By Tasha Cunningham
The New Year is less than a month away! For small business owners, now is the perfect time to take a look at improving online marketing and social media strategies for 2014 when major changes to popular social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest will affect customer acquisition, retention and engagement on the Web. Read on to find out what’s changing and how to take advantage of these new features.
Facebook: star ratings
Facebook is testing the waters and entering the review and rating business. Based on a five-star scale, ratings are slated to appear at the top of a company’s Facebook page next to the name of the business. Right now, business ratings are only available to a small group of users who log in to Facebook from their desktops. According to Facebook, star ratings are being extended from mobile to desktop so that users can more easily discover businesses. Star ratings were launched back in early 2012 on mobile with Facebook’s “Nearby” feature. But sometime in 2014, star ratings will be prominently displayed on a business page’s timeline and as a preview in the news feed. The implication for small businesses could be significant as their use of Facebook shifts from a promotional tool for products and services to a customer service portal where things like answering questions, handling dissatisfied patrons and resolving disputes will come to the forefront.
This is an interesting Twitter experiment designed to help users decide who to follow. The account is operated by Twitter and sends its followers recommendations on whom to follow and spotlights tweets to check out. Now users can actually manage the recommendations they receive, which show up in their Twitter inboxes. Users can send messages to the account letting Twitter know if their recommendations are good or in some cases, bad. If you follow the page, send a message with the word “help” and you’ll receive a response with a list of the ways you can manage recommendations.
For small-business owners, following @MagicRecs is a great way to find out what Twitter recommends and gain exposure to new customers along the way. To check it out, follow @MagicRecs or get more information here.
Google +: Google + Shared Endorsements
Officially launched on Nov. 11, “Google + Shared Endorsements” is a new feature designed that allows people who endorse or review websites, businesses or products using Google + to share their ratings, profile pages and comments in organic search results and paid ads. It aims to personalize search and give businesses the opportunity to showcase consumer confidence. Keep in mind that “Shared Endorsements” is a controversial feature because many have protested having their images used in search results without compensation and its advantages to business owners remains to be seen. For more information on Shared Endorsements, click here.
Instagram, the popular photo and video sharing social network, will soon debut targeted advertising. Last month, the site began giving users an idea of what the ads will look like during a one-week testing period. Photos and videos that contain advertisements will appear with a “Sponsored” label alerting users to the fact they are viewing an ad and not user-generated content. For more information on how Instagram advertising will work, click here.
LinkedIn: ‘showcase pages’
Last month, LinkedIn introduced a new feature that allows brands to focus their content to specific audiences. “Showcase pages” are essentially extensions of “company pages” but designed to give businesses the ability to create specific pages for a new division, project, business unit or initiative within a company. “Showcase pages” don’t operate like LinkedIn “company pages” or “groups.” For example, “showcase pages” don’t have tabs for “products and services.” The intent is to focus on the specific initiative, business unit or division that are being showcased, not a company as a whole. In terms of “groups,” the major difference is that companies can control all content on a “showcase page,” while an administrator controls content for a LinkedIn “group.”
“Showcase pages” offer small businesses an opportunity to increase awareness about a specific project or initiative, and they comes with the ability to advertise, which is something that is not available on “company pages.” Businesses can also advertise on “showcase pages” by purchasing “follower ads” and “sponsored updates” that will make the pages posts and content available to people who are not following the page. For more information on LinkedIn “showcase pages,” click here.
Pinterest: ‘Place Pins’
Pinterest recently launched a new feature called “Place Pins” designed to help people discover new places. Pinterest users can pin their favorite businesses like restaurants, boutiques and bookstores. When a user pins a place, a map that shows the specific location of the business is overlaid on the pin. Users are able to pin multiple locations on one map, which can help the platform’s primarily female audience plan vacations, birthdays and even girls’ nights out. Details on the business, such as the phone number, street address and website are included in the pin.
The implications of this new feature are huge for small business owners when you consider that according to Pinterest, there are over 750 million pins of destinations on the platform. Small businesses should not ignore the potential of Place Pins in 2014. For more information on Pinterest Place Pins, click here.
Tasha Cunningham is a principal in the Cunningham Group, an award-winning communications firm with offices in Miami and Orlando. She writes about how small-business owners can leverage social media and other online tools to grow their companies.