Friday, May 13, 2011


I moved my blog to
This one will be deleted shortly - Thank you.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Enough of top reasons...

"Top 10 reasons you should be on social media", "Best 6 ways to engage with your Twitter followers", "5 Ways to have your Blog rank high", "12 Tips to make your website show on the first page"...Top 4....20 ways... 99 reasons....etc... I think it is about time we stop with those posts about how to excel with SEO and SMO in X number of simple ways, because apparently, many have tried and few have managed to get there. Example:
Try Google-ing "Retail", the #1 result has h1  tags properly defined, and hey, guess what? The #2355 result has also the h1 tag properly defined. See, it is not magical!

Same thing applies with social media; it is not about following a rigid set of procedures that is applicable everywhere, anywhere and anytime. Yet, it is all about Communication. I always like to compare online social media to off-line activities: Typically in Lebanon, when guests come in to your home, you are most likely to follow this high level procedure:
Greet / Eat / Eat More / Eat Further / Coffee/Tea / Dessert / Coffee/Tea / Goodbye
Along the way, things might change, you adapt, you communicate better, you engage and then proceed. In other words, am sure you would not drop in panic mode if one of your guests does not like coffee, correct?

The point is, in social media, there IS a scientific way of handling things, but it is simply not magical, or something that you would follow and hit success whenever you do it. Rather, you invite your audience, you learn more about them, you talk to them, you adapt, you influence, you advise, you listen, you improve, you build and you create the link....COMMUNICATION SKILLS.

Similarly, when it comes to SEO, am not going to delve into details here, but I would love to hear User Experience, Traffic, Density, Referrals, Bounce Rate, Retention, in SEO posts, rather than h1 tags, title tag and the image alt attribute...etc... You get my point :)

Another post you might also like: Social Media Consultants...Abundant Supply

Thank you for reading

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Moving from a monologue to a dialog. 10 Dos and Don'ts

Maintaining an active Facebook page is about building up a conversation, a dialog and not a monologue. Often you will see a page heavily active during a certain event, competition or give-away session, and then it returns back to a monotonous activity, little interaction, almost dying out and leaving all the initial investment dry.

The essence of keeping your page active, and always popping up on your followers' news feed, thus increasing your chances to be "mentioned" and getting additional followers is all about keeping your followers attached by building up a conversation. Below are Do's and Don'ts that you should follow to keep up:

1. Don't over-post, maintaining an appearance on the news feed is important, but overdoing will back-fire, and your followers will start disregarding your posts, either by visually skipping them, or simply by un-liking your page. You should aim at having 1 post per day and build up the conversation. A feedback % between 1 to 2.5 means that you are on the right track.

2. Don't simply push information to your followers, i.e.: by posting a product update, a promotion, a service update; because that usually results in people "liking" your post and a couple of "WAW" or "YOU SUCK" replies. That is fine if you do it once or twice, but you need to focus on building a conversation. The best way to do so is to start with a question, asking for opinion, involving people in decisions your business is about to make, in brief, anything that involves asking for replies, self-promotions would implicitly come somewhere in between.

3. Don't let posts drag for too long, although you are happy with the level of engagement with the current post, you need to keep in mind that it is hard for people who have just joined your page to contribute to a post with more than 200 replies, firstly, they will surely not read everything to follow up on the conversation, and secondly they would most probably be shy of intervening, afraid of posting something that was already discussed.

4. Do summarize the discussion every 50 reply to a single post (or any other appropriate number you see fit), this would allow new comers to join in the conversation, and will keep the conversation on the right path and disallow it from drifting apart from your original topic. (Refer to Point 3 above, this doesn't mean that you are allowed to drag for too long)

5. Do link your posts together; since you are building up a conversation, keep your posts revolving around the same topic, and mainly make them a continuation of each other, as if you are building up a story, you can start by a post, then use the Facebook questions, the next post could be about an image, then a post...and so on. Keep the theme going and set a mindset of discussion. Implicitly you will market your products/services and promotions.

6. Don't automatically/immediately reply to any new post by followers, give it some time so that other people can comment as well and give their thoughts, intervene at punctual time frames to steer the conversation and moderate it properly. When you feel it is dying out, revive it with an alternative road map, a new question or additional insights.

7. Do make it personal, and mention followers by their name, and give out personal replies and feedback. Remember that everybody likes to feel important. Do not forget to Like other people replies, and be authentic in that action (don't just like every single reply posted out there). Thank people for their replies, their sentiments or their feedback too.

8. Do ask people to share your page with their friends from time to time, don't be shy, if done at the appropriate moment, you will be impressed by the response and impact. Similarly, ask people to subscribe to your website, newsletter, blog along with the conversation.

9. Don't gang up on followers, in other words do not take sides in conversations, remain neutral and friendly. Avoid sentimental feedback request, such as religious, political or ethnic feedback.

10. Do watch your page insights on a regular basis, and learn what your followers like to talk about. Compare and contrast the types of interaction you are receiving and benchmark them against the LIKES and DISLIKES you are getting. You might find out that your audience likes images more than videos, or videos more than text. Remember that every Facebook page has a different audience demographics with different preferences, there is no one-rule-fits-all.

In a nutshell "Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social." - Jay Baer

Friday, April 15, 2011

6 Reasons you should outsource your Facebook advertising

Facebook advertising is made so easy, that practically anyone can setup an ad. Interestingly enough, you don't even need artwork as your logo and a couple lines of text are merely enough to get you started. You go on and kick off your Facebook campaign, a certain time later, you are happy to have achieved a beautiful number of impressions, slightly less clicks and slightly less actions (# of followers).

You are surprised a little bit later, that your friend, who has outsourced this campaign, has achieved higher numbers (on all front) with the same budget you did. So what did you miss out on?

Here are 6 Reasons you should outsource your Facebook advertising:

1. Time and Spending: Your campaign might be bound by a short time limit, and Facebook hasn't credited you enough trust yet to allow you to spend as much as you want. For example, you would like to spend $1,000 on a 3 days campaign, yet your daily limit is still $50. Digital Agencies on the other hand have ran multiple previous campaign that has allowed Facebook to gain trust in them, and further increase their daily spending limit.

2. CPC Optimization: The Digital Agency will actively work on multiple ads simultaneously targeting various segments, or the same segments but in a different manner, allowing them to optimize the CPC, plain and simple: cut the expensive ads, and keep the cheap ones running. This is an exercise that can be done twice a day. Creating new ads on a daily basis need accessible designers and talented copywriters that would grab the attention span within that small area allocated to your ad (YES, your logo is NOT enough for your ad).

3. Reporting, Conversion and ROI: The Facebook reports are beautiful, they practically cover everything you need to measure and make you feel proud. NO THEY DON'T. 
What you actually need to measure from your ad performance is its impact on your wall (The %Feedback and %Social), on your daily views, tab views, how many followers joined your page and remained active VS. the ones that liked your page, and became dormant. You need to measure the impact of the ad on your website and other digital medium. Such reports would allow you to create a benchmark for your next and future campaigns.

4. Money: Digital Agencies do not seek profit out of advertising (Not to confuse digital agencies with media buying businesses), they are handling ads merely to increase the engagement on your Facebook page, to support a campaign or to create a snowball effect, which is part of a longer term strategy that you are paying for. Typically any digital agency would charge a small % on top of the budget allocated for ads to cover: The management fee, the credit card charges and the time spent on generating the reports. This small % is nothing compared to the time you would spend on it, while you should be doing something else.

5. Experience: No matter how you deal with it, digital agencies have done that same job much more often than you did; Which allowed them to get a better insight on targeting, ad bids and textual/visual content

6. Experience (Again): This time it is about the user experience and managing the whole digital medium. Users clicking on ads need to be kept interested, and this is done by creating the appropriate content, landing page (before/after LIKE), necessary tabs for explanations, matching your other digital mediums with the ad (Twitter, website, blog, LinkedIn...etc..)

In a nutshell, you can still do all of the above wonderfully, but unless you have a full fledged team that is handling your digital activities, you should outsource this and spend your time on something that is more beneficial for your business. (And companies that have built a digital entity within their organizational chart can be counted on your fingers - in Saudi Arabia that is).

Drop a comment and follow me on Twitter

Monday, April 11, 2011

Social Media Consultants...Abundant Supply

Important note: For the sake of this post, and this post only, a social media consultant is referred to a person who self attributed the term "consultant" to himself, knowing that his experience lies in creating a Facebook page, a Twitter account, occasional a YouTube channel, and playing around them mildly, by either posting some random posts, or installing applications left, right and center.

The events mentioned below are from my personal observation of the market in the gulf area, mainly in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Social media...The Demand

It has become a fact, that every business would like to tap into social media, especially B2Cs. Those businesses are aware of the strong benefits of social media such as the ability to target their audience, direct more traffic to the website, engage and gather feedback and so on; They have heard some wild success stories, and excited about it. Yet, since they are not the industry experts, the only KPI they see is the number of followers. So this is the demand

Social media....The Supply

The businesses are asking for followers....Yay! Here comes the social media consultant to the rescue. "You want Facebook followers? I give you Facebook followers" says the social media consultant, and the randomness begins...
A Facebook page is created, an ad is created, random text and images are loaded, miscellaneous apps are integrated and the followers start rolling in. 3 months afterwards, the social media consultant has reached a Facebook page with 20,000 followers (or whatever budget was spent on advertising has allowed him to reach), the website traffic has slightly increased, more forms have been filled online, yet the client is unsure whether he should be happy or not...There seems to be something missing

Social media...The Adventure

After all, it was a nice adventure, now comes the real challenge...No more ads for driving additional followers it is time to grow the page based on the existing followers. This is where randomness can no longer be tolerated, to make a long story short, below is a sample graph:

The area on the left of the red circle, is actually the social media consultant, randomly posting stuff on the page, till a critical point has been reached (the red circle), where the number of Dislikes are actually surpassing the number of Likes...In other words, the page is starting to lose followers. (The area on the right of the circle will be discussed later on within this post).

Sustainability is something that the social media consultant did not consider, and without the support of an ad the page simply became a collection of followers that is practically useless for the client.

A great quote come to mind: "Activate your fans, don’t just collect them like Baseball cards" - Jay Baer

Social media...The Report

To answer the original demand, the social media consultant reported two things: The number of followers on that Facebook page, and the number of visitors on the website. And about the ROI....well....not really.

Strangely, the "report" section should be largest of this post, but the social media consultant is simply measuring two things :)

What was not portrayed?

The social media consultant:
  • Acted independently on the Facebook page, and forgot about the other mediums his client is enabled on
  • Measured the number of followers only, instead of measuring the number of interactions
  • Linked the number of followers to the number of visits to the website, but did not include in his analysis the bounce rate, the number of pages viewed on the site, the average time spent on the site, the entry and exit pages. In brief, he was unable to detect problems with User Experience and User Journeys on the website and rectify them
  • Did not assign a dollar value to the follower, in order to benchmark his campaign and improve with time. i.e.: Did the follower cost 1$? 0.1$?
  • Did not properly manage the ads CPC, and yielded (for the sake of this example) 20,000 followers, whereby double that amount could have been generated with the same budget, if multiple ads were created, with different targets, with different appearance dates...etc...
  • Did not speak his audience' language, whether by using the appropriate tone or character. He simply spoke to them as if it was himself, which might be good sometimes, but not suitable to the business's audience
  • Did not plan ahead, and integrate the social media strategy within a wider marketing strategy
  • Focused on monologues, and did not create dialogs

and in the near future...

The client is expected to have the following problems:
  • Problem with administration, page transfer and delegation
  • Page unique names, especially if the business is part of an international entity, has affiliates or subsidiaries
  • Burdened with a major collection of idle followers due to the Facebook News Feed policy

What is the social media consultant missing?

Creative team to help design landing pages, banners and attractive visuals based on engagements. Posting a banner stating "thank you" is more efficient and reactive to simply typing in "thank you" (Example).

Usability experts to help read, analyse and react based on statistics generated by all the business digital mediums

Developers and producers to help develop custom made application that are suited for the business, promoting the viral effect

Copywriters to help adapting the content, make it attractive and suitable for the target audience

Social Media, and Search Engine Optimization specialists/strategists to enable a long term campaign of engagement and making sure ROI is crystallized and KPIs clearly defined

Having the above components, would put the client in the right section of the circle highlighted above in the graph. Main reason for that is that social media is not an independent activity held by a business, it is part of a holistic strategy including multiple social media platform, the website itself, offline marketing activities...etc... Thus the need for multiple resources of different skill set to properly maintain and sustain the platforms.

For the sake of honesty, and ethical business, social media consultant should spend time educating their clients and providing them real insights on social media by uncovering the real data, and the real reports. There is no need to hide behind the "number of followers", social media for every business has its learning curve, and it is best for businesses to listen to their followers and react accordingly.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on that post, and please do follow me on Twitter @rafyouni

Saturday, April 2, 2011

E-Newsletter 101

Now that people are engaging with your brand on a daily basis, you are more concerned about your newsletter and planning to send it out regularly, monthly, weekly or maybe daily if you generate that much content. Below is a list of items that you already know, but I just compiled them for you:

1. Starting with your "TO" field. People often select "no-reply" or "webmaster" as the "TO" field? Why? what is the purpose, is it like a "We talk to you, you don't talk to us" like approach? If you are asking people to enjoy your brand, then you are better off stating that you are ready to hear back their thoughts. "no-reply" isnt quite inviting. Go with something friendlier, choose a friendly name: Matt, Helen, Joan, Melissa...whatever you want, just make it sound human.

2. "CC" and "BCC", a definite NO for both fields. Keep them nice and clean, don't use them

3. Subject: Keep the subject short and self explanatory, avoid using characters or expressions that help in marking you as a spammer: All Caps subject, exclamation marks, question marks. Special keywords such as "Free, Win, Now!, Enjoy...etc..." are all a no-no for most spam engines.
Also keep in mind that some recipient would like to archive your e-newsletter (or quickly find it in their inbox), so make sure you introduce a certain pattern within your subject (or just a keyword maybe), that would simply allow the user to search for one term in the subject field and get all your newsletters.

4. Your email body: Start by stating why your recipient is receiving this email. Should be something like: You are receiving this email because you are subscribed to, a website description.
Afterwards start with the body of your newsletter, you usually put in whatever you want in here, just try to reduce the number of images as most mail clients don't allow much images to be sent thru, and outlook becomes really heavy when downloading a lot of images, and might result a deletion of your email by the user.
Finally, You must have added your social media links to the newsletter, and are asking people to follow you / join you, you'd better state why they should follow you. For example follow us on Twitter for regular news updates, Follow us on Facebook and be part of our competitions...etc...

In your email body, think about:

  • Users who are opening up the newsletter on mobile devices
  • Users who are previewing your newsletter (Either using the reading pane of outlook or any other email client, or the desktop notification of popular email clients)

5. Your newsletter footer: This is an area not to be disregarded, your footer should definitely include an un-subscribe link, I know you don't like this, but hey - give people the choice :) - Also, make sure that your unsubsribe page on your website pushes people to change their mind...don't just put in a message "Thank you for unsubscribing....blablabla..." It would also be a good idea to ask the un-subscriber: WHY? (Never too late to ask for advice  and compile more insights)
Finally, the footer should also include the physical address of your company, with the POBox number. This helps you in gaining more credibility (and decreases the chances of you getting marked as spam)

Some notes you should consider:

  • If you opt for a full graphical newsletter, keep in mind that most email clients would block the image downloads. Make sure you have enough TEXT showing what the newsletter is about to incite the user to download the pictures...and why not inform the user that he needs to allow picture download to fully view the newsletter (This could be put in the image "ALT" attribute).
  • Keep in mind that most email client do not support more than 50 images as attachment (In case you are embedding the images within the email), in case you are referencing the images from your server, make sure you keep old images, so that users archiving your newsletter can still have access to it
  • Never forget to track: How many users are coming to your website via your newsletter, to your facebook page, and how many followed you on Twitter, what is the most "clickable" area of your newsletter...etc... Data Data Data help you learn, improve and target.
  • Don't forget to add reference numbers for your e-newsletters. Help users organize themselves and quickly identify what they are looking for, whether in their inbox or on your website.
Don't forget to follow me on Twitter here

Monday, March 14, 2011

The 10 commandments of Social Media for Retailers

“Our head of #social media is the customer.” – McDonald’s. If you believe in such a statement, then below are your 10 commandments that help enforce the credibility of your brand as well as build a healthy and engaging atmosphere. A definitive must, since statistics have revealed that 51% of people who follow a brand, will purchase from that same brand.
  1. You shall balance out your hearing and listening skills
  2. You shall create a dialog, and never a monologue
  3. Do not take the name of your brand in vain, and do not take it personal
  4. You shall honor your followers, whether praising or criticizing you
  5. You shall not compare two or more items/topics suggested by your followers and present your opinion
  6. You shall not take side in any discussion that arises involving politics, religion, controversial topics (ethnic differences, animal care, sex, violence...etc...)
  7. You shall not attempt to be funny by stating jokes, using sarcasm or other common methods as hilarity is relative
  8. You shall not delete any post from your followers, without clearly stating the reasons
  9. You shall not flirt with your follower, nor comment on their profile picture
  10. You shall not treat SEO and SMO independently

You should follow me on Twitter here

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Top 7 Social Media Sites in Saudi Arabia 2010

Below is a graph showing the popularity of social media platform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Total dominance of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are the next in place.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Social Media Market Share

This should definitely be an indication to corporates and B2C businesses...Make sure you are present there!