Facebook: Here’s Your New Page! (Assembly Required).


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Facebook Did Not Change Pages. It Replaced Them.
That’s how big these changes will be for people managing Facebook Pages.  Change is scary, but don’t panic quite yet.  Wait at least 90 seconds. That is all the longer I think it will take for you to see that these changes will help you turn your pages into what you have always wanted them to be.

You’re in the drivers seat now.  According to Facebook, these changes are all designed to make it easier to “express your identity and tell your unique story.”  Facebook outlines the rollout in the Product Guide it released for its new Facebook Pages.  Where as previously, brands trying to convey a consistent message may have felt like they were fighting a disconnected series profile pictures, landing pages, and wild-west, forum-like Walls, the new Pages allow you to present a more cohesive, curated presence to the world.

Now, tell your story. Put yourself in the role of author, curator, and content creator. No longer must you–or can you, for that matter–act like a shepherd trying to guide your fans in the general direction of your goal, or the guy in the tire costume waiving people into the auto shop for a $29 oil change. These changes allow you to tell your story, but force you to be the one writing it. That will take work, but Facebook has given you some effective new tools to do it with. Below, I will outline a few of the most important ones, and give you some best practices as you start your career as a curator.

1) Meet Your New Timeline!

Timeline for Pages - Coca Cola

Yes, just like Facebook’s recent Profile changes, the new Pages do away with the old “Walls” in favor of a Timeline.  This switch to a timeline is the primary factor in allowing you to take control of your image and your story.  This is where using thought-out, engaging, and eye-catching content will make the difference between brands that capture the hearts and imaginations of their audience and brands that, well… don’t.  Here are some of the features that your Page’s new Timeline has to help:

Use of Milestones and Pinned Posts

    • Pinned Posts: If you have managed an active Facebook Page or use your Page to keep fans and customers informed, at some point you have probably wished you could make a post “stick” to the top of the Wall.  Now you can.  A post can be “pinned” to the top of your Timeline for up to seven days.  This is a key feature to take advantage of.  This will be the primary place on your Page to highlight important messages, encourage fans to visit your promotions or custom tabs, and include calls to action.
    • Milestones: Facebook is really pushing the “story” angle of the Timeline for Pages.  Hence, one of the post-types now available to you is the “Milestone”.  According to Facebook, Milestones should be used to “define your key moments over time.”  Because Facebook feels that these are key parts of your “story”, Milestones will be favored by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which decides what stories appear in your fan’s News Feeds and for how long.  That makes these very valuable posts.
    • Highlight Stories: Every story on your Timeline has a selector tool in the top right corner.  Stories that you want to stand out visually can be “starred”, and made to stretch across the width of the Timeline.  This is another big tool to take advantage of in creating the narrative of your brand’s story.
    • Fan Engagement:  Your Wall used to be the Wild West.  Fans (which is using the word politely, at times) could post anything they wanted, and it would be as visually important as the most carefully-crafted content you created.  The new Pages shifts that balance to be more in your favor.  Fans can still comment on your Page, but the new Pages concentrate interactions in two new sections contained in the top right of your Timeline (Interactions by Friends, and “Recent Posts By Others”).  Some have been saying that this will kill fan engagement with Pages as we know it, but I feel quite the opposite.  There are a lot of people out there who may want to compliment or thank a business or ask a question, but hesitate to do it on “center stage” as Wall-posts are now presented.  I think this change will bring about a lot more genuine and meaningful fan interactions, and cut down on grandstanding.  Also, Page administrators have the option to set their favorite posts by others to “Allow on Timeline”, which allows Pages to more easily curate how fan’s affect the brand’s image.  One area of the Timeline that administrators have no control over is the “Friends’ Activity” area uniquely displayed to visitors.  Sure, you may have chosen not to include that vitriolic post on your Timeline, but that person’s friends may still see it if they visit your page.

2) Create Your Visual Brand!

With the old Pages, brands had very little control over the visual presentation of their Pages.  Really, it was limited to just a Profile Picture.  There was very little room to express who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd.  For this reason, things like custom landing tabs became an almost universal feature for brands trying to express themselves.  The new Pages make it much easier to visually define yourself.

Whatever you think of the politics, this Cover Photo sure sends a message.

  • Cover Photo (851 x 315 pixels):  Just like the new Timeline Profiles, Pages get to have a Cover Photo at the top.  Many Pages have already been using custom landing tabs to provide first time visitors with a sense of who they are and what they do.  Think of your Cover Photo as the new place to do that.  In fact, Facebook has not left you with much of a choice in that area, as landing tabs have gotten the ax.  All visitors are now unconditionally directed to a Page’s Timeline view.  Facebook has also placed strict limits on what cannot be included in Cover Photos:
    • Price or purchase information.  Examples include discounts or purchasing instructions.
    • Contact information.  No websites, phone numbers, or addresses.
    • References to Facebook features.  Don’t say “Like Us”, or put an arrow to the Like or Share buttons.
    • Calls to action.  No sales pitches or promotional copy.
    • These are strict limits, but are there to encourage Page Managers to use the space available to help give visitors an idea of who you are, what you stand for, and what makes you stand out.
  • Profile Picture (180 x 180 / 32 x 32 pixels): This is the picture we are all familiar with, which is used all over Facebook to identify your Page.  It should be quickly and easily identifiable as being your brand’s visual identity.

3) Pick Your Apps!

You used to be able to have quite a bit of space to list out all the different apps that your viewers could pick from, though having more than 6 tended to make viewers tune out.  The new Pages limit that number to four, but allow you a much larger space to catch your viewer’s eye.  Again, a tab can no longer be a default landing page, so your icons will have to be eye-catching and intriguing to get much traffic.

4) Messages!

Facebook users can now send private messages to Pages, and Pages can privately respond to those messages.

Wow.  This is huge.  So huge that I will need another post just to address this, but I can’t let you go without at least a fundamental understanding of this major change.

This could very well change the face of customer service.  Imagine getting a private message from a customer with a problem.  You know all the information that person has made public, and if your website’s login system uses Facebook Connect, you can also pull up the full purchase/interaction history of that person on your site.  This is a game changer, so for now I’ll leave it at that and let your imagination run wild.  Stay tuned for more on the subject though.

Whew!  That’s a lot of information.  Quite enough for now, as a matter of fact.  There is more to the changes, and you can find Facebook’s full breakdown here, but for now, focus on creating that visually stunning representation of your brand, and on creating and curating your brand’s “story”.  Stay tuned for more info on the “back end” changes Facebook made, and if you have any questions feel free to send them my way on DoVoCo’s Facebook Page (I’m still setting up my own Timeline) or email aaron@dovoco.com.  And hey, now that you’re in the drivers seat, enjoy the ride.

Because A Great Business Deserves A Great Site


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Home Page Before Website Makeover

Earthwarm Geothermal's website before it's makeover.

Mark Leigh is a great guy. As owner of Earthwarm Geothermal, he’s everything you would want a contractor and builder to be. He works hard, he takes pride in his work, uses superior matierials, and does the job right.

But you couldn’t tell by his website. To the right is a picture of his home page when I stumbled across it.  As good as Earthwarm’s work is, the website gives a different impression.

A Website is the face of a company. A company’s quality work has to be clearly reflected in what it presents to potential customers because in the digital world, a potential customer will decide to stay or move on in just seconds. Right or wrong, the sum of your work has to be communicated in just seconds if you want website visitors to turn into satisfied customers.

Being good doesn’t mean being rich though. Maybe you don’t have a site yet, maybe yours is just OK. Either way, you know how important it is to have a stand-out website to pull in your customers. But as important as it is to have a great website, it’s easy to browse around, see all the online Haves and the Have Nots, and think you don’t have the cash to have a site as great as your company.

Earthwarm Geothermal's Website After Its Makeover

Earthwarm Geothermal's Website After Its Makeover.

Looking great doesn’t mean going broke. You just have to find a professional who is as passionate about quality and as honest about pricing as you are.  That’s where I come in.  I can give you a professional, confidence-inspiring website that will turn page-views into handshakes.

See For Yourself. To the left is a picture of Earthwarm’s new site. Visit it here. Then, click the thumbnail images below to see screenshots from his old site. If you like what you see and think I can help make over your own website, contact me here. Thanks for your time, I hope to hear from you soon.

-Aaron Grote

 

Screenshots of Earthwarm’s old website.  Click the thumbnails to view full size images.

About Page Before MakeoverMain Sales Page Before Makeover

What Do The Facebook Changes Mean For Companies?


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Here’s a rough first-take on the changes Facebook just rolled out.  First off, more changes are expected to come soon, so don’t get too comfortable.  There has been a host of them already, but here I will outline the change that is the most important to those who manage a Fan Page for a brand or organization:  The News Feed.

The biggest change is how a user’s News Feed is presented, which can seem like a minor tweak since no page functionality has been added or lost.  Not true.  According to Facebook, over 90 percent of user interactions with brands come from the News Feed.  This makes any change to what gets displayed a very big deal for brands.  One study shows that most brands only reach around 7.5 percent of their Fans with any given post, so losing any ground there can make a big difference to your social media marketing success.

Relevancy matters more than ever. The new changes no longer give users the option to display their News Feed as Top Stories or Most Recent.  Top Stories are automatically displayed in the top of the News Feed when users initially log in, followed by Most Recent posts.  While it is still very early in the game, this will most likely mean that users will be shown fewer posts per login, and those posts will be more filtered by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm for determining relevancy.

What does this mean for you right now?  It means that engagement is more important than ever.  You will not be a Top Story by simply broadcasting news or statements to your audience.  You have to inspire responses by asking questions or soliciting feedback.  A post with more interactions will be seen as more relevant by EdgeRank, and will be more likely to appear in your Fans’ News Feeds.

Use more media in your posts.  Pictures, videos, and to a lesser extent, links, seem to have a greater importance to EdgeRank, and may help increase your impressions.  The fact that posts which include media also have a greater level of engagement only adds to their value.

The take?  Now more than ever, you have to work a little to get your message across.  This is not a bad thing though.  Each impression you get now will most likely be a more relevant (and therefore valuable) exposure for your brand, and as users are exposed to less irrelevant, spam-like brand posts, they will likely become more receptive to your highly relevant, engaging posts.

Stay tuned for more info on the changes as they roll out, and as we learn more about how they are changing the way your customers interact with you.

Google+: Google Goes All-In With It’s New Social Network


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Today Google introduced the Google+ project, which is apparently coming to be known unofficially as Google+ (Google Plus). This is a brand-spanking new social network from Google, and appears to be surprisingly innovative, intuitive, and…well, social.

A Well-Thought-Out, Carefully Designed Social Network.

Google’s main focus is the “+Circles” feature. This allows you to take those in your life’s network and put them into different Circles as you see appropriate. You can create as many Circles as you want, and name them whatever you like.

Google aims to break down the barrier to sharing that comes with having to share everything with everybody in your network. “The problem is that today’s online services turn friendship into fast food—wrapping everyone in “friend” paper,” says Google’s Blog. The goal is to get rid of the rigidness, and replace it with a network that reflects the “subtlety and substance of real-world interactions.”

Check out the tour. It’s pretty cool. Also, their announcement has lots of good videos.

Like Being in a Pub

Beside tweaking what we commonly think of as features of social networks (Like friends and sharing– Google+ even has a news feed function called the Stream), there are other tools to make your online life a more natural extension of your real life.

One of those tools is called “+Hangout”. Hangout is a group video chat platform within Google+. It lets you make yourself available to spontaneously hang out with others. (Of course, like everything else in Google+, you can change what you do and share from circle to circle). This is supposed to make video chat more natural by enabling spontaneity. “When you walk into the pub or step onto your front porch, you’re in fact signaling to everyone around, “Hey, I’ve got some time, so feel free to stop by,” is the explanation in today’s announcement.

Being Together is Fun. Why Can Planning Things be so Awkward?

Finally, to continue with the theme of making online interactions more closely match and enable real-world relationships, Google is also including a feature called “+Huddle”. Huddle’s purpose is to act as a group (text) chat platform that makes coordinating a group of people easier. You can create a Circle for a specific purpose (meeting up for movie night), then use Huddle to get everybody on the same page without all the back and forth currently involved in most other means of communication.

Overall, this seems to be a serious entry into the Social Network arena. I personally am very excited to see how this all shakes out, because if I’ve leaned one thing about Google, it’s that when they do something big, they do it right.

Social Search Is Here


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Monday, Bing announced a major change to the way people will search online.  This video explains it well.  The long and the short of it is this: You now have the option to make your searches more personalized and relevant to what matters to you.  How does it work?  Here’s more.

Back in February, I wrote an article titled “The Future of Search is Social”, trying to convince business owners to skate to where the puck will be by embracing social media because “soon your presence in search results will depend on it.”  Today, that is what happened. 

Personalized, Relevant Serch Results

What Bing unveiled is what they call “a new way to experience search,” that gives searchers personalized search results influenced by input from their friends’ Likes and opinions.  The social platform that  enables these personalized results is Facebook, and Bing has also made it easy to opt in or out of both sharing and receiving information in this new structure. 

According to Bing, the research inspiring these changes told them that 90% of people look for advice from friends and family when they make decisions, and that searchers will delay making a decision on the information they found until they consult someone they trust.  Bing hopes that their new social tools will eliminate or shorten that decision delay.

How It Works

What you will see if you choose to make your searches personalized are two main additions.  The first are “Likes” from your own friends below the listing for a particular result.  These are designed to show you what is popular among the people you know.  There are some searches where there will not be any social input for the listed results.  For example, let’s say that you are the first person you know to shop for a Hang Glider.  In these situations Bing will let you tap what they call the “collective IQ of the Web” by displaying how many people like a result universally. 

Bing is also introducing a new tool, the Bing Bar, to enable anybody to like a particular product or website.  This allows anybody, even those who do not use Facebook, to add their input to the value of something. 

The last major change Bing’s announcement brings to search is a conversational functionality.  You can now use Facebook’s communication abilities within your search, allowing you to have a conversation with an individual friend who’s opinion you value, or to post a question to your wall and crowdsource your decision.

What Does This Mean For Companies?

While I have outlined what this will mean for searchers trying to find information, what does this announcement mean for businesses, organizations, or people trying to be found?  Overall, this has the potential to be good news.  Traditional search has relied on facts and data that are sometimes very disconnected from the things that make results relevant or valuable to an individual searcher.  These have included keywords, outside links to the site, and recently, location.  While these are all important and will still be used in Bing, people can now harness these tools to find business based on how good their product or service is via the happiness of their customers. 

What this means for most businesses is that a whole new door is open to you, which will give you a greater opportunity to appear as one of the important top 10 search results.  In the past, it took serious time and money to appear on the first page of many keyword searches.  These were resources and techniques that most small businesses simply did not have.  Now, a major factor in search results is how you treat, engage, and connect with your customers, which is where many of those same small businesses stand out from the crowd. 

As this technology matures and comes to dominate much of the online search world, we will see more changes, and better understand their implications.  For now though, one thing is relatively certain:  If you’re not engaging your customers socially now, you are missing out on a major opportunity to build your visibility and your business.

All The Small Things Will Make You (245%) More Effective


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It Can Seem Tough to get Social Media right for your business. When some companies (maybe even your competitors?) have Social Media budgets bigger than the marketing budget of your dreams, where do you even start?

Start Small! Work smarter, not harder. We’ve all heard it before, and it’s part of why you’ve gotten to where you are. Like the rest of your business, doing the basics a little better than the other guy is where you make your money. Social Media is no different. If you’re going to write something, write it effectively. If you’re going to post something, make it count. So how do you do it?

Here’s An Example. Recently, I did a study. Not a big time budget-buster with interns and near-sighted accountants, but one I within my means. And just like I said earlier, I did the little things right.

I try to spend at least an hour a day researching the most effective practices in my industry. There are two subjects that research constantly returns to: 1) How to write posts that are engaging, and 2) How to use timing to gain the most exposure for those posts. After I ran across yet another article on the subject, I decided to formally look into it myself.

Apples to Apples.

First, I found a link to an article talking about the ways timing can affect the effectiveness of a post. Then I shared it. Poorly. I wrote an average lead to the article in my Facebook and Twitter posts. It was apt and descriptive, but flat and unengaging. It broadcast my message, but took the “social” right out of Social Media. To do further harm, I posted on a Saturday morning. Studies have shown that relatively few people are on their social networks at that time, which is unfortunate for small business owners, as most businesses are slow or closed then, leaving more time for extra-curriculars like Social Media. As you may have guessed, my post bombed. Very few impressions, zero interactions. Low visibility, unengaging, ineffective.

Then, I posted the same link again. This time, I made the lead more engaging by using more personal language to connect with the viewer. Then I made the post more intriguing by letting the viewer ‘in on the joke’, as it were. Finally, I asked the viewer a question. All those factors worked together to make my second post more eye-catching and engaging, which was reflected in the interaction it sparked.

Finally, I posted the second update on a Thurday evening, which studies have shown to be a very effective time to post content. The results?

A 245% Improvement! That’s how many more Impressions the second post received than the first. What does that mean to you? It means that in Social Media, doing the small things right can be the difference between being effective and falling flat. Social Media does not have to be intimidating. In fact, as you just saw, resources don’t mean anything if they are not used smartly. Just the same, using what you have smarter than the other guy will get you a long way. Stay tuned for more ways to do that.

Want to see the experiment in real life? See the posts here.

The Future of Search Is Social, aka Skate to Where The Puck Will Be


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What Can Social Media Do For Me? That is, rightfully, one of the first and most skeptically-asked questions I hear when speaking to someone about using social media in their business. After all, why spend the time and money to do it right if there is no return on your investment?

While there are many answers to that question that provide important benefits in the short-, medium-, and long-term, there is one answer that will be critical to any business in the not-too-distant future.

Soon, your presence in search results will depend on it.

Here’s why:

The Future of Search is Social, for two main reasons.

  1. It’s natural. The data Facebook is already collecting naturally enables it to provide people with personally relevant and accurate results. By now more and more business sites have a “Like” button on them, and with over half a billion people using those tools to show their opinions on a product or service, search results will soon use referrals from your social network to provide the best set of search results for you personally. Here is a great article from WebProNews that goes into more detail on the subject.
  2. Facebook’s growing networks. I say ‘networks’ plural because I am referring both to their already huge and increasing number of users, and to the number of acquisitions and partnerships (such as their partnership with Bing search engine and the number of key former Google employees that have joined the Facebook team).

Why does this matter to you now? Online search results already are and certainly will be the primary way people find the information, products, and services they need. When socially enabled search results provide your potential customers with information
weighted heavily with relevant recommendations, you better have those recommendations already in place. And as any business person knows, a strong set of recommendations isn’t built overnight.

So this is your opportunity to skate to where the puck will be, and ensure your company is well positioned as this shift unfolds. Contact me now to have a casual conversation about what this can mean for your business while this is still an opportunity to take advantage of,
rather than contacting me down the road when it is a difficult problem to solve.

Proud to Announce a New Online Professional Profile Service!


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With job searches today as difficult as they have ever been, I am now proud to offer a new service helping my clients create outstanding online resumes to compliment their current job search or career development efforts. You can find more details about online resumes, why they are important, and how I can help here. With so much effort put into creating custom resumes and applications for each job opening, and creating and updating social media pages like Facebook and LinkedIn, that extra bit of effort and creativity is what can put you over the top, and get you in the door for that interview you know you will nail.

4 Minutes That Will Change Everything


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The facts in this astounding video from Socialnomics demonstrates the immediately present and rapidly growing need for your company to have a strong and productive social media presence. Watch, then contact me, but don’t panic. We’ve got this.

A Very Successful Job!


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Well, I just finished a Search Engine Optimization job for Earthwarm Inc. Geothermal Systems. This was a good company with a good product and service, and even had a website, but it did not show up on any search results for industry keywords unless the search actually included the name of the company. Of course, most undecided customers don’t go to Google already searching for names of companies, they search for keywords, and “shoppers” often include a geographic element like the name of the city they live in. Earthwarm Inc. now shows up as the number 1 “local” result when you search for “geothermal” and their hometown of Chisago City, MN. It also has the first 8 of 10 spots in the normal “organic” results! (And one of the other two is the company’s supplier’s “Dealers” page, so I could even count that I suppose.)

The beautiful thing about how I do things though, is that Earthwarm now also shows up in keyword searches for cities in the surrounding area, not just in the hometown. In fact, Earthwarm is in the top 5 results for 10 surrounding cities (and the top 3 for 9 of those)! Here’s an example.

This is why I love providing this service. Why pay good money to build and host a website if people can’t find it, when this costs peanuts compared to the cost of your website or the yellow pages? If you find yourself in the same boat, contact me to find out how easy and inexpensive results like this can be.