Facebook Graph Search: What It Means for Your Business and Your Customers

First there was the Internet.  Then, there was Facebook.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Facebook’s rise to the #1 spot on the Internet has revolutionized the way we interact online.  This is especially true for business owners looking to market, advertise, and sell their goods and services online.  Truly, if a customer can’t find you in some way, shape, or form on Facebook these days, it’s going to be an uphill challenge to make the sale.

This radical change in how we do business continues with Facebook’s latest updates to its “Graph Search.”

What is graph search?  According to Brandon Griggs and Heather Kelly at CNN, it’s the user’s ability to use the search box on Facebook to explore how “people, photos, places and interests” connect with “the wealth of data already inside Facebook, pulled from 1 billion profiles, 24 billion photos and 1 trillion connections.”  (cnn.com)  Of particular interest to business owners and advertisers, Griggs and Kelly note:

“Other searches could be useful for business recommendations. You can find doctors, or restaurants, based on friends’ endorsements. For example, if you wanted good Indian food in San Francisco, you might search for ‘Indian restaurants in San Francisco liked by my friends from India.’ The results pull in practical information as well, such as reviews and prices.”  (cnn.com)

Furthermore, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated that “the company will not be working with Google on search functions,” meaning that your business’s Google SEO ranking and a potential customer’s ability to find you on Facebook will be two separate things.  (cnn.com)

How can you make sure that a Facebook search by a potential customer works to your business’s advantage?

Matt McGee at Search Engine Land has a few tips in his article “SEO For Facebook Graph Search?” including having a fully accurate “About” section on your page, making sure your address is correctly updated (similar to a local Google+ / Google Places search), and “giving your fans a reason to interact with your content on an ongoing basis.”  (searchengineland.com)

All of McGee’s advice applies of course to your business page on Facebook, not your personal profile.  If you’re using your personal profile as (or instead of) a business page, now more than ever it’s time to set up a page on Facebook for your business.

You can read more about how to optimize your Facebook business page for the expanding role of graph search at

http://searchengineland.com/seo-for-facebook-graph-search-facebook-has-some-tips-145251

As always, social proof and personal recommendations are simply the most trusted source of information for your potential customers.  There’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth, or, in this case, word of Facebook’s graph, for your continued success.

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The Right Thing to Do: The Risks and Rewards of Taking Personal Stands in Your Professional Life

One of the great things about owning my own business is that I can professionally support ideas or causes that are personally important to me without having to answer to anyone but myself.  I take the risk, and I assume the risk or reward.

This was not something I was ever allowed to do in any of my previous jobs, “working for the man.”  Fair enough — a large organization has to avoid taking too many stands, as they represent a multitude of interests.  However, as an entrepreneur, I don’t always have to share this same concern.

Yes, I know that I might not be able to book every customer every time because I’ve expressed an opinion or supported a cause, but that’s a risk I’m willing to assume and happy to take.  I do avoid trying to be overly political at the risk of losing business, but I’m not afraid to use my own values as the foundation for my business decision-making.

Having just completed an interview with Sarah Bradshaw at the Poughkeepsie Journal on my DJ company’s support of same-sex marriage(http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20120625/NEWS01/306250021/Milestone-equality-Gay-marriage-1-year-later), when I saw this article over the weekend, I thought it was outstanding:

Jay-Z, Gay Marriage: Obama’s New Stance Is ‘The Right Thing To Do’ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/14/jay-z-gay-marriage-obama_n_1516614.html

Maybe someone doesn’t agree and doesn’t buy Jay-Z’s next record after this interview.  As a successful artist, record label executive, and business owner he’s made a statement that clearly, they’re not the person he wants buying his music anyway.  He’s made a choice to support a cause that matters to him.

What stands have you taken in your professional life?  What causes do you believe in?  What risks have you taken that were “the right thing to do?”

Business is risk — don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe it right.  It’s one of the privileges that comes with success.

Continued success,
Bri

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Make the First and the Best Impression — Lead Response Time Matters

“This should be interesting.”

That’s what I said recently when I found myself on the opposite side of sales.  I had a problem with one of my computers and was hoping to find a quality professional who could offer me a repair–rather than a replacement.

I knew what I wanted.  I was willing to pay to have it done right.  I had become a “qualified lead” just like the couples I look to book for my wedding DJ business.  It was an interesting experience, to say the least . . .

At 10 a.m. on a Friday morning, I called and / or emailed 8 local vendors using a keyword search on Google Places.  My goal was to bring my computer somewhere nearby for a timely repair, not mail it off and wait weeks for it to be fixed.

6 of the 8 vendors did not pick up the phone.  I left messages and sent emails.

Two vendors did answer their phone.

One said he wouldn’t be able to schedule an appointment until Monday.  His tone also seemed to indicate that this wasn’t exactly the type of job he wanted–maybe it was too small or not worth his time?  I kept him as my back-up option.

The other one said that I could bring it by today.  He also expressed that while it was a small job, he would be glad to do it for me, and even gave me a rough price quote.

I really wanted a working computer over the weekend.  Guess who got the job?

The service turned out to be very good and the computer was completely repaired that day.

What about those other 6 vendors?  By the end of business Monday, 4 more had emailed or called me back, and some responses were certainly better than others.  Two of the 8 vendors never even returned my inquiry!  Were they not interested in my job?  Were they no longer in business?  Who knows.

What did I learn?

Response time matters.  Once a lead has connected with a vendor’s approach to advertising and sales, subsequent vendor contacts need to go above and beyond to win the customer over.  We all get busy with our day to day lives, but if you’re running your own business, you really need to ask yourself, “do I want to work?”  You need to answer your emails and phone calls in a timely manner.  If you don’t, the potential customer has most likely already heard from your competitors, making a first (and possibly the best) impression on them.

In her article “How Does Lead Response Time Impact Sales?” (http://blog.marketo.com/blog/2011/06/how-does-lead-response-time-impact-sales.html) Carol Fox agrees, noting that

“If nothing else, [survey data] clearly indicates that one of the most effective ways to increase lead quality is to significantly decrease sales response time” and that “even an hour to contact and qualify sales leads can drastically reduce your chances of success.”

Check your voice mail, email, texts, and Facebook messages–any leads?  Make sure to respond to them as soon as you can.  I know I’ll be doing it today, with my newly repaired computer!

Continued success,
Bri

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Lead Delivery Sites That Work?

It happens in every line of business–the promise that an advertising site or system will deliver unlimited leads into the palm of your hand.  This website or ad will be out there drumming up business while you sleep!  When the reality sinks in (“I paid $200 / month and got nothing!”) you typically sign off, cancel, and complain to your peers (“that one did nothing for me.”)

In the wedding / event business, running my company DJ Bri Swatek, Spinning with Style, I have tried nearly all the lead delivery sites and systems out there over the years, including WeddingWire, The Knot, WedAlert, Gigmasters, WeDJ, Eventective, Decidio, etc.  I’ve partnered with venues, worked their bridal shows and advertised in their books.  I’ve partnered with other vendors on inclusive packages.  I tried Facebook and Google advertising, and I even used to have an ad in the phone book!

Every line of business has these types of advertising and lead delivery systems.  After years of throwing things against the wall to see what sticks, I’ve noticed two things . . .

One thing I’ve found is that you have to work backwards and ask yourself, is this site right for me?  There are lead delivery sites that work, but you have to find the right one!  It’s not what the site can deliver, it’s what you bring to the site–is it a good fit for your brand?  Would your ideal customer visit this site?  Would you stand out as the best choice there?  Does the format and content of the site play to your strengths?

Secondly, you have to view these sites as one more of the 10+ impacts you’re going to need to make for a customer to decide to contact you.  You have to be there, known (if not recommended) by their other vendors, prominent in Google search results, available on their mobile phone, recommended by friends, etc.  In most cases, lead delivery sites are just another place to be seen, another chance to expose your brand, and not a truck that is going to back up to your front door and dump a load of cash on your business.

Track your results, listen to your customers, and it’ll be pretty obvious where to spend your advertising dollars.

Continued success,
Bri

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Bringing “The Human Element” into Your Business Success

I found what Dave Grohl had to say on Grammy night this year truly inspiring, and I find his follow-up even more meaningful.

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/entertainment/post/2012/02/dave-grohl-clarifies-grammy-acceptance-speech/1

(Thanks to my friend Jason E. Hedrington for sharing this article.)

The analog process that the Foo Fighters used to record their latest album favored time and quality over the go-to-market speed of digital recording.  Knowing their fan-base would appreciate the extra attention that went into recording their album was an important consideration as well–in essence, they knew their product and they knew their customers.

Technology affords us the ability to quickly communicate an idea or sell a product or service the moment it is ready for distribution.  However, in business communication, we’ve all been guilty of letting technology get in the way of “the human element” from time to time:  phone calls vs. face-to-face interaction;  emails and texts vs. letters and cards; social networking vs. spending time with friends and family.

These technological changes in the way we communicate are both good and bad.  You can increase the quantity of your communication, reaching a large number of customers and fellow business people in a short period of time.  You can network around the world in an hour and market to vast numbers of potential customers in a mouse-click.  But what about the quality of your communication?

How can you humanize, and personalize your business?  Consider weighing each message in terms of its importance to your business success, and don’t be afraid to go low-tech from time to time to create a more meaningful interaction.  Schedule a business lunch.  Offer a face-to-face meeting.  Make a list of customers and / or business associates you haven’t “seen” in a while and set up individualized time with them.  Like Dave Grohl, consider your business model and the wants and desires of your customers and the businesses in your network.  When you take the time to emphasize quality over quantity, people will take notice and appreciate it.

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What’s Your Plan for Success During the Recovery?

Always looking for a little good news over my morning coffee, two articles poked their heads up out of the usual end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it quagmire:

Stocks soar on surprising jobs gains
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20120204/BUSINESS/302040012/Stocks-soar-surprising-jobs-gains

Jobs report lifts Dow to highest mark since ’08
http://www.dailyfinance.com/article/jobs-report-lifts-dow-to-highest-mark/1250195/

Sure, sometimes the stock market seems like the world’s largest legal poker game, but the fundamentals behind this news are clear:  there is some good news out there on the jobs front.  I think that most of us would completely agree with Lawrence Creatura, an equity portfolio manager at Federated Investors, when she told the AP, “in this economy, only one variable matters right now, and that variable is employment.  This report was great news.”

As business people, we’ve spent a lot of the past few years looking at how to weather the recession.  What about the recovery?  By all accounts, it’s slow going, but the trend does seem to be heading in the direction of a recovery, rather than a double-dip recession.  How are you adapting your business to the slow (but as these articles indicate, more and more real) prospect of a recovery?  What’s your plan for improvement as the economy slowly improves?

This could be a time to reinvest, refocus, push forward, or reinvent.  The first step toward success is to evaluate, and the second step is to set goals.  Where are you now, and where do you want to be after the recovery?

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A “Personal Recommendation” for Google+

Your face is on Facebook.  You’ve kept it to 140 or less on Twitter.  You’re linked in on LinkedIn.  So why bother signing up on Google+?  Isn’t it all enough social networking already?

If you’ve thought about getting on board with Google+ (http://plus.google.com/), but weren’t really sure what the pay-off would be, then the news you’ve been waiting for is here.

“Google search undergoes ‘most radical transformation ever'” by John D. Sutter
http://www.cnn.com/2012/01/10/tech/web/google-search-plus/index.html?iref=allsearch

Personal, 1-to-1 recommendations are always the most trusted source of information among consumers. If you own your own business and / or are involved in marketing and sales, you know there’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth.

Google’s addition of Google+ links (or “+1’s”) from its social network feeds to its already-powerful set of search results is nothing short of radical!  Over time, Google+’s “personal recommendations” will most likely become an important part of its search results mix, along with good SEO placement, paid advertising, and local search results.

Now may be the time to consider creating both a personal and a business presence on Google+ in order to get your brand and your message out there.  Customers are searching businesses like yours — make sure that they can find you and that they can recommend you to their friends.  Your success depends on it!

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