Category Archives: Social media marketing

Step by step: Make SEO, Content, Social Media & Email Work Together for You

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puzzle with hand pushing in last piece of digital marketing puzzle We’ve met more than a few business owners who look at digital marketing tools as aliens from foreign planets.  What’s even more common is for them to look at each of these “UFOs” as all from a separate planet (or galaxy!), without putting all the pieces together and recognizing the potential of well-coordinated online marketing plan.

We’ve written about the ‘what’ of these online marketing tools: search engine optimization, content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing, and how they are a must of any business marketing plan. Now we’re going to give you a general idea of how you can make them work together as an integrated marketing plan (think of it as a coordinated universe if we want to stick with space analogy), saving you time and effort in the process—and increasing your business bottom line, if executed correctly.

Start with a solid foundation: your website

What good is a stellar email marketing campaign if you don’t have solid website pages to send your audience back to?  What kind of sales numbers are you going to achieve if you entertain your audience on social media, but don’t have any more business info to give them?  Start with a well-built website (or hire experts to do it for you) with all the ‘must haves:’ optimized information about all your products or services, your business, and a way for people to reach you.  Optimize the content on your pages for search engines and your audience (use these tips), and use SEO to attract local customers searching for products and services pertinent to your business (see how this is all starting to come together?).   

Use your sales cycle to plan

Your efforts to market your website should follow your sales cycle.  For example, if you are a caterer, look back at your sales for the past year to dictate your marketing plan for next year.  Your sales team or customer service representatives would be an excellent source for this information; after all, they are interacting with your potential and existing customers on a regular basis.  An example would look like:

December-March Booking weddings (because of high engagement rate)

April-June Booking company picnics

July-August Booking weddings

September-November Booking holiday parties

This calendar is very simplified, but you can see how your sales cycle would drive your online marketing calendar.  Based on this basic example, the content you produce would match what your sales team is seeing from customers so your entire team can use the materials you produce to reach your targeted audience.

Use strategy to dictate content creation

Remember just because you’re following your sales calendar doesn’t mean you need to produce content that is entirely about selling your business.  You are trying to provide value to your customer, and you’re not going to attract new customers if you’re screaming “buy, buy, buy!” in their face.  It’s the wrong first impression.

What you should do is compile a list of subjects related to your calendar.  These subjects can stem from customers’ frequently asked questions or topics that your sales team feels would entertain your customers and draw potential customers (more ideas for content topics here).  If you outsource your content creation, make sure you connect with your marketing team on a regular basis.  Make sure you integrate big events into your calendar as well, such as a trade show or open house.  Use video, quality images, and other media as part of your plan—remember not everyone is driven to text alone.  Make sure you post content to a blog (this is a very common and effective content marketing tool, more info here) on a regular basis (this is very important), both to keep your audience’s and search engine’s attention (search engine optimization).

Don’t forget that your content is being produced to convert your customers; include links back to your website, search-optimized pages, and social media channels so your customers have an easy way to buy and ask questions.

Draft a strategic distribution plan (and stick to it)

Businessman sitting at table and screaming in megaphone on laptop while content marketingQuality content without a distribution plan is like a really good secret no one hears.  Add another dimension to your content calendar with ways you are going to share your content, such as social media and email marketing.  When adding this layer to your online marketing, keep the word ‘manageable’ in mind.  A good distribution plan is no good if you can’t execute it.  Remember, you don’t have to be on every social media channel out there, only the social media sites that fit your audience (we found a useful information on social media channels and demographics here).

Share your content as much as possible and make your content shareable so your customers can share it.  Make sure your sales team pushes it out as well.  Ask them to share it on their professional social media channels (if applicable) and via email.  Start building an email list of customers and potential customers, with the customers’ permission.  Use your content in emails, and drive the customer back to your blog, website, and social media channels so they have a variety of ways to contact you and buy your product or get a quote.

In addition to sharing content, don’t be afraid to share interesting articles and videos, notices with upcoming events (i.e. grand openings, trade shows, open houses, etc.), faces of your business, and interesting things you see on the job.  Keep everything you share somewhat professional; you don’t want to give your business a black eye by making one of these social media marketing mistakes.

How to make it ALL work for you

We wish we could give you a hard-and-fast plan with every online marketing tool integrated into an effective plan for your business (and we haven’t even touched out to add traditional marketing to the mix), but the truth is that every business and industry is different.  Plan accordingly, and be flexible.  Test out what works and doesn’t work, and outsource to the experts if you feel overwhelmed by “space age” online marketing.

12 Reasons You’re Not Getting Results on Social Media

Frustrated businessman in eyeglasses touching his head because he doesn't have any followers on social media“Why am I am not getting results on social media?”  “Why don’t I have any followers?”  Why doesn’t my business page get likes?” “Why don’t people like my posts?”  “How come my tweets don’t get retweeted?” “How can I get people to engage?”

There’s about a million different versions of these questions we hear from companies, usually accompanied by a healthy level of frustration.  If you’ve thought some of the same things—or vocalized them—this is the post for you.  While we can’t give you a specific reason social media isn’t working for you, (not without looking at your specific profiles, just ask us) we can give you some of the most common reasons businesses are not getting the results they set out to achieve on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat, and Pinterest.

You’re not where they are

One of the most common mistakes we see is from company owners and managers that choose a social media channel that they have personal profiles on—but not their customers.  Or they try to choose the biggest fish in social media, so they can try to reach as many people as possible; in reality, very few people in their target audience is on that social media site.  The result is a social media page targeted at customers but followed by friends and colleagues with minimal engagement.

The resolution: know who you want to reach, and research social media sites to find out what social media site has the demographics that fit with your target audience.

You don’t have a strategy

Too many companies jump on social media without a goal.  They’re on social media because everyone else is, or because it’s free.  The result is a mishmash of posts, little engagement, and a generic tone that doesn’t sound real and authentic.

The resolution: before you jump on social media, or as you make an evaluation of your marketing efforts, set a goal for your efforts and define the audience you want to reach.  You can set different goals for each of your social media channels and sub-goals for each of your marketing campaigns.  If you’re outsourcing your social media efforts, give input so you and your marketing team is all on the same page.

You don’t communicate with your social media marketing team

“There,” you think, “They can take care of my social media.  They know it better than me.  I don’t have to do anything!”  You’re partially correct; an expert social media team can manage your social media page and use their expertise to reach your audience.  However, they can’t do so without a key ingredient: personalization.  That’s what’s going to make your business stand out among all the choices they have to make.

The resolution: make an effort to meet or communicate with your in-house or outsourced social media marketing team on a regular basis.  Connect them with your sales or retail team so they understand what your customers want to know (frequently asked questions), the solutions to those problems, and your sales cycle.

You take the feast-or-famine approach

This issue is pretty easy to diagnose.  Look at your social media activity.  Do you post whenever you have time?  Is there regular activity on your social media account, followed by weeks of nothing?  Or do you post on one social media channel, while your other social media sites are a barren wasteland?

The resolution: when you set your strategy, select a manageable amount of social media sites.  You don’t have to be on every social media site to get results; choose the sites that fit the demographic of the audience you’re trying to reach.  Create a calendar of regular social media posts and content marketing that fit with your sales cycle—and stick to it.  The key to a solid social media strategy is regular and relevant posts.

You’re overselling

One of the biggest turn-offs of a business social media page is overselling.  Every post, every tweet, every interaction is about you, your products, and how they should buy from you.  Would you want a salesman screaming “buy, buy, buy!” at you over and over again?

The resolution: your business name may be on the social media page, but the page should not be about you.  Focus on your audience.  What do they want to know?  What makes them laugh (when appropriate)?  What can you do to help them?  If you need assistance with creating a customer-focused social media page, consult with social media experts who can help you decide who your target audience is, how you can attract them to your page, what kind of content they are interested in, and what times is best for posting.  Then, use the 80/20 rule as a guideline: 80% relevant content, 20% selling content.

You’re posting “stuff” they don’t care about

Blah, blah, blah.  If you’re posting boring content on your social media page, your followers are going to find someone else who posts what they want.  Know your audience, and what interests them.  One way to find this out is to listen to customers when they come in the store—or to talk to employees who interact with them on a regular basis.

The resolution: before you post, ask yourself, “does this content matter to me, or to my audience?”  Find relevant content that matters to your audience, and watch your pages to find out what resonates with your audience—and what doesn’t it.  Or create it by including content marketing as part of your online marketing plan.

You’re using sub-par images

Grainy images.  Boring pictures.  Social media is full of sub-par images that don’t resonate with their audience.  At the same time, statistics have shown that posts and tweets with images repeatedly get more engagement.

The resolution: find someone on your staff that can take excellent photos with their camera or mobile device (tablet, phone, etc.) or buy stock images that coordinate with your posts.  Another option is to outsource your efforts to an online marketing agency that has a wide variety of photos just for that purpose.

You bought followers

This is the equivalent of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme on social media, and a ploy that a lot of businesses fall for.  Just buy social media followers, and suddenly you have a huge social media following!  Poof! You’re set for the long-run.

The resolution: buying followers is a short-term effort that won’t help you reach your marketing goal.  Instead, try to build a strong targeted social media audience by spreading the word about your social media efforts through in-person and electronic interactions with customers (i.e. e-mails, e-newsletters, sales interactions, phone calls, etc.)

You’re not posting when they’re on

You post whenever you think of it, or whenever you have time.

The resolution: don’t just know what social media site your customers are on, but when they are on.  You can use insights on Facebook, measurement tools that monitor your followers’ activity, and testing on your own to determine when they are on and engaging with your brand.  If you don’t have the time to post when your followers are on, use scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer.

You have unrealistic expectations

Everyone wants to get on social media and BOOM! one of your posts goes viral.  The heavens pour down with followers willing to buy your product and services.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  That’s what most business owners and managers seem to expect from marketing on social media.  Unfortunately, that’s not how social media works (most of the time)—and often the followers you get are not interested in purchasing.

The resolution: take every measure possible to get results, but understand that social media is a marathon—not a sprint.  Set realistic goals for social media, such as messages that result in sales or a reasonable growth pattern that is in line with brand awareness.

You’re not responsive

Unanswered messages.  Comments with no response.  Every comment, message, tweet….it’s all an opportunity to engage with your customers and colleagues.  Don’t pass up these missed opportunities to build customer loyalty and show you care.  Your customers expect you to respond, and respond quickly.

The resolution: social media is supposed to be about conversations, so make sure you converse with your colleagues and customers.  Take our advice on dealing with negativity, and respond to every message and comment with a real voice so they know they are talking to a real person.  Even if you outsource your social media marketing, make sure you pay attention and respond quickly to inquiries (find more rules for excellent online customer service).

You’ve mixed business and anger

You’re angry about a customer reaction, so you post on social media how peeved you are.  A political situation leaves you seething, and all your social media followers know—and don’t like it.  Knee-jerk reactions may make you feel better, but a rash reaction to a comment or current event is not going to gain you followers on social media.

The resolution: there are two R’s to follow in social media marketing, and ranting is not one of them.  Be professional and real (you can be both) in all your social media interactions, and think through everything you post or comment BEFORE you take action.  Respond quickly, however, as customers respond a fast reaction.  If you have any questions, consult with the professionals before you post.

5 Must Haves of Every Online Marketing Plan

Puzzle Squares On Smartphone Shows Pieces of Online MarketingWhen we were coming up with a title for this post, the logical choice was ‘5 essential elements of an internet marketing plan.’ Though logical, that title didn’t strike us as strong enough—not nearly strong enough to emphasize how much owners and managers need these must-haves to achieve online marketing results.  No one is going to find out about your website just from its mere existence (called the ‘if we build it, they will come’ phenomena).  Your business MUST have a solid internet marketing plan with all the essential elements that drives customers to your online presence—and converts them to paying customers.

Solid website

A solid website seems like a given; after visiting thousands of sub-par websites, we’re here to tell you that isn’t true.  Your online marketing efforts should revolve around your customers (not what you want them to know, but what they want to know) to drive traffic to your website.  Without a solid website for customers to land on and use, all your online marketing efforts are going to result in a big goose egg.  A solid website includes:

  • Text your English teacher would approve (i.e. no spelling errors, typos, grammatically correct),
  • Excellent user experience (clear call-to-actions, user-friendly navigation, etc.),
  • Design targeted toward your primary audience,
  • Mobile-friendly features and option,
  • Easy-to-read content written specifically for your audience,
  • Loading speed,
  • Quality images,
  • Contact information.

It’s important to note that you need all of these elements when building a solid website.  We’ve all seen websites that have some of these elements but not other key parts; we’d strongly recommend you go down this checklist and make sure your website checks off all the boxes.  If it doesn’t, find a company that can build a solid, customized website for your company—and provide all the services that go into a high-quality website (professional writing, design, security, etc.)

SEO

SEO Optimize Keywords Links Signpost Showing Website Marketing Optimization road sign for local seoSearch engine optimization is creating an optimal website and content for search engines to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). There are many different ways to optimize your website, but here are some of general, basic ways:

  • Adding regular and fresh user-friendly web pages/content targeted for your primary audience
  • Using search engine optimization tactics such as writing strong, accurate headlines and building an optimized website structure
  • Hiring a search engine optimization firm to optimize your website and use specialized SEO technology to target your local customers and get to the top of their search engine list.

Local search engine optimization technology can get you at the top of organic search engine listings in local towns and cities. Even if you don’t sell products online, or have any interest in e-commerce, integrating search engine optimization technology is an essential part of reaching local customers searching for information and services. More than 90% of users turn to search engines for information, and local SEO technology—like KD Interactive’s—can get your business website at the top of local organic search engine listings using long-tail keywords your audience searches for.

Content Marketing

blog at center of targetContent marketing is creating and sharing content relevant to your customers. One of the most effective content marketing tools we have found is a blog. A blog is a website filled with content, such as written articles, videos, photos, podcasts, infographics—the possibilities are endless.

The goal of content marketing is to build trust. In the past, this trust was earned over the phone or in person. Now, customers are using search engines to find information. Excellent content marketing delivers the information your customers are searching for on the internet (on search engines and on social media), and gives them links to find more out about products, and to contact your business. A second part of this goal is that regular content builds trust with search engines. By posting regular blog posts, you are showing search engines that your content is updated, quality and relevant—three criteria they use to rank websites for search engine users.  If you don’t have time to maintain a regular content marketing schedule, contact a company that can produce professional content specific to your business and targeted at your customers. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing. Remember that you still need to allocate time to give input.

Content should be shared via social media, email marketing, as guest posts on other blogs, even as customer service when a question is asked.

Social Media Marketing

social media sites behind smart phoneSocial media marketing is using a social media network (or networks) as a way to communicate with your customers and potential customers, and for them to communicate with you through posts, comments, and reviews. Social media marketing gives your business these benefits:

  • Ability to provide excellent and prompt customer service. Studies show that customers expect a response within two hours, and that number is dropping. Respond promptly, because studies also repeatedly show that customers come back to businesses who have delivered quality customer service in the past—even if their product or service costs more than competitors.
  • Unsolicited testimonials. Customers can leave reviews or comments about your products on your social media sites. Obviously, these reviews can go both ways, but you can also turn those negative comments into a positive. Start by not deleting negative comments or reviews. Instead, embrace the opportunity to show your business can provide excellent customer service. If the reviewer is particularly angry, use these tips to defuse the situation.
  • Chance to sell your products and services. We’ve seen businesses where customers messaged to set up appointments. We’ve seen other customers comment on pictures on social media and tag their friends because they really like the product.

When choosing what social media network to join, determine what networks your customers are on. Factor in the amount of time and commitment you have for social media.  Automation tools can help with this process, but don’t overuse social media automation.   Be real on social media and avoid the common social media marketing ‘traps’ that some businesses fall in.  A solid social media presence consists of regular posts (the definition of regular is dependent upon the social media network), relevant resources, and prompt replies to customers questions and comments (excellent customer service).  To check all those criteria off your list, designate a staff member (or company) adequate time to devote to your efforts.

Email Marketing  

Statistics have repeatedly shown that using emails to communicate with your customers and potential customers gets results. A staggering 66% of online users made a purchase as a result of email marketing. To get started in email marketing, you need emails of interested customers and good email marketing program.  Don’t send out thousands of emails from your company server.

To get the best results out of your email marketing, don’t buy random email lists.  Spam emails are a sure turn-off for customers and potential customers. Instead, compile a strong email list by:

  • Offer your customers a one-time discount if they sign up for your email list.
  • Train every salesman or staff member to incorporate a request for a prospect’s email address in their sales pitch in-store or at tradeshows.
  • Add an opt-in option for customers making on-line purchases.
  • Create a social media contest, and include an honest request for their email in the contest.

Craft emails with all the elements of a essential email marketing piece:

  • Truthful, eye-catching email subject line.
  • Strong media, videos, and visuals.
  • Craft a strong call-to-action (CTA).

Online Marketing Diagram Shows Blogs Websites Social Media And Email ListsIntegration

For optimal results, integrate all your online marketing efforts into a regular, coordinated internet marketing plan.  Start with a strong, optimized website with search engine optimization, and create a blog with topics that drive traffic back to your website.  Finally, create a schedule in-line with your business cycle that promotes your content (email marketing, social media marketing) and your website. Test out what email captures your audience’s attention, keeps it, and drives them to purchase.

20 Things You Can Learn from Our 20 Years of Marketing

20 Target Showing Anniversary of our Experienced Marketing CompanyCue drum roll.

We’re been around for 20 years. That’s right, we’ve provided 20 years of marketing services. In those 20 years, we’ve learned a thing or two (or three or 20 or…).  We could write a novel about how marketing (and online marketing) has evolved over the years, but everyone loves a list (it is one of the most popular content marketing ideas). We’ve found that one of the most important services we can provide is educating our clients…so here it goes: 20 concepts about search engine optimization, email marketing, social media and content marketing you can use in your online marketing efforts.

  1. Online marketing ALWAYS changes.
  2. Knowing your audience has, and always will be, the #1 rule of marketing. It’s also the key to success.
  3. Small businesses can achieve BIG results on an affordable budget. Don’t assume an online marketing company is too expensive.
  4. There’s no shame or blame in outsourcing your company’s marketing. Many a marketing effort has, and will, fail because of a manager or owner with good intentions.
  5. There are do’s and don’ts of outsourcing that every company manager or owner should understand if they want to get marketing results.
  6. The best inspiration for your marketing can be found with the people who interact with your customers.
  7. Search engine optimization is always evolving (it’s not dead, just evolving). This is one SEO myth that drives us crazy—among others.
  8. Not all search engine optimization technology is created equal.
  9. Design your website for your audience (see #2) and optimize your site for search engines and your customers.
  10. Integrate ALL your marketing tools for optimal results.
  11. ALWAYS remember you are marketing to humans. Don’t focus too much on search engines; you are writing for real people (if you need assistance, outsource—see #4).
  12. Content marketing is not advertising. Stop yelling at your customers! Instead, ask this question.
  13. Headlines matter…in the “old” days on mail pieces, and today in email and content marketing.
  14. Every content marketing plan needs to be accompanied by a solid promotion plan.
  15. You don’t have to be on every social media site (here’s how to target your efforts).
  16. Marketing doesn’t work without excellent customer service to back it up.
  17. Be smart with the ways you cut corners in your social marketing efforts—it can backfire.
  18. Don’t jump into social media without everything you need to achieve results—and don’t be intimidated by the list of social media must-haves. Small businesses can achieve results on a small budget (see #4).
  19. You have to commit to online marketing, and stick to it. This is just one of two R’s to use in online marketing.
  20. There is so much more to learn, and continue to learn, about online marketing (see #1). Follow marketing blogs and publications for information, or outsource to a company that keeps up with the latest information and trends.

6 Must Haves for a Solid Business Social Media Strategy

business social media marketing plan factors: phone with people and social media network logosWe could go on and on and on and on about executing a successful social media strategy for your business. There’s so much to know, and social media tactics are always evolving. But when you really break down a social media strategy, there are a very short list of bare bone elements, or must haves, to make social media work for your business. It’s up to you to use your knowledge and experience to turn those must haves into a successful and unique social media strategy for your business (or to choose a company that can).

Good Plan

A good social media plan uses knowledge of two key factors: your audience and business calendar (i.e. what products sell during what seasons, what events book during certain times of the year, etc.). We cannot emphasize how much the first factor is essential to social media success. Knowing your target audience facilitates 1) choosing what social media networks to utilize so you don’t waste your efforts on social media networks where your target audience is not; 2) determining your tone so you are speaking to your target audience; 3) dictating the content you create and post that suits your audience.

Another sign of a good social media plan is a strategic hybrid of promotional and relevant content, of pre-planned and flexible posts that reflect current events. Today’s customers don’t want to be barraged by advertisements and sales pitches. Use the 80/20 guide. Try to schedule 20% promotional and 80% posts that are entertaining (if appropriate), relevant and valuable to your customers.

Scheduling tool

To execute a stellar social media plan and efficiently use your time, select a good scheduling tool, such as Hootsuite and Buffer that can save you time by scheduling quality posts. Don’t schedule too far ahead of time so you can stay on top of trending topics, and be flexible with your plan when needed. Share relevant content from other sources, and mix posts with links to your original content in to your social media plan.

Hash tags

On select social media channels, such as Twitter and Instagram, hash tags are not optional —at least not for anyone looking for results. Posts with relevant hash tags can expose your post to potential followers interested in your industry or topic. To be honest, sometimes we wonder why people aren’t using hash tags; they are an essential part of any marketing strategy. With hash tags comes a very strong word of caution, though: don’t go overboard. Using more than four hash tags can sabotage your results.

Hash tags are also invaluable when starting a conversation, running a photo contest, promoting an event, or executing a social media campaign. Select original hash tags without any “online baggage” (i.e. used before with negative connotations or feedback, taken from a competitor) and promote them through an integrated marketing campaign that includes online and offline marketing efforts.

URL Shortener

Even if you use channels that don’t count characters, a URL shortening tool such as bitly or ow.ly gives your social media posts focus—so your audience isn’t distracted by your long, long website link URL. Most social media management tools include a URL shortener that you can use when you schedule posts.

Great images

Statistic after statistic has shown that social media posts with images receive significantly more engagement than posts without. If you use images, note the ‘great’ in our headline; amateur-looking, mediocre or blurry photos or videos won’t cut it. Use this handy cheat sheet to create images optimal for your social media network, and be very selective about the images you create or choose.

If you utilize Pinterest or Instagram, don’t just worry about size; worry about the quality of your images. These social media networks are visual networks, and you won’t get results unless you have high-quality images and attention-grabbing text.

Time

Executing a successful social media plan does not just happen; a well-thought out social media plan requires a great deal of time. Statistics have repeatedly shown that companies have higher levels of engagement if they regularly post to social media. What is the definition of “regular”? The answer depends on the social media network you use, and your target audience; on some social media networks, such as Facebook, your efforts can actually backfire if you post too much. On the other hand, on Twitter, the more you tweet, the more opportunities you create because of the short life span of the average tweet. Whatever schedule you find works for your company and social media strategy, choose quality over quantity. Twenty ‘junk’ tweets won’t get you results (except for bogus followers) if your tweets aren’t valuable and relevant. If you don’t have time to produce and find quality posts, outsource your efforts to the experts for optimal social media results.

The Secret(s) to Social Media Engagement

social media thumb up with icons of likes and engagementsYour company social media pages are used by your customers for all different kinds of purposes: for information (content marketing anyone?), entertainment, research, discount shopping. Whatever purpose, once your customer or potential customer has “used” your social media page, they’ve moved on.

Or maybe they haven’t.

For sure, many of your customers do move on. But there’s an opportunity—a missed opportunity in many cases—to get their attention on social media, and take a potential customer to a loyal and engaged customer. How can you tell who they are? Here are the classic signs of an engaged customer:

  1. They respond by liking , favoriting, or commenting on your posts.
  2. They leave online reviews.
  3. They refer your services.
  4. They share your posts (the ultimate engagement).

Gaining engaged customers isn’t a simple, one-size-fits-all formula (if only it was), but it is under your control. If you have employees, you should make them aware that it’s under their control too.

Engagement isn’t just built on social media.

Your engaged social media customers are not just cultivated exclusively through social media interactions. Obviously, it helps, but engaged customers are also loyal customers because of your in-person, phone, and email conversations.

Provide excellent customer service.

We’ve wrote about this before in our recent post about the rules of excellent online customer service. Treat every encounter like it’s a first date. Respond to your customers promptly during business hours, and deliver the same service you provide to customers that walk in or call you on the phone.

Give them value.

Once someone has liked or followed you, what are you doing to keep their attention? Are you giving them information that’s entertaining, can answer their questions, and that they want to share with their friends? This is a two part strategy: provide relevant content and media (i.e. photos, graphics, video, etc.), which statistics show can get you significantly more engagement. Know what your customers want, and deliver.

Find your voice.

What sets your social media page apart from your competitors? Being sweet and cuddly in person doesn’t count online; find your unique voice and use it in all your marketing materials.

Make them want more.

Social media marketing is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. Provide regular, relevant information for optimal social media results—or hire a company that can.

6 Items on Every Social Media Marketers’ List for Santa

santa holding wish listContrary to the popular holiday song, we’re not looking for front teeth from Santa this year; from talking to our clients and other social media marketers, we know we’re not alone in wanting more than pearly whites. The only kind of teeth social media marketers want is the metaphorical kind—the knowledge and tools that can give their brand an edge on our evolving social media networks. We’ve compiled a list of the basic “teeth” that every social media marketer should want from Santa to get maximum results on social media:

Awesome images & video

You know what words make us—and any marketer—cringe? “I just used whatever photos I could find on the internet.” Ugh. Just because a photo is on the internet does not give you the legal right to use that image.

Studies have consistently shown that social media posts and tweets with images have an edge over text only. GREAT images—not just mediocre ones—are a must in your social media marketing toolbox, making this one of our top items on any social media marketer’s list for Santa. If your business is on Instagram or Pinterest, take note: your great images should also be high resolution pictures.

Good scheduling tool

social media sites behind smart phoneA good scheduling tool is worth its weight in gold; we love our scheduling tool and would recommend this be one of the top items of your list for Santa. There are a few different scheduling tools to choose from; tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer can help you manage your profiles and schedule posts.

Once you’ve found your favorite, use these tips:

  1. Always make sure you read and check suggested content before you tweet it out.
  2. Don’t schedule too far ahead of time so you can stay on top of trending topics.
  3. Be flexible with your plan when needed.
  4. Create posts specific for the social media platform (i.e. adapt a tweet specifically for Facebook, avoid tweeting to LinkedIn, etc.) for optimal results.

Focus

There are a couple of different kinds of focus social media marketers want from Santa:

  1. the ability to focus efforts on the social media channels that fit their customer demographic for better results;
  2. a single-minded approach that keeps their efforts productive, even among all the social media distractions.

Knowing what social media site fits your brand (check out this infographic to match your customer demographic with the right social media platform) is almost as important as what you put on those social media channels. It’s a waste of your time as a business owner when you’re spending time on a social media site where your customers are not. If you need insight in this area, and on how to use the latest information for your purposes, contact a marketing firm that offers social media marketing services. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in placing your marketing in experts’ hands.

As for staying focused among the million distractions that come with social media, a social media scheduling tool is a good start; a social media marketing plan is more effective. If your business doesn’t have a written plan for your online marketing efforts, we’d recommend making it a New Year’s resolution for a better New Year.

Ability to see into the future

We think any social media marketer would love to see into the future, Santa. What’s the next hot social media channel? What are customers looking for in the future? Obviously, one of the biggest trends that is only going to grow in demand is meeting the needs of mobile customers. This is a continual process, but make sure that you are posting mobile-friendly content on social media.

Higher organic reach on Facebook

We know we’re reaching on this one, but any chance you could make this happen, Santa? Facebook’s declining organic reach has long been a sore spot for businesses trying to connect with their clients.

Goals

digital marketing conversion chart If you’re a company that jumped on social media without a goal or goals, it’s not too late to set a goal for next year (another New Year’s resolution). Once you’ve set those goals, prove your worth by measuring your results with metrics. Did you get more email addresses as part of your campaign? More messages? An increase in sales during your last campaign?

How do you get results from your evaluations? By taking those numbers, judging the effectiveness of your goals, and adjusting your efforts for the future. The result is…results. Relationship building. Conversions. In short, the number one item on every social media marketers’ list for Santa.

5 Ways to Make (and Keep!) Your Online Customers Happy

online marketingLet’s just say it: a significant part of your online marketing efforts should be focused on keeping your customers happy. Sure, we use other terms to describe the concept—customer satisfaction, enhancing their digital experience, customer service, etc.—but really the crux of your online marketing strategy should be focused on your customers and how you can keep them happy with you now, and interested enough to come back. The truth of online marketing is that there is no magic recipe, no standard road map for that goal. And with the advent of new online marketing tools, social media platforms, and search engine optimization strategies, the “magic recipe” for customer satisfaction is continually evolving. Yet even in the midst of all the digital evolution, there are some hard and fast guides you can use in your pursuit of customer happiness.

Know who your customers are

Take the number one rule of marketing to heart when writing optimized content for your website or blog, or emails to send out: know your audience. You’re not going to keep your customers happy if you don’t know the type of customer you are trying to satisfy. Create a buyer persona of your “typical” customer, and create content and emails for that customer type.

If you’re an outdoor gear store with a younger audience, create marketing pieces with information and tips for your customers’ next adventure. Are you a bridal store who caterers to younger brides? Answer the questions you hear in the story on your website, in emails, on your blog, on social media—wherever you have a social media presence.

Know where your online customers are

Once you identify your key audience, don’t randomly dive into online marketing without being strategic about your efforts. Target your efforts where you know your customers are. If you are considering using social media to connect with your customers, do your research. Choose a social media channel where your target audience spends a great deal of their time. Don’t feel you have to be everywhere online; be realistic and strategic about your online marketing efforts.

Engage with them

We often talk about using engagement to measure our social media and online marketing tactics; what about measuring how we engage with them online? Do you just throw social media posts and content out there and see what happens? Do you respond to emails that come in through your website, social media comments and questions quickly? Remember that one of the unique elements of online marketing is that it’s a two-way street; take advantage of that to the fullest. Engage with them, deliver excellent customer service and don’t be afraid to say thank you. It’s refreshing—and too infrequently done, by our standards.

Give them what they want

Is your content relatable to your audience? Can they relate to the problem you are writing about or choosing content about? Does your content relate to the age group of your audience? One way to choose relatable content is to listen to your customers, or talk to the people that do, and write content that answers their questions. You can also put your content marketing in the hands of professionals that can. Remember social media is not about JUST selling to your customer (though you can certainly do that some of the time)—that goal is met by posting and sharing relatable content that helps them, and about listening.

Being relatable can be especially challenging if you feel your industry is “boring,” but that’s where it pays to be creative—and to know your voice. Don’t try to be humorous in an industry where it’s not appropriate (such as for a funeral home). However, we’ve seen heating and cooling businesses, pest control companies, tire shops, many “boring” shops create relatable, entertaining online marketing pieces.

Don’t stop

Online marketing is not a feast or famine exercise; successful online marketing is regular and consistent. Allocate your time accordingly; create a strategic plan that uses all the elements of a successful online marketing plan and execute accordingly. If you need assistance in drafting a plan, or executing regular and relatable content, enlist the help of an online marketing firm. It’s a move that makes you and your customers happy; a bonus in your efforts to keep your customers happy.

4 Ways Everyone Can Tell You’re a Social Media Rookie

social media roookie mistakesThis post comes with a disclaimer: we’re all still learning about social media. Everyone is; social media is constantly evolving, and new strategies are being developed every day. That being said, you don’t have to look like you’re new to the social media “game,” even if you are a rookie to social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest. So how do you avoid walking around with a metaphorical “I’m new here” sign on your back? Avoid these common rookie social media faux pas:

You only share content about you

Don’t confuse social media marketing with traditional advertising. This is more than just a space that says, “buy, buy, buy!” Creating a valuable social media presence is all about giving value to your customers, and not just on selling. That means sharing content, graphics and information that your customers find valuable, including but not limited to information about your company. Use the 80/20 rule: 80% of your posts, tweets, etc. should be valuable (even fun depending on your company’s voice), and 20% should be about you.

Don’t be afraid to share content from other sources. If you are a pet store, share tips, articles, and memes that your customers find interesting. Add in pictures of pets that come into your store, fun pictures of your employees (with their permission), sales happening at your store, and notification of community events you’re involved in. The result is a social media presence that your customers find relevant and interesting, building their trust and bringing them in the door.

You have a million different social media pages, BUT…

The BUT is that you’re not good at any of them. A tell-tale sign of a rookie business is a mishmash of social media pages that don’t have relatable, regular and relevant posts specific to the social media site, the key to a solid social media presence. They’ve jumped in with good intentions, but 1) don’t have the knowledge of what to post to that specific social media channel or 2) tons of social media pages but no time to post to those pages.

What’s almost worse is when a business links two social media pages and automatically cross posts. The result is a long Facebook post that Twitter users can’t even read because it’s too long; a LinkedIn page with short Tweets that obviously weren’t intended for LinkedIn and don’t give LinkedIn users value. It’s disastrous. Every social media site is different; create posts and tweets for each platform, even if you’re sharing the same content.

How do you avoid this particular social media black eye? Plan ahead. Choose your social media channels strategically, and focus on those channels. Knowing what social media site fits your brand (check out this infographic to match your customer demographic with the right social media platform) is almost as important as what you put on those social media channels. Are you a bridal shop? Consider Pinterest, which is a visual social media channel with a strong female user demographic. A business focused on B2B marketing? Consider LinkedIn, one of the leading social media platforms among professionals.

You don’t have to confine your social media presence to one social media site, of course. But if you do have a presence on several sites, know your social media site and their audience or hire a social media marketing company that does. Finding your niche in the social media world is as wonderful as a compatible marriage. It’s a match made in heaven, where your business achieves results—and your audience gets the content they want.

Feast or famine social media presence

Ah, the famous “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” error. Or, in this case the “your intentions are bigger than the amount of time you have.” These rookie businesses post when they have time, post a lot, and then….post nothing. You’re not going to keep your audience’s interest with this fast or famine approach to social media. Be regular; the definition of regular is different on each social media platform. If you can’t give regular social media updates and blog posts, outsource to marketing experts. It’s better to have updated social media channels than irregular posts and dated information. We’ve said it before: there’s no shame or blame in outsourcing.

You don’t respond

This is one of the worst mistakes a business can make on social media: not responding to their customers in a timely fashion. Remember, social media is a two-way forum. If your customers ask a question, or leave a review, you need to respond quickly. Studies have shown that your customers’ expect a response on social media, and that they are responding a response within an hour (or two at the most). That doesn’t mean you need to stay awake all night responding to customers, especially if you put your business hours on Facebook. It does mean that you need to reply as quickly as possible, even if the review or inquiry has a negative tone.

If you get a negative review or comment, don’t ignore it. Instead, use this as a chance to listen and provide excellent customer service. Deleting a negative comment only angers your already angry customer and makes it look like you have something to hide. Your customers are taking the time to engage with you, now it’s your turn to return the favor. If you don’t have time to post and respond to your social media inquiries, hire help to make sure that you meet your customers’ (and potential customers’) expectations.

Remember, not to treat social media marketing like it’s an isolated effort. Integrate your social media marketing into your marketing plan so you have a clear, consistent voice in all your marketing efforts—and the excellent results of a well thought-out, strategic marketing plan. Don’t be afraid to ask if you have any questions about digital marketing; watching and learning are two sure ways to lose that rookie label.

5 Tips for Using Social Media to Promote Your Next Event

social media marketing for eventsIf you’ve ever been involved in planning a business conference, community event or workshop, you know the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) that go into ensuring that every detail is perfect for your guests and every “t” is dotted on the contracts. Just as it takes months of effort to coordinate planning your event, it takes the same attention to planning detail and time to create a thorough and well-thought out promotion plan to draw attendees. Unless you’ve been living in a hole for the past few years, your promotion plan should include a multi-channel approach, including utilizing your social media channels. You’d be a fool not to, based on some recent statistics compiled by the Pew Research Center:

  • 71% of online adults use Facebook
  • 23% of online adults use Twitter
  • 26% use Instagram
  • 28% use Pinterest
  • 28% use LinkedIn

We’ve seen some fantastic events promoted through social media—with incredibly positive results. The million dollar question is, though, how can your company achieve those same results at your next event? How can you use social media to make the attendance and energy at your next event over the top?

Use the #1 rule of marketing

Take ‘know your audience’ to heart. When you started your social media pages, you should have done research to determine where your target audience is (i.e. Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) Now is the time to use that information to your advantage; create a promotional schedule that uses multiple social media channels to reach your target audiences on the channel they’re using. Remember that you can’t post a million things and then leave your audience hanging; maintain a regular schedule of social media posts or hire a social media company that can.

Diversify

You have just a few seconds to catch your audience’s attention on social media; there are literally thousands of tweets and posts competing for their attention. Don’t just use the same event logo over and over. We’re not saying that you shouldn’t use your event logo in your posts; you need to build brand awareness. Just don’t overdo it! Use different images and videos in your posts and tweets, such as photos, animated GIFs, short videos, slide shows, etc.

Use teasers

Be creative and build anticipation before and during your event. Take pictures of fun parts of your event in advance, such as a dunk tank or chocolate fountain, and share them on social media. Include trivia questions about the event, or parts of the event, as part of your social media campaign. If you have speakers or entertainment acts at your event, share images of them or information about their presentations—and ask them to share those posts as well.

Network

peopleLeverage your connections. Ask partners or participating vendors to spread the word, and give them the images and posts to make that happen (the key is to make it easy for them). Create a hash tag for your event, include it in each event post, and ask your event goers to do so as well. Make sure your hash tag is original; you don’t want to use a hash tag that is already affiliated with another event or company. The result is a social media conversation that creates buzz before and during your event, and gets everyone ready for next year’s fun.

Don’t stop on the day of the event

Don’t let the magic stop on the day of your event. We know you’re busy, but you’re missing a golden opportunity to share the energy of your event via social media. Remember, that social media revolves around live, instant gratification—pictures and tweets after the event are yesterday’s news. Designate a staff member or volunteer to tweet or post photos throughout the day or days of your event. Ask your event participants to share their photos as well; part of using social media to your advantage is being comfortable with the fact that you can’t control all the social media buzz about your event, and embrace it. Save all the photos you have for future social media posts and marketing materials.