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Building a Social Media Following

One of the biggest problems that many small businesses have with social media is gaining the loyalty of fans. “How do I get more likes on Facebook?” That’s a question we hear on a daily basis. There are plenty of intense conversations on the relationships built on social media networks and how people interact with businesses through them, but creating a fan base is easily done. We are going to break it up into two strategies: the conventional method and the unconventional method.

There are obviously tried and tested tricks that companies use every day to get themselves more friends.  Here are three basics that most people use when first trying to gain a bigger following:

  1. Put buttons on your website that link directly to your Facebook, Twitter, etc. pages. These will help guide customers who are already visiting your webpage to your social media pages. This is also an industry standard that most successful businesses are already utilizing, so you want to do this to keep yourself current.
  2. Another great tool is putting these buttons right into the signature on your e-mail, especially if your job title includes anything like the phrases “marketing” or “public relations.” This will give a direct link to people who you are in touch with on a regular basis, including current and prospective clients.
  3.  There is one tactic that is so simple, if you aren’t already using it you probably don’t even have a Facebook page. Get everyone in your office and five of their friends to like your page. It’s called a social network for a reason! This is a digital word-of-mouth that can result in business and financial growth. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who could benefit from using your products and/or services.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, here are some outside-the-box tips for the creative company that isn’t afraid to use new tactics to score new followers. We want to profile three tips that you can accomplish easily, not ways to go on extensive social media campaigns. These ideas are simple to implement but you’d be surprised at how many businesses don’t use them:

  1. Make an aesthetic presence with your social media pages. Use graphic design to create beautiful pages on Tiwtter, Facebook, YouTube etc. that match your brand and give fans something cool to look at. Update your cover photo on your Facebook timeline so that it is creative, interesting and will inspire people who visit your page to like it. This is a great way to be visually stimulating for your audience, and when your page looks unique, you have a better chance of capturing the attention of your clientele. Check out these creative timeline covers and these Twitter pages.
  2. Interact with people by having a contest or poll. Ask your followers questions and give them a forum to share a little bit of themselves. There is nothing more exciting for fans than the ability to have their 15 minutes of fame with one of their favorite brands.Look at the way Realtree Outdoors® uses their Facebook page and brand identity to excite fans and build a stronger following.
  3. Add a touch of personality to your pages by posting photos and videos of the staff or company events. It’s always a great way to increase your following and followers love when there is a way for them to directly relate to your brand. It also shows that you are interacting on a personal level, building the trust that a consumer will feel with your brand. We recently had a day when we brought our dogs to the office and we posted pictures that got a good response from our fans.

Employee Profile: Michael Sell

Yes, that is his real name. Michael Sell, or Mike as he’s referred to around the office, is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Outdoor Business Network, using his knowledge of the outdoor industry to better serve our customers. Chances are, if an outdoor sport involves a helmet, a flotation device or protective earmuffs, Mike has tried it at one time or another.

Including snowboarding, mountain biking and crossfit training, Mike has begun shooting in tournaments for the International Defensive Pistol Association (IDPA). After working for the security industry at the Fermi II Nuclear Power Station, he decided to do IDPA to keep his perishable shooting skills fresh. He placed 5th out of 12 in the first IDPA tournament he competed in. Mike last competed on May 6th at the Brooklyn Sportsman Club in Brooklyn, MI where he placed 7th out of 17.

More than competing or indulging in outdoor sports, Mike enjoys spending time with his 7-year-old daughter, Aubrie, who is just finishing up the first grade. Aubrie and Mike go sailing and fishing together, but her favorite thing to do with her dad is watch cartoons. Fortunately, though, Aubrie loves all of the outdoor sports that Mike does and is eager to try them all, too. She wants her very own pink cricket, which couldn’t make Mike happier. “I started shooting when I was seven or eight,” Mike said, “and I was hunting by myself when I was nine, toting around a shotgun in the woods.”

Mike smiled as he grabbed his phone to show a series of photos and videos of Aubrie. There are some of them together, making silly faces at the camera, while others show Aubrie passed out on the couch after a long day of playing outside or sailing with her dad. The best were of Aubrie and her pet snake, a nine foot red tail boa named Beautiful. “Of course she named the snake herself,” Mike laughed as he flipped through more photos.

Although Mike has a strong love for almost every outdoor activity and is excited to share those activities with his daughter, his career has been built on a dedication and passion for sales. With 10 years experience directly in sales, Mike has finally found a way to fuse his hobbies and his career. “I love working with numbers,” said Mike, “seeing where there is room for improvement. I like to visualize my goals through numbers and push myself to meet and exceed those goals.”

While Mike does participate in many extreme sporting events, he does have a soft side. Guitar is one of his only indoor hobbies, though he would describe himself as a hack at best. Mike is also an expert on a sewing machine and even makes his own Halloween costumes nearly every year, although it’s hard to picture him at the task. He has a good sense of humor, always ready to laugh with others and at times, at himself. This year, he will be going as Mr. Clean for Halloween.

Social Media Schedule

By now, most of you have (hopefully) developed social media pages for your site — whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. Keep yourself from falling into the dark abyss of businesses that develop social media pages and then forget to post, leaving a bleak and dismal page that makes it look like you have no friends, no followers and no hope.

Post on those pages!

There is nothing worse than a growing company, trying to form a following that completely gives up on itself before it’s had a chance to develop lasting relationships with those people who are genuinely interested in their company. The fans that you make on Facebook, those eager for content that follow you on Twitter and scroll through your updates on their smartphones every morning – those are the people that are going to use your products and give you return visits on your webpage.  It’s not only sloppy, but unprofessional to create pages and not post content. These are free tools for you to use when reaching out to your audience. If you don’t have time to post or are having trouble thinking of what to say, hire someone to do it for you!

If you are plan to do your own posts and videos, the best way to ensure that you don’t fall asleep behind the social media wheel is to develop a schedule and stick to it. Maybe you post every morning at 10am after you get into the office and get settled in for the day or perhaps you want to post something newsworthy on Mondays and something entertaining on Fridays. Whatever your posting schedule is, make sure that you have mapped out a plan that will give you a support system for managing these pages.

Something else to consider is creating a vault for your posts, writing them in advance and having them at your fingertips when you want to post them. This is helpful for a lot of busy small business owners who can use their free time to plan ahead so that they aren’t tied down during the work week with content development.

Finally, make your smartphone your personal portal to posting. There are plenty of apps out there designed to make updating content a mobile venture. If you have to travel, post from your phone so that you can be on the move and not miss your posting schedule. Keep at it, stick to your schedule and there will be content there for fans when they find you.

Building a Strong Brand

It seems whenever you search for SEO or SEM, there are those key phrases that pop up like “brand identity” and “brand loyalty,” but what do those phrases actually mean? How can you take your business to the next level by developing that strong brand and utilizing it in internet marketing? Here are three tips to help get you started on your re-branding project or your first branding attempt:

Find your target audience

Don’t think in terms of, “My target audience is everyone! Everyone will love my product and I want to advertise to the general public.” It’s great to have goals for yourself and to strive to become the next amazon.com or Coca-Cola, but another part of being a business owner is basing your goals in reality. If you want your audience to be the entire world, you can get in line behind every other business who wants a household name but maybe hasn’t put enough thought into what target audience they are going to market to. Your target audience should be people who are going to buy your product and will be receptive your re-branding campaign. This will also help later on because you will be able to develop keywords specifically for your niche audience, as opposed to fighting for high bid keywords that are expensive and flooded with competition.

Think to yourself, “Who would read a blog about my products?,” or “Who would want a shirt with my logo on it?” Developing a strong brand encompasses all of these things because it creates a cohesive force that your intended public can get behind. For small businesses, it is important to develop a target audience that is realistic and well-planned. This is crucial to building up your brand image.

Set visual goals and boundaries

Set a clear path for your brand image visually. You want to focus your energy on a strong sense of color coordination and imagery, as opposed to having too many ideas and too many different themes. Budding businesses can either get too crazy with their design or they stay so conservative that they end up looking plain and generic. Do some research on what similar sites are doing and pick another color group or theme that will make you stand out.

Once you have developed your color story and design work, stick with it! There’s nothing worse that you can do for your young business than build an amazing visual brand and lose consistency with it. Give people something they can recognize and relate to when they are visiting your site. Remember that you can and should hire a design expert. We can all whip up a logo in Photoshop, but there is a reason people get paid to do design work. They are the pros and can do the work much more effectively and quickly than if you tried to do it by yourself. It can be the difference between a brand-worthy logo and clip art.

Be well-rounded

You’ve got your target audience and a strong visual presence, now it’s time to build a well-rounded campaign. Does your brand use SEO? Are you building links or using PPC to back up this new identity you’ve created for yourself? Develop a strategy for getting your brand from your website to the people who will shop with you. Create a Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with your fan-base. Maybe you have viral videos that will add to your brand by giving it a face and humanizing it. People love to relate to their favorite brands, so give them someone or something to relate to. A well-rounded brand will tackle this by conveying one message across different mediums. Create a blog space for yourself; give the customer content that they will find relevant. When they can trust you for good content, they will revisit your site again and again.

Mobile Sites: Breaking out of the Computer Box

Getting your business onto the internet is old news. We all know that it is important to have  brand representation online with social media, full functioning websites and plenty of user-friendly content. However, internet forecasting shows that in addition to your website, you need to be putting time and energy into a mobile site as well. Statistics show that smartphones are the number one source for all Facebook users, instead of computers. If Facebook, the largest social network on the face of the earth, is experiencing a trend in mobile usage, the rest of the internet is soon to follow.

The main problem with Facebook mobile is that the app does not include any of the ads that the full site does. So your business had better have a page if they want to be seen by smartphone Facebook users. And wouldn’t it be great if someone on their smartphone was looking at your Facebook page and there was a link to your site and it was mobile? You could streamline the experience for the user in a way that would encourage them to visit your site more frequently and spend more time there when they do visit.

Before you start a mobile site, there are some things you should consider:

1. What’s the point?

Your mobile site should have a focus and an objective. Are you trying to make the customer experience better when people try to purchase from your site? Do you want to streamline the ordering process so it is accessible from a smartphone? Think of some of the things you want to achieve by having a set plan. Here is an example of how ticketsnow.com used a mobile site to their advantage.

2. Who is your audience?

Is the mobile site for your customer? Is it for someone who is already loyal to the company, or are you creating something that will help attract new business? Developing a target audience for your site is crucial. Does your target demographic use smartphones? Keep all of these things in mind when designing and implementing the site. Remember, you want it to be easy to use.

3. How can you make it fresh?

An important thing to remember when creating your mobile site is that it should reflect the branding properties of your existing site. The mobile site is an extension of the internet image that you have already created for yourself. However, mobile sites should give a fresh, simple adaptation, showing your versatility to customers who already are familiar with your brand. Make it something that is easily identifiable as being related to your site, but also take that branding to the next level by creating a cohesive subsidiary to your pre-existing image. Google offers some insights and best practices here.

The Art of Facebook Domination

People from over 200 countries across the globe flock to Facebook to connect people. But what connection are they truly making — what connection to their favorite brands are they making, more importantly? What does the average user really want out of their Facebook experience? The realm of Facebook encompasses more than profile pictures and relationship statuses. It surrounds the basic human instinct to feel important; to feel as though your voice is being heard. That being said, what can be done on your page to encourage people not only to like your page but to enjoy going there on a daily basis. Breaking down the fundamental communication value of Facebook is key to incorporating a successful social media strategy into your brand. I will be using Coca-Cola to demonstrate three tips that can be developed over time to build something more than a brand — a true following. With over 41,000,000 likes, Coca-Cola has built a following with a social media empire to match:

1. Be True to Your Fans

There is a reason that people buy your product or partake in your services. Keep yourself rooted in that essential part of your business that got you fans in the first place. If you are going through a re-branding phase or are considering making a jump to a social media campaign, remember that within your innovation, there needs to be a core value that your business has carried and that has been related to your customers.

Coca-Cola is a great example of a company who keeps up with their evolving image while staying true to the basic values that most people associate with it. This is America’s brand and has always upheld this image with their advertising campaigns. Their cover photo on Facebook emulates the same emotions that some of their earliest advertisements did: wholesome, youthful, fun, tradition — a refreshing beverage to be enjoyed by all.

The mind-boggling thing about Coca-Cola is that it is virtually one product (beverage) that has made such a powerful throne as a brand. According to their website, “From humble beginnings 125 years ago, our Company has evolved from one product — Coca-Cola — to more than 500 brands in 2011. We’ve grown from selling a modest 9 drinks a day in 1886 to 1.8 billion a day. And we’ve expanded from one city in one country to availability in more than 200 countries around the world.”

1.8 billion a day. That could translate to roughly 26% of the global population buying a Coke on a daily basis.

2. Give Your Fans a Voice
Something that every good salesperson knows is that people love to talk about themselves. If you get them to tell you what they are truly in the market for, it is simple to sell it to them. Coca-Cola gives their fans a forum and an opportunity to be heard. The company encourages fan involvement and they put that right in their Facebook introduction, “The Coca-Cola Facebook Page is a collection of your stories showing how people from around the world have helped make Coke into what it is today.”

What fan wouldn’t want to be part of one of the biggest brands in the world?

So what you need to do is give your fans and opportunity to do your marketing for you. It’s as basic as the word-of-mouth method, but translate that into social media. Let them tell the story of your product and partner with local businesses and archives to do the same. This is the simplest way to let your loyal customers, the ones who actually spend a lot of time using your product, tell you what they want. It’s the survey, the research, the data collection, the analysis all rolled into one. And it’s free!

3. Incorporate All of your Branding Materials

Not only has Coke taken over the web, they’ve taken over color association. When you see red and white or even a red bottle icon, you know that it’s Coke without even having to think about it. Their social media is no different. It reeks of red and white and the Coke brand in a way that associates all of your fondest childhood memories with their Facebook. Remember being barefoot in the summertime grass, drinking a Coke and eating chips. Maybe waiting for 4th of July fireworks to start. Maybe playing with your best friend that moved away when their dad got a job two states over.

This branding pulls everything together with two colors, focusing on their heritage and yet calling people to action by telling them to “express themselves.” What Coke has done, is it’s become a cultural icon to the extent of which almost every significant image used in their advertising gets sucked into their image vortex. Polar bear. Santa Claus. These are things that have become part of their strategy and part of the reason why people drink 1.8 billion a day.

So how can you take this theory and apply it to your business? Incorporate a strong color association with your brand name. People associate by color more than almost any other medium because it’s usually the first thing you notice when looking at an ad. Develop a strong design and utilize colors in your branding efforts. Then, once you have developed the strong brand, make sure that your different networks, websites and other branded items are plastered with the same palette. Keep it consistent. This is crucial to getting your branding materials involved on Facebook.

Be sure to incorporate other things. The logo, pictures of the storefront, pictures of the employees. Show them who you are as well as what you do. This will encourage trust, which is essential in building any relationship. Keep your brand strong and consistent and be sure to incorporate these things in your Facebook page.

 

Hungry for more? Check out our website to see what services we offer in web-marketing, social media and brand development.

 

 

Mother’s Day Sales: Marketing to Online Shoppers

Many of us will go out this next week and find gifts for mom, grandma and other family members that we recognize on Mother’s Day. However, few people realize that Mother’s Day and the days leading up to it, if marketed correctly, can be some of the biggest revenue days of the year. The beauty of this holiday, however, is that it is one that flourishes within the world of e-Commerce.

This survey done by shop.org, which is owned by the National Retail Federation, says that 31.7% of consumers who celebrate Mother’s Day and shop online will be spending more this year than they have in the past, while only 17.1% of consumers who do not shop online for Mother’s Day are planning to spend more. The survey shows data that in every shopping category offered, online shoppers will spend more this Mother’s Day than regular shoppers.

So what is your business doing to tailor to this trend? Here are three tips to help get you started:

1. Use social couponing to spread the word. Shoppers have been clipping coupons since their inception, and the creation of social coupons such as Groupon and Living Social have taken this practice to the next level. Local businesses across the country partner with these coupon giants to create Mother’s Day packages to make it easy on the consumer and special for mom. Check out some of their gift ideas here.

2. Develop new keywords. Customers are going to be searching for local and national deals on the web, so make sure your site is prepared for the searches to come. You can make a page especially for your Mother’s Day specials, or include content on your homepage — just be sure that whatever you are doing has location-focused key words or Mother’s Day keywords to drive traffic to your page. When searching Mother’s Day gifts, you can be sure that shops like ediblearrangements.com will be optimizing their sites for those searches. Getting high rankings on a page like that takes serious time and resources, but getting on a local page is feasible to do in time to catch the holiday shoppers.

3. Market through your social media. Aside from using social coupons, use your Facebook and Twitter to advertise for Mother’s Day. The people who are following you or liking your page are already fans of your product or services, so marketing strongly to that niche is a no-brainer. Again, Edible Arrangements is on top of things. Something as simple as changing your cover photo to remind fans of the upcoming holiday will help spark interest in your product and help drive traffic to your e-Commerce site.

5 Free Resources Every SEO Should Have in Their Back Pocket

Although it has been around for nearly two decades, the world of Search Engine Optimizers is always evolving and growing. The industry is brutal but with the right resources, SEO’s can stay on the top of their game by staying current and changing with the trends of the market. Here are five free resources for beginners that will help advance your skill set and keep you current.

1. Google Webmaster Central Blog

The Google Webmaster Central Blog is a key resource as Google is the dominating power in all things internet, including internet marketing. This blog has everything you would expect from Google and more: videos, instructional how-to’s, materials for beginners and the tech-savvy. Best of all, the information is coming from those at Google who are monitoring and even creating the trends and breakthroughs we all try to follow. The Webmaster Central Blog is also a nice resource to have because it showcases various areas of study to make your internet experience well-rounded. Even though it may not focus solely on SEO, it gives anyone in the internet marketing industry a leg up on competition by introducing new areas if interest and covering topics from images to crawl errors.

2. The Daily SEO Blog

From the innovative team at SEOmoz, this blog is something that every SEO should be checking daily. It captures everything relevant from the industry, whether its new policies and penalties or the discussion of black hat SEO’s. They have a great segment called “Whiteboard Friday,” which is an entertaining way to stay informed and keep up on the hot topics in the trade. There are several different SEOmoz bloggers, but perhaps one of the shining qualities to this particular blog is that they pull excellent posts from their user-driven blog, YOUmoz. This is great for two reasons. Firstly, it allows outside voices to have a widespread audience and share their knowledge of SEO and second because it tells the reader that SEOmoz is cultivating the best talent possible for their articles.

3. Klout

While this may seem like just another social media tool, Klout is unique because it measures your influence over others. It tracks the analytics of your social media sites in one convenient spot and best of all, it’s completely free! It converges all of the different areas that you are active in social media-land, and turns it into tangible data. Not only is this a great way to stay on top of your game, but it also shows that you are taking the time and effort to track all of this data.  Klout is user friendly and is a great way for beginning SEO’s to break into the analytical side of the job. It tracks the influences of over 100 million users everyday, which means that you can see your reach and develop better strategies for broadening your brand. While your Klout score may not be the most important thing, try to look at Klout as a tool for configuring algorithmic success within the industry, not to track your popularity.

4. Open Site Explorer

Another great site from SEOmoz, this allows you to track sites and compare different sites to see the effectiveness of their links. This tool is an amazing one to have in your arsenal, as you can compare someone you are working with to their competition. You get more options if you decide to purchase SEOmoz pro, but there is still a lot of information from the free site, although you only get to do 3 reports a day. Between Open Site Explorer and Klout, there is a plethora of information, waiting to take your SEO skills to the next level. Open Site Explorer can show you incredible information about your site from page authority to internal and external links. This is definitely a tool to look into and get familiar with.

5. Pinterest

Pinterest is a newer social media site that allows users to “pin” things they like in a virtual inspiration board. Why is this important to SEO? Pinterest is trending to be the new big thing in social media, falling in the number 3 spot behind Facebook and Twitter. It is especially important because it goes beyond sharing information with followers. Pinterest represents the potential to create different pinboards and utilizing them as a two way communication strategy. The SEO doesn’t determine what gets posted or what is tweeted — the consumer is solely responsible for pinning items that they are interested in. One company that seems to be thriving on Pinterest is Blendtec, who is embracing the possibilities that this new form of social media represents. This is a site to keep in mind in the future as it grows and expands as a marketing tool.