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How to Engage With Your Social Media Followers Quickly and Authentically

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How do you feel when people comment on your social media posts? Awesome, right?

A comment or some form of engagement is usually a sign that people love your social media content. And it’s important to reciprocate and respond to these interactions.

Related: 19 Tools for Creating Engaging Social Media Videos, Images and GIFs in Minutes

But at the same time, engaging with your followers can be time-consuming. If you are a solo social media manager or a small business owner, you know you don’t have the whole day to engage with your followers.

So how can you minimize the time it takes to engage with your followers and still be authentic at the same time?

In this post, we’ll share the tactics and tools we use at Buffer to engage with our amazing social media followers quickly and authentically.

5 creative types of replies you can use

If you have been replying to comments and mentions with a thank you, that’s a great first step. But it can be easy to fall into the habit of using a few standard replies. I’m definitely guilty of that!

There are many ways you can spice up your replies, show your brand’s personality and delight your followers. Here are some that I like:

1. Questions

Instead of a simple “Thank you,” I love to engage with the person further and continue the discussion. A great method is to ask for her or his opinions on the topic.

For example, if someone commented on your social media post that links to a blog post, you could ask the following questions:

  • What is your favorite part of the blog post?
  • What’s your main takeaway from the blog post?
  • Do you agree with the idea mentioned in the blog post?
  • How has your experience with (a strategy or tool) been like?
  • Have you tried any of the tips in the blog post before? If yes, how did it go?

If they reply to your questions, that’s awesome! You can continue the conversation and build a good relationship with them.

2. Emoji

The easiest way to make your replies a little more fun is to include emoji.

As emoji become part of the social media language, most people are used to seeing and using emoji in their social media posts and comments.

It is also an efficient way to convey your tone and emotions in your replies. Unlike talking face-to-face or on the phone, it’s not easy for your followers to pick up your tone and emotions in a text reply. But with a happy emoji, your followers would know instantly that you’re smiling while replying.

Both Mac and Windows have a shortcut for adding emoji. If you’re on a Mac, an emoji app that I would recommend is Rocket. It allows you to quickly type emojis by starting with a colon (:). Here’s a demo from the website:

3. Images

Sometimes, the fastest and easiest way to show or explain something on social media is to use an image — especially on Twitter where you have only 140 characters.

We found that images are generally best for answering support questions where we have to show or point to something.

Tools like CloudApp, Nimbus and Droplr (which we’ll discuss below) allow you to add annotations to your images, making your explanation clearer.

4. GIFs

Using GIFs is our favorite way of thanking people who shared our content, gave us a shout out and more.

With the new GIF button on Twitter and Facebook, you can easily find and add a GIF to your replies.

If you would like to create your own GIFs, here’s our guide on how to create your own GIFs in minutes.

5. Videos

In 2015, the User Happiness team at Medium did a #AskMedium campaign where they answered questions with video replies. And their followers loved it!

In a blog post about Twitter’s video feature, Gary Vaynerchuck explained why video replies are great for engagement:

It’s easy to Like a comment or reply with “Thank you!” Recording a video reply — even a short one — takes a little more effort, which shows your followers how much you care about them.

6 ways to save time while engaging with your followers

While engaging with your followers is important, you likely also have many other important things to do, such as creating content, planning or running your business.

Here are six strategies to help you save time while you engage with your followers.

1. Craft your replies to common comments in advance.

Thanks for sharing this informative video!

How do you work as a social media team of one?

Do you have any tips for growing an Instagram account?

These are some of the common comments we get, and you likely have yours.

Preparing the answers to these common comments and questions can help you reply faster as you don’t have to think on your feet.

Related: How to Create a Social Media Marketing Strategy From Scratch

I would recommend coming up with a few variations so that you aren’t always replying with the same phrases. For example, instead of saying “Thanks for reading our blog post,” you could also say the following:

  • Yay! Thanks for reading this! (GIF)
  • You rock for reading our blog post! ?
  • Thank you for checking it out! Will you be trying any of the tips mentioned?
  • Thanks! Have you tried any of the tactics before? It’ll be great to hear how it went for you!

2. Have a handy list of GIFs, emojis and more

Besides searching for GIFs on Twitter and Facebook, I have a folder of my favorite GIFs for various types of replies. This way, I can grab and use them quickly without having to search. (There have been times when I was looking for a particular GIF and just couldn’t find it through search).

Here are some of my favorites:

Aww, thank you:

You’re welcome:

Awesome:

Excited:

You could download your favorite GIFs into an easily-accessible folder so that you can grab one quickly whenever you are replying to comments on your social media posts.

To download a GIF from GIPHY, click on “Download” on the right of the GIF and select the file type you want.

You could do the same for commonly-used screenshots and videos and also create a list of your favorite emoji in an Evernote note (or your preferred note-taking app) for quick access.

3. Use productivity tools

Using tools is another great way to help you reply your followers faster. Here are a few tools that we use:

Text Expander: Instantly insert snippets of text

With Text Expander, you can quickly type commonly-used phrases with just a few characters. For example, instead of typing “Thank you for sharing this post,” you could type “tks1” and Text Expander would automatically expand it.

If you have come up with a list of replies according to tip 1 above, you could add them to this app. You can customize the abbreviation for each of your snippets.

Other tools like Text Expander: Alfred, Typinator and Phrase Express

CloudApp: Quickly create & share GIFs, annotated screenshots and more

With CloudApp, you can capture anything on your screen as an image, GIF or video in just seconds. You can even record a video of yourself — which is great for creating video replies!

CloudApp will automatically add a link to your file to your clipboard. You can then paste it into your reply or download the file and add it to your reply.

What I love about CloudApp is that I can access its features by just hitting a few keys on my keyboard.

  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + 5: Take a screenshot
  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + a: Take a screenshot and add annotations
  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + 6: Take a screen recording (as a GIF or HD video)
  • Cmd/Alt + Shift + 8: Record a video with your computer’s camera

Other tools like CloudApp: Nimbus, Droplr and Dropbox

4. Use a social media engagement tool

Our top tip for engaging with social media followers quickly is to use a tool that’s built specifically for social media engagement.

Instead of having to log in to each social media platform and open each notification in a new tab, you can efficiently reply to comments and mentions from a single place.

Our favorite social media engagement tool is Buffer Reply.

With Buffer Reply, you can have all your Twitter, Facebook and Instagram conversations in a single inbox. It works even better if you are in a team as you can respond to conversations together.

There are also many other social media engagement tools out there, such as Facebook’s unified inbox, Hootsuite and TweetDeck.

5. Use automation to assist you

This is where a social media engagement tool can be super helpful. For example, we set up automation rules with Buffer Reply, such as the following, so that we can respond to social media conversations as quickly as possible.

  • Filter out spam and automated tweets and automatically close those conversations — so that we can focus on those that require a reply
  • Move Facebook and Instagram comments into a separate folder — so that Brian Peters, who manages our Facebook Page and Instagram account, can focus on them
  • Move tweets with our support hashtag, #BufferSupport, into a separate folder — so that our Customer Advocates can reply to them as soon as possible

Automation tools like Zapier and IFTTT can also be useful here. The way they work is that an activity in an app will trigger another activity in another app. For example, if you want to reply as soon as someone mentions your brand on Twitter, you could use Zapier to send any Twitter mentions into your Slack.

Here are more social media engagement and monitoring automation by Zapier.

6. Schedule time to engage

It’s great to jump onto any comments immediately and give a prompt reply. If it doesn’t disrupt to your workflow, you should probably keep it up!

Related: 14 Ways to Increase Your Facebook Page Engagement

But for many of us who wear multiple hats, constantly stopping our work to reply to a comment can affect our productivity (unless your main role is to reply and help customers on social media).

One thing that Brian, who manages our social media profiles, do is this: he schedules two 30-minutes time blocks every day to respond and engage with our community. Here’s how engaging with our community fits into his morning schedule:

How do you engage with your followers?

Engaging with your followers is a great way to build your brand. While the process can sometimes be time-consuming, there are tactics and tools that can help to minimize the time it takes for you to engage with your followers while staying authentic:

  • Craft your replies to common comments in advance
  • Have a handy list of GIFs, emojis, and more
  • Use productivity tools like TextExpander
  • Use a social media engagement tool
  • Use automation to assist you
  • Schedule time to engage

This story originally appeared on Buffer

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How to Stay Calm Under Pressure

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He started playing poker at 18 and was winning championships by his early twenties. Despite millions in winnings, world recognition and playing at the high roller tournaments, Fedor Holz is leaving professional poker at age 24.

He’s focusing his energy on creating easy-to-access training on high performance mindset tactics. And I was fascinated to learn why.

When I met Fedor a few weeks ago, he had just finished in the top rankings of a huge high roller tournament in Vegas. But instead of talking about poker, we mostly talked about how he stays grounded when so much is at stake. We also discussed how he learned to honor his decisions, even when they turned out to cost him a game.

I loved getting Fedor’s perspective on what it takes to become great at a specific skill, but he was also honest about what it costs. I was especially interested in what he said about the skill of removing emotion from actions and how that can turn out badly in the rest of a person’s life.

Whether you’re interested in poker or not, you’ll learn valuable insights about performing at a high level in anything in Episode 544.

Subscribe on iTunesStitcher RadioGoogle Play or TuneIn.

This story originally appeared on Lewis Howes

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Why Kicking Out Counterfeit Crooks on Instagram Is So Important

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Would you spend over a thousand dollars on a pair of sneakers? There are plenty who would — a pair of Adidas Yeezy’s comes with a price tag of $1,000 or more. For those who are less flush, the market has become flooded with knock-off fakes. These are promoted via comments and sponsored ads on sites like Facebook and Instagram.

When Kanye West tweeted “you probably got bootleg Yeezy’s on right now,” followers responded in typical Twitter fashion, with a torrent of abuse from all angles, but when it came to real brand loyalty, sneakerheads were split. Die-hard fans rebuked the fakes, though others have been tempted by prices as low as $99.

A year later, these social commerce scams are running riot online, fueled by social bots and a growing underground counterfeit economy, hijacking brand advertising efforts. Andrea Stroppa’s “Social media and luxury goods counterfeit investigation revealed that 20 percent of Instagram posts for luxury brands feature counterfeit or illicit products.

At BrandBastion, we conducted an investigation into Instagram counterfeiters to examine the risks brands face on social media and what they can do to fight it.

Social media’s safe harbor for organized crime.

The luxury online retail market is estimated to reach $41.88 billion by 2019, according to Bain & Company. It’s impressive, but just a fraction of the booming business of the $461 billion global counterfeit goods market funding large-scale criminal operations. Stroppa’s investigation explains how exploitative practices force women and children to work in inhumane conditions, in turn powering illegal gangs, dictatorships and global terrorism.

Related: Evolve or Die: Luxury Brands Must Embrace Digital To Thrive

Organized crime has entered the digital realm, with counterfeit trade visible on the most popular ecommerce platforms and social media streams. These operations are largely based in China, Russia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Ukraine, though technology allows them to target global audiences.

In the U.S., the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) mandates that so long as platforms have an effective takedown system, they are not liable, putting pressure on brands to protect themselves. Until now, this has mainly impacted selling tools such as eBay, Alibaba and commerce-friendly social network WeChat, to the detriment of luxury brands like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But digitally-savvy fake sellers have graduated from basic host services like eBay, finding global reach and big profits as commerce takes off on social media. Complete with new mobile-oriented features like Instagram’s Shop Now and Buy buttons, these networks are becoming serious selling tools for counterfeit criminals.

As online sellers invest in social growth tactics, the frauds are hot on their heels, armed with ad campaigns and bots, retargeting their users and flooding sites with illegal goods. This social media safe harbor creates a playground for fraudsters using aggressive tactics, even hijacking a brand’s own social media posts or ads to target audiences with counterfeit copies.

The Instagram comments scam.

BrandBastion examined a sample of 36,000 comments from the Instagram posts of 12 top luxury brands — Salvatore Ferragamo, Manolo Blahnik, Marni, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Balmain, Versace and Dior — with a combined reach of more than 62 million followers.

One in 18 comments included a serious threat for brands. Major dangers included 729 (2.03 percent) comments leading to direct counterfeiting from some 94 counterfeit sellers; 1,013 comments (2.81 percent) contained spam and scams; and 208 (0.58 percent) had brand attacks from avid activists, at times launching brand boycotts. Some retailers fared worse than others; 8.27 percent of Saint Laurent comments contained a brand threat. On the other end of the scale, Dior had 3.37 percent brand threats, though with a significantly larger following and greater posting activity.

Related: U.S. Shuts Down Huge Online Dark Web Market, AlphaBay

Counterfeiters borrow images scraped from online searches, newly embed fresh information to appear unchanged, and, armed with purchased fake followers, they often appear legitimate. Fraudulent accounts post comments such as “Check out my page Got All Designer” along with contact details, such as instant messenger chat IDs, enabling encrypted conversations with so-called “salespeople.” The OECD reported that sellers post these goods via complex routes, preying on transit hotspots from “countries with weak governance and widespread organized crime such as Afghanistan and Syria.”

Fighting fire with fire.

Instagram is cracking down on fake accounts, purging millions of spam and bot accounts and using proactive tools such as spam detectors and blocking systems. But by cloning and replicating content, fresh accounts pop up every day. This proliferation of content keeps moderators busy in a cat-and-mouse chase. Meanwhile, the responsibility of tackling new social media fraudsters largely rests on law enforcement agencies, brands and innovative technologies.

A digital ecosystem to target counterfeit sellers is in early stages. Informal name-and-shame accounts on Instagram, such as @fake_education and @yeezybusta reveal identified fake sellers. Online community forums like Scamadviser, Realscam and Scamwarners allow both retailers and consumers to name and shame known offending domains. Flipping community activism on its head, third-party services and blockchain technologies, such as startup Blockverify using the bitcoin currency infrastructure, also verify goods and track sales.

The downside is that lack of formal regulation facilitates a free-for-all of independent forums and competing businesses. Moreover, uneducated consumers are often not deterred by fake labels and are unaware of real threats from criminal operations. One in four consumers report purchasing counterfeit products online —  and these forums can even aid their search for fake products.

Brand managers need to be able to monitor new social media accounts using keywords, images, handles (or account names) and trending hashtags to uncover brand violations. New accounts often have similar names, posting behaviors and messages, and third-party forums also provide new leads. It’s important that brands also have community moderation checks in place when it comes to their own content and community engagement, to ensure that sellers aren’t getting a free ride through hacking their own ads and posts.

Related: Lax Online Security Can Destory Your Brand Overnight

As fake sellers adopt new technology to mimic and automate brand posting behaviors, artificially-intelligent moderation tools help businesses to uncover the crooks. It’s a battle of the bots, cross-referencing masses of data and identifying trends in order to uncover new threats and scams.

Counterfeiters that have traditionally focused on luxury brands are branching out to all industries. While footwear is the most frequently copied, fraudsters plagiarize anything from high-fashion handbags to popular wines, automotive parts, chemicals, medication and even fresh fruit. With brands like Adidas, Louis Vuitton and Chanel fighting fakes and launching high-profile courtroom disputes, it draws attention to the crisis. Declaring war on this criminal activity, intelligent technology and anti-counterfeit partnerships seek to take control, cleaning up social media and kicking out those counterfeit crooks. It’s a new wave of rebellion against organized crime masquerading as luxury produce and trusted household goods.

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6 Fatal B2B Sales Mistakes You Must Avoid

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B2B sales can be incredibly rewarding and lucrative — if you know what you’re doing. Unfortunately, most salespeople in this field make the same few mistakes again and again. When everyone around you is making the same missteps and blunders with B2B selling, it can be extremely difficult to know how to fix your approach.

If you’re looking to overhaul your strategy for B2B sales so you can start to crush your competition, it’s time to start actively avoiding the most common B2B sales mistakes out there today. Here are the six fatal B2B sales mistakes you’re probably making:

1. Selling to low-level buyers.

It may be easier to get in front of buyers and purchasing managers than C-suite prospects, since you never have to deal with a gatekeeper in order to reach them. But those low-level buyers don’t have the power — or the budget — to tell you “yes.” In fact, they’re only really good at telling salespeople “no.” You won’t make money selling to low-level buyers in B2B sales, so make a commitment to seek out high-level decision makers who can actually say “yes” to what you have to offer their businesses.

Related: Want to Make Your First Sale? These Entrepreneurs Share How They Did It.

2. Highlighting your product’s features and benefits.

There was a time when prospects cared about the features and benefits of your product. But they simply don’t anymore. Prospects today only care about the results and outcomes you can create in their world. More specifically, they want to know how you can solve their key challenges and deepest frustrations. Instead of highlighting your product’s features and benefits when selling to businesses, focus on specific outcomes your product or service can help your prospects achieve.

3. Giving proposals with only one option.

One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make in B2B sales is putting together single-option proposals. There are two major problems with these proposals. First, they don’t provide any context, which compels prospects to shop around to determine the value of your solution. Second, customers who really want to invest in a premium option will be limited to a lower-tier solution. Instead, provide a three-option proposal — ranging from the lowest end option that will still solve their problem to a higher end option with the most value — to boost your average sale size and the number of deals you close.

Related: 7 Tips for Getting More Sales Meetings With Prospects

4. Relying solely on the phone and internet.

There’s been a big movement in B2B sales towards selling online and on the phone. In some cases, this can be efficient and helpful, but if you’re selling an expensive, high-end product or service that requires a serious investment, you simply can’t skip out on meeting face to face. Hop on a plane if that’s what it takes to sit across from a valuable prospect. You’ll increase your close rate many times over, and being able to close big deals at huge companies is well worth the cost of travel.

5. Failing to clarify your value proposition.

Every time a B2B prospect asks what exactly it is that you do, you should have a quick and rehearsed response that succinctly describes the value you create. Clarify, script out, and memorize your value proposition. This is the only part of your sales presentation you have to memorize, so there’s really no excuse for hazy, rambling answers to this question.

6. Rushing to offer deals and discounts.

Low prices only attract bad prospects in B2B sales. Your ideal customer cares about value, not price, so quit offering deals and discounts. It only lowers your value in the eyes of your prospects. Instead, focus on the value you create, and be proud to offer the premium solution on the market. This attitude will attract the type of customer who values you for years to come.

Related: 6 Strategies for Avoiding the ‘Race to the Bottom’ Price War You Don’t Want to Win 

Which of these mistakes have you been making in B2B sales? How will you correct your mistakes and start crushing your sales goals? Check out this free Ultimate 3-Step Prospecting Call Template for more powerful sales advice.

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