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10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

This was such a great read from Entrepreneur that we wanted to share…

Leveraging the power of content and social media marketing can help elevate your audience and customer base in a dramatic way. But getting started without any previous experience or insight could be challenging.

It’s vital that you understand social media marketing fundamentals. From maximizing quality to increasing your online entry points, abiding by these 10 laws will help build a foundation that will serve your customers, your brand and — perhaps most importantly — your bottom line.

1. The Law of Listening
Success with social media and content marketing requires more listening and less talking. Read your target audience’s online content and join discussions to learn what’s important to them. Only then can you create content and spark conversations that add value rather than clutter to their lives.

2. The Law of Focus
It’s better to specialize than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A highly-focused social media and content marketing strategy intended to build a strong brand has a better chance for success than a broad strategy that attempts to be all things to all people.

3. The Law of Quality
Quality trumps quantity. It’s better to have 1,000 online connections who read, share and talk about your content with their own audiences than 10,000 connections who disappear after connecting with you the first time.

4. The Law of Patience
Social media and content marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. While it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle, it’s far more likely that you’ll need to commit to the long haul to achieve results.

5. The Law of Compounding
If you publish amazing, quality content and work to build your online audience of quality followers, they’ll share it with their own audiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, their own blogs and more.

This sharing and discussing of your content opens new entry points for search engines like Google to find it in keyword searches. Those entry points could grow to hundreds or thousands of more potential ways for people to find you online.

6. The Law of Influence
Spend time finding the online influencers in your market who have quality audiences and are likely to be interested in your products, services and business. Connect with those people and work to build relationships with them.

If you get on their radar as an authoritative, interesting source of useful information, they might share your content with their own followers, which could put you and your business in front of a huge new audience.

7. The Law of Value
If you spend all your time on the social Web directly promoting your products and services, people will stop listening. You must add value to the conversation. Focus less on conversions and more on creating amazing content and developing relationships with online influencers. In time, those people will become a powerful catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing for your business.

8. The Law of Acknowledgment
You wouldn’t ignore someone who reaches out to you in person so don’t ignore them online. Building relationships is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person who reaches out to you.

9. The Law of Accessibility
Don’t publish your content and then disappear. Be available to your audience. That means you need to consistently publish content and participate in conversations. Followers online can be fickle and they won’t hesitate to replace you if you disappear for weeks or months.

10. The Law of Reciprocity
You can’t expect others to share your content and talk about you if you don’t do the same for them. So, a portion of the time you spend on social media should be focused on sharing and talking about content published by others.

Source: Entrepreneur

Instagram

Using Instagram Effectively for Your Small Business

With over 300 million users, Instagram is a visual way for users, businesses and brands to connect. Need help getting started? Here are some tips.

Instagram is the most used social media outlet for millenials and teenagers. This presents a huge opportunity for small businesses on Instagram to create a visual connection to their brand. In addition to millenials, there are small businesses, artists and other organizations all utilizing Instagram and having success with the social network.

Harnessing Instagram for Business

Visuals are the main currency of Instagram. Small businesses should share and upload interesting content their followers won’t be able to find anywhere else. Think about the kind of visuals you like and replicate those ideas with the photos you share on your account. Worried you’ll come up sort? Here are ideas:

• Your office – Everyone loves seeing photos of how others work. Whether you have a brick ‘n mortar store or you’re in manufacturing, these behind-the-scenes photos give a glimpse of what others otherwise wouldn’t see.

• Events – Hosting an event or are you part of an event in your community? By all means, post photos! Even if your employees are attending events with community service, get visuals from these happenings.

• Celebrations – Many companies and organizations celebrate life’s occasions, from weddings to babies. Followers love happy photos and celebrating with you. It makes a human connection. Encourage members of your team to get involved submitting images and your Instagram should grow in popularity!

Twitter Dos and Don’ts

While you think social media may give you an instant boost to your business, without a plan of action or strategy, you’ll be shooting in the dark. If you market yourself correctly on social media, and Twitter, you can turn curious ‘googlers’ into loyal clients and customers, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Her are several tips to help make Twitter work for you.

1. Be easy to find! Choose a Twitter handle or name that’s close to your business name, and write up a clear profile that explains exactly what you do and where your clients and customers can find you. Utilize keywords that your customers might search for: your neighborhood, business focus and do link to your full website.

2. Do not shout. Don’t use all caps, people. It’s shouting, and it’s considered impolite. Consider your grammar, spelling, voice and tone as well. Even if you are trying to be casual, sounding professional on Twitter is paramount to your image.

3. Don’t repeat yourself again and again. Don’t tweet out a link to your Facebook page every day; people can find it on their own if you’ve posted links that are visible. Also, don’t tweet the same thing to a ton of people. It’s boring and very annoying.

4. Be timely. Let people know about specials you having coming up (whether it’s a special on a service, a limited-time only discount, or an upcoming event). Also, give a glimpse of what’s to come to garner excitement about what you’re offering. Invite your followers to get to know you!

5. Engage, engage, engage. Be a friendly word of advice, not anonymous. Share interesting article, news and catch up with others in your field! Network and respond. Twitter isn’t just about self-promotion, it’s about starting a conversation and building a relationship. Give your followers a clear picture of what you do, and share your voice in the conversation. Retweet interesting links by others, and aim for about half of your tweets to be non-promotional in nature.

6. Don’t auto-tweet or auto-DM. Think again before you put your account on automatic pilot. Don’t send auto direct messages to new followers. That pushes you farther away from them, and again, it’s just plain annoying.

Tips for online shopping engagement

The Real Reason Your Website Visitors Aren’t Buying

We love this great article from a columnist at the Open Forum. Great words of advice. Read on!
Columnist, American Express OPEN

Are you missing your conversion goals? Here’s the real reason your site visitors aren’t buying. Hint: It has nothing to do with your website design.

We’re all selling something. The challenge remains: How do we get people to buy from us more often and with a contagious fervor that sends more folks just like them our way?

If you’re finding that your on-site conversions aren’t where you’d like them to be, you might be missing the real reason.

It’s not your logo. It’s definitely not your WordPress theme (though I’ve seen some that scream 1992). And it’s not your AdWords targeting.

It’s emotion—and you’re lacking it.

Emotion: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

With over 102,000 online retailers in the U.S. alone, there’s a fair share of competition out there for your customer’s attention. That number doesn’t even factor in sites that sell service-based goods or those where a good conversion is considered something like a subscriber sign-up or other opt-in action.

To rise above the tide of online noise, your on-site experience has to evoke an emotional response. You have to serve up feeling for three squares a day to your audience, or else you’ll get lost in the shuffle.

Why don’t we have a listen to what four experts have to say about using emotions to increase conversions? After all—if you can fix something, you want to fix it. Right?

Get Motivated

Your site visitors landed on your site for a reason. Whatever that reason might be, it’s now your job to keep them there. Keith Hagan of ConversionIQ, a Denver-based tech firm that specializes in helping companies increase online conversions, helps clients understand the “why behind the buy,” or the site visitor’s motivation.

“We then work with our clients to identify the primary motivation of the user and address that upfront, commonly in the homepage headline,” Hagan says. “For example, the most common reason women purchase vanity items like skin care, shapewear and apparel isn’t to ‘look good,’ but to feel confident. Once you talk that up, conversion rates follow.”

Your action item: Have three strangers go to the homepage of your website. Ask them to tell you what the homepage makes them feel and want to do. If the answer is nothing (or not the feelings or actions you’re hoping for), then you have your first emotion-driven action item to tackle. You need to find out and understand how people want to feel when they come to your website. Try polling current customers to get clearer insights on what they really want, then shift your messaging and tie your on-page calls to action to those desired feelings.

Improve a Situation

Still a bit flummoxed by this whole “emotions” thing? Sunny Hunt, CEO of Hunt Interaction, a Salt Lake City-based company that helps companies build better customers, asks her clients to start with improving something.

“Customers are looking to solve a problem, even a problem they didn’t know they had, and problems come with emotional baggage,” Hunt says. “One of the best ways to engage and convert an audience is to answer one simple question: How does buying this product/service make my life better?”

But Hunt doesn’t let her customers stop after answering that one question. Instead, she helps her clients demonstrate how their products and services improve upon their audience’s current situation. That’s where the emotional connection comes in—a brand’s ability to truly deliver on the improvement of their audience’s current situation.

Your action item: Make a list of the ways your products and services make your customers’ lives better. Again, you can even send out a poll to current customers to get answers straight from the source. (Please, don’t guess how you make their lives better—they’ll happily tell you!) Once you have those responses, review your website with one neutral party—someone who can be objective about your brand. Your goal? To find out: a) if your site clearly addresses the idea your products make lives better; and b) if your site demonstrates the “how,” the ways the product improves current situations.

If They Feel It, They Will Come (Back)

Spreadshirt knows all too well how crowded the online customized t-shirt market is, and Adam Lidsky, marketing manager for Spreadshirt, also knows firsthand that if people feel you, they’ll come back—and they’ll bring their friends.

“We spend a lot of time trying to create ‘Spreadshirt moments’ to elicit feelings of belonging. We want our customers to feel comfortable expressing themselves and to connect with the personalized products they create,” Lidsky says. “Involving our customers in these moments removes risk from the buying process and elicits a desire to be included. This leads to higher conversions.”

And the best part? Spreadshirt is realizing that people are coming back not because they can create a t-shirt or mug with their baby’s picture on it. They’re coming back because of how they felt when they saw and held what they created with their baby’s picture on it.

Your action item: Review your brand and answer one question: How are we inviting our customers to share their experiences with our brand? Many brands have regular customer shout-outs on Twitter and Facebook. Others do a great job of interacting with their brand advocates across social media. By establishing an emotional connection with your audience, you’re giving them a reason to interact with and share you. But are you making it easy for them to share you?

Feeling is where it’s at. The next time you find your conversion goals lagging behind your brand aspirations, take an emotional inventory. With all the competition out there for your customers’ attention, don’t you want to be the brand they love, remember, buy from and share? I know it’s scary, but hugging it out is a solid sales strategy.

Source: OpenForum.com

Orlando Social Media Strategy

Social media tools for business

To put it mildly, social media tools are transforming the way we communicate. These days, people send a tweet instead of an e-mail and write on Facebook walls instead of dial phone numbers. So you know the best way to reach customers is to join these conversations, but how? Which platform will send the right message? Here’s a look at the top five tools and how can small-business owners can take advantage of this change in communication to boost their bottom lines.

Facebook: Best for engaging with customers

Every business needs a Facebook page, period. The social media giant is on par to reach 1 billion users by August, according to iCrossing, a media research company in the U.K. Translation: All of your current and potential clients already have an account. Once you fill out your page, Barbara Rozgonyi, founder of Chicago-based marketing firm CoryWest Media, suggests sending out updates at least three times per week to start attracting attention.

“Don’t just write about your business, take a community approach and talk about what is going on in your industry and your community,” she says. “It needs to be a good mix.”

Another tip: Don’t talk at people. Instead, engage them in conversation by asking questions and responding to their comments. If you don’t have time to watch your Facebook feed all day (who does?) commit a few hours per week to replying to every comment posted on your page, advises Rozgonyi.

Make posts semi-personal, too. Sprinkle in a comment about the weather with an excited note about your favorite sports team. (Note: Don’t write about what you ate for lunch; that’s too personal.) Conversation between you and your customer will not only help put a face on your company, but add to feelings of goodwill among your base. (Here are a few tips on how to get Facebook fans.)

Twitter: Best for sharing news about your company

“Think of Twitter as a news channel,” says Rozgonyi. “It’s a good place to promote your business, talk about things happening and connect with people.”

Unlike Facebook users who, generally speaking, want to feel warm and fuzzy about a company before being sold, Twitter users are open to the hard sell, she says. So use the platform to advertise sales and specials. There is a fine line, though. Too many sales-y tweets, and you will lose followers. Post about three times per day, and if you don’t have time to do that, download Hootsuite, an application that allows you to schedule your tweets ahead of time.

Need more ideas on what to tweet? Rozgonyi recommends searching for what your competitors and target demographic are talking about. Join the conversation and you will have followers in no time.

Another tip: Post statistics about your industry—“everyone loves numbers,” she notes—and recipes.

But what if you don’t run a restaurant?

“It doesn’t matter,” says Rozgonyi. “If you post your best recipes every Friday, people will start looking for that and pretty soon they will want to know what else you do.” (Here are the 12 most effective ways to engage on Twitter.)

LinkedIn: Best for finding new clients

Margelit Hoffman is obsessed with LinkedIn. As co-founder of Hoffman Productions, a video production company out of Allentown, Pa., she joins LinkedIn groups where her target customer is hanging out and strikes up conversations.

“I post discussions and lead people to interesting things we post on our blog,” she says. “I only post things that will help people. They need to get something out of it, or they won’t click.”

Her advice: Make sure your profile page is complete and your tagline explains what the company does, a good trick for increasing your search engine optimization, or SEO. From there, join groups and be active on them. In a recent post, Hoffman shared a video to an industry group and a man she didn’t know contacted her about a job.

“He ended up giving us our biggest contract to date,” she beams.

Not sure what groups to join? First, conceptualize your target market. Then click on the “Group” tab at the top of the page. From there, type in keywords that match your market, Hoffman suggests. When you find a group that sounds interesting and is open to the public, click on it to see what they are chatting about, then join. If the group is private, ask to be invited. (Get more tips on how to find leads using LinkedIn.)

Google+: Best for improving your search ranking

Google+ has similar characteristics to Facebook, but with one major perk: It has incredible SEO. The next time you do a Google search, check out the results that appear near the top of the page. See those tiny photos of people you know? Those are your friends already on Google+ who’ve posted a topic similar to the one you just searched. Ahh, the genius that is Google.

Hoffman uses Google+ purely as an SEO tool, so every time she puts up a new blog or tweet, she re-posts it to the site.

Rozgonyi recommends using the site for its Hangout function. This is where up to 10 different people can talk to each other on video. The function is very popular (check out President Barack Obama’s use of the tool) and can be used by small-business owners wanting to schedule free videoconference chats. (Here’s a look at some pros and cons of Google+ for small business.)

Pinterest: Best for increasing your visibility

Pinterest is the newest kid on the social media block, making a splash with more than 3 million monthly users. Unlike Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest doesn’t encourage comments. It does, however, still encourage sharing—in the visual form. Users are able to “pin” photos of whatever they find interesting (i.e. videos, ideas, etc.) to their profiles and share “pins” with others.

“It is a good place for businesses with a visual element to hang out,” says Hoffman. “If you are a personal chef, for example, have a professional photographer take pictures of your food and post it on there. Then, when people share, it will increase your company’s visibility.” (Here are five tips on how to use Pinterest.)

Source: OPENForum

Rebrand with social media

Rebrand your business with social media

Let people know it’s coming.
Let your followers know that a big announcement is coming soon and to stay tuned. Telling them you have major news and that you want to share it with them will keep followers coming back and generate interest for your company. Then, when you do decide to relaunch your brand/business, make a big deal about it.

Give useful information.
Giving free information to your potential clients and customers is a must. You want to be seen as an expert in your field, and to be a market leader you have to give away something for free. Another tip: for every 10-15 posts with free, useful info, provide a valuable incentive offer that only your fans/followers will get. You can also intersperse testimonials from clients and customers as well.

Start a conversation.
Don’t be afraid to pose questions to your fans and followers! Engage them. If you have a retail product and want valuable insight about your new packaging, poll your customers! Ask for their opinion. They will give you valuable feedback. This is not only very useful for you, but will also attract new customers.

Utilize video.
Make a one or two minute video out of a recent press release. Rewrite the release to make it more conversational, then create a video and post it. Then, if you’ve rebranded, show customers your new logo and tell them about your new service offerings.

Make time to be social.
Set aside 5-10 minutes, twice per day, to join the conversation on other social media sites. If someone responds to a tweet, post or to your blog, comment back and by all means, thank them! Retweet other useful tweets on Twitter, and point out useful Facebook posts. Social media is all about engagement, impressions and awareness.

Common SEO mistakes

Many companies, and even designers and developers, make mistakes while creating a website. If you’re looking to improve your ranking in the search engines, it’s helpful to knw what the common mistakes are –– so you can avoid them.

1. Splash page - The ‘intro’ pages with banner images or flashy graphics have fallen out of favor, not only in the design world, but with search engines. Flash is not indexed well and does you more harm than good.

2. Not utilizing the title tag. The spiders of most of the search engines crawl title tags first. Thus, your title tag should contain the most focused keywords. No need to stuff keywords (that’s a no-no), just keep the keywords relative to your business.

3. Duplicate content. Duplicate content is very common across sites. This hurts you, because it reduces the potential of being indexed in the search engines. Also, irrelevant keywords in the description and title tags are counterproductive for search engine rankings.

4. Keyword cannibalization. Using lots of unrelated keywords (keyword stuffing/spamming) is a huge no-no. Google indexes the content of your entire page, and they index only the relevant keywords. So adding unnecessary keywords is useless.

5. Poor URL selection. Many URLs are either too long or non-descriptive, often times just a sequence of meaningless letters or abbreviations. URLs should be easily read and recognizable, and ideally contain the most important keyword.

5 tips for producing video for your site

Every business wants to expand their appeal and customer base. And over and over, marketing gurus preach about creating Facebook pages (and ads) as well as opening a Twitter account. These are all great ideas, and it’s important to create a strong presence in social media. But you also have to stand out from the crowd.

So how do you position yourself differently? One way is to create a video and upload it to your site as well as other social media outlets. But many business owners have never held a video camera, much less produced their own video. Here are some tips for beginners who desire to get started with using video on their own business’s website.

1. Use the right equipment. Once you’ve planned out what type of video you want to make, find the right equipment to shoot it with. If you want an authentic look that has a classic home video appeal, a simple Flip camera should suffice. But if you truly want to upgrade your audience’s viewing experience, you should use a tripod, or hire someone with very steady hands.

2. Pay attention to sound & audio! Of particular importance is background noise. If cars are whizzing by or if you can hear wind blowing into the microphone, the extra background noise will ruin a good video. If your camera has a headphone jack, plug it in and run some sound checks. Make sure your audio is clear.

3. Review what you’ve filmed and make sure your lighting doesn’t overshadow your subject. Don’t shoot with a window in the background, and watch for shadows. Lighting is certainly important, and though it doesn’t have to be perfect, it helps to review what you’ve shot to make sure your video can be seen.

4. Edit, edit, edit. People have short attention spans, so keep it simple, and short. People will often skip from video to video on sites like YouTube until they find something interesting. Rarely will someone watch a 5 minutes plus video all the way through if they don’t know what it’s about. Keep your video short and engage your audience so they understand the point right away.

5. Upload and distribute to social networks. But don’t forget your website! Once you’re happy with your video, export it and upload onto YouTube, Vimeo and other social networks. Tweet the link to all your Twitter followers, post it on your Facebook business page, and email it out to your customers.

Social media tips for gaining fans and followers

With so much conversation and chatter happening on the Web right now, it’s tough to know how to get your business to stand out from the masses. Here are some tips that can help you learn more about how to gain fans, followers and friends and increase your business’ online presence.

1. Be authentic. Be honest and compelling, and professional. This is a core ingredient of social media success.

2. Make time! Yes, we are all busy and we have very full lives. Small business owners are no different. But as many highly effective people will say, you always have time for what you put first in your life. So make time and make it a priority.

3. Consistency is key. If you don’t participate on a regular basis, you won’t see results in the social media world. You don’t have to tweet 500 times a day, or even be on your computer 24/7, but a 24 hour response time is a good benchmark to have when answering to comments, questions or feedback.

4. Tell a story. People love glimpsing into the lives of others. We’re fascinated by it. Don’t share anything you feel uncomfortable with, but let people know the authentic you.

5. Plan, plan, plan. Think about what you want your social media goals to be six months, a year, even two years down the road. Formulate a plan of action and stick to it. You’ll be thankful you did.

6. Learn from criticism. Nobody likes criticism, even when it’s well intentioned, but many times this kind of feedback can help your organization or small business make changes for the better. Don’t ignore it completely — listen to problems and then make a decision on what to do.

7. Always listen. Be aware of what people are saying about your brand or business. An easy way to do this? Sign up for Google Alerts, so you can monitor what’s being said about you online on a regular basis.

8. Develop a social media policy. Formulate a policy for your team so they know what’s appropriate to talk about online, and what isn’t. Keep a document handy so that all your employees can be briefed on what’s expected.

9. Go mobile. With iPad sales skyrocketing, the demand for apps on the go shouldn’t be ignored. If you can, develop your own application now or put it in the works for the future.

10. Have fun! Social media is an exciting and fast-paced environment. Creative and original ideas often have the best chance of standing out, so there’s no reason not to have fun with it!

Tips for designing your next e-blast

We often get asked, “How can I make sure my e-blast is read by my clients or customers?” Clients want to make sure that in the myriad of emails that litter our inboxes each day, theirs isn’t the one that’s deleted instantaneously. While inboxes these days are a cluttered world, you can take some steps to make sure yours isn’t immediately launched into the proverbial trash bin.

• First, respect your reader and don’t waste their time. Your customers aren’t sitting around waiting for your email to arrive. So when it does, make sure you get to the point – quickly. Tell your clients and customers what you want them to know, right away.

• Always ask permission. Not everyone wants to receive your latest news or product information. So make sure you ask your readers if they’d like to receive your updates. If you show them a sample of what they’ll get along with information about how often they’ll get it, even better.

• Keep your goals in focus. Sit down and come up with an answer to the following: “What is the one thing you want people to do when they get this email?” Designing with a myriad of 5 or more goals is hard, but 1 or 2 are much more attainable. This also helps you measure your success.

• Don’t bury your unsubscribe link! Disclaimers are the prose of lawyers, but we have to abide by them. If people are not interested in your content anymore, there’s no point in continuing to email them. So make unsubscribing easy, and if your readers decide to come back one day, they’ll know exactly how to do so.

• No fancy coding allowed. While CSS and HTML render wonderfully on the Internet, it isn’t so for email clients. So code like it’s 1998, and use inline CSS. You’ll be glad you did.

•  Images aren’t always viewed. Those using Outlook or Gmail will often need to click to show your images. No matter how beautiful and engaging your images are, if they can’t be seen, you won’t convey your message. The solution? Make sure your email  has HTML text as well as plain text, so you don’t alienate anyone.

• Test, test, test. And test again. Make sure you test your email on a variety of clients. Doing so will help you see the potential pitfalls and help you remedy any problems. After all, once you hit send, you can’t take it back!

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