Archive for the ‘Marketing and Business’ Category

Businesses are realizing that social media is an effective, inexpensive, and innovative way to promote their business and build their brand. Most companies have little trouble setting up their presence on Facebook or LinkedIn, but encounter some difficulty when figuring out how to use Twitter for their business. They also struggle with determining why Twitter is important for business. There are several reasons that Twitter should be part of your online marketing media mix:

1)      To connect with your customers – More than likely, your customers or people who you would like to turn into your customers are using social media, specifically Twitter. An average of 460,000 new Twitter accounts are created every day, according to web metrics site Kissmetrics. Checking tweets is a daily routine for millions of people, just like reading the morning paper or watching the evening news. With different types of Twitter tools, you can monitor what all of these people are tweeting about your brand, and communicate with them.

2)      To build your brand – Just because you aren’t Starbucks or Nike, it doesn’t mean you can’t build a strong brand reputation. Twitter is one way to make people aware of your brand and to shape the public perception of your brand.

3)      To deal with customer feedback – Customers can ask questions, voice their concerns, and even give compliments to your company through Twitter. All of this feedback can be used to improve customer relations, your product, or your service. It is also a great way to deal with negative feedback in a public forum that shows others you care about and take their comments seriously.

4)      For marketing – Twitter can be used to advertise special offers, give discount codes, or publicize special sales events. You can also drive more traffic to your website with tweets, resulting in more conversions or sales.

5)      For public relations – Has your company given a big check to charity or made a large donation of goods or services? Is there a new product that has been covered in the media that you would like your followers to see? Twitter is a great way to send out short PR messages and draw attention to cause marketing that your company does.

6)      For viral marketing – Have you created a great piece of viral marketing such as a funny video? Do you want to accelerate the rate at which it spreads across the Internet universe? Twitter can help with tools such as re-tweeting and by cross promoting on other social media platforms such as Facebook.

7)      For competitive research – Want to find out what your competitors are doing? Follow them on Twitter. You can also see what other potential customers and customers are saying about your competition.

8)      To build loyalty – All of these methods outlined above will help to build brand loyalty by creating a closer personal relationship with your customers, increasing your brand’s authority, and improving the image of your brand.

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Once you’ve created your blog and started uploading articles, you’re probably wondering what comes next. Your blog is intended to do two things. First, it should provide valuable content to your target audience. Second, it should be used to drive traffic to your website, resulting in conversions and sales leads. Blog comments are a way of gauging which content is drawing more readers, and can also be a way to link out to other websites, including your own.

Setting up Comments

For starters, you need to make sure that the settings on your chosen blog platform (i.e. WordPress, Blogger, etc.) are set so that people can leave comments about your blog entries.  You can also limit who can leave comments if you want. The best recommended settings will allow anyone to comment, but will keep spammers away.

One good rule of thumb is to require commenters to provide their name and email address. Also be sure to turn on comment moderation for first time commenters. This will allow you or the blog administrator to approve the first comment from anyone who leaves one. To keep spammers away, turn on word verification. This will ask commenters to type in letters from an on-screen box to prove that they are humans and not spam-bots. There are also settings that will ask simple questions before allowing someone to comment.

Create Rules

The great thing about creating your blog is that it is owned and operated by you and you alone. You get to set the rules. You decide what content makes it there, as well as the tone. Another thing you should decide is what types of comments you will allow and how you will respond to them. Will your responses have a sense of humor? Will you always try to drive the commenter to your website? What comments will you leave up and which ones will you take down if you feel they are in poor taste?

People will try to leave comments that market their own businesses, too. You will need to decide whether you will allow this or not. Negative comments are another consideration. Will you address them or delete them? Will you correct bad grammar? What type of language will you let people use? This “comment policy” can be typed up in short form and included next to your “submit a comment” button on your blog.

Ask for Comments and Respond

The easiest way to solicit comments for your blog is to ask! At the end of each blog post, include a simple sentence asking people to subscribe to your blog, emails, and newsletters. Then invite them to leave a comment about what they have just read. Don’t create a single boilerplate sentence that you always include. Try to customize it for each different blog post and make it blend naturally with the post if possible.

The last piece of advice (once you are getting comments) is to respond to them. Respond to them quickly and in a friendly tone. Your blog’s software will notify you when comments have been left, making it simple. Read other blogs and comment on them, too, leaving a link to your own blog. Emulate those who are successful with your own blog.

Social media depends on interactivity. It is what draws people to blogs and sites like Facebook in the first place. Your goal is to create a relationship and nurture it. Build trust, authority, and make a connection with your blog commenters and subscribers. Finally, have fun with the whole process and keep working at it and refining it until you are satisfied with the results.

Facebook for business isn’t about direct selling. It also isn’t about advertising (although it is possible to buy ads on Facebook). Social media, specifically Facebook, is about your brand; how people view your brand, how they connect with your brand, and how they feel about your brand. This is all done through proper positioning and relationship building.

Define your Audience

Before you can really leverage the full power of Facebook, you have to get to know your audience. You need to know how old they are, whether they are predominantly male or female, where they live, what they like to do with their free time, and how much money they make. Make a list with these details. This is a profile of your “ideal” customer.

Once you know who your ideal customer is, you can tailor all of your Facebook messages towards this ideal customer. This may sound easy, but it is critical that you know your audience and give them the messages that they will respond to and appreciate. Don’t give them what they don’t want.

Decide on your Strategy

What is your Facebook strategy? Do you want to build as many followers as possible? How many fans are you looking for; 1,000, 10,000, 100,000? Maybe you want to get feedback on a new product. How will you do this? By asking questions and posting surveys? Do you want to increase brand awareness through an online sweepstakes or contest?

Don’t make the mistake of blindly putting up everything but the kitchen sink on Facebook in hopes that something will get you noticed. Have a distinct and well-developed marketing plan in place ahead of time, or you’ll just be spinning your wheels.

Tips for maximizing your Facebook efforts and Strengthening your Brand

  • Fill out your profile completely. Include any piece of information that you think will be useful and interesting for your fans.
  • Put photos on your Facebook page of your business, your employees, and your product. Don’t just use retouched high-end advertising shots, include candid photos as well. People respond better to “real” images. Similarly, put some candid web video or flip video on your site. People enjoy this type of “behind the scenes” experience they can get through social media.
  • Grow your network by having all of your customers and employees add themselves as fans to your page. Import your email address lists and send them an “opt-in” message to get additional fans. Put the Facebook logo in your email blasts, print advertisements, posters, newsletters, TV ads, and anywhere else that you are already advertising. You may want to run a contest for new Facebook fans and give something away like an iPad to jumpstart your fan following as well.
  • Link to your other social media platforms. Facebook has tools that will allow you to connect with Twitter, LinkedIn, your company blogs, and other social media sites. Use these tools to expand your marketing reach.
  • Lastly, provide content. Update your wall posts daily. Add photos and videos. Create new notes or blog postings. Give links to articles that might interest your fans. Give them a reason to visit your website. Also be sure to answer their questions in a friendly, courteous, and fast manner. This will go a long way towards building the types of personal relationships that grow fans and grow brands.

On Facebook alone, 30 billion pieces of content are shared every single month. This includes blog posts, links, news stories, video, and photo albums. As a medium sized business or SME, how do you get involved in all of these conversations and viral activity?

How to Get Shared

There are a lot of ways to get your content shared across social networks. The first step is perhaps the most important one and the most obvious. You need to create good content. Then you need to expose people to it. Exposure is as simple as encouraging people to become a Facebook fan or Twitter follower.

Once the content is there and people are exposed to it, they have to be made aware of it. They have to see it, read it, or hear it. After that, they need to be motivated to share your content with others. The more people share it, the greater the exposure. That is why it is so important to build an audience and continue to build that audience.

There are a number of reasons that people will decide to share or not share your content.

  • Trust – If your followers trust you, they will share your content. If they don’t trust you, they won’t. It’s as simple as that. Building trust on social networks is done by being personable and sharing information. Trust is also fostered through honest interactions with people. Surveys show that people only trust a little more than half of businesses globally.
  • Care – Your customers have to care about your brand or they won’t share your posts. They will care about your company and your posts if you provide valuable content and help to solve their problems as well as answer their questions. They also look to you to help introduce them to other people like themselves. Keep them committed to your brand by accomplishing these tasks.
  • Interest – Keep your posts interesting, because once they get bored, they will go somewhere else. Boring content doesn’t get shared. Funny and intriguing posts do get shared. Humor gets shared more than any other kind of web content.
  • Passion – People care more about causes than they do about companies. Everyone has a charity, foundation, or cause that they have a deep connection with. Partner with a worthy cause and create content about your partnership. Showing that your business cares reveals its human side.
  • Validation – Your customers are looking for validation from their social networks just as you are looking for validation from them. Create a piece of content that entertains, educates people, or makes them think. They will want to increase their authority and credibility with their followers by sharing your content. Just as you want to be a source, expert, or authority, so do your fans. They can do so by using your posts, links, and media.

Conclusion

A study by the New York Times revealed that 68 percent of people share content as an advertisement for themselves. They share information to show others who they are and what they represent. In short, they want to look good to their friends. The study also showed that 73 percent of the participants said that they process information more deeply, thoroughly, and thoughtfully when they share it. Lastly, 85 percent of respondents said that reading the responses of other people helps them to understand and process information and events. The most important lesson to take away from all of this is to work to understand your audience and give them what they want via social media. The sharing will come naturally from there.

Facebook for B2Bs

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Marketing and Business

All of this Facebook stuff sounds great for companies who are trying to build relationships with millions of fans or customers, but is Facebook a useful tool for companies whose clients are other companies? The answer is an emphatic “YES!” Just as a social network can create an interactive relationship with individual consumers, it can also generate leads and nurture customer relationships if your customer is another business.

Inbound versus Outbound Marketing for B2Bs

In the outbound marketing world (pushing advertising messages out to as many people as possible via mass media), there was very little “buzz” marketing. A clever TV ad or slogan had some viral life, but didn’t create much of a stir in the pre-Internet world. In this new era of inbound marketing (marketing to a targeted audience by attracting them to your brand), everything has changed.

Social media is part of a complete online marketing plan along with other tools such as email, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), article marketing, and blogging. With 750 million users and growing, Facebook is the king of social media, and can alert other companies and their decision makers to your brand in a number of ways. Facebook can serve as a platform for your brand, delivering information and valuable content that decision makers use to determine whether or not to conduct business with your brand.

An Inexpensive PR Firm

Businesses waste millions of dollars every year on retainer fees paid to public relations firms who aren’t doing their jobs. (And this is coming from a former PR professional!) A lot of established, well-known public relations companies are not embracing social media like they should. They continue to send out boring, static press releases to newspapers and broadcast TV or radio stations. They hand out paper press kits at media events. They have become lazy and slow to act on all of the possibilities that digital and online public relations can provide.

Facebook is a fantastic forum for releasing public relations messages instantly to thousands or even millions of people all at once. They don’t have to wait to read the latest news about your brand in the morning paper or on the news tomorrow night. They can read about it now on your Facebook page. And if they miss the story, you can post a link to it on your site for them to read at their leisure. The best part is that you don’t have to pay an expensive PR firm to do all of this for you. Someone at your company can post this information in minutes – no muss, no fuss. Businesses who are researching your brand will find this press information valuable.

 

Showcase your Expertise

If another company is deciding whether or not to do business with you, they want to know if you have the experience and expertise to handle any job they throw at you. You can do this by linking to articles, books, whitepapers, videos, or other media that features prominent employees or experts at your company. You can also post blogs that cover issues you have addressed for your clients, problems you have solved, and case studies that demonstrate your ability to deliver a quality product or service. All of this information is essential for swaying possible clients or developing leads for your company.

Everyone has jumped on the social media bandwagon. It’s impossible to turn on the television these days without being bombarded with brands and their Facebook marketing campaigns. The pressure is on for your company to be a Facebook or Twitter superstar by having the most fans and followers, thus catapulting you to online marketing success.

What gets forgotten, sometimes, is that social media serves a very distinct business purpose: To drive people to your website. While social media may draw people in, your website is the true workhorse of your online marketing efforts, what many call the “hub” for your company on the Internet. It is here that your prospects turn into leads, and leads turn into sales — where all of the real magic happens.

All of the fans and followers in the world won’t equate to an online Return on Investment (ROI) unless they make it to your sales portal or landing page on your website. Pushing people from Facebook to your website is easy, though, by following a few simple steps.

  • Links – Link back to your website with your Facebook wall posts and media. Don’t link back so much that people are constantly bouncing back to your site and not spending any time on your Facebook page, though. This could alienate some web visitors.
  • Cross-promote – Use your other marketing channels to promote your Facebook site. Include your Facebook address in your print, outdoor, and broadcast advertisements and encourage people to visit.
  • Tabs – Take advantage of the tabs feature on Facebook to create pages of unique content that lead back to your website. Put some key content there, with the real meat and potatoes back on your brand website.
  • Sharing – Share articles, blog posts, research, white papers, and any other information that you think people will find valuable about your brand. Host the content on your website, and link back to it from your wall posts. By creating content that other people want to share, you can create even more exposure and traffic for your website.
  • Promotion – You may have a great deal of information and content on your Facebook page; so much that visitors may not be able to find it all. Pick some of the most important pieces of information and promote them via your wall posts. Feature different content on a regular basis.
  • Tease – Don’t include an entire piece of content on your Facebook page. Just tease the content with a short blurb that links back to your website, where people can get the entire story. Just give them enough to pique their interest.
  • Contests – Contests and sweepstakes for new fans will help you to increase your fan base and drive additional traffic to your website if you require them to follow a link back to your site.
  • Offers – Special offers, content, discounts, or deals that are only available to Facebook fans will give people a reason to follow a link back to your site.

People may be buying your product or service, but do they really like you? And does it matter if they like you or not? Of course it does. Creating a strong brand identity and building customer loyalty depends on your company’s likeability. One way to become more liked is through social media. There are several ways to do this:

Listen

Social media is unlike traditional outbound marketing methods like print, broadcast, or outdoor advertising. These ways of reaching customers are strictly one way interactions. Social media, on the other hand, is a two way street. Not only can you talk to customers, they can talk back. The key to taking advantage of the social media relationship is to listen to what people are telling you and respond accordingly.

If your customers are asking for a product change that is simple to make, give it to them. If they are unhappy with an aspect of your customer service program, change it. If they have a question that can easily be answered, answer it quickly and kindly. This is your chance to grow a bond with your fans, and create a relationship that will make them loyal customers.

People want to be listened to, and appreciate the opportunity to vent their frustrations. Listening via social media can be done in many ways, including free tools like Google Alerts, Technorati search blog, Twitter search, Facebook search, YouTube search, and TweetBeep. Paid tools include Meltwater Buzz, Parature, Radian 6, Sysomos and Vocus. Do searches for your brand name and keywords, and for those of your competitors to get a pulse on your industry.

Be Real

Your customers don’t want to do business with a company; they want to do business with people. Social media allows you the opportunity to show that you can relate to them on a personal level and can help you to show the “human side” of your brand.

Speak with your customers in an authentic voice. Use your company mission statement (hopefully you have one!) to create a social media personality that your fans or followers will find warm and inviting. Facebook and Twitter aren’t the proper forums to use marketing or advertising jargon and slogans. Instead, speak in a down to earth, real tone with your fans. Break this rule and you risk turning off your fans.

Give Value

There are a lot of web pages and Facebook fan pages to visit on the web (millions!). Give people a reason to choose your social media presence as a place to spend their time. How do you do this? By giving people valuable content. The better the content, the more people will trust you and the greater your reputation will grow. The best way to accomplish this is by sharing your knowledge and expertise. This can be done by posting blog entries, notes, links, media such as video, and other information that can help your fans solve problems and get the answers to their questions.

Share

In order to appear more human and personal with your fans, you’ll need to help them get to know you better. You can do this by sharing stories about your company through blogs, video, your page’s biographical information, or wall posts. Describe how your company was started, paying attention to any tough times you may have had or obstacles that you overcame. Highlight special events in your history and important staff members. These stories will serve to humanize your brand and become the “social currency” of social media.

Other Ways to be Likeable

If you follow the tips outlined above, you’ll create more likeable social media interactions. Other advice for creating likeability on your social media platforms include:

  • Admit your mistakes and fix them. Say that you’re sorry and people will appreciate it.
  • Continue to deliver good content. This will keep folks coming back.
  • Create and foster interesting conversations with your fans. Interactivity is the heart of social media.

You may have heard the phrase “inbound marketing” tossed around at seminars or in the latest trade journal article, but not quite fully understood what it is. Before explaining inbound marketing, it is important to first define its polar opposite: “outbound marketing.” Outbound marketing is a way of generating sales leads and customers through traditional print and broadcast advertising, telemarketing, direct mail, email blasts, trade shows, and cold calling. These are basically any methods that a marketer uses to “push” a message out to as many people as possible in the hopes that it reaches the correct target demographic.

Why Outbound Marketing isn’t Working

The approach used by outbound marketing of throwing out a wide net and hoping to snag a few of the right kind of fish is becoming less effective in this age of next-generation Internet marketing. The average person is being inundated with 2,000 or more outbound marketing messages per day. Because these interruptions are often inconvenient and sometimes overwhelming, they are often dismissed, ignored, or filtered out. Methods used to do so include caller ID and call screening, spam filtering, scanning through TV advertisements through the use of a DVR, simply switching the station, or deleting a message without reading it.

Inbound Versus Outbound Marketing

Instead of utilizing outbound marketing techniques that can be blocked out, it makes more sense to invest the time and money into outbound marketing that focuses on helping your business to “get found” by  the people who want and need your goods or services. You want shoppers to come to you, rather than trying to find them.

Most marketers spend 90 percent of their time on outbound and only 10 percent on inbound marketing. It makes more sense to flip those two percentages. Response rates for traditional marketing equal about 1-3 percent. This means that you are wasting 97 percent of your marketing efforts with outbound marketing!

Methods of Inbound Marketing

The Internet and new media have changed the way that people shop and gather information. Consumers have more power over the information they receive and use to purchase products or services. They are able to get information about different companies or vendors on their own without having direct contact or interaction with you or your company. This makes today’s consumers much more educated and knowledgeable about you and your product, as well as your competition. The customer has more control and power than ever before.

There are several ways to market to this more savvy consumer:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Improving the ranking of your website on popular search engines such as Google
  • Pay per click (PPC) advertising: Driving web site traffic through affiliates with “pay per performance” incentives
  • Blogging:  Leveraging the “blogosphere” to drive web site traffic
  • Targeted landing pages: Designing a landing page that encourages conversion
  • Buzz marketing: Amplifying a marketing message by encouraging consumer interaction with each other and your brand, mainly through the use of social networking
  • Conversion tools: Making it easier for users to buy from you on the Internet through optimization conversion methodology
  • Analytical tools: Optimizing web page effectiveness through the proper measurement, collection, and analysis or reporting of website traffic and usage data

Executives and managers of mid-sized businesses or SMEs are always looking for ways to stretch their marketing budgets and reach new, untapped customers. Internet marketing can achieve both of those aims through the use of digital marketing technologies such as email, audio, video, blogs, social media, SEO articles and newsletters. One hurdle that many marketing managers and executives face when attempting to employ some of these methods, however, is convincing the CEO that these are viable strategies to pursue in order to grow the business. Company CEO’s make their living being skeptical, and can often be hard to convince. The advantages of Internet marketing can be laid out very simply and convincingly for even the toughest CEO, though.

Advantage #1: Flexibility

There are several beneficial aspects of Internet marketing that can be explained to a stubborn CEO to change his or her mind. The first important benefit of marketing online is versatility. Changes can be made instantaneously. This is in sharp contrast to traditional offline marketing such as print ads in newspapers and magazines or ads on television and radio that require long lead times and are difficult to change once a campaign is launched. In a world where decisions must be made quickly and where market demand is constantly changing, this flexibility is essential.

Advantage #2: Targeting

Traditional print and broadcast marketing is a “shotgun” approach — putting a message out into the mainstream to as wide an audience as possible and hoping that your customer demographic will see and be persuaded by that message. Internet marketing, however, can be targeted more narrowly – more of a “sniper” approach, reaching only those potential customers or clients who are most likely to use your product or service. No more time and money wasted talking to the wrong audience.

Advantage #3: Tracking

Internet marketing can be tracked in real time using complex and detailed analytics. Items such as page views, website hits, click-throughs, or conversions can be easily measured and reported on an ongoing, on-demand basis. Print and broadcast ads don’t give this kind of immediate feedback. Having real-time marketing data can spell the difference between success and failure in a marketing campaign. CEOs enjoy having access to the latest and most up to date information in all aspects of the business.

Advantage #4: Cost Effective

Print ads can be costly. They require graphic creation and a substantial financial investment to buy and place ads in constant rotation. Broadcast advertisements are also expensive and require scripting, production, and post-production work. Add to these expenses the cost of advertising agency fees or retainers and you are talking about a substantial monetary outlay. Internet marketing involves just a fraction of the cost of these other media.

Advantage #5: Greater Reach

There are so many ways to market on the Internet and so many different types of media. A company blog or well-written SEO article can reach Internet information seekers. Fans of digital media can learn about your company through YouTube videos or podcasts. Social media fans can gather the latest information on your brand through Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook. Internet marketing reaches so many people in so many ways.

Advantage #6: Instant Conversion

Internet marketing provides businesses with the ability to make a sale instantly, on the spot. A magazine, newspaper, television, or radio ad cannot do this. All it takes is a few clicks of the mouse on an email blast, HTML newsletter, web page, social media site link, or a response to a mobile text message to turn a potential customer into a new customer. Digital marketing captures customer information more quickly, and makes sales more effectively than any other marketing method.

The Final Verdict

These six marketing advantages should be enough to convince any hard-nosed CEO that Internet marketing is a viable and affordable marketing strategy to add to your media mix. Each type of digital marketing can be employed by itself or in conjunction with other methods, and can be rolled out a little at a time, or all at once, so the effectiveness of each can be gauged and tracked to show effective they are. After analyzing the data and seeing the results, it will be easy for the boss to see that email, SEO article, social media, audio, video, and mobile SMS marketing all have a place in any mid-sized business or SME, and can grow business in new and exciting ways.

On average, people spend more than a quarter of their time online, either shopping on the web, checking in with social media sites, reading email or just browsing around. That’s why it’s crazy for a mid-sized business or SME not to utilize every possible Internet tool available to grow their market share and customer base. The Internet provides a global reach to an almost unlimited audience 24 hours per day, every day of the week.

Online Market Size

The use of the Internet as a tool for gathering information, researching, and making purchases grows exponentially worldwide every year. For example, in Africa alone, where the penetration of the Internet is 11.4 percent, the growth rate has been more than 2,500 percent, adding up to over 118,000,000 users currently. Asia boasts a 23.8 percent penetration, or more than 922,000,000 users. Europe has a 58.3 percent Internet usage rate, the Middle East 31.7 percent, Latin American 36.2 percent, Australia 60.1 percent, and North America a whopping 78.3 percent. That’s a huge potential market for companies to tap into.

How Internet Usage Breaks Down

Internet usage statistics worldwide show that users spend about 36 percent of their time using email, engaging in commerce online, or performing web searches. Of that time, 42 percent is spent viewing online content. Social networking accounts for 22 percent of people’s time online globally. In a single month, a web user visits 2,667 sites and logs on 57 times.

Social Media Explosion

Online usage statistics vary according to the region of the world. While 70 percent of Americans participate in social networking, in other countries, such as Brazil, social media accounts for up to 90 percent of time spent online. Social media is the number one activity on the web, making it a prime place for businesses to set up shop. In some countries, such as the U.S., Facebook tops Google for weekly web traffic. If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s third largest in population, twice the size of the United States.

Components of Online Marketing

  • The web – Of course every business these days has a website, but is your website really optimized to attract customers and then convert them? If not, targeted landing pages and online conversion tools can help.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing – You might have a fantastic website, but can anyone find it? SEO will improve the rank of your business on popular website search engines such as Google and online directories, pushing more traffic to your site, and identifying the kind of web traffic that best fits your customer demographic.
  • Email or newsletter marketing – Direct mail has traditionally been the most targeted way of reaching a potential customer base. Email has taken this idea of targeted marketing to the next level, and provides the ability to drive traffic to your online marketplace and instantly convert new customers.
  • Blogging and article marketing – Keyword-rich online articles with links back to your website can increase traffic and provide valuable content for your customers or clients.
  • Social media – Tools such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Digg, Yelp, and other sites allow you to receive instant feedback from your customers or clients, and also build a valuable personal relationship with consumers that was never before possible.