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How to engage followers on Facebook

We all hear about it – Facebook’s mystery algorithm that decides what content we see and what content our page followers see. I equate it to the communication and marketing equivalent of a scratch-off ticket. We know we can win big, but we have no idea what combination of content will get us there.
Facebook does reveal veiled insights into the algorithm. We can use those insights to increase relevancy for our business pages. The following tips are a compilation of information released from Facebook and the insights from our own analysis of what content works for us.
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Top 5 Fall Festivals in Kansas

Falling leaves, sweater weather and pumpkin spice everything are a few things that come to mind when thinking of fall. But in Kansas, we have much more going on than the basics, starting with our fall festivals.

Fall festivals are a perfect way to support local, agricultural based businesses while having loads of fun with your friends and family. The cool air leads to corn mazes reaching their full potential, pumpkins meeting their final orange glow and are ready to be picked from their patch, apples ripen at the orchards and grape harvest time begins. The staff at CREE researched and found where to go to enjoy all things fall.

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Greenhouses Getting Connected

Tucked between the rolling Virginia hills, Glenhaven Greenhouses offers customers quality plants and mulch and a place come to enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the small, family-owned greenhouse. That’s what owners, Glenn and Arlene Reid, strive for in their business. One could say that horticulture runs in the family. All four of their children grew up in the greenhouses and Arlene’s sisters and mother work there as well.

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Growing with Eagerness and Excitement

The Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement is thrilled to welcome Deanna Reid, agricultural education and communications graduate student. Her research, funded by the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program Grant, focuses on consumer perceptions of produce and plants via Facebook. Her agricultural communications interest combined with her background and emphasis in horticulture will make her a huge asset to what we do at CREE. Though it was “bittersweet” to leave her Virginia home, we are happy to have her be a part of CREE and our Kansas community. We asked Deanna to share five interesting tidbits about her and here is what she had to say.

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CREE Welcomes Royalty to Staff

Agricultural communicator. Miss Rodeo Kansas. K-State alumna. Mikhayla DeMott, the newly hired audience engagement specialist, serves many roles.

Mikhayla understands the need to connect agricultural based, rural businesses to information and research on new-media technology. She will foster that connection in her position at the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement through event planning, client outreach, media relations, and content creation.

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Master’s Graduate Returns as Managing Director

There’s no place like home. For Cassie Wandersee, the newly hired managing director of the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, the familiar phrase sums up her joy in returning to rural Kansas and the Kansas State University family.

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“One of the greatest things about K-State and the department of communications and agricultural education is the sense of belonging to a community,” Cassie said. “I am incredibly excited and honored to be part of the community again”.

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The 5 Best Budget Conscious Instagram Photo-editing Apps

Did you know that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual? Thus, it comes as no surprise that Instagram has become the app to beat in terms of affordability and engagement.

Instagram currently has over 300 million users with 75 million of those users logging on daily. It can be a wonderful resource for small business marketing. In fact, about half of Instagram users follow a business on the platform, and 65% say they use the app to learn more about the products.

In order to increase engagement, you not only have to post images, but also captivate your audience with the images you post. You don’t need a fancy camera and expensive software in order to do this. Simply grab your smartphone, download an app, and you’re ready to create beautiful images for your business in minutes.

New to smartphone photography? Before trying your hand at different apps, take a look at our Smartphone Photography 101 blog and go from there.

If you haven’t already, you’re going to want to jump on the Instagram bandwagon and create engagement without breaking the bank. Here are 5 Instagram photo-editing apps to use for your small business while on a budget.

Let’s start with the free apps

  1. Instasize

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One of the biggest problems Instagram users face is the size of the photo not fitting into the app’s requirements. Instagram only allows you to post square size photos, but with Instasize you’ll be able to show off your landscape or portrait photos easily.

This free app allows you to resize your original photo to fit Instagram’s photo requirements without cropping. Once your photo is scaled down to size, there will be blank space around it. With this app you can fill in that space with different colors, boarders, or frames. These are provided on the app, or you can download your own.

Instasize primarily focuses on photo resizing, but it also includes fun features like creating collages or adding filters, text, stickers, or effects to your photo.

Once you’ve made your photo post worthy, you will have the option to save to your camera roll for later or directly upload into Instagram as well as a variety of other social-media apps.

While Instasize is a free app, some special features are only available with payment.

  1. Pic Stitch

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Pic stitch is a collage-making app that can take your collage to the next level. There are hundreds of layouts to choose from and you can feature photos on your collage in different sizes. There’s even an option to create your own layout by choosing specific dimensions.

You can edit the individual photos inside the layout too. Adjust the color, size, and boarders of each photo with just the touch of a button.

Once you’re finished, Pic Stitch creates the finished collage in the square size so that it’s ready for Instagram! If you fell in love with your collage, Pic Stitch offers the ability to order prints at your nearest Walgreens.

Feel like you’ve mastered Pic Stitch and want more collage options? Pic Frame is the upgraded version of Pic Stitch offering the same features, plus more for the low cost of 99 cents.

  1. Repost

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Repost app for Instagram can create engagement by sharing content from other businesses or showing customer appreciation. This app will allow you to repost any Instagram photo or video from another user, while still giving credit to the user who originally posted it. What a great way to curate content or showcase your customers if they took a photo of your business or product.

Repost offers a premium edition of the app that removes the mark that credits the original user. However, for customer service reasons, we recommend keeping the mark so your customers know you value their support.

  1. Flipgram

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Flipgram utilizes your photos, video clips, and music to create a captivating video. You can select photos and video from your camera roll to use or upload them from Facebook or Instagram. This app allows you to add music, adjust timing, and add filters or text to your video easily.

Flipgram sizes your video to fit Instagram perfectly, but still gives you the option to upload it to Facebook or Twitter too.

An app that costs, but won’t break your budget

  1. Over

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This last app does cost, but not enough to empty your wallet. Over’s main focus is to enhance your photo by adding beautiful artwork and unique fonts to your photo for the low cost of $3.99. There are hundreds of fonts to choose from but if you still can’t find the perfect one, Over allows you to upload more making the possibilities endless.

We find Over even more helpful for business purposes because you can add your own logo and branding to photos. Adding your business name or social media handle to every photo is an excellent way to brand your content.

We challenge you!

The number of photo editing apps is astounding, but these are just a few of my personal favorites that we believe will boom your business.

Now it’s time for you to try your hand at a photo- editing app. Our challenge to you is to capture a photo on your smartphone, use any editing app of your choice to enhance the photo, and then tag us (Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement) on Facebook in the comments. Make sure and mention what photo-editing app you used in your caption or comment.

One week from today (August 24th) we will announce one winner with the best enhanced photo. They will receive a FREE 30- minute social-media consultation with our team at the Center. Good luck!

DIY: Creating a Facebook Messenger Chatbot

Is it common for your customers to message you via Facebook with basic questions, comments or complaints? Customers expect a lightning fast response to their questions, but it can be hard to have your social media account open 24/7.

Now, this is almost possible with Facebook Messenger’s new feature, Chatbots. This feature provides a way to automate your most common customer interactions and deliver the right answer the moment the customer asks.

Chatbot building used to require coding knowledge, but luckily that is no longer the case. There are several different places to build chatbots, but the two that are used the most with Facebook Messenger are Chatfuel and API.ai. Both are free, simple to use and require no coding.

I decided to use Chatfuel for this guide because it was super easy and will excel for beginners or small businesses wanting to try their hand at chatbot building because of its simple features.

In this blog, you will learn how to set up Facebook Messenger Chatbots and how it can be beneficial to your small business.

 Building a Chatbot

It is fairly simple to build a chatbot. In fact, with this process, you can get it done in about 10 minutes (depending on the depth you go into of course). This step-by-step tutorial will give you all the information you need to successfully answer customers through automated responses.

Step 1: Connect your Facebook account to the Chatfuel chatbot builder

Luckily, the first step is the easiest step. When starting this step, make sure you are logged into Facebook on the browser you are going to connect to Chatfuel in.

Then select the “get started for free” button on Chatfuel. This button will enable Chatfuel to bring up a Facebook connection page that will allow it to access your information on Facebook. Once you authorize it, you will be taken back to Chatfuel chatbot builder where you will choose which Facebook page you want to connect with.

Step 2: Connect to your Facebook business page

Chatbots can only be used on organization Facebook pages, not individual pages. If you haven’t already done so, create a Facebook page for your business, so that you have a page to tie your chatbot to.

If you have a Facebook page created simply click on it, and you’re on your way to having a chatbot.

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Step 3: Create a welcome message and default answer

A welcome message is the first interaction your customers will have with your chatbot, so make sure it’s excellent.

The welcome message should be a short sentence to introduce your chatbot followed by asking, “How can I help?”

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After creating your welcome, it is important to make a default message. This message will be shown if the customer asks a question that you don’t have AI detection set up for. This could be something along the lines of, “I’m not sure what you are asking. Can one of the options below help you?”

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Remember to link your default message to your navigation items (we will discuss this in the next step).

Step 4: Set up your conversation navigation

Now we will build your conversation navigation. This allows an individual to work with your chatbot.

For example, Mary Smith wants to know directions to and the summer hours of your garden center. Sample questions she might ask are:

  • What is your address?
  • Is it in town or out of town?
  • Will the drive be on paved roads?
  • What are your hours in the summer?

In order to set up conversation navigation, you have to create a “block” for each question. Don’t worry; this is super easy! Click on “add block” and choose a title for your block. For the questions above, you could use titles like address, directions, road conditions and summer hours.

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Step 5: Link your blocks to the main navigation

Now, go back to your welcome message page and click “add button” on the message block. Choose a name for your block. This is what your customer will see when selecting what option they want to learn about. Then click on which block you want it to link the customer to for their answer.

However, you don’t always have to link it to a block. The other two options are URL or phone call.

  • URL: Insert a URL that the customer can click on that will take them outside of Facebook Messenger and to a different page. This can be very useful if you want to show the customer something specific you already have online. For example, you could insert a link to a printable map with the location of your garden center.
  • Phone call: Enter what phone number you want your customer to have access to in order to get their questions answered. This will allow the user to have the phone number directly pop- up and call you.

Step 6: Adding your chatbot dialogue

This is the step where you can create the content that is shown when a customer asks a specific question. Click on the block on the left, and it will bring up the block without content. Choose a block type from these different options:

  • Text card: This is the most common block on Chatfuel because it is just text. This is great for quick answers, so type whatever the answer is to that question.
  • Gallery: This allows you to add pictures to better explain your answer. If you customer asks the chatbot, “Can I see some pictures?” it will bring up whatever gallery it has on that topic.

In addition to the pictures, you can add a heading, subtitles, descriptions or URL for the picture.

  • Image: This is another simple block like text card and slightly differs from gallery. Upload an image to your image block and when prompted in the conversation the chatbot will show that image.
  • Quick reply: Building this option into a block allows you to show a reply instead of taking the customer to a new card. This makes it seem like your customer is chatting with a real person instead of a chatbot.
  • Plugin: This option opens your chatbot a whole new level of opportunities. With plugin, you can intergrade other programs to work with your chatbot. For instance, you could link your chatbot with IFTTT, a powerful automation tool that links to a large amount online services like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Chatfuel and many more, and when your customer asks, “Can I see examples of your products?” your chatbot will take them to your Instagram pictures of your items that you used #newproduct for.

Step 7: Creating your artificial intelligence

Once you’ve added all of the content you want into your blocks, on the left side click on “Set up AI”. This step requires a bunch of brainstorming on your part. Think of as many possible questions your customers could ask your chatbot as possible and then add the correct answers. The answers can be direct text you come up with or link back to one of the blocks you have already created.

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There are two different parts to this step:

  • Phrases to watch for: These are different words or phrases you want the chatbot to specifically be on the lookout for.
  • Content to display: After the chatbot has found what words or phrases you were wanting it to watch for, it will bring the specific content that goes along with it. There will be a drop down menu that will give you the options of “text” or “block”. A text you add the new, direct text to and a block will take you back to one you’ve already created.

Step 8: Launch your chatbot… Finally!

I lied when I said the first step was the easiest because honestly, Chatfuel makes the last step way too simple.

Chatfuel is a master at launching your chabot because as you’ve been creating your perfect chatbot, it has been saving everything along the way. This means you don’t have to do anything except promote your new chatbot on your own page and/or website.

On the left side menu, click “Promote” and copy the URL in and share it everywhere.

Building your own chatbot isn’t so scary!

Now that you’ve created your own chatbot, hopefully in record time, your customers will never be left hanging. You will have the perfect automated responses ready to go and boost your business with great customer service through social media.

Still unsure of Facebook Messenger chatbots? Check out the infographic below! It lists the 4 ways chatbots will improve your small business.

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