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Last week I wrote about the importance of developing a robust buyer persona to improve the results of your social marketing. Part of understanding your buyer persona is to understand what the buyer struggles with. By understanding your target’s pain points, you’re better able to develop products and services to make life easier for that person.

A business near me that does this exceptionally well is Isis Parenting. When my child was born, Isis was my local destination for everything from nursing pillows to baby food gadgets.

But it was also my source of parenting know-how. Employees helped me try on various baby slings all while keeping my young daughter from bawling. When I was concerned about my daughter’s weight gain, they allowed me to put her on their baby scale. Clearly, Isis emphasized helping new moms more than convincing them to buy the latest baby gear (which would be pretty easy to do given the desperate, sleep-deprived states of many parents of newborns!)

In celebration of the publication of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is About Help Not Hype by Jay Baer, I spoke to Isis’ Vice President, Clinical Content & Learning Nancy Holtzman about her company’s helping culture.

“Isis has always been an education company from the very beginning, which is why we call our locations ‘centers’ rather than stores,” Holtzman explained. “Our goal is to provide the information, products and support that expecting and new parents want and need. Beyond our centers, we bring this education and support online in the form of expert speaker events, webinars and chats, as well as through social media.”

Isis offers several online classes for those who cannot attend typical childbirth classes — like parents-to-be with difficult schedules and expectant mothers on bed rest. In addition to helping others, these classes give Isis the chance to reach more people in areas where it doesn’t yet have locations.

Its online presence also includes Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and a popular blog. These social channels have been helpful in sharing information, engaging followers, and market seeding. In fact, at the center’s grand opening celebration in Dallas, a large cadre of Twitter followers (and their babies) came to show their support! Through its helpful media efforts, Isis had established a fan club in a new market even before it came to town.

These Dallas mothers found Isis Parenting’s online advice so helpful that they rolled out the welcome wagon when Isis’ first center came to town.

Being helpful has also meant more sales for Isis Parenting. Its weekly webinar-chats on sleep and breastfeeding reach families across (and beyond) the US — and have resulted in great brand recognition and lead generation. Holtzman has noticed an increasing number of paid, telephone-based Sleep Consults from both the US and overseas stemming from these weekly “gatherings.”

Are YOU interested in making your business more helpful? Start by reading Jay Baer’s Youtility. Full of tips and case studies, Youtility will allow you to better participate in our current social, helpful culture. And I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader!

[[The contest has ended. A big thanks to all who entered!]]

Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC / woodleywonderworks 

*U.S. residents only

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Are you struggling with your Facebook marketing? If so, ask yourself this: who are you trying to reach on Facebook?

Just because “everyone is on Facebook” doesn’t mean that everyone on Facebook wants to do business with you. To wade through the masses, flesh out a buyer persona — a well-defined profile of a person most likely to be interested in your products or services.

Your business might uncover several types of people who’d benefit from your products or services. While this might be true, focus on one persona at a time. Again, hone in on the person most likely to do business with you..

Jot down some notes about this person. Is this individual most likely female? How old is she? What type of job does she have? Does she watch her news on MSNBC, FOX, a local network, or public television? What does she find frustrating about the products or services in your niche? Really flesh out this person.

Now draw a portrait of her. Seriously! Is she wearing heels, clogs, or sneakers? Is she holding a Coach bag or a diaper bag? Don’t worry if your sketch looks like you had one hand tied behind your back. This image is for your eyes only. And it’s for you to keep in mind as you interact on Facebook. You are marketing to that person.

With this buyer persona in mind, you’ll be better able to do the following:

Shape your Facebook content. If you understand what fuels (and turns off) your target buyer persona, you’ll be able to post material of interest to that person.

Style your messaging. You’ll also be able to deliver these posts in a style that agrees with the persona. For example, some personas are fine with lots of exclamation points and smiley faces in your posts — others are not. Look at your drawing and decide: would this woman like smiley faces in her news feed? Then act accordingly.

Time your messaging. When is your target persona most likely to log on to Facebook? Your business hours might be from 9-5. If your persona’s work hours are the same, she might not have enough down time to see your latest post.

Advertise on Facebook. Facebook has unparalleled targeting capabilities. You can instruct Facebook to serve your ads to fans of a particular television character or mall restaurant. The more precisely you sketch out and understand your buyer persona, the more precise you can be with Facebook advertising.

Determine the value of marketing on Facebook. While you might spend more time on Facebook than any other social network, your buyer persona might not. Teens and millennials are spending an increasing amount of time on Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. Many women aged 25-45 spend more time — and money — on Pinterest than Facebook. If your target age group is spending less time on Facebook these days, shouldn’t you revise your social marketing plans accordingly?

The more you tailor your Facebook content and advertising to align with the lifestyle of your buyer persona, the more you’ll attract that person to your business. Conversely, if you neglect to consider your target buyer persona in your Facebook marketing, you’re doing nothing more than waving a magic wand each time you post to your fan page and hoping the post will attract your customers.

Headline Photo Credit: iStockphoto

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Are you intrigued by using Instagram for your business? Let me share two creative ways businesses near me have used this mobile photo platform to build loyalty, gather content, and extend their reach.

In-store promotion, like this window sign, were vital to the success of Boomerangs’ Instagram contest.

Boomerangs is a hip-with-a-heart thrift store with three locations in the Boston area. (All proceeds from Boomerangs support The AIDS Action Committee.) Customers constantly tell Boomerangs employees how their purchases are a part of their personal style. So the stores created an opportunity for customers to share their Boomerangs finds with others — and also get a chance to win a store gift card. With that, the “Boomerangs Thrift Throwdown Instagram Contest” was born.

“Instagram is streamlined and easy to use. It also has become a popular vehicle for fashion trends, with many people posting daily outfits and shopping finds. It seemed like a perfect fit to showcase our customers’ fashion styling talents,” remarked Jasmine Crafts, Boomerangs General Manager.

She told me that her staff was immediately on board with this promotion. In fact, many of them entered the contest just for fun! Their enthusiasm was instrumental in spreading the word about the Throwdown. (During my visit to Boomerangs’ Cambridge store, employees even tried to get my daughter to enter — but she was too young.)

Entrants Instagramned themselves with a special contest sticker and something they’ve purchased at Boomerangs. The description of the photo had to include the hashtag #boomerangsthrowdown. By monitoring the hashtag, the stores gathered over fifty photos of cool, frugal stylings from its customers. They also benefited from great brand awareness — these photos generated nearly 430 “likes.

Based on the success of the contest, Crafts told me that she’s “definitely open” to holding another Instagram contest, perhaps this winter.


This Cape Cod Magazine mobile photo feature caught the attention of both its regular readership and active Instagrammers.

This March, Cape Cod Magazine presented a 9-page feature article with photos taken by local Instagrammers (Instagram users). Creative director Alison Caron was inspired to run the magazine‘s first mobile photo essay after attending a presentation on iPhonography. “I was impressed with the images these local photographers were able to produce with their smartphones,” Caron told me. 

By searching for hashtags such as #capecod, Caron poured through hundreds of photos on Instagram and selected works by four standout photographers. She contacted the photographers, got them to send the high-resolution images, and began working on the spread.

Although the magazine promoted the photo essay through their established social media channels, it was the selected Instagrammers who generated most of the excitement by announcing it to their followers. Both parties witnessed consequent growth. Not only did Cape Cod Magazine get more exposure from the Instagrammers, but the featured Instagrammers noticed an increase in their followers upon the March publication.

Due to the increased exposure from the spread and the positive reaction from her originally-skeptical colleagues, Caron considers the photo feature a success. She’s toying with the idea of running another mobile photo spread in the near future — perhaps a mobile-only assignment given to a local photographer.

Have you used Instagram to promote your business? Tell me about it in the comments!


Headline Photo Credit: Flickr CC/ Moomettes

Boomerangs Photo:Flickr CC / Sierra Tierra

Cape Cod Magazine Photo: Courtesy of Alison Caron with permission

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Are you excited that Instagram now offers your business the chance to share videos with your followers?

Great! But stay clear of the following missteps which can destroy much of the good that you’ve already established with your social media marketing.

Autopost to Facebook and Twitter
One great feature of Instagram is its ability to additionally share your videos with your Facebook and Twitter followers. While sharing Instagram videos is a great way to add variety to your Facebook and Twitter posts, it shouldn’t be an automatic function. Think of the demographics of each of your channels and the objectives you aim to meet for each one. For example, Facebook fans respond much better to photos than videos. With that said, how often do you think they’ll want to click through on your shaky, handheld videos? Practice moderation here.

Use as many hashtags as you want
When you do share your Instagram videos to your Facebook and Twitter followers, go sparingly on your vid’s hashtags. Facebook users are just getting used to the “foreignness” of the hashtag.

And remember your Twitter character count. The link to your Instagram video is about 27 characters. Subtract that from 140 and you’re not left with that much space. So use it to entice your reader to click through your tweet. Hint: reading through a slew of hashtags is not enticing.

Stop taking Instagram photos
If your business has been using Instagram for a while, you’ve most likely developed a relationship with your followers through the photos you’ve taken. Don’t sabotage that relationship by dominating your Instagram feed with videos.

Abandon your YouTube strategy
Have you ever searched Instagram for videos? It’s perplexing and time consuming — two characteristics that dissuade most users from trying to find videos on this mobile platform.

But YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world. Don’t you want your videos to appear here? Or better yet, the number one search engine, Google — which just happens to OWN YouTube? The relationship between YouTube and Google is tight. (See the “don’t use boost post” figure for an example of how high videos can rank in Google search results.)

YouTube also offers clickable links, analytics, and advertising opportunities — three features that Instagram doesn’t yet offer businesses to improve their referral traffic, goal setting, and conversion.  Don’t forfeit these business opportunities just because Instagram is “hot” and its videos are easier to produce and share.

Assume your followers will watch all your mobile videos
I hope I’m not the first one to tell you this — but your followers are busy.

Instagram users are used to flicking their finger to scroll through all their photos on their mobile device. They rarely pause in their scrolling — and when they do, it’s usually just to double-tap their screen to “like” a photo. Your “ask” for them to stop scrolling to watch 15 seconds of video is taking them out of their comfort zone. And as more and more businesses kindly ask for “just 15 seconds” of a user’s time, the chances of your Instagram video being watched in its entirety will noticeably diminish.

Pretend your legal department doesn’t care about mobile video
I’ve already hinted that businesses don’t like all the time it takes to make YouTube videos. For many large businesses, a big chunk of that time comes from running videos by their legal department for approval. This process often adds days, if not weeks, between “action” and “upload.”

If your legal team demands to see each of your YouTube videos, it will surely want to review your vids on Instagram. But here’s the problem: as of now, you cannot save draft versions of Instagram videos to be given a legal thumbs up or down. If video sharing on Instagram is a must for your marketplace, brainstorm with legal on how best to proceed.

You might be a small business without a legal team. Nonetheless, in this fast moving world of social technology, it’s worth taking a moment to evaluate how sharing Instagram videos will benefit your company.

Did you find this article useful? If so, share it with a tweet or Facebook like!


Headline Photo Credit: iStockphoto

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Last week, Facebook announced its rollout of clickable hashtags. Did you scrunch up your nose at this news — perhaps because you have no idea how to use hashtags? If so, try this tutorial. Once you learn how hashtags can help your marketing on Facebook, that scrunched nose of yours will turn into a proud, rockin’ fist pump.

Q: What are hashtags?
A: Hashtags are words or phrases that begin with the # symbol. Here in the U.S., we call it a pound sign, but outside our borders it’s called a hash sign. The hash sign is then proceeded by one or more words. Say you want to make a hashtag about crossword puzzles: you can use #crosswords or #crosswordpuzzles. Note that the hashtag about “crossword puzzles” is made without spaces.

The hash sign can also come before an acronym. During the month of July, I often use the #TdF hashtag — that stands for Tour de France.

Q: Why do people use hashtags? 
A: Hashtags are used to emphasize keywords or add parenthetical remarks. Let me give you some examples from my Twitter account. (Twitter has been using hashtags since 2007.)

I tweeted this tip on how to use the Website bitly.com for competitive intelligence. As a parenthetical remark, I used the hashtag #sneaky.

On April 15, 2013, I was in San Francisco — miles away from my home in Boston during the marathon bombings. To show solidarity with my fellow Bostonians, I used the hashtag #bostonstrong.

As a businesswoman, I use hashtags to be discovered by others. For example, I put together a free publicity resource for authors. When I tweeted about it, I used the hashtag #authors so that writers who search Twitter for that hashtag will find my tweet.

Q: Why did Facebook make hashtags clickable?
A: When Facebook launched clickable hashtags this month, it introduced them as public conversations. Public conversations is really the perfect way to describe using hashtags on any social channel. For example, my use of #bostonstrong and #authors allowed me to be a part of a larger conversation about a particular theme.

Q: What should my business do with Facebook hashtags?
A: Start by applying what I did in the above #authors tweet to your next Facebook post. If you’re a gluten-free bakery, you may wish to use the hashtag #glutenfree. You can write something like “We’re ready to make two amazing #glutenfree wedding cakes for this weekend.” Or add the hashtag at the end of your post: “We’re ready to make two amazing wedding cakes for this weekend. #glutenfree” Where you put the hashtag is really a matter of personal preference.

Regardless of the hashtag location, your tagged post will now appear whenever one of the hundreds of thousands of wheat-free Facebook users searches for #glutenfree. Think about it: Your hashtagged posts will not only reach your Facebook fans, but they’ll also reach *potential fans and customers* who are interested in what you offer.

If you are this bakery, you should also be regularly searching on #glutenfree: here’s the link of the most recent posts using this hashtag.

Take a moment to reflect on what you see in this stream of posts. What treats do Facebook users love to post photos of? If you see a pattern, consider posting some of those treats. (There can never be too many croissant photos on Facebook.) Search the hashtag to find out what gluten-free foods are difficult for users to make — if your bakery carries those items, write posts about them using #glutenfree.

And use the hashtag to see what competing bakeries are up to on Facebook! It’s a great way to stay on top of things without becoming a fan of their page.

Do you have additional questions about using hashtags in your Facebook marketing? Ask me in the comments section!

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