely to visit your page and become your customers.

Virtual business tours.  Google Places is now offering (temporarily on a limited basis) to send a photographer to your place of business to shoot a 360 virtual tour of your establishment.  For customers who are on the fence about visiting your business location, this can be just the push they need.

You might not have a website.  Setting up a business website can cost a considerable amount of time and money.  If you have not yet developed a website, you can just use your (once again, free!) Google Places page as your site.

Google Offers.  Google makes it very easy for you to offer customers who visit your Places page special offers and coupons.  Simply click on the “Google Offers” button, complete the information you want to include, and Google Places will publish the offer to your page.

Take advantage of everything Google+ Local has to offer! Visit http://kenivey.com for details.

The post 10 Advantages of Using Google Places appeared first on Ken Ivey.

[box color=”blue-vibrant” type=”square” icon=”caution”]UPDATE: Google is now merging Maps, Places and Google+ into what they’re calling “Google+ Local”, so all features can be found in one place.[/box]

Duplicate Listing

If you have a business, then you should also have a Google Places listing.  Google Places is not only an effective and free way to market your business online, but it is also a very powerful tool for attracting new customers and gaining the loyalty of those you already have.  However, you only want one Google Places listing.  More than one is too much of a good thing, and can actually detract from your Google search engine potency.  What should you do if you have a duplicate places listing?  Read on to learn about how to remedy this problem:

Multiple Google Places listings for the same business location in Google Maps search results.  If this applies to you, then you may follow a few steps to fix the situation.  First of all, make sure that you have already claimed a valid business location listing from Google Places.  If you have, check to make sure that you have no more than one active listing for that business in your Google Places account; remove the duplicate listing(s) using the method described below.  Lastly, go to the Places page of every duplicate listing, click on the problem reporting link, and report the duplicate pages.  Google will investigate the problem and make any necessary corrections.

Multiple listings for the same business location in a Google Places account.  This situation is very simply remedied by going to your Google Places account page and choosing the listing you want to keep (do this only after viewing all of the Places pages to pick the one that is most complete), making sure the status of your chosen listing is set to “active,” and then deleting the duplicate listings using the “remove this listing” option.  Keep in mind that it may take weeks for these changes to be reflected in Google search results.

Multiple Google Places accounts for the same business location.  Choose the listing you prefer to keep, after viewing all of the listings to determine which is most complete.  Then delete all duplicate listings from all other accounts (to keep any more than one listing for the same business – even if those listings are in different accounts – is a violation of Google policy) using the method outlined above.

Take advantage of everything Google+ Local has to offer! Visit http://kenivey.com for details.

The post What You Should Do if You Have a Duplicate Places Listing appeared first on Ken Ivey.