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Creating a Strong Online Presence for Marketing Success

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Lucy Godwin – Enjoy!  

Online Presence

According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses – and if the vast majority of your potential customers are online, you should be, too. Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter what size your business is or what industry it belongs to.

An online presence is important for outbound marketing because it reinforces your brand and what you offer to your target market. Once you’ve communicated with your audience, you’ll need to have a web presence that helps portray why your product or service is so great – because that’s the next stop for the majority of your potential customers.

It’s also vital for inbound marketing, because quality online content will help attract customers even if they haven’t heard of your brand.

So here are three of the first things you need to look at when building your online marketing efforts.

1. Your website

All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers – both existing and potential – need. For example, one frustration I encounter far too often is restaurants that don’t have a website with a current menu, opening hours, location and contact information. I know I’m not alone in that if I can’t find these details, I’m less likely to visit the restaurant – but there’s no reason a business should lose potential customers over something that’s so easy to remedy and costs very little.

A basic website is pretty easy to set up using an application like WordPress. WordPress is a free blogging tool and content management system that gives users the option to pay a little more for the premium version. If it’s relevant to your business, you can even add an online shop – after all, in 2013, 70 percent of consumers preferred to do their retail shopping online.

If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a great guide to WordPress for small businesses on Social Media today. It’s easy to understand and runs through the factors you need to consider and steps you need to take when setting up your small business website.

If you’re starting from scratch and not sure what your website should include, survey your existing customers. Whether you send out an email asking for their input, or mention it casually while making their coffee, it’s the best way to get the insight you need – people love to be involved and share their opinions.

2. Search engine optimization

Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. After all, 89 percent of consumers use search engines to research a product, service or business before making a decision. To take advantage of this, you need to make sure to look at search engine optimization (SEO) for your website.

In case you’re not completely sure what SEO means, how it works, or why it’s important, here’s a quick rundown:

  • What: The purpose of SEO is to make it easy for search engines to find your website and list it in their ‘organic’ (as opposed to ‘paid’) results.
  • Why: People tend to trust search engines, so websites that appear high in results pages are more likely to receive traffic.
  • How: Using search-engine friendly methods to improve your website.
  • Who: Everyone – anyone who has information that people want to find on the internet should be using SEO techniques.
  • When: All the time – SEO is an ongoing process. It’s important to monitor the information on your website and make sure it’s current and correct. Search engines also love new content, which is why starting a blog can do wonders for your SEO.
  • Where: Major search engines include Google, Yahoo and Bing. They connect people all over the world to the content they desire, from products to services to information.

The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by Moz and Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide both give a fantastic overview of the basics and will help you optimize your website.

3. Social media

Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers, potential customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives.

Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it’s definitely worth looking into your options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business – it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and ask and answer questions.

In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr, FourSquare helpful. Make sure to research available channels and find out if they will work for you. Instagram, for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic – Instagram has around 130–150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience.

Once you’ve decided which social media channels to use, get a clear idea of the kind of content you can share. The more compelling and engaging your material is, the more likely your followers will like, comment and share your posts. Engagement is key to promoting your brand – not only will it make you more appealing to existing customers, the more positive social activity that goes on, the higher the chance is that their friends will be exposed to your brand and intrigued by what you have to offer.

When they do this, they’re engaging with your brand and their networks (friends, family, colleagues) are seeing that engagement and may be prompted to check you out for their own needs.

 

lucy-godwinAuthor bio: Lucy Godwin lives in Wellington, New Zealand and is an outreach writer at Xero accounting software. Her role exposes her to the small business, startup and entrepreneur community, and she blogs for them about everything from marketing to cloud computing to finance. Connect with her on Twitter @LucyJaneGodwin.

How to Social Surround Your Customers and Prospects

social surround

photo credit: aenimation via photopin cc

While the title of this post could sound a little stalkerish, the fact is you can better serve your customers and attract new ones when you use social media to create a more complete picture of your ideal customer’s world.

Employing tools and routines that give you a deeper glimpse into what your customers care about, are doing each day, can’t find enough of, are looking for, just accomplished, just completed, just lost, just attended or just got let down by is how you discover ways to serve, add value and build deeper relationships.

Below are five elements of a social surround game plan.

The usual suspects

It should probably go without saying that the first step is to friend, follow and like. Make sure that the social network activity on the biggest networks is at your fingertips. Social CRM tools like Nimble make it easy to view a more complete customer record and browser add-ons like Rapportive bring social data into email tools such as Gmail. Create Twitter lists of customers and prospects and quickly scan them for actionable bits using a tool like Hootsuite.

Go deeper

Don’t stop at simply connecting with your customers on LinkedIn. Take a good hard look at who else they connect to, who influences them and who they report to. Most networks will show you who someone follows and understanding this can lead to opportunities to connect deeper through already shared connections, find new avenues for expanded business with existing customers and better understand how your customers network. Look at a customer’s “favorited” Tweets, check out Klout to see who your customer interacts with most and see what Groups your customer participates in on LinkedIn for additional clues into what your customer’s passions might be. Sometimes learning more about who else your customer is connected to is more important than simply connecting.

Custom listening

Now it’s time to get smarter about what’s going on in your customer’s world and using that information to add value. Use a tool like Talkwalker to set up custom alerts that relate to your customer’s market or product and look for ways to share this information with your customer. Create industry or keyword specific pages in Scoop.it or aggregate the best blogs posts on a industry by using a tool like AllTop and simply share four or five interesting links in what amounts to a custom newsletter.

Subscribe and join

Don’t forget to subscribe to your customer’s blog and newsletter. Sign up for their in person and online events and use your listening tools from above to keep up on announcements and news. Make sure that you have easy access to all of the content your customers are putting out as it can often provide clues for new opportunities and relationship building discussion points.

Create connection

My final point is a big one. When you effectively mine your customer’s social graph looking for deeper understanding you are more prepared to help them meet all of their objective, even those not related to your business – and that’s how you create unbelievable value and loyalty. Use your listening, connecting and mining routines to look for opportunities to create connections for your customers. Introduce them to journalists you’ve built relationships with. Connect them with that killer programmer you saw them Tweet about needing. Help them fill the VP of Sales position they just mentioned on LinkedIn.

When you employ to right tools and routines to monitor and engage in this manner social media participation will always pay off.

5 Essential Elements of a Useful Social Media Plan

social media plan

photo credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Living inside the bubble of the social media marketing world, it’s easy to forget that many organizations still don’t know how to reconcile social media into their everyday sales and marketing routine.

I taught the executive team of a very successful organization the basics of social media this past week and it was a great reminder that focusing on tactics without an organized strategy is still the greatest source of frustration for many businesses.

Yes, you eventually must get around to embracing certain tactics and tools specifically related to social media, but the key to determining both still lies in tying your actions to meeting your stated marketing and business objectives.

In order to create the proper context for social media inside this firm’s overall marketing plan I broke social media participation into five core elements and corresponding tools and tactics and mapped each to previously identified marketing objectives.

Collect

The first order of business in developing any social media strategy is to understand how to listen and collect useful market artifacts. You have to plug into the rich vein of useful information coming from your customers, prospects, competitors, journalists and other industry influencers before any of this makes much sense.

For this element we set up key alerts, created lists of influential industry players, setup Feedly RSS reader to subscribe to relevant blogs and setup Diigo to bookmark articles and email newsletter content.

Curate

The next element I wanted to address was the ability to curate important industry information as a way to inform clients and internal stakeholders. By aggregating and filtering a great deal of the industry content using some routines from the previous step you can become a source of insight for your customers and help them cut through some of the noise.

For this element we turned to RSS reader as well as several content curation tools like Newsle, LinkedIn Pulse and Scoop.it.

Create

One of the core marketing strategies for this firm is to establish a thought leader position for a very specific topic in their industry. They are busy turning a great deal of the industry data their analytics software produces into content objects that will draw a great deal of industry buzz.

For this element we established a sharing routine based on a set of core topics, LinkedIn Publisher program and owned content assets.

Share

In order to develop an expanding network in social media sharing must be a key activity. This does include sharing your own content and ideas but it also includes intentionally networking with and sharing content and ideas from others.

For this we turned to Feedly, Buffer and Hootsuite to establish a habit of sharing a set number of pieces everyday.

Engage

Finally, with many of the tools and routines above in place we could turn to the most obvious reason to participate in social media – to engage customers and prospects. With habits of listening, curating and sharing established members of the executive team and sales team will be able to more easily engage individual prospects, influencers, journalists and customer stakeholders by socially surrounding them.

For this step Hootsuite, Salesforce and Salesforce Chatter are the primary tools.

And, of course, where available the mobile apps for many of the tools employed were added.

By breaking social media participation into a specific set of core elements, each driven by strategy, every person in an organization can find the role that makes sense for them.

The focus then becomes less about tools and more about how a specific set of activities might help you better serve your customers.

Why It Might Be Time to Start Taking Gifs Seriously

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Danny Groner – Enjoy!

Gif Images

Photo credit: shutterstock

You’re probably familiar with gifs. You see them in stray articles on social-media-minded sites like BuzzFeed. They are playful and lighthearted. And when you’re in the mood for that, they can really hit home. But as the lines between entertainment and marketing continue to blur, the techniques for one are starting to find their way into the other. After all, what works, works. All kinds of experimental native advertising are popping up in unexpected places.

Right now, we’re living through a time of transition and exploration that may frighten some but excite others. Gifs are the natural next area for small business owners and marketers to conquer. There are a number of different ways to incorporate them into your materials and your website. For example, some companies, on the About Us pages of their sites, are going in a slightly different route than the traditional one. Take a look at what your competitors and other companies have written in that space; these pages are full of unthoughtful writing and wasted space. Plus, many are chock full of professional-sounding jargon that doesn’t mean much of anything.

Now, consider what others are saying about themselves, their companies, and their approaches to customer service with the inclusion of some motion graphics and gifs. They are giving off the clear impression that they’re digitally-savvy and in touch with modern trends. Instead of a picture of their employees sitting together and smiling, they have gifs showing them hanging out and having fun. Pictures don’t deliver the same punch that gifs can.

But that’s just a small opening. There are bigger and better ways to make a solid impression through gifs. Content marketing, the hottest form of marketing this day and age, is pretty much whatever you make of it. It’s so open-ended by design that you can put your own staple on your projects. But this isn’t as simple as just turning a photo into a rotating series of them.

You’ll want to start with a brainstorm about what your customers expect from you and how content marketing can add value to their experience with your company. What’s most important to remember, though, is that people have preconceptions about what gifs are and what they do. They fall into the sillier side of the marketing you’ll do, and there’s room to maneuver there without sullying the service you offer. Once you have identified the direction you want to go in, and what emotion the content is aiming to evoke (happiness or something else), you can get started with the content creation.

Content marketing can be shared on social media, or it can exist for social media. With the advent of and addition of Vine and Instagram video to your social media repertoire, you can try things out. These platforms are built along similar lines as gifs, which you can use to your advantage. If someone on your staff has a good idea, let them test it out on Instagram and see how it resonates with your audience. Then take what you see is working and apply the methods and messages elsewhere.

Everything you do for digital marketing should convey a certain consistency of your brand. Start by thinking like a consumer and what he or she is interested in when not at work. Appeal to that sentiment. Every company is trying to show consumers that they are similar to them. Gifs can help you get there fast.

Danny GronerDanny Groner is the manager of blogger partnerships and outreach for Shutterstock. He encourages everyone to consider how they achieve visual storytelling in the age of desktop editing and publishing.

 

 

5 Ways Buying Facebook Fans Can Hurt Your Business

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Norton – Enjoy!

traffic-sign-209196_1280

photo credit: pixabay.com

Amazingly, many brands still measure social media success based on ‘counting metrics’, not on more meaningful indicators such as engagement, referrals or share of voice. Fueling this is the ongoing trend toward buying fans; usually bots that offer nothing of value what-so-ever. However, what many don’t realize is that this approach can in fact be actively harming your brand online. So, how can fake social media fans and followers be damaging? What kind of metrics should you be interested in, and why should social marketing success never be measured in LIKES alone?

1. Fake Likes Don’t Help Credibility

Purchasing of Likes may give your company an impressive image at first glance, but this alone isn’t enough to build a good reputation. With well-known crackdowns on fake accounts from the likes of Facebook in recent years, chances are your new ‘fans’ could suddenly disappear, or worse still, you could be publicly named and shamed. Think of the consequences; should you be exposed as buying fake fans, you risk instant scrutiny from the online world who won’t be shy in making their feelings known, and in the long term, this could damage your brand integrity, especially if you profess to be a transparent organization.

2. Fake Likes Don’t Turn A Profit

Contrary to popular belief, having a social media page full of fake likes or followers generally won’t help you achieve your marketing objectives – including driving sales. Anyone buying fake fans should check out their insights, and they’ll quickly see the majority of the accounts – even if they are real – are based in countries that they don’t even operate in. The same goes for any call-to-actions you are making through your social networks. How can you expect people to click through to your website or engage with your content if they’ve got no interest in your brand what-so-ever?

3. Fake Likes Don’t Measure Success

Many businesses, especially those starting out, believe the amount of Facebook fans are a measure of their company’s success and brand awareness. It is not. In fact, fake fans and followers can make your brand look worse online. If you’ve got a highly engaged online community of a few hundred, then any content you share will be received warmly, discussed and shared. In simplistic terms, Facebook’s algorithm will recognize this, and will then broaden the reach of the post to your wider community. Conversely, if you’ve got 1,000 fake profiles, then the initial reach of your posts will be worse, given that it’s being sent to un-engaged bots, not real people. This will subsequently reduce its natural reach, as Facebook’s algorithm recognizes this lack of engagement and interest in your content.

4. Fake Likes Will Mess With Your Metrics

A strong understand of social media metrics is essential if you ever want to improve your social media success. This includes knowing what content people are engaged with, and gaining an understanding of your online community’s dynamics and norms. However, the influx of fake profiles – which offer nothing in the way of engagement or meaningful action – will only impede your ability to measure your community’s behavior, leaving you with a dense smokescreen to negotiate.

5. Fake Likes Can Be Harmful

It’s often the case that the illegitimate individuals behind the fake likes and followers are professional hackers who use unsuspecting members of the public as their guinea pigs, without them even knowing a thing about it. The software in use by these people is also harmful to computers in general as spam links are commonly sent when the hackers are working their black magic. For any brand serious about behaving ethically online – which let’s face it, you should be – then buying fans should never be an option.

ChrisNortonChris Norton is MD at specialist social media and PR agency Prohibition.

How to Set Social Media Up from Scratch

We just started working with a mid-size software company and, in digging in to build their marketing system, it quickly became clear they had no real social media integration.

social media set up

photo credit: Jason A. Howie via photopin cc

Sure, they had several Twitter accounts, many of their top folks were on LinkedIn and there was a Facebook page, but nothing was connected, no routine was established and certainly no strategy existed for taking advantage of the fact that their clients were increasing social.

In order to get them taking advantage of the strategy we were to recommend we first had to get social more deeply integrated into their daily work processes.

My experience is that this scenario is still quite commonplace – even as the buzz and hype around social has died down a bit.

So, since we needed to basically start from scratch to help them employ a routine for listening and sharing internally and externally, I thought I would document a bit of the process we put them through as it could be a good starting place for many organizations.

1) Created a list of industry related blogs that included publications, influencers, journalist, clients and competitors and set up subscriptions in Feedly RSS reader. (Used IFTTT recipe to make it easy to tag content to Salesforce Chatter)

2) Created list of alerts for key terms, brand names, clients and topics in Talkwalker and Mention. (I like to use both as they seem to pick up different things)

3) Set up Hootsuite for marketing team with Saleforce app integration. Used TacticsCloud tool to create and upload Twitter list of clients, journalists and influencers

4) Created Buffer account and added Buffer bookmarklet for scheduled sharing of content from Feedly or the web to all social networks.

5) Located and Liked Facebook pages of clients, prospects, publications and journalists.

6) Located and joined a number of active and relevant LinkedIn Groups and followed several industry related channels in Pulse.

7) Added mobile apps for Feedly, Hootsuite, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn

8) Created Cyfe dashboard for single reporting interface to monitor and measure ongoing social media impact. (Also created some custom segments in Google Analytics and integrated it with Cyfe)

This basic set-up doesn’t get into the daily and weekly amplification, sharing and posting routine that we are also working to install, and there certainly are other more sophisticated ways to set this up, but this is a fairly simple and repeatable plan to work from.

Why Social Is More Important to Sales Than Marketing

social selling

photo credit: Le.V3T via photopin cc

From day one it’s been said that the proper use of social media is for engagement, not sales.

But when you think about it – effective selling has always been about engagement first, because true engagement happens between people.

Now that social media is considered a foundational element of marketing, I wonder if that’s the best place for it. Far too many marketing departments treat social as a mass marketing tool and additional broadcast channel. While this view may indeed create more awareness, how much engagement does it actually generate?

Sales folks that have embraced the best use of social media use it to:

  • Identify very specific ideal clients
  • Connect with friends of friends of existing clients
  • Mine networks for potential opportunities
  • Keep tabs of what’s going on in a client’s world
  • Personalize content on a case by case basis
  • Engage in sharing with and for clients and prospects
  • Make introductions that turn into referrals

I don’t know about you, but the entire list above sounds like engagement and relationship building of the highest order – the kind that can’t really happen in a mass, detached way – the kind that successful salespeople have always employed.

If an organization is to derive the most benefit from social media today it must be driven deep into the organization so that it can be used as a tool for individual connection rather than simply a metric on the marketing KPI spreadsheet.

I would much rather see an organization reward a salesperson for being connected very deeply in one client’s network than stand up and cheer because they got their 10,000th follower on Twitter.

You see, social media really is all about selling, just not in the way some have long incorrectly viewed that art.

Every superstar salesperson knows effective selling involves networking, nurturing and connecting on a one to one basis and they grab whatever assets they can to build and sustain meaningful, long-term relationships. Now that we more fully understand social behavior and the impact of social media it’s time for organizations to wake up and move it to the sales team.

Facebook Adds Call to Action Buttons on Page Posts

Facebook recently added a feature that may help click throughs on Facebook page posts.

With just a little bit of extra work you can now add native call to action buttons to your organic Facebook page updates. Initial testing suggests this can greatly improve clicks.

The post below features a call to action for a webinar, but this type of post would be equally effective for newsletter signup or even as a buy button for a product or service.

Facebook Call to Action

The call to action buttons are also available to Facebook advertisers, but the fact that they have made them available for any status update is what interests me here.

Starts with Power Editor

The only tricky part for some is that you must install and operate a Facebook advertising tool called the Power Editor. Veteran Facebook ad pros will be familiar with this useful tool, but many who simply want to do what I am outlining in this post may not.

The Power Editor only works in the Google Chrome browser so you’ll need that as well. To access and manage the Power Editor go here. You can also get some instruction on using the Power Editor here.

Calls to action in posts

Once you have set the Power Editor up you simply navigate to it and make sure you see your page loaded in the left sidebar. (You can manage any number of pages from this editor so if you manage more than one you may see an entire list.)

Facebook call to action button

From here choose Create post (You can also create an new ad from here)

You will have the option then to create your post text as well as the link for the call to action, add the call to action button from a drop down list, description, photo and display headline and link. You will also want to select the display as post button at bottom.

Once you are satisfied with your post (you’ll have the option to preview it on your page), you must choose publish post (you can choose to publish now or schedule a publish date and time in the future). Once you do this you must also choose Upload Changes from the green button at the very top of the editor.

publish changes

This isn’t a major change for Facebook but I do believe it’s a useful one for those promoting any call to action. For the moment, the native Facebook call to action button has a lot of appeal.