Top 5 Blog Writing Tips

blog2Whether you blog just as a hobby or have a company blog where you talk about things to promote your products or services, you will surely want to get more and more web surfers reading what you have to share. If your blog is still lying in the oblivion and has been unable to attract commendable web traffic, it’s time you take a serious look at your write-ups and make them attractive and worthy of being noted. If you are not sure how to go about this, here are top 5 blog writing tips that can offer help:

Opening punch: Just like morning shows the day, your opening lines will decide if someone will read till the end or skip to some other web page. Pack some punch, teaser or interesting facts in your opening lines so that the reader is encouraged to continue reading your post. Make your opening lines powerful and your readers will soon become hooked onto your content.

Follow the KISS principle: Whatever be your blog post topic, keep it short and simple (KISS). Remember – no one wants to read complex things or long sentences. Since most web surfers have a poor attention span, you need to hook them in the first few seconds after they start reading your post. So, use simple language and small, compact sentences that can get your message through to the reader easily without sounding too preachy or too complex to understand.

Use energetic and positive words: Your post should show how passionate you are about the subject that you are writing about. Unless your readers feel the energy, they are unlikely to stay or return to check you newer posts. You should also make a conscious effort to use positive words and steer clear of the negative ones. For example, if you want to talk about some cheap products or services, instead of using the word “inexpensive”, try using “economical” that has a far more positive vibe about it.

Use bold keywords, sub-headings or bullets: Many blog readers these days try to skim the summary at a quick glance and never bother to read the whole post. To help such readers become a regular visitor of your blog, you can use relevant keywords in bold or use sub headings and bullets with important words or phrases in italics or bold so that anyone can get a brief idea of what the post is all about even without reading the whole write-up.

Be adventurous: Despite the tips as mentioned above, don’t be afraid of breaking the rules and trying your own innovative ideas. Who knows that you may come up with the next best blogging tip that other bloggers will lap up in no time.

If done the right way, blogging can act as a cost-effective way of making your online presence felt and help you reap riches by marketing your offerings effectively on the World Wide Web. In case you haven’t yet realized the true potential of blogging, use these 5 top blogging tips to get started today.

Pinterest SEO Strategies

PinterestPinterest is gaining steady popularity as users begin to use it to organize and share images online. You can create attractive virtual pin boards with DIY art and craft tips, dream vacation locales and must-read blogs as well and browse through the site to add to your own boards as well. This invite-only site is slowly turning into a great tool for businesses considering the growing audience that makes it a great site for promotions as well.

Pinterest and Your Business
Branding in the SERPs remains an important aspect of most online marketing programs and one of the main advantages of Pinterest is that it allows your profile to show up as www.pinterest.com/yourbrand in search results. Users sharing support for the product images you have pinned are sure to “Pin”,“Repin,” and “Like” providing for brand exposure. It even aids in discovery of newer products and services which users would not even know existed previously. And of course you gain link backs to your image source or url with every “Pin” and “Repin”.

Pinterest and Local Business
As with most social media platforms you can connect with your Facebook and Twitter accounts when you set up a Pinterest profile. Name a board after your product or service and include interesting pictures of the product, service or even the location you are at. View boards of Pinterest users in your area and other boards which are of interest to you and “Pin” interesting pictures to your board. Good keyword text, a descriptive about you, use of hashtags and categories to tag your content and attractive boards are the best means to use your Pinterest board. While you try to design your infographic related to your business, don’t make it seem like you are only interested in promoting your brand. Show an active interest in boards related to your brand and area.

You can choose from many unique categories including Travel, Weddings & Events, Food & Drink to Technology, Science & Nature among others to “Pin” or “Like” and “Repin”. Keep in mind that you use permalinks only when you pin, always pin from the original source and also give credit to the pin with a description about it. If you are keen on cross-promotion, Pinterest is again a great tool to promote your pins on Facebook and Twitter. For anyone who has been using Flickr to promote images, you can use the same image links to further optimize the Flickr set so you rank better in the search engine results.

Build a Strong Pinterest Presence
The site frowns on brands which choose to have boards for self-promotion alone. It is advisable to have a few boards in a range of topics when compared to a single board centered around your brand or a single topic. Also, it helps t “Repin” content from the site itself as it is bound to increase your followers. Try to make your profile an excellent resource for users before you begin promoting your products and services.

Branding Is Smart Business

building a strong brand for your businessWhy and how to build a strong brand for your biz

Picture this: A prospective customer sees your logo, your email newsletter, or your ad, and in a split second thinks, "Oh! There's that great company again. They have just what I need. I'm going to buy from them today."

Sounds good, right? It's what every company wants: brand recognition. And with a little effort, you can build it for yourself!

Branding your company, and then reinforcing that brand in all of your communications, will help customers recognize and choose you over all the competition.

What Is Branding?
Branding is the practice of influencing how people experience your company over time. This experience tells potential customers or clients who you are and what they can expect from you, and it sets the stage for how they will interact with you going forward.

To create a positive experience and feeling with your brand, you have to know two things:

1) Your target audience - Who is your best customer? What appeals to them? What are their pain points in relation to what you offer?

2) Your unique benefit - What is different, and better, about what you offer?

The answers to these questions will help you create a brand identity that you can build, grow, and sustain in your marketplace. In this article, I will focus primarily on how to build and represent your unique brand through design elements and the written word (your copy).

The Visual Identity of Your Brand
A strong brand requires a clear visual identity. From the symbol or logo you create to the color palette you choose, the visual impression you make needs to be unique and convey the character and personality of you and your company. Key design elements of your brand include:

A logo - This is a must. If you don't have a logo, there are many companies on the web that will design one for you for at a very affordable price. At the very least, pick a font and a font size for writing your company name and use this consistently in every publication.

Colors - Your colors communicate more than you might think. Use warm colors for a friendly feel, cool for formal, and bright for bold and trend setting.

Fonts - Select a font or two at maximum for your text (one for your regular text and one for headlines, subhead, and sidebar copy) and stick with those same fonts for all of your communications. Use one that everyone has on their computers, such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Verdana, for the greatest readability (fonts can sometimes be substituted if your receiver's computer does not recognize your font).

The Tone of Your Copy
In addition to design, the tone of what you write communicates your company's brand. For instance, if you are a "friendly" company, then use a casual, personal, and conversational tone in all of your communications. If you want to communicate your longevity as a firm, then use a more formal tone to communicate thoughtfulness and to convey a sense of responsibility and security. Whatever tone you choose, make sure it is consistent throughout all communications. Examples of tone include friendly, casual, formal, forceful, conversational, and inspirational.

Tips for Building Your Brand with Email Marketing
There are many marketing mediums you can use to build and support your brand. Your goal is to be consistent across all of them. The following tips focus specifically on building your brand with email, but you can apply them to other mediums as well.

Here's a checklist to help you build and create brand consistency with your marketing emails:

  • Include your logo on every communication, located in the same place each time
  • Use the same colors on your website home page, printed collateral, and email templates
  • Embed patterns, designs, or images that appear in your website or printed collateral as backgrounds or highlights in your emails
  • Use the same fonts as you use on your website and printed collateral

 

You don't want your email communications to always look exactly the same. Here are a few ways to create freshness while still supporting your brand:

  • Use a new background color in one of the top sections to distinguish your emails visually
  • Use a new photo or image for each newsletter (within the theme you've set)
  • Include one new font to help a sidebar or coupon gain attention
  • Embed new copy, new headlines, and new subheads in each email
  • Create unique sidebars and new clickable links in each email
  • Include a customer testimonial with a photo of that client or an image of their business

By establishing and reinforcing your brand as you create, sustain, and grow your relationships with prospects, customers, and other constituent groups, you will find that people recognize you more quickly, retain your messages more easily, and are faster to take action. Branding works, so try it!

Press Release Sites You Can't Overlook

online-marketingWriting and submitting press releases related to your business and service is an important aspect of online marketing campaigns today. Worthwhile news can be shared with others and offer more opportunities for inbound linking and others to find your site. We've compiled some of the hottest Press Release sites on the net. When writing, a good rule of thumb is to keep your press release between 350-400 words and include no more than two links with your complete URL in the body of the article. Be sure to grade your press release for marketing effectiveness before submitting it to the masses.

1. przoom.com
2. clickpress.com
3. businesswire.com
4. freepressreleases.co.uk
5. google.com/base
6. i-newswire.com
7. newswiretoday.com
8. openpr.com
9. pr9.net
10. pressbox.co.uk
11. pressradar.com
12. pr-inside.com
13. prlog.org
14. prurgent.com/submit_press_release.htm
15. publicrelations.uk.com
16. theopenpress.com
17. prweb.com
18. press-releases.blogspot.com
19. prlog.com
20. PRLeap.com
21. 24-7pressrelease.com

Five Killer Tips for Location Based Services

local1In these days when social networking has become a part of one’s daily and business lives, Location Based Services or LBS is making it more effective. This is one marketing strategy that takes your use of social media to another level, and helps your efforts become specific and more concentrated. This will aid in getting more customers within a particular region or locality. Moreover, thanks to LBS, you can expect your customers to visit to your place and get the feel of the products and services. The major LBS applications that are currently in vogue are Loopt, Foursquare, and Gowalla. Let’s examine some killer tips to make the most of these services.

Knowing Your Apps: Let’s face it. Unless you know your applications inside out, you will not be able to get the best out of them. Different applications work differently, but they are all connected to the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) that locate the area where the user is logging in from. The primary applications that people generally use include Facebook, Google Latitude, Loopt, Foursquare, Yelp, and Brightkite. Downloading all these applications on your mobile will show that some of them also endorse badges, logos, and free gift announcements. Considering the fact that LBS users often refer a place their friends, you can offer these freebies whenever they login from your place.

Cut to Your Size: The ultimate strategy is to customize according to your need. Now, this is again interconnected to your understanding of the application or the services. If you know your application well, you can create a logo or marketing strategy that will fit the uniqueness of the application. You will get the freedom to make your own changes with most of these applications. Rather than waiting for the customers to create a to-do list, you may offer them once as soon as they drop by your shop or area. All you need to remember here is that many of these customization options are dependent on the network that you will have.

Connect with Customers: Connecting with customers will become more direct and much simpler with the help of these LBS. Whenever customers log in from your place, you can inform them about your new products and services. If they like it, they may pass it on to their friends or family. These services give you enough scope to become more creative with your approach. The combination of innovation and technology can do wonders for your business.

Tracking and Analyzing: Yes, with LBS you can also find out the result of your communication and advertising strategies. This is important to see whether your steps are making the expected impacts, or whether you need a change of strategy. You will also come to know the patterns that customer behavior often shows. This will help you to fine tune the marketing strategy further, as and when it’s necessary.

What not to do: Here are a few things that you should avoid by all means. It is a good thing to avoid any kind of false review and make sure that your ad is well made. It should have directness that suits the medium.

Using Social Media to Fight Negative Press

negative-pressEvery company undergoes it at some given point. Just Google it on the internet and you will find a good number of problems involving high profile companies. In an era where social media has become one of the major sources of information, controlling PR crises has become even more challenging. One false step and your business may get promoted throughout cyberspace in a matter of hours. But at the same time, one can use these same media channels to fight negative press. In fact, there are many PR professionals who plan strategies keeping in mind their possible impact on social media. The important question is how one should approach the problem.

Communication: Any relationship, be it personal or professional, can become stronger through communication. Moreover, communication helps one to clarify doubts and misunderstandings. Proper communication becomes more important during the time of PR crisis. It is very important that you place your side of the story to the customers without losing any time. And it is here that social media can help. A short message on Twitter or a Facebook post will get you more attention than mere press releases. Remember, keeping mum will not help you at all; rather, it will be seen as an acceptance of the mistake.

Preparation: The best way to avoid a crisis is to stay prepared for it. Though some of the crises are unforeseen, some others happen because we tend to overlook alerts. Starting a social media profile is a first step. Opening one at the moment of crises will not help. The more you nurture your social relationships through these sites, the better it is. This will help you to get the confidence of the users. You will also come to know what people are saying and thinking about your brand, services, and product. Any negative talk or any red signal, and you can act on it immediately.

Introduce “Black Pages”: The term “black pages” may catch some unaware. But, it is just a fancy name of a web page where your users and other browsers can post their comments and feedback on various topics. Most of the time, these pages operate live sessions. Understand the possible problems that can crop up while running the business, and prepare their solutions or answers. So, if any of these questions comes up in future, you may immediately provide the answers.

Propose Service: While offering solutions to any crises, continue an attitude of service provider over the social media. A humble tone and acceptance of mistakes, followed by quick solution will keep your customers happy. Chances are that you will get a good load of positive tweets or Facebook posts.

Continuous Process: Though it’s a bad habit, the common practice is that people start ignoring social media once the crisis is handled. Considering the trend in businesses, this will not be a wise move. Irregular presence in social media will not give you any benefits. As said earlier, keeping a relationship is a continuous and long process. If you remember the social media in your good times as well, it will definitely be of great help to you during your worst times.

Social media are neither the enemy nor the competitors of the PR department. Rather, they are one of the most potent weapons that the department can use to evade or solve a crisis.

Using the Social Web to Generate Leads

seo-analyticsSocial media is a great way to listen to clients' needs and build a credible web presence that extends beyond your website... but did you know you can use the social web to generate leads? Below are some tips on how to acquire new business using popular social media sites. If your current and prospective clients are there, you should at least be in on the conversation.

Twitter - Twitter search is one of the most powerful lead sourcing tools available. Using this feature, you can see in real-time what people are tweeting about. Search and see how many people are tweeting about your topic... hundreds! Now, how many of those people are looking for an expert like you? How many need an SEO expert? The list goes on and on -- don't let these cries for help get snatched up by someone else.

Search for your area of expertise. Find the leads. And then send them a friendly tweet letting them know you can help. Remember: people hate spam. Don't hit potential clients over the head with your pitch. And before you start hunting for leads make sure your Twitter profile outlines your expertise and includes links back to your credible website, portfolio, etc.

Facebook - Like Twitter, people share their thoughts on services they want or need. And you can use their search feature to see who may need your help. Try searching your service or product in Facebook's search feature. On the left sidebar, look at the option to choose Posts by Everyone. This is everyone that is currently posting about that topic. Again it's a lot of people... but one of them might be a potential client.

LinkedIn - As you probably know, LinkedIn is a fantastic place to network and join groups of like-minded professionals. But are you using it to garner business? Does your profile mention that what services you offer? LinkedIn is a great site to promote your services.

First and foremost, add an offer to your profile updates. What's more compelling to a potential client: "Looking for a new car" or "Get a Free analysis at (insert your url) and see what I can do for you!" Also make sure your specialties and summary include your strongest skills. If you want to drive business make sure you have the profile to back it up.

Craigslist- Much more of a barebones approach as opposed to the previous mentioned sites, but definitely another great place to find people looking for your expertise. You can use Craigslist's search feature to look for "gigs" in your area that apply directly to your expertise.

Email Marketing for Small Business: What’s the Big Idea?

email marketing for successYou’re considering email marketing to promote your business? Smart Move!
Congratulations, you’re about to step into the world of email marketing – one of the smartest ways ever for developing your business. And to help you get started, here’s a bird’s-eye view of what email marketing’s all about – from planning, to getting your campaign going, to making it successful. For more helpful tips on this exciting marketing tool, take a look at Constant Contact.

Good, Fast, or Low Cost Marketing?

Now you can have all three. And effectiveness, too.
We’ve all heard the old adage about how, when it comes to marketing, you can get what you need done well, delivered quickly or produced inexpensively; but you can only choose two out of the three.

Well, thanks to the wonders of technology, those days are gone. Today, using email marketing, you can communicate effectively with quality content, design, and delivery. You can do it quickly and repeatedly. And, you can do it within a budget that makes absolute sense for your business. What’s more, you can do all this and at the same time build excellent relationships with your customers.

Who doesn’t want to save money?
When you communicate with your customers through permission-based email you get everything you would in a print ad – except the paper. And without the paper, you can skip things like printing costs, mailing costs, and media costs. Plus email targets exactly who you want to reach, so you don’t waste dollars on unlikely prospects, like other advertising options do.

It is said that communication is a 50/50 proposition.
We beg to differ. We believe good communication should be a 100/100 effort. With email, you not only control your message, but you also create a welcoming, easy way for recipients to have a two-way dialogue with you. They can also pass along your message to their family and friends – valuable referrals for your business.

Just like fingerprints, no two customers are alike.
With email marketing, you can send different messages to match the interests of different customer groups or even individuals. And, because email is so easy to create and change, you can revise your messaging to reflect the changing focus of your audience.

Things To Think About

  • What was the total cost of your most recent newspaper or direct mail campaign? Do you think it was a good investment?
  • What mechanism do you currently use to hear the voice of your customers? Is it effective?
  • How much time does it take to adjust your marketing message using your current system of communicating with your customers?

How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

Now you can learn more about them as they learn more about you.
The fact is, all of business is built on relationships. And the better you understand your customers, the better your chances of building a mutually- rewarding, ongoing relationship with each other. An email marketing campaign should be built on a clear understanding of your customers and their needs, as well as what you have to offer them.

It’s easier – and cheaper – to keep a customer than to find a new one.
The more you know about your customers, the better able you are to meet their needs. That means they are much more likely to remain customers, and you don’t have to spend extra money and effort trying to find new ones. What’s more, a satisfied customer is your best advertisement, and can help you build your business through referrals to their friends and colleagues.

No matter what you say, say it consistently and regularly.
A sustained email marketing campaign is the perfect way to educate your customers about your goods, services, policies, and community involvement. Just be sure to map out a strategy for the types of information you plan to share with them, and make sure it’s helpful, informative, or enlightening.

Don’t forget to listen.
Every successful email marketing campaign shares a very important common denominator – the ability of the recipient to respond to the message. By including at least one, and preferably several, ways in which your customer can reach you (by email, phone, or in person), you invite comment, criticism, and congratulations. All are valuable ways to learn more about your customers and respond to their needs.

Make sure your email marketing campaign fits with your overall marketing plan.
Different kinds of objectives are best served by different kinds of email. For example, if you are looking for immediate sales, then an email highlighting a price reduction or new product introduction may be best. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to establish yourself as an expert in your field, then a more informative email with case histories may be appropriate.

Things To Think About

  • Can you identify satisfied customers who may be willing to be quoted in your email marketing campaign?
  • What would a communications calendar about your business look like?
  • How can you ensure that your business responds to all customer comments in a timely fashion?

Do You Make Every Contact Count?

Collecting contact information is as simple as just asking for it.
The fact is, that email marketing can help you establish and build relationships that will help you grow your business. But, there are two rules you need to follow:

  1. You can’t communicate if you don’t make contact.
  2. Not all contacts are equal. The more information you gather about each contact, the better your chances of delivering the right message to the right person.

There’s really no mystery to how to collect contact information.
Simply ask. Most people will be glad to supply basic contact information. Just be careful not to ask for too much personal information or they may balk at answering. Start by asking for a name and an email address. That’s enough to get a contact on your list.

If the contact is in person or on the phone, you can also ask for a street address and a phone number. Additionally, you can capture contact information from a business card or an electronic communication.

Don’t get caught “spamming.” Get permission first.
When you send someone an email marketing communication and that person has not given you permission to do so, you are “spamming.” There are strict regulations against "spamming" and you never, ever want to send "spam" to anyone for any reason.

The way to avoid becoming a "spammer" is to always get permission to send your messages to the people on your list. You can ask for explicit permission – which means the person understands that an email message will be headed their way – or you can go with implicit permission which means that you have an existing business relationship with the person and that they are open to hearing from you.

Motivate people to give you their contact information.
When you offer something to motivate contacts to provide their information, chances are more likely you’ll actually get what you asked for. It doesn’t have to be much, but it must have value to the person receiving it. A discount on certain products is a powerful motivator but something as simple as a downloadable white paper is also a good choice.

Things To Think About
Are you and your staff asking for contact information at every encounter? Why not?

  • Have you ever sent an email with a marketing message to someone who might not want to have received it? Did you know it would be considered "spam"?
  • What low cost but effective offer could you make to help ensure the collection of contact information and permission to communicate with them?

Why Would Your Customers Read Your Email?

Make it relevant and you’ll build trust – and your business.
The surest way to get your customers to come back again and again is to get them to trust you. And one way to earn their trust is to communicate with them honestly, regularly, and in a way they can relate to. Give them that, and you’ll not only have satisfied customers, you’ll have true advocates.

Show that you care about their welfare, not just their dollars.
When information is useful, it is more likely to be remembered and acted upon. And remember, customers want to hear about things they care about – not just what you’ve got to say about your business.

For example, if you want to announce a sale, don’t just talk about the dollars off (though that’s certainly important). Also add information about how the product or service can benefit the customer. A 20% discount on cleaning a home’s air ducts is interesting, but improving the air quality of one’s home, or protecting one’s children from airborne pests, is compelling. This kind of messaging encourages trust and demonstrates that you are interested in the welfare of your customers, not just how much they spend with you. It’s all about building trust.

When in doubt, ask the experts – your existing customers.
If you find it difficult to figure out what to include in your emails, don’t overlook the obvious. While you may think certain topics are “old hat,” you’ll be surprised how many customers may not know – or may have forgotten – certain pieces of information.

Another good source of content is your customer. Many of them will be happy to suggest topics, lend advice, or even be interviewed for your email campaign.

Things To Think About

  • Can you name three things you think your customers would be interested in knowing about your service or products? What kind of story can you tell about each one?
  • Can you name four customers you can seek advice from regarding your email campaign?
  • If you were to survey your customers on what they would like to see in an email from you, how would you do it?

How Can You Get Your Email Opened?

A few simple rules can keep you out of the junk mail file.
You may be thinking that, for all the potential benefits of an email marketing campaign, there are just too many emails floating around out there. And it is true that many emails are simply discarded without being opened at all.

But yours doesn’t have to be one of them. Here are some simple ways you can encourage your customers to open, read, and act on your emails.

Make sure they know it’s from you.
If there’s ever a time to ditch the clever headline in favor of the straightforward approach, it’s in the “from” line of your email. Always use the better-known of your name, your company name, your product name or whatever other designation your customers will most readily recognize. And do not use such common but ill-advised addresses like sales@ or service@. They’re unfriendly and won’t do a thing to build your relationship with your customers.

Make sure they know it’s something they’re interested in.
Is there anything more frustrating than opening an email and discovering you just don’t care what it’s about? It’s a waste of time and a frustration to your customers. That’s why your “subject” line should be descriptive but not deceptive. Instead of a generic phrase like “What’s New This Month,” try, “10 Reasons…” or “New Survey Reveals…” or “8 Ways to…” as more compelling titles.

Keep those emails coming.
No one likes to be bothered unnecessarily, but there is something to be said for establishing a regular schedule of communication and sticking to it. If your emails are interesting and pertinent, your customers will look forward to receiving them – and will be disappointed when they don’t.

The way your email looks is just as important as what it says.
No matter how important or well-written your email is, if the design is cluttered, too busy, or just plain disorganized, the message will never get read. Remember that readers decide whether to read an email by previewing the first few lines. Be sure to use strong headlines and include words and phrases that appeal to their interests.

Things To Think About

  • What emails are you most likely to open and read? Which are you most likely to trash without reading?
  • If you were one of your customers, what would you like to read in an email from your business?
  • Can you make a commitment to regularly scheduled emails? Do you need help maintaining a regular schedule of communications?

Using Social Media to Extend Your Email Marketing Campaign Effectiveness

email marketing and social media working togetherGreat Together
Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are generating a lot of hype in the marketing world as new ways of reaching and communicating with customers, members, donors, and anyone else you come in contact with. While this might sound a lot like the goal of email marketing, social media is not a wholesale replacement for email; rather, social media can be used to compliment an email strategy by reaching out to customers wherever they happen to be and opening more avenues of communication with them.

A report by the Nielsen Company shows that people who are heavy users of sites like Facebook and Twitter actually use email more than casual social network users do.

Why is this? Social media networks like Facebook allow you to set your preferences so an email is sent whenever someone comments on something you post, or on a friend’s post that you may have commented on. You can also get notified when someone sends you a private message within the confines of Facebook. Similarly, Twitter sends an email update every time someone new decides to “follow” you, and when you receive a direct (private) message from another user.

For you, as an email marketer, this presents some good news: All of this activity drives people into their email inbox. The more email people get, the more they’re going to be checking their inboxes. And the more they check their inboxes, the more chances they have to see your email messages. This is just one way in which social media helps and increases email use. In this guide, we’ll explain some of the basics of social media, and show you how you can use these tools in tandem with email to create a more effective marketing mix.

 

Getting Started with Social Media

If you’re having trouble getting your head around what “social media” is, how to “friend” people on Facebook, and “follow” people on Twitter, let’s first take a step back from the email marketing/social media integration path for a brief primer on what social media is.

 

Social media networks are essentially semi-closed communities that require an account to post information to them. We say these networks are “semi-closed” because some information and pages posted in the communities, such as a Facebook Fan Page or postings to Twitter, can be viewed by non-account holders.

While there are hundreds of social media networks out there, the big three people focus on are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on them too.

Facebook
Facebook is the largest of the social networks, with more than 802 million daily active users. It is also the most multimedia-friendly of the big three; members can post text, pictures, audio, and video.

Users sign up for an account, then can make connections with other users on the site by “friending” them: When you find someone you know on Facebook, you request to be their friend. If the request is accepted, you can see that person’s profile information, status updates, photos, and more (which is why you wouldn’t want to be “friends” with someone you don’t actually know). Your friends in turn can see your profile, status updates, and photos, as well. If you don’t want to share all your information with all your friends (for example, if you connect with coworkers or family members), there are more granular privacy settings available to limit who can see what information you post.

More important for business users of Facebook are Groups and Fan Pages. Groups allow like-minded people to join and share information through public message boards. Fan Pages allow a business to set up an information hub that other users can become “fans” of. Anyone can build a Fan Page. You don’t have to be an actor, musician, or politician to have fans on Facebook, and you don’t have to be accepted to be a fan. These pages are the preferred method for most businesses and organizations to reach Facebook users because a business owner or nonprofit manager can use them to share information with fans, and the pages are public-facing (though only Facebook members can become fans).

Twitter
Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media networks, with an estimated 255 million monthly active users. Twitter’s philosophy is simple: Users can post 140-character status updates that are viewable by anyone “following” their Twitter stream. On Twitter, the follower relationship is not two-way; you don’t have to wait for someone to approve your follow request and vice versa.

Your Twitter updates are public as well, meaning non-Twitter users can still view them. Even without an account, you can use that link to see all our updates.

When you follow someone on Twitter, you’ll see his or her status updates in real time on your private Twitter home page, along with updates from everyone else you follow. If you follow many people, this can create a bit of “noise,” especially if those people are heavy users of the site. That said, the beauty of Twitter from a business perspective is the ability to search all updates for a certain term or phrase as the search spans the entire public Twittersphere and not just your followers. (This is especially useful when looking to keep tabs on customer service issues.)

LinkedIn
The third of the big three, LinkedIn is one of the more professional of the social networks. Individual users’ profiles are tantamount to an online resume (complete with recommendations and endorsements) and, like Facebook, connections between users must be confirmed by both parties. Businesses and organizations can have profile pages as well that outline the who, what, and where of their operations.

Two of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn are the community and question areas, which tend to be more professional in nature than those found on Facebook or Twitter. Answering questions in your area of expertise can help establish you and your business or organization as experts.

Get Signed up
If you don’t already have accounts on these three major social media networks, you should sign up. Even if you don’t plan to use any or all of the networks right away, they’re free, so there’s no financial barrier to entry. Additionally, signing up will make sure you reserve your company’s name in case you decide to use the sites in the future.

It’s recommended that you keep your professional and personal online personas separate, so you have the freedom to share family photos and other personal things just with people you know, and your customers can only see things that relate to your business or organization. To do this, you may want to create separate business and personal accounts on the networks you plan to use. Facebook users should also set up a Fan Page as soon as possible, if only to keep your company’s name reserved for later purposes.

 

Integrating Email and Social Media

Now that you have a better understanding of how the various social networks operate, let’s take a look at them in another way.

 

Sites like Facebook and Twitter do require more frequent updating than your blog or email marketing do, but they also often have less compelling content. At the same time, Facebook and Twitter are more viral than a blog or email marketing, but a blog or email marketing creates a deeper customer relationship.

To most effectively strengthen your relationships, it’s best to use social media in tandem with your email marketing efforts. Here are eight ways to extend the reach of your content and act as a source of new information for your email recipients.

Let the world know: “We’re on Facebook and Twitter!”
Once your accounts are established and you’re comfortable using the social media networks, begin telling the world about your new online presence. Add links to your social media accounts to your email newsletter and in your regular email signature. Put the same links on your website and, if you have one, your blog, as well.

Users of social media networks are always looking for like-minded people and companies to “friend” and follow. If you’re participating in the same networks, there’s a good chance people will become a fan or follow you. The more places you link from, the more likely people will find you on your social networks of choice.

 

Integrating Email and Social Media

Grow your email contact list
Just as you can use your outgoing emails as a way to advertise your social network accounts, you can use social media to add subscribers to your email contact list. A few easy ways to do this:

  • Occasionally, ask your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn followers if they want to be on your email list, and provide them with a link to your newsletter signup page. Keeping with good marketing practices, you’ll want to keep straight pleas to join your list to a minimum. If all your updates to Facebook and Twitter say “Sign up for my list,” then you won’t have many followers. Keep the pitches to a bare minimum, and let the content you post be your sales pitch.
  • A good way to entice new signups is to tease an upcoming issue of your newsletter a few days before it’s sent. For example, if your monthly newsletter goes out on a Thursday, post a quick headline or synopsis of that month’s main article on Monday or Tuesday, and tell people that if they want the information, they’ll have to sign up by Wednesday night to get this hot content.
  • Similarly, you can post a snippet from one of your newsletter articles and tell your fans and followers that if they want to read the rest, they will have to sign up for your newsletter.
  • You can embed a Join My Mailing List signup box on your Facebook Fan page, blog, or just about any other site that allows embeddable HTML code.

 

Extend the life of your content
A lot of thought, effort, and time go into creating and publishing the content for each issue of your newsletter, so why limit distribution to one method? If your newsletter content is permanently accessible via a URL (either through an email archive or posted on your website), post that URL to your Facebook pages, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other network where your company has a presence.

Posting your content to your social networks provides a couple key benefits. First, the links back to your website help boost traffic and your search engine rankings (the more links from outside sources, the better), meaning that your business or organization’s website will show up higher in the results when someone goes to look for you on Google or another search site. Second, it puts your content in a place where it can be easily shared and passed along. That gets it in front of people who are not already on your email list, and can help drive new subscribers.

For those who are worried about cannibalizing their email list by posting content elsewhere, know that you can always delay your social media posts until a few days after the email has gone out — providing a window of exclusivity to newsletter subscribers.

Use social networks as a source for new content
Social media networks can be a way for you to answer customer questions. For example, we here at Constant Contact are always monitoring Twitter for what customers are saying about us or where they may need our assistance. Your own customers might be saying or asking similar things about your business, service, or product. After all, one of the most common uses of social media is asking common customer service–type questions.

Obviously, when a customer asks a question through one of these social media sites (whether directly or indirectly), you should answer them as promptly and directly as possible. For example, on Twitter, you should use the person’s Twitter handle in your reply so it shows up on the person’s Twitter home page. But don’t end the “conversation” there. Use the question and your original answer as a newsletter topic to share with the rest of your email newsletter recipients. Chances are good the answer will be relevant to more than just the one customer who asked the question.

One thing you can do in addition is repost the question to your social networks and direct people to your newsletter for the answer (for example, “A customer recently asked when we’re getting new merchandise. Check out the next issue of our newsletter for the answer” and then include a link to your website where they can sign up). A single question from a social media fan then becomes content for your newsletter and a lure for new subscribers.

As you’re building your network, maybe the number of customers asking questions or specifically commenting about your business or organization is limited. That doesn’t mean the social media content well is dry. Watch the networks for hot topics and trends in your industry. Use that information as a source for article content. Talk about the trend, how it affects your customer
base, and what you can do to help.

Mention in your article that you saw people talking about this on Twitter or Facebook, and be sure to put a plug for your own accounts on the services as another means of making your customers aware of your presence on these networks.

Get feedback from your social network circles
When trying to decide between a couple of good article ideas for your next newsletter, if you are not sure which will appeal more to your customers, you can ask your social networking circle for quick feedback.

Post the question to your Facebook News Feed or Fan Page. Ask your Twitter followers which of the articles they’d like to see. (Remember to do so in 140 characters or less). Use the response generated to make the final decision on which article to use. You may even get a few other ideas for future articles along the way.

Continue the cycle
Chances are good your newsletter content will elicit some comments and feedback from your Facebook and Twitter networks. Why not feature them in the next issue of your newsletter?

In your issue, let readers know that they can share their thoughts on Facebook or Twitter (or wherever you want them to), and that you’ll share the “best” comments in the next issue. That will encourage reader participation and give you content for the next issue that you won’t even have to write.

Blogging for content
Blogs may not be the first thing you think of when the term social media is mentioned, but they can play an important part of your overall content strategy. It’s important to remember that a blog is merely a publishing platform that makes it easy to get content onto the Web. A blog’s content does not have to be just opinion or just news. It can be used to easily share just about any type of content with your audience.

How does this help you in your email marketing efforts? For newsletter authors who find they have a lot of content ideas through the month, but come up blank when it comes time to produce the newsletter, writing a regularly updated blog can be of help. As an idea strikes, capture your thoughts in a blog post. When it comes time to put together your email, the blog becomes a well of usable content that can be copied, pasted, and linked to from your newsletter.

Alternatively, your blog can act as an archive for your newsletter content. Paste your articles into your blog platform as a means of saving and linking from your social media networks.

With either use case, a regularly updated blog will help with search engine optimization efforts as it provides fresh content for web crawlers and more potential links to your site.

Get your followers to refer you
Word of mouth mentions of your business is a main tenet of referral marketing. As a customer, when someone you deem trustworthy posts a link to something on a social network, chances are good you will click on that link and maybe even share it with your own network of friends and followers. Having your loyal customers and members serve as evangelists for your business or organization via social networking is the ultimate in referral marketing.

Obviously, putting out good content is key if you want people to forward and share your posts and links with their circle of friends. But sometimes, people need to be told to forward or share your content. Say you own a restaurant that’s offering half-priced appetizers tonight. In your Tweet or Facebook post announcing the special, tell people to spread the word by “Retweeting” (or RT) through Twitter and sharing it on Facebook.

Of course, just like it’s a good idea to keep the “sign up for my email list” pleas to a few posts, it’s also good social network etiquette to keep the “please Retweet/share” requests to a minimum. Following the 80/20 Rule is a good baseline, with 80% of your messaging educational in nature and only 20% a sales pitch.


Email and Social Media: Interact With Customers on Their Terms

With the explosion of social networks, blogs, and other Internet technologies, the number of ways we can meaningfully interact with our customers is growing exponentially. Customers who use social media networks expect the companies they do business with to have a presence and be active in the same networks. And each method — email marketing, social media, blogs, websites, etc. — feeds
the others.

As a devotee of email marketing, you’re already interacting with customers via their inbox. Using the steps outlined in this guide, you can leverage your existing content to interact with customers in social networks and beyond.

Using Google Apps to Grow Your Business

Google Apps for business promotionBusiness owners are always looking for newer and better ways to improve their business and take it to the next level. Here are some simple solutions from Google on how you can take your business and make it grow faster and better:

Google Analytics and referrals data: Websites are extremely common to businesses. However, the most important question to ask is how your targeted customers will find your website. Through Google Analytics, it is possible to get referrals data, which will tell you how people found your website.  This shows traffic coming from around the web, including social media websites as well as other websites. This will help you decide where you should be spending more of your time and money in order to get more visitors.

Daily agenda through email: Not everyone has a personal assistant but with the help of Google Calendar, this need is minimized. Google calendar allows you to receive your daily agenda through emails every morning, making it easy for you to take note of your daily schedule.

Google Presentation is the new way: Old power point slides can now be imported as a file onto Google presentations, making it an easy way to make your presentations with lesser hassles.

Google sheets: Another wonderful tool from Google is the Google spreadsheets, which allow you to keep lists, track projects, analyze data and results while also collaborating with partners in real time. Google sheets allow you to share data, collaborate on editing while also allowing you to chat with other viewers in real time.

Using Google+ Events to duplicate events: If you are in a business where you have regular events, you can easily use Google+ Events to duplicate it. This means you can easily schedule a Hangout on Air every month or week, depending on the nature of the event. What makes this really special is the fact that you do not have to do anything more than entering the data during its creation. The following events will take all details from the previous one.

Hangouts On Air: Reaching out to customers is extremely essential for any business. And adding a personal touch through videos is always a good option. With Hangouts On Air, you can actually live stream your video, put it up on your hangout and broadcast it, which will allow live participation of select members. This can then be broadcast on various platforms to ensure maximum publicity for the next event.

Creating a Google+ Community: Another great way of ensuring that you take your business to the next level is by creating a Google+ Community, where you can interact with your customers. This will also ensure that you get new followers and ensure maximum visibility for your business.

Setting due dates for tasks and emails on Google Calendar: Often, you have too many emails to respond to at a later date or tasks that require completion before responding to an email. Under these circumstances, it is not possible to keep an email marked unread until you have completed the task. Scheduling due dates on Google Calendar and sending the email to the calendar will ensure that you do not forget or miss out on any task’s due date.

While these are some excellent solutions from Google using which you can definitely improve your business, it is needless to say that these are not the only ones. You can search to find several more relevant tools, suggestions and tips, which if used the right way, can meet your business needs and help you to manage your processes and expand your business more effectively.