Friday, March 29, 2013

New Rules for Updating Your Facebook Fan Page Cover Photo

It’s time to update your Facebook fan page’s cover photo. How do I know this? Because last week Facebook actually relaxed its rules about the content of your Facebook cover image. As first reported by marketing guru Mari Smith, the following information that was previously not allowed can now be included:
  • Price / purchase information
  • Discounts
  • Calls to action
  • Contact info – website address, phone numbers, etc.
  • Like or share buttons
  • Arrows pointing to your page’s “like” button

One thing that has not changed is the 20% text rule, so this information can only make up 20% of your cover image. The dimensions are still 851 pixels by 315 pixels, but there are new tools that have popped up quickly to help you measure if you’re doing it right, like the Facebook Cover-Photo Compliance Tool by Paavo.
Also, keep in mind when designing your cover image that when the new News Feed rolls out, a portion of your cover image will show in the News Feed whenever someone likes your page. This is very exciting and holds a lot of opportunities for creativity, branding and conversions.
Good luck and happy creating!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before Bashing Banner Ads

They’re a symptom of the problem--not THE problem

Brian Morrissey’s post on Digiday last week (“15 Alarming Stats About Banner Ads”) has sparked a lot of controversy from the marketing community. Here is a sampling of the distressing stats he shared:

* 50 percent of clicks are accidental
* The 468 x 60 banner has a .04 percent click rate
* An estimated 31 percent of ad impressions
can’t be viewed by users


Before we weigh in, take a peek at this online discussion related to Morrissey’s post
One commenter stressed the importance of balance: “Make sure the banners are limited, targeted for the specific needs of your audience, and are unobtrusive. Respect your space and your audience.” Amen.
Another commenter disagreed with the Morrissey’s stats arguing that for those in businesses “where a single new client can generate enough revenue to pay for years of banner ads they are great! The trick is to use good banner ads.” Right on.

Said another, “My peers and I stopped using the CTR to measure the performance of display ads around 3 years ago because it is not an accurate determinant of performance. A good example is a study by Google TechTarget which demonstrated that 44 percent of people who click on paid search were exposed to a banner ad prior to that click. However, most marketers and agencies simply use the first and or last click to measure the performance of digital marketing and in that case display was not getting any performance attribution to the campaigns. They’re selling themselves and their marketing activities short.” Amen again.

Morrissey’s stats are disturbing, but rather than throwing in the towel on banner ads, let’s throw in the towel on ineffective online advertising. Remember that banner ads are one of the cheapest, fastest, least complicated forms of online advertising. They’ve made it easy for armies of lazy, overworked, inexperienced or otherwise unprofessional marketers to get into the game. So what you’re seeing on a lot of websites is a dumping ground for poorly executed and untargeted creative out there by the B and C team. In other words, it’s not the creative assigned to the A team who focuses on the higher priority, more expensive media channels.

Remember, banner ads are just one device in a B2B marketer’s bulging tool kit. And whether or not someone clicks on a banner, hovers over it, or takes further action on it, such as downloading or purchasing from the advertiser, the result of that action is not necessarily the result of the single banner the consumer just viewed.

As far back as 2002-2003, my colleague Rick Telberg and I starting exploring the “latency” effect of online advertising and other cause and effect relationships. Our report “Beyond the Click” still gets plenty of inquiries.

Macro View

The S&P 500 index is now at or near its all-time peak reached in October 2007. Interest rates appear holding steady and housing continues to rebound in all major metro areas around the country. With a 10.2 percent gain over last year’s level, existing home sales continued to climb in February. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the sales rate was the highest since November 2009 when a federal tax credit was propping up home sales. Economists say inventory has been tightening because construction levels are still low, adding little new housing stock, and homeowners are waiting to sell until they have more positive equity.
That’s the big picture, but drilling down, two statistical nuggets caught our eye:

1) First, sales of distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 25 percent of sales, that still a lot, but quite a bit better than 34 percent at this time a year ago.
2) Second, homes were on the market for a median of 74 days. That’s 24 percent better than year-ago levels, according to NAR.


In this era of Big Data and obsessive measurement, it’s easy to suffer from analysis paralysis. Let’s put away the spreadsheets and algorithms for a while and get back to being creative. That doesn’t mean tricking a consumer into clicking (or scanning) on your ad creative. It means finding an emotional connection that draws them to you because you have something to offer them of value at a time when they really need it. Budgets should be loosening up a little in 2013. Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Tags: Brian Morrissey, Digiday, National Association of Realtors, banner ads not working, TechTarget


Want to Remarket To People Similar to Your Customers?

Google Remarketing, also known as Google Retargeting, is a powerful internet marketing tactic. It allows you to reach people who have previously visited your website. With Remarketing, you can show these visitors relevant ads as they travel across the vast Google Display Network. For instance, let’s say someone visits the “pianos” section of your website but did not make a purchase – you can remarket to them. This means you can bring them back to your website with an offer that is enticing enough to get them to take a desired action, like a purchase. You now have a second chance to give them an offer they simply can’t refuse.

Did you know you have the opportunity to reach even more people with Remarketing’s “Similar Audiences” feature? By using this feature, your ads will show to potential customers that have browsing patterns similar to your current site visitors but haven’t actually visited your website. The logic is that these people are more likely to be interested in the same products or services since they have similar browsing tendencies.

The people on the Similar Audience lists are automatically determined by Google. Since browsing habits change regularly, the Similar Audience lists change on a daily basis, too.

Think of this feature as having a new audience that is prequalified from the masses. However, you must remember they may have no idea who you are. Be sure to craft your messaging with this in mind.

Because of the uncertainty of how this type of audience will respond, test this feature with a limited budget to start and gauge its effectiveness. Let us know how this test works out for you in the comments below.

Like this post? Connect with Erika Barbosa on Google+.

Image credit: ell brown

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Our webinar with Audri Lanford visits productivity secrets for Internet marketers

Many Internet marketers are very frustrated that they never seem to have enough time to accomplish and achieve what they want... How do you get unstuck, reclaim your time and get more done -- without working harder or more hours? Fortunately, Audri Lanford, the co-founder at,has the secrets, and she's willing to let you know! This webinar will teach you productivity secrets from some extraordinary people and millionaires as they are applied to Internet marketing, so there's no reason to fear the seemingly shortened 24-hour day ever again.

Click here to register for FREE(3/27/13 at 12:30pm EST):

About Audri G. Lanford, Ph.D.:

Audri has been a pioneer in the fields of going paperless, productivity and digital marketing, and has built more than a dozen entrepreneurial businesses, including an Inc. 500 company that helped Fortune 500 companies (like Procter & Gamble,Dupont and Johnson & Johnson) save millions of dollars by increasing productivity and going paperless.

Our focus:
We help entrepreneurs overcome their biggest obstacles and frustrations by boosting productivity and going paperless the right way so they can achieve their big dreams, earn more money and make a significant impact in world.

If you're an Internet marketer who's frustrated that you're not getting nearly enough done, you're up to your eyeballs in clutter or you're overwhelmed by information overload, we can help.

We've launched at in 2012. (When you subscribe free to our free e-course and newsletter you'll get our free training series which begins with an Action Plan that shows you how you can have your clutter gone in 1 hour. It has a lot of entertaining cartoons by an award-winning cartoonist to make it fun.)

My husband Jim and I created our first website in 1994 - - a public service offering useful,practical, and trustworthy information on Internet scams. We now have over 100 websites.

Click here to register for FREE(3/27/13 at 12:30pm EST):

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Importance of a Mobile Search Strategy

Increasingly, mobile’s importance in our lives is becoming more evident. Our mobile phones can essentially be considered a permanent fixture of our daily routines. Can you leave home without it?

In conjunction with Nielsen, Google’s new report, “Mobile Search Moments: Understanding How Mobile Drives Conversions”, attempts to decipher what triggers people to do mobile searches and when, what actions follow as a result and how marketers can utilize this intelligence. This report explains the measurable connections between mobile searches and their correlated online and offline conversions.

What are the main drivers for mobile searches? Speed and convenience, with 77% of mobile searches performed in a location (work or home) likely to have a PC available to them.

Here are a few additional highlights from the report:

• 45% of all mobile searches are goal-oriented and conducted to help make a decision

• 81% of conversions (store visit, call or purchase) triggered by mobile search occur within 5 hours

• 55% of conversions from mobile searches happen within one hour

As a key factor in the decision-making process, a mobile search strategy is an essential piece of your overall marketing strategy.

What mobile search opportunities do you see for your business? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

Like this post? Connect with Erika Barbosa on Google+.

Image credit: Johan Larsson

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Have Your Audited Your Content?

You may have heard that content is king and you need to your customers interested in your products and services by creating it - but how do you know that you're creating content that the customer wants? How do you know how much content and what types you have created, and if there are any holes in your content marketing strategy? Here is where a content audit comes in handy.

According to Christopher Detzi, a comment audit can be used to determine 4 things:

  1. Reveal the true scale of the website’s content (there was less than we thought).
  2. Clarify and refine the project scope (it took on a different focus than we had expected).
  3. Facilitate strategic discussions about design objectives and direction (which were different from what our stakeholders had imagined).
  4. Establish a common language for the team to use throughout the project (which was more complicated than we had anticipated).
Your analysis of your marketing content must be both quantitative and qualitative to be effective - that is, you need to determine how much content you have and what types of content you have. The content audit above is a great place to start when trying to determine the content types. You can further break your content down by what category it falls under (for example, internet marketing content might further be divided into SEO content, PPC content, and social media marketing content). This should help you get a clearer picture of what you already have and key areas you want to focus on that you may have missed, or don't have a lot of. After your audit, revise your strategy accordingly and don't forget to track it with your SEO tools to make sure that it's having the intended effect.

Have any personal tips on creating and curating content? Let us know in the comments.

Connect with Leah on Google+

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Know Everything About Email? Think Again

Intro lines just as important as subject lines. Facebook burnout on the horizon?
We’ve all spent hours agonizing over our email subject lines—and it’s true—they do matter. But, don’t forget about the intro line of your client or customer emails. That’s the first two or three lines of text that users see immediately after the subject line. Intro lines are even more important for mobile users since subject lines are typically cut off for mobile users. According to Incentivibe, which specializes in shared giveaways for business, marketers should use the intro line to hammer home the offer and the benefit in 65 to 85 words. That’s long enough to convey your message and call to action, but not too long to lose your recipients’ interest.

Getting ‘inactives’ re-engaged

Like most B2B marketers, you probably have tons of inactive subscribers on your lists and it’s not helping your deliverability stats to keep them on the list. Some of you are probably trying to re-engage them from time to time, but sending a once-a-year “we want you back” email does little good, according to digital marketing company, Silverpop. Experts say that’s waiting way too long.

It’s better to identify inactives and cull them out after a few months of inactivity. But instead of deep-sixing, put them on a separate “activation track” in which you try to engage them by sending different types of content than you’d send your main list. For instance: Ask them to update their preferences in one email and send a survey of white paper in the next. Also try to find out why they’re inactive. Are there any patterns? See if your inactives fall into a particular demographic group, geographic group or industry category. See if they tend to come from one or two activation sources. Those are red flags that savvy B2B marketers will remedy ASAP.

Facebook burnout?

New research indicates that Facebook may be losing its luster for many users. How do you like that? More than one fourth of users (27%) say they plan to spend less time on the site according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Only 3 percent expect to spend more time on the site. And here’s what really got our attention: the group most likely to cut back their Facebook time are the 18-29 year olds. While more than two in five (41%) of FB’s one billion global users access the site multiple times per day, we know that large numbers of users rarely or never access the site—it’s probably moving to the 80/20 rule—the 20 percent most active users account for 80 percent of the regular usage.


There’s no substitute for a snappy, relevant subject line, but no matter how clever your marketing team is, if they don’t follow it up with a relevant intro line, you’re like a baseball team that can’t score runs after it gets runners to third base. With 82 percent of marketers planning to increase their investment in mobile this year (Source: American Marketing Association and Aquent pollof U.S. marketing professionals), can you afford email copy that’s not optimized for your on-the-go clients and prospects?

TAGS: Facebook burnout, American Marketing Association, Aquent, Incentivibe, Pew Research Center, Silverpop


Monday, March 18, 2013

This week with @socialjamie: Video Marketing Power: Strategize & Optimize for Success

For some time now, video marketing has been an influential part of how businesses manage their online campaigns. As trends tend to come and go in the Internet sphere, marketers must constantly change to adapt to their surroundings. However, video marketing doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, and this week's webinar should give you a better understanding of how to tie it into your own social plans. Ten Golden Rules' own Jamie Maloney is on board this week's Wednesday Webinar to talk about strategizing and optimizing videos for marketing success.

In this webinar, we'll teach you how to:
· Create strategies for marketing your videos online
· Optimize your videos for search engines (SEO)
· Generate new ideas for video content

Click here to register for FREE (3-20-13 at 12:30pm EST)

About Jamie Maloney
Jamie Maloney is an account manager at Ten Golden Rules. She has an MBA and over 12 years of experience in marketing and branding. Her love of agency work derives from her interest in learning the intricacies of different industries. Internet marketing is her passion with a strong focus on social media strategy and search engine optimization. Offline, you can find her playing with her tennis ball-obsessed Boston Terrier, Bruce Lee, and going to live music shows with her rockstar husband.

Click here to register for FREE (3-20-13 at 12:30pm EST)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Will Video Ads Affect Facebook?

With video ads on the horizon, we can only wonder if this will be the end of Facebook. They have slowly rolled out additional ad products in attempt to monetize their free service. Mark Zuckerberg, Chairman and CEO, also expressed their eagerness to venture further into mobile during a recent earnings call:

…comScore put out a report saying that Facebook is now 23% of all time spent on apps in the U.S., and one of the next biggest apps is Instagram at 3%. So, put together, we’re now more than a quarter of the time spent in apps. Today, there’s no argument. Facebook is a mobile company. As I’ve said before, there are three main parts of our strategy; build the best mobile products, build the platform and services that leverage the social graph, and build a really strong monetization effort engine.

What does this all mean? In Facebook’s eyes, mobile is an untapped revenue opportunity. Now, monetization efforts will no longer focus solely on desktop ads.

With the advent of the “new” News Feed, the emphasis is clearly on visual content. According to Ad Age, the video ad product will be targeted to users’ News Feeds on desktop and mobile devices. The ads are expected to be capped at 15 seconds and will autoplay.

Are marketers excited? Absolutely. This opens up a whole world of opportunity for advertising to Facebook users. Are Facebook users excited? This one is up for discussion. Facebook has to be wary of introducing another new ad product for fears that it might be viewed as intrusive.

How do you feel Facebook users will respond to video ads?

Like this post? Connect with Erika Barbosa on Google+.

Image credit: birgerking

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We’re Recovering, but Not Fully Recovered

Why B2B marketers need to be on LinkedIn

Social media doesn’t kill businesses. Lousy posts do. So whether you love it or hate it, you can’t ignore social media. But at the same time, you can’t be all things to all people. If you’re overwhelmed and a little frustrated by the amount and time and effort it takes to keep up with all your business and professional networks, we suggest keeping LinkedIn on your “must save” list before you start trimming. A recent HubSpot study of more than 5,000 businesses found that, LinkedIn was 277 percent more effective for lead generation than Facebookand Twitter.

We’re not bashing the other popular social networking channels, but if you have to “heavy up” on a single social networking channel, then LinkedIn will probably give you the best bang for your time buck if you’re at least reasonably well-established in your profession or industry.

As Wall Street Journal’s Kate Mitchell reportedyesterday, “the quickest way to earn respect and build a reputation on all social media, including LinkedIn, is to showcase your knowledge on topics relevant to your business. Don’t confuse this with only pushing your own agenda, but rather contributing a distinct point of view on topics relevant to your industry.”

LinkedIn has an extensive network of groups where thought leaders post discussions relevant to a particular market or topic. Furthermore, you can create your own groups to lead discussions. For example, a  report by Forrester and LinkedIn notes that nearly three in five (59%) IT decision makers “rely” on social networks for purchasing decisions, yet many companies don’t take advantage of the lead generation that can come fromcustomizing their LinkedIn page.

Macro View

With all the hype surrounding the record stock market highs, the one number that jumped out at us the most was that CBOE Volatility Index. That’s the so-called “fear gauge” and it just fell to its lowest level since February 2007. Market watchers say this indicates the market is no longer as easily unnerved by small corrections or by turmoil in other parts of the world. For now, the recovery in housing, the stock market and the overall economy has gained some solid footing, even though economists argue the Big 3 indicators are not specifically related to each other.

So just as we kept telling to maintain hope throughout the dark days of 2008-2009, now we’re telling you to keep your eyes on the road as there are plenty of potholes that could derail this recovery (i.e. perceived recovery). Congress can’t seem to make any progress on the budget crisis and the national debt. The full impact of the March 1 sequester won’t be felt immediately and hot spots in Europe, Asia and the Middle East could easily deflate the confidence of businesses and consumers large and small.


You can’t stop marketing right now just because you’re flush with leads and cash. Just choose your investments wisely and pick your fights where you can win them. And by all means, if you haven’t given your best employees the raises and promotions they deserve. Do so ASAP or they’ll be out the door before you can say, “brain drain.”

A recent articlein the New York Times shared the harrowing tales of job seekers who’ve had excessive interviews with companies that never hired them (or anyone else). We have a couple of important takeaways for both job seekers and companies if anything like this sounds familiar to you:

1) For employers: There is no such thing as a "perfect candidate" because businesses (and non profits) have to evolve much faster than they did before. A perfect candidate today, may not have the skill set (and right cultural fit) for your organization a year or two down the road.

2) If you are a job seeker and have been invited back for interviews half a dozen times or more, that's probably a red flag that the hiring company cannot make decisions in other areas of its business. Chances are you will be stifled in that kind of inertia-driven environment if you're "lucky" enough to get the job.

Disregard our advice if you're applying for Supreme Court Justice, CIA head or Fortune 500 CEO. More on that later.


TAGS: LinkedIn, lead gen, B2B, CBOE volatility, fear gauge, Forrester Research

This week's webinar is with @mwooddy and his Blogger presentation

We jumped the gun a little bit, but don't you worry. If you're ready for an awesome presentation with Audri Lanford on productivity secrets for Internet Marketers, you don't have to wait too long. If you were registered for that webinar, you'll be happy to know that it's still happening, but the new date is March 27th. No worries, because Matt Wooddy's second part of his Creating and Sharing Exceptional Content on Blogger presentation is tomorrow! Part 1 of Matt's webinar discussed the basics of what you should and should not post to your business Blogger account, while Part 2 aims its focus at sharing and generating more page views. If you're struggling to form a healthy relationship with your fans on Blogger, this webinar is perfect for you!

Click here to register for FREE (3-13-13 at 12:30pm EST)

About Matt Wooddy:

For the last six years, Matt Wooddy has used his social wizardry to revitalize online marketing campaigns for over 200 brands. Understanding that social media is more than just a place to promote your business, he uses personal interaction and entertaining messages to improve the branding and interest of any given company. Some of his clients have included Art & Ink Publications, CustomUSB, Peachtree Social Agency, Motorsporting and a variety of entertainment companies. While studying Industrial Design at Auburn University, Matt sharpened his graphic design skills to better handle logo creation, website setup and other print media needs. He's also worked as Copy Editor, Lead Writer and Photographer for a handful of print magazines throughout the East Coast, honing his content marketing skills for a better tomorrow.

Click here to register for FREE (3-13-13 at 12:30pm EST)

Friday, March 8, 2013

What Is The Value of Google+ Brand Pages?

Now with over 400 million people using Google+, are you starting to think maybe your business should be there, too? If you are thinking along these lines, you are heading in the right direction. It’s critical for a business’s social presence to be where their community is. But, Google+ still doesn’t have widespread adoption like Facebook and Twitter. Why be on Google+ then? The SEO benefits alone might be more than worth it.

Over 1 million+ Brand Pages were created in the site’s first 6 months. In a study conducted by enterprise SEO company BrightEdge, their results revealed that Google+ is catching up to Facebook and Twitter in terms of numbers of top companies on the network. Three quarters of the top brands in the U.S. are now on Google+. So, what’s the bad news? Of the top 100 Brand Pages, only 15 million Google+ users have actually circled one of these brands in comparison to Facebook’s 481 million Page “likes”.

Despite the interaction statistics, I’m sure you are starting to notice more Google+ results in your SERPs. Google+ activity is incorporated even more heavily with Search plus Your World results thrown into the mix.

If visibility within the Google search results is your goal, your business should invest resources into building out a Google+ strategy. Leverage the tools Google+ offers such as Local pages and Communities to gain maximum exposure for your Brand Page.

Like this post? Connect with Erika Barbosa on Google+.

Image credit: Marco Bellucci

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Surviving the Sequester

Important numbers for B2B marketers

Just like Y2K, 12/21/12 and the Fiscal Cliff, the world didn’t come to an end on March 1 when Congress failed to come to a consensus on the budget. The resulting “sequester” may actually be a silver lining to the economic clouds (see below). Key learning point here: Don’t let any of your clients or prospects use the prospect of automatic federal spending cuts as an excuse to delay a decision. By the time they get the all clear signal, it will be too late for them to regain market share they lost by not investing appropriately in their marketing, advertising and demand generation programs.

Important numbers for B2B marketers

Like it or not, most of you who read this blog regularly are numbers people. You may not think of yourself as a “quant” or a “cruncher,” but you’re measured regularly by your clients, prospects, superiors and board by quantifiable measures of the return on your marketing investments. Here are some quick stats that we think you’ll find useful in your next planning session.

Tweet the numbers. Market research firm Compendium says including numbers with your tweets will result in 50 percent more clicks for B2B marketers. Again, you’re not in the consumer space where tweeting with numbers provides only a 3.5 percent lift.

Tweet with substance. Sure Twitter’s character limit is pretty, uh limiting, but Compendium found that B2B buyers were drawn to tweets of 11 to 15 words, not the 1-to-5 word tweets that resonate with consumer marketers. If you can produce 11 to 15 meaningful word in just 144 characters, that’s where your skill comes out.

Blog 300. According to Internet Marketing Report (IMR), Google rates blog posts of more than 300 words as valuable content and posts of less than 300 words as “fringe content.” If your goal is to improve your search engine optimization and overall Google presence, then go long (provided you can remain relevant) and try to publish on the same day(s) each week.

Blog 1-2x. According to IMR, One or
two well-crafted blog posts each week will do more than daily or more frequent posts that don’t have any substance.

Macro View
Despite mandatory federal spending cuts imposed by the sequester, it’s hard to argue that the overall economic outlook is trending upward. Not a sharp hockey stick mind you, but a gradual upward slope nonetheless. Here are some signs we like:
·         * Banks are lending more to business and industry.
·         * Consumers are more confident and are buying more new homes (and fixing them up).
·         * Sales of new homes jumped nearly 16 percent in January to their highest level in 4-1/2 years.
·         * Home prices were almost 7 percent higher in December 2012 than they were in December 2011.That was the
  biggest year-over-year increase since July 2006.
·         *  Residential fixed investment, which includes spending on home improvements, advanced 17.5 percent in the  
  fourth quarter
      * The Commerce Department revised its stats upward on business spending in Q4—to a 9.7 percent gain, from
  its initial estimate of an 8.4 percent gain
             * The financial markets continued the momentum started in January and are near their all-time highs
·         * The Conference Board consumer confidence index surged to 69.6 in February from 58.4 January suggesting that     
        consumers are getting used to their 2-percent smaller paychecks.

Surviving the Sequester

The $85 billion in automatic U.S. federal spending cuts may not be all that bad. In an interview on the
DJ FX Trader podcast, Sri-Kumar, president of Sri-Kumar Global Strategies said the so-called sequester is actually a longer-term positive for both the U.S. economy and the U.S. dollar. Say again?!?

"This is a pain which ought not to be avoided,” he said. For one, the equity market needs to see a significant correction that reflects the “fundamental problems” the U.S. economy has, and that could happen Friday, Sri-Kumar said. More importantly, the U.S. needs to get its fiscal act together, and the sequester is one way to do it, despite the likely negative short-term impact.


The government may finally do something that cash-strapped homeowners have been forced to do for years—get their house in order and then spruce it up. Check out the lines this weekend at your local Home Depot or gardening center. Bet they’re longer than usual.


TAGS: Sri-Kumar Global Strategies, housing market, sequester, business confidence

Monday, March 4, 2013

Social Media & Small Business: What NOT To Do During a Disaster

When it comes to social media for small businesses, most people think of it as just another channel for communication and promotion. However, it can also be a source of help or hurt during a natural disaster. During and after Hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the east coast earlier this year, we saw very specific examples of how social media can be a lifeline for some and also learned valuable lessons about what NOT to do during a disaster:
1.       DO NOT spread rumors on social media: This one can be a tricky one. During Hurricane Sandy, the campaign manager for a U.S. House of Representatives candidate was allegedly the source of a widespread rumor that the New York Stock Exchange had flooded. It was picked up by both CNN and the National Weather Service before it was debunked. Usually, however, “official” social media accounts at the local, state and national levels can be counted on for accurate information. Only repost messages from credible sources that have been verified, if possible.
2.       DO NOT use social media to promote your brand or product while people are in survival mode: American Apparel, Urban Outfitters and the Gap were all criticized for insensitive promotional messages on Twitter during the storm. If you want to help people by providing them with a discount, you should wait until the storm has passed.
3.       DO NOT just “wing it”: If you already have an online crisis management plan for your small business, consider adding social media as a secondary means of communication with your employees, vendors and customers. You can also use your social media channels to bring the community together as 13 restaurants did to provide Sunday dinner in one Sandy-ravaged town. If you don’t have a disaster plan in place, you should get one. Immediately. Read this Forbes article for some tips.
4.       DO NOT ignore social media: Now more than ever, people are turning to social media for information, and the more you can provide during a crisis, the more value you are giving. In some desperate situations, social media may be the only channel available for communication.
Hurricane Sandy showed us the good, the bad and the ugly of how social media can be used during a natural disaster or crisis situation. Let’s all take these lessons and learn from them, so that we are prepared for the next time Mother Nature decides to show us who’s boss.
How have you used social media to get through a crisis? Do you have a disaster plan that includes social media? Share it with us in the comments below.