Monthly Archives: July 2016

10 Offline & Online Tips to Build Your Social Media Following

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counter with numbers that business owners set as goal to grow social media followingIt’s one of the frustrations we hear from businesses new to social media: “Where do I get started? How do I get people to follow my page?”  Interestingly, we hear the same from social media veterans with the goal of trying to grow their social media following.  Here’s our answer to their common social media marketing question (only longer and more in-depth).

Have a plan.

Don’t just tackle social media without a plan.  We’ve given you step-by-step directions on how to draft an online marketing plan in our recent post; for social media, make sure you have a set plan that follows your sales cycle (i.e. what events or products you sell at different times of the year) without bashing your followers over the head with “buy, buy, buy!”  posts.  Instead, ask yourself, what’s going on in my followers lives?  What do they want to know?  What do they want to see in their feed?  From there, draft a customer-centric plan that follows your sales cycle and gives your followers what they want.

Make sure you’re on the right social media site(s).

Don’t think you have to be on every social media site to get results.  Target your efforts at social media sites where your customers are based on their demographics (or what they tell you!).

Make your social media marketing a team effort

If you are a real estate firm, ask your employees to follow your page and share information with their friends. That doesn’t mean they need to share everything, but, as powerful advocates, they can share posts they feel are relevant and expose your business posts to a new audience.

If you (and your managers and employees) don’t have time for social media (you know what we’re talking about you only post every once in awhile or when you have time), consider outsourcing your efforts to experts that keep up with the latest practices and information.  To get best results, schedule regular contacts with your marketing firm so they have insight about your business and customers.

Give your followers a reason to follow you.

The proverbial social media love is not given, it is earned.  Give your followers a reason to want you in their feed with the inside scoop (pictures of workers, problems, and finished products), information, and entertainment (if appropriate).  On occasion, you can add a social media contest to the mix, but make sure you give your followers a reason to share the contest—and your new followers a reason to keep caring about your profiles even after the winner is announced. (More social media contest tips here.)

In addition to posting relevant information, make sure your two-way social media conversations are not one-sided; respond promptly (within 1-2 hours) to all messages, reviews, and comments so your customers know you care about them.  Don’t leave them hanging.  If you do get a negative comment (one of the risks of social media), use these tips to respond to an angry customer.  For comments that require customer service, invite them to send you a private message so you can resolve their issue.

Invite people at the counter, in sales meetings and when you provide customer service.

We know, in the digital world we live in, it seems counter-intuitive that spreading the word via mouth is still one of the best ways to draw people to your social media sites. It’s also one of the easiest. A simple, “Don’t forget to check our Facebook page for discounts” when you check out a customer or ending a client meeting with “We’d really appreciate it if you’d check out our social media sites for more information” is a personal invitation. In today’s world, many of your customers and clients can find the site right there—and continue the connection that you initiated in person.

Integrate your social media and blog into your marketing materials.

Producing a brochure? Add your Twitter profile address. Sending out a direct mail piece? Don’t forget to add a QR code they can scan with their smart phone that takes them straight to your Facebook page.

Use hashtags.

This tip comes with a caveat: make sure that you use hashtags appropriately and on the social media sites where they should be used.  Don’t use too many; usually, 3 to 5 hashtags can be used on Twitter and Instagram to get results.  Too many hashtags can actually sabotage your results and—if used on a social media site where hashtags usually aren’t—make you look like you don’t know what you’re doing.

Here’s how to use them right: scout out other users and see how they use hashtags successfully.  Research hashtags before you use them instead of just blindly jumping on the bandwagon.  Don’t try to use a hashtag to promote your product if the hashtag is related to a tragic event.  This tactic can backfire and cause your business to be seen as insensitive.  Feeling like you’re over your head? Hire experts who know the ins and outs of hashtags on social media.

Connect your social media pages to your website.

If a customer is on the verge about buying your product, the “tipping point” that influences their buying decision may be a discount or promotion. But how will they know about it? Add links to your social media sites to your website. Today’s consumers not only research your website, but your social media sites as well—and you need to make it easy for them.

Add the social media addresses to your email signature.

This is one of the simplest—and most overlooked—way to spread the word about your social media sites. You send emails to your customers with quotes, product information and customer service inquiries. Why wouldn’t you want to continue to connect with them after they’ve read your email?

Don’t give up.

Social media is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.  Set your expectations accordingly.  No matter the results (or lack thereof), don’t abandon your social media efforts.  To the contrary, use the two R’s of social media marketing to grow your follower base: relevancy and regular posts (so they don’t forget about you).  Then, test out different ways to connect with them—and you’ll see your followers start to grow.

CRAZY Bad Internet Marketing Advice You Should Ignore

Shocked man over terrible bad marketing adviceWe apologize if your jaw is injured from hitting the floor, but ready yourself for this: we just saw a tweet from a marketer advocating for buying social media followers.  Once we got over the shock and possible concussion (seriously?!), we started thinking through some of the craziest pieces of marketing advice we can’t believe are still being passed around.  Here’s a list of bad marketing advice we compiled that you should regard with the same level of distrust and NEVER follow.

Buying social media followers & email lists are a GREAT idea

Why this is bad: If you pressure wash a wall, you have a better chance of hitting more surface area.  The more you have the better chance for success, right? Buying email lists is built upon the same premise, but you’re going to find that non-targeted emails and followers are going to fade and can even inhibit your results.  In essence: you can’t buy love, you have to earn their trust—and their email and social media following.

What you can do: Build your followers and email lists organically with relevant information developed for your target audience.  Spread the word about your email and social media offline as well, through coupons, an occasional contest, word of mouth with your customers, email signatures, and these ideas.  If you want to do this strategically, contact a marketing firm that can recommend and execute organic email and social media building tactics.

SEO is dead

Why this is bad: This is a misperception based on the fact that old search engine optimization tactics (keyword stuffing, spammy links, etc.) don’t work in the evolving world of internet marketing.  That doesn’t mean SEO is dead—far from it—it means that optimization has evolved into optimized writing and technology that delivers exactly what the search engines want: relevant, valuable content (on your website, blog via content marketing, social media, etc.).

What you can do: Embrace the new SEO because it gets results!  You can either learn the new and continually evolving art of optimizing your website, blog, and social media with well-researched keywords and topics specifically targeted at your customers or hire the professionals who can (and can keep up with it).  If you are a business with a local audience, you can take that a step farther by utilizing local SEO tactics.

You can use any image for marketing you find online

Why this is bad: There are many reasons this is a bad idea but the main reason is that it is STEALING.  If you don’t pay for the images—or take them yourself—you are taking someone else’s work and using it without their permission.  As such, you are opening yourself up to the possibility of legal action.

What you can do: Create or take your own photos, or hire a professional photographer or marketing firm to manage your images.  You can also buy images from a popular service per graphic or through a long-term plan.

The more social media posts, the better

Why this is bad: This is one case where more is not always better.  It’s more important to have regular posts so you stay in front of your audience than posting 10 times a day and then nothing for a week.  The feast-or-famine approach does nothing to build brand awareness or to encourage consistent conversations.

What you can do: Create an integrated marketing plan that follows your business sales cycle and includes relevant information that your target audience wants to know.  Make sure that your social media posts are a regular part of your plan, then use a service like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule regular posts that coordinate with your website, content marketing, and email marketing efforts.

Automate, automate, automate!

Why this is bad: Scheduling your email and social media is helpful, but automated posts and emails should not be all you do.  If you want to start a conversation with your audience, you need to have some flexibility to respond—and to respond to hot topics and current events that come up.

What you can do: Create a marketing plan and use automation to carry it out.  However, be ready to vary your schedule or add in an email or social media post that fits with the times.

Mobile marketing is optional.

Why this is bad: Next time someone tells you that you don’t need to cater to users with cell phones or tablets, plug your ears and start spouting statistics about the rising amount of mobile devices.  The latest studies show that two-thirds of Americans have smart phones, and that number is only going to increase with time.  Mobile marketing is not optional any more, it’s a MUST.  If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website and marketing tools, your audience is going to be driven away in droves.

What you can do:  Create a mobile-friendly website (or contact a marketing firm that can) so your users don’t have to zoom in to read your text or squint to find your contact page.  Remember, a lot of times they won’t bother, they’ll just hit the ‘back’ button.

Sell, sell, sell!

Why this is bad: This advice most likely comes from someone who views social media and content marketing as the “new” forum for advertising.  While targeted social media advertising does get results, your business page or profile should not be used solely for selling.  Your customers don’t want to be beaten over the head with endless posts and tweets or read content marketing pieces that are just about you.

What you can do: Use the 80/20 rule with 80% useful, entertaining, and interesting information and 20% selling content and posts.  If you don’t know how to tackle this more subtle form of marketing, hire the experts that don’t give you crazy bad marketing advice.

6 Must Haves of Every Business Website

smartphone with http of a well-built websiteJust cruise the web for a few minutes. So many businesses put the cart before the horse, as the old saying goes.  Business owners and managers want to take advantage of the ‘must haves’ of a solid online marketing plan (email marketing, search engine optimization, social media and content marketing) without a good foundation: a solid website.

While it sounds easy to build an excellent website, but we’ve worked with quite a few business owners terrific at what they do, but challenged when organizing and prioritizing their knowledge into a customer-friendly website. That’s where we come in, helping them organize their thoughts into a website their customers and potential customers want to visit—and a solid foundation for all their online marketing efforts.

So how can you do the same? Well, you can contact us (shameless promotion) or you can use these ‘must haves’ to create a stellar business website. No matter what industry you’re in, the basic formula for an excellent website is the same.

KISS

It’s like a bad movie that plays out again and again: overcrowded websites crammed full of graphics, disjointed text, and “stuff” that leaves potential customers running to the exit.  We can even tell you the rationale behind them: owners, managers, and teams all scrambling to get their customers’ attention about a million different products, services, and promotions with an overwhelming amount of graphics or information.  The result is a home page that challenges even the most focused person.  They don’t know where to look—or where to click.

Use the ‘KIS’ out of the old KISS adage when designing your website: keep it simple.  Have a goal for your website, and keep your home page—and every internal page—simple so your customers and potential customers can focus and know what you want them to do.  Remember your website is there to sell so you have to give them information they need and use, and a very simple mechanism for acting on it.  Help them focus on what you want them to get out of your content and the action you would like them to take. Keep it simple.

Intuitive Navigation

A website with proper organization is a valuable gem, giving your customers an intuitive navigation system (menu and links to related content) that makes it easy for them to find what they are looking for.  This is where you need to step outside your business and look at your company as a customer would look at it.  What topics do they want to know about?  Where would they look for it?

Once you have your answers, draft a chart. Don’t be afraid to use others as a sounding board to get to a finalized menu.  When we say ‘others,’ we mean people who are outside of your company (when we help owners create websites, that’s us) and use your website like a customer would.

User-friendly, Optimized, Quality Content

There are two audiences you are writing for: customers and search engines.  Customers get information from your site and buy from you, and search engines scan your website for information valuable to your customers.  When crafting an optimized website, consider both audiences (or trust your efforts to professionals that can).

To start, you need to step into a new “pair of shoes”: your customer.  Look at your content through their eyes.  Ask yourself (again): what do they want to know?  How can I organize information on the page so it is easy to read? Try to avoid big blocks of text.  Instead, break your information into smaller, easy-to-read short paragraphs.

Now, why should you worry about search engines?  Search engines are going to be one of the top sources of traffic to your site.  More than 90% of users start their search for information with a search engine.  Write accordingly with words that you think your users are going to use—without sounding like you’re trying—and use those words in your headlines.

If you want to add a “cherry on the top” to your website optimization, consider adding search engine optimization technology to your website that targets search engine users in cities and communities within 10, 20, or 50 miles around your company location.  With professionally-written optimized content and technology, local SEO technology can get your well-built company website on the first page of search engine results.  Why is that important?  Because 75% of users never click on the second page of search engine results.

(Easy-to-use) Contact Page

The goal of your website is to get customers to your door, to convert them from potential to paying customers—or to make them returning customers.  Make it easy for them to do so with an accessible contact form that is easy to fill out.  The perfect contact form is a fine line: a form with just enough fields that you can get the contact information you need to contact the customer but not too many fields that your potential customers aren’t intimidated by the form.

In addition, your contact page needs to have a second purpose: to make it easy for search engines to find your business so that customers can find your location.  Statistics have shown that more searches are being done on mobile devices than on desktops, and many of those searches are targeted at finding the location of local companies.  Make sure your hours, phone number, and address are included on the contact page for search engines and customers.

Social Proof

Study after study has shown that social proof is a key factor in customers’ purchasing decisions, making testimonials and reviews an integral part of a good website.  Your potential customers want their decision to use your company confirmed by seeing (video) or reading (text) other people’s reviews.  You can approach this in two ways: 1) by adding customer feedback to your website manually, or 2) by having reviews from your social media site feed into your site.  In addition to adding reviews to your website, make it easy for people to learn about your business (latest updates, specials, etc.) and leave reviews from their experience with your company (more social proof) through your social media channels.

Mobile-friendly

Recent numbers clearly illustrate the reason for a mobile-friendly website: nearly two-thirds of all Americans have a smart phone—and that number is expected to rise. With the increase in mobile devices also comes another important part of marketing plan: responsiveness.  Your customers and potential customers expect faster response times to their website and social media inquiries; don’t disappoint them with slow reaction times or a substandard website.