My tribe wasn’t where I expected and I’m grateful.

I couldn’t wait to graduate high school. I hated it…no scratch that, I don’t think there is a strong enough word for that feeling. I breathed in, I breathed out, I walked the halls, and I plotted my escape.

I was going to go to college, Davidson to be exact, and I was going to find the magical place where I would meet like-minded people that I could talk to and think and celebrate all the things that I cared about. Without putting a name to that longing at the time, I wanted my tribe. And, when I walked through the quad, went to my classes, walked down Main Street, ate too many french fries late at night, my tribe wasn’t there. I saw the same cliques and groups that were always in my peripheral, the only difference was these cliques had a bigger bankroll than those of my high school in NC.

I accepted my fate and realized that I would keep on marching, taking my classes and embracing that I was going to be the girl who raised her hand too much in class. I was going to be the girl who had that boyfriend and not really a lot of friends. I was going to be that girl that took time off for family and personal drama and come back more focused on finishing on time. I was the girl who would graduate but wouldn’t be caught dead walking across that stage for commencement. Soon, I realized I was plotting my escape yet again.

I expected to find a kindred spirit. An oddball that wanted to shop at J. Crew but crank the Foo Fighters as loud as my speakers could manage. My tribe, maybe carefully hidden, never appeared to me. Today, I am the girl that watches E3 and then watches the Tonys, and yes, my tribe watches with me.

They say you won’t find true love when you are looking for it and I would also argue that you won’t find your tribe when you are ardently looking/craving/searching for it. It isn’t there because you are focusing too much, it isn’t natural/organic or any other lovely word you want to substitute for it.

I found my tribe behind a keypad, a phone keypad to be precise. As soon as I discovered social media and the method in the madness, I was hooked. I existed in this life as an alien separate from what seemed like the cookie cutter students, girls, southerners, etc that existed around me. I was the English Major who taught Math, the creative that wanted to exhaust all research and data to find whatever truth existed. Social Media Marketing helped me find my tribe. If you are a smartass on Twitter, I will find you, appreciate you and in true INFJ fashion, will embrace you as a Twitter friend without ever laying eyes on you in person. I drink the knowledge of any marketers around me, those who have become the metaphorical version of coffee for me (I’m looking at you Gary Vaynerchuk) and keep on hustling, working, striving, learning, and growing.

Now I face a strange and scary reality. My tribe (although not all of them) will be in Boston in September for Inbound 2017 and I am beyond hyped. I have found a community of leaders and dreamers: sarcastic, pithy, and crazy obsessed with all things marketing like myself. There is a thirst for updates, trends, data, and strategy, something I have always looked for in others. I finally found them.

I never found my tribe when and where I expected it, but it made me the marketer I am today and I doubt I am alone in that. Either way, the Foo Fighters will keep me company while I post.

Review Sites and SEO Implications

Your business hinges upon one major thing: customers. Customers are the most untapped resource for small businesses and can act as brand ambassadors or detractors, who can lead or scare away new business. If you have been in business at all and have had at least one customer, you need to care about customer experience and how to manage it in the future.

The customer, happy or disgusted, wants their voice to be heard. With the ever-present social media platforms giving rise to reviews, boycotts, and hashtag campaigns, it is important to keep a vigilant eye on your brand and what is being said about it.

Review Sites

You have probably heard about Yelp, Google My Business, Bing Places, BBB, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and Yellow Pages as review websites, but do you realize that you can claim your business on these pages and use it to keep track of and respond to reviews? All of these sites give a voice to the reviewer and also offer an opportunity for your businesses and potential customers. Generation C, the connected consumer, is constantly doing their research before they make a large purchase, go to a restaurant, or plans a trip. How many customers have you lost because a potential customer saw a negative review about your business? The truth is, you will never know.

Take Action

  1. Claim your business on these sites. This allows you to take control of your business and see what matters to your customers.
  2. Don’t forget social media! Reviews live on social media too. Have you looked at the reviews on your Facebook Business page or looked at the reviews of your competition? This is free data that you can use to improve your business.
  3. Respond to positive and negative reviews. You should not only act defensively. When someone praises your business, thank them. Making an already delighted customer feel appreciated can lead to them being a brand ambassador for your business and can continue positive word of mouth.
  4. No matter what, be the adult in the room. If someone says something mean or negative, remember to be the adult. Acknowledge their anger, and try to resolve it with communication away from the site…I am sorry that you had a bad experience. Please email us at…or call us at… so we can resolve the issue.
  5. Do not delete comments unless they contain profanity or threats of violence. Never delete someone’s comments, this is essentially censoring them and they will come back with an even louder voice. If you have to delete a comment that contains inappropriate language, post a comment saying that you will need to delete the comment due to language and that you will leave your comment up for 5 minutes in order for the original commenter to see it.
  6. Focus on customer satisfaction. What steps can you take to improve your current customer experience? Are you seeing similarities in the positive and negative reviews you have? If there is a shared positive or negative experience, use that information to make your service 5 STAR!
  7. Make your current customers feel special. Anytime you have the opportunity to do the little things for your customers, they will remember you when they need what you have to offer.

SEO Implications

These websites, since they contain information regarding your name, address, menu, contact information, etc. they come up when potential customers search for businesses. This is off-site SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. By claiming your review sites and making sure they have accurate and keyword specific information, you are able to ensure that your customers can find you when they search on Google or Bing. The higher you rank and/or the more websites that pop up for your business during a keyword search, the higher the percentage of customer conversion. If they can find your business, they can go to your business.

Since review sites are updated whenever there is new content, it always has new content that can be searched based on the different keywords they use in their review. Since these sites also are searchable based on a specific location, it helps your local SEO. Think about the difference between searching for a Mexican Restaurant versus a Mexican Restaurant in Roanoke; there will be different results and the local reviews for Roanoke will pop up in the search.

As discussed earlier, social media reviews also offer stronger Social SEO through SMO (Social Media Optimization) results too. Audiences engage more and more through social media by liking, commenting, and sharing. One person’s review on Facebook can be shared and seen by thousands…letting potential customers know about your business and helping them decide whether or not they want to be your customer.

As a small business owner, it can be overwhelming with all of the ways the word of mouth exists nowadays. Word of mouth lives online now and can be the key opportunity to improve and grow your business. The key is to do what any business should always do: listen to the customer.

11 Questions You Need to Ask For Your Social Media Strategy

This list goes to 11, sorry I love Spinal Tap. You know that “everyone” is online and on mobile constantly reacting and posting to things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and on and on and on. Is your small business using social media? Are you using it well? To get started, let’s break down what you need to ask in order to get on the optimized path for your social media channels.

  1. Who is your audience (personas)? Even if you are already on social media, you need to, as a business owner, have a keen understanding of who you are marketing to. Who is the ideal client/customer for you? What is their breakdown: gender, education, age, location? What keywords are they using? Without having an understanding of who you are using social media to talk to, you are not creating what they want. If you are not creating content that is relevant to your audience, then you are not relevant.
  2. Where is your audience? You should not be on every social media platform just to be on there. You should use the platforms that your audience is using. Go where your audience is!
  3. If you are using social media already, how is it performing? Do you have any engagement? Are you seeing any growth in followers?
  4. What is your objective for social media? Brand awareness, Send people to your website? Get them to call you? Go to an event? Donate? Get leads? Be a resource? Depending on what your objective is, you need to keep this in mind for everything you post.
  5. What is your voice? If you are trying to be a resource, you should have a professional but approachable and friendly tone. What adjectives do you want to describe your brand? Make sure your voice aligns with this.
  6. Who is doing your social media and what are their responsibilities? It is important to figure out who is doing your social media (one person or many) and what they are responsible for. You can have everyone post, or divide by platforms. It is important to maintain an understanding of who is doing what and make sure that if you have multiple people taking care of your social media that they ensure they are using the same brand voice, as listed in number 5.
  7. What are the key components of successful posts for each platform? It is crucial to understand how to construct posts that are optimized for each platform. Facebook loves live video, video, and images. Twitter and Instagram likes hashtags and need images, gifs, or Instagram Stories. You need to know what works best for each platform. Putting up hashtags on Facebook will make you either look like you are being rhetorical or you don’t know what you are doing. Using the exact same verbiage, hashtags, and images on all of your channels doesn’t usually work well and will keep your content from being seen by the most people.
  8. How often will you post? The easiest way to think about this is to think about how often you want your audience to view your social media. If you only post once a week on Facebook, your audience will probably only go to your Facebook once a week. Also, each platform lends itself to different levels of posting. I would post more often on Twitter than Facebook, but I would also post more often on Facebook than on Instagram. You can always schedule posts in advance in order to make sure that you have key posts ready to go on certain days; like thanking your customers on Thanksgiving Day.
  9. Is my content relevant for my audience? Now that you are ready to post, you know who your audience is, and you know where to find them, are you going to post things that your audience/personas want to see? Do not post just to post. Post with a purpose!
  10. What will you automate? It can be difficult to manage a lot of social media platforms, but there are tools you can use to automate your posts in order to save time and your post consistency. Try like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social to start automating major posts that need to go out on specific days and times. Automation can be very helpful, but remember to make sure your audience realizes that there is a human behind the posts. Do not automate everything. Spontaneous posts can help, especially with breaking news and updates.
  11. What is your budget for promotions/boosting your posts? Today’s social media platforms want to make money like any other company and are making organic reach (impressions your posts get without you paying for it) harder and harder to get. Are you willing to spend money on digital advertising to make sure certain posts can seen by your audience?

This list could definitely go longer, but it is a starting game plan for taking the steps to get your social media strategy for your business and your audience. Social media should enhance your brand, it should supplement your current efforts with your customer audience.