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A Small Business Guide to Social Media Marketing

For small businesses with limited resources, social media can be the marketer’s best friend. It provides a way to target customers without having to invest large amounts of time or capital.

 

The potential for financial return and increasing your customer base is virtually limitless with social media. However, if handled wrong, it can have negative and potentially irreparable consequences.

 

Without social media, your brand may become noncompetitive and have a hard time inspiring loyalty. Having a social media site up and running is only the first step, however. It’s not a campaign you can set up and forget. Social media marketing requires constant monitoring and engagement.

 

Companies that don’t have a strategy for social media find themselves wading through feeds, posting without consideration, wasting time, and making mistakes. Before launching a social media strategy, you have to evaluate the basics.

 

Foundational considerations

 

To begin with, every firm that looks into using social media should have a strong website and blog. Blogs are the foundation for sharing information on social media; they provide readers with authoritative, meaningful content. Your company’s blog posts will become the reference points for many social media updates.

 

To use social media effectively, your company must develop a strategic plan, determine which platforms to use, and select strategies for success. The following is an overview of how to develop a successful social media strategy for your small business.

 

Social media plan

 

Your plan should incorporate social media goals, audience, and brand messaging.

 

Goals. Social media can increase site traffic, conversions, and brand awareness naturally, so it should be part of every company’s online marketing strategy. Building brand equity and engaging with your consumer base are also measurable goals that can contribute to your ROI metrics.

 

Audience. To determine your target audience, you’ll have to identify its problems and pain points … and, in turn, how your company will attempt to solve them. By using a language style that speaks to your audience and entering the online communities it frequents, you’ll have a greater chance of making a meaningful connection.

 

Brand messaging. Creativity factors into brand messaging in social media. The audience should readily grasp your brand’s core identity without it having to read like boilerplate. Using multimedia is a great way to project your brand message in a memorable way. Someone who scans a social media platform will more easily remember infographics, videos, and images.

 

Choose your platforms

 

Any software platform a business adopts will need to be routinely updated and monitored. A stagnant social media site can be deadly.

 

A lack of updates creates a window for unanswered questions and lost opportunities for conversion. Commitment to the appropriate platforms will increase the chances your social media strategy will succeed.

 

Twitter. The short messaging forum connects people with interests, updates, and quips from people they wish they knew. Your firm can use Twitter to convey time-sensitive information about deals and news updates. You can also find ways to connect with your audience on a human interest level.

 

California-based company Park View Legal tweets about topics related to improving credit scores. For instance, the company tweeted, “Did you know there are a lot of similarities between having a great credit score and being an NBA champion?”

 

The tweet offered a link to a “US News” article that included helpful and entertaining information for Park View Legal’s target audience. When you use Twitter, remember to include hashtags and images to promote ideas.

 

FacebookFacebook has 1.35 billion active monthly users. If you want to reach a community network, Facebook is ideal. Family and friends connect with, like, and share content they know about and love. Check-ins promote business locations.

 

Images and other multimedia should also be shown on your Facebook page to increase traffic. Facebook even offers a guide to help businesses create a successful page on its platform. Remember to remove URLs when you add a post on Facebook. The site automatically includes a thumbnail and link, which make the URL in the text portion redundant.

 

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is known as the professional’s social media site. Small businesses may not benefit as much from using this site, but professional services companies use it for networking. If your business uses LinkedIn to share information, remember to tag connections so you’ll ensure relevant information is sent to the right individuals.

 

Other platformsGoogle+, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, and other social media sites can be useful, depending on your field. It’s important to remember that if you use one of these sites, you must maintain and monitor it regularly.

 

YouTube is a great way to post video content that can be shared across other social network sites, and has the potential to go viral, leading to overnight campaign success. Pinterest photos should always include descriptions and prices, if applicable. Images need to be visually appealing and enticing to gain a following on Pinterest.

 

Strategies for success

 

Once your plan is in place and the platforms your business wants to target are chosen, use these tips to maximize the potential of your strategy.

 

Incentivize. Sharing deals, discounts, and promotions on social media will draw in readers. Even if they don’t take advantage of an incentive this time, they will be more likely to watch for one in the future.

 

Share! Not only does sharing others’ work improve your visibility; it increases the likelihood that your content will be shared. Once quality information begins to circulate on social media sites, it gains traction. As a result, the viewership multiplies.

 

Focus on qualityFocus on the content your company is distributing by listening to (that is, monitoring) what’s of most interest to users online. Having a smaller number of readers who are regular followers of your content is more effective than amassing many more one-time connections.

 

Use feedback. Users that provide feedback on your site will give your company the opportunity to change opinions or evaluate whether changes need to be made. Embrace negative feedback. It can be an extremely valuable tool for building a successful business.

 

Track and measure success. Use Google Analytics and other tools to help you determine quantitative ROI from your social media efforts and adjust accordingly.

 

Social media marketing is no longer an option for small businesses. To increase brand equity factors like market share, profit margins, and reputation, a social media strategy has become a necessity.

 

Source: http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2014/12/01/a-small-business-guide-to-social-media-marketing/

What’s hot in search? Staying ahead of Google

From content to link building to PPC, the fast-moving world of search marketing shows no signs of slowing. To kick off The Drum’s search focus, we take a look at some of the most topical issues in the space, from SEO tips for content marketers to avoiding a Google penalty, plus whether or not the PPC model needs a reinvention.

 

In the last month, Google has refreshed its Panda (penalising thin content) and Penguin (tackling unnatural backlinks) algorithms. As part of the search giant’s move to reward high-quality content, the Panda algorithm refreshes regularly, with the majority of large brands unaffected.

 

Gabrio Linari, SEO account director at The Search Agency, says: “Panda 4.1 is a softer update that affected three to five per cent of queries. The biggest losers of this update have been affiliate marketers, sites with very thin content ranking for competitive keywords while trying to drive users to partner websites (like Amazon), affiliates with blank and/or broken pages, doorway pages and content farms (believe it or not, in 2014).”

 

So those with innovative, solid content strategies shouldn’t worry, right? “Sites that are still doing old school tricks and are trying to game Google, are still in trouble,” says Linari.

 

David Freeman, head of SEO, Havas Media, agrees. “Smaller brands and affiliates that focus too much on creating copy for search engines are still falling foul of this algorithm. To avoid the wrath of Panda, brands must focus on creating content that adds value and engages the user.”

 

When it comes to Penguin, honesty is the best policy for brands looking to ensure they are not affected by the data refresh, which rolled out mid- October. Malcolm Slade, SEO project manager at Epiphany, advises gathering and enriching backlink data, submitting a disavow file and contacting webmasters to “remove as many offending links as possible”. In addition, brands should keep an eye on Google Webmaster Tools.

 

“You will be surprised how often new links will appear under Google Webmaster Tools’ linking sites data, that hadn’t been found by any of the link discovery tools,” says Slade. “Grab the data and check it against your original set. If there are any new additions, audit them and amend your disavow file appropriately.”

 

Here are some SEO tips for content marketers from experts at iCrossing, Found, Jellyfish and iProspect.

 

This piece was originally published within The Drum magazine’s 29 October edition, which is available to purchase online. 

Using Pinterest for business

Pinterest is a social media site where users can organize and share online images, information graphics, checklists and videos.

 

I like to think of it as the online, cloud-based version of the scrapbook that you put together to hold your favorite memories or projects as a child.

 

It’s the visual aspect of Pinterest that really makes the difference. Images can be uploaded or shared, called a ‘Pin’. These Pins can be categorized on to what’s known as ‘Boards’. Users, known as “Pinners” can follow each other like Twitter, with no need to give permission as it’s an open network. “Pinners” can create, share, collect and repost information in picture, image or video format.

 

Almost any industry can benefit from adding Pinterest to their social media marketing mix. It doesn’t matter if you have a business that is local, national or international, retail or service you can use Pinterest to engage your audience, get more traffic to your website or into your store, and ultimately to boost sales. In a short time it has become second only to Facebook in driving referral traffic to websites.

 

Don’t be misled by top line statistics about Pinterest subscribers. It’s not all crafts and recipes! According to the 2013 statistics, while in the United States over 80% of Pinterest users were women, in Europe the ratio was different and in the UK 56% of users were male.

 

Due to the growth of infographics (information graphics), Pinterest is a great platform for service businesses too. Infographics are designed to make data easily and visually understandable at a glance. They can be a great educational tool as they quickly communicate a message and simplify the presentation of large amounts of data.

 

How to use Pinterest in different industries:

 

I thought it would be useful to share some ideas about how to use Pinterest for different businesses. So here are just a few:

 

Estate Agents: Estate agents already know that a picture is worth a thousand words. But pictures with links to more information in specific categories are even better. You can create many different categories of boards, such as one providing links to tips for new homeowners, or a board showing pins with each member of your office, or a checklist of things you need to remember when you move house.

 

Travel: Using Pinterest would be an effective way to promote a travel business or a travel blog. For example, a board with the category “Warm places” promoted during cold weather with each pin a different tropical paradise that links to a special offer for that location. Another board might be travel tips for the lone traveller.

 

Service Based Businesses: Pinterest is an excellent way to develop leads for both local and multinational service businesses — from virtual assistants to accountants and legal services. Create different boards in all the categories you provide services. Pin a compelling image with a few words on the solutions you provide to drive potential clients to click through to find out more.

 

Direct Sales: If you sell a product of any sort, you can market it on Pinterest. You can even add a price to your pinned image. Do be sure to check the terms of service for your particular company, but essentially you can create a board for each category of product that your company promotes. Think outside of the box for your boards to fit in with your niche. If you sell makeup, for instance, you can give makeup tips.

 

Bloggers: Almost any type of blogger can use Pinterest to increase readership. It works especially well for blogging that involves some sort of visual element like arts, crafts, cooking and fitness. Create boards for each category of your blog, and always include a high quality graphic as well as a “pin it” button on your blog.

 

Pinterest is a great tool to get images of your business out on the internet, you can also connect with FB friends as well as other people that are interested in what you are.

 

Original Source – http://www.buryfreepress.co.uk/news/opinion/columnists/social-media-using-pinterest-for-business-1-6363352

SEO in 2014

A video from Matt Cutt’s (head of the spam team) at google from 2013, he illustrates the importance of choosing your SEO strategy wisely. Not much has changed in our SEO strategy since the start of 2013 and we are confident that it will be the way forward for us.

 

Our advice is the same as Matt Cutt’s, chose wisely your SEO company or SEO plan, make sure every single link that links to you is someone or something that your customers would find and expect to find linking to your company.

5 Tactics Super Bowl Advertisers Are Using To Boost Their Paid Search Campaigns

With the super bowl coming up on Sunday, here in the UK we don’t really get a taste of the scale of advertising involved in one of the Biggest event in the world. A wealth of companies like Audi, Chevrolet, Go Daddy and Bank of America are paying millions of dollars to grab 60 seconds of exposure in front of millions of buyers. It has, in recent years, become a event within an event, advertisers creating adverts specifically to show at the super bowl. On the UK Feed of the Super Bowl we don’t get to see these adverts,  but we get an idea of the scale of advertising with social media #hashtags and updates, PPC and you tube videos. This Article shows that companies don’t just stop at TV advertising and use many other avenues to promote their business.

Read the rest of this entry »

5000 and counting!

When your website gets de-indexed by google it can be a tricky maze to try and get back to where you were, sending a re-consideration request to google may help, but a automated message is normally received. Matt Cutt’s, googles’ spokesperson, has outlined that they receive 5000 requests every week and they are making slow progress to improve their analytical and one-on-one response.

Here is the video to watch in full – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvywRHyDHRg

BBC News: Google offers clearer search labels after EU probe

When it comes to the Google algorithm only a handful of people really know how it works and the best way to rank inside it, this is an obvious way to give the searcher a good service and experience and only the best companies to sell their products. Google in recent years have moved to selling products and services and have been accused of manipulating the rankings to favour them. This is a difficult accusation to prove, so Google have agreed to label their service and products more clearly and display rival links on the results, making it more competitive.

Google has agreed to alter its search results in the light of a European investigation into whether it unfairly promoted its own services.

The firm said that it will more clearly label results from YouTube, Google Maps and its other sites.

It also agreed to display links to rivals close to where it displayed its own services on its results page.

EU regulators are asking for feedback and have proposed that the concessions be tested for a month.

If the European Commission accepts them, they will become legally binding for the next five years.

As part of the agreement, Google will clearly separate promoted links from other web search results as well as displaying links to three specialised search rivals “close to its own services in a place that is clearly visible to users”.

“The objective of this process is to try to see if we can achieve a settled outcome in this antitrust investigation,” said Commission spokesman Antoine Colombani.

But the Microsoft-backed lobby group Initiative for a Competitive Marketplace (Icomp) was not convinced the changes went far enough.

“It is clear that mere labelling is not any kind of solution to the competition concerns that have been identified. Google should implement the same ranking policy to all websites,” it said.

It added it would comment further once it had fully evaluated the proposals.

Dominant in Europe

Other concessions being offered by Google include:

  • To offer all websites the option to opt out from the use of all their content in Google’s search services, while ensuring that any opt-out does not “unduly” affect the sites’ ranking in its general results
  • To offer specialised search sites which focus on product search or local search the option to mark certain categories of information so that they are not indexed or used by Google
  • To no longer include in its agreements with publishers any written or unwritten obligations that would require them to source online search advertisements exclusively from Google
  • To no longer restrict advertisers from running search advertising campaigns across rival ad platforms

An earlier US Federal Trade Commission investigation into how Google displayed links to its services concluded there was no competition issue.

Explaining why it took a different view the Commission said: “Bing and Yahoo represent a substantial alternative to Google in web searches in the USA; their combined market share is around 30%. In contrast, Google has been holding market shares well above 90% in most European countries.”

“The way Google presents its web search results therefore has a much more significant impact on users and on the competitive process in Europe than it does in the USA.”

Source – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22293238

Google games getting ridiculous!

 

Google introduced chrome and android, free to use and competitive, the wonderful engineers within google have created a game that shows off the power of the android OS (on tablets and phones) and Chrome (on laptops and desktops). It takes any website and then turns that into a 3D maze to complete.

 

play your own game here – http://chrome.com/maze/

Facebook Sponsored Posts: Do They Work? we found out from the experts

Editors note – We all know that PPC works for our businesses, and we have been waiting in anticipation for facebook’s version of search, but maybe we have something to learn from this article we fund below. It follows a company using facebook’s sponsored links and how they found success with it.

Can Facebook’s sponsored stories help your marketing efforts? Maybe, but it’s complicated.

AFP/Getty Images

Facebook is working for advertisers, according to an Advertising Age survey.

Out of 701 marketers and media execs polled, 85 percent said that they use Facebook as a marketing tactic. Just under 30 percent had tried using sponsored stories. Of them, 15 percent were very satisfied with the results, 65 percent somewhat satisfied, 15 percent, somewhat dissatisfied, and 6 percent, very dissatisfied.

Many businesses are trying to understand if, and how, sponsored posts can work for them on Facebook. Instead of focusing on “marketers and media execs,” which could mean many agencies, I put a PR query out to thousands of companies and heard from dozens. This isn’t a statistical study, but it did result in anecdotal evidence that helps explain how entrepreneurs are using sponsored stories and the results they’re getting: good, bad, and indifferent.

Racking Up the Likes

A number of companies said that their sponsored stories were extremely successful. The PR firm for Reverb.com, a site for buying and selling used guitars, said that the company had used the format to quickly gain more than 30,000 likes on its Facebook page with only a “very modest investment.” Other companies had similar stories of heavily increasing the number of Facebook likes, post shares, or other forms of engagement.

The problem is that few of these companies had a concrete way of determining the value of these likes. How did they ultimately translate into sales, improved conversion rates, or some other metric that would indicate a tangible benefit to the business? Without such a correlation, a company is left with what is called in rhetoric “begging the question” in which you assume a premise and then use conclusions to try and prove the premise. In this case, the premise is that using Facebook can improve marketing. The conclusion is that sponsored stories improve marketing because they get more attention in Facebook.

Some, like Jayme Pretzloff, online marketing director for Wixon Jewelers in Minneapolis, see benefits outside of direct sales, “including awareness, share of voice and many other indirect benefits including SEO ranking and reputation management.” All of these are good points, though again, difficult to quantify, which makes it hard to know whether the amount you spend on a Facebook sponsored story campaign is worthwhile.

How Valuable Are Likes?

Green River Fishing Adventures near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, has seen an “increase in Web contact forms citing social media or Facebook as the lead source,” according to Matthew Clive of the company’s sales department. These individuals often converted to sales. In fact, there has been an increase in prospects coming to the company initially coming from Facebook.

But other companies and marketing firms have had a different experience. As Meagan Feeser, director of PR and communications at York, Pennsylvania-based Gavin Advertising says:

We’ve seen a lot of success with Facebook ads and sponsored stories when the desired outcome is specifically to grow likes on a brand’s Facebook page. If the desired action takes place off of Facebook… not so much.

Digital marketing agency Koozai in London compared click-through rates for Facebook ads and for sponsored stories. The former was 0.017 percent and the latter, 0.169 percent, a big relative change.

Some companies find no benefit at all. Los Angeles-based Daily Threads, which makes premium cotton clothing for kids, “tried every single ad unit Facebook offers,” according to consultant Erika Penzer Kerekes:

I have tried Sponsored Stories a dozen times and they have neverconverted for us. I always include them, and then I always end up pausing them after a few days because they’re getting zero results. I’m puzzled by this as I know lots of other businesses have used them very successfully.

Chuck Cohn, founder and CEO of Varsity Tutors, a private academic tutoring and test prep provider, found that the demographics his marketing team chose would significantly change the cost per lead and, ultimately, ROI:

We’ve found that when we target U.S. only or–more specifically–target people living in a city like NYC, the outcome is incredibly few Likes/Comments/Shares per dollar. The cost per interaction is extremely high, but each interaction is quite valuable. If you don’t target a country, then Facebook chooses to display your ads to people in Bangladesh or similarly impoverished countries.

In short, it is impossible to know in advance if Facebook sponsored stories will work for your business or not. And now, of course, results may change with Facebook’s redesigned News Feed. You will need to develop metrics to understand the value of what you get beyond simply obtaining likes for your Facebook page, and you’ll need to pay close attention to the demographics of any campaign to be sure you’re getting through to people who can actually matter to your business.

Original Source – http://www.inc.com/erik-sherman/facebook-sponsored-posts-do-they-work.html

The US is ahead of the UK for Google Plus, why is this?

THE SHORT ANSWER: We’re all quite happy with Facebook, thank you very much.

 

MY EXPLANATION: This may sound massively hypocritical coming from somebody who earns a large bulk of his money from SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) writing, but I am not actually a fan of Google.

 

As a company, Google have an irritating habit of forcing themselves into your life uninvited. Like the wanky preppie kid at the party who thinks he knows everything because he’s finished his first year of a Business Studies with applied Hairdressing course at college, they’ll corner you in the kitchen and won’t leave you the ***k alone. They want you to love them more than life itself and they seemingly need more attention than a puppy with its first bout of diarrhoea.

 

Take Youtube as the best and most recent example of ‘The Google Effect’. When I first got an account, I could post any number of home made videos up there, as could everybody in the world, Youtube was simply an enormous repository of culture, all culture, mashed and awkwardly refined into one place, like a caviar Big Mac, with curry and lobster flavoured fries. Put simply, it was awesome.

 

Once Google sank its claws into the site, however, it became an unwinnable game of ‘dodge the adverts’. You couldn’t even get rid of the adverts half the time. In addition, the ‘thought police’ began the heavy censorship of any and all music placed on Youtube (I would have thought free advertising would be just what bands would want, but in today’s world, the only music they want you listening to is Lady GaGa and her legion of musical slurry eaters, and you know about that crap because its everywhere you go, whether you want it or not). Soon everything was censored, I’m quite sure that now you couldn’t post a video online wearing the wrong T-shirt without being red flagged.

 

The final insult came when I could no longer access my account without signing up to Google, completely without warning. If I want to close my account, I must first sign up to Google. I have been effectively annexed from my own page, as well as my own short films and content (much of which has been censored beyond repair anyway).

 

So Google are now ripping off Facebook to create their own (almost certainly heavily invasive) version. Don’t expect to be able to post anything up there without it being censored.

 

SO, TO SUM UP: I have no idea why people in the UK aren’t signing on to Google Plus, but I’m glad they aren’t. If the ads on Facebook annoy you and you occasionally fear for the privacy of your account, for ***k sake, stay away from the Google version. I don’t want to log on one day and find that I’m being forced to give them yet more information in exchange for access to my own photos and intellectual property.