2 Ways to Grow your Social Media Base among your Target Audience

United Action Apparel - using social media to grow their customer base.

United Action Apparel – using social media to grow their customer base.

Fall is officially here! And with Fall comes another semester at SDSU and the beginning of a new Social Media Marketing class! Each semester, I have my students work with real small businesses to implement the latest Internet Marketing strategies first hand.

Although the semester has only just begun, one student group is already applying some effective social media strategies, and seeing rapid growth is their company’s social media base among their target audience.  I thought it would help us all to quickly revisit these social media strategies, that really do work!

United Action Apparel is a California-based clothing company focused on the action sports industry. Although the company doesn’t yet have a web site, they are already using social media to start growing awareness about their products and create a loyal customer following.

Below are two social media strategies the students working with United Action Apparel are currently implementing to grow their base.

Instagram Marketing

Online influencers don’t have to be celebrities. “Real people” with a strong online social following that match your target audience can be equally effective.

1.    Identify Online Influencers + Incentivize them to be your Brand Ambassadors.

I recently wrote this blog post about the importance of identifying key influencers within your online social networking circles.

Finding key online influencers doesn’t necessarily mean having to reach out to the Kim Kardashians or other big celebrity names (who get paid thousands of dollars per tweet, by the way!). “Real people” with a strong online social following that match your target audience can be equally effective. For United Action Apparel, they identified their target audience as 13-21 year olds interested in Action Sports. Based on this, they discovered Riley Wick from Sacramento, CA and awarded him with becoming their First BMX/Motorcross Sponsor.

United Action had 350 Instagram followers before the sponsorship. Just a few weeks after bringing Riley Wick on board, their followers jumped to 545. Most of the immediate growth was due to  a simple contest Riley initiated and promoted among his 2,000+ Instagram followers. The post, which contained an image of United Action Apparel products, quickly generated more than 100 likes and a long list of comments.

Growth in Twitter Followers

United Action Apparel grew their Twitter followers by more than 200% in just a few short weeks.

2.    Don’t just push content out on social media. Join the conversation!

Rather than just pushing out messaging or automating  posts like many companies still do on social media, the students working with United Action Apparel understood that growth comes from finding the conversations where your audience is and interacting in a genuine way.

By applying this social media strategy,  United Action Apparel increased their Twitter followers by more than 200%  in just a few weeks. The secret? Actually interacting with companies and consumers who are already active online. Tagging them, commenting, joining conversations in a real way.

 

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holly berkleyHolly Berkley is an author, educator, speaker and professional Internet Marketing Consultant focused on helping all size businesses increase online sales, strengthen their overall brand, and dramatically boost web site traffic through proven online marketing concepts. Berkley’s newest book is “The Social Media Advantage – An Essential Handbook for Small Business” Learn about her latest books and marketing services at www.BerkWeb.com

The Guide to Social Media Etiquette (Infographic)

Submitted by “Guest Blogger” Ivan Serrano

What is the greatest faux pas that a business can make via social media? Is it saying something offensive or inflammatory? Is it not actively interacting with its followers? Or is it simply not knowing how to use social media? Think as a consumer for a second: what is more likely to turn you off to a business?

For businesses to know how to create and implement a social media strategy, they first have to define how they plan on using social media in the first place. Doing so shapes the entire strategy, and allows the business to better focus its efforts on seeing it through. This is often where companies fail: they see how others use social media, and they see how they use social media in their personal lives, and they try to find a medium.

Creating the right social media strategy is as much about catering to the strengths of the different social media sites available, as it is sharing the right content or interacting on a daily basis. Knowing what is appropriate on each site is crucial to the success of a post, and knowing the etiquette for posting on the respective sites allow a business to further focus their strategy. In this infographic, we define the strengths of the most popular social media sites, and show you how to post for maximum interaction. Take a look, and know that social media etiquette is an evolving thing, defined by consumers and businesses alike.

Social Media Etiquette Infographic

Creating the right social media strategy is as much about catering to the strengths of the different social media sites available, as it is sharing the right content or interacting on a daily basis.

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Ivan Serrano is a web journalist and infographic specialist from Northern California. He has covered a range of topics including global business, technology and social media. In his off-time, he enjoys catching up on sports news and his photography.

How to Become an Instagram Instaguru

Thank you to my “Guest Blogger” Ivan Serrano for providing the following insightful information on Instagram!

Instagram is sweeping the charts even surpassing Facebook’s growth with over 200 million users worldwide. It became popularly known as the new Facebook for teens because of its simplicity: post a photo, add a sentence or two, follow your friends.

But teens aren’t the only users of Instagram. Now the company has become a tool for small businesses to visually market their content. You must embrace it to fully utilize it. Once you learn the right Insta-etiquette, like how to hashtag well, how to edit and filter your pictures, and how to give your content an edge to gain more attention, you’ll have an army of followers before you know it.

The art of Instagram lies in the aesthetic of your content. This is not exclusive to photos, but includes unique hashtags, headlines, and even brand names. To find your following, you’ll have to be flexible – know how to switch up content to appeal to all sorts of targeted audiences. Soon enough, you’ll find that you’re marketing your company without even trying to. Instead, you’ll find that you’re telling a story; a personal narrative of who your company is, what is does, and how to find your unique voice in the ever-shifting terrain of marketing.

Instagram Inforgraphic

Visual content is more in-demand than ever before. As a visual-based social platform, Instagram allows brands to showcase products in a creative way, establish visual identity, and create interactive hashtag campaigns.

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This information was provided by my “Guest Blogger” Ivan Serrano. Ivan is a web journalist and infographic specialist from Northern California. He has covered a range of topics including global business, technology and social media. In his off-time, he enjoys catching up on sports news and his photography.

Understanding Key Influencers Within Your Target Audience Group

bigstock-woman-smiling-with-a-group-of--13619561

Can you identify the biggest influencers in your online community?

Determining the identity of the key influencers within your online social networking circles can be critical to your marketing goals.  When a key influencer loves your company or project, you can sit back and watch the positive energy flow, but get on their bad side, and you may be confronted with a PR nightmare.

No matter the size, every online community has its loudest voices. And these voices make up only 1% of the total community. But they are a powerful 1%. They are the “creators”. They are the ones who start conversations and keep the discussions alive over the course of several days or weeks. The creators have a big influence on the attitudes and energy of the social group.

It may appear that a social network is not active, or that no one is listening due to the small percentage of participants who actually create content.  However, 10% of a community is what is known as “editors”.  These members will post and contribute to conversations started by the “creators”. They are the ones who will simply “like*”  something on Facebook, or contribute a “me too” type blog comment.

So what are the remaining 89% of the members doing? Listening.

Even though you may think no one is listening to your posts and comments, they are.  Social media provides a voyeuristic view of what’s happening in your community. For the same reason reality television took off, social media offers a chance for people to listen in, see your ideas, and hear what’s going on in a fairly anonymous way .
bookgraphic

 

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Holly Berkley, San Diego Online Marketing Consultant
Holly Berkley is an author, educator, speaker and professional Internet Marketing Consultant focused on helping all size businesses increase online sales, strengthen their overall brand, and dramatically boost web site traffic through proven online marketing concepts. Berkley’s newest book is “The Social Media Advantage – An Essential Handbook for Small Business” Learn about her latest books and marketing services at www.BerkWeb.com

Are you Riding the Wave of Social Media Success?

While researching our newest book, The Social Media Advantage, co-author, Amanda Walter and I interviewed hundreds small businesses owners across the U.S. about their use of social media and how they plan to integrate it into their overall marketing and communication strategy. There were many similar responses:

“I don’t have time.”

“We don’t need it.”

“We just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

While some small business owners are still watching from the sidelines, cautiously dipping their toes into the waters of social media, there are millions of professionals who’ve already dived into social media and are riding that wave with some exciting results.

Are you still watching from the sidelines? Many small business owners are still cautiously dipping their toes into the waters of social media while their competitors are already riding that wave with some exciting results!

Even today, with its wide-spread use, many small business owners are still claiming a lack of time, resources and understanding of social media tools, as well as intimidation by the vastness of the social media space as primary factors for not yet integrating a social media strategy into their communications efforts.

While some small business owners are still watching from the sidelines, cautiously dipping their toes into the waters of social media, there are millions of professionals who’ve already dived into social media and are riding that wave with some exciting results. These social media savvy professionals are watching their efforts exponentially ripple throughout the industry in powerful ways. They are successfully branding themselves as innovators in their industry by turning their social media connections into their most powerful advocates. But like any tactic, the results are always better when they are directly connected to business objectives.

One of the major driving factors leading small businesses to investigate the effectiveness of social media as a communications or marketing platform has been the recession. “At the beginning of 2009, our phone stopped ringing,” shared Laura Davis, architecture principal and director of marketing for HPD Architects in Dallas, Texas. “It became apparent when 197 people showed up for a pre-submittal meeting that our chance for success in winning the project was dwindling. We realized we had to take action to bring in business.” HPD included social media as a way to support their face-to-face networking and to expand the reach and influence of the firm’s brand.

Social Media Marketing Book

This blog post contains excerpts from Holly Berkley & Amanda Walter’s book The Social Media Advantage.

Howard Blackson, principal and director of planning for San Diego, California-based  PlaceMakers, a multidisciplinary planning and urban design firm with seven principals located in seven different cities, also points to social media as an asset for today’s economic climate. He refers to social media as not only a way to conduct research and distribute thoughts and ideas, but as the core of their “New Economy” business model, which relies on the internet and social technologies to function with no overhead, no full-time office staff or central office. For PlaceMakers, social media tools allow them to run a more efficient business, bringing in expertise from all over the U.S. and Canada to easily collaborate on a single project.

Businesses of all size are quickly learning that social media tools enhance the efficiency of both internal and external communication needs. A single tweet or post is not only quicker than traditional forms of communication, but can reach more people faster and has a longer “shelf-life.”
According to a 2011 survey from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Market Research, more companies than ever view social media as an essential asset to business communications, with 86% reporting that social media technologies were “very important” to their business and marketing strategies in 2010. According to the survey, 71% of businesses used Facebook in 2010, 59% used Twitter and more than half surveyed blogged. Of this group, 85% view Facebook as successful in helping them meet their business goals, while a whopping 93% report message boards as a successful tactic.

As one social media advocate, Vik Duggal, said “The internet is about 17 years old, just about to graduate high school and is about to really blow up.” Social media is even younger.

Although still young, social media has already become an essential piece of most businesses’ overall communications strategy.   Business owners are sharing ideas on Twitter, growing their customer base with Facebook, promoting their expertise on blogs – and seeing measurable return on investment for their efforts.

Today’s social media tools aren’t only about technology. They are a direct response of today’s business world where communications happen in real time. Think of social media as the new cell phone. Just as each and every one of your employees and consultants has a direct cell phone number to power their everyday business and communications, social media can also be leveraged for this purpose – but contains a longer and stronger shelf-life than a single phone call. But unlike a phone call that is between a closed or private group, social media communications allow for outside input and influence, which will help your ideas and your business expand and thrive.  Social media offers the ultimate “listening tool” to gain honest input from customers, feedback on your products or services and  your business, as well as to discover new and more efficient ways of working.

How is your company using social media to expand its influence and customer base?

How Essential is Social Media to Your Business?

When you look at the Internet’s growth compared to that of TV or Radio, the pace is incredible.  Facebook grew to 200 million users in less than a year and today, there are over 1 billion users. In fact, if Facebook were a country it would be the world’s 3rd largest right after China and Indonesia.

With 50% of the world’s population under 30 year’s old, and 96% of them using social media daily to communicate, learn and form opinions about the businesses and services they use, having a social media presence is critical to your business success.

Take a moment to watch the latest video from Socialnomics and find out what else is happening in today’s online world, and why you need to be a part of it – now.

 

A look at Social Media Contests in 2011: Lessons Learned (Part 2) + How to increase your Facebook Likes and Quality of Interactions

A few tweaks to our Facebook "Share your Success Story" contest and we saw a 775% increase in Facebook likes in just 2 weeks! Plus, post views were up 500% and feedback 1000%.

I launched a Facebook page for my longtime client CosMed Clinic last year.  For most of the year, the page was an after-thought as we mainly focused on SEO efforts and other social media activities (such as participating on various weight loss and plastic surgery related message boards where our potential clients often researched doctors.) The Facebook page stayed at an even 200 likes for several months, with few comments. Most Facebook posts consisted of the same information that we just posted on our blog.

However with the explosion of social media last year, paying more attention to the Facebook page and engaging with potential customers became a critical need, especially for something as controversial as plastic surgery in Mexico.  As you can imagine, safety and trust are big issues when considering going to a foreign country for any type of medical care, so social media and real patient testimonials are crucial to helping new patients feel at ease and taking the next step to booking their appointments.

No matter how informative the articles we posted to the Facebook page were, they were not creating the engagement needed. It was definitely a cold, one-way conversation.  Then, we decided to launch a contest to increase awareness and engagement, plus gain a few great success stories from past clients. I used Wildfire App to launch a video contest, where past patients could win $1500 towards their next procedure for sharing a video testimonial. The results were pretty dismal. In the end, the problem came from taking people away from where they wanted to be (Facebook) and making them try to figure out how to upload a video to YouTube through the wildfire app contest platform. I underestimated the technical level of the audience and I became tech support rather than a marketer.

A few months later I decided to try again – this time, I tried to make it as easy as possible for patients to share their photos and story – and to keep the interactions ON the platform they were already comfortable using. I sent an email blast to existing patients announcing the contest (same way I did previously, with same prize) only this time, because it was so easy, we immediately got success stories generating hundreds of likes and comments! The number of Facebook fans, which was at a stand-still for months, went up 775% in 2 weeks. Post views were up 500% and feedback 1000%.

In addition to the new contest, I convinced the surgeons to start interacting with potential patients on Facebook. Now, potential patients could actually ask questions about surgeries and get responses from board certified plastic surgeons and a dermatologist. It added tremendous value to the Facebook page – and gave it a deeper, warmer level than an outside marketer alone could.

In addition to the contest and “Ask the Doctor” feature, patient to patient interaction was encouraged.  The results of these transparent conversations have been invaluable. As a result, patients are expressing how much more comfortable they are booking appointments after talking with doctors and patients on the Facebook page.

Here’s an example of  just one of the Facebook comments exemplifying this:

“Awesome! I am excited for mine now. I was very scared before, but after talking with others who had it, I feel so much better.”

The "Ask a Doctor" feature added tremendous value to the Facebook page – and gave it a deeper, warmer level than an outside marketer alone could.

Interaction with real patients and seeing genuine success stories really made a difference in putting potential customers are ease. Now we get posts like this one, asking for support.

“I have a consult coming up in January & am very nervous. Hopefully once I visit the clinic I will feel assured. I’m hoping to have my procedure by March. Can existing patients please put me at ease? Thanks! Nervous Nelly in Cali. “

Top 3 Take aways to help you increase your Facebook likes and improve Facebook Contests:

1.    Identify customer needs and give them what they want

In the case of CosMed Clinic, potential customers wanted two main things: the ability to interact with other patients and to be able to ask questions and get answers from board certified doctors in a medium they were most comfortable with.

2.    Hold a contest that is easy-to-enter and share

Take into consideration the technical level of your audience before you launch a contest in the social media space. Are they the type that would be able to easily create a video and upload it? Or would a simple text-based contest prove better results? Also, don’t take participants away from the medium (for example Facebook) that they feel most comfortable using.

3.    Check in often and always answer questions as quickly as possible

The more exposure your page gets, the more you need to check it – multiple times per day, especially if you allow others to post on your wall. You are not only checking for questions and concerns from potential clients, but also monitoring any spam that may appear.  My last blog post “A look at social media contests in 2011: Lessons Learned (Part 1)” included a great interview further emphasizing the importance of this last point.

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Holly Berkley, San Diego Online Marketing ConsultantHolly Berkley is the author of Marketing in the New Media and Low Budget Online Marketing for Small Business. Her newest book, Social Media in Action… will be available in early 2012. Holly  has developed a 3-month corporate social media training program to help companies craft a social media presence that ties directly into existing initiatives or goals. Contact Holly Berkley to learn more about how she can help enhance your company’s social media outreach program.

A look at Social Media Contests in 2011: Lessons Learned (Part 1)

Even a simple "Healthy Halloween Recipe" contest can bring out the online "trolls". Constant monitoring of your Facebook page is essential to protect your core, loyal fans.

As a social media consultant for a wide range of industries,  I’ve been the “behind the scenes” consultant to the corporate marketing department, as well as the actual blogger, Facebook page owner and Twitter manager for my clients.  Playing a wide range of roles in the social media space has allowed me to pull together some great success stories as well as some lessons learned in 2011.  (you can read about these in my upcoming Social Media Book).

Today, I’d like to share this video interview with my client First Choice Emergency Rooms. Back in October, we launched a “Healthy Halloween Recipe Contest” as a way to get their target audience, Texas moms, more engaged with the Facebook page and attract some new “likes” as well.  Listen in as fellow consultant Matt Murphy explains why it is so important to actively and constantly monitor your Facebook page – especially during a contest, when newer “fans” can start trying to engage with your current, core, loyal audience.

This interview reminds me of a recent poll by SmartPulse Poll,  that asked marketers “How is your company coping with your social media point person taking time off for the holidays?” An alarming 36% said that their social media efforts “go dark” when their primary contact is away.
As you will see in this interview, this can put your company at a huge risk. Social media does not sleep. Which means having multiple “back ups” and page owners can be key to an effective social media campaign.

Many social media marketers have discovered the same issue in 2011, and realize that once engaged with social media, there are significant risks that come with not keeping an eye on the conversations. In a span of just 24 hours, one customer rant can go viral.  Fortunately, for First Choice, Mr. Murphy kept a keen eye on the contest, actively monitoring each post and responding swiftly and strategically. Watch the video to learn more about how he handled the contest.

How will you be dealing with your social media campaigns over the holidays? Will your primary social media contact take time off? Have you planned for back up? Or will everything go dark?

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Holly Berkley, San Diego Online Marketing ConsultantHolly Berkley is the author of Marketing in the New Media and Low Budget Online Marketing for Small Business. Her newest book, Social Media in Action… will be available in early 2012. Holly  has developed a 3-month corporate social media training program to help companies craft a social media presence that ties directly into existing initiatives or goals. Contact Holly Berkley to learn more about how she can help enhance your company’s social media outreach program.

How to build your own Social Networking site

building an online community

Create an online community where members feel comfortable sharing information about themselves with you. Understanding the needs of your customers will help you become a better and more profitable company.

I remember a time not too long ago when the cost to develop your own social networking site was upwards of half a million dollars in programming fees alone. Today, you can get a social networking site launched for as little as $19/month and you don’t have to know a thing about programming. Web sites like Ning.com allow you to set up a full social networking site with all the core community features such as forums, blogs, and various widgets.  You can even choose the colors and layout of your social network to match your company’s existing web site or marketing materials.

In fact, its so easy to use, that I set one up for my friend’s business, JudoMath.com last week. He opted to keep his community by invitation only. This way, it could be a private online community for middle school teachers discussing innovative teaching methods, using his new program, Judo Math.

Ning.com also provides an easy “single sign-on” option, which allows people to use their FaceBook, Google or other social networking site login to join your community. Allowing members to use existing social profiles to login makes the barrier to entry even easier.

Forums or message boards are perhaps the oldest form of social networking and remain a core function of most online communities. Internet users participated in forums long before FaceBook, MySpace or even blogs existed. And there is a reason they have survived. They are easy to use and they work.  Forums give members an easy way to ask questions and share ideas. They also provide lots of great keyword-friendly text and links that search engines love. The more activity your forums have around a particular topic or industry question, the more likely you’ll be to show up on the top of the search engines.

While there are several do-it-yourself forum options available, bigger firms hoping to grow a larger community may want to consider hiring a company such as Lithium Technologies. Lithium is a California based company that can help you customize a community forum that will also tie into popular social networks such as Twitter and FaceBook. An added benefit to hiring a full service company like Lithium (over a do-it-yourself service like Ning.com) is access to services like 24/7 moderation. Such a service can be an important time-saver if you don’t have extra staff on-hand to regularly check into a fast growing community.  I found that using a full service company like Lithium was critical while setting up Verizon’s online customer support community in 2009. Thousands of members and hundreds of posts were made within the online community on a daily basis. Outside moderators helped Verizon’s internal staff identify both potential problems as well as influential members who could keep the community running.

The Importance of Designating a Community Manager
In a perfect world, your community members would keep conversations buzzing and topics tasteful. However, in the real world, online communities don’t run themselves. And if you want to keep your online community on track with your company’s overall marketing and business business goals, you need to designate a community manager. That community manager can be your marketing director or an internet marketing consultant who specializes in community management. Whoever you designate, it must be someone who understands the reason you set up this community in the first place and will adhere to your company’s social media guidelines. (If you aren’t sure what social media guidelines are or would like more information, drop me an email, or check back for my next blog post on this topic)

Your designated community manger must also care about the growth of your community and its members. This person should help to facilitate dialogue and maintain a positive atmosphere in the community that encourages members to participate. Having a designated community manager responsible for monitoring the community at all times is an important piece of controlling the direction of your community’s voice.

The tools you use to build your community and how you choose to manage it are important considerations. However, even more vital to your community’s success will be the influence of its core members and if you’ve attracted the right targeted audience to help you reach your business goals.

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Holly Berkley, San Diego Online Marketing ConsultantHolly Berkley is a San Diego Internet Marketing Consultant and author of Marketing in the New Media and Low Budget Online Marketing for Small Business.  Her new book Social Media in Action… will be available in Fall 2011.  Learn more about Holly Berkley’s corporate social media consulting on her web site, www.new-media-consultant.com

Why your Business Needs a FaceBook Page, not Profile

FaceBook Page set up

Take time to set up the right type of FaceBook page for your business...the benefits of a highly active FaceBook page include helping your Google Ranking.

It’s understandable why people don’t want to make the switch from a profile to a fan page.  After all, it takes time to build up all those FaceBook friends.
However, according to FaceBook’s terms of service, “Profiles represent individuals and must be held under an individual name, while Pages allow for an organization, business, celebrity, or band to maintain a professional presence on Facebook.”

In fact, if you have your business functioning under a profile rather than a fan page, Facebook can shut it down, and all of your “friends” will literally disappear. (Trust me! This happened to one of my clients who insisted on using a Facebook Profile page rather than Fan page)

But, there are some advantages to having a FaceBook Page, instead of a profile. One is access to Facebook’s analytic tool, FaceBook Insights. With a FaceBook page, you will also have access to the latest promotional tools, such as “Like” buttons. You’ll also have the ability for unlimited growth (unlike a FaceBook profile that is limited to 5,000 friends.)

Another important advantage: Google likes FaceBook.  While Facebook profiles are hidden behind passwords, fan pages can be set up to be viewable by everyone – including search engines like Google. This means, every post you make to your fan page can be indexed by search engines and boost your overall ranking.

Need more incentive to make the switch? In March 2011, Google changed its algorithm to give even more weight to social authority and online reputation. Now the number of “likes” a company has directly impacts its overall Google ranking.

Unfortunately, there is not easy way to convert your existing profile into a fan page. This means you will have to do it manually: ask each one of your FaceBook friends to “like” your new page.  You can do this by using the automatic tool that FaceBook provides you while you are setting up your FaceBook Page, or, better yet, you can draft a personal message explaining the benefits of joining your new page. Its also a good idea to post a message at the top of your profile with a link to your new Fan page, encouraging users to “like” it and explaining all the great information and discussions they will be able to participate in for joining

Another way to get fans to “like” your new page is by setting up a FaceBook ad. You can target the Facebook Ad that promotes your new fan page to anyone on FaceBook by geographic location, occupation, interested, ages and other key attributes. But keep in mind the more general you make your ad, the more expensive it will be. OR, you can simply create an ad that will only appear to your existing FaceBook profile friends. As your friends begin to “like” your new page, other friends will see that in their news feed which brings more credibility to your ad.

Some companies like 1-800-Flowers actually bribes customers to “like” their FaceBook Page by offering immediate discount codes. When coupon codes and sweepstakes don’t make sense for your business, try offering information. B2B companies can encourage “likes” by giving away a white paper or access to some research or article written by one of your company thought-leaders. Offer value to your users.

Have you recently started a FaceBook Fan Page?
Share your experiences, tips and comments here.

Or join  the new AEC Fan Page, set up for the Design and Construction professionals to discuss Interactive Marketing Strategies.

Look for more tips on in my upcoming book “Social Media in Action” due out in Fall 2011.