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Data, data everywhere, but demographics remain extremely elusive

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But don’t social networks track everything?

It’s not secret that social media users generate a great deal of data. Big data. Take a tweet, for example. Each time one 140-character message is sent out, dozens of pieces of metadata are connected with it.

Even with so much data being generated and collected, it’s still difficult to find reliable and complete demographic information for even the biggest social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

There are a few common reasons for this:

  • Privacy. Consistently a topic of conversation among Facebook users, privacy often prevents researchers from learning a great deal about demographics. Unless your profile is open to the public, it’s unlikely you can be found and analyzed, so to speak. When you like a company’s page or otherwise give them permission to access your data, this changes, but it’s unlikely you have given this permission to every brand or company who may wish to target you.
  • Incomplete self-reporting. When data is accessible, it’s often incomplete. Think about your own social profiles. Have you filled out every single piece of information you can? Is it all accurate and up-to-date? Maybe you’ve moved but have yet to change your current location on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you choose to leave it blank, or maybe you choose something generic like “USA” or “Illinois.”
  • Inconsistent, unconnected data. If I were on Twitter and Facebook, it would likely be helpful for companies to know this about me and be able to form a more complete picture of me. However, unless I use the same name on both accounts or otherwise connect them, it may be hard to compare the two accounts. It’s common for folks to use one social network for business and another for pleasure, and they may want to keep these worlds separate. This makes it tricky for those of us trying to understand who they are.

Don’t let me convince you that demographic research is useless online. There is still plenty of information and value to be gleaned from the data that is available.

Resources and techniques for demographic studies

I wanted to share my favorite resources and techniques with you, but the biggest thing you can do is to get creative. Think about your own social network usage and what information you share. Consider what your own profiles might tell marketers, and then seek out the same information from your consumers.

  • Facebook Insights. This is a no-brainer. While it will only give you the bare basics (age, gender and reported location), it gives you information for anyone who likes your page. Of course, you have to remember that this will only include information consumers have volunteered in their profiles (thus some are “unknown” gender), but it will usually give you a pretty good look at who connects with you.
  • Facebook Ad Builder. While the tool was built to help brand pages create ads to grow their fan base, there’s another way these tools can be used. You can learn more about your fans by using the ad-building tool to segment your audience. You can slice and dice your fans by age, location, gender and interest. Using the interest search you can either look at broad categories of interests like sports or cooking, or at specific interests like the Chicago Bears or French cuisine. It takes some time and manual guess work, but it’s easy to learn a great deal more about what who your Facebook fans are based on what else they’re interested in.
  • Twitter Analytics. Twitter’s analytics tool is not as robust or familiar as Facebook’s, but it still provides basic information about followers: age, gender, location and broad interests. Using filters, you can drill down into segments to learn more about them. For example, if you select all women, the remaining metrics will adjust to reflect only your female followers, so you can understand if the women who follow you are of a different age or have different interests than the men.
  • Manual Searches. While tools like Facebook Insights can give you hard numbers on who connects to your page, qualitative research can tell you who is mostly likely to interact on your page. Read through the last month of posts, note the folks who comment or like the most, and then look at their profiles to see who they are and to see if you can’t guess which demographics may interact with you more. Similarly, watching who tends to retweet your content or reply to you on Twitter can help you build a better understanding of which followers are more likely to interact and how to encourage the rest of your followers to speak up. Also, consider really re-reading through Facebook posts and tweets to see if your fans aren’t volunteering more information through their words. Do they mention their kids a lot? Do they talk about sports more frequently? Try to find patterns in what they talk about and what gets them most excited.
  • Paid Tools and Research. When you need a more detailed or full picture of your fans, consider using paid services like Nielsen or other survey methods to dig into what makes your fans tick and who they really are. There is a great deal of information you can find for free, but sometimes paid services will help you find some extra nuggets that you would miss otherwise.

There are more ways to dive into demographics, but this is a good place to start. The myth that social networks track everything and know everything about users is not exactly false, it just isn’t readily available to marketers, so get creative in how you reach your target demographic!

Rebecca is a passionate UNC graduate, and a biochemist-turned-communications professional, she spends her days as a senior social media analyst at Digitas in Chicago, specialized social media monitoring and measurement best practices. She is continually excited to explore additional facets of digital measurement like traditional Web analytics, search metrics and integrated data models.

Business Marketing

7 Low-budget marketing ideas for small businesses [sponsored]

(MARKETING) Marketing ideas are often expensive or ultra time consuming, but let’s talk about some proven tactics that won’t break the bank.

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low budget marketing ideas

The following marketing ideas are provided to you buy Threadsy:

No matter the size of your business, marketing matters! It’s important for small and big businesses alike to attract new customers, establish brand awareness, and to create buzz around products and services. But we know that not every business owner has tons of funds to devote to their marketing strategy. The good news? There are some highly effective marketing tactics that are also budget-friendly!

Here are seven low-budget marketing strategies for small business owners and side hustlers to grow their reach:

1. Sponsor Local Events

One of the best ways to get to know potential customers? Actually meet and talk to them! When you sponsor local events, you can be on-site to help people put a face with your business’s name. Sponsoring events is also a fantastic way to offer branded merchandise that can help you get your name and your logo out there.

Besides branded materials like signs, banners, or fliers, think about offering some fun items like wine bags to give away to attendees. Goody bags also make fantastic take-home options for local events. A branded canvas tote can be repurposed as an environmentally-friendly grocery bag, lunch bag for work, or a carry-all accessory for conventions and tradeshows. Print your logo on the outside and fill your goody bags with customized items like water bottles, notebooks, pens, and towels.

2. Let Your Colors Fly

Make some cool t-shirts featuring your logo! Wear them to the sponsored events mentioned above, out in the community, or anywhere you may encounter potential customers and can strike up a conversation. You can also offer t-shirts at a discount in-store or online, and turn your loyal customers into advertisers.

Quick tip: Purchase wholesale shirts to reduce manufacturing costs.

3. Social Media

If you’re not already leveraging social media to promote your business, it’s time to start! Think your customers aren’t using social networks? While certain demographics use various platforms more than others, according to fundera, 74% of consumers rely on social media to guide purchasing decisions. Plus, 96% of small businesses say they use social media in their marketing strategy.

So use your social media channels to level the playing field. To maximize your time and effort, determine where your audience members spend their time. Which platforms are they using? If you have a dedicated social media strategist on staff, they can perform audience research to tailor your approach to your existing and potential customers. If you’re running your own social strategy, spend some time digging into the demographics to determine which platforms make the most sense for your brand. From there, you’ll need to decide on the types of content you want to post, how to interact with your customers online, and create a social media calendar to plan your strategy.

4. Host a Giveaway

Once you’ve got your social media strategy up and running, why not host an online giveaway/sweepstakes to build some buzz, boost engagement, and attract followers? Pick a social media platform where you already engage with your customers. You’ll want to offer an item as the prize. This can be anything from a free product, a discount on an expensive product or service, or inexpensive swag like hats to help you promote your brand.

Once you’ve chosen the prize(s), decide on the terms for your giveaway. For example, an Instagram sweepstakes might look like this:

  • Create posts about the giveaway and explain the rules (multiple stories and 1 or 2 posts depending on the length of the contest)
  • These posts should specify the terms, for example:
    – In order to enter, potential winners must follow you
    – Encourage your followers to tag other people who may be interested. Each “tag” gets them another entry into the contest
    – You can also specify that contest applicants must share your post on their own profile
  • Once the contest has ended, pick a winner. Tag them in a post and story announcing what they’ve won and ask them to also share these posts to their own profile

Quick tip: You can also offer smaller or less-expensive items as consolation prizes. People love free swag and it’s an easy way to get your name out there!

5. Referral Discounts

Offering friends and family discounts on your products or services can help you establish loyalty and promote exclusivity. Offer discount codes or create a refer-a-friend program. You can also offer small incentives for customers who share about your brand on social media. Referral discounts are a great marketing strategy whether you use them in-store, online, or both.

6. Create or Update Your Blog

If you already have a website, you can put it to use to help build brand awareness and attract high-funnel customers. Blogging is a low-cost way to generate organic traffic (website visitors via Google or other search engines). If you don’t already have a blog, there are a number of free and inexpensive blog platforms you can use including Wix and WordPress.

You’ll want to write about topics that are related to your product or service and are of interest to your customers. For example, if you offer graphic design, you might want to create content about how to find an effective graphic designer online, or which projects you can do with an online platform like Canva vs. more complex projects where you should hire a professional designer.

Your website and blog are also great places to post “about us” content to offer website visitors an opportunity to learn more about you, your business, and your mission and values.

7. Update Your Google My Business Profile

Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool that allows you to share important information about your business like your address, hours of operation, and contact information. When your listing is optimized with this information, it’s displayed in Google Search and will also appear in Google Maps, which can help you attract local customers.

To get started, you need to create a GMB profile and verify your business information. This is a relatively simple but important step to ensure customers are able to find your business or service online. Make sure to keep your listing updated if you change any information like your website URL, address, or hours.

The takeaway:

When creating your marketing strategy, remember to stay true to your brand. Not every tactic will be the most effective for every business. Choose the tactics that make sense for your brand or product offering. Another way to prioritize is to consider the perceived impact and effort of each marketing strategy. Use the strategies that require the lowest effort but will potentially drive the highest return.

Once you have those in place, decide which of the other strategies make sense for your customers and your business goals. Also, make sure to keep track of all of your marketing expenditures and the sales from these tactics so you can assess which ones were successful and which ones you may need to re-evaluate or alter.

Remember, when it comes to marketing, it’s an ever-evolving system. Trust the process and try to have some fun with your marketing strategy!

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Business Marketing

Yelp listings now show companies’ COVID-19 policies

(BUSINESS) Yelp has updated their settings to allow business owners to make their COVID-19 policies public, so consumers are aware in advance.

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yelp covid policies

Yelp recently added tools to help businesses share their COVID-19 restrictions and policies with consumers, focusing for now on vaccinations. This is the latest in a series of attempts to combat misinformation and illegitimate reviews plaguing the platform.

Yelp has rolled out two new attributes for businesses to add to their profiles last week.

One option, a tag that reads “Proof of vaccination required,” communicates clearly the need to carry one’s vaccination card (or, presumably, wear a face covering) to gain entry. The other – ”Staff fully vaccinated” – speaks for itself.

These attributes stand to increase customer awareness of the circumstances facing them before visiting a business, thereby cutting down on frustrations – at least in theory.

The general public’s dearth in understanding regarding social distancing protocols and business restrictions certainly wasn’t helped by the fact that different states had different responses to COVID-19 – and that’s not even taking into account the microcosmic changes cities found themselves making.

For example, while the state of New York may not require proof of vaccinations to enter restaurants, New York City certainly does.

Rumors are that San Francisco may be implementing similar legislation, positing that other cities may very well go in the same direction.

To compound on this lack of uniform response, small businesses are finding themselves having to make their own policies as the cities around them ease up on restrictions. It isn’t out of the norm for a restaurant staffed by at-risk employees to ask customers to wear masks, so as Delta surges in places with low vaccination rates, it isn’t terribly surprising that those same establishments would ask to see proof of vaccination.

Yelp looks to make this process as transparent as possible with their profile attributes, but they’re aware that there was a general uptick in frustrated customers leaving poor reviews for restaurants that required masking or other social distancing actions.

“Yelp says the practice [of review bombing] has gotten worse in recent months,” reports TechCrunch.

In response, Yelp will be employing both automated and human moderation measures to ensure that businesses aren’t unfairly targeted for their protocols. This is actually something the company did after adding the “Black-owned” attribute (and subsequent identity attributes) last summer as well.

If you’re interested in adding either of the new attributes to your business profile, you can find them on the “Yelp for Business” page.

As the pandemic continues to develop, we may see additional COVID-19 attributes from Yelp.

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Business Marketing

Society has changed – no one wants help in a store anymore

(CUSTOMER SERVICE) Times are changing in the retail environment: a once customer-service driven experience is evolving into a minimalistic customer service approach.

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retail store help

Once upon a time, good retail management meant good customer service skills – asking customers if they needed assistance, helping them decide what looked best on them, and politely stalking customers to insure a sale was completed.

As technology evolves and become more prevalent and pervasive in our lives, these skills are no longer needed or wanted. A new study suggest that shoppers want to be left alone while browsing in stores, rather than be stalked, questioned, and coaxed into buying items they may not explicitly want due to persistent pressure from sales associates.

An HRC survey found that a whopping 95% of shoppers would prefer to be left completely alone while navigating the retail environment, rather than shopping under a constant barrage of questions: “Can I help you find anything?” “How are you today?” “What brought you in?” and the seemingly endless stream of inquiries, not to mention the sales pressure from those employees working on commission, can simply be too much for consumers looking to relax, browse in peace, or simply get in and out of a store quickly.

While the greater majority of shoppers may prefer to be left alone, this should not come as too much of a surprise, considering how much technology has supplemented the shopping experience. With enhanced apps and self-checkout lines it’s not hard to understand why most shoppers prefer to browse solo.

Smartphones have given us the ability to check prices, order goods, and check stock all without interacting with another human.

For many shoppers, this is an efficient way to save both time and money while shopping. For other shoppers, like myself, smartphones offer another way to shop without triggering my anxiety. Asking for help, or a price is nearly impossible – I’d rather go without an item than have to ask someone for help.

Sounds ridiculous? Believe me, it feels ridiculous too, but nevertheless, having alternative ways to shop without interacting, is a blessing for many people, for a variety of reasons.

What does this mean for stores? It’s time to take another look at your apps and/or mobile presence (and in-store wifi availability). Since customers are shying away from human interaction, is your app allowing people to scan for prices? Can your customers check stock and order things online to be picked up in store? Can customers use your app to enhance their shopping experience in-store? If not, you may lose customers to stores that offer these enhanced apps.

Times are changing.

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