Succeeding with Social Media Dialogue

By now, most businesses have accepted social media is not going anywhere. In fact, social media is becoming more prevalent and ingrained in the daily lives of clients and consumers.

Statistics regarding usage and population are easily found, including how many people make purchases online. One significant statistic is the highest percentage of social media users, ages 18 – 34, also have the most buying power. And where do they go for reviews and company information? That’s right, social media.

Businesses have known this for awhile, which is why there are innumerable B2C and B2B companies with Facebook pages, LinkedIn presences and Twitter/Instagram feeds. As the marketing adage states, go where the people are. Yet, despite being where the people are, only 39 percent say they are receiving medium ROI from organic posts and only 20 percent state they receive highest ROI from this form of marketing.

Advertising on social media

If social media is where 4.2 million people are spending their free time and getting their purchasing recommendations, why are those ROIs not higher?

Simple. Companies are using social media like an advertising channel and not as it is designed. Unlike television, radio and print, social media is built on a platform of socialization. Bet you couldn’t see that one coming from the name. And this is where most companies fail in their conversions.

Businesses spend money for social media managers, writing attention grabbing copy and set a publishing schedule like they would purchase a television ad. Except social media is not advertising to a passive audience that is sitting on a couch or in a car.

Watching the right metric

Some companies watch the analytics produced by each platform, focusing on impressions while still thinking about the numbers game of marketing: More exposure equates to the power of three and having your brand come to mind when it’s time to buy. In fact, promoting posts is based on spending money with the idea of increasing impressions.

But impressions is not the metric where conversions reside.

The more important metric to follow on social media is engagement. Social media is based on how much liking and conversation follows from a post. Most people use social media to learn something new, and creating dialogue builds interpersonal interest in a topic.

Avoid automation

Does that mean send out automated DMs thanking for follows, or publishing the follow/unfollow stats to prove popularity? No. Let me rephrase that: NO. Social media is not a numbers game. It’s a networking game. It’s a chance to strengthen brand awareness, initiate thought leadership, create value statements and build a curiosity about your company.

I am in favor of using third party apps to manage and publish posts on a schedule. But that should be the foundation on which dialogue, engagement and interaction with your clients should rest.

Just like local SEO and replying, if you are not engaging with the people who follow you on social media, you are shutting your door on customers. So next time you publish a post, try asking a question instead of stating a fact. Create a poll rather than a statement. Engage with your customer base rather than picking a play from the tv marketing playbook. Seek out what they have to say.

Why? You might learn something about your customer you didn’t know. And I bet the 20 percent of companies who are receiving their highest ROAS are engaged with their customers. They’re probably engaged with your customers, too.

The Power of Replying to Customer Reviews

It’s no secret to businesses that online customer reviews are an important aspect of marketing in the era of Google. In fact, 6 in 10 consumers look to Google for customer reviews when deciding to make a purchase. Even more important, 91 percent of consumers ages 18 to 34, the age with the most buying power, trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

So it’s no surprise that marketing departments try to entice customers to leave positive reviews. And getting a positive review should be getting easier. According to ReviewTrackers survey, reviews are becoming increasingly positive and leaning away from being an easy place for unhappy customers to vent.

That’s good news, right? Yes, except businesses are not maximizing on the impact of an online review. Similar to social media, online customer reviews are a place to deepen your brand by interacting with your customers directly. So let’s talk about the reasons why a business should reply to reviews, both negative and positive.

The negative customer review

It’s inevitable, no business can escape the unhappy customer. Some reviews are legitimate airing of grievances left unaddressed or ignored, while some reviews might be a troll looking to rail against someone. However, it’s not for a business to decide the intent behind the review.

Instead, a company needs to reply and address the stated concern. Here’s why – negative reviews push away customers. More so now than ever before. In fact, 91 percent of surveyed consumers say a negative review has convinced them to not buy from a company. On top of that, 53 percent of customers expect a business to reply to negative reviews.

Yet 63 percent state a business has never replied.

While some businesses might take the high road approach, ignoring negative attention if they believe themselves in the right, consumers do not see it that way. According to Brightlocal, 89 percent of consumers read business responses to reviews.

Listen to your reviews for valid concerns and address them. This is an opportunity to build bridges to your customers. If the review is accurate, potential customers will see you are a business who values them and will take necessary steps to correct any issues. If the review is off the mark, educate the public about your processes, your business and turn the review into a free marketing opportunity.

Most importantly, use a writer to draft replies. Otherwise, a bad situation might turn out worse in the minds of current and potential customers.

The positive customer review

Okay, so you reply to negative reviews, and the work is done. Not so quickly. Not replying to positive reviews is a huge missed opportunity. It all comes back to making your customers feel valued.

Psychology plays heavily into our decisions, including brand loyalty. And one of the best ways to deepen brand loyalty is to be personable with your customers. People bond to people, not businesses. Instead of using customer reviews only as SEO tools to advertise your business, use positive reviews as a dialogue with your customers.

The increased engagement from you will increase engagement from them. Including word of mouth promotion of your business.

Plus, responding to positive reviews can help minimize any negative reviews. Instead of seeing a business who only responds to a PR problem, potential consumers will see a business who values their customers and engages with interest.

At the end of the day, replying to both positive and negative customer reviews will strengthen the free marketing your business is getting. However, just a warning: combative negative review replies will backfire, as will canned positive review replies. As in all things human, the best way to approach customers is to be genuine.

What It Takes to Be a Content Writer

Content writers have become an in demand group of individuals as businesses develop their digital footprint among their competitors. Despite many websites advertising anyone can write for a living, becoming a content writer is not that easy.

It’s true most of us who have graduated from college, or even high school, have the basic fundamental understanding in order to write coherent content. Coherent content is the first and most necessary aspect of content writing. But content writing for companies becomes more complex. SEO principles, content marketing and different writing styles all come into play when trying to write for a business.

SEO principles

Most of us who use websites like WordPress have the ability to use the Yoast SEO plugin and learn preliminary SEO principles. However, using technology to tell you how to write rarely translates into effective writing for a client.

The first SEO principle content writers focus on is appropriate keyword density. The ideal density is between .06 percent and 2 percent, depending on the key phrase in use. If the client prefers long tail keywords, 2 percent will be too much for the content to carry. For example, I can layer 2 percent of the keyword “content” in different contexts while maintaining coherency.

However, if the enterprise is trying to rate for the long tail keyword “best content writer,” 2 percent will become a burden. The article will not make sense, and click through rates will decrease.

Of course, keyword is just the tip of the iceberg regarding SEO principles. Readability, sentence length, article length and use of passive voice are all items content writers need to consider when writing the article. In addition, appropriate meta titles, meta descriptions and internal and external links all need to be applied for effective ranking.

Marketing content

So SEO principles are a lot to consider when you are trying to be a content writer. But then there is the additional expectations from clients. Content writers are often expected to be copywriters also. What’s the difference?

Content writers focus on long form writing in different styles such as blogs, white papers, technical papers and website content. Copywriters focus more on email blasts, social media and marketing funnel reports.

In essence, content has the purpose of educating and entertaining while copy has the purpose of marketing, advertising and selling.

While content found in blogs can have a Call-To-Action (CTA) depending on purpose, copy writing always has a CTA. Also, tone is different. Think of how ads, click bait and other marketing writing sounds when read versus white papers. As I just mentioned, blogs can fall into either content or copy depending on the desired outcome and strategy.

While most writers tend to prefer content writing, leaving copy writing to marketing professionals, that choice is not always available. In fact, that choice is rarely available. A writer who is more flexible in tone, voice and purpose can find more work than a writer who is a purist.

Writing style as a content writer

So far I’ve discussed how a content writer needs to understand SEO principles beyond relying on plugin tools. Plus, a content writer needs to be able to adjust tone and voice, flexing to be a copywriter. On top of these two things, a content writer needs to understand and use different writing styles.

I have a formal education in English Literature, and I have a minor is Psychology as well. In essence, I am well versed in both Modern Language Association (MLA) and American Psychology Association (APA) styles of writing and can vary depending on my purpose. Yet being intimate with both of these styles does not translate into article writing. Why? Because most content writing follows the Associated Press (AP) Style Book.

While APA and MLA differ in reference and bibliography, AP style differs in how numbers are used, appropriate abbreviations, capitalization and the Oxford comma. And these differences matter. For example, I am pro-Oxford comma, but I challenge you to find an Oxford comma in this blog. Despite my own belief in the Oxford comma for grammatical and reading purposes, AP style does not use the Oxford comma.

Ultimately, a writer has to be knowledgeable beyond writing, have a flexible voice that can include marketing and selling and have in-depth awareness between the varying styles of writing. If you can do all these things, you can be a successful content writer.

VDM Resources specializes in content and copy writing for B2B enterprises, focusing on SEO driven blogs, white papers and email and social media marketing. Click here to see how we can help you!


Hunter S. Thompson’s Legacy

A few weeks ago marked the five year anniversary of Hunter S. Thompson’s death. Living in Aspen a majority of his later years, most Colorado college writing students are familiar with HST and his gonzo style writing. Hunter S. Thompson was very often tossed off by mainstream journalists as a dope fiend, lazy, and hazardous to the image of his professed career. Yet an in depth study of his writings shows a different HST: a conscientious writer who knew what he was attempting with his writing.

HST was an adolescent who was so focused on writing, he was willing to put himself through exercises that few English teachers (even the harshest) would suggest. He was an author who was willing to sacrifice comfort and safety in order to have complete understanding and factual basis before writing.

This does not add up to an author who was haphazardly a journalist because there was nothing else to keep him out of poverty, creating a form of writing along with a style and voice that occurred accidently due to drug use and laziness. Taking the best and learning from the worst reactions to beat poets and writers, barely a half generation older, Thompson created a form of social criticism and satire that would not only be publishable and taken seriously by those who agreed but could be thrown off as inconsequential by those who did not.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was not a book about drugs. Thompson’s books on political campaigns were not just feeding a personal addiction. All HST’s writings were attempting to make very serious points regarding the state of democracy in America and the idyllic American Dream.

A dope fiend, very likely, but Hunter S. Thompson was not a lackadaisical author. Even his procrastination is evidence of his genius, intentionally placing ideas, patterns, and style within his writing while appearing as if he could care less. Hunter S. Thompson was the perfect author for the first of many apathetic and disenfranchised generations.

Recommended HST writings include:

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist. Simon & Schuster: New York, NY. 2000.

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. Random House, Inc: New York, NY. 1971.

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72. Warner Books: New York, NY. 1973.

Thompson, Hunter S. Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the 80’s. Simon & Schuster: New York, NY. 1988.

The Dilution of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

March 5th, 2010 is a date to remember in the minds of Burton/Depp fans the world over. Tim Burton, the king of modern Gothic movies, has combined his unique visions with his favorite actor Johnny Depp to take on the well –recognized story of Alice in Wonderland. However, this newest rendition of Lewis Carroll’s story brings up certain questions regarding the understanding of a classical work created in 1860’s Victorian England.

Originally written for Alice Liddell, often Lewis Carroll’s tale is interpreted loosely as a drug induced nonsensically voyage of fantasy for children. In truth, Carroll’s tale is filled with heavy political satire. Throughout the book Carroll bitingly criticizes the school system of Victorian Britain, beginning with Alice’s self commentary that the only good use of knowledge is repetition for an audience, but “still it was good practice to say over,” (15).

Similar to Charles Dickens commentary in Bleak House, Carroll exposes Britain’s backwards judiciary system as a king requests the jury’s verdict prior to the trial (127). In fact, nothing is sacred in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as Carroll even ridicules England’s traditional institution of drinking tea with his characters of the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse.

All of these criticisms are artfully disguised in fantasy literature given to the daughter of the head of Christ Church, possibly another tongue in cheek mockery.

Yet these politically minded aspects are often absent from modern day renditions of the story. Burton’s brilliant auteur directorship will be enjoyed, but this newest rendition brings up one important question. Has the mainstream fascination with Alice in Wonderland brought about more interest in the genius classic political satire, or has the media blitz over the years diluted the true art of the novel?

Works Cited:

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Barnes & Nobles Classics; New York, New York: 2003.