Research: Tips/Methods of Self Promotion – Marketing & Networking

As stated within my personal develop plan, I have assigned a variety of other practical consideration for independent photographic practice.

This was initially reinforced through our lectures with Richard Mefta in his discussion of first year of freelance photography work. One of the most significant points related to networking, marketing and self promotion.

Therefore, I started to think about useful tips/methods within these areas and find sources of research that would outline points to keep in mind when starting freelance photography work.

For this, I have highlighted various sites featuring relevant articles for beginning a photography business, the importance of self promotion, significance of marketing and branding, methods of networking and helpful social media tools.

I started with a broader example of tips for starting a photography business. An informative and reflective article from a photographer who discusses aspects in foresight that would’ve been useful to know when starting a photography business.

http://photographyconcentrate.com/26-things-i-wish-id-known-before-starting-my-photography-business-part-1/

I have listed some of most relevant extracts below:

If you’re starting and running your own business, you need to wear a baker’s dozen of hats. You are a photographer/customer service expert/book keeper/marketing director/social media whiz/branding dude/website creation person/secretary/treasurer/CEO/CFO/ and pretty much any other title you can think of.

It takes time to get good at photography. It takes time to get good at marketing. It takes time to get good at customer service. It takes time to get good at business organization. Basically, it takes time to get good at the dozens of things you need to be good at to run a wildly successful photography business.

Photography is a people business. Even if you’re a landscape shooter, your clients are people. And the better you can work with, and take care of, the people you do business with, the more success you’ll see.

I don’t even want to think about how much money we’ve wasted by buying gear that we didn’t really need. It all ended up collecting dust in our closet until we sold it for a serious loss. After a few years of that nonsense, we got wise and started being very, very, very thoughtful about purchasing anything. Our gear might not get many jealous stares from other photographers, but as long as it’s creating the images we want, that’s all that matters.

When it comes to your branding, creating something personal, unique and consistent is super valuable. It helps you stand out from other photographers, and communicates who you are.

But when it comes to ordering branded printed products, be careful. Don’t think that the huge order will save you money, because chances are you won’t ever use it all. This is especially true near the start of your career, when you’ll potentially change your branding a couple times before finding the right fit.

Word of mouth referrals are the most powerful sources of bookings for photographers. People are way more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend than an ad in a magazine. You need to be working hard to get referrals.

It took us a loooong time to realize that, in general, no one cares about what you’re doing. Unless you make them care about it.

And that, quite simply is what marketing is all about. Showing people that what you’re doing is interesting and valuable. You could have the most amazing photography in the world, but unless people know about it, you will not see any success.

So look at this way. Getting your business all set up with a website and name and logo and all that stuff — that’s what gets you to the starting point. Then the real work begins. You need to get out there and tell people about it, and market yourself!

One of the most valuable marketing assets you can create is a newsletter list. These days it’s really ridiculously easy to send out updates with emails, giving you a direct link to your best customers!

We never put enough effort into building a newsletter list for our photography business, and have always regretted it. We just didn’t realize how important it was. A great list can help you get more out of your marketing promotions, book sessions when you’re going out of town, get feedback on how to improve your business, and more.

The next point of reference I found was an article that discussed a list of potential methods to start marketing a business.

Self Promotion is NOT a Dirty Word – 11 Ways to Market Yourself

I have highlighted some of the most relevant extracts below:

  1. Website – Have a website that makes it clear what you do.  Then make sure you are picked up by search engines so that people looking for what you have online can find you (get educated on Search EngingeOptimiation – SEO – which will help you get picked up by search engines).
  2. Video – Posting online videos of you working, or of your product, whatever you’re selling, can be very effective.  People want to buy from people they know – and if they watch you on a video, they feel like they know you.
  3. Social Media – Connect with like-minded people and find your fans through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and a handful of other sites for social networking. (Read this article by Lori McNee:  “Selling art on Facebook:  A success Story.”
  4. Newsletters – Build up a list of friends, family and fans and, with their permission, send out a quarterly or monthly newsletter with news of what you’re working on.  Keep it interesting enough so they read it.
  5. Press Releases – Learn how to send press releases to the media when you have something to announce.  List it online on websites like PRLOG.COM and other press release sites, so that there is a permanent record online.  (Also, Say Yes to all Opportunities with the Media!)
  6. Business Cards – This is the most simple, cost effective method of self-promotion.  Hand your business cards to people you meet, and make sure they know what you do and that you’re available should they need what you have!  Never leave home without them.
  7. Networking – Get out of your office and meet people in the flesh!  Go to trade shows, networking events and charity events.  Some of the best deals we’ve ever made were with people that we’ve met at events.  People like to do business with people they know.
  8. Trade Show Exhibits – This ties in with networking, but gives you an added exposure factor by setting up a booth showing your art or products at relevant trade shows.  Every industry has numerous trade shows that you can attend.
  9. Teach a Class – Give something of value to your local community, show off your knowledge, and gain a few new customers this way.   If you are a webmaster, give a two hour class on SEO or how to set up a website.  If you’re an artist, give art classes.  Share your expertise, and you’ll become known as the expert in your field.
  10. Volunteer at a Networking Event – This is actually quite effective.  If you volunteer to help greet people at an event, you’ll inevitably meet everyone there.  Help clean up after the event, and most likely you’ll be rubbing elbows with the movers and shakers (the leaders are always the ones making events happen – and they’re the ones helping in the clean up).
  11. Join a Meet-Up Group – There are numerous meet-ups or groups that get together on a regular basis on many different topics.  Go to Meetup.com, type in something you’re interested in (i.e.  “social media” or “business” or “writing”) and your zip code, and you’ll find many options.   This will expose you to new things to learn as well as new people that can lead you to opportunities.

The next area of research I considered for this was a reflective article highlighting a variety of tips for self promotion and spreading public awareness of your photography work.

http://www.fastcocreate.com/3027752/the-art-of-self-promotion-6-tips-for-getting-your-work-discovered
I have listed the most relevant extracts below:

YOU’RE ONLY AS GOOD AS YOUR LAST POST, SO SHARE SOMETHING EVERY DAY

When it comes to sharing, Kleon says, “The stakes are pretty low in a lot of cases.” If it’s not your best work, people will forget about it fairly quickly. That’s the ephemeral nature of the Internet. And putting up work that he’s not fully confident in has an upside: It can even serve as an impetus to create more. If you make something new, it pushes the old work off the page. “In some ways, you’re only as good as your last post, and I find that actually kind of heartening,” Kleon says. Even though the flip side is true–even good work is forgotten–it still inspires Kleon to produce more. “Be constantly working and moving. If you’re doing it right online, putting yourself out there should lead to more work.”

TAKE THINGS ONE DAY AT A TIME

Kleon says the daily routine is the only way he’s found to both get work done in the short term and be able to handle it in the long term. “Short term: ‘I have to get something in on Friday, and I have to work this much to get it in.’ The other part is, ‘Oh God, I have 50 years to work, but I’ll just take it one day at a time.’ It’s been the only way I can think about attacking a career in the short term and the long term. There’s a reason Alcoholics Anonymous adopted one day at a time, it’s just the way to get through life.”

SET BOUNDARIES TO AVOID BURNOUT

Kleon quotes John Cleese on the idea of boundaries. The Monty Python star said, “You have to create boundaries of space and then you have to create boundaries of time.” For Kleon this means “Having an actual work space that I go to”–his converted garage.

Kleon continues: “I have to go out the back door, I have to go into my garage, and turn the computer on, the ritual of going back and forth, that really helps. My wife has a line in the book, ‘if you never go to work, you never get to leave work.’ I make sure when I go into the studio, I’m going to work.

In this culture we don’t set enough boundaries. Here we are, we’ve got basically these augmented brains [with the Internet], and they’ve got us working more hours than we ever have. And I think for creative folks, it’s even worse. We’re fed this line, you’re doing what you love, you should do it all the time. I didn’t get into art so I could work all day and never see my family.”

BUILD UP A NETWORK BEFORE YOU HAVE A BIG PROJECT TO AVOID BEING HUMAN SPAM

“I feel particularly sensitive to [self-promotion] as a topic because I fear I am human spam with this book out. I am constantly sending out stuff,” Kleon says.

The way to avoid being “human spam” is that “before you have something to shill, you need to build up a network of goodwill,” Kleon explains. That way, when you’re sending out a Tweet about your latest radio appearance, your followers will think, “When he’s not on book tour, he’s giving me all these interesting things,” so I’ll understand it if he needs to be self-promotional when he has a big product out.

My next point of reference was a site discussing a more specific guide to networking, outline a personal insight into the process of networking and its significance.

The Ultimate Guide to Photography Networking

I have included the most relevant extracts below:

Networking is one of the best things you can do for your business. Period. People do business with people. Networking is a low-cost way to market your photography business, and if you put your heart (and brain) into it, your effort will pay off in spades. Many, many different methods of marketing have been tried, and networking is one of the very best — especially if you are trying to break in to the high-end market. Success won’t happen overnight, though; you have to take the time to build relationships with people.

The most important thing to remember about networking is that you have to make a genuine effort to meet people and get to know them. Simply showing up isn’t enough. Another no-no is shoving your portfolio in someone’s face while the person is enjoying a martini. Have a plan for what you want to accomplish and then take action. You likely will have to walk up to strangers and introduce yourself or ask friends for introductions.

Where to Network

  • MeetUp — search MeetUp.com for industry get-togethers
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local business owner groups
  • Local artist groups
  • Local Professional Photographers of America (PPA) groups
  • Local SmugMug groups
  • Local Pug (Pictage user) groups
  • Event and bridal magazines — get on their lists for invitations to their events

How to Network

Step 1: Prepare

Be sure you have a good supply of business cards and a couple of brochures with you. Figure out some business highlights (such as recent press, an interesting event or shoot you’ve recently photographed, or a conference you attended) that you can share when someone asks you about your company. Pick out clothing that makes a great first impression. Styles vary by region and group, so select something you might wear to a client consultation.

Step 2: Plan

What do you want to accomplish at this event? Set goals for yourself, such as meeting five new people or three planners. If there is an RSVP list available, you should review it prior to the event so you know who will be attending and who you want to greet.

Step 3: Attend an Event

This one is simple but can be difficult for many people. Walk right up to a stranger and introduce yourself when you’re at a networking event. That’s why you’re there in the first place. Don’t waste a great opportunity by standing around. Be confident and friendly; even if you are new to the industry, it doesn’t mean you fell off the turnip truck, as the saying goes. You have insight and experience from other fields, so take advantage of what you already now.

Be careful not to come off as too pushy. Avoid shoving your portfolio in people’s faces. And don’t focus the conversation too much on what you do; be sure to ask people you meet to tell you about their business, and ask intelligent questions. People love to talk about themselves! You never know what you might have in common that could lead to a business relationship.

Step 4: Follow Up

After the event is over, don’t forget to follow up with the new people you met in your industry. You can do nothing and hope to see them again in four months at the next event (and hopefully remember their names). Or you can follow up immediately and put in the time and effort to develop a new relationship. Here are some options for following up with a new contact:

  • Call them the next day to invite them for after-work drinks or lunch.
  • Send them a handwritten note with your brochure, letting them know you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to working with them in the future.
  • Email a note inviting them out to lunch or drinks in the near future.

New photographers should try to network with new event vendors. Unlike seasoned pros, newbies will be more willing to give you time and attention simply because they are in the same boat as you.

Think of other newbies as part of your graduating class. It’s a great opportunity to build relationships with your peers, and three or four years later you will have grown up together in the business. These kinds of people can become your fiercest advocates, your close friends and your colleagues. If you align yourself with industry professionals who are as ambitious and hungry for business as you are, over time those relationships might blossom into incredible partnerships.

Plan for Success

  • Set goals for the event — e.g., “meet two new planners.”
  • Review the RSVP list to make note of who you want to connect with.
  • Consider some talking points (toot your horn).
  • Have a glass of wine if it helps to relax, but don’t overdo it.

Icebreakers

  • Do you know many people here?
  • What’s been your favorite wedding or event you’ve worked on so far?
  • What other events are you attending?
  • How long have you been in the industry?

Ask a planner to keep you in the loop about networking opportunities. Planners get invited to ALL the events and are often willing to pass along invites if you ask. When you are at an event, ask people what other events they are planning to go to during the next few weeks. This is a natural subject to talk about and you likely will learn about upcoming events you might not otherwise hear about.

1. Wear something unique that will help you stand out from the crowd. A friend of mine always wears bright yellow, as that is her signature color (and the color of her logo). She stands out in a sea of black.

2. Expect to invest 6 to 12 months networking before you get to know people and start feeling comfortable. Initially you should attend as many events as you can. Some of them will be great; others will be duds. Eventually you’ll feel like certain groups are more of a match for you, and then you can become more selective about which ones you attend. As I’ve emphasized repeatedly, it will take time to grow these relationships — but you must plant the seeds first.

3. Set a goal to meet three new people who will help you grow your business. Simply walk over and introduce yourself to someone. I always think of myself as “helping out” another shy person, and I’ve made some great connections this way. If there’s an online RSVP list, I’ll review the list prior to the event to see who’s coming and whether there’s anyone who I specifically want to meet. Avoid falling into the trap of hanging out with the same people all the time. We tend to gravitate toward the familiar, but you need to meet new people if you’re going to achieve your goals.

4. Create a follow-up plan after each event. Take notes on who you met and any other details you can remember. The next day, send an email saying you enjoyed meeting them. You also might want to mail them a promo packet if the contact seemed like a good match. Invite them to be friends on Facebook. If you’ve worked together in the past, offer to send them images.

5. After-parties. Often people will go out for drinks or lunch together after the event. This is where the best networking happens, so take advantage of these opportunities. Take it a step further by initiating this yourself.

6. If you have a photography brochure, keep a small stash in your car for when the need arises. I purposely carry a larger-size purse at networking events for holding a few brochures. I don’t hand them out to everyone, but I will if it seems like a good connection.

7. For organized events where there is a speaker or presentation, the best (and often only) networking time is the first 30 minutes, so be sure to be on time to maximize the opportunity.

8. The very best networking is at the exclusive invite-only events. These are smaller and more intimate, and often they’re celebrations or grand openings for a studio or the like. In order to be invited to these, you have to expand your network. Attend as many events as you can and talk with people, and eventually you will start getting invites to the private events.

9. Magazine parties. Magazines often have yearly parties for advertisers or potential advertisers, so be sure to get yourself on these invite lists — be persistent and submit to them often. These annual events are great for building relationships with magazine editors. It can take a couple of times, but eventually they will remember you.

Another reference related to networking is from an article featured on the digital photography school site.

4 Reasons Why Networking Is Critical to Going Pro

I have listed the most relevant extracts below:

Photography for the love of the craft is about creating images you love and inspiring others with your art. Photography as a way to earn a living is about getting clients—which means marketing yourself and your services. Many successful pros will tell you that professional photography is 20% photography and 80% marketing.

If you are thinking about going pro, it’s time to consider how you’ll market yourself. Traditional advertising is great for building general brand recognition, but not so great for making the phone ring. As a professional photographer, you will need dozens or hundreds of new clients each year, not brand recognition by thousands of consumers that aren’t hiring you. So the marketing method you choose is key to your success.

That’s where networking comes in. As an artist, you need contacts and referrals to clients. Networking is all about finding those key contacts and building long-term relationships with people who can give you business.

Networking is one of the best ways to get out there quickly and connect with people interested in business relationships. If you want to succeed, it’s crucial.

1. People do Business with People

You’ve probably heard the saying “people do business with people,” and it couldn’t be more true with photography. Once you step outside the mall portrait studio environment, photography becomes a very personal service. Clients need to connect with the person behind the camera, so it makes sense that successful photographers rely on networking to get personal referrals.

Networking is all about doing business with people. It’s not about a slick marketing message, a great tagline, or even being the most talented photographer in the room. It’s about authentically connecting with people who can become your clients and/or refer clients to you.

The focus is on building great personal relationships with people for the purpose of doing business together. What’s great about networking is you don’t need a fancy website, brochure, or other expensive collateral, so even if you are just getting established, you can start networking immediately. The most important ingredients to great networking are active listening, being genuinely interested in others, and following up.

2. You are your Brand

As a photographer and artist, you are your brand. Your talent is your eyes, in the way you see the world. Your product is not the paper your images are printed on; your product is your vision.

Getting an ad in print might show your work, but it doesn’t show you. When someone recommends you, they aren’t simply recommending the final output; they are recommending you as a person, your passion, your talent, your vision.

It’s the relationship you have with people that will lead them to refer you.

3. It’s the most Cost-Effective Strategy

Unlike many advertising strategies, networking costs very little. Many networking events are free, and others cost a nominal fee to attend, which is great for beginners and starving artists. Check meetup.com, your local chamber of commerce, and industry-related associations for upcoming networking events you can attend.

I’ve wasted thousands on magazine ads and online advertising packages that didn’t make the phone ring a single time. Networking, on the other hand, has been the foundation of my business. Over 70% of my clients come from referrals, which all goes back to networking.

To make networking pay off, you do have to invest time to attend events and follow up with people. If you are hungry for business, time shouldn’t be a problem.

4. Relationships are the Foundation of a Successful Business

Most successful photographers cite referrals as their best source of clients. Relationships are the key to a h3 referral network.

Once you’ve met a potential partner, it doesn’t stop there; it starts there. This is where a lot of people get confused and give up on networking before seeing results. You don’t just go to the event to collect business cards. You go to get to know people and to identify potential partners you might do business with. After the event, follow up and build relationships. By follow up, I mean a phone call, a note card, an invitation to meet for drinks. Get to know each other.

Once you’ve established a great relationship, it can lead to repeat business for you. Business contacts who are fans of your work have the ability to send many clients, particularly if you maintain the relationship.

Another point of reference I found discussed a list of essential and popular social networking sites that could be useful when aiming to self promote and/or share visual work through.

http://webtrends.about.com/od/socialnetworkingreviews/tp/Social-Networking-Sites.htm

1. Facebook

Facebook

Photo © Facebook, Inc.

Not surprisingly, Facebook is the top social network on the web. It’s a thriving beast of a social networking site on the web with its massive userbase, but theories suggest that it’s struggling to maintain the interest of younger users and may be losing them to newer apps and social networks. Despite these troubles, Facebook still remains number one… at least for now.

2. Twitter

Twitter

Photo © Twitter, Inc.

Like Facebook, Twitter has also changed for the better over the years of its existence and continues to expand in popularity. Centered around microblogging and a 140-character text limit, Twitter has become a popular social network of choice for mobile web users who own smartphones and tablet computers.

3. YouTube

YouTube

Photo © YouTube, LLC

Good old YouTube. Nothing quite compares to YouTube when it comes to video sharing. Although owned by Google, YouTube is still recognized as a separate social network all its own, and one that revolves entirely around video production, vlogging, movie-making and music sharing.

4. Instagram

Instagram

Photo © Burbn, Inc.

Instagram has grown to be one of the most popular social networks for photo sharing that the mobile web has ever seen. It used to be exclusively limited to the iOS platform, but has since expanded toAndroid and, Windows Phone also the web.

5. Tumblr

Tumblr

Photo © Tumblr, Inc.

Tumblr is another form of microblogging, but unlike Twitter, it is heavily influenced by image sharing. You can follow other users and be followed back. “Reblogging” and “liking” is a popular way to interact. If you post great content, you might be surprised to see how many followers you can attract.

6. Pinterest

Pinterest

Photo © Pinterest

Pinterest is a young one in the world of social networking, but it’s growing up super fast. As the fastest standalone site ever to reach 10 million monthly unique visits, its beautiful and intuitive pinboard-style platform is definitely turning heads online.

7. Google+

Google+

Photo © Google, Inc.

As it made its debut in the early summer of 2011, Google+ was the fastest growing social network the web has ever seen. It seems as if Google has finally created something that people are actually excited to use – unlike previously failed attempts at jumping on the social media bandwagon with projects like Google Wave and Google Buzz.

8. LinkedIn

LinkedIn

Photo © LinkedIn Corporation

Known as the social network where professionals can connect, LinkedIn is right behind Facebook and Twitter. Individuals can promote themselves and their businesses, make connections with other professionals, interact in group discussions, post job ads or apply for jobs.

9. Reddit

Reddit

Photo © Reddit, Inc.

Reddit has a very strong and closely knit community. If you do nothing but promote your own stuff on Reddit, you probably won’t be making anyone very happy over there. Submitted links to content get voted up or down by users. Links that receive the most upvotes will get pushed to the first page where the potential for viewership is huge.

10. Foursquare

Foursquare

Photo © Foursquare Labs, Inc.

Location-based social networking is hot right now, and Foursquare is where it’s all at. The idea here is to download the mobile app for iPhone or Android and check-in to venues that you visit. It’s a fun way to compete with you friends for points and badges, while also gaining the opportunity to save with some places that incorporate Foursquare deals into their business.

 

11. StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon

Photo © StumbleUpon

StumbleUpon is channel surfing for the web. You simply choose specific categories of interest and press “Stumble!” to load a new page or website for you to view. You can submit your own pages, like other pages, and growing a following.

12. Path

Path

Photo © Path, Inc.

Path is another little social network that as yet to catch on like some of the other big ones, but still has huge potential. As of now, it’s entirely mobile based. Path was designed to connect you to only your closest friends and family members.

The final reference I found was an article highlighting potentially useful social media marketing tools.

24 Must-Have Social Media Marketing Tools

I have highlighted some of the most relevant and potentially useful examples below:

#1: Unlock to Share Plugin

My favorite social marketing tool of all time is the unlock to share plugin. What is it? It’s a simple plugin that “unlocks” additional content when your web visitors share your stuff on FacebookTwitter or Google+.

viral lock code canyon

Make your site go viral by requiring the user to share your link to unlock content.

Why is this so valuable? Well, today everyone has a Like button on their site. But if you want your audience to share your stuff, you need to give them a little incentive! That’s exactly what this plugin does.

In my most recent experiment, I had 452 people land on a page where they hadaccess to royalty-free music they could use in their videos. If you shared the post, I gave you an additional five music tracks. Out of those 452 visitors, 379 shared to unlock those five extra songs!  That’s 84%!

These unlock to share plugins are everywhere. The one I used was found over onCodeCanyon.

#3: Commun.it

I use Commun.it to help build and nurture relationships with supporters, influencers and potential customers on Twitter.

The basic service, which is free, keeps track of your most valuable followers and interactions, rolling up the data into an action-driven dashboard. One glance and you’ll know whom to follow, whom to thank and to whom you need to respond—all of which you can do directly within the tool.

Another big plus: You can quickly spot your most active conversation buddies. Commun.it tallies up the number of exchanges between you and other Tweeters, indicating whether or not you’re following each other.

communit

Commun.it rolls up your data into an action-driven dashboard.

In addition to the dashboard, Commun.it has reporting functionality. I love the way it lists hard-to-find stats in one handy place, including new followers, the handles of who stopped following you, RTs of your content, direct messages and total reach.

Commun.it also records this social activity for your Twitter handle, so you can keep tabs on your own contributions and connections in the Twitterverse.

Shelly Lucas, senior marketing manager and leader of social media at Dun & Bradstreet.

#4: YouTube’s Audience Retention Report

You’ve probably read that YouTube search is now optimized for time watched. Effective YouTube marketing demands that we understand (and create better videos based on) how our videos are watched, at least as much as we “optimize” them for SEO, etc.  Those “gurus” who tell you to buy thousands of 5-second views to bump up your view count … yes, that does the search damage you always knew it would.

This is why audience retention is the new view count.

The new Audience Retention Report in YouTube is, without a doubt, the most important social media marketing tool to come around in a long time.  You can now see what kind of retention you’re getting from your videos and how it compares to everyone else’s.  Want to get to the top of the results?  Study this Audience Retention Report like a hawk and update your video making strategies accordingly.

#5: Cyfe

While there are a number of enterprise-level listening and monitoring tools available to assist brands, a new tool that I’ve been a fan of is Cyfe. It provides visibility into social channel and search metrics that typically only admins of those channels/tools have access to.

all in one business dashboard cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard that helps you monitor and analyze data scattered across all of your online services.

For example, we’re able to set up a visual real-time dashboard forGoToMeeting, which provides brand-specific Facebook Insights data, YouTube AnalyticsTwitter and Twitter Search information, SEOMozGoogle TrendsGoogle Analytics and a number of other social or search data points.

As a social media team, we’re often asked for such information from team members who are curious about the community, channel interactions and other related questions. Cyfe has enabled to us to make that data easily accessible to our team members.

Going one step beyond social and search, Cyfe also enables you to bring in your CRM, email marketing and blog data, with new integrations shipping on a regular basis.

Justin Levystrategic advisor on all social media activities at Citrix Online and editor-in-chief of Workshifting.com.

#6: Cloze

The newest tool that I’m most excited about is Cloze, recommended to me by Jascha Kaykas-Wolff of Mindjet.

Imagine an aggregation and curation system for your social network and that’s what Cloze provides. I’m able to view the activity of people by date in my network and then check them off, respond to them, like them or retweet them directly from the Cloze interface.

cloze

Cloze helps you increase your interaction with those most important to you.

It’s absolutely genius and is already saving me tons of time, increasing my interaction with those most important to me and reducing the clutter and wasted time of having five channels open that I’m constantly trying to stay abreast of. This is the inbox of the future! Cloze is currently in beta.

Douglas Karr, founder and chief blogger at the Marketing Technology Blog, founder of DK New Media (an inbound marketing agency) and author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies.

#7: AgoraPulse

There is no shortage of social media marketing tools these days, that’s for sure. But despite the overwhelming number of tools out there, it’s still very difficult to find the ones that will really deliver while remaining accessible for a small-business budget.

When it comes to managing our Facebook Page, I’ve been very impressed withAgoraPulse. It focuses on Facebook (at least for now), but provides everything your Facebook Page will ever need.

In addition to contest and promotion applications that are a “must-have” for every Facebook Page, AgoraPulse offers unique features that really make a difference, such as:

  • Detailed benchmark with competitors
    agorapulse

    AgoraPulse shows you a detailed benchmark with your competitors.

  • Fan ranking and qualification
    agorapulse

    The fan management feature shows you fan ranking and qualification.

  • Advanced statistics and personalized content recommendations
    agorapulse

    You can also track average users reached by day of week.

They also offer a ton of other great features such as advanced statistics, automated moderation and even admin rights and workflow management. These are the kind of features that used to be only available in expensive enterprise-level solutions. Getting access to such advanced and useful features for a price that every small businesses can afford does make a big difference.

Aaron Kahlow, CEO of Online Marketing Connect and chairman and founder of the Online Marketing Summit and its related educational arm, the Online Marketing Institute.

#10: Reachli

Reachli (formerly known as Pinerly) is the hottest new Pinterest analytics tool. Similar to Facebook and Twitter apps such as Buffer and HootSuite, Reachli allows users to pre-schedule pins and view feedback data such as click-through rates and number of repins. Creating social campaigns on Reachli is easy with its clean and simplified design.

Although the site is optimal for Pinterest analytics, it also allows users to post on any social platform and benefit from similar analyses. Boasting comprehensive capabilities, Reachli is an ideal page-management tool for any brand or community manager.

pinerly analytics

Reachli helps you understand what works and what doesn’t to help you optimize your posts.

Social media analytics are essential in providing users with optimal content, as well as discovering hard data to support social initiatives. Offering real-time analytics and best practices data, Reachli helps you optimize your Pinterest content based on the analysis of click-through rates and repin feedback. This beneficial information can result in more effective scheduling and more engaging content.

For a low cost, brands can also employ Reachli advertising, a service that uses a unique algorithm to match content with its most relevant online audience across the social sphere. As Pinterest grows in popularity, brands will find the capabilities of Reachli to be extremely beneficial in most effectively leveraging the social platform.

Dave Kerpen, cofounder and CEO of Likeable, author of Likeable Social Media and the forthcoming Likeable Business.

#12: Buffer

Buffer is to social media marketers like what a wand is to Harry Potter—it’s one of the coolest and most useful social media tools I’ve ever used.

As you know, in order to benefit from social media platforms like FacebookTwitterand LinkedIn, you have to actively be posting things—an account with no life is not going to be very interesting to those who follow it. With Buffer, you can schedule your tweets and posts ahead of time and create a consistent social media presence on your accounts.

Often, I’ll schedule a week’s worth of tweets, which will automatically drive traffic back to my site or keep my audience engaged throughout the week, without lifting a finger.

Of course, it’s best practice to follow up with those who reply and you may have specific time-sensitive tweets to share in between your scheduled posts, but anything that allows me to be more efficient in my business and ensure that I am posting stuff when I might not have the time otherwise is gold in my opinion.

bufferapp

With Buffer App, you can schedule your tweets and posts ahead of time and create a consistent social media presence on your accounts.

In addition, the team behind Buffer is always friendly, responsive and looking to improve, which speaks highly about the tool and what kind of company created it, and where it’s headed in the future.

Pat Flynn, founder of the Smart Passive Income Blog.

#13: SocialToaster

I’m excited to see some of the advancements in using social media to increase brand advocacy. SocialToaster is making great strides in combining gamification for sharing brand-related content with superfans to drive reach and engagement.

Brands like QuickenLoansJustFab and the Baltimore Ravens are leveraging these tools to connect with fans in an authentic and mutually beneficial way to increase brand loyalty and advocacy. It’s exciting to see social media used in a way that drives and enhances brand passion.

step by step social toaster

You can use SocialToaster to amplify your message.

Nichole Kelly, president of SME Digital, a division of Social Media Explorer and author of How to Measure Social Media: A Step-By-Step Guide to Developing and Assessing Social Media ROI.

#15: LinkedIn’s Skills and Expertise Page

What if there was a social media tool that could tell you:

  • The best keywords to use in your social profiles?
  • Who the key influencers are and how to get in touch with them?
  • The exact companies you should be targeting with your particular skill set? What kinds of groups you should join for optimal relationship-building?
  • What companies you should work for and who you know at those companies?

Of course by now you’ve probably guessed that I’m talking about LinkedIn. But the tool I’m talking about in particular is LinkedIn’s Skills and Expertise page. After entering “Facebook Marketing” in the search box there, this is what came up:

linked in skills

The LinkedIn Skills and Expertise page helps you find experts in different fields.

Keywords: “Related Skills” show up on the left-hand side of the Skills page when you search for a skill to add to your LinkedIn profile. Think of them as relevant keywords. LinkedIn will also show you the popularity of those particular keywords (the higher the number, the more people are using that skill) Hint: Use the less popular skills too!

Influencers: LinkedIn will show you the influencers in your particular skill set by name, picture and title. It will show you how you’re connected to them. If they are a first-degree connection, send them a message. For a second-degree connection, ask for an introduction. Outside of your immediate network? You can still reach them through InMail or a shared group. What a powerful way to build your network and find mentors or advisers!

Companies, Groups and Jobs: The Skills page will also highlight the companies, jobs and groups that are recognized by LinkedIn as being relevant to your skill set. This can save you an enormous amount of time when you’re looking for companies to offer your services to, for groups to engage with to build your strategic relationships or jobs that will suit you. And of course, because this is LinkedIn, you’ll see who is already in your network and can give you access to that company, group or job!

Skills is truly a doorway into stronger connections and better business.

Viveka von Rosen, known internationally as the “LinkedIn Expert” and author of LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day.

#18: Crowdbooster

What if you had a system that informed you exactly when your best times to tweet are in order to reach the maximum audience, based on how your followers respond? And what if the system showed you the Klout scores of new influential followers so you can follow up? And how about spotlighting @mentions that you hadn’t responded to yet?

Look no further than Crowdbooster!

crowdbooster

Crowdbooster always shows your best times to tweet at the top of the dashboard. The times are adjusted as your followers respond.

But this awesome tool doesn’t just analyze Twitter. You can also dig into your Facebook Fan Page metrics to analyze your top posts, number of impressions, fan growth, top fans and more. You can even schedule posts via Crowdbooster for both Twitter and Facebook.

crowdbooster

Crowdbooster displays colorful “bubbles” showing how well your tweets (and Facebook posts) are doing. Hover over any bubble for more information as shown in the black box.

You get one Twitter account and one Facebook Page for free. Upgrade levels include up to 10 or 30 total social accounts (currently only Twitter and Facebook Pages) for a reasonable fee. Give it a try and see what you think.

crowdbooster

See at-a-glance metrics for follower growth, influential followers, retweets and more.

The nice thing about Crowdbooster is the team is super helpful, friendly and approachable… and they’re always iterating, so stay tuned for even more awesome features in the pipeline!

Mari Smith, leading social media strategist and premier Facebook marketing expert. Co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day and author of The New Relationship Marketing.

#19: Lithium

We use Lithium for our new community platform. Its phenomenal capabilities allow for a lean team to rally users, influencers and our own associates to participate. From an organic growing knowledge base through the ability to reward frequent contribution, it is state of the art with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) functionality and a truly object-oriented environment that makes it easy for a layman to customize.

lithium

Lithium helps companies unlock the passions of their customers to build brand advocacy, drive sales, reduce service costs and accelerate innovation.

Lithium also has the capability to do private moderation areas so we can all learn what FAQs need answers, solution creation both by us and by users to populate the knowledge base with good content and the ability to co-create content with guest bloggers.

Kat Smith, director of social media and commerce at Petco.

#22: Facebook Pages Manager App

My favorite social media tool is the Facebook Pages Manager App. This tool allows me to manage multiple pages while on the go. Not only can I post, comment and engage with my fans on multiple pages, but this app does so much more. I’m also able to create Facebook Offers directly from the app, which allows me to promote my programs and services anytime, anywhere.

In addition, I can instantly get a greater reach for my most important posts by buyingPromoted Posts on-the-go directly from my mobile phone.

facebook pages manager app

This is what it looks like to buy Promoted Posts via a mobile phone using the Facebook Pages Manager app.

With these features, I can make real-time decisions for my pages based on my fans activity and my current marketing goals. If you’re like me and often on the move, this app is one you don’t want to go without!

Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies and a social media strategist.

#23: Vocus

One of my favorite social media tools is Vocus. Vocus is a suite that helps manage your social media profiles, monitor what is happening in real time and other key functions.

One of the key elements that makes it different than other services is that it incorporates the very popular Help A Reporter Out (HARO) website. HARO is a site where reporters can post their requests for information and interviews anonymously, and where you can respond. If it’s a good fit, the reporter contacts you. It’s a great way to get additional free PR. Combined with the rest of Vocus’s platform capabilities, this provides a powerful one-two punch.

Michael Crossonfounder and publisher of SocialMediopolis.com and founder of the fourth-largest LinkedIn group, “The Social Media Marketing Group.” 

Overall, I feel that progression of these relevant insights has allowed to develop a significant level of information and ideas about approaches to self promotion, how this can be achieved and why it is important and other more specific areas of marketing such as branding, networking within which I found that there were a variety of potential sites and a variety of tools that be utilised to maximise an online presence.

As a result, I feel as though research has provided me with a variety of priorities and approaches to consider when undertaking this process and building my business plan.

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