Have you ever walked around the historic cemetery in your town? It may sound morbid but quite often these old cemeteries are full of big old trees. They have established landscaping and they often (unless they are ancient and neglected cemeteries) have groundskeepers or volunteers who keep things looking nice. We have a great old Masonic cemetery in our town and it’s on a hillside, so it’s a popular place for people who want to get in an active hike or run, or just find a quiet corner to sit and contemplate.

The people who are buried in this cemetery are our town’s founding families. They were churchgoers and they were Masons. Nearly to a person, based on the history that is known, these were successful, well-off families who were involved in local government, business and education. Why were they successful? In part it’s because they kept their business partners close. If a home needed plumbing and a plumber was a Mason, that plumber got the business. If a congregation member was a doctor, that doctor pulled the teeth and attended the childbirth. In return, that doctor or plumber’s business stayed in the group as well.

Whenever you join a group, be it Masons, a church congregation, your city’s Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or any other philanthropic or educational organization, there’s a certain amount of networking that goes on. For the most part, these groups exist to look after the community and each other. Why not put that power of the group to work for your business?

Industry-specific trade groups perform a similar function, although for most small business a local group will provide the most benefit. Take care not to overdue the networking. We’ve written an article about good networking…I think I’ll write an article abut bad networking as well! Bad networking would be passing out a business card to every person in the room every time you show up to a meeting. Never remembering someone’s name. Focusing too much on the free food and drink at the meeting. Just as examples.

Avoid bad networking and put the power of the group to work for your business. If you’re a carpet cleaner, there’s a chance you might get the next deal. If you operate a food cart, there’s a chance you could set up shop in front of your fellow member’s business.

Chances are that you toss that junk mail you get every day without even looking at it. But think again. Depending on your service, the very businesses that are direct mailing you could become a new opportunity. The fact that they’re advertising shows that they’re eager to get new customers. How can you help?

Here are some suggestions:

  • That spa that opened up down the street might want your juice cart to park in front it it for a few hours a week.
  • Perhaps the spa would like to advertise that they partner with a local health coach for consulting.
  • Perhaps the new spa needs a contract for carpet cleaning or floor polishing each month.
  • Perhaps you and the owner can collaborate on the next piece of advertising where you offer a double discount deal for the customers who sign up for both of your services.

Think about what you buy. You are both a business owner and a customer when you support other businesses. Do those other businesses know what you do and that you are a customer?

Ask yourself how you might use the opportunity to build a new relationship with another local business the next time you need to buy something, whether it’s stationary or a cup of coffee. I’m not talking about giving them your elevator pitch, but open a new door through some sort of partnership or collaboration. Perhaps you can offer a trade of your services or products for theirs. This type of deal keeps money in your pocket, allows you to meet new people, and is an opportunity for the new client to tell more people about your services.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Just yesterday, Facebook announced that they had greatly enhanced a useful feature on Facebook Live. You can now share your screen on Facebook Live without the third-party software that was previously required.

There’s now a button for sharing your computer screen when broadcasting on Facebook Live. The option now appears on the right-hand side under “FaceTime Camera” with a button marked “Share Screen.” Below you can see the location of the “Share Screen” button and the “Add Extension” prompt.

Before this update, Facebook Live users could screen share, but it required third-party software by Open Broadcaster Software to use. Facebook’s new solution is less complicated than the previous method.

Using the screen sharing feature requires installing a Facebook Screen Sharing browser extension in the Chrome browser. Click the “Share Screen” option for a prompt to install the extension to Chrome. You can choose to share your entire screen, a tap, or an application.

Why do we think this is exciting? We regularly use Facebook Live videos in our various promotional and educational efforts. If you’re not in Build Your Dream Business’s Facebook group, you’re missing out on live videos from the founder discussing such useful topics as lead generation, and breaking down the principals of marketing and using those principals in ways that are specific to you.

Join our group here: https://www.facebook.com/builddreambusiness

You’ll also see some great suggestions for how you can use this new built-in screen-sharing function on Facebook Live in your own business!

We may think we know when the best time to post on Facebook is. But have you actually checked it out? The data doesn’t lie! Here’s how to tell when’s the best time to post on Facebook.

Open up the admin of the Facebook page you want to check out. Then click on the Insights tab. Then click on Posts. There’s a report called “When Your Fans Are Online” that visually shows an average of how many people are on your page and when. Using the days of the week numbers at the top, you can also see how these numbers vary on specific days of the week. In our case, Thursday showed the highest numbers. Tuesday showed the lowest numbers. Tuesday was a 230-person difference from the highest.

Here’s the data for how many people are on the page at 6am, Pacific time. More than 91,000. That’s 9am Eastern time. I always take into account that Facebook visitors are not all in the same time zone as I am.

Compare that to the data for how many people are on the page at 9am (noon Eastern time). There’s almost an 18,000-person difference!

When you open Facebook, it’s algorithm springs into action. It scans and collects everything posted by each of your friends, and activities in your groups. It remembers all of the things you’ve liked. No one outside of Facebook knows the actual formula for what it displays to its users. It takes some combination of what it believes to be the order of importance you’ll prefer based on your past actions. Out of what could potentially be thousands of posts, the average user may only see the top hundred or so.

If Facebook shows something and it doesn’t get reactions, it’s not likely to show it again. That’s why the more likes or comments a post has, the more likely it is for others to see that particular post. To maximize your exposure, post at the optimum time for your group of fans.

We checked out the Insights for the pages we manage and they all followed this general shape of the curve shown in these screenshots. They also showed a bump in views at the 6pm hour.

If you post earlier in the day and get a lot of activity on your 9am post, it’s more likely that the 6pm crowd will see that post. If you use another social media platform like Instagram or Twitter, try to get some data on those platforms and coordinate, so each of your posts is getting the max exposure.

RankBrain is a method Google introduced in late 2015 to use artificial intelligence to understand more about the queries it receives. There are many ways to interpret some pretty basic search queries. For instance, consider the search term “custom stationary.” If the user enters in “custom stationary” in the Google search bar, are they searching for a brand of custom stationary, a place nearby to purchase custom stationary, how to create their own custom stationary, a place to print custom stationary? Are they looking for a photo? Or news?

RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to analyze search queries, particularly ones it has never seen before or doesn’t understand. The program guesses what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filters the result accordingly. RankBrain is now using more than 200 different ranking factors which make up the ranking algorithm. Of course, Google does not disclose exactly what those are. RankBrain is now such a big part of Google’s search that figuring out how it works is important, even if you can never be sure. I’ve seen lots of sites online saying that “RankBrain is now confirmed to be the third most important factor in the ranking algorithm,” even though I can’t find the original Google announcement confirming this.

What is RankBrain and How Does it Affect Websites?

Back to the “custom stationary” search…what RankBrain is trying to do is provide content that it thinks users want. That’s what you should do too. The key seems to be that RankBrain is not taking search keywords literally. If it “thinks” a user is searching for a brand of custom stationary, it is going to provide those results over a place to buy custom stationary.

In the past, SEO advice has been to create content based on one keyword, or maybe two, per page. And create many pages to add on all of your possible keywords. That’s why blogging was, and generally is, so successful. But the fact that RankBrain is now no longer taking keywords literally means that your exact search phrase you have on your website may be less important than the overall content and the rest of the technical issues on the page: images and their attributes, page load time, backlinks, etc.

What’s the take-away about RankBrain?

Create pages and content that are focused on one main keyword phrase and the phrases related to that keyword. For instance, you may be a stationary store that designes custom stationary. So you may decide to create several blog posts that cover ALL of those possible interpretations of custom stationary. RankBrain will (hopefully) interpret this as meaning that your site is the authority on all things custom stationary. Yes, it might be a lot of work. but RankBrain is not going to go away and will, no doubt, become more intelligent all the time. RankBrain and Google is focused on the relevance to the end user, and you should be too.

Our blog post last week looked at social media research from 2016 showing the most popular social networks around the world. Not surprisingly, Facebook was number 1. Now that we got our question answered about WHAT social media people are using, we started to think about HOW people are using it so we would know when is the best time to post on social media.

You hear advice all the time about how important it is to post. If you have created a Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram or Twitter account, use it. It doesn’t do you any good to have an account that is dead when people go to look at it.

The flipside of that is that you don’t want to be posting when no one is looking. It is important to post, yes, and if you’re already doing all you can and you’re posting at midnight on a Saturday, pat yourself on the back and let it go. When you’re ready to take the next step, you’ll want to try and optimize when the most people will see your post.

We went to an authority on social media, the posting scheduling and management platform Hootsuite, who compiled the results of a bunch of studies talking about exactly when is the best time to post on social media. Here’s what we found out.

Timing is everything.

Think about your target audience. If your demographic is working professionals, think about the fact that they are at meetings and at their desk during typical office hours. Yes, they scroll through Facebook during their lunch breaks, but a good time to reach them is in the evenings, when they’re home sitting on the couch. That’s true for a lot of the working professions. We are at our desks pretty typically Monday through Friday, but that’s not when a lot of people are on social media. If they’re just logging on at 8pm, they’re less likely to see the post you made at 8am. And if it’s for a free smoothie if they bring a friend by your juice cart, it won’t matter to them. Post that free smoothie deal in the evening, AND in the morning the next day.

You have 5 hours minutes for your Facebook post to take effect.

A Facebook post achieves 75 percent of its reach within five hours of being posted.

You have 3 hours for your tweet to have the same effect.

This research shows that a tweet achieves 75 percent of its reach in less than three hours. According to Hootsuite’s own data, the best time to post on Twitter is at 3pm Monday through Friday. This is when the highest amount of clicks and retweets occur on Twitter.

The best time, says Hootsuite, to post on Facebook is between noon and 3pm Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On the weekends, the best time is Saturday and Sunday between noon and 1pm. This is a natural downtime when a lot of people are taking breaks and eating lunch, so that makes sense.

It may take a little bit of trial and error to figure out what your audience’s best time to be on social media is, but really put some thought into your target demographic and how they spend their day. This means you should have a really clear idea of what, and who, your target demographic is. (Hmmm…this sounds like a good idea for a future blog post!)

For instance, if you’re targeting stay-at-home moms, your best time is probably 11am to 1pm, during prime baby and toddler nap time. If you’re targeting hungry people searching for dinner deals, perhaps you want to post between 5 and 7pm.

Test some different posting schedules and see if you get a higher level of response. It also doesn’t hurt to ask your customers what the best time is to reach them. In general, Hootsuite says they see lower engagement on the weekends. But even then, noon and 1pm seems to be a magic time for spikes in clicks.

What about Instagram?

Instagram no longer posts pictures in chronological order. The posts with the most likes and comments will always appear higher up in a user’s feed. To optimize your use of Instagram, again, really get to know your target demographic and how they spend their day. Many people scroll through their feeds during their lunch hour. But, if you want to get the most likes before your lunch hour crew starts scrolling, you might want to post earlier in the morning.

Are you trying to reach an audience that spans several time zones?

Or a global audience? Rethink your strategy. There’s a huge difference between posting at 11am to reach someone on the East Coast when you’re in the Pacific time zone. At 11am in Oregon, it’s already 2pm in New York, and you’ve missed a good window for your morning and lunch audience. Hootsuite suggests creating a Twitter handle for each region you’re trying to reach. You can set the time zone for each region and still manage them all from the same platform. If you’re trying to announce a flash sale, and you want people to search on your site during their lunch break, timing it for their time zones is crucial.

It’s the beginning of the year and we started to wonder about what the social media research in 2016 turned up. We know that Facebook is still king of the heap. Social media hasn’t changed THAT much, unlike the year between 2009 and 2010 when we watched in real time how MySpace crumpled as Facebook took over.

We wanted to know if any social media research in 2016 showed us significant changes in user demographics. Here’s what we found.

The top 5 social networks haven’t changed.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook rules the roost. The leading social media outlets worldwide as of April 2016 with their number of users (in millions) are:

  1. Facebook (1,590)
  2. Tumblr (555)
  3. Instagram (400)
  4. Twitter (320)
  5. Snapchat (200)

Looking at this image shows other social media applications that I didn’t consider in this top 5 list, because, like Facebook’s closest competitor, WhatsApp, they’re not really “networks.” WhatsApp is owned by Facebook and is a messenging service.

All the way down there at 200 million users is Pinterest. This is the right place for a lot of businesses to be so don’t be discouraged just because it seems like there are a lot of networks in front of it. Read on and you’ll see why most of these aren’t really “networks.”

social media research in 2016

Tubmlr recently began allowing ads on its blogs. It’s as of now an untapped resource for advertising, but users can opt out of the ads. And in an environment like this where users have for years not had ads, the sudden onslaught of monetization could be a turn off.

1.6 billion active users on Facebook. It’s a mind-boggling number. If you can figure out the strategy to reach a lot of people on Facebook, you’ll be doing pretty good. That’s a secret we all want to know.

QQ is a messenging service used in China. Q Zone is also Chinese and is like Facebook in that it lets people share photos, write diaries, watch videos and listen to music.

WeChat is a free messenging and calling service. Baidu Tieba is also Chinese, kind of like the Chinese Google, and Viber is an instant messenging and VoIP service.

Sina Weibo is a microblogging platform that is like the Chinese Twitter. LINE is a calls and messenging service, and yy is a Chinese video network, like YouTube. BBM and Telegram are both messenger services.

So, if your target market is China, you have a lot more opportunities. So far, it looks like United States users are going to be sticking with Facebook for a while.

It’s mid-summer as I write these words, but it’s not too early for search engine optimization for the holiday season. In fact, not only is it not too early, it’s the perfect time to plan ahead for holiday SEO! Search engines take time to index the changes on a site, particularly if it is not updated regularly. Start now to get your changes noticed in time for your site to rank well for a future event.

List your keywords

Develop a list of holiday- or event-related keywords and put them into action on your site. It’s best if each page on your site has just one focus keyword. If you feel it’s too early to be promoting Christmas, tell your customers what’s “coming soon” in the form of holiday gift guides, for instance.

Add fresh landing pages

Create and optimize a new page on your site for the future event you know you are going to be promoting. For instance, holiday shopping or a conference you’re speaking at. Fill that page with products appropriate for holiday gifts or information about the upcoming event. Include an appropriate key term, such as “local holiday gifts,” “Christmas sale” or “Business consulting conference” in the page title and text.

Optimize your landing pages for keywords that relate to shopping and gift giving such as Cyber Monday, Black Friday, Free Shipping, Free Delivery or Top Technology Gifts. Use your city name as well.

Plan to keep working at it.

Keep in mind that SEO is a task that is never 100% complete. Search engines rank sites higher when they are updated regularly, because they prioritize sites with new information. Consider making ongoing changes to plan ahead for holiday SEO or other future events that are on your marketing calendar on a regular basis and not just once a year at holiday time. SEO works best if it gets periodic attention over time. One good approach is to analyze where you on in your search results before you start making changes, then track the results over time.

A 45-day rule in web publishing indicates that if you plan ahead for holiday SEO 45 days in advance of an event you want to promote, the search engines will have noticed that change on your site.