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How to find Content Ideas your Audience will Love

Monday, August 18th, 2014
Image courtesy of Mike Linksvayer/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Mike Linksvayer/Flickr.

Great pieces of content that bring excellent results all start with a good idea. Whether you are creating blog posts, articles, videos, social media posts, podcasts or images, you need to know what will resonate with your audience so people will respond to your calls to action.

The type of content you use will depend on your business and goals, but how do you come up with ideas that will stick and bring results?

Think like your Market

If you were a person in your target market, what would interest you? Put yourself in your market’s position and think about what kind of blog posts, videos or social media accounts you would look for and why.

Sometimes we think we know what our market wants and get stuck in a rut by continuing to provide the same kind content over and over. Take some time to stop and think like the people you are targeting to make sure you have their best interests in mind.

Ask Your Audience what it Wants

But, even when you try to think like your market, you may not completely understand what people are looking for, what they need and what topics or themes attract them. One of the very best ways to get ideas for successful content is to talk to your market.

Use social media, surveys, informal polls, focus groups and other tools to find out what your market wants. Through multiple-choice and open-ended questions you can uncover topics, needs and interests relating to your market and then use them to brainstorm ideas for content.

Find a Need and Fill it

The most valuable and effective content fills a need. It provides something your market is looking for and helps people solve a problem. The need you fill can be as basic as a need for entertainment or it could be as complex as needing how-to advice or even health resources. Find out what your market needs and then find a way to fill those needs with your content marketing strategy.

Watch Market Trends

Look into market trends like what people are purchasing, the services they are using, pop culture topics they are following, how they are spending their time and other trends to find out what might capture your audience’s attention. Of course, you don’t want to blend in with the crowd, but using popular topics and adding your own spin to them can help you get people excited while still standing out.

Find out what Your Market is Doing

Find out what your market is doing both online and offline. What social media sites do they use? Are they reading blogs? Do they spend a lot of time using their smartphones? What kinds of businesses, transportation and stores do they frequent? Information about what people in your market are doing is a great place to go for inspiration for content.

To get the most out of content marketing and encourage people to respond to your calls to action, you need to use compelling content that provides value to your niche market. Think like your market, ask questions and analyse trends, habits and needs to find ideas for content that will grab attention and work for your brand.

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A Checklist for every new Social Media Account you Open

Friday, August 15th, 2014
Image courtesy of Courtney Dirks/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Courtney Dirks/Flickr.

New social media sites are always popping up and the sites that are popular this year may not be as popular next year. But, before you open an account on any new social media site, whether it’s new or not, use this checklist to make sure you are setting yourself up for success.

Decide if the Network Matches your Market and Goals

Not every social media site is right for your business. Do your homework to find out if the people you are targeting use the site. You can do some quick research by looking into the site’s user demographics or go a little further by conducting some surveys.

Also consider whether the site and its features can help you meet your goals. For example, Instagram is a great choice for a business that wants to visually promote products while LinkedIn is a good choice for a business that wants to use long form content.

Set up your Bio, Description, Links and other Settings

Set up your account and make sure things like your bio, description, links and other settings are all complete. Take advantage of things like profile pictures, backgrounds and other features to brand your page so it looks like it belongs to your business.

Explore the Features

Take some time to explore all the features on the site. Look for things like posting options, notifications and extra features for businesses you can use to get even more out of the site. You may also consider looking into advertising options you can use later if the site is successful in helping you reach your market.

Start Posting Quality Content

Once your account is set up and your page looks branded, it’s tempting to start promoting it and building a following. But, before you do that start posting updates and sharing content so your account looks active and valuable before you actively promote it.

This simple step can help you gain more followers and avoid turning off users who take one look at your empty page and decide not to connect with you.

Interact with Others

As you start posting content, interact with other users on the site. Leave comments, join conversations and start connecting with others. This will help you start to build the foundation of your account so you will have some activity and a good start before you officially launch it.

Of course, as you start to interact with others you will probably begin to attract followers. This is great and a good way to begin building your audience.

Promote your Account

Once your account is completely set up and you have shared a few weeks’ worth of content or posts, you can start promoting your account and actively generating a following. By now, your account will look active and users will recognise the value it brings.

Add a “follow me” button to your website and promote your new account through your blog, other social media accounts and any other marketing channels you can.

Whenever you start using a new social media platform you need to do so strategically. Start by making sure the site is a good match for your market, business and goals and then lay a foundation with a complete profile and some quality posts before you start promoting it.

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What to do when you get a Bad Online Review

Friday, August 8th, 2014
Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Negative reviews about your business can be hard to deal with whether they are online or not. But, online reviews carry a different weight. More people have access to them, they are more easily shared and they can quickly damage your reputation. So what should you do if you get a negative online review?

Never Respond Negatively

Responding negatively or getting into an online debate with a reviewer only makes your business look bad. It shows people you can’t handle feedback and that you don’t really care what your customers think.

On the other hand, when you respond professionally, no matter how negative the reviewer is you can turn a situation that could be bad for your business into something good. Remember that the way you respond to online reviews says a lot about your business.

Listen and Respond

First, don’t just ignore online reviews, even when they are negative. Listen to what your customers are saying and make changes if possible. If you can, reach out to the unhappy customer and try to answer questions or meet his needs.

Depending on the forum, you may want to leave a public response so others can see that you care what your customers think and add your voice to the conversation. When your customers see that you are listening to feedback and take constructive criticism to heart, they will be more impressed with your business.

Know when to go Offline

In some cases, it may not be appropriate to address negative reviews online. Neither you nor your customer wants all the details of a tough situation displayed on your Facebook page for everyone to read. Of course, you also don’t have the time to respond to every single online review.

If you can more effectively address a customer’s problem or need more information, leave an online response telling the customer how to get in touch with you so the problem can be resolved.

This simple response helps you serve your customers, show your online audience you are listening and avoid more negative online content.

Play by the Rules

Never use fake positive reviews to combat negative ones. Many review sites have strict rules against this and in the end you will only hurt yourself. Instead, embrace online reviews as a chance to learn what your customers are looking for and find ways to improve your online reputation.

Good reviews are obviously beneficial, but even negative reviews can help you if you handle them the right way. Respond professionally and listen to what people are saying. In some cases, you may notice a common theme across several reviews, which can help you identify areas where you need to improve.

You can also use online reviews as an online marketing tool by responding positively and encouraging customers to leave comments on your website, social media pages or even major review sites.

Positive online reviews can help you build a reputation and attract more customers while your professional and strategic responses to negative reviews can help you show your customers you are listening to their feedback and are willing to make changes to meet their needs.

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Most People Consider their Smartphone a Central Part of their Life, and not for Traditional Reasons

Monday, August 4th, 2014
Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

New research backs up the idea that we are very dependent on our smartphones and even proves that people aren’t using their phones for traditional phone tasks. Knowing how people in your market use their phones, you can more effectively target your customers and leverage your mobile marketing tactics.

Depending on your business, mobile marketing could play a key part in your marketing strategy and even help you reach more people. It could also help you accomplish things like increased brand awareness, site traffic and sales.

We’re Hooked on our Smartphones

Exact Target did some research into how we use our mobile devices. The company found that 85 percent of the people who responded to its survey consider their mobile devices a central aspect of their lives. The vast majority of people depend on their smartphone daily and feel that it plays a major role in their day-to-day lives.

We already know how prevalent smartphone use is. No matter where you go, people are glued to their smartphones reading news articles, using social media, sending text messages, playing games, shopping and browsing the Internet.

We’re doing more With our Smartphones

In Exact Target’s survey, 89 percent of the people surveyed feel that smartphones help them stay in touch with family and friends and keep up with events. The fact that people use their smartphones for more than making phone calls is no surprise, but the statistics that prove this theory are stunning.

According to a 2013 study by Nielsen, the vast majority of time people spend on their smartphones isn’t spent doing traditional things like making phone calls, sending text messages or accessing contact information.

In fact, the study found that only:

  • 9% of the time people spend on their smartphones is spent sending text messages.
  • 3% of their time is spent using the phone dialer.
  • 2% of their time is spent using the address book.

This means that just 14 percent of the time people spend on their smartphones is used to contact people. So what are people doing the rest of the time? They are using mobile apps.

Your Business and Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing can be loosely categorised into three areas: social media, Internet and apps. When you find ways to use each of these three areas to promote your business, your mobile marketing plan will be stronger.

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are commonly used on the go. Make sure your social media strategy is mobile friendly by remembering that people on the go are looking for short pieces of information.

Make sure your website is easily viewed and used on the small screen of a mobile device and consider mobile advertising strategies like paid search ads and banner ads.

Finally, consider whether a mobile app can benefit your market. Not all businesses need their own app, but if you can offer real value to your market and promote your business through an app, this tactic could be very beneficial.

Mobile marketing is absolutely essential right now as the majority of people feel they depend on their smartphone every day and are using it to access websites, social media and apps.

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6 Ways to Increase your Email Open Rate

Friday, August 1st, 2014
Image courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of Photokanok/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How can you be successful with email marketing if people don’t actually open your emails? You really only have a few seconds and a subject line to get people interested enough in your email to open it.

There are all kinds of tips out there on how to write effective subject lines, but the real key is to send emails with real value and to communicate that value in the subject. Here are a few ways you can start doing this at your business.

Give a Special Discount or Promote a Sale

Most people are excited by discounts, coupons and sales. Offer these in your emails and be sure to tell people about it in your subject line. Of course, you don’t have to offer a discount with every email, but if you do this on a regular basis you’ll attract and retain email subscribers.

Offer a Freebie

Discounts are great, but everyone loves a freebie once in a while! This is another great way to get people to open your emails and can help you show potential customers what you are capable of when you offer a sample of your work. Other great freebies include how-to guides, digital downloads, ebooks and tool kits.

Announce a New Product or Feature

Get your audience’s attention with an email subject line that announces a new product or feature. This is a great hook for current customers because it grabs their attention and shows them that you are constantly developing and improving the way you do things to satisfy your customers.

Promote an Event

Use email marketing to promote events. Whether you hold local events, national conferences, webinars or Google Hangouts, you can keep your emails fresh and current with details about how people can get involved. Be sure to promise a benefit in your subject line so people will want to open the email and participate in your event.

Tell People How to get the Most out of your Products

Keep your current customers interested and engaged by helping them get the most out of your products and services. Send emails that offer how-to information, tips, tutorials and ideas for using your products. This kind of information is useful to your customers but it also reminds them how valuable your products are and why they want to continue doing business with you.

Give Exclusive Access to a Product or Service

Giving email subscribers exclusive access to products or services piques their interest and can help you generate more sales. There are lots of ways to do this, for example, offer subscribers access to more content on your website or the chance to try your service before you officially launch it. This helps you build excitement, attract more customers and even make more sales as people get excited about and like your products.

To get results with email marketing you need to combine excellent content with great subject lines. When you do this people will open your emails and respond to your calls to action, helping you succeed.

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Can You use LinkedIn’s New Sponsored Content Feature?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014
Image courtesy of mars_discovery_district/Flickr.

Image courtesy of mars_discovery_district/Flickr.

Recently, LinkedIn made it possible for all users to publish content directly to the website. Now, it has announced a new feature called direct sponsored content that could help you reach more people and grow your audience.

The ability to publish content on LinkedIn and share it with your followers as a way to build your brand and showcase your expertise brings a lot of opportunity to your content marketing plan. But, this latest feature could do even more, making it easier for you to target your market.

Direct Sponsored Content

LinkedIn already offers sponsored posts that businesses can use to reach more people on the network. This new feature is very similar, but allows businesses to create sponsored content.

With the tool, your business can post content directly to LinkedIn’s feed, without posting it on our business page, and target it to a very specific group of people. Of course, the benefit of this is that you can make sure content with specific messages reaches the right people.

Your page’s administrator will have the ability to respond to comments on the sponsored content and can even track a few basic analytics like number of clicks, impressions, interactions and followers acquired for each piece of sponsored content.

To use the feature, you need to have a business page and use LinkedIn’s Marketing Solutions. When you are logged in to your dashboard, you will see the new option to create sponsored content. You can see a video tutorial on how to start using sponsored content on LinkedIn’s content marketing page.

Should You use Sponsored Content?

If you already use sponsored posts or LinkedIn is already part of your social media marketing strategy, you should consider using sponsored content. This new feature can help you take your LinkedIn strategy to a new level and get more out of your account.

Even if your business isn’t using LinkedIn yet, now is a good time to consider adding it to your Internet and social media marketing plans. The site has grown and could potentially help you reach a large audience.

LinkedIn is a unique social media site because it attracts a different audience than many of the other social media sites. There are more than 300 million LinkedIn users with 15 million users in the UK alone. The site is also growing quickly, with more than two new users signing up every second. According to LinkedIn, there are 39 million students and recent graduates using the site, and this demographic is the site’s fastest growing group of users.

LinkedIn also says that its users did more than 5.7 billion searches on the site for professional-themed topics in 2012. These numbers tell us that LinkedIn is a major social network with users who search the site for content regularly.

If your business wants to target students, young professionals, industry experts and other businesses, LinkedIn is a great channel to use. To get the best results, use LinkedIn to reach this specific market, build a strong following, engage with other users and experiment with sponsored posts and content.

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Why People are Leaving Your Website and How to Stop Them

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Image courtesy of Stavros Markopoulos/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Stavros Markopoulos/Flickr.

The longer people stay on your site the more time you have to convert them into customers. When people browse your pages, read your blog posts and look at your products, they will be more likely to respond to your calls to action. But, how do you get people to stay on your site?

Many businesses unknowingly have elements on their site that actually drive traffic away. This checklist can help you find out why your site has a high bounce rate and how you can keep people on your site longer.

Your Site Doesn’t Look Professional

You only have a few seconds to make a good first impression with your website and if it doesn’t look professional, people will click the “back” button. A professional website tells visitors they can trust you and that you provide real solutions.

The Fix

Make sure your site’s design is clean and professional. Copy, photos, graphics and other elements should also be professional and reflect your brand. An outdated site can look unprofessional and tell people you don’t keep up with technology, so keep your design current.

You don’t Direct Visitors’ Attention

When people come to your website, what is the first thing they look at? If your site is too busy, or too boring, people won’t know where to look first. This is a problem because you won’t be able to entice visitors to explore your site.

The Fix

Choose a focal point and then work to make sure your design directs peoples’ attention to it. Strategically choose to highlight something like a new product, email subscription form or specific page on your website so you can achieve your marketing goals.

The Call to Action isn’t Clear

People need to know what to do when they visit your site. Whether they come with a purpose in mind or not, you need a relevant call to action that will grab their attention and encourage them to take action that will help you meet your goals. Sites that lack calls to action or that have unclear or confusing calls to action aren’t very successful.

The Fix

Choose your call to action carefully, making sure it fits in with your overall business and marketing goals and speaks to your market. Then, make sure it is easy to understand, very clear and in a prominent place on your site.

You Make things Hard

If your call to action is clear but it is hard for people to respond to it, they will leave your site. For example, if you invite people to sign up for your email updates but the form is hard to find or use, people won’t follow through.

The Fix

After you have established a call to action, make sure it is easy for people to respond to it. Don’t make it hard for people to work with your business, or you might just lose site visitors and even customers.

Driving more traffic to your site and decreasing your bounce rate is great way to make progress toward increasing sign-ups, making more sales, raising brand awareness and accomplishing all kinds of goals. These tips can help you make sure your site is visitor friendly and a more effective marketing tool.

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Facebook Daily Users and Referrals are Both Up

Friday, July 25th, 2014
Image courtesy of Scott Beale/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Scott Beale/Flickr.

Two new numbers, from Facebook and Shareaholic, show that Facebook is gaining more value as a marketing tool for businesses. We already knew that Facebook is an invaluable part of Internet marketing, but these new studies show that despite some rumours, Facebook is still a great promotional tool.

More Daily Users

Facebook announced that it has had a 19 percent increase in daily users since last year. The site has 829 million users. This statistic shows that although some have speculated that Facebook has reached its peak and is declining in popularity, it has more daily users.

People are still using Facebook, and according to the study, they are logging in frequently. People still use it as a way to connect with friends, share content and socialise.

Your business would be missing out on a lot of social media marketing benefits if you decide to skimp on Facebook marketing. A strong social media strategy and Facebook ads can help you reach a large portion of your market, raise awareness and promote your products.

The Most Social Referrals

The Shareaholic Social Media Traffic Report found that the amount of Facebook referral traffic has also increased. Over the last few months, the traffic took a minor dip, but is now higher than it has been since March.

This month, Facebook was responsible for 23.39 percent of social media referral traffic. In March, it was responsible for 21.25 percent, and in both April and May, it accounted for about 18 percent of social media referrals.

These statistics tell us that while more people are using Facebook daily, more people are also clicking on the links being shared. When you promote your website and blog on Facebook, there’s a good chance that you’ll drive more traffic to your site.

But, that’s not the only thing this study found. According to the research, Facebook brings more social media referrals than Pinterest, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Reddit, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined!

Pinterest brings 5.72 percent of referrals while Twitter brings 1.03 percent. All the other sites mentioned above each brought less than 1 percent of the referrals.

Start Leveraging Facebook

Since Facebook’s daily users are increasing and it has the potential to refer a lot of traffic to your website, your business can’t risk not including Facebook as an integral part of your Internet marking and social media strategy.

So, how do you start harnessing the power of Facebook? There are so many features you can use to your advantage to make it a stronger part of your marketing plan.

Some places to start include:

  • Branding Your Page
  • Building an Active Following
  • Sharing Content Strategically
  • Using Well-Targeted Ads

Facebook remains an important part of the social media marketing world and when you use it to help you promote your business, you are getting your brand in front of more people and working to drive more traffic to your site. As you build this presence, you will benefit from increased brand awareness, more sales and customer loyalty.

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Go Beyond Simple Link Sharing for more Social Media Referrals

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG/FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Most businesses use social media to promote their blog and website. Sharing content here will help you drive traffic to your site where you can convert visitors to customers and even increase your search rankings.

But, simply copying and pasting links from your website to social media can get stale. It’s okay to post links, which on some sites let you automatically show a preview of your content, but when this is the only way you share your content, you aren’t using social media to its fullest potential.

With some creativity and by using some different approaches, you can update your social media marketing strategy to get your market’s attention and see even more social media referrals.

Post a Teaser

One of the most basic ways to generate interest in a link is to post a teaser. Copy and paste a sentence or two from the post itself or write a short blurb that gets people interested enough to want to click through to the content.

An example of a good teaser for an article about how to choose the right laptop would be: “We compared the top five selling laptops to help you decide which is right for you!”

Promise a Benefit

With so much content out there and with so many things to look at and do on social media, people need a good reason to click on your link. If social media users don’t see value in what you are offering, they won’t visit your site.

A post that says something like, “Don’t waste your money on the wrong laptop! Our comparison chart will help you find the perfect fit for you,” tells people what benefit your content provides: advice on how to save money.

Ask a Question about the Content

People like to give their opinion, so ask for it! When you post a link to your content, ask people a question about it. This makes them curious about what is in your content while also encouraging engagement and comments.

When you post a link, ask a question like “Have you tried any of the laptops on our value comparison chart? What do you think? Did we get it right?” This does two things. First, it makes people want to look at your blog post and chart and also encourages them to leave a comment on your social media post or blog post.

Give a Hint

Giving a hint is similar to posting a teaser, but it provides less information and tempts people to click on your link to find out what it’s all about. For example, write a post that reads something like “You will never guess which laptop came out on top in our comparison of the most popular models!” This hints at what your content is all about but doesn’t give too much away so people will still want to visit your site.

Sharing content on social media is a great way to drive traffic to your site and interact with your market. When you use more creative ways to post and share, you will stand out on social media and see even better results.

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Foursquare and LinkedIn go Even more Local

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014
Image courtesy of Michael Verhoef/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Michael Verhoef/Flickr.

Both Foursquare and LinkedIn have announced new features that take their networks to a whole new level. Local search engine optimisation has long been valued among businesses and Internet marketers, and now social networks are looking for ways to use local features to expand their services.

For example, Facebook recently added a feature called Nearby Friends that lets users see where their friends are so they can connect in real life and communicate about local areas, destinations and sites.

Foursquare Personalises Local Search

Foursquare has always been about location, but now it is taking that speciality to a whole new level with personalised local search. This feature changes the way search works for users and could highlight what social media users are looking for.

The mobile app will rely on a user’s check-in history and answers to a few questions about personal preferences to provide search results about local places designed specifically for that person. Foursquare says that no two local search results pages will be exactly the same.

Search results will also be served based on tips, check-ins and photos that other users have submitted since Foursquare began. In other words, the social network has made local search personalised by using its database of information, along with personal preferences, to provide results about places the user is most likely to be interested in.

Foursquare hasn’t specified when the feature will be available, but says it will be rolled out soon.

LinkedIn Offers new Connected App

LinkedIn is now offering a new app, called Connected, for iPhone users that makes it easier to strengthen relationships in person. While the new app doesn’t add any location-specific features, it does encourage people to use LinkedIn in a local way.

The app makes it easy to be prepared for meetings and working lunches so you can take online relationships offline and strengthen your professional network. Connected will also help you keep track of what your contacts are doing and helps you keep up with things like job changes, birthdays and other events.

In other words, Connected makes it easier to network in real life and to make relationships more than just an online connection. Right now, the app is only available to iPhone users and is already on the iTunes store.

Does Your Business Embrace Local?

Facebook’s, Foursquare’s and LinkedIn’s recent updates show a trend in social media. People are looking for ways to make in-person interaction easier and want to make social media more personal. They want personalised search results and social media features that help them foster real-life relationships.

What does this mean for you? It means that to keep up with trends and market desires, you need to find ways to meet those personalised, local needs. Whether you have a small local shop or a large brand, look for ways to provide personal experiences and don’t forgo real-life interaction and experiences for online engagement.

Social media and Internet marketing should be used to supplement the experience your customers have when they work with your employees or visit your location. These recent changes to social media networks show that more and more people are expecting this kind of service and when you provide it, you will attract more customers.

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