Social Media Marketing

What is social media marketing?

It could be advertising on social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. It could be spreading your sales message across those same social networks. I like to think of it as communicating on social sites to engage your potential customers, build trust and connections and promote your values, brand and ideals. Those people who match you will naturally be more inclined to do business with you.

Using Social Media For Marketing

social media marketing influenceIf you search on the web for social media marketing you’ll find a bewildering array of articles, blog posts, videos and white papers, all offering advice of some sort.

If you were to search the Google Webmaster forums for how important social media is to getting taken seriously by Google, you’d again find an impressive amount of advice. So the question is, why do so many small and medium businesses still shy away from engaging in social media?

At first sight it could be because the headlines are confusing, take this one for example
http://www.marketingmag.com.au/news/forrester-social-media-barely-negligible-as-a-sales-lead-21105/

Which at first glance would seem to contradict the hype around social media, read on though and you’ll see the real picture emerging. This report indicates that the benefit to businesses from social media is in the ‘influence chain’ where many instances of the brand being noticed causes a consumer to trust the brand more.

It’s been known for many years that any sort of advertising or marketing needs for the most part to be repeated before consumers will buy. This means that before someone trusts you enough to make a purchase your name needs to seep into their subconscious.

Of course this is superseded by word of mouth from close family, friends and colleagues, because we tend to trust the judgement of the closest to us and so don’t need to trust the company. We trust the person making the recommendation not to refer us to a company or person they don’t trust.

This word of mouth marketing in the off line world is quite restricted, it only really occurs with those with whom we socialize the most. On line however it’s a vastly different story. We can and do socialize on line more regularly than we do off line. We can ‘chat’ with friends on Facebook on the way to and from work, while shopping and even while out in a restaurant or cinema.

On line, we can ask our ‘friends’ what they think about services, products and people and often get back immediate responses. This is where the ‘influence train’ can be seen working, you may see an ad on Facebook, you see it many times but you do nothing. Then one day you mention you’re think of buying whatever product that ad was for, you ask if anyone else has any experience with it.

Your friends reply and often you’ll go straight to the corporate website or to a review site to check further. You never click the ad but, seeing it time after time, influenced you to enquire further. Of course, if the company has a Facebook page and one of your friends ‘like’ the page, the influence now that you know someone who thinks this company or product ‘safe’ enough to like it. Even if you’ve never noticed the ad before, you probably will now because you’ve been made aware of it from a ‘trusted’ source.

You may decide to ‘like’ the page too, your friends will see this and you’ve now become someone else’s ‘trusted’ source. That’s influence at work on social media and only on one site. Image that effect multi[lied over several social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google + pages.

Social media, even if it doesn’t bring direct sales is still crucial to your marketing mix and you ignore it at your peril.

Page Load Times

Page Load Times as an SEO Signal

how fast do your pages loadIf you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you’ll be able to view a report that gives the average page load times for the different pages on your site. This can be interesting reading, especially if you decide on a re-design.

Page load time is one of the signals Google uses to help generate a ranking position, at the moment it only generally affects 1% of websites. This may make you think that your sites page load times are unimportant. WRONG!

It’s wrong for 2 reasons, the first being that it is a ranking signal and, if you have a local competitor who regularly outranks you, tweaking your page load times can increase your rank in two ways.

  1. This may be a factor that your competitor does not pay attention to, so if all else is equal then this simple signal may be enough to put you above your competitor.
  2. Because the longer it takes to load a page, the less likely it is people will stay on the site, long load times can cause a higher bounce rate. That higher bounce rate will tend to make your site drop in rank. Therefore keeping load times shorter will encourage more people to stay on the site, which will decrease your bounce rate, which will in turn help to boost your rank.

By far the most important reason for paying attention to your site speed is conversion. You can have the most amazing and beautiful design, with all the bells and whistles you want but, if people don’t stay around long enough to interact with your site, then all that beauty and technology does you no good.

Take a look at Craig’s List, one of the most successful sites on the web, it’s design is so simple, boring even but, it does exactly what the owners want it to do. How about Wikipedia, yet another fairly boring design from the point of view of art, or brochure or corporate design. It’s just text, with a few, very few images here and there.

Yet no one would argue that it’s not a successful site. Look at the Google search page, a whole lot of blank white page with the search box in the middle, a little color from the the google logo and, tucked away at the top a nav bar. You’re never in any doubt about what Google wants you to do on that page.

Google is the most successful site on the web from the point of view of use, profitability and user experience (OK, they may be losing out a bit for some on customer experience because they’ve complicated some things).

Smartphones – Taking over from PC’s?

A Pew Internet research update confirms that 45% of Americans own a smart phone, you can see the data here this shows how important it is to have your website optimized for mobile browsers. If you have your website on a blog platform like WordPress then it’s easy as there are many plugins that will allow mobile users to access a mobile friendly version of your site. WPTouch is one of the better ones IMHO.

smartphones and mobile marketingBecause Smartphones and tablets are becoming so popular, having a website that’s very complicated to navigate, relies on Flash or other ‘heavy’ technologies can be a drawback. having a dedicated mobile website is an option but is not always cost effective. You need to know how many people are visiting your site from a mobile device. If you have Google Analytics installed you’ll be able to see immediately whether spending the money on a dedicated mobile site is going to be worth it. After all if you only get 5 visitors a month out of two thousand, then you may not feel it is. A word of caution however, statistics show that mobile visitors are more likely to buy!

What is very clear from all the research done and still being carried out is that smartphone usage is here to stay and, because a consumer has their phone with them practically 24 hours a day they’re a marketing platform you cannot aford to ignore.

Social Media – Can you really afford to ignore it?

social media for small businessesFor those small businesses that still think Social Media is not for them, it’s time to wake up.
If your prospective customers expect to find you on Facebook and Twitter, then hadn’t you better be there?

If they can’t find you, but can find a competitor, who’s going to get the business?

Most small businesses start out ‘doing’ social media by posting lots of ‘sales’ type messages.
Then wonder why people don’t respond. Guess what? People go on social media sites to be social!
Obviously you can sometimes post about your products, especially when you have special offers.

What are you going to do with Social Media? Have you got both a Social Media policy and strategy?

      • Have you clear guidelines for employees?
      • Do they know what they can and can’t post to their own SM profiles?
      • Are you going to manage your 5M campaigns or are you going to appoint someone in your company to be responsible?

Either way you need to have a plan of action. You need to know what you want to achieve, how long it should take and how you’re going to get there.
You need to know the steps along the way and what tools you should use.

Tools you ask? Yes, tools, things to engage people and get them participating in SM with you.

  • Polls
  • Contests
  • Questions
  • Survey
  • Images.
  • Videos
  • Podcasts.

All these are tools you can use to connect and interact with your existing and prospective customers.
Ask them what they want, how they feel. Post images to make them laugh, cry or wonder. Post videos that do the same.
Create videos that educate them about your product or service. Do it in a way that entertains (see Will It Blend on Youtube).

  • Create competitions for them to create content for you.
  • Help them understand how to get the best out of your product or service.
  • Ask how they use your product or service, share it with everyone.
  • Offer discounts only available to your followers.

Remember always that there is fierce competition out there and that the consumer has more choice today than at any other time.
Consumers are better educated now too, research is so easy to do, so always bear in mind the question the consumer is asking. “What’s in it for me?”
Will it save them money, improve their life, make them smarter, better looking or raise their status.
What exactly will your product or service or the content you post on Social Media, your blog or anywhere else actually do for them?
This is at the heart of how to use SM for your business. By focusing on how you can help the consumer, you automatically position yourself as the expert they can trust.
You begin to dominate the place the majority of your customers hang out on line, Social Media.

Marketing Revolution – Small Business Marketing

The way we shop is changing, it’s been changing since the beginning of the internet. But in the last few years the pace of change has become so rapid that many small and medium businesses are in danger of being left behind.

For a local business in the past, it was enough to advertise in local papers & have a listing in a print business phone directory. That standard approach is no longer enough. It’s no longer enough because people make the decision to buy with the help of the internet.

marketing for small businesses is changing

Let’s look at what happens, a consumer sees or is told about a product or service. This stimulates them to either want it or to recognise it would solve a problem they have. In times past, they’d go to a shop to find out about it and, possibly ask family or friends their opinion.

Now however, they go to the internet to do research on the product or service.

70 out of every 100 will look for reviews, the question is, will they find reviews for your product or service? If they don’t you’ve instantly lost the potential to reach those 70 people. You have now effectively lost or shrunk your market to only 30 out of every 100. Put another way you’ve thrown away 70% of your potential market. You’ve given that 70% away to your competitors – for free!

This is just one way that the internet has changed the way we shop.

What else has changed? Consumers are far better educated thanks to the internet. They can research not only you, your business, your products or services. They can research your competitors, do a comparison on prices, so by the time they actually come to you, they have a lot of information.

Most importantly, they’ve done it all on line. Imagine how difficult it would be for you to be part of that research if you don’t have a web presence. Just as important is the fact that your business details can often be found on line, even where you have no web site and have in no way listed your business on line.

How can this be? Do you have a Yellow Pages listing? If so, that listing will have found its way on line.

Customers can and do enter your business details on review sites like Yelp, Qype, Epinions and so on. Sometimes because they really like you, more often because they have a complaint.

You can’t stop it, so isn’t it better to actively control it?

By control I don’t mean that you can control what others post about you, I mean control the information and be aware of what people are saying. After all if you don’t know what people are saying good or bad, how can you respond correctly?

internet marketing is key for your businessLet’s take a look at the business information and why it’s important for you to control it.
If a customer has entered your details on a review site like Yelp or Quype (in the UK), have they got the details correct? Business name, address and telephone number, incorrect information here could lose you business (Yelp receives requests for directions every 2 Seconds)
If the address is wrong, people won’t find you. If the telephone number is wrong, how can they call you?

Remember the sheer amount of competition out there. It’s easier to move on to the next supplier than it is to search for the correct contact information.
Plus, if you control the listing, you can add things like opening times, special offers or special products and menu’s. It also helps prevent duplicate entries, where customers enter slightly different information. It also allows you to keep all your contact info up to date, change of telephone no. email, address.

So what about information pulled from printed directories into online directories?

Again it’s a matter of ensuring that all info is correct and current. Most online directories that populate themselves from ‘lists’ they’ve bought, allow business owners to ‘claim’ their listing, to edit it and keep it fresh.

So let’s go back to the consumer starting to research a product or service prior to making the decision to buy and from whom.

Something has happened to stimulate their interest. They’ve seen or heard something, or something has happened that’s caused a problem they need to solve. This is the stimulus.

The next step for them is to start their research. Even just a year ago they’d go to one or two places on line to do research. Now it can be as many as ten. If you’re not found during this initial phase, you’re unlikely to get this business.

To further illustrate how things have changed, let’s look at the standard mental model for marketing.

Stimulus-Something seen or heard.

Shelf-Go to the store, see the display, like the visuals, get questions answered, buy-

Experience-Use the product-hopefully it does what the adverts and store clerk said.

So our traditional mental marketing model has 3 points of interaction.

The new mental model has 4, a point between the stimulus and the shelf.

A mother is watching TV. She sees an ad for an educational game. The Stimulus. She reaches for her Smartphone, tablet or laptop + goes online to research (the new point of interaction (what Google calls the Zero moment of truth). She goes to Google to find the game manufacturer site, reviews and news articles. She’ll consult her favorite Mommy Blog.
She may go to Amazon to read reviews there. Once she’s got all the info, she may search local suppliers. She’ll go to Facebook and Twitter and ask for recommendations.
She may search Youtube for demo videos.

One thing is certain, before she gets to your ‘shelf’ whether on or off line, she’ll have made her decision, all without talking to you at all.

There’s something different happening after the last point of interaction (the experience) too. Now she’ll go online and add her opinion to the product reviews. Her experience will now become part of some one else’s research.

Today your marketing campaign has to address all 4 points of interaction.

  • Stimulus
  • Research
  • Shelf.
  • Experience.

You can’t control when the stimulus happens (unless you advertise – and then only control what the ad says).

  1. If you’re not found during the research you’ll lose out.
  2. Make it easy to buy (the shelf)
  3. Provide quality so that the experience is great not just good.

Best SEO Advice?

seo for small businessesI’ve been thinking about a question I found on Quora . I have to say I agree with a lot of what’s said here, in fact I can’t disagree with any of it. The one things that stood out for me though is the comment to be flexible, because on line marketing and SEO change as search engines tweak and change. Two things that never go out of style though are great content and great links. You can take a look at the page by clicking this link  http://www.quora.com/What-is-the-single-best-piece-of-SEO-advice

Great content is not just about creating a video or article or even an infographic, it’s about creating a video, article or infographic that delivers and emotional experience AND answers the question WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Seriously do you ever read, watch or look at content on a website unless there is something in it for you? Even if that something is to tell you you’re on the wrong website?

I certainly don’t and I know I’m not alone. Sometimes I watch things that make me laugh, cry or get angry, if I’m bored however, I jump away. I read things that interest, inform or infuriate me, if they don’t make me feel something, guess what? I jump away.

After all I’m only nano seconds away from something else, all I have to do is click my mouse or touch the screen.

So stay flexible, never stop learning (who likes a know it all anyway?) Create amazingly engaging content. If all that fails, then argue with the people who’re succeeding, at least you’ll cause a reaction 🙂

Visual Marketing

Visual or Video Marketing?

Have you noticed what people are posting on-line? I mean apart from telling you they just had a cup of coffee, or fell out with their partners/boss/sister/mother etc. Well, they’re posting images and videos, even quotes and inspirational sayings are being posted as images. Why? Because it’s easier to watch a video or look at an image than read the text. We are after all impatient creatures who are used to getting out info quickly and on the go. That of course is another strong reason for people to prefer images and videos, mobile access, a video can be viewed on a smart phone or tablet much easier than you can read an article.