Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’
Finding social-media advice online is as easy as finding cars in a parking lot. Which is to say, there are plenty of gurus and experts hoping to teach you how to maximize your potential and rack up huge numbers of followers and fans. But – despite their expertise and savvy – the best advice is usually just common sense. To that end, we’ve compiled 9 common sense tips to help you become a more successful and effective social-media marketer.
Respond: Answer questions, thank people even if it’s just a few words. Make it a two-way conversation, listen to what others have to say and appreciate suggestions and feedback. It will make what you do even better.
Know What You’re Doing: If you’re going to establish yourself on social media, get involved in social media. Start your own Twitter account, Facebook page, read blogs, and get engaged. That’s the best way to understand the culture, tone, best practices, and protocol.
Add Value: Share tips, tricks, and insights. People’s time is precious and they need to get something out of the time they spend on your page. Make listening to you worth their while.
Drive Traffic To Your Website: Adding links in appropriate places within posts, and occasionally in Tweets, can drive potential business to your official website.
Your Brand Is Everything, Everywhere: Your business brand is everything and anything you do. From your logo, colors, tagline, and Twitter background to your blog header, website, profile pic, and bio. Your brand is everything you post, anywhere you’re represented. Be cautious and consistent.
Integrate: All your marketing efforts should work together to present consistent brand messages and lead to your ultimate marketing goals. You should also cross-promote your various marketing efforts.
Be Active: Update your status, share, comment, send invitations to connect, start group discussions, answer questions, and comment on other people’s pages and profiles. It’s called social media for a reason.
Seek Feedback: If nothing else, social media should be an effective way of finding out what your customers and clients think of your business. When was the last time you asked them what they’d like to see on your page? Whether you’re asking them to vote on your next post or to choose a product or service they’d like you to incorporate into your business, don’t underestimate the value of feedback.
Understand Your Objective: Before jumping on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or any other network, ask yourself “Why?” Each marketing effort should be clearly and logically tied to core business objectives. Are you using this network for customer service, brand awareness, or community building? And what does success look like? Having more fans or followers is not really a viable metric. Having a more engaged community could be.
Despite what they say, you can argue with numbers. You can also argue with chickens. Neither of these activities, however, is likely to produce a positive outcome. That’s why, though it may be easier and more convenient to ignore reality, you’ll always do better if you acknowledge the facts.
To that end, here are some facts about social-media marketing …
Nielsen estimates that social media and blogs reach 80 percent of active Internet users in the U.S.: Not only that, Nielsen also found that nearly a quarter of all Internet usage is spent on blogs or social-media sites – double the amount spent on gaming. That means, almost half of all Internet usage is split between people playing games online and those perusing social-media pages, profiles, and blogs. And since you likely won’t be able to effectively market your business through online games, you should probably take a look at registering a Facebook page or setting up a blog. The potential upside is huge and there is little to lose. Having a shot at a new audience of potential customers and clients is ultimately what marketing is meant to accomplish. Social media provides an excellent platform to reach new people and generate business.
60 percent of consumers say they are willing to post about products or services if they get a deal: In other words, social media is a viable avenue for promoting and marketing your business. By interacting with your clients and customers over social-media, you are able to appeal to them directly, while offering them exclusive deals and bonuses. It takes a little creativity, but finding a way to get your Facebook or Twitter followers to spread the word for you is worth the effort. Offering Internet-only promos is a great way to boost interest in your business among current and potential clients. Just don’t overwhelm your connections with sales pieces and drive them away.
91 percent of experienced social marketers see increased traffic to their website and 79 percent say they’re generating more quality leads: Doubt all you want but more and more businesses are finding success marketing their services through social-media channels. The key word here, though, is “experienced.” In other words, you’re not going to see boosted traffic to your website and a bag full of quality leads during your first week online. It takes time, effort, and a bit of practice to learn what works for you and put it into action. Those who have had success with social media, have had patience with social media. Give it time and pay attention. After all, the stats say your efforts will ultimately be rewarded.
Choosing a social-media site for your business can be like choosing a lane on the freeway. A successful choice will help you move forward and reach your destination. An unsuccessful choice will get you lost or lead to a dead end. To help make an informed decision, here are some important stats and numbers to remember about the major social-media sites and their viability for business.
Facebook: With 955 million monthly active users, Facebook is the largest and most recognizable social-media brand in business. And though you may not associate it with making professional contacts, a lot has changed since its founding in 2004. Facebook is now an important part of any social-media marketing campaign, whether you’re a large corporation or a small business. On a daily basis, more than 550 million people check in with Facebook, making it an excellent place to spread the word about your products and services. Set up a page for your business and start inviting clients, customers, and contacts to visit your page.
Twitter: Twitter describes itself as a “real-time information network that connects you to the latest stories, ideas, opinions, and news about what you find interesting.” And though it’s often derided as a site where the self-absorbed tweet unread messages about their every thought and action, Twitter is actually a great source of information. In fact, it may be as valuable as a research tool as it is a platform for keeping in touch with potential clients and customers. But whether you’re using it to gather market intelligence or you’re using it to participate and promote your business, Twitter has proven to be a viable social-media site for all types of businesses.
LinkedIn: LinkedIn launched in 2003. Nearly 10 years later, they sign up nearly two new members every second. It is the largest professional network on the Internet with more than 175 million members and is on pace to surpass 5.3 billion professionally oriented searches this year. Being active on LinkedIn gives you an opportunity to be among the results of one of those searches. It also gives you an opportunity to meet referral partners, network within your region and industry, and make new professional contacts.
Pinterest, Instagram, Etc.: Social media’s popularity has spawned many new platforms, sites, and phenomenons. In the ever-connected age of smart phones and tablets, people are even more apt to share and consume through their favorite social-media site of the moment. That doesn’t always mean, however, that you and your business need to be represented on the newest and latest site. Among the most recent phenomenons, Pinterest and Instagram have received a lot of attention. But, though there may be a legitimate business use for these sites, their long-term viability remains to be seen. When choosing a social-media site for your business, it’s not always what’s “hot” that matters as much as it is what fits your needs and goals.
We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “It’s 2012, do I really still need a business blog?” Well, the short answer is yes. Though blogs – in Internet years – are a nearly ancient form of online communication, they’re still an effective and totally customizable platform for furthering your business and boosting your brand.
Here are a few reasons you still need a blog in 2012 …
It’s RSS, Baby: RSS stands for “real simple syndication.” And syndication is the name of the game, even in this age of smart phones and tablets. Having a blog means you have an RSS feed. Having a RSS feed means your content can be easily spread across the Internet through any website or app that links via RSS. This feed contains all the words and photos and anything else you post to your blog. Now say you’d like to share that content on your Facebook page. Well that’s as easy as finding a RSS app and filling in the address to your feed. In other words, you need a business blog to use as home base for all the content you create to share with your clients, customers, partners, followers, and fans online.
It’s A Custom Fit: Blogs, as they were originally known, were nothing more than an online scroll of entries posted by whomever set up the page. These days, however, your blog can do just about anything. In fact, you can even set up a storefront and sell products complete with a credit-card checkout and shipping rates, if you wish. There are an endless number of themes and plugins, which make having a blog a completely customizable form of social-media and online marketing. It’s the closest thing available to a paint-by-numbers website. Having a dynamic online presence can only improve your reputation and help convince potential clients of your expertise and professionalism.
It’s Home Base: Think of your blog as home base for your social-media campaign. It’s where you create content and test new ideas. From your blog, you can see what does and doesn’t work and then take that to your Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn page. With a blog, you’re afforded more freedom and function than you are on any of the major social-media platforms. Because of this, you’re better able to get creative and see what your audience responds to the most. It’s also a great way to create traffic between your pages by linking to your blog from your social-media pages.
If you feel you aren’t getting the most out of your LinkedIn profile, you’re probably right. Maybe you added your resume, contact info, and photo and are now wondering what else you can do with your page. Maybe you’re not sure – beyond job hunting – what purpose LinkedIn serves in the first place. Or maybe you’ve seen other peoples’ pages and wondered how they made them so dynamic, interesting, and interactive. Well there are a number of ways to boost your LinkedIn presence and become more effective that don’t require a degree in computer programming or a high level of Internet savvy.
Here are three ways to get the most out of your account …
Take It Offline: Sometimes social media can feel limiting because it all takes place behind the veil of the Internet. Which is to say, it’s a little impersonal. But, if you’re the type of person that feels more comfortable doing your networking the old-fashioned way, LinkedIn provides an easy way to take your social-media contacts into the real world. Search the events section of LinkedIn and you can locate actual gatherings of like-minded individuals in your region and industry. Search keywords that apply to your business and then find some events in your area. It’s a great way to make new connections, network in your area, and boost your LinkedIn contacts all at the same time.
Install Some Applications: Though LinkedIn doesn’t offer as many applications as some other social-media sites, there are still a number of useful tools available to you. For example, LinkedIn provides a WordPress app that will automatically retrieve and display your posts from your blog. It’s an excellent way to add interest to your page while increasing the number of people who see and read your blog. There are also applications to help you share documents, collaborate with colleagues, display your Amazon.com reading list, and share your business travel plans. Which is to say, there are plenty of available ways to customize your LinkedIn page. Don’t be afraid to install a few and test them out. Through trial-and-error you will soon have a much more interesting and attractive page to share with your contacts and connections.
Join, Participate, And Repeat: The good news is LinkedIn is the most popular social network for professionals. That means, there’s no confusing personal contacts with business clients, customers, and partners. It also means an impressive selection of groups and forums you can join. Like the events section, you can search groups by keyword and join a few that relate to your industry or region. Participate in the conversations you find there or start a few of your own. Remember, this isn’t the place for advertising or promotion. Be polite, professional, knowledgeable, and eager to help with information, answers, and ideas. It’s a great way to focus your attention on the people that are most likely to appreciate your services and need your expertise.
Social media can be like a Sunday morning crossword puzzle, both simple and enraging. The only difference is the answers to your social-media questions aren’t published in the next day’s newspaper. In order to help demystify social media for you, we’ve developed the following easy-to-remember keys to online success.
Here are the Four Cs of social-media marketing:
Communication: The first and most important thing to remember when pursuing a social-media strategy is communication. It is, after all, what social media is all about. It exists to provide an online platform for people to converse, share, and keep in touch with one another. For business, that means your social-media pages exist as a platform to communicate with past and future clients, referral partners, and potential business. If you aren’t communicating with your contacts, posting content, and participating in groups and forums, you are doing it wrong. You’re a wallflower and an observer. In order to change this, start sharing information, links to interesting articles, questions, thoughts, and offers on your social-media pages. Engage with your contact list and try and entice a response.
Consistency: Once you’ve begun participating, keep it up. Delivering quality content on a consistent schedule is a great way to encourage your contacts to interact with your page. You’re bettering your chances of capturing someone’s attention every time you post something to your page. That means, if you’re posting once a month, you likely won’t see results for awhile. If, however, you’re posting on a weekly or daily schedule, you’ll see more activity. In other words, activity begets activity. Participate and you’ll see more participation. You get the idea.
Content: The most difficult thing about achieving success with social media is producing quality content. What and when is important and makes a difference in the results. There are, however, some simple rules. Stay away from direct advertising or promotion. It’s a fast way to lose visitors. Try to imagine what someone in need of your particular service would find interesting and informative and go with that. Keep it professional. Share news and opinions relevant to your industry or region. Present yourself as an expert and field the questions and comments that come along with your posts. Keep on top of things and find a rhythm. Ultimately, if you’re posting consistently, offering quality information, and staying on top of any comments and questions that come your way, you’ll see results.
Commitment: You have to stick with it. Among the top mistakes people make online is giving up. If you’re expecting something immediate, you’re going to be disappointed. You can’t approach it like an advertisement. Show some enthusiasm for the medium and you’ll find an enthusiastic audience. Treat your social-media pages like a chore you have little interest in completing and your response will mimic your effort. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Give it some time and effort before throwing in the virtual towel.
These days, mobile devices such as iPhones, Androids, and iPads are challenging the desktop computer’s popularity, and its way of doing things. Apps, or applications, change the way we react, respond, use, and benefit from technology. At its root, an app is nothing more than a tool. And, obviously, the more tools in your tool box, the more effective and efficient you’ll be. The only trouble is finding the right app for the job. Fortunately for you, we’ve collected some of the best apps for keeping your business organized, efficient, and ahead of the curve.
Documents Unlimited: This app allows you to edit and create Microsoft Office and OpenOffice documents. It consistently ranks among the top business apps because it essentially allows for some of the functionality of the desktop computer in a mobile device. You can also connect to your Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and Google Docs account.
Inkflow: Inkflow is a great solution for anyone that needs to jot down ideas on the run. Turn your iPhone or iPad into a pad of digital paper. Make notes, to-do lists, and drawings with your finger or stylus and then move them around, arrange them, zoom in and out, and reorganize. Best of all its free.
Philips BatterySense: This is a simple but handy app, especially if you’re someone with a tendency to run out of battery at exactly the wrong time. Not only does it keep track of how much charge you have left and how long it’ll take to recharge, it breaks down the amount of time you have left to do certain activities. For example, it’ll let you know exactly how many more minutes of Internet use you have before you’re shut down.
Flipboard: Flipboard arranges all of your RSS, Facebook, and Twitter feeds into an attractive magazine-style layout. In other words, it’ll send you all of your news and updates and it’ll make it look pretty. It’ll also change the way you browse the Internet and use social media. A great way to stay ahead of the game and atop your social-media pages.
Fileboard: Another app for storing, sharing, and working with your documents and files. Fileboard makes it easy to access all of your stuff in one central location. It also makes it easier to find what you’re looking for when you’re on the run and don’t have two hours to search through your documents folder.
Vlingo: Vlingo is a voice-activated virtual assistant for your iPhone. Which is a fancy way of saying it allows you to speak your commands, texts, emails, and anything else you’d like your phone to do. Need directions, say so. Need to send a text message, say so. You get the picture.
Appsfire Deals: Top ranked in the U.S., Canada, Spain, France, Italy, Singapore, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, this app tells you when apps go on sale or are offered for free for a limited time. It’s a great way to find new applications and not have to spend any money doing it.
Everyone’s searching for an easy way out. And Internet-based marketing campaigns are no exception. In fact, some of the draw of marketing your business online is that, at first, it seems easy, inexpensive, and relatively labor free. That, however, is not the case. Like anything else, it requires some effort, time, and attention to truly pay off. In other words, it ain’t a get rich quick scheme but it is a viable and valuable tool for any business hoping to capitalize on the popularity of social media.
Here’s a short list of simple do’s and don’ts to help you accelerate your online opportunities …
Do Adjust Your Attitude: If you’ve registered for a social-media page or two and are now lounging poolside waiting for the business to start rolling in, this is the easiest and quickest way to change your fortune. Stop expecting something for nothing and start using the resources available to you. Social media is a tool but it won’t work itself. And expecting it to is no better than buying a hammer and expecting it to build you a house.
Don’t Give Up Immediately: A social-media campaign won’t succeed in the first three days. Probably not even within the first month. It’s gonna take some time to build up some content, fans, followers, and strategies. Time, consistency, and communication are the keys to success. Keep at it and stay engaged.
Do Import Your Contacts: All of the major social-media sites make it as easy as possible to transfer your email contacts to your page. Now you may not want to invite your mother to join you on LinkedIn but you’ve got to start somewhere. And inviting the contacts and connections from your address book will provide you with a foundation to build on. Announce your new page and ask people to connect with you. It’s far more effective than waiting for them to stumble upon your site on their own.
Don’t Skip The Photo: It’s 2012 and, if you haven’t yet figured out how to upload a photo, ask someone. ‘Cause chances are you know someone that can help you achieve this relatively easy and ultimately important task. Having a Facebook or Twitter page without a photo or logo or something that makes it seem as though you care at all about your presentation is a surefire way to make it look like you can’t be bothered. This is your business and wherever it is represented online should look professional.
Do Think About Content: Sure, you can have a presence on LinkedIn without having any content to share. You can do the same on Facebook. But, in the end, content is what gets people on your page and returning in the future. It’s also a way to further brand your business and help potential customers familiarize themselves with what you do, who you are, and why they should choose you over your competition.
Don’t Worry About Numbers: It’s easy to get discouraged if you’re trying to compete with Oprah for followers and fans. You can’t win that game. You can, however, approach your social-media campaign as a vehicle for spreading your message locally. In other words, you don’t have to have 1,000,000 friends and connections online to build business. You should concentrate your efforts on linking with people in your region and industry. Having five followers on your Twitter page that are in your area and looking for your services is better than having five million in China. It takes quality online connections, not quantity.
Do Explore The Possibilities: Nobody can tell you the best way to market your business. It is, after all, your business. But spending some time exploring what your social-media page of choice can do may result in new and exciting ideas. There are an endless number of applications, tools, and resources available on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress or any other social-media page you choose to use. Learn what they are and how to use them. Chances are, if there’s something you’d like to use your page for, there’s a tool to make that easier for you. Take some time and fool around. You may be surprised at the functionality available to you.
There’s a good reason many social-media articles compare a successful online strategy to working the room at a cocktail party. It’s because, much like a cocktail party, social-media sites offer opportunities to meet new people, learn new things, and network among people from your community, industry, and region.
Here are some ways to reap business benefits from Twitter …
The Eavesdropper: Let’s say you’re someone who isn’t enthusiastic about opening a Twitter account and regularly thinking of something to tweet so you’ve ignored Twitter altogether. Well there’s even something in for you. Searching keywords related to your town or industry gives you a live-time look at what’s being said about your community and business. It’s a great learning tool and may even change your mind about the usefulness of Twitter. Much like eavesdropping, it allows you to listen in without having to engage. Look for trends among the tweets and use anything you can. Search keywords related to your industry and get a feel for how much enthusiasm or demand there is for your particular product or services. If your leery or uncertain how things work, it’s a convenient way to get a feel for the powerful potential of Twitter. Use it to research your market and better your business without ever having to log in.
The Networker: Now that you’ve done some eavesdropping on Twitter, you may be more interested in trying it out for yourself. Start by setting up a profile using your real name and business info. Then follow a few of the Twitter users you found in your earlier search. Choose people or business that had something insightful to offer or lent a useful link or tip. It’s a great way to painlessly introduce yourself to people without them having to feel any obligation to reciprocate. They don’t even have to approve or accept you. And not only will you begin receiving their tweets in your feed, which will provide you – if you’ve done a good job – with a steady stream of interesting info every time you log in, it’ll also lead to a few people following you back and receiving your tweets. That’s when the social part of the social media kicks in.
The Conversationalist: This is the hard part. It’s not always easy to come up with something to say that’s relevant, interesting, and short enough to meet Twitter’s 140 character limit. One way to start is by sharing interesting links to news or relevant articles you’ve seen online. Another is to re-tweet something someone else posted. Another is to reply to something you’ve seen on someone’s page or to ask a question that will solicit a bit of back-and-forth. Keep it professional, consistent, and mostly non-promotional. Sure, it’s a good idea to offer a deal or discount to your followers here and there. But you shouldn’t overdo the directly promotional tweeting. For one thing, it’s not going to be too interesting to anyone stumbling on your page. It’s called social media for a reason. And much like going to a party and trying to sell everyone you meet, you aren’t likely to have much success if you approach it as an advertising opportunity.
If you’re someone that thinks of livestock when you hear the word branding, you may be a bit behind the times. Or you’re an actual cowboy. Either way, some simple tips on branding your business and building customer loyalty may help.
Here are some thoughts to get you started …
The Branding: The primary reason to brand your cattle was to help make them more easily identifiable. The same goes for corporate logos, advertising, and marketing campaigns. And, with the growth of online marketing, branding has become an important part of marketing even the smallest of businesses. Ultimately, having an online presence that is consistent, easily identified, and interactive will help you find new customers and keep current clients coming back. The trick is having your info where it can be easily found and making sure it’s consistent on all of your Internet properties, whether it’s a blog, Facebook page, or business website. Branding is about being identified and remembered. And a social-media campaign focused on keeping all the details, logos, and contact info consistent and presentable is one that will be more easily found online and more memorable.
The Messaging: Branding is a pretty simple concept. You want people to recognize your business and feel a sense of familiarity with you. What you do with that brand, however, is a bit more complicated. Sending the right message is about content. Once you’ve got your info, photos, and logos in place and your pages looking the way you want them, you have to have content that keeps people coming back to your page, to make it stand out from the rest of the Internet noise. For example, if you’re in the cupcake business, you don’t want a page that’s purely self-promotional and a bore for anyone other than you and your employees. You want a page that makes people think about how much they love cupcakes and would love to buy some. In other words, you want to share content that’s interesting, educational, and not directly self-promotional. In this particular example, you’d likely want to have some large, attractive pictures of cupcakes and stories touting their health benefits and how they’re particularly delicious this time of year. In other words, info that makes it more likely that visitors will feel familiar with your brand and a desire to do business with you.
Running a successful social-media campaign is a bit like running a railroad. First you have to be where the people are. Then you’ve got to keep a regular schedule so the people know when to get on board. Finally, you’ve got to offer your customers something they can’t get from your competition. And, in this case, that means offering quality content consistently and regularly. It also means providing superior service and treating your pages and profiles as an important extension of your business.
Here are some things to think about …
Location: Where you set up shop matters in any business. Open a bait shop 300 miles from the water and see how well that goes. The same is true in social media. Fortunately, this part isn’t very difficult. There are many sites out there. Some are new. So are niche. Some offer some things and others offer others. Ultimately, you want to be where the people are. Niche sites can be good for networking within your industry but new business comes from communicating with the public. And the best way to develop relationships with people online is to go where most of them are. And yeah, that means Facebook is probably a good bet.
Schedule: This is the part that trips a lot of people up. It’s one thing to survey the available social-media sites and get started registering. It’s an altogether different thing to log in regularly and use your profiles and pages to your advantage. Sadly, though it can be done, it isn’t automatic. You have to have something to share and you have to share it on a regular basis. How often you update your pages is up to you. Some social-media gurus will tell you you have to update your pages with new content multiple times a day. Fortunately, updating on any schedule – as long as it’s kept – will likely benefit you. Start slow. Come up with a post every other week. Then up the frequency as you get into a rhythm. What works for you is what works for you. In other words, set the pace you’re comfortable with and let the people know when to expect you. Regularity is familiarity. And familiarity breeds business.
The Extras: It really shouldn’t be a hard sell to get some people to visit, like, follow, or recommend your new social-media profiles. It’ll cost them nothing and make your page seem populated and more interesting to newcomers. So ask some previous clients, referral partners, and other professional contacts to stop by your new page. They’ll be happy to do it and you’ll end up with increased visibility and some potential new connections. But that’s where the extras come in. Now that you’ve got some people visiting, what you put up on you page determines whether or not they’ll come back. Offer good content, interesting info, be available, and answer any questions or comments you get. In other words, treat your social-media sites as an extension of your business and treat your fans and followers like they’re your customers. Be consistent and available, professional and prompt and they’ll return to you in the future.
Here’s a stat for anyone that believes blogs aren’t a viable lead generator … More than half of businesses that blog report having acquired a customer specifically through their blog. According to HubSpot’s 2012 State of Inbound Marketing survey, 57 percent of company blogs have pulled in a new client, that’s better than Facebook or Twitter. In other words, if you’re thinking of starting a social-media campaign for your business and you’re convinced business blogging is a thing of the not-so distant past, here are some things to think about …
Sharing is Marketing: The percentage of businesses with a company blog has risen in all of the past three years and has now reached 65 percent. In other words, if you’re not blogging, you’re behind the times. You’re a dying breed. A dinosaur. And there’s a reason the majority of companies are maintaining blogs. First, they’re a cheap way of increasing your web presence. Secondly, in the Internet age, marketing means getting your content passed along. Sharing is key. And a blog gives you a place to begin generating content and an audience. Once you’ve gotten accustomed to producing content set yourself up on a few social-media sites to syndicate your content even further.
More Is More: So you set up a blog, posted twice, and when it didn’t result in any new business, gave up? Well what did you expect would happen? According to the HubSpot survey, among businesses who reported acquiring a customer through their blog, 92 percent posted multiple times a day. In other words, the more you share, the more likely you generate traffic, make new contacts, and build new business. Now you may be thinking you don’t have the time to post multiple times a day. Well, 66 percent of those business blogs acquired a customer while only blogging once a week and, among blogs that only updated monthly, 56 percent gained a customer. In other words, even if you’re too busy or too lazy, chances are a business blog will benefit your bottom line.
The Future Is Now: Among respondents to the HubSpot survey, 62 percent say social media has grown more important to them in the past six months. And, on the flip side, only 14 percent named trade shows and nine percent said telemarketing. In other words, if you believed social media was a passing fancy and there was no need to participate, you’ve been proven wrong. More and more businesses are incorporating and benefiting from social media and blogs. And more of them are reporting their successes. The same survey found 81 percent of businesses said their blog was useful or better, with 34 percent calling it important and 25 percent saying it was critical. Yeah, critical.
Change can be challenging for some and totally paralyzing for others. It’s among the reasons so many dismiss the benefits of taking their business online. It’s easier to retreat than it is to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of the Internet and its boundless opportunities. There is, however, a simpler way of thinking of things and we offer a few of them below
Content is Conversation: Content is key when marketing your business online. But what is content? Well, instead of trying to break down the ins-and-outs of “content marketing,” imagine you’re having a conversation with a potential client. What types of things would you want to share with them? Maybe some news, a hot tip, a new deal? That’s your content. Blog posts, tweets, and Facebook updates needn’t be perfectly composed, crafty, clever, or even that creative. The only thing they need to be is relevant to the types of people you’d like to turn into customers.
Social Media is a Satellite: Think of your social-media profiles or blog as a satellite office. It’s your website away from home. It’s like an easily customized billboard that you have complete control over. Sure, it won’t replace your business website but it will become a place where you can communicate and connect with potential partners and future customers. Keep ‘em professional and relevant to your target audience and they’ll become a vital part of how you do business and how you reach new business.
The Internet is Everywhere: Increasingly, people are accessing the Internet wherever they go and whenever they want. And with the popularity of products like the iPhone and iPad, the ease with which people can access the Internet will only increase. That means, if you plan to stay in business for another five or 10 years, you’ll likely end up using the Internet in some way to promote and market your services. Starting now just means you’ll be better positioned to take advantage of future opportunities as the Internet becomes more and more integrated with everyday life.
If you opened a retail store and had a flood of customers coming through your door everyday but never buying anything, you wouldn’t call that success. Sure, you would have succeeded in getting people to visit but, if your visitors do nothing but look, you wouldn’t be able to afford your rent, employees, or merchandise. Which means, you would be out of business just as quickly as you got into it. Social-media marketing works the same way. Converting visitors into customers takes effort and some organization. Concentrating on quantity over quality can leave you with an impressive stat sheet but no new leads.
Here are some tips on organizing your efforts and making the most of your online properties …
The Operations Center: Maybe you feel like blogs are yesterday’s news and you’d prefer to skip a step and take your online efforts directly to Facebook or Twitter. Don’t. A blog gives you much more control over how and what your customers see. Facebook, for example, is continually changing and evolving. You have no control over the next update and how that may affect your ability to share your content with potential customers, clients, and partners. Set up a blog and use that as your central hub. From there you can send your posts to whatever other online properties you use for business. In short, start with the blog and share from there. You’ll have more control and an easier time organizing your info and where it’s shared.
Use Your Base: Maintaining a blog takes effort. If nothing else, it requires regular content. That can be a challenge. So much so that getting your blog in front of your target audience can be a secondary concern. Turning your latest post into a lead generator can be tricky but building an audience may be easier than it seems. For one, you can use existing and past clients to generate an audience that’s focused and familiar. How, you may ask, would having past customers reading your blog help build your business? Well it will boost awareness and readership, in addition to providing all important word-of-mouth. After all, a past customer who’s already familiar with you and work will be more willing to pass along your info to family, friends, and colleagues.
Merge and Integrate: Too often, professionals set themselves up with social-media sites and blogs but don’t take the time to link them together or to their business website. Using RSS feeds or any available plugins and widgets online makes it easier than ever to incorporate your blog into your business site, your Facebook fan page, and your Twitter feed. If the purpose of keeping a business blog is to build business, then your main objective should be getting people to visit any or all of your online properties. Driving traffic back to your business website is key. Make sure you’re making it easy for visitors to find you before complaining that your online marketing efforts are a waste of time and effort.
The Ibis Network / www.theibisnetwork.com
If you’ve ever been a child, you know that making a mess is far easier than cleaning one up. Which is to say, we’ve all been guilty – at one time or another- of putting off the thankless task of cleaning up after ourselves. Cleaning, however, often exposes things previously hidden by clutter and makes it easier to use what you have. Your Internet presence is no different. Having a social-media presence for your business requires maintenance.
Here are a few tips, hints, and motivations for an end-of-the-year social-media house cleaning …
Google Yourself: It won’t make you an egomaniac to have a look at the results that come up when your name is plugged into any of the more popular online search engines. In fact, it’s an effective way of discovering what appears when a prospective client searches for you or your business. If you run your business’ name through Google or Bing and are embarrassed by the results or find pages with old contact information, you can be sure your prospective clients have seen the same. It’s also a good way of finding the Twitter or Facebook fan page you set up and abandoned a year ago. Have a good look at how you’re being presented online and go to work cleaning and updating your presence.
Be Consistent: Having an Internet presence is one thing. Having a consistent presence is another. If you have multiple social-media pages for your business, make sure you’re presenting yourself in an uniform way. That means, they all have the same contact info, bio, photo, name, addresses, and tone. If you’re “Crazy Eddie”on Facebook but “Edward” on Twitter, you’re likely to confuse anyone searching for you or your services. Having a consistently professional online presence means, no matter where someone finds you on the web, you’re well represented and offering the most up-to-date contact information.
Organize It: Once you’ve had a look at where you’re being represented online and spent some time updating your pages, take the time to organize things and make it easier to maintain in the future. Start by saving all your login and password information in one place. There’s no quicker way to lose motivation for maintaining your social-media presence than to try to repeatedly log in to your profiles only to be turned away because of a forgotten password. Next, link your pages wherever possible. Having your blog posts appear on your LinkedIn page or your tweets on your Facebook page makes it easier to keep everything fresh, consistent, and up-to-date. Once you’ve found your pages, updated your contact info, linked them together, and saved your login information in an easily accessible place, you’ll be better able to communicate with potential customers and take advantage of any available online opportunities.
The Ibis Network / www.theibisnetwork.com
Predictions are a dangerous business. After all, if they’re wrong, it’s only a matter of time before everyone knows it. Nevertheless, the end of each year brings with it a flood of forecasts, predictions, and crystal-ball gazing gurus who claim to know what will happen in the year ahead. For your convenience, we’ve scoured the web in an effort to collect the experts’ most frequently forecast trends in social-media and email marketing for 2012 …
Email and Social-Media Marketing: A recent survey found that among the marketing programs businesses planned to invest in during the coming year, email and social-media marketing topped the list. And though the edge of the cutting edge will tell you that email is obsolete, everyone uses it – which explains its continued presence on trend lists. More than two-thirds of companies surveyed said they plan on integrating their social-media and email campaigns in 2012 and 47 percent said they would focus on using email to grow their social-media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter pages.
Content Curation: If you have a friend that’s particularly good at finding adorable puppy videos and insists on sending every one of them to everyone in their email address book, you’re already familiar with the concept behind content curation. Which is to say, it’s nothing more than sharing. For business, that means sharing good, relevant content with your fans and followers. When you come across something that would be informative or interesting to your customer base, post a link with an explanatory note. Make it your goal to become a trusted source of quality content. Sure, anyone can do a Google search and find what they want on their own but collecting the best bits and presenting them in one place will save them time and keep ‘em coming back.
Facebook: Facebook is hardly new but the number one social-media site on the web continues to evolve. And that evolution means Facebook will continue to weave itself into the everyday life of their members through new platforms, apps, and smart phone functionality. Once upon a time, merely having a Facebook presence for your business was the trend but now it’s time to take it seriously. Just based on the staggering membership numbers or the fact that it’s the website Americans spend most of their time using, Facebook has become an essential part of any social-media campaign.
Content Marketing: The difference between content marketing and content curation is simply who’s writing the blog posts, composing tweets, and creating videos. So while it’s a good idea to share interesting industry-relevant news with your online network, you’ll also have to create some content on your own. And no, this doesn’t mean you need an audio/video department and a team of former newspaper editors. It means you need to communicate. How and when are up to you.
The Ibis Network / www.theibisnetwork.com
If there’s a television network you watch more than any other, it’s not because they run more commercials than their competitors. It’s because you like their shows. In short, it’s the content. A cable channel devoted to food-related advertising wouldn’t garner nearly as many viewers as any one of the many cooking/food networks.
The same applies to your business blog. You’ll have to create content that makes people take interest and you’ll have to post it regularly enough that they come back in the future. And, if that sounds like a lot of pressure, here are a few tips to remember while blogging for business …
Give it Time: The good news is nobody is likely going to be reading your blog when you first get going. And, though that doesn’t sound like good news, it will provide you some time to come up with a plan, some content, and a schedule that fits your schedule. Don’t be afraid to try things. Gather some industry-related stats or surveys, news or links and focus on the most interesting bits and pieces. Grab a couple, write up a short explanatory sentence or two, then summarize the details. That’s a blog post. Experiment with lists and how-to posts. Most importantly, keep at it. It’ll take some time and a little promotion before you have any readers, use that time wisely.
Write it Right: Okay, we understand that one of the biggest deterrents to keeping a business blog is the writing. But you don’t have to be the second coming of William Shakespeare in order to have a successful blog. You only need to pay a little more attention. Turn your spell check on and fix any mistakes. Keep it short and simple. You don’t need to know what a semicolon does. You don’t even have to use them. You do, however, have to make it readable. Break it up into shorter paragraphs and read what you wrote before posting. In fact, step away for a half hour or so and reread what you wrote with fresh eyes.
Keep a Schedule: There are those that will say, “Who has the time?” And yeah, the day is only so long. But keeping a regular schedule is better than keeping a bruising schedule. Which means, while you may notice more attention from search engines if you post 10 times a day, you’d also notice fewer hours in your day available for doing business. The answer is setting a schedule in advance. If you only blog on Monday and Friday, but you put something up every Monday and Friday, any readers you have will know when to check in for your latest offering. If you post 49 times the first week and then once a month and a half later, you’ll lose any momentum you had. Be consistent.
The Ibis Network / www.theibisnetwork.com
It’s hard to argue with numbers, unless you’re a mathematician or Pythagoras. And so, we’ve provided a list of social-media stats, numbers, and raw data to help convert the skeptics and offer encouragement to those who seek it.
There are more than 800 million active Facebook users. That’s right, 800 million. And Americans spend more time on Facebook than on any other website. That means, they aren’t on your website. Which means, you should probably have a Facebook page. Setting up a Facebook fan page for your business is an excellent way of making sure that you have a presence on the website most of us are presently perusing.
Social media apps are the third most downloaded apps among smartphone users. That means, the increasing number of people who access the Internet from their cell phone are, increasingly, using it to access their social-media pages. If people are that invested in their social-media pages that they want to be able to access them wherever they are, that’s a pretty good indication that having a social-media plan for your business isn’t likely to be time wasted on a passing fad.
78% of small businesses are using Twitter. Now we understand this comes dangerously close to the everybody-else-is-doing-it line of thinking but everybody else is doing it. And they can’t all be wrong.
41% of people using LinkedIn for marketing have generated business with it. LinkedIn is often confused for a job-hunting website but it’s also a great place to connect with other professionals, referral partners, and potential clients.
There are 3.5 billion things shared on Facebook each week. That means, blog posts, links, news, etc. That also means social-media is a high-tech word-of-mouth machine. Having your info shared is the quickest way to meet potential business online.
On Twitter, interesting content is the number one reason people retweet. In other words, if your content is interesting you’re more likely to have your content shared. Humor and personal connection were the second and third most common reasons for retweeting. Which means, if you’re not funny, you’d better be interesting.
79% of companies are using or planning on using social media. And that’s according to Harvard Business Review. Their survey found 58 percent of companies were already engaged on social-media sites, while an additional 21 percent had plans to launch a social-networking campaign.
57% of companies using blogs reported that they’d acquired customers from leads they generated through their blogs. And don’t believe it when you hear someone say that blogs are no longer relevant. In fact, between 2009 and 2011, the percentage of businesses that blog increased from 48 percent to 65 percent.
The Ibis Network / www.theibisnetwork.com
So you signed up for a Twitter account, tweeted around a little, and think you know everything there is to know about the Twitterverse. Well there’s 1,000 ways to use Twitter and an ever-expanding list of tools available to help you figure one or two of those ways that’ll make it work for you and your business.
Here’s a list of some of tools, apps, and ideas to help you maximize your tweets …
Contaxio: A tool to help manage, track, and interconnect your Twitter account. With Contaxio, you’ll be able to find contacts with similar interests, review your activity, scan stats about the people you follow and those who follow you, and even keep up with new contacts from your Facebook page.
Twaitter: Twaitter is another all-in-one Twitter tool aimed at increasing your efficiency, managing your accounts, and organizing your Twitter output. Schedule a tweet for later or even set it up to send recurring tweets on a daily, monthly, or even yearly basis. You’ll also be able to manage your activity with an interactive calendar, link a RSS feed to your Twitter account, and invite co-workers to join your account.
Twictionary: If you’re new to social media, the lingo alone can be intimidating. Luckily, there’s a Twictionary, which is exactly what it sounds like it might be. A dictionary of Twitter-related terms you’ll learn everything from the meaning of the hashtag to what it means to be an Atwistocrat.
Twitter Counter: Twitter Counter claims to be the number one Twitter stat site, tracking more than 14 million Twitter users and providing stats, widgets, and buttons for its users. For a price, they even offer a featured spot on their website for people looking to gain some attention and followers.
Twitter-Search: The quickest way to find who and what you’re looking for on Twitter. Filter real-time tweets to find people and businesses in your region and industry, then follow the results.
Nearby Tweets: See who’s tweeting what in your area. The simple set-up delivers search results based on a keyword and a location. Search for anything anywhere and see who’s tweeting what near you.
TwitPic: Feeling limited by Twitter’s 140 character maximum? Use TwitPic to share photos with your Twitter followers. If you have a Twitter account, then you’re already signed up for TwitPic. Log in using your Twitter username and password and get started.
TweetScan: Another easy-to-use search tool for keeping on top of what’s happening on Twitter.
CoTweet: A popular site for managing your Twitter accounts. Handy for tracking multiple accounts and keeping you on top of all your online activity.
Twibs: A Twitter-based business directory, Twibs aims to help businesses reach their customers. It’s as simple as registering your business, choosing some keywords, and adding links to your email and blog.
Twitdom: A directory of nearly 2,000 available applications and sites offering Twitter-related services.
Keeping a business blog can be an effective tool for branding your business, generating leads, and keeping in touch with clients, partners, and anyone else who stumbles across your site. It can also be a headache. That’s why you should be taking advantage of the large directory of plugins available to WordPress users. Plugins, like apps, are easy-to-use and greatly increase the functionality of your site. They can help with everything from reducing spam comments to spell checking to syndicating your content and improving your search-engine rankings. Best of all, they’re typically free and shouldn’t require a degree in computer programming to use.
Here are a few to benefit your blog and your business …
Postie: Posting regular content to your business blog can be challenging, if only because it can be difficult to fit into an otherwise busy work schedule. Using the Postie plugin, however, can take some of the work out of blogging by making it possible to send your posts via email. You can set categories and tags, include pictures and videos, and strip off your email signature and anything else you wouldn’t want appearing on your blog. Easy to set up and customize, Postie requires nothing more than a dedicated email address to send your posts to. After that, posting to your blog will be no more difficult than sending any other email.
Network Publisher: In order to use Network Publisher, you’ll need to register for an account with the plugin’s author, Links Alpha. That’s the bad news. The good news is it’s free and will make updating your entire social network a breeze. Network Publisher allows you to publish your blog posts to any, or all, of the 30 social-media sites offered, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Blogger, and Google Buzz.
WPTouch: In the age of the iPhone, iPod, and Android, it’s important that people accessing the Internet from their phone or tablet are still able to find and use your site. WPTouch will automatically transform your blog into a mobile-friendly theme without requiring any coding. In other words, this WordPress plugin will provide an accessible and user-friendly version of your site for mobile visitors without affecting your regular blog theme.
Jetpack: Jetpack is actually a set of plugins, including a widget for displaying your Twitter feed, stats, a URL shortener, and a collection of share buttons that allow your readers to easily pass your posts along to their social networks. It even includes a spelling, style, and grammar check to help you edit your writing efficiently. The all-in-one package is allows users of self-hosting WordPress sites to access the same easy-to-use widgets and tools available from wordpress.com.
The Ibis Network / www.theibisnetwork.com