Friday, April 27, 2012

Dashboard apps for your tablet and smartphone


If you are on the go, or just have a schedule that keeps you away from your desk, you might find social media dashboard apps for your table or smartphone to be quite useful.  Just like desktop dashboards, apps allow the user to:
                                                                                                    Figure 1. 
  • monitor several social media accounts, 
  • create streams with lists and hashtabs (Figure 1), 
  • schedule when tweets should post
  • easily attach photos to tweets, 
  • shrink links, 
  • and add locations (latitude and longitude) pertaining to the message. 

To help you understand what dashboard apps (for example, TweetDeck, HootSuite, or Yoono) look like I have included screenshots of various social media networks as they appear on my iPhone.  These apps will have a similar appearance and functionality on Android phones. 

Facebook

I have included a few screenshots of my Facebook news feed, as it appear in the TweetDeck app, to demonstrate that is it possible to access quite a bit of posted information.  Not only can I scroll through the stories, posts, and announcements of the day (Figure 2), but I can also to “like,” “comment,” and/or see images that Denise Gardner, Penn State Extension Enologist, has posted on her Facebook page (Figure 3).  Figure 4 shows the detail of an image associated with Denise’s post.  


Figure 2.                                                                   Figure 3.

Figure 4.







       Figure 5.






How many Facebook accounts can I access?
                                                                                                              
Even on my iPhone I like to have access to both my personal Facebook page and the Ag. Entrepreneurship Extension Team’s Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/FarmBusiness).  If you have more than one Facebook account that you would like to monitor on your mobile device your choice will be limited; however, HootSuite will allow you to do this.  For comparison, I've included an image of this Facebook Page as it appears in the HootSuite app (Figure 5).  

What if you like to monitor your LinkedIn account?

Figure 6. 
Networking with those in your LinkedIn community is as accessible on your mobile device as it is on a desktop dashboard.  Using Yoono, one of the dashboards that provides a mobile connection to your LinkedIn account, you'll be able to read what others have posted, publish posts, and learn about notifications (for example, who you have recently "connected" with on LinkedIn) (Figure 6).  





Concluding thoughts

These are just a few features of social media dashboard apps.  Each app has certain benefits as well as limitations.  If you use FourSquare - you will want to consider the HootSuite app.  Do you use Flickr?  Then you will want to select Yoono.

I have found that the dashboard I use on my desktop is not the same dashboard that I prefer to use on my smartphone – so you may find that you will not use TweetDeck or HootSuite exclusively.   What you need to consider when selecting an app is which one do you find the easiest to read (each app has a different background/font color combination) and which app provides access to the social networks you use most often.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Social media dashboards: Useful features

In my last post I introduced the idea of using dashboards to monitor more than one social media account and adding streams for lists  and hashtags.  To read more: http://t.co/B4GE3vdA. Today I would like to introduce a couple of features that you may find helpful when posting to one or more of your accounts.

Posting a message to more than one account

Have you ever posted on Twitter and thought that the message would be equally valuable for your Facebook Page?  I so, then you will find dashboards useful for this task.  As you can see below, with a dashboard I am able to type the message (the number of characters is limited to 140) and then select which account I want the message to post (designated by the green check marks).
Scheduling your tweets       
Or, perhaps you had a goal of posting to your accounts at least once a day during the week but travel would prevent you from doing so “live.”  Dashboards allow users to program tweets to post on a scheduled basis.  I have the option of typing my message and then selecting the day and time that I would like the message to post.  Just another reason why you might find dashboards to be beneficial.  


Once word of caution.  If you are scheduling tweets that may be associated with good weather, or another factor that could impact the usefulness of the tweet, do make sure that you can cancel the intended tweet if needed – just so your followers are not confused by the perplexing message. 

Analytics


As of today's posting, HootSuite is one of the few dashboards that provides  analytics.  By accessing the analytics panel (left-hand side of the dashboard interface) I have access to free Twitter statistics (Ow.ly Click Summary).  Or, if I purchased the HootSuite Pro plan I can spend "credits" I earn on this plan to develop more extensive reports, for example Google Analytics.  For more information about reports visit: http://goo.gl/pHCs2.  An example of a free Ow.ly Click Summary for my Twitter account (@kmk17psu) is below. 









I can customize the summary report by selecting the date or date range for which statistics are presented.  For this example, I selected a date range of March 26 through the 31.  A section of the report shows a visual of the number of people who clicked on a link I posted in a Tweet on each of these days.  A short video that describes what additional information provided in the free summary is available: http://goo.gl/yU3IE

Not only can I access reports on demand but I can also have them sent to my and others' email, daily or as infrequently as the first day of each month.  

Again, there are several dashboard options available.  Your preference and style should ultimately dictate which one you choose.  In my next blog posting I will describe the usefulness of using dashboard apps on your smarthphone and/or tablet.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why you should consider desktop social media dashboards


Novice and experienced social media users, alike, may find it difficult to keep track of who retweets their tweets, which customers or followers “like” or place comments on their Facebook Page, or the number of LinkedIn invitations they receive.  This is especially true for business owners who travel often or those who serve customers away from their computer.  This blog posting, and the next few to follow, is not meant to describe the various brands of dashboards inexistence, rather to highlight some of the usefulness that dashboards provide. 

It is possible to check all these accounts on a desktop by accessing each individual website or downloading separate Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, etc. apps, but users may find that being able to manage multiple accounts by accessing just one program can provide convenience, allow for posting to multiple accounts, and save time by reducing the number of logins necessary to read all postings and updates.

Using dashboards to monitor more than one account

There are several different dashboards that are available, each with different advantages and disadvantages, but one that is mentioned frequently and used to demonstrate features in this posting is HootSuite (see example below).  In the screenshot that I have provided, you will see five tabs – each associated with a different social network (within the red rectangle, from left to right: three twitter accounts, a personal Facebook account, and the Ag. Entrepreneurship Extension Team Facebook Page). 


Adding lists you create and hashtags that you follow

Not only does a dashboard allow me to check these accounts simultaneously, but I can add streams to each account.   For example, while the home feed column (leftmost column in the screenshot below) allows me to read all the tweets posted by those I follow on Twitter, I can also see:
·       tweets that mention my Twitter handle (@kmk17psu) grouped together (second column from the left),
·       tweets I have posted (third column), and
·       a list I created (A list is simply a way of grouping those I follow on twitter by criteria I choose.  For example, topic they tweet about or type of business they operate.  For more Twitter lingo definitions consult: http://goo.gl/sgW1E).  The example list you see below (in the rightmost column) aggregates Tweets posted by select Penn State Extension personnel (@kmk17psu/psu).   










Alternatively, I can add streams that show results for tweets which contain a particular hashtag (for a definition, visit: http://goo.gl/sgW1E). In the screenshot, to the left, you will see a series of tweets each containing a hashtag I follow: #winechat.  

#Winechat is an event hosted on Twitter each Wednesday night.  Wine professionals and those who just like to drink wine discuss a topic and each person who posts a tweet related to the discussion includes #winechat so that the tweets are grouped together and easier to search for on Twitter.

You may find that you do not want as many streams, or that you would like more to be visible.  What is nice about most dashboards is that you do have the ability to customize certain aspects, such as the number of accounts and streams that are visible.  In fact, this might be one of your criteria for selecting a dashboard to use. 

Sure, I can check all these streams by going directly to Twitter.com but I like the ease of clicking on another tab and viewing other accounts, such as the Ag. Entrepreneurship Extension Team Facebook Page (final screenshot).  Like the streams I set up in the Twitter tab, I can have multiple streams on a Facebbook tab (e.g. wall post stream and event stream). 











This information should get you at least thinking about using dashboards.  In my next blog posting I will describe some more dashboard features that you may helpful when posting.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

When Using Social Media to Advertise Deals, Don't Disappoint

As you have read in many past articles on this blog, reaching out to customers via social media can be a great way to build relationships. One way to build your social network is to offer deals. When posting these deals, though, it is important not to disappoint or else you might see a backlash.

As you are developing your social media strategy, you might decide to add "deal alerts" to the list of items you want to promote via your social media presence. In the Supermarket Guru article "On social media, deals need to be deep", a recent social media deal alert was discussed. A Hy-vee grocery store in Iowa posted on Facebook about a mystery sale with "prices are so astonishing, we can’t print them.”

In all, there were 6 items featured in this sale with some good prices ($0.77 for a dozen eggs) to some not-so-good prices ($2.77 for a tenderloin sandwich that retails for $2.99). Some shoppers expressed their disappointment in the "secret sale" on the Hy-vee Facebook page.

The eggs are likely a loss leader to get people in the door, but what about the sandwich? Why advertise "prices are so astonishing, we can’t print them" on a discount of $0.22? Trying to trick people into thinking something is a great discount when it really isn't may discourage customers from shopping at your business. You don't need to offer ridiculously low prices, but be sure to show value.

The promotion was also only "while supplies last" with a start time of 4pm. When thinking about posting a sale start time, think about when people are available to shop. At 4pm, many people are still at work. If they don't get to the store until 6 or 7pm, they might have missed the sale items and would be disappointed. Marketing a sale for a time when most people can't get there and thus leaving you with disappointed customers is not a good marketing tactic! When thinking about timing a sale, consider what time of day the products may be used. For example, a bakery who is offering a limited hours sale (25% off a dozen bagels) may make most sense during breakfast hours rather than dinnertime.

As you craft your social media (and all advertising) messages, be sure to really think about what audience you want to reach and convey how your sale is of value to them. Developing (and maintaining) a social media strategy is always a good idea!

(Photo from Microsoft Word ClipArt)

As an agricultural business owner, have you advertised sales via social media? What kind of responses have you gotten? Do you have any tips for other ag business owners who may just be getting started with social media?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Don't Become an Entrepreneurial Burnout

Let's face it, being an entrepreneur is HARD. You need drive, dedication, and perseverance-- not only when you first start developing your business, but throughout your business's life. These are daunting tasks and unfortunately lead to some entrepreneurs burning out.

(photo from Microsoft Word Clipart)

It's much easier to prepare yourself now with some tips for avoiding burnout as compared to trying to bounce back after burnout has occurred. Forbes.com recently posted a great article about avoiding burnout. Below are just a few of the Forbes.com tips:

-Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself, respect your limits, and keep the whole “race” in mind.
-Good things take time. Establish fair expectations when you do forecasting, project planning, and goal setting.
-Avoid "always working". Set clear boundaries—no one else can do this for you. Off means off. On means on.
-Plan to take some legitimate time off. An escape from your enterprise allows you to get out and gain perspective on the business—even if you don’t explicitly think about work. Taking time off also forces you to put systems in place so the business can continuing running in your absence—a critical component of a successful and sustainable business.

Always remember-- YOU are in charge. It is up to you to set these "burnout free" goals and adhere to them!

As an ag entrepreneur, what do you do to prevent burnout? Do you know of other ag entrepreneurs who have experienced burnout? Did their business ever recover?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The right way to respond to positive and negative reviews

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about online reputation management (http://tinyurl.com/czot8m9) and provide a few ideas on how to develop a monitoring strategy.  I hope that you found the resources valuable and have checked to learn what others may be saying online about your business. 

Don’t forget that there are a number of different websites, including a business’s actual website, where consumers post reviews – good and bad.  An example of where you may find reviews, based on research conducted by Penn State, is below.  


To learn more about where consumers post and read reviews, you can view a series of podcasts on the following YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/PSUFoodandFarmBiz?feature=watch

What reviews should you respond to?  

You may have only considered responding to unfavorable reviews, but responding to favorable reviews demonstrates to your fans that you care about what they have to say.  Having any positive conversation with your customers (online, on the telephone, or in your store) is such a great opportunity to learn why they purchase from you and what else you could do to serve their needs.  


Example of a business acknowledging a positive Twitter posting 

As far as replying to negative reviews, there is a good chance that if you reply and correct the situation your customer may delete the initial negative review or post a new positive one indicating that they are satisfied with how they have been appeased (http://tinyurl.com/83zowgl).   

Responding to negative reviews

What are some steps you need to consider when responding to negative review?

      Post a reply to the negative comment as soon as you read the post or receive an alert that something has been posted about your business
      Post a reply and acknowledge that there was a problem and it will be corrected
      Provide an explanation for the problem
      Apologize for the problem
      Thank the customer for informing you about the issue

What about responding to negative reviews on Twitter when you only have 140 characters to do so?

      Respond quickly in one to two tweets
      Continue the conversation offline
      If the situation becomes worse, you are harassed, or feel the tweet was purposely published to interrupt your business contact Twitter for assistance

Final words

Responding to reviews is not only a factor of what you say in your reply but also how you handle the situation.  Remember to respond in a positive manner no matter how hurtful the comments may be.  Negative reviews can actually help identify issues that you may not have been aware were occurring.   Take the opportunity to respond and correct the situation.  It is your chance to turn disgruntled customers back into fans and make the shopping experience that much greater for all your customers.   

Friday, April 6, 2012

How has the pink slime backlash affected the beef industry?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about one of agriculture's hottest topics-- pink slime. The stir from consumers over pink slime (also known as lean, finely textured beef or LFTB) created quite a backlash in the retail and foodservice industry to the point that many are racing to eliminate it from their ground beef. Large chains like Safeway, Kroger, and ShopRite are advertising "pink slime-free beef" to attract customers who have showed concern about the filler.

After such a controversy, where does the ground beef industry go from here? The Lempert Report discusses some of the things we may be seeing in the near future. Most certainly, it will mean higher prices because there isn't a filler. Also, we may see a rise in food borne illnesses because LFTB is treated with ammonia gas to kill pathogens. On a positive note, butchers may make a return to the supermarket or neighborhood shop. While a butcher grinding meat on demand for customers is not pathogen-free, it may help customers regain faith in ground beef.


Photo from about.com

As an ag business owner, how has this pink slime backlash affected you? Are your customers asking for pink slime-free beef? How much extra will it cost to produce pink slime-free beef?

Developing Relationships on Social Media: It Ain't Rocket Science!

In my last blog (Developing & Monitoring a Social Media Strategy), I made a note to myself to follow that up with a post about using social media (SM) tools for relationship development.  In order to prove that some things do, in fact, get accomplished when I have a TDL....

Step One: Embrace the Social-ness
As I learn more about social media, it's clear to me that the adjective "social" is much more important than the noun, "media."  The media are, in general, more similar to a telephone or email than they are to websites.  Where websites used to be made for one-way messaging, like a radio ad might be, social media are, by definition, made for two-way communication.  Social media tools allow a user to put something (which is commonly called "content") out there for feedback.  Alternatively, they allow a user to respond to something that's been put out there.  Since the dawn of humanity, people have interacted based on this basic notion.  Each of us knows how to do this, we just need to understand that what we know about interaction applies to these tools.  When this happens, the how-to question becomes easier to address. (UPDATE 4/10/12: Just ran across a nice post that delves into this notion a bit deeper with respect to Twitter.)

Step Two: Choose Your Target(s)
With whom do you want to interact?  Why did you choose that person?  What's in it for you?  What do you have to offer them in exchange for their time?  You may want to interact with customers, policymakers, others like you, consultants, etc.  Many of these have a presence on social media.  Develop and follow a priority list to decide who you will approach.

Step Three: Interact
Max Spiegel once told me that engaging through social media is like going to a dinner party. While we may use different tools to interact, the same rules of engagement apply.

  1. Approach someone you wish to engage. Armed with the list developed in Step Two, send them requests to connect on Facebook or LinkedIn; follow them on Twitter; add them to your Google+ circles, etc. 
  2. Strike up a conversation. If you are able to get their attention, start the conversation you want to have.  Respond thoughtfully to their content.  Ask them a question. Just be sure to get to the point relatively quickly.  Some people on SM are in greater demand than others and some people just don't give it as much time as others might.  One of the places where the analogy may break down is related to small talk. While fine, and expected, at a dinner party, it may get lost in the noise on SM.
  3. Be respectful. In few cases would you be rude or inconsiderate to someone at a dinner party so don't do it on SM.  If someone talks to you, talk back.  Listen more than you talk.
  4. Repetition can be a good thing.  You won't be able to talk to every dinner party attendee at the same time.  You'll probably need to introduce yourself several times and repeat a lot of stuff.  In SM, the odds of someone not seeing a single post can be very high.  Don't be afraid to put your content out there several times over the course of days or weeks.  Most people expect this to happen and won't hold it against you.
  5. Don't oversell. We're talking about developing relationships here, not closing deals. Closed deals will come over time if you're successful in relationship development.
You may be thinking of lots of other appropriate aspects to this analogy, but I hope you get the point: the rules of interaction are basically the same.  Let common sense lead you. (To learn more about the type of info that consumers are requesting, watch this short video.)

Step Four: Don't Be Afraid to Move the Conversation "Offline"
Relationships that move past the SM-only stage are usually a good thing.  This may mean that the conversation needs to happen more efficiently or that it needs to be private.  It's the equivalent of setting a follow up meeting at the dinner party. 

Conclusion
This may all seem much too simple.  If so, then I may have hit my target.  Social media are simply tools, like the telephone or email, to communicate with people.  The key, really, is knowing how to use them.  Learn Twitter's language.  Learn how to use a Facebook page for your business.  Once you know that, you'll be able to develop and maintain relationships as you would in any other setting.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pinterest + MarketMaker + Strawberries = Prizes

In February, Jeff wrote a post about using Pinerest to market your business. Have you tried out this social media site yet? If not, go check it out-- it's a very interesting way to share photos and drive traffic to your site.



If you decide that Pinterest is right for your business, measuring the impact of your Pinterest presence is key. How much traffic and customers did you generate? What kinds of images are most popular (i.e. what gets the most re-pins, likes, and comments?)?

With strawberry season almost here, PA MarketMaker wants to help Pennsylvania agricultural businesses make a splash online by showcasing delicious foods made with Pennsylvania strawberries on Pinterest.com. Submissions will be pinned to the “PA MarketMaker Pinterest Contest” Pinboard, which can be found at www.pinterest.com/pamarketmaker, where consumers from around the globe may see your recipe and learn about your business.

All MarketMaker businesses and the general public are invited to submit a strawberry recipe and photo of the finished product. Submissions can be sent to info@pamarketmaker.com. Full details about the contest including rules and prizes can be found on the PA MarketMaker site.

Good luck!