The answer is Facebook. Now, what is your question?

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A recent study by Business.com said that 83% of respondents said that Facebook is their favorite social media tool for reaching customers and no wonder — when Facebook recently passed 350 million members after gaining 250 million members since August 2008 [yes, that’s right — the Facebook ‘nation’ is larger than the United States and growing at an incredible rate] it became clear that if someone was online, you’d probably find them in Facebook…

Yet, as a social media consultant I see so much confusion around the topic of personal profiles, groups, and [fan]pages that I thought it might be time to share THE single best post I’ve found on the topic and share some of the practical experience I’ve gained over the past year working extensively with people and brands in Facebook. I agree with internet marketing expert Dan Zarella when he says “If I could give you only one piece of Facebook marketing advice, it would be: People have profiles. Brands have pages.” He goes on to say…

Social networking profiles represent people. From your Facebook profile, you declare personal relationships, grow your network by manually accepting friend requests, and discover other people in your network to add as friends. Your Facebook profile includes facts about you including your favorite movies, what schools you went to, and your favorite quotes.

Your brand isn’t a person. It doesn’t have a favorite quote or book. You can’t friend a brand, and it certainly can’t friend you back. Brands don’t have friends. Brands have fans. Fans have discussions about your brands, share news about them, and share information about your brands with others.” Source: On Facebook, People Have Profiles, Brands Have Pages.

Here’s the part where it really gets good…

“Profiles are for People. At this point in Facebook’s community’s development, you do not want to keep a profile if you are a brand. Keeping a brand profile is a surefire way to come across as totally out-of-touch. And worse, even if you were to pull off a successful corporate profile, Facebook has been known to suspend profiles for “too much marketing activity.”

Groups are for People. Groups really aren’t suitable for a serious marketing effort. They originally were created as a place for like-minded people to communicate outside of their immediate network and never were intended for brand use. There is very little time and energy required to make one and consequently, users do not value them as much as pages. How many I-lost-my-cellphone-so-I-need-all-your-numbers-again groups have you been invited to?

Pages are for Brands. After setting up a page for your brand on Facebook, use applications to pull in content from your blog and Twitter account (you do have those too right?) to keep your page full of fresh, frequently updated information. Resist the urge to turn your page into a watered-down version of your website. Include some offers, media or conversation on Facebook that does not appear anywhere else. Retail brands like Victoria’s Secret are especially talented at this. I recommend viewing their Victoria’s Secret Pink Facebook page and see how their brand interacts with fans.” Source: On Facebook, People Have Profiles, Brands Have Pages.

Hopefully, that clears everything up from a strategy perspective. Now, a few of my favorite tactics for those who have read this far…

The phrase ‘fan page’ is a misnomer and needs to be addressed. Facebook calls them PAGES, plain and simple, but people refer to them as ‘fan pages’ because they have to ‘become a fan’ to interact with the brand — the correct terminology, however, is ‘page‘. Frequently, when working with someone who wants to become a thought leader, I’ll get a statement like “Well, I’m just a _______ [business owner, politician, teacher, etc. – insert thought leadership role here] — I don’t have any fans. My advice to you? Get over it! Why? Because if you are attempting to create any kind of thought leadership position that evokes a response from people, you have become a brand and brands have fans. When Facebook gives you the ability to build a page [which is really a free mini-website] in the middle of the biggest social media group in the universe, they’re doing you a huge favor!

I recently spoke to a LinkedIn group in Green Bay on the topic of “Facebook for Fun and Profit”. At the time, I advocated using a Facebook primarily as an outpost for your website in order to draw people in. Good strategy, yes, but here’s the part I missed: a Facebook page may be all the website an entrepreneur or organization needs in the beginning! Why? Try these reasons…

  • Facebook pages are indexed by Google so the content is searchable; group pages are also searchable, but many Facebook application such as Social RSS only work with Pages, not groups — groups are not good tools for BRANDS
  • Facebook pages are visible to non-Facebook members [they just can’t become fans or interact with the brand or other fans if they are not a member]
  • You can assign your own url to a Facebook page; see http://e1evation.org
  • Facebook page urls can be modified to something more manageable and referenceable to the outside world; see http://facebook.com/skittles. You cannot do this with groups.
  • Facebook pages are highly customizable; see http://facebook.com/victoriassecret. You cannot do this with groups.

As I read back over the five bullet points, it occurs to me that the primary value of groups is for INTERNAL communications within an organization while pages are EXTERNAL. I think that about sums it up but if you’re still confused, leave a comment or contact me and we’ll get you straightened out!

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Optimize Your Company's LinkedIn Profile

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Boasting 90 million users, LinkedIn is one of the social media titans. For business professionals, it has become an essential tool for staying connected to their business network.

But for companies, there’s been little reason to pay attention to their presence there. LinkedIn has been about individuals, not organizations. LinkedIn Companies existed, but offered little in the way of functionality. That has now changed.

In November, LinkedIn quietly introduced an upgrade to LinkedIn Companies that makes it both a critical and powerful tool for managing your company’s digital presence (especially if you market B2B).

Here’s a primer to help you plan and make the most of some of the powerful new features on LinkedIn Companies.

Follow the ‘via’ link if you’d like to know more…

12 Ways to Keep Your Business Relationships Alive

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“Every businessperson leads a busy life. There are marketing meetings to attend, RFPs to reply to, and client projects to finish. With so much work demanding so much attention, many of us never make the time to keep our business relationships alive, and wish we did: ‘What does he do again?’ ‘Does she still work there?’ ‘Didn’t I know someone at that company?’

Rather than regretting not staying connected, pick some of the twelve ideas below and use them to start conversations with people you’ve met before and want to speak with again.”

You might want to also check out the RainToday series on LinkedIn 101.

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How to Setup a Facebook Page for your Business, Organization or Church

I’m doing a training session next week at NWTC on ‘Facebook for Fun and Profit’. Unfortunately, it’s all filled up — for those of you interested in the topic that won’t be able to make it, this may help…

A Tale of Three Websites

Five Key Ingredients for a Successful Corporate Blog

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So what are the keys to a successful corporate blog? Here are five tips:

1. Content that provides insight, perspective and information. At its core, a corporate blog has to give its readers information they can use to increase their knowledge, learn new things or receive insight.

2. It has need to be well written. A blog with spelling and grammatical mistakes reflects badly on the person writing it and their employer. As well, a blog posts need to have good flow and provide an engaging narrative that makes it easy to read.

This is particularly important given many people scan content online as opposed to reading it. This is why a good headline so important to capture someone’s attention.

3. Posts have to happen on a regular basis. It could be one, two or five posts/week. Whatever the editorial plan, it needs to be consistent to establish expectations within the company and among the blog’s readers.

The worse thing a company can do is post four or five times a week for a few weeks, and then once a week or not at all afterward. When the audience doesn’t know what to expect, they start to drift away.

4. It can’t operate as a standalone entity. There are two angles to this advice. One, a blog needs to be supported and nurtured within a company. It needs to be actively promoted within communications, marketing and sales collateral, business cards, letterhead and email signatures.

It should also be promoted on social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. A blog needs to be seen as an integral part of a company’s brand and identity as opposed to be left alone to its own devices.

Second, a corporate blog needs to be integrated into the blogosphere and the blogging community. The people writing a blog need to be reading and commenting on other blogs. You can’t write a blog in isolation otherwise there are no connections with the “outside” world.

5. It needs to look good and have a user-friendly design. As much as a company will spend time and money to create a good Web site, its blog also need to be functional and attractive. In many senses, it is a public marketing vehicle that reflects a company’s brand, culture and approach to business.

A good blog should follow best practices by including things such as an RSS feed (both through an RSS reader and via e-mail), information about the writers, the ability to leave comments, links to social media services, and links to other corporate resources.

This quote is a little longer than the content I normally curate, but it’s such good stuff, I grabbed almost the whole post for you…

6 Easy Ways to Get More Visitors to Your Blog

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A blog is an important asset to any business. It allows you to gain visibility as a thought leader, engages your audience in conversation, and acts as link bait. But you can only reap these benefits if you can actually get visitors to your blog. By now, we all know that content is king and that creating remarkable content on a regular basis will pay off sooner or later. But here are some simple strategies you can apply to each of your blog posts that will make your blog traffic soar quickly.

Click here to go to the source of the quote: blog.hubspot.com

Good stuff from HubSpot — one of my favorite internet marketing resources. Go the source if you’re interested in discovering the ‘6 ways’…