5 Tips for Engaging People on Social Media

One of the biggest challenges businesses have with social media is engagement: Generating likes, comments, shares, etc. After all, what’s the point of your social media presence if you’re just shouting into the abyss? Building an audience that will interact with your business on social media can be difficult. But before you get discouraged, take a look at these tips:

Offer a contest. Everybody loves to win something, even if it’s bragging rights (but if you have an actual prize to offer, so much the better). Contests can be a fun once- or twice-a-year thing, and they don’t have to be very complicated. You can even make it as simple as “Guess how many jellybeans are in the jar for a $25 gift certificate.”

A few years ago, Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound offered a Facebook contest where users created an “unofficial slogan” for the restaurant in order to be entered into a random drawing for a t-shirt. There were a couple hundred entries and an increase in page likes over the duration of the contest.

Brainstorm with coworkers and/or check out others in your industry for contest ideas.

Ask Questions. Ask your followers questions on your social media platforms to drive up engagement. This article recommends avoiding broad questions such as “What’s your favorite flavor?” Rather, they suggest giving users multiple choices and an accompanying graphic. Questions can be phrased as customer-service oriented, too. Example: “If we were to add a new machine to the cardio room, what would you choose?” This could also be done using a multiple choice format. Asking a question encourages people to interact with your page (and bonus points to you for responding back).

Encourage people to share. Encourage followers to share how they use your product (this is also known as “User Generated Content”). If you have a brick-and-mortar store, post a sign encouraging people to check in and/or tag your business on social media. And, the more content you can get others to post on your behalf, the better — it increases your reach, and all you did was put up a sign! Again, there’s a lot of ways to be creative.

Ask for Reviews. It may feel a little weird at first, but trust me — one of the best ways to get online reviews is to “make the ask.” It doesn’t have to be frequent — maybe once a week or every other week — in order to remind people where you are online. Cross-pollinate these requests. Example: Folks might already be reviewing you on Facebook. So post on Facebook a reminder that your business can also be reviewed on Yelp or Google+. People are willing to help you out, but they have to know where and how.

People are willing to help you out, but they have to know where and how.

Pay attention to analytics. Sounds boring? Maybe, but following your analytics may be the most helpful thing you can do to boost engagement. Look at individual social media accounts to devise the best strategy for each. For example, you may find Twitter requires more posts per day than Facebook. Automate this task using online tools such as Buffer, MeetEdgar, or Hootsuite. (Source)

As you create a social media marketing plan, think about how you can incorporate some of these ideas into your strategy and encourage people to interact with what you have to say.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

5 Ideas for Instagram Marketing

Instagram, like any good social media platform, has in the past 6 months-year added a few new features, which most businesses approach with caution at first. As businesses/people have gotten more comfortable with marketing on Instagram, I’ve noticed a few interesting ways that people are using Instagram to connect with followers and current/prospective customers.

Here are the five different things I’ve seen on Instagram lately:

  1. The Instagram Takeover. A “takeover” is giving someone else control of the business’s Instagram account, usually for a day but it can also be a weekend. An Instagram takeover usually happens with someone who is sort of related to your business/industry. For instance, Wyman’s Blueberry allowed a food blogger to take over their Instagram page for a whole week. What I noticed in this takeover was that @holly_tasteandsee stuck to on-brand recipes (meaning she integrated Wyman’s products into her takeover posts). It gave Wymans followers something new to look at, and it gave both @holly_tasteandsee’s and Wymans exposure to new audiences.

If you want to try a takeover for your business, find someone who is relevant to what you do (i.e. food company and food blogger, business letting an employee takeover posts, etc), and create parameters with that person if necessary (this could be called common sense, but may still be a helpful conversation to have).

2) Featuring another person. In March (Women’s History Month), Rustic Arrow Maine had “Women Wednesdays” where they featured a local female entrepreneur on their Instagram. It featured a photo of the woman, a caption that included her Instagram handle, and a brief description of her work/business. This type of feature gives you more control than a Takeover, while including other people in your post. This gets attention for their business, too, while creating something new and fun for your Instagram page. Following general rules of social media etiquette, remember to ask a person before you feature them on your Instagram page.

3) Multiple picture post. This Instagram update is great news for those who want to create larger updates like new products/meals etc, but don’t want to overwhelm followers with several different posts. The catch is that all must be in square shape and will receive the same filter. People will be able to see that there are multiple photos in a post, so you don’t have to worry about them “missing out” on the other images in your post.

Garnier and many other Instagram sponsored ads will use this technique as it gives you more bang for your advertising buck. This product image was actually the last in the post- the preceding images were all happy looking women with different hair colors/textures.

4) Use of a specific hashtag to promote a contest (and sharing participant’s photos that came out well). Downeast Magazine is well known (at least, to me) for doing this sort of thing. They request that users tag them and use a specific hashtag, and share some of the content on their own page (after asking permission and using correct attribution). This is a tool called “User Generated Content,” which has become a buzzword in marketing over the past couple years. The idea is to encourage users to share something- in this case, a photo that represents #Mainelife.

Downeast Magazine has quite a few contests/user engagement ideas if you go to their Instagram page. Right now, they are in the process of sharing 40 items from “The Great Maine Scavenger Hunt,” featured in the print magazine. Another thing that is worth pointing out- in the caption for the post below, they say “See our website for more info about entering the hunt,” so if increasing website traffic in an organic, natural matter is something you’re trying to do, promoting content on Instagram is a clever way to do that.


5) Unique use of Bookmarks. Seabags Maine, a company that makes bags out of recycled sails. They recently used the new bookmark feature in Instagram (similar to Facebook’s ‘save for later’) to create a contest. They created a “puzzle” and posted one piece at a time (out of order, of course) and gave specific instructions about how to enter the contest. They also accepted the first 5 to respond as winners, which could have encouraged more participation (people may see this and think “I have a shot!” vs. “there’s no way I’ll be the first person to respond so why bother”).

Have you seen any interesting things go by on Instagram that could be useful for businesses (or is just cool in general)? Let us know! 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

How To (Not) Run A Facebook Contest

“I know I’m not doing it legally but…”

I smile as my friend/small business owner confesses to not running an exactly legitimate Facebook contest. I like how I’m kind of a Facebook priest that people confess their sins to.

Now she’s totally right; I am willing to bet Facebook is not going to come after her relatively small page for running a Facebook contest that is against their rules.

(Facebook? Rules? Yes there are some:

The best way to follow the rules? Use an app to run your contest. I’ve used ShortStack for a photo contest (note there is no affiliate link there meaning I am getting exactly $0 to recommend them to you). It works great… and at $30/month for the two months we needed it, it was a great tool. If you look up ‘Facebook contest app’ you will no doubt find others that will work for your particular contest.

Now I see plenty of people trying to avoid this but here’s a couple of reasons why I think you should fork out some money and do your contest the right way.

1) Facebook rule compliance is automatic. 

Does reading fine print make your queasy? These contest apps have done that and created a way to hold contests that follows Facebook’s (often changing) rules. If you get in trouble, the app developer is going to get hauled into the trouble with you.

2) Your contest is confusing without an app. Trust me. 

Story time folks.

Our local vet ran a photo contest recently on Facebook. The photos with the most likes (one in the cat category and one in the dog category) won. So the first step was submitting the pictures, which were supposed to be emailed. Only some people posted them to the Facebook wall. Or forgot the date they had to submit them by.

Once that fiasco finished, there was the voting. So the picture in each category with the most ‘likes’ won. So few people ‘shared’ the picture of their cat/dog onto their personal profiles to get likes… but the likes from their friends (who were looking at a photo on the profile) did not count toward the total like count of the photo on the vet’s Facebook page. Also some people left comments without liking the photos, thinking a comment also counted as a vote.

Does this look like my dog being in a photo contest? Yeah, it doesn't to me either.  Is your Facebook contest equally unclear?

Does this look like my dog being in a photo contest? Yeah, it doesn’t to me either…and as you see, my friends are confused by it too. Is your Facebook contest equally unclear?

Do you want to confuse people at each stage of your contest?  No? Then get an app, it’ll automatically take care of a lot of these issues for you.

And literally just as I wrote this, I saw a post go by asking me to ‘like our banner’ to enter a contest. The status update itself had no image which led me to wonder: What banner? The cover image on your page? The photo you posted about the contest two weeks ago? I’m the local informal Facebook ‘priest’ as we have established earlier. So if I don’t get it, your people won’t either.

3) Customer service is way easier. 

Now let’s say you were running a photo contest like our vet friends. If I had set up a place were people could submit photos on their Facebook page and then made a deadline, I could simply say. ‘Go here to submit your photo’ and the submission page would automatically go away on the deadline. Then I could have made a voting page for each pet viewable on one screen. I could have restricted the votes by Facebook profile, IP address, etc. The act of voting (or not voting) would be very clear by using a ‘vote’ button. I can even make a rules page which as a link comes up when people are on the contest page.

Do you want to answer the same questions over and over? Yeah, us either. Having an app with everything findable within it will save you a lot of emailing and panicked messages.

4) People will like your page if you run a good contest, not if you coherse them. (This is just a me thing, you can legally run a contest that makes people like your page to participate.) 

If you make me like your page, spin on my head, share it with 16 friends, then vote, I’m not going to do it. But if you run a simple, organized straight-forward contest that people enjoy, guess who will like your page? Contest participants.

Now if you want to make them like your page to do it, that’s perfectly within Facebook rules. But I want someone to like me because they do, not because I made them. So a more creative contest might be submitting a photo or captioning a picture. Something creative that people want to share or otherwise be involved with.

So please do hold Facebook contests. The good ones make me laugh and give me hope in humanity. But do try to use a contest app. It’ll make your customers’ and your life easier for just a few bucks!

And as bonus reading, here’s another great article on this topic:

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: Superbowl Ads 2011

My theory is companies aren’t trying hard at SuperBowl commercials anymore because of the whole internet marketing movement. That said, I had some fun last night watching some commercials anyway! Here they are, in no particular order:

The ‘Aww, clever!’ Commercial
I laughed out loud because beavers are ridiculous but at the same time, thought Bridgestone’s message was memorable. You know, since besides the commercial being clever, I also remembered what product it was trying to sell.

The Controversial Commercial
I personally took this as Groupon making fun of America’s consumption culture (of which they are also a part of). But they are giving money to organizations to make up for this potential gaff but hey, they got people talking and aware of some larger-than-saving-50%-off causes.

The ‘I Can Totally Relate’ Commercial
In a totally different feel of a commercial, Bridgestone made this cute ad about a guy who thought he pressed ‘Reply All’ instead of ‘Reply’. We can all relate, which is why watching him go through hell and back to get to this missent email. I did forget what the commercial was for so maybe this was a bit too clever.

The Uncomfortably Hilarious Commercial
Doritos held an ad contest with fans to produce a Superbowl Ad. While the running pug won, I thought this commercial was pretty funny, if only because for a second it makes you a bit uncomfortable. And isn’t that true humor, boundary pushing in a way audiences haven’t yet seen before?

All in all, it’s clear that there is always going to be a place for commercially produced advertisements yet these are going to change and become more relevant to all of us since regular people like us are becoming a part of the ad creation. And now, your turn to weigh in…

What was your favorite commercial?

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Marketing Monday: My Smile Bites!

Every Monday, I profile some cool promotional idea I run across and why I think it’s effective. Have a cool marketing idea your company is putting in place? Contact me, I might write about it!

When I think of 1-800-DENTIST, I think of happy but generic looking people on the phone helping me find a dentist. Not exactly something new.

I was contacted by Jill, one of their marketing folks, about the video contest they are holding which I do find interesting.

The basic idea is that contestants upload a 1-2 minute video talking about why they need a smile makeover. The winner gets up to a $30,000 smile makeover. You may remember that Office Depot had a similar upload your video to win contest for small businesses called ‘Survival of the Smartest’ that ran this summer.

Here’s why I think the campaign is interesting:

+ Read More

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.