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How do you define business development?

How do you define business development?

Some companies define it as “Partnerships and Alliances” while others define it as “Whatever it takes to Develop the Business”.

Business development can be many things.

It really depends on company. In my mind, however, the role of business development is to find new strategic opportunities for the company and start the company on the path to execute (incubation). It is not uncommon for business developers to have a combination of strategy, marketing & sales, finance, legal, and operations background.

Based on my experience in business development,

here’s the flavors I’ve run into (roughly from more to less common):

  • Partnership development
  • Strategic market development and sales
  • Strategic marketing
  • Mergers, acquisitions, and financing
  • New business line exploration
  • Channel sales
  • New product development


Steve Shu specializes in incubating new initiatives with a primary focus on strategy, technology, and behavioral economics. He is author of Inside Nudging: Implementing Behavioral Science Initiatives (to be released June 2016) and The Consulting Apprenticeship: 40 Jump-Start Ideas for You and Your Business.

Function of Business Development

The singular function of business development is to figure out how to  get your product or service into the hands of clients or customers,  ultimately, to increase the value of your business by gaining market  share or directly generating revenue. It’s easier to think of business development as a role within an  organization in the context of that function. A business development  role can include a wide range of responsibilities depending on the needs  and stage of a given company.

One of the most exciting and challenging roles for a BD person is to  help a start up find product-market fit. That might mean one-to-many  ‘selling’ to drive user adoption of the service/product or one-to-one  ‘selling’ to advertisers or licensees. In either case, what makes this  challenging there is little or no process or formula for success. For  example in the later case, it’s on the early stage BD person to discover  the practical need and value of the product or service in the  marketplace through trial and error with partners.

At more established  companies that have reached product market fit, the spectrum of BD roles can vary. It can range from a sales  person with a target/quota that has a BD title because the sale is  considered ‘highly consultative’ to a more strategic BD person who is  responsible for taking a more broad view of the business and generating  new businesses/revenue streams based on the current businesses assets.

Chuck Reynolds


Business Development – What does it mean? Who is it for?

Business Development – What does it mean? Who is it for?

Is it the same for everyone?

If you now maybe having worked in a number of roles that you might consider as business development (BD), You should start publishing journey on LinkedIn with a bit of reflection. It often gets asked what the difference between straight selling and BD is, so if you try and define the differences (for your own sake, if nothing more!). To some degree, they’re different sides of the same coin.

Selling and BD go hand in hand.

There’s been in roles where there is strictly selling, others where there is a combination of sales and BD, and also in roles that you would consider true and pure BD. In all, however, Some would link to what would be considered BD within that particular business.

So the answer to the header title is no, BD is different for everyone and every business, dependent on a number of factors – budget, a size of a workforce, attitude to BD, etc.

What is ‘true and pure’ BD?

The sales process is one that involves a lot of people – product development, designers, pricing, marketing, technical, management – ‘front-line’ salesmen and ‘top-end’ management need to combine forces to deliver a product that their customers want.

If you walk into a shop to buy a pair of trainers, for example, this has been designed from the early stages by trained footwear designers, manufactured from these designs in a production process of sorts (industrial or bespoke, depending on the brand), marketed in the appropriate manner to raise awareness of the product, eventually landing on the shelves of the shop you’re in, with a friendly guy/gal willing to help you transact some business when you make the decision to buy them.

So where does BD fit into this process? What’s it all about then? The foremost word that comes up in the BD world is ‘relationships’. That’s pretty much what it’s all about. Good business development will help identify, maintain and encourage relationship building within a firm, building rapport with both suppliers and customers.

It helps strengthen the bonds between these links, supporting the marketing copy and material that establishes your product in the relevant marketplace. It helps provide information as to what the client needs to the ‘front line’ sales team, assisting them in closing the deal at the end of the process.

It helps inform management as to how the market is moving, providing insights into new developments of technology, social media and other digital avenues that the firm can take advantage of, to build and maintain loyalty.

It helps small companies access bigger markets and large companies engage newcomers. So a definition of ‘true and pure’ BD is ‘helping a business to develop its relationships’.

Plain and simple.

It’s networking on a daily basis; attending cutting-edge events to learn about the industry you’re working in; finding (er… stalking?) people on LinkedIn to see what events they’re attending and making sure you meet them there, in person, so that you can have that all-important introductory chat; it’s offering your loyal customers something more than a newsletter – why not run a seminar and invite them along to it? They might be happy to be invited.

The personal touch is always a winner. We hear more and more now about relationships marketing, social currency, engagement, etc. BD is the platform that most of this is built on.

Who is it for?

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve worked in roles that have been classed as BD but have really been sales. I’ve worked in hybrid roles where you might do a bit of both. And I’ve worked in the ‘true and pure’ BD roles too. What this has shown me is that BD has a place in every business. You can’t ‘develop’ your business without a good BD strategy.

So whether you’re encouraging your front-line staff to sign up to a few newsletters, or get yourself down to a few networking events, or join a LinkedIn group and start up a discussion, BD is something that can’t be overlooked. It’s all very well to have a great product and a nicely designed website, with some great leaflets and a slick business card but, without the right approach to BD, no one is going to see it in the way you want to.

Having worked as a supplier to a lot of startups and growing SMEs, the one thing that I’ve noticed which has set apart the successes from the failures is their approach to BD. Develop the relationships – build a community around your business and your product just needs to do what it says on the tin. The rest will fall into place and you’ll have a strong, loyal customer base who are happy to sing your praises.

For that reason alone, if nothing else, BD is essential for pretty much any business going.


Chuck Reynolds


Contemporary strategies that help improve your rankings

5 contemporary strategies that help improve your rankings

The rules of the SEO game have changed over the years, but columnist Pratik Dholakiya has some solid strategies for increasing search visibility and authority that you can safely use in 2016.

Improving your rankings isn’t as simple as it used to be. As businesses have become more invested in SEO, search ranking algorithms have grown smarter and more sophisticated. The result is that many techniques that used to be acceptable are now considered gray hat or black hat — and in some cases, can even earn you a traffic-throttling Google penalty.

Still, the challenge remains: We need links, we need traffic, and we need rankings. How do we achieve this in an ethical manner? Luckily, there are still powerful white-hat strategies you can leverage to improve rankings. Here are five of the best that we at E2M use successfully to this day.

1. Guest posts

Guest posting has been contested territory for some time. Back in 2014, Google’s then-head of webspam, Matt Cutts, advised that guest posting was increasingly ineffective at building links. If you’re doing a lot of guest posting, he warned, “you’re hanging out with some really bad company.”

It’s easy to see why guest posting has come under fire in recent years. After all, guest blogs used to be a really easy way to get backlinks — maybe a little too easy. All too often, the standard guest post is 500 words long, includes no links to sources (other than the author’s own website) and presents no thoughtful commentary or new insight.

I’m not saying you can’t have a worthwhile 500-word post. Of course, you can. But the majority of guest bloggers aren’t looking at readers’ concerns. They don’t care whether you derive value from the post or not. They care about getting a link, and they’ve nailed the absolute bare minimum required to achieve that end.

That drags the name of the “guest blogger” into the mud. But it also gives you an opportunity.

Rather than focus on acquiring links, guest blogging can help with SEO in other, less direct ways. By consistently posting excellent, in-depth content on relevant blogs, you’ll drive up authority and get more social shares, along with signs of quality that Google takes seriously. You’re also more likely to get actual traffic to your website from high-quality content — which is what link building is supposed to be about anyway.

Stuffing low-quality posts with links to your site — or paid third-party links — may be a thing of the past. But guest blogging is still a powerful tool to increase authority and search visibility.

2. Infographics

Infographics are a powerful way of getting a point across quickly and intuitively. That’s one reason why they’re so popular. But they’re also an effective way of getting high-quality backlinks quickly.

The trick to getting that to happen is in the embed code. After you create your infographic, you can use a tool like the SeigeMedia Embed Code Generator to build the code. This is the code that people who want to post your infographic to their own site will use.

So include a request to link back to your site, and make it easy by bundling exactly the URL you want them to use into the infographic’s embed code. That way, they can’t avoid seeing it. Sure, some people will ignore it, but most people will attribute your infographic when they post it — and make the attribution a hyperlink back to your site. Bingo!

To get your infographic in front of more people, use infographic publishers (Visual.ly is one). Most will want a 70-or-so-word description of the infographic; then they’ll store it, and when other content marketers and bloggers want a graphic, they’ll be more likely to find yours. The free infographic publisher landscape changes quite quickly, so to make sure you’re not putting your content on dead sites.

Want some extra juice? On those sites, you can search for infographics on the same subject as yours, then reach out to users who have accessed those infographics and ask if they’d be interested in yours. Our annual infographic on Google’s algorithm updates (now in its fourth year) was picked up by Entrepreneur, Social Media Today, Marketing Land and more!

All in all, infographics are a great way to get quality backlinks from a range of relevant sites.

3. Personal blogs of the CEO & other employees

Blogging lets you connect with your readers. Most blogs are written in an informal, conversational style that’s a long way from what you’d see in a newspaper or magazine. And that’s true of professional blogs, too.

Using personal blogs at work — the CEO’s blog, for instance — can be a way to generate content that feels natural and personal. These people can blog about their own interests, and those interests are bound to overlap with the company’s targeting.

Blogs like this are also a way to offer specific insights, because certain employees will know things no one else on your team knows. For example, what are the legal implications of the product you’re developing? Get someone from legal to blog about it. Suddenly, readers in a similar position at other companies suddenly have a reason to read this content.

Personal professional blogs can be done one of two ways. You can offer a multi-voice blog on your company website, either as posts within the larger company blog or as separate sections with their own visual branding. Or you can have team members blog on their own domains and occasionally refer back to the company blog when it’s appropriate.

4. Beat the champ

How do you become the champ? By beating hundreds of could-have-been-a-contenders? No. You have to seize the top spot from the person who’s already there.

You can do the same thing with link building and SEO content marketing. Look at content that’s already performing well in your vertical. Find a piece of content that a) you think is awesome, and b) is performing well in organic search. Drop the URL into the usual suspects — like Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer — and see which sites are linking to it. Download all the linking sites into a spreadsheet.

Then, pick the post apart.

Would it work better if it were longer? If you’re looking at the “10 best ways to get more traffic with your blog,” maybe you should write the 20 best ways or the 100 best ways. Would it work better if it were more detailed? Maybe do the same number of methods, but in crazy, inch-by-inch detail.Remember that content is content. Your content doesn’t have to be a blog post. It could be an infographic, or a YouTube video, or a Vine. It could be a stand-alone resource page.

But that’s only going to be a winner for you if you’re getting your content seen. Once you’ve created your super-link worthy content, you have to reach out to the right people. All too often, reaching out to people is a stab in the dark. “You might be interested in something along these lines… ” Yeah, but probably not. The success rate of these attempts is often very low.

But you already have the lowdown on the people who would be interested in content like this. Remember when you used Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer or the tool of your choice to find out who was linking to the content you just improved upon? Check the spreadsheet you put together earlier, and then do a quick sanity check. Pages that don’t make sense, like article directories and forums (Yes, they still exist) can go.

What are you left with? A list of people who are actually very likely to be interested your content.

5. Giving interviews

CXOs and other employees are great subjects for interviews. Everyone else has to produce content, too, and the word of someone in the field (especially an expert) is worth a lot. So if you’re a high-level company spokesperson or an extremely knowledgeable subject matter expert, you’re likely to be approached more often than you’d actually prefer.

You can’t take up an offer for an interview and sit there like a stereotypical used car salesman, hard-selling your own product. But you can sell your brand.

When you’re in front of the camera, or on the page, you are your brand. If you’re confident, insightful and open, viewers relate. Remember, even in B2B, the buying decision isn’t made by highly sophisticated algorithms. You’re still selling to human beings. Viewers or readers need to see you as someone who understands the problems they’re trying to solve. That’s partly competence and partly a hard-to-define “she gets it” factor.

Interviews also offer the opportunity to talk directly about your company’s offerings. You can mention new initiatives, updates, new products or ventures. Talking about these in interviews gets them exposure. Add a link to the interview text if you’re being interviewed by email, or spell the URL out in a video interview.


It’s still possible to improve your rankings with careful strategy. Increasingly, it’s about leveraging content marketing to improve linkability. That can be done by targeted outreach, by encouraging social sharing or by using content itself to encourage linking. But it all helps drive up a ranking.

Chuck Reynolds


8 Creative Ways to Connect With Customers on Facebook

8 Creative Ways to Connect With Customers on Facebook


Facebook is a not-so-secret secret weapon for promoting your business. That being said, a lot of companies don't take full advantage of what this social media platform has to offer when it comes to making deep, lasting connections with their customers. Ads and pleas to "like this" simple don't quite cut it.

That's why we asked eight entrepreneurs to weigh in on how to best use Facebook to your company's advantage. Here's what they said:

1. Put Other People in the Spotlight

On the MySocialCloud Facebook page, we try to cross-promote with our partners and highlight our customers a lot. For example, we partnered with a company called Free Bike Project that has students ride bikes around its campuses with our advertisements on the sides of the bikes. We then ask the students to take pictures of themselves with the bikes, and we post the pictures on our Facebook page. We've found when we put other people and their friends in the spotlight (rather than our brand or ourselves), people get more excited about our company and engage with us more on social media.

2. Interact in a Private Facebook Community

We invite our customers into a private community on Facebook where they can interact with us and one another, share war stories and where they can turn for support. It's an amazing way to help them see us as a conduit for them as a united front of crusaders.

3. Post Video Updates

It's proven that video posts on Facebook highly increase the chance of user comments, shares and "likes." Create a weekly company update keeping your customers in the loop on new products, employees, goals, etc. Remember, talk about your company and product as well as the category you are in. Your customers want to see you as the expert in the industry, and they will continue to come back if you have great advice!

4. Offer Discounts and Promo Codes

You can stay connected to your customers through Facebook by posting discounts and promotional codes for your business products and services. But to keep your customers coming back for more, set a limit on the access to a promo code to about 50 people. If a customer sees an expired promo code, they'll likely check back to see when the next one is posted.

5. Post Unrelated Content

The main purpose of a Facebook page is to communicate company information to customers. However, there’s no reason we can’t make it fun. Posting pictures or videos that have nothing to do with the company tells me a little more about my customers than another promo. Also, it shows the lighter side of the company, which helps customers feel a closer connection to us.

Lots of companies have Facebook pages that offer no real value to those who follow them. Nobody wants to hear about business all the time. They want to be entertained and engaged, and they want to be a part of the companies they follow. What better way than to post content that appeals directly to them? They’ll have some fun while strengthening their ties to the company, which is the entire point of social media.

6. Share Stories

Share stories to build trust and reliability. We share stories and photos of events, charitable contributions, organizational partnerships and the daily activities happening in and around our business.

7. Post Consistently and Respond Quickly

Realty One Group places a premium on being consistent and responding to engagement. We make a point to post every single day. When a customer notices that you are updating your page with useful information, he is more likely to engage.

Perfect example: An agent wrote on one of our photos asking if we had our logo in a certain format to use for printing. She said the format was not available to her in our back office and reached out via Facebook. Not only did we respond to her — we got her email and sent her the format she needed to carry out her business. She expressed such gratitude for us going out of our way to help her, and that alone was reward enough.

8. Recruit Talent Socially

We have a relatively large Facebook page of over 75,000, and the page has been growing quite steadily over the last year. We've really focused on using Facebook as a recruitment tool for our company. When we have a difficult posting, we usually throw it up on the Facebook page and sometimes give out rewards for candidates that other users can bring to us. The response is extremely positive and usually results in hundreds of new candidates joining our database. Not only does this strategy grow the page, but it also helps us get great candidates placed in amazing positions.

Chuck Reynolds

Social Media Tactics to Increase ROI

        5 Social Media Tactics to Increase ROI

Social can be one of the most challenging platforms for brands to measure return on investment. Companies that grew up on traditional advertising and metrics often have trouble making sense of the value of the online ecosystem. But with 52% of U.S. consumers using the web as their primary purchase tool, it’s an area brands can’t afford to ignore.


Last week the commenting and social curation platform Livefyre hosted an evening chat with a handful of influential analysts, marketers and publishers, sharing thoughts on need-to-know ROI growth tools. It’s a formula Forrester Senior Analyst Kim Celestre calls “social depth,” a fancy phrase for discovering, exploring and engaging with online consumers, eventually leading those conversations back to brands’ websites.

Here’s the social depth formula broken down into five, easy tips.

1. Engage

User-generated content, blog posts, videos, tweets and chatter are all over the web. Harnessing the power of brand advocates, addressing customer concerns and fixing problems empowers participation. It’s easier to put out a fire than it is to ignore it.

People want to interact and create relationships with brands online. Catering to those fans via product giveaways, social interaction and real replies separate the companies that get it from the ones still in the dark.

“The consumer is boss, so we have to match that,” explains Andrew Backs, P&G’s manager for global business development. “Look for solutions to unlock the consumer voice.”

2. Be Authentic

You can’t fake it online, says Sid Shuman, who runs social media for Sony Playstation. “They can smell that a mile away.”

The same die-hard brand advocates championing your product will be the first to call out shady behavior or content that doesn’t reflect brand culture. When in doubt, ask your community for help when it comes to content. Shuman suggests crowdsourcing content for in-house interview and articles. Because they live and breathe the brand, fans “come up with better questions that we could any day,” he says.

3. Keep Content Premium

Hitting “publish” is social suicide if the material isn’t quality. Take advantage of WordPress, Tumblr and social media to craft strong messages. Know the rules and follow them: Every network requires a specific approach and language (tweets are written differently than Facebook posts).

Stick to a calendar for posting, and focus on making followers feel part of the brand’s family. Using platforms solely as selling tools quickly alienates customers. Hire professionals—and fight the urge to turn sites into content farms or automate feeds.

Peter Yared, CBS Interactive’s CTO/CIO suggests using your sites to curate and amplify positive content about your company. “Find the interesting content that’s being posted and use it to bring value to your audience.”

4. Integrate Real-Time Apps

Incorporate social into every aspect of what you do, says Jordan Kretchmer, Livefyre’s founder and chief executive. Kretchmer’s company reports 88% of businesses using Twitter feeds, comments, ratings and reviews on homepages increases user engagement. Forty-two percent boosted their average time on site.

It may sound painfully simple, but adding these tools are the equivalent of a restaurant showing off a top health code letter grade. It empowers consumers to interact and share content. Plus, constant updating improves search engine visibility much more than static pages.

5. Experiment

Nothing risked is nothing gained, especially when it comes to social. Fail and see what works. Test tone, style and new monetizing tools, such as native advertising, which serves sponsored content, tweets and Facebook stories. eMarketer reports 73% of U.S publishers now offer some form of native advertising. But be careful: This hot topic still often fails to hook users, as do most click-bait attempts.

Chuck Reynolds


Ways to Invite Your Followers Into Your Content Marketing

5 Ways to Invite Your Followers Into Your Content Marketing


Is Marketing challenging to you?

Content marketing is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for both business and consumer brands today. As brands look to expand their reach online and engage audiences beyond ‘interruptive’ advertising, they’re increasingly looking to cultivate shareable content that is informative, entertaining and interesting.

Marketers regularly cite challenges around producing enough engaging content. A lot of the content out there today simply doesn’t move a brand forward. Content should always map back to a broader brand story that is aligned to a brand’s fundamental story.

Social engagement apps are shareable digital experiences that invite consumers (and their friends) into a social relationship with a brand. Done right, engagement apps can also create snackable, sharable content that is perfect for kicking off a content engagement relationship between brand and consumer, as well as for filling out the content calendar to keep the drumbeat going. They provide the mechanisms that encourage consumers to both create content themselves, and share that content among their own network. The value of marketing on social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn is not only the size of the audience, but also the networked graph of connected consumers. So that sharing of content from person-to-person is a critical opportunity to tap ‘earned’ reach.

Here are five ways engagement apps invite consumers to create shareable brand-themed content.

1. Let your fans and followers vote

Voting allows fans to have a say in the brand’s direction, whether it’s helping choose something as light-hearted as a t-shirt design, or as important as a magazine cover photo. With engagement apps, fans can vote for their favorite destination, product, design — or marketing theme — and share their vote. Those voting results, enriched by commentary and insights, can provide content that fuels other branded channels and provides wider audience insights into how the crowd thinks and feels about your brand. Vitamin Water successfully deployed this idea with its social ‘favor creator’ campaign back in 2009. More recently, Outside Magazine tapped social fans to pick the ‘Best Town of the Year’ in 2011, 2012 and again in 2013 — campaigns that also fed valuable content for both the print and online magazine.

2. Give your fans and followers a personalized brand experience

A brand experience tailored to a user’s profile provides fans with something unique that keeps them exploring. Engagement apps can deliver a personalized experience, such as a set of product and service choices, white papers and case studies, or even fashion outfits, and reflect the identity revealed in their profile data. The clothing brand Jones NY is currently leveraging followers’ LinkedIn profiles this fall with their Style Creator campaign, allowing executive women to have outfits suggested based on their professional LinkedIn profile.

3. Ask fans and followers to contribute brand-related content

Contributions from fans don’t just make the community feel like a more essential part of a brand, they also help brand marketers delegate content creation. Social engagement apps can ask fans to submit photos, videos, or other stories on a brand-related theme. That fan-submitted content can then enrich a brand’s own marketing channels. For example, Dressy.com is reporting engagement success by asking fans to submit photos based on themes such as weddings, to their brand website. Virgin Mobile recently created a TV spot entirely from consumer contest videos.

4. Challenge the knowledge of your social audience

Challenge your fans, to get their attention and their engagement. Challenges can take the form of quizzes or polls that test a fan’s knowledge. They can pose questions for which the answers are informative and useful, and themselves become shareable results. Earlier this year, Air New Zealand launched a “Kiwi IQ” quiz that challenged fans’ knowledge of New Zealand sights by asking them to decide whether a photo or fact was about Auckland or about San Francisco. On a similar travel-related note, Visit Norway USA challenged their fans earlier this year to answer questions about Norway facts — a question a day for a month.

5. Help fans and followers uncover profile insights

Fans will be more likely to come back to a brand if they learn something about themselves by interacting with your brand or branded content. With engagement apps, access to a user’s profile can yield valuable personal insights that the user may not have noticed. By logging in with social credentials, a fan or follower might be able to see patterns or relationships in their profile they hadn’t seen before, or might see how they become ‘matched’ to some brand-related identity or product. For example, Microsoft launched a “Nametag Analyzer” powered by LinkedIn’s professional graph that gave followers a new look at their job title, while at the same time was introducing them to Microsoft products.

Success on social means finding a brand voice that resonates with fans and followers. Having audiences contribute content, discuss content, and talk about wider themes that relate to a brand is a way to cultivate a more prominent voice.

Marketing on social shouldn’t involve just talking about a brand’s products and services endlessly. Delivering informative and entertaining content is essential. When social audiences participate in the creation of the content, brands can reach a new level of success and authenticity, unparalleled to what a brand could deliver on its own.

Chuck Reynolds


Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business

Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business

Image via Markus Spiske via Flickr modified by author


One of our favorite quotes, provenance unknown, is “You don’t really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.” But how many of us tried explaining social media to non-users, such as our older relatives, or even the C-suite of our companies, and failed to do justice to all its benefits? The challenge is underestimated since the definition of social media is in the state of constant flux.

Nowadays, no type of social media is completely isolated from others, as major networks adjust their functionalities to offer more services to their users—recent examples of this include Facebook’s announcement of Place Tips, as well as Pinterest’s acquisition of new advertising technologies. To help you distinguish different types of social media, we highlighted the primary capabilities of different online services and illustrated each with examples of major players.

8 Types of Social Media and How Each Can Benefit Your Business

8 types of social media

1. Relationship networks

You can’t talk about types of social media without first mentioning major networks such as Facebook. While personal relationship networks aren’t the oldest type of social media, they can be called the most defining of them all. These channels were one of the first ones to offer public mini-sites, which later became known as profiles, with extensive information about the user, and most often require them to register with their real name. Relationship networks allowed us to keep all our communications in one place, on our Walls, Timelines or private messages, and share updates with our entire networks in one click. They vary from professional relationship networks that help you find work, connect with other professionals in the field, and share recommendations, to romantic relationship networks that help you find single users in your area.

Relationship networks also offer a unique chance for brands to connect to their users on a personal level. These days, it is necessary for most brands to have a Facebook Page or a Twitter account, in order to reach out to their audience online and answer any customer service queries that may arise.

2. Media sharing networks

This type of social network is defined by the primary type of media shared among users. Facebook and Twitter have amazing video and image-sharing capabilities; however, the majority of posts shared on these channels contain text. For channels such as Flickr or Instagram, however, images are the main focus—users have to choose, upload and edit image files before proceeding with anything else, such as captions or mentions of other users. Similarly, with sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, or apps like Vine and Snapchat, A video is the primary mode of communication.

When determining whether or not your business needs to establish a presence on a media sharing network, it’s important to consider your available resources. If there’s one thing the most successful brands on platforms like YouTube or Instagram have in common, it’s a thoroughly planned mission and carefully designed media assets, usually following a certain theme. To increase your business’s chances of success on media sharing networks, consult our extensive library of resources.

  • 8 ways to get more likes and followers on Instagram
  • Which social video platform is right for your business?
  • A guide to social video, and where it fits in your marketing plan
  • Instagram or Tumblr? Choose the right photo-sharing network for your brand
  • How to build the perfect YouTube channel

3. Online reviews

Location-based review services such as Yelp and Urbanspoon are getting more traction as personal social networks adopt geolocation, and more users choose to consult the Internet along with their friends for recommendations of best dining spots. There are sites to review anything from hotels, restaurant or your latest employer—and user reviews have more weight than ever before. Sites like Airbnb and Uber, the biggest service providers in the emerging sharing economy, rely largely on host and driver reviews, respectively, to determine who benefits from the service.

It’s vital for your brand to have the ability to leverage user reviews, whether positive or negative, to maintain client relationships. The Internet is a huge collective knowledge base, and more and more consumers choose to consult the public opinion online to determine whether the brand is worth their business. In order to do this in a cost-effective way, select a customer success team member to address reviews on sites relevant to your business. Entrust them with answering any questions or concerns from clients with average or dissatisfactory experiences, and see if there is anything that can be done on your end to turn a possible detractor into a fan. For more on this topic, read our blog posts on how to respond to negative reviews and online reputation management.

4. Discussion forums

Discussion forums is one of the oldest types of social media. Before we connected to our first university friends on The Facebook, we discussed pop culture, current affairs, and asked for help on forums. Perhaps it’s that unquenchable desire to get a share of collective knowledge that accounts for the wide reach and numerous users on forums such as Reddit. “The front page of the Internet,” as well as other forums like Quora and Digg, seldom require the person’s real name to register and post, allowing for complete anonymity, if desired.

However, while anonymity may be an attractive feature for some users, we don’t recommend that brands adopt it. This defeats the purpose of being present on such a network; your best bet at promoting your business on a forum is by sharing content relevant to a discussion, and participating in as many discussions as possible. Be very careful to avoid explicit self-promotion—if you can, leave a promotion of your brand to your brand ambassadors. Both moderators and users on networks such as Reddit are sensitive to advertising disguised as a post, and this can seriously damage the perception of your brand. The best strategy is to offer expertise in your field by joining an existing discussion and linking to an article hosted on your official blog or a how-to video tutorial, for example. You can also go the General Electric route and share cool moments from behind the scenes of your workday, as they did in this cool video.

5. Social publishing platforms

Social publishing platforms consist of blogs and microblogs, where long and short-form written content can be shared with other users. These platforms range from real-time interaction networks such as Twitter—which, while still officially placed in the category of microblogging platforms, is not normally included in the blogging category by most users—to Medium and Tumblr, which are battling it out for the title of the best interactive social publishing; to more traditional blogging platforms, such as WordPress and Blogger.

While the benefits of Twitter for business are too obvious to recount, a blogging platform is a different story. If your promotion strategy includes content marketing (and if it doesn’t, you might want to consider it), your business can gain visibility by keeping a blog. Not only does a blog help increase awareness of your business and generate more engaging content for your social channels such as Facebook, it can also help carve out a niche for your brand as a thought leader in your industry. If you find the idea of starting a blog as scary as scaling a mountain, here are some steps to help you get to the top:

  • How to start a blog
  • How to promote your blog on social media
  • Content marketing idea: customer success stories
  • Let your customers tell the story with user-generated content

6. Bookmarking sites

In the early days of the Internet (think “Hosting your own site on Geocities” era), content discovery online was a difficult task. Nowadays, there is a plethora of interesting, useful and enlightening content online, and sifting through all of it on your own is simply impossible. Of course, search engines like Google come in very handy when you know what to look for, but when you only have a vague idea of a content you’d like to read or watch, their bookmarking sites. These are web services like StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and Flipboard, where users collect content from elsewhere on the Internet and save it to their account on the platform. This content can be private or public, and shared with other users. Often, these bookmarking sites will then suggest content similar to the links or images you have already saved on the network.

First and foremost, businesses can benefit from making their website bookmark-friendly. This entails optimizing the headlines and images on your blog or website for RSS feeds, making them easier to access and read for your audience. Your brand might also benefit from ensuring the articles or videos can be pinned with Pinterest’s browser extension. Finally, pay close attention to the images featured on your site or blog—these are the window displays of Pins, so you want them to be good representations of your content.

Secondly, bookmarking sites are great tools for content curation. You can create your own Pinterest board or Flipboard magazine to sort through the most engaging content on your topic of choosing from third-party sources, and showcase content from your own blogs. If your brand uses Hootsuite, you can then add content to your RSS feeds or bookmarking sites such as Pinterest or Flipboard right in your dashboard! Dive into some of our resources if you’re not sure where to start with your Pinterest or Flipboard strategy.

7. Interest-based networks

One of the most wonderful opportunities presented by social media is the ability to find people with common interests, no matter how niche these hobbies may first appear to be. In addition to Facebook and LinkedIn Groups and Google+ communities, there are whole networks dedicated to an exploration of interest—such as Last.fm for musicians and music lovers, and Goodreads for authors and avid readers.

Keeping an account on one of these interest-based networks may not be a wise use of your brand’s resources—you don’t want to end up with a neglected social media account. However, it’s another story if your customers and social audience all share a common interest, and you know this simply due to the nature of your business. Such is the case for publishing houses, for example, and their book-loving clients. A hobby or interest-based network is a good place to keep up with current trends among fans of a particular industry or its products.

8. E-commerce

Last but not least, a big trend emerging across all types of social media is the ability to view and purchase desired goods with a click of a button. Sites such as Polyvore aggregate products from different retailers in a single online marketplace and services like Etsy allow small businesses and individual crafters to sell their products without an existing brick-and-mortar location. Over the past year, e-commerce elements have been adopted by many networks whose primary functionalities place them in different categories, such as Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.

Many consumers, especially Millennials, are researching and making their purchases online. If the size of your brand allows is, an online store, or, at the very least, an online catalog is essential to attract Generation Y clients. E-commerce sites and sites with e-commerce capabilities, such as Pinterest, can be a good solution for brands who aren’t currently hosting an online store as part of their website. If your business doesn’t have an e-commerce partnership with a major distributor like Amazon, you may soon be able to incorporate Buy buttons into social networks like Twitter.

Chuck Reynolds


Top 10 Tools for Reputation Marketing

  Top 10 Tools for Reputation Marketing



Increased use of social media and online marketing techniques gives companies a chance to engage with their customers, and brands are quickly catching on to the practice of reputation marketing. The potential downside is that this kind of interaction means customers are also free to publish reviews, complaints and comments that may negatively affect your brand.

This is where reputation marketing comes into play. Last year at Pubcon search conference, I ran into Shai Aharony from Reboot Online that summed it up well when he said “reputation marketing tools allow you to analyze, track, monitor and engage online activity, giving you the power to directly respond to customer complaints and turn potentially damaging feedback into a positive experience.”

In order to best manage your brand’s online reputation and make customer engagement a part of your marketing strategy, your team needs to have the very best tools at your disposal.

I’ve identified the top 10 tools for reputation marketing that I’ve used in the past so you can see a real impact as you invest more in your brand’s reputation:

1. ConsumerAffairs

With over 5,000 listed brands and more than a million consumer reviews, Consumer Affairs offers brands some of the most diverse and advanced features to build a strong online reputation and generate increased revenue. The consumer advocacy group’s website offers free and unpaid business plans and their third-party accreditation program coupled with a powerful software as a service (SaaS) platform offers brands a variety of resources to convert customer engagement into additional revenue.

2. BazaarVoice 

Best for larger companies with deeper budgets, BazaarVoice was created to extend the online marketing potential of customers’ voices to shopping portals, offline channels and natural search. Customers are able to leave reviews, ratings, questions, answers and other customer-generated content on client websites, which BazaarVoice then shares on social media and across the internet.

3. Better Business Bureau

Founded in 1912, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is the elder statesman of consumer reviews. The non-profit group serves as an intermediary to help resolve disputes between customers and brands, and with reviews for over 4 million companies, the BBB website is one of the most popular and trusted consumer resources available. Ideal for entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to personally interact with their customers, the BBB offers a variety of networking opportunities at a convenient price.

4. Yotpo

Yotpo is a powerful plug-and-play solution for ecommerce with a sleek, mobile-first design. Customers who make purchases on sites using Yotpo receive an email after their purchase asking them to review the product(s) they received. This Mail After Purchase (MAP) technique leads to more reviews, and since the requests go directly to the consumer, all of the reviews are automatically verified.

5. Cision

Unlike the previous tools that focus primarily on consumer reviews and feedback, Cision is a powerful public relations resource that gives brands the tools they need to get their message out. With more than 1.6 million contacts and outlets, Cision provides the perfect opportunity to connect your brand with crucial journalists, bloggers and social influencers who might otherwise be inaccessible.

6. Percolate

Managing all of your brand’s marketing efforts in one place is easy with software from Percolate, whether it’s planning campaigns, storing files, collaborating or content creation. The planner takes into account all your details, such as your target audience, brand identity guidelines and business objectives. Percolate provides a cross channel marketing calendar that helps you plan accordingly and is designed to make it easy to share content with consumers across social media, the Web and other traditional methods.

7. Reputation Loop

Designed to empower small business owners and allow them to expand their businesses, Reputation Loop is similar to Yotpo in that it works primarily by automatically contacting recent customers for reviews. But additional features like real-time reporting and review monitoring on sites like Yelp and Google+ provide valuable tools for brand managers.

8. TinyTorch

A social platform that helps brands build their online profile through social influencers and user-generated content (UGC), TinyTorch allows brands identify, monitor and manage their online presence. This platform helps find your best, most influential customers and cultivates their stories and photos to redistribute across multiple marketing channels.

9. HootSuite

HootSuite is a social media management platform that allows brands to monitor and sync all of their social media accounts in one simple interface. With support for popular networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more, HootSuite makes it easy to share content across multiple accounts and schedule posts in advance for blanketed marketing. From a reputation management standpoint, brands can use HootSuite to monitor customer feedback posted to their social media accounts and share positive reviews and comments across multiple social media networks simultaneously.

10. TrustPilot

Like other third-party review websites, TrustPilot allows users to leave reviews for businesses on its website, while offering both free and paid listings for brands. More than 100,000 companies are listed and more than 13 million reviews are currently available — with more than 500,000 added each month. With its simple, easily navigated site and a basic assortment of analytics and engagement tools, TrustPilot is a good pick for businesses seeking simpler options.

Chuck Reynolds


Security Issues With Social Networking Sites

Security Issues With Social Networking Sites

Social Networking Security Issues

Social media is possibly the most vital sector of the Internet, but, being open and social creates legitimate concerns about privacy and safety. Headlines warning of online security breaches is just one reminder of the vulnerability of all websites, including social media outlets.

Six Common Security Problems

Despite these justifiable security concerns about the Web, some of the reasons a person's social media account is compromised are self-induced. Five common mistakes that can expose an account include:

1. Forgetting to Log Out

Increase the security of your social media account by always logging out when you step away from your laptop or computer. It's best to go one step further and close down the browser you were using to view your account. If you leave your account logged in, you set yourself up to be hacked because anyone who can get to your computer can access your account, change the password or even post items and communicate with your friends as if they are you. Logging out and shutting down the browser is even more important if you use a public computer.

2. Clicking on Enticing Ads

Viruses and malware often find their way onto your computer through those annoying, but sometimes enticing ads. However, on the Web, just like in real life, if an offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Save yourself a potential security headache – don't click.

3. Connecting With Strangers

Be careful of who you accept invitations from when building your online network. Connecting and sharing information with people you don't know can be dangerous. If you receive friend requests from strangers, it's best to stay away.

Further, if you receive friend requests from people you do know, but are already connected with via the same site, it's possible that someone has set up a fake account. Avoid accepting duplicate requests, instead of checking in with the 'real' person to see if the request is legitimate.

You should also be careful when connecting with a celebrity's account, as scammers sometimes pose as famous people. Make sure it is their official, legitimate account and not a stranger pretending to be them before you accept their 'friend' invitation.

4. Using Third Party Apps

Part of the appeal of social media sites are all the various games and apps. Even though a significant number of them are safe, you do grant the app a certain level of permission concerning your information. Make sure you know what the app is viewing and sharing before agreeing to the terms.

5. Exposing Too Much Information

Make sure you understand the level of privacy – or lack of privacy – you are agreeing to when volunteering personal information. Do you really want an app badly enough to allow it to announce where you are?

Also, participating in seemingly innocent games, like posting answers to a list of 20 questions, may actual also allow cyber-criminals gather important personal information. For example, the question, "What is your most embarrassing moment?" is probably fine to answer, but answering questions like, "What is your pet's name?" or "Where did you and your significant other meet?" may expose answers you gave to security questions for legitimate sites like Amazon or your bank.

6. Failing to Utilize Security Settings

Social media sites provide you with the ability to restrict who has access to your information. For example, Facebook (like others) lets you decide who your friends are and what content they can view. One practice to increase your account's security is to disable most of the options and then re-open them once you understand what the settings specifically mean to your account.

In reality, you probably want different types of content to be displayed to different people, with the most being available to known friends and the least to acquaintances.

Three Major Security Events

Each year, it seems, another significant security breach is announced. Major companies like CNN and Burger King have had social media accounts hacked. Most of these breaches mean passwords have been swiped and sometimes even banking and credit card information is compromised. Each of the major social networking sites dealt with one or more security breachs. Three well-known breaches are:

1. Heartbleed Bug

Possibly the most invasive security problem the Internet has faced and experts advise people to simply presume they have been affected by the bug. This is because it's not just an issue of your phone or computer being infected, the bug impacted software that powers many of the services you use. Compromised by the bug was OpenSSL — the most widely used open source cryptographic programming module — and TLS (transport layer security) implementation, the component used to encrypt traffic on the Web.

2. Zendesk, Facebook, and More

Although no passwords were obtained when Zendesk, a customer service provider for Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter, was hacked, the breach did impact thousands of users emails. The Zendesk hack came just months after the November 2013 security breach where hackers stole usernames and passwords for nearly 2 million accounts at Facebook, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter and 93,000 other websites. The breach occurred when malware installed on user computers lifted log-in credentials for thousands of sites for more than a month.

3. Syrian Electronic Army

In early 2014, the Syrian Electronic Army briefly took over at least two of Skype's social media accounts: Twitter and Facebook. The group has also successfully hacked the New York Times and hijacked the Associated Press' Twitter account releasing a tweet stating the White House had been attacked which briefly impacted the stock market.

These social media attacks were in addition to online security breaches that affected major store chains like Target.

What to Do if Your Account Is Hacked

Regardless whether your account is compromised because the social networking site was hacked or just your individual account was infected, you need to take several steps to resolve the issue.

Clean Your Device
The aforementioned hack that compromised Facebook and Google was caused by malware on users machines. In cases like this, use well-known quality malware removal software to scan your machine. The software will contain and/or destroy known and suspicious files. You may even consider reformatting your computer.

Once your machine is clean, the best way to prevent it from becoming infected again is to keep your antivirus software and browsers current. Set them to automatically install updates.

Change Your Passwords

Once an account has been compromised, it is best to presume all your passwords are compromised. Some security experts advise using a different, strong password for each site.

Get a Password Manager

Since security is dependent on multiple strong passwords, it can become difficult to remember them all — although there are tricks to make it possible. Consider using a password manager to reduce your vulnerability. You can use the program's password generator to create strong, hard-to-break passwords and you only need to remember one password to access the manager.

Report It

Make sure you report the situation to the social network site. This is especially true if you have been locked out of your account. If this happens, you may have to prove to the social networking site the account belongs to you, but be persistent and follow through. If you don't, someone could potentially post information as if they are you – which, at the very least, can damage your online reputation.

If a crime has been committed, such as banking information stolen, also report the incident to local authorities and appropriate federal law enforcement agencies.

Use Two-Step Verification

If the social media site offers a two-step verification process, use it. The added layer of security makes it much harder for a would-be hacker to access your account. The extra log-in steps will save you time and headaches in the long run.

Staying Safe on Social Media Sites

Each social media site offers tips on how to use their service and still maintain a high level of security. Read their policies, follow their security guidelines and adopt their best practices.

  • Facebook: There is a comprehensive help page on Facebook where you can find details on protecting your account against hacking and other security threats. Check it frequently to make sure your practices and settings are up to date. CNET also offers practical advice such as being sure to block your ex and carefully manage who has viewing access.
  • Foursquare: For a better understanding of who can see information associated with your Foursquare account, visit the Help Center. This page explains methods for creating security settings for every account scenario. Ensure your check-ins are safe and secure by utilizing these five tips from CIO.
  • Instagram: If you have an Instagram account, read their official page for ways to keep your account safe.
  • LinkedIn: Visit LinkedIn's Help Center for a wide range of account security articles. A few of the topics covered on the page include methods for protecting your privacy, your identity, and your account. They also offer tips for dealing with phishing, spam, and malware. If your LinkedIn account is associated with a business, How Not to Have Your Account Hacked provides ways to keep passwords safe even if several people have access to the account.
  • Pinterest: To keep your Pinterest account secure, you will need to access two main sections on the site: privacy settings and account security. If your account has been hacked or placed in a Safe mode by Pinterest, you will use the account security section to resolve the issue. However, most likely you will only need to use  the privacy settings section. This is where you control what others can view and the degree of personalization desired. Scams are one issue the site has dealt with in the past.
  • Tumblr: If you use Tumblr, one of the best ways to improve security is to utilize the recently implemented two-factor authentication. For all your settings, though, access the site's security settings page. Here you can learn how to revoke third-party application permissions as well as how to remove spam from your blog. For increased security, according to Entrepreneur magazine, you may want to refrain from using free themes.
  • Twitter: Visit Twitter's Help Center to learn best practices for your Tweets or if you want to know how to connect with or revoke third-party applications. Also, visit this page to discover methods for controlling account settings so you can get the level of security you want.
  • YouTube/Google+: If you have a YouTube and/or Google+ account, bookmark Google's Keeping Your Account Secure page. This page is a great source to learn about their two-step verification process, malware and virus issues, general information about your account settings and best practices for protecting your privacy and identity.

One situation people sometimes overlook is what to do if they want to close a social media account. Should the account be deactivated or deleted? According to the Center for Internet Security, you need to take several steps before for your account is deleted from the social media site.

It's All Public Information

Although technically you can post both public and private information on many of the social media sites, due to the onslaught of security breaches in recent years, it is in your best interest to presume anything you post is available for public consumption. Reduce privacy and security risks by only posting information that you would be okay with everyone knowing.

Chuck Reynolds

Social Networking Website Creation

Create Your Own Social Networking Website

Social Networking

The popularity of social media and social networking sites continues to grow. Pew Research reports that 90 percent of online users, ages 18-29, use one or more of the social media outlets. With such a large user base, many businesses and individuals are seeing a benefit in creating their own social network site.

Before You Start a Social Network

Two compelling reasons why a business may want to set up its own social networking site – as opposed to simply being a member on one of the existing sites like Facebook – is the amount of control a business has over the content and the ability to grow a niche site.

1. Define Your Focus

Before creating a social networking site, write a concise paragraph of what your social networking site will accomplish. By creating a strategy of what your site is designed to do, you will simplify the second step, deciding what social networking features to include.

2. Features

To accomplish your site's goal, what tools do you need? Is video chatting important? Or is it more important to allow users to post their blogs. Don't presume that launching a site with all available features simplifies the process. If you follow that approach, the site may become a chaotic mess that frustrates users. Instead, focus on a handful of features and give users a positive experience.

3. Hosting

If you have a website, your current hosting service may be able to handle your social networking site. However, before purchasing a package or downloading free open source social networking software; make sure your hosting provider can handle the technical requirements – especially bandwidth and storage – of your selected platform.

4. Must-Haves

Once user-specific features are listed, to grow your site, it must have these three items. Although these items apply for website building in general, they are more important with a social networking site since you are trying to engage users in social activities to keep them on your site longer.

  1. Scalability: The site must be able to expand easily and quickly so it can accommodate a growing audience.
  2. Security: Possibly nothing else will drive users away faster than a site that is hacked or has ongoing security issues.
  3. Customer Service: Unless you have an IT department that can handle any and all technical issues, you will want to partner with a hosting company that can handle any potential issue associated with your site.

Options for Setting Up Your Site

Plenty of options exists for creating a self-contained social network. The three options provided here were chosen to show the basic types of platforms that exist. Each one is a quality system inside its respective category.




SocialGo is a popular and effective web-based social network system. This cloud-hosted platform is a perfect fit for individuals or companies not wanting to dabble in the behind-the-scenes coding required for self-hosted solutions. Since the platform is designed to get clients up and running in a short amount of time, setting up your own social network site is simple. It is a matter of clicking a few buttons and adding components through an intuitive and straightforward drag and drop system. Packages for starter sites start at around $10 a month.

Tips for setting up a SocialGo site include:

  • Purchase a domain name. Using a custom domain creates a more professional feel for the site. It can also make marketing, maintenance and upkeep easier since your site will be a standalone product.
  • Generate an income from content. If you have the potential for premium content, SocialGo offers features that let you charge a user for content. As the site owner, you can select any content of value and generate an income stream from articles and other content.
  • Take advantage of the site's tutorials. SocialGo has an extensive library of how-to articles that will help you become an expert. If your business is large enough, select an individual to become the SocialGo expert for your organization.

To create a more WordPress-like social networking site, BuddyPress is a solid option. This free platform seems to be very popular with WordPress users and, since it incorporates the social network functionality through plug-ins, most WordPress users should feel comfortable with the platform. BuddyPress is powerful and offers plenty of customization possibilities through its plug-ins and modules. It can be a relatively easy launch especially if you already have a WordPress site.

Just like with the other two sites, read the site's documentation, especially its Getting Started guide. Also:

  • Installation instructions. One of the best places to start is with their detailed, step-by-step approach to installing the program and setting up your site. They also have a nice beginner's page with bulleted points for easy skimming.
  • A quick list of plug-ins. Save yourself some time by looking over these ten popular plug-ins and see if any of them should be included on your site. These popular modules include everything from letting users embed videos to easy ways for visitors to share links and articles.

Attracting Users

After choosing, installing and customizing your social network site, the next step is attracting users. This can be accomplished by using one of more of the following options.

  • Email newsletters. If you already have a user base, create an email to promote the most interesting features of your site – or to offer how-to tips for your social network.
  • Useful information. Whether it is a website, a social media account or your own social network, one of the keys to growing an audience is useful, usable information. People need a reason to interact, so give them one when they are on your site. This can be done through an article, a tip, a meme or even a contest.
  • Publicize elsewhere. As a business, you most likely have multiple checkpoints where people engage with your brand. Use those same areas to build awareness of your new social networking site.
  • Honest engagement. One common tactic for building website or blog traffic is to join the conversation on another site that is related to your site. When you engage in meaningful conversations on sites in your industry by posting legitimately useful comments or information, users are more likely to develop a connection with you or your business.

Learn From Others

While using a self-hosted or cloud-hosted social network does give you some control over what happens on your site, it is not foolproof. Just like with public social media sites you can expect to deal with negative issues such as customer or employee complaints and comments. When you set up your site, make sure you are ready to put in the time commitment to monitor comments, answer questions and do whatever it takes to create a positive user experience. This will keep users engaged and coming back.

Chuck Reynolds