This is the S.M.A.R.T. Online Marketing Blog, a place for small business owners to keep  up on the latest trends without having to scour the Internet or get bombarded with a million marketing messages. We’ll keep it simple, so you can easily get ideas for your social media campaigns, find out about new social media tools and stay in touch with Deb & Jamie. Leave us a reply, we promise to reply back!

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Social Media and the Law

Social media is such a new phenomena that the laws are not always clear when it comes to social media and your business. As a business owner, how can you be sure to avoid the pitfalls and save yourself from a potential lawsuit or worse?

The talking heads behind S.M.A.R.T. Online Marketing, Deb and Jamie, recently attended the monthly meeting of Social Media Club South Florida (SMCSF) for a panel discussion on “Social Media and the Law.”

Here are the top 5 ways a company can get in trouble when it comes to social media:

1. No Social Media Policy

Not having a social media policy is one of the quickest ways a company can get itself in trouble. One example is when it comes to hiring practices. More and more employers are now using Facebook as a screening method, a point recently brought up in a Mashable article, 7 Reasons Why Recruiters Like Facebook More Than LinkedIn.  However, Equal Employment Opportunity laws prohibit employers from asking certain personal questions of potential employees, such as their race and religion, that are often found in their online profiles. One way around this is to hire a third-party service that will do the screening for you. They will only tell you about things you need to know before hiring an employee and leave out the parts that do not or should not alter your hiring decision. Having a policy in place for how to handle these situations can save you from major issues later.

2. Untrained Employees

Now that you have social media policies in place, you need to make sure that your employees understand them. Training is important because it communicates internal policies to employees about monitoring their social activity. Employers need to know that they cannot discipline employees for talking about negative working conditions online as long as they’re not lying. The best policy for the employee is not to pick a fight with the company – the bigger entity will probably win.

3. Not Knowing Your Passwords

This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many times only one person in a company keeps the log in information. If you fire or get into a fight with that employee, not only will you not have access to your social media profiles, but the person can also make defamatory posts, which you will then not be able to take down.

 4. No Terms Of Service

Terms of Service (TOS) are rules that companies post regarding their services. The TOS can cover issues such as a company’s marketing policies, acceptable user behavior online and copyright notices. Intellectual property usually remains with the author or creator unless something happens to change that. Work for hire agreements are important when it comes to understanding who owns any created product, design or code. For example, if any employee takes photos for your company, chances are the company owns them. If those photos are then posted on Facebook, you are giving Facebook permission to use that photo, per their TOS. Even if you delete the photo, chance are Facebook still has it.

5. Not Having a Crisis Plan 

If you live in South Florida, you likely have a hurricane plan in place to avert disaster. But what happens if things go wrong in the digital world? Have an emergency committee to address social media disasters before they happen. Know the point at which you need to engage the law in extreme cases. If someone writes something negative about you, don’t ignore it. Address the issues or dilute the bad speech with more speech. Use disclaimers to protect yourself, such as “This statement was made by somebody else.”

The main things to keep in mind when it comes to social media are: In some situations you can be slow to respond, while others should spur fast action; Don’t make assumptions about the Internet; Staying positive builds stronger brand capital.

We’d like to give special thanks to Social Media Club South Florida for putting on this event, FIU for hosting the event and the three legal professionals who were on the panel. Since they started out the evening with a legal disclaimer (how could they not?) we won’t reveal their names here. But, we will say that this is definitely not legal advice. Like anything you read online, it simply offers insight about things to consider when it comes to social media and your business.

Have you ever had a legal issue involving social media? How did you handle it?




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First Impressions of Facebook’s New Timeline Profile Rollout

The Timeline home page is clean and easy on the eyes

Like many who follow the latest in Social Media, I was eager to see the “Big Reveal” from f8 yesterday. And while I had no idea what to expect, it only took a few minutes of demonstration to appreciate the functionality of what the next generation of the Facebook Profile will be in one word: Timeline.

This new way of serving up your personal information serves as a kind of scrapbook that documents your online life and gives you the ability to share the different elements of it with only those you choose. It displays photos, videos, things you’ve shared and your status updates, some of which are very to interesting to review and re-live a years after you posted them. You can also “star” those that you deem the most important so that they will always display prominently.

These are my initial thoughts after setting up a beta version of my own Timeline profile:

  • The overall look of the Timeline Profile layout displays a lot of information, but in a surprisingly clean layout. It will still take a bit of getting used to, but there’s lots of white space so the eye has an easy time to find the content it’s interested in.
  • The Status Bar now sorts and labels your information in even more detail by utilizing 5 icons in the right corner: Work/Education, Family/Relationships, Living, Health/Wellness and Milestones/Experiences.
  • As promised in the demo, I was able to easily connect my Spotify account to my Timeline to share my media experience. And for anyone not interested in seeing what I might listen to, there’s a handy drop down that appears on the NewsFeed where you can edit at the individual, type of information or app level. Most impressive is that the sharing is real time, almost down to the second.
  • I really like being able to easily access information I posted previously, which used to be very difficult. In fact that was one of my favorite things about Google+, and now Facebook has really leapfrogged what it looks like and does.
  • Timeline looks and functions amazingly on a tablet, which is probably why Facebook never released an IPAD app.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to date an old photo to go into the “Way Back” portion of your Timeline, right now it just defaults to whenever you uploaded it. But in Mark Zuckerberg’s preview, he had his baby picture tagged at “Birth”. I’m assuming that function will eventually be available for all of us, not just the CEO.

One behavior that should change dramatically is that users will now spend a lot more time looking at their own profiles, rather than just monitoring their news feeds. And with the elegant Timeline layout, it’s no wonder.

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Foursquare Makes Discovering Brands Easier


Foursquare has launched a new web page to showcase top brands on its network in an effort to make it easier for users to find and follow them.

You may not know it, but there are hundreds of brands using Foursquare (1,323 brands to be exact), but most people don’t follow them, mostly because they aren’t easy to discover. Foursquare is trying to address that issue with Pages Gallery.

Pages Gallery, as the name suggests, is a gallery filled with the different company Pages on Foursquare. Through it, you can follow everyone from MTV to Zagat (or even Mashable) to get tips and other content.

The feature also includes a simple tool for searching through pages and browsing by popularity, whether they’re trending or whether they’re new. Pages Gallery also suggests pages that are popular with your friends.

Lots of brands are hopping onto Foursquare in a big way, but the additional exposure should help boost brands’ follower counts, which could be vital to Foursquare as it tries to monetize its millions of users. While it still desperately needs a way to discover brands within its mobile applications, Pages Gallery is a good start.


More About: brands, foursquare, Pages Gallery

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Top 5 Facebook Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make


This post originally appeared on the American Express OPEN Forum, where Mashable regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in small business.

While Facebook marketing is on the rise among small businesses, many are still struggling to master the basics.

“Many people have difficulty with just the basic Page set up,” says social media marketing consultant Nicole Krug. “For example, I still see people setting up their business as a profile page instead of a business Page. I have other clients who jumped into Groups when they came out and have divided their fan base.”

Here are five more common Facebook marketing mistakes to avoid:

1. Broadcasting


Ask any social marketing consultant what the number-one no-no is on Facebook, and he’ll likely tell you it’s “broadcasting” your messages instead of providing fans with relevant content and engaging on an continual basis.

“With Facebook, marketers of any size can do effective, word-of-mouth marketing at scale for the very first time. But Facebook is all about authenticity, so if your company is not being authentic or engaging with customers in a way that feels genuine, the community will see right through it,” says Facebook spokeswoman Annie Ta.

Peter Shankman, social media consultant, entrepreneur and author of “Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World,” agrees.

“Your job is to interact, not just to broadcast,” says Shankman. “Fans are looking for a reason to connect with you, and they’re showing you that by clicking ‘Like.’ Your job is to give them a reason to stay.”

According to Andy Smith, co-author of “The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change,” many businesses immediately ask how Facebook is going to make them money and have that be the focus, as opposed to trying to engage customers and provide a meaningful, authentic online experience. “Marketers need to recognize that people go to Facebook to make a connection or feel like part of a community,” says Smith.

2. Not Investing Adequate Time


Another common mistake is underestimating the amount of time a successful Facebook strategy entails. Many social media consultants report seeing a pervasive “set it and forget it” mentality among small businesses.

“Some small business owners are under the impression that if they set up a Page on Facebook, that’s all they have to do. They think people will just naturally come and want to be a fan of their product or service,” says Taylor Pratt of Raven Internet Marketing Tools. “But it takes much more of a commitment than that.”

It’s not just fan growth that will suffer from this approach — it may also hurt your relationships with existing fans, particularly customers who have come to expect timely responses to their posts and queries.

“Unlike traditional advertising methods such as a radio spot or a Yellow Pages listing, you can’t just create a Facebook Page and just let it run its course,” says Alex Levine, a social media strategist at Paco Communications. “Creating a Facebook Page is the first of many steps, but the Page needs to be updated and monitored constantly.”

3. Being Boring or Predictable


When they’re thinking about marketing, some business owners forget that Facebook is a social place where people share things they find funny, interesting or useful with their friends. Think about what kind of content your fans would actually want to share when planning your posts.

Shankman also cautions against becoming too predictable. “Status updates by themselves get boring. But then again, so do photos, videos and multimedia as a whole. Your job is to mix it up. The moment you become predictable, boring or annoying, they’ll hide you from their feed. So keep it varied and personal — a video here, a photo here, a tag of one of your fans here.”

Creating too much “filler” content by auto-publishing content from your blog or Twitter feed can also derail your efforts. Joseph Manna, community manager at Infusionsoft, recommends using Facebook’s native publishing tools to gain the most benefit from Facebook.

“Whatever you do, DON’T automate everything,” says Manna. “It’s nice to ‘set and forget,’ but the risk is two-fold: publishing systems sometimes have issues, and Facebook places low-priority on auto-published content.”

4. Failing to Learn About Facebook Mechanics and Tools


Since Facebook is a relatively new medium, some businesses have yet to explore all its functionality and they’re missing out on creating an optimal brand experience.

“Many small businesses do not take advantage of the tools to introduce themselves to the Facebook audience,” says Krug. “For example, the ‘Info’ tab is rarely utilized well, and very few small businesses [create] a custom welcome page.”

Krug also sees frequent mistakes around one of the most basic elements of Facebook presence: the profile image. “Most companies upload a version of their logo, but the resulting thumbnail image that shows up in news feeds often only captures a few letters in the middle of their logo — this partial, meaningless image is then how they’re branded throughout Facebook,” says Krug.

Facebook Insights, Facebook’s built-in analytics system, is also often overlooked, and with it the opportunity to analyze post-performance to see what types of content gets the most engagement.

5. Violating Facebook’s Terms

Not only is it critical to know how Facebook works and what tools are available, it’s also important to know the rules of the road — something that many businesses miss.

“Every day I see organizations endangering the communities they are growing by violating the terms they agreed to when their Facebook presence was created,” says small business marketing consultant Lisa Jenkins.

What are the most common violations? Some build a community on a personal page instead of a proper Facebook Page. Others fail to abide by Facebook’s rules around running contests. And don’t even think about “tagging” people who are in an image without their permission.

“Tagging people to get their attention is not only a violation of Terms but can be reported by those you are tagging as abusive behavior on your part — which brings your violation to Facebook’s attention and opens your Page’s content to review,” warns Jenkins.

To avoid these common mistakes, invest time in learning about the Facebook platform, educate yourself on how to build and sustain an audience, and don’t forget to engage with people like you do in real life.

“What sets small businesses apart from large companies is their ability to make personal connections with customers,” says Ben Nesvig of FuzedMarketing. “They tend to forget this when they join Facebook, yet it’s their biggest strength and asset.”

More Facebook Resources from Mashable:

- 4 Ways to Set Up a Storefront on Facebook
- HOW TO: Add Social Sharing Buttons to Your Website
- The Future of Social Search
- 5 Creative Facebook Places Marketing Campaigns
- Dog: Man’s Best Facebook Friend, Too? [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Everything You Need To Know About Google’s +1


Google’s announcement that it’s adding a “+1” button to incorporate sentiment into its search results raised a lot of questions not addressed in the company’s official announcement.

We spoke with Google rep Jim Prosser about +1. Here are some of our questions answered. What other questions do you have about the new product?

Why is Google doing this?
Aside from the fact that it represents another way to compete with Facebook, Google’s officlal line is that it will make search results more germane. Says Prosser: “People consult their friends and other contacts on decisions. It’s very easy and lightweight way to make search results more relevant.”

Will the number of +1s affect search rankings?
Prosser says no, but adds that it’s something Google is “very interested” in incorporating in some form at some point.

Who are these contacts we’re seeing next to the +1s?
They are from Google Contacts, which come from various Google products, most notably Gmail, Buzz and Reader.

Will we see Facebook friends giving +1s at some point?
Not likely. Prosser draws a distinction between the “open web” and Facebook’s closed system. Google is up for incorporating open social media apps, but not Facebook. And Facebook isn’t likely to be interested in bolstering +1, a competitor to its “Like” button.

What about Twitter?
That’s a different story. Google already incorporates Twitter data into its searches, though Prosser says there are no immediate plans for integrating Twitter results with +1.

What about using data from other social networks?
Prosser says Google is interested in using more data from Flickr and Quora, which Google considers “open web” apps. Initially, though, you won’t see your Flickr or Quora friends’ +1 recommendations.

When will we start seeing the +1s?
Not for a few months, at least not en masse. Those who are interested in experimenting with +1 right away can go to Google.com/experimental. Otherwise, Prosser says only a “very small percentage” of searches and sites will have the +1 button within the next few weeks.

Will +1 be incorporated into banner ads?
Not right away, though Google is interested in that possibility.

Can marketers game the system by running “check +1 to enter” promotions?
It seems that Google frowns on this sort of thing, but it’s unclear whether the company expressly forbids it. Meanwhile, to maintain the integrity of the results, Prosser recommends that marketers don’t tweak their copy to ensure more +1s.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, JLGutierrez

More About: 1, facebook, flickr, Google, quora, twitter

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10 Tips for Posting on Your Brand’s Facebook Page


Ekaterina Walter is a social media strategist at Intel. She is a part of Intel’s Social Media Center of Excellence and is responsible for company-wide social media enablement and corporate social networking strategy.

Once your brand is on Facebook, the question becomes: How you engage those fans and sustain a meaningful online dialogue with your customers. Facebook fans will only want to engage with us if we serve up relevant content and truly participate. We also forget about EdgeRank — Facebook’s News Feed algorithm that helps display “relevant” stories. The News Feed only displays a small subset of stories generated by the friends and brands users engage with the most. The more popular your story, the more likely it is to show up in people’s News Feed. News Feed optimization becomes as important as your content strategy.

Let’s explore ways we can create updates that are optimized for the News Feed and engagement. Below are some dos and don’ts to remember each time you tackle that all-important question, “What should we post to our Facebook Page today?”

1. Don’t Automate Your Status Updates

Don’t automatically feed your blog posts or your Twitter updates into your Page. Often, automated content doesn’t make it into users’ News Feeds. Your fans can also distinguish between “auto” posts and customized ones. For a lot of brand pages, auto posts do not engender engagement.

Don’t share the exact same content across all networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc.) in exactly the same format. We all understand the value of saving time, but respect your customers enough to manually post customized copy. You will get far better engagement and show your fans you care. Some folks who use Facebook don’t really like Twitter and get irritated when they see hashtags or other Twitter-specific content in their Facebook stream.

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Show You’re Human

Thank your fans for their replies and for sharing their opinions with you. From time to time, talk about things other than your products. Wish them happy holidays. Ask them fun questions or to share their personal stories.

If you make a mistake — admit it. Everyone knows you are human, and no one expects you to be perfect. You will actually score points for admitting that instead of trying to hide it.

Don’t be afraid of negative comments or people posting on sensitive topics. You’ll find that most of the time your fans will jump in and defend you or address these comments for you. And that carries much more weight than you trying to chime in. And at the end of the day, this is your opportunity to turn haters into loyalists by providing timely responses and great customer service.

3. Do Post More Photos and Videos

Media like videos and photos always perform well on Facebook. Not only do they seem to be a favorite of the News Feed algorithm, but they just grab people’s attention in a feed full of text updates. A lot of web users choose to watch more than they read.

Facebook also offers you a nice little feature that helps bring more fans to your Page. If you post a video and a non-fan of your Page sees it, a little non-intrusive call to action will pop up in the top-left corner that invites them to Like your Page.

4. Do Put Your Fans in Charge Every Now and Then

facebook image


Not afraid to crowdsource? Your Facebook Page is a perfect place for it. Not only will your fans feel valued and heard, but some of their decisions might help your content strategy in the long run. Let’s face it — sometimes we don’t always make choices that resonate with our customers.

My favorite example of this was Budweiser. They let their fans choose the commercial that would run during the 2010 Super Bowl.

5. Do Target Your Status Updates

options image


If you are a global brand, make good use of targeting. We sometimes forget that not all of our fans want to know about campaigns or contests we are running in a specific region or country. Target your updates by country or language as necessary. In the U.S. you can even target by state and city.

6. Do Ask Questions and Involve Your Fans

Want your fans to express their views on a topic? Ask them. Want your fans to share their favorite content with you? Ask them. Want your fans to share your content? Ask them. You get the point.

If you want your fans to participate more, just ask them every now and then, you will be surprised how many of them respond. Multiple experiments by other brands and yours truly show that the posts where you include a call to action get better than average engagement.

7. Do Watch Your Post Frequency and Timing

Don’t overwhelm your fans with too many posts. I suggest posting once a day to start with and potentially moving to twice a day, especially if you have great news to share. As far as timing goes, many people catch up on their Facebook activity at the end of the day and during weekends. However, this trend varies, and might be different for your target audience. Be patient, watch the response trends on your Page, and identify the frequency and timing that works best for you.

8. Do Have a Unique Voice

feed image


It is important to know your voice. Skittles does a good job maintaining a consistent brand voice on their Facebook Page. It’s entertaining, funny and refreshing.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t experiment and step outside your comfort zone to see what else might work for you. Find a voice and tone that is representative of your brand and yourself.

9. Do Diversify Your Content

Change up your content every now and then. Often, people are not sure what to post on a regular basis. You could try adding how-tos, trivia about your company, breaking news, polls, fill-in-the-blanks, relevant third-party content, multimedia, or even experts to speak about your field or business.

10. Do Track the Performance of Your Posts

Do you know your average number of comments and Likes per post? Watch for trends on your Page and feedback from your consumers on topics/programs/discussions and adjust your content strategy appropriately. Don’t become complacent.

Hopefully these tips will help you gain an edge on EdgeRank, and put your brand on top.

Good luck!

Interested in more Facebook resources? Check out Mashable Explore, a new way to discover information on your favorite Mashable topics.


Image courtesy of Flickr, smemon87

More About: brand, business, edgerank, facebook, facebook page, MARKETING, metrics, Pages, social media

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News For Local Businesses: This Week In Social Media

social media researchWelcome to our weekly edition of what’s hot in social media news. To help you stay up to date with social media, here are some of the news items that caught our attention.

What’s New This Week?

Facebook Deals Go LocalBusinesses can now offer discounts to their local markets through Facebook Deals. And Facebook will be publishing these Deals stories in the Facebook feeds of your customers. This new service puts Facebook into direct competition with Groupon.

facebook dealsLocal Deals start out initially in Dallas, Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco and San Diego. 

Twitter Makes Your Account More Secure: You now have the option of always using a secure HTTPS service when accessing your account through Twitter.com and the official Twitter applications for the iPhone and iPad. “Using HTTPS for your favorite Internet services is particularly important when using them over unsecured WiFi connections.”

twitter httpsUnder the Settings tab of your Twitter account, you can now choose to view all of your tweets through a secured URL. 

Here’s another social media tool worth a look.

Wishpond: A shopping engine to search local stores and find the best deals in town. You can Make a Wish on a product you like, and Wishpond will alert you when the price drops, find similar products that match your desired price and send you personalized deals from nearby stores that will match that price. Wishpond was also recently in the news for their participation in Crowdbeacon.


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Chevy Pizza Crawl Recap

Chevy Tahoe

Chevy Tahoe

It’s hard to say what the best part of the Chevy Pizza Crawl was…driving the cars, eating the pizza or meeting some cool new people.

THE CARS:  Driving the cars was definitely a great experience — the Chevy Cruze is a beautiful model that feels and looks great and the Tahoe Hybrid gets mad gas mileage.  And the Cadillac Escalade?  Big Pimpin’!

THE PIZZA:  First stop — That Pizza Place in Miami, crispy Brooklyn-style pizza in the biggest cut ever seen.  Nino’s II in Boca dazzled with the upside-down sicilian, guaranteeing a no-roof-of-mouth-burn (who knew?)  And we wrapped up the day at Esposito’s in Davie, with their Detroit-style pizza with super-slippery cheese.

Pizza goodness from Esposito's, Chevy Pizza Crawl

Special thanks to Chevy, Craig Agranoff of www.WorstPizza.com and the pizza places that were so gracious to host us in this day of fun and stretchy pants.  Tens of thousands of impressions were made throughout the day as the participants tweeted and posted pictures, reviews and updates, making it a win-win-win.

BY THE NUMBERS: drove 3 cool cars, ate 6 slices of pizza, made 19 new friends and gained 3 pounds!


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Chevy Pizza Crawl 4

When thinking of things to do on a South Florida Saturday, eating the best pizza around, hanging with friends and zooming around in cool cars comes to mind.  So how psyched were we when we were included to participate in the Chevy Pizza Crawl 4?

For those unfamiliar with the event, 16 lucky participants are given the chance to drive four of Chevy’s new vehicle models to different pizza venues around South Florida, where we’ll be eating, tweeting and blogging.  So look out for our updates from the road on Saturday!

We love the Chevy Pizza Crawl not JUST for the free pizza,  but because its a great example of what types of activities you can build for your customers to get them to publicize your business for you.  And look — we’re already spreading the word about this event and the sponsors, and we haven’t even  driven a mile or eaten a slice…yet. Stay tuned for a full review of our experience.

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