social media

Why You Should Try To Use Google+

Now whenever I am giving a social media talk, I gloss a bit over Google+ for a few reasons:

1) Relatively few people care about it right now. Not sure if you’ve ever had a limited amount of time to get through a topic and a lot to cover but when there is cool information that no one cares about yet, you need to kind of gloss over it. Almost all the questions at any social media talk I give are about Facebook so it seems silly to give a lot of lip service to Google+ in those settings at this point in time.
2) It’s a small base of users. 300 million users is a lot… but not when compared to Facebook (1.1 billion).
3) There have been a specific group of early adopters. Enthusiastic users tend to be dudes, 30-50 years old, in the tech industry. Compare this with the social network Pinterest, female dominated and driving lots of purchasing and you’ll see why people are comparatively less excited about Google+.

So after those super thoughtful reasons above, why would you care about Google+? Here are a few reasons I think Google+ deserves your second look.

Google+ is very tied into Google.

(Sorry if that was ridiculously obvious. Allow me to elaborate.) SEOMoz every year comes up with factors that are correlated with a website doing well in search. Here’s how Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ shares effected search rank, respectively:

googleplusandseocorrelation

If you want to geek out, this graph and more here: http://moz.com/blog/ranking-factors-2013

So as you see, sharing things on Google+ means good things for your site… and who better to share those than you?

Sharing specific things for specific groups of people.

Sometimes I find a great link to share… and it falls somewhere between being something I can share with more than one person but something that I don’t want to share with everyone. Google+ allows you to put people in ‘Circles’. So for example I can share a link about fonts with my ‘Web Designer’ circle and this article I’m writing here with my ‘Social Media’ circle. Friends can be in multiple circles which makes things handy.

sharingwithcustomersgoogleplus

Google+ is growing fast.

Google+ has experienced fast growth. (This and other charts are here: http://socialmediatoday.com/augieray1/1613711/real-data-facebook-vs-google-and-other-social-networks-interactive-infographic)

When a network is growing this quickly, it means that it might be a good place to grow your brand… before your competitors catch on.

Google-plus-growth-40-million

Doing more research into the network and what you’d do with it will tell you if Google+ is right for you and your business… but one thing everyone with a blog should know is about Google Authorship as a way to increase your blog’s followers. (Click here to learn more!)

So would I gloss over Google+ if it were up to me? Of course not. But while technology moves fast, people move slow…. so it might take awhile before I get asked to do a seminar about Google+, even though it’s a network I value enough to spend some time on.

Why Your Customer Can’t Be Everyone

More fun posters here: http://www.boredpanda.com/sharp-suits-worst-client-comment-posters/

More fun posters here: http://www.boredpanda.com/sharp-suits-worst-client-comment-posters/

When I ask business owners who their typical customer is, about half of them say ‘everyone’.

Really?

So then I try another question. “Who is your best customer?” and I start pressing for details, like income, interests, age, and other details, it turns out that they usually have a relatively clear idea.

What’s the problem with thinking of everyone as your customer? It seems pretty harmless… but could actually lead to a lot of heartache.

Pleasing all people pleases no one.

Have you ever tried to design a website for a 25 year old and an 65 year old at the same time?

People want different things… and whether you are producing a rack card or a website, you need to create something that is going to attract your ideal customer.  You are communicating to customers in writing, images, video, and more… and different styles tend to attract different kinds of people.

Below are two online dating websites. Neither excludes people by age and for comparison’s sake, I blurred the names on both in case that swayed you:

datingsite2

datingsite1

Now neither of these sites actually discriminates on age… but some subtle design, text, technology, and photo decisions lead you to think (depending on who you are) you are in the right place or the wrong place.

So in subtle ways, you are targeting some people to somewhat purposeful exclusion of others. If you actually tried to design a website that appealed to all people, it would be super generic looking… and actually appeal to no one. (The site closest to this? Facebook but really if you look at it, it’s the information your friends disclose, not Facebook, that makes that site work well for you.)

Attracting people who don’t want to buy wastes your time and resources.

Think of these things (which may or may not have happened to you in the recent past):

The time you spend talking on the phone to that person who called about buying insert-item-you’re-selling-here but can’t actually afford it.
The money you spend on that broadly targeted Facebook ad that sent two clicks to your website and zero sales.

What do these two things have in common?

In both instances you have reached someone, but in both cases you have mainly reached someone who isn’t interested.

Think you can turn them around with your smile and cheery speech? Most people have decided within 5 seconds whether they like you or not so good luck with that.

The time or money you spent broadly targeting a large group could be reduced in reaching a smaller, more specific group.

Here’s an example from my Facebook profile (in case you don’t know me, I’m a straight, engaged female who is social media consultant with a bachelors degree). Which one makes me roll my eyes more?

twoadsforsocialmediaconsultant

I actually might want to get a masters degree so I get that… but attracting a man for a lasting relationship? I think I’m set!

The social media education company is not wasting their time on me but the ‘Enchant Him’ program clearly did. (Yes I totally clicked, if I would have waited until the end, I would have found the secrets to making a man mine forever… oh well!)

Knowing who your people are allows you to do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

Who’s our ideal audience? Middle aged, middle class white women with bachelor’s degrees who are decision makers at a small business or non-profit in coastal Maine.



Now does everyone we work with fit that stereotype? Of course not. But this majority of people tend to attend our workshops, subscribe to our email newsletters, come in for consulting, and serve as our liaisons with their company/non-profit on our larger projects.

In general, they are most likely as a group, to be on Pinterest and Facebook, less likely to be on Twitter and Google+.  In case you don’t believe me, some graphs from Alexa.com (by the way, there is more than this available- fascinating website!):

pinterestdatafemalealexa

facebookfemalecorrelationalexa

OK so are you ready to see what the largest social referrers are on our website (NetworkedBlogs by the way is a Facebook app)?

oursocialreferrals

I know, mind blown right?

But seriously, if you know your people, you know not only how to spend your time marketing but this information can help make all kinds of other decisions for you. So knowing who your people are helps you spend more time on the right things, and less time on the wrong ones.

Now I hope when someone asks you who your target customer is, you don’t say everyone… because not only is it not true but it’s costing you money.

Three Google Analytics Metrics I Care About (And Three I Don’t)

On Facebook awhile back, Breanna asked about reading Google Analytics:

breannaquestion

I’m sure she’d want me to say she sent that from her phone and it typed it for her. She’s normally a very clear sentence writer. But I totally get what she’s saying. And since I’ve never written about it before I thought this would be a good time to do it.

If you have ever looked at Google Analytics, you know it’s enough to be overwhelming. And while I am writing this from my business point of view (year round, service-oriented business not doing ecommerce) it might give you a few good places to think about (or not think about)

Three Metrics I Care About

These are items I look at when I figure out how I should be spending my time.

Social Overview

socialmediagoogleanalytics + Read More

Seasonal Businesses And Social Media

closed-signAbout half our clients are seasonal businesses. This isn’t surprising when you think of the town we are in swelling from its year round population of 5,000 to at least double that for the months of May-October. A coastal town with the second most visited national park in the United States, there are cute shops, ocean views, and as much beautiful nature as you can stand. And most people prefer this in the warmer or foliage changing months.

But after Columbus Day (mid October in the US), about 70-80% of businesses close or open for very limited hours until Memorial Day (in May). Many storefronts are literally boarded up as the seasonal workers leave and the seasonal business owners move south to work another seasonal business or relax post-summer craziness.

Since I am online and local, year round, I do notice a dip in people keeping business social media accounts up-to-date. Most people will post they are closed for the season and not touch their Facebook page, Twitter account or website until they, in April or May the following year, come back and try to get everything ready for the upcoming season.

In general, I have lived here long enough to know not to counter this approach. I have tried doing the ‘let’s get your website ready early’ pitch or holding workshops in February when seasonal business owners are least busy but it seems people aren’t interested.

What I will say though is there is merit if you are a seasonal business to updating your social media profiles year round, even if you do so less often in the winter. Here’s why:

Maintain momentum.

When you update a Facebook page daily (for example) you get a lot more engagement (see 5.95% and 5.26% on the daily one) versus 2.78 and 2.36 percent on the several times a week page, even though the lower engagement one has more then double the fans:

facebookupdatesversusengagement

 

If your page is growing like crazy in the summer, updating it through the winter will sustain growth and keep those fans engaged. (As you can see the more often you do it, the more people see/react to it.)

Let locals know when you’re open.

I got engaged in January. The part of the story I didn’t mention? Driving to FIVE restaurants looking for a place to celebrate and only finding Geddy’s, a dive bar turned tourist trap, open. I am still annoyed at the two restaurants whose Facebook pages I checked (their hours on Facebook said open but hadn’t been posted to in about a month. We had figured one of the two would actually be open!)

If you want more locals to come in (and recommend your place to their friends who visit in the summer), seem like you’re open on social media, especially in the offseason. There are plenty of times I would have cleaned off my car of snow and drove into town if I knew that more than Geddy’s was open, not just that particular evening.

Promote your online store or virtual events.

While your storefront might be closed, winter is the perfect time to sell some stuff online. Whether you are selling on your website with an online shopping cart or using something like Craigslist, post what you’re up to on social media to a group of customers who already like you. You might be surprised to make more money off your merchandise in the slow months… or how holding a virtual event can get some new prospects to try you out. Keeping it online means locals don’t have to drive anywhere and your far flung fans can support you year round.

Tempt people ahead of time.

Especially if you are in the lodging or transportation business, there is nothing like teasing someone with a beautiful Maine photo mid March and urge them to book their vacation. We had a rental client do this via an email blast to a couple hundred customers and he got four weeks booked before April 1st.

So consider working your online presence year round… you might get more out of it then anyone is expecting.

Buying Online: Getting Your Customers To Do It More

So you’ve gone ahead an invested in the creation of an ecommerce website, a place where your customers can buy your products online. Good for you!

What happens sometimes, with a lot of smaller stores especially, is you’ve built it but yet the people are not coming. Why is that?

buymystuff

Do people offline like your stuff?

Here’s a reality you might not want to face but…. is your stuff cool? Useful? Do people buy it at trade shows, craft shows, in your store, etc. but just not online? If so, it’s probably just your actual setup and not your product.

But if no one has ever bought from you and they aren’t buying from your online store, you might have a reality check to cash.

The very smart Ramit Sethi said this example once in a seminar (I’m totally paraphrasing.) Show a room full of people your product, tell them the specs and the price and you’ll have a room full of people who say they want it. Now tell them you have a  supply with you and you’ll sell it to them right now. The people with their hands still raised after the second question are your customers and the people you actually care about pleasing.

Do people know you have an online store?

You can have the prettiest little website but if no one knows it’s there, you will get no sales. What are some simple ways to raise awareness you might not have gotten around to yet?

  • Put up the web address in multiple places at your physical store location (maybe even on your shopping bags or flyers you put into bags).
  • Tell each person who leaves your store to visit your online store.
  • Put ‘Check out our online store’ with the QR code linking to your website in your window.
  • Do the same in your print advertising. (Note: If you don’t like QR codes, you can create a custom shorty link by using a website like bit.ly)
  • Once a week or so link to a product in your online store from your Facebook page, Twitter account, Pinterest account, etc.

Tell people until you think you sound like a broken record. Because you might hear yourself talking about it all day but your customers don’t.

I bet the day you start this stuff, you will have one regular customer who says to you ‘Oh, I didn’t know you had an online store!’

Look at a website like LL Beans:

llbeanshop

 

As you see, you can say ‘buy stuff; without flashing red letters. Make this idea of you having an online cart super obvious on your website and at your store location.

Is your store easy to find online?

If you Google some of your well known products, do you come up? Here’s a screenshot when I do a search for Dansko shoes in Maine (a kind of popular clog like shoe in these parts):

danskoshoesmaine As you see, below the ads comes an online clog store then Lamey-Wellehan, a Maine shoe store that sells Danskos in their stores and online. (JL Coombs shows you want they have in the outlet store and you can stop by and buy at their location.)

Can you compete with Zappos if your Lamey-Wellehan? If you’re local and have what I want you can!

Search engine optimization (getting your site ranked high in search engines like Google) is a whole field, and something you can pay lots for. But let’s go for some easy wins here:

  • Getting more links into your site: Try to get more links. Are your vendors listing your website as a place to purchase their products on their website? Many retailers have something like a store locator and will list you for free. You can also use social media, blogs, online directories, and more to get more links into your website.
  • Make your website search engine friendly: Do you have unique page titles? Detailed product descriptions with keywords people are searching? Search engine friendly links? A blog you update regularly?

I can’t explain it all here but there are steps you can take to make your site more findable by search engines. If you want to learn a bit more about SEO, I’ve written an intro blog post about it here: http://breakingeveninc.com/web-tech/better-seo-in-less-than-one-hour/

Is your store easy to navigate and use?

Find three people who would be your target customers (fitting age and other demographics) and offer them a gift certificate or some other small offering in exchange for watching them navigate your online store. Is there one point which they get hung up on, like the product search or how to get back to the shopping cart after they’ve been browsing? It may be (and probably will be) painful to watch but you will learn a lot about your website.

If you can’t bring yourself to do this, look at your website analytics (statistics). Is there some page on your site a majority of people are exiting on? Do you have a lot of abandoned carts (people who have put things in the online shopping cart and never finished the checkout process)?

Take steps to make your website easier to navigate based on the feedback you get from real people and/or your stats. Adding a search box, linking sizing charts to every product, streamlining your checkout process are just a few ideas. You will generate ones that are useful for you in watching your three people and looking at your web analytics.

Why should someone buy from you?

This might be the most difficult idea for any small business. In a world of Amazon.com, how are you supposed to compete?

Free shipping over a certain order amount and offering excellent customer service is pretty standard in terms of what people can expect online. What are some other ways you can stand out?

Do a bit of detective work (what the industry is doing) and soul searching (what you want to do) and see what you can offer in addition to your unique products without killing your bottom line.

Please note your offering doesn’t have to be expensive, just unique and unexpected. I once got a handwritten thank you note from our payroll company which probably took them all of two minutes to write but it was so memorable and nice). So pick your unique thing then publicize the heck out of it.

I (and many consumers like me) don’t mind paying a bit extra to get something unique or even just to support a smaller business… I just don’t want to have to pay $25 in shipping on a $25 purchase to do it.

So use your online store to its full advantage and you too can make your money in your online store!

Why Social Media Marketing Costs Money

Social media marketing has revolutionized the advertising industry from the business point of view because it’s three things: fun, ubiquitous, and free.

But the thing is it’s not really free because even though it is free to use, social media takes time and some skills.

People are familiar with social media in that they use it personally, but so many don’t understand why a business or non-profit would pay for someone to do this for them.

Below is why we charge hundreds of dollars a month to do social media for businesses, you know, so you don’t ever have to awkwardly ask us at a party about it.

In terms of marketing spending, businesses often get a better return online.

Whether you have worked at your company for five minutes or five years, you are aware that they are doing something to get new customers, clients, or donors. The question for most people is not whether or not to do marketing but how (and how much).

costperlead

To explain the above graph, ‘outbound marketing’ is traditional marketing: direct mail, television commercials, etc. ‘Inbound marketing’ is putting out information and allowing customers to find you: social media, blogging, etc.

So if it cost you 60% less to get a customer, wouldn’t you try to get most of your customers that way? And wouldn’t it be worth you putting some money into your internet marketing one so it could work better?

Your current (and potential customers are on social media).

This may seem obvious but if you think all they’re doing is looking at pictures and playing Farmville, you are wrong:

where-do-consumers-search-for-information

People are as likely to get information about a company or product from a social media website as they are to go to the company’s website. And if you aren’t there to have the conversation, how many customers could you be missing?

Creativity on social media is required.

Let’s say you sell toothpicks.

I’m going to venture a guess that every day, you don’t have breaking news about your theoretical toothpick business. I also am guessing you don’t want to be that jerk constantly saying ‘Buy my toothpicks’ every day, all day.

What’s a toothpick salesperson like yourself to say that’s shareable on social media? How’s this:

A tiny toothpick treehouse in broccoli:

treeobroccoli

10 toothpick recipes kids will love– Don’t worry, we won’t make them actually EAT the toothpicks!

A video about how toothpicks are made:

See what we did there? We made your fake toothpick business interesting. Someone is going to remember that you pinned that cute toothpick picture or share that recipe link with their sister-in-law. And what you have there is the beginnings (and expansion) of brand recognition. It’s information that’s fun and sometimes useful… but it’s still about toothpicks.

Our point with the exercise above? You can make your news on topic, interesting, and shareable on social media… you just need need a creative mind, an organized approach, and some time to do it.

Consistency is the name of the game.  

I run three days a week, and go to roller derby fitness skate once a week. The run is outside my door, the skate practice is an hour away. Which one do I miss more often, percentagewise?

I am more likely to miss the run, and I think it’s because people at the fitness skate are expecting me to show up.

Accountability and consistency is an important thing in business too. Can you make something interesting to share, everyday, on every social network you want to be a part of on behalf of your business?

Most people can’t do this consistently, so they need help.

Being effective takes knowledge.

onedoesnotsocialmedia

There is something to be said for knowing the culture of the website as well as the optimal conditions when something will work best.

It’s also valuable to be able to see where things are going and be ready for then they change (as things often do online)!

Someone who follows and understands social media knows what to do and when to change strategies on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Youtube… for themselves and their clients.

Who you trust with this is key.

Social media is an extension of your business culture since many customer service questions are answered on it.

Your customers need to be responded to in a timely, appropriate, and helpful manner. So whoever is the gatekeeper of your social media profiles needs to be someone who can represent your business well.

Working with someone you trust who has a proven track record and excellent communication skills is something you pay for.

Hiring a firm can mean having someone with higher skills at a lower expense.

By the time a company hires an employee to do their social media, they are paying in the thousands of dollars per month. They are paying to train the person, for their benefits, and other employee expenses.

Hiring a firm like ours means no overhead costs and having access to expertise that gets the  job done in a shorter period of time then it would take a less experienced employee.

If you are too busy to do it yourself but don’t have the financial resources to have a staff person, having someone help with social media is a great in between step.

Social media companies keep their eye on results. 

Most everyone we work with signs a six month contract. This means that we have six months to prove we can increase followers, engagement, sales, website traffic and more.

Because we haven’t been hired for an indefinite period of time, we are always hungry to prove ourselves. This constant striving benefits our clients in the way of results.

Taking care of social media has a lot of indirect benefits.

Many people notice the following happens after they have a strategy for social media that is well executed:

  • More website traffic
  • More targeted website traffic (people going to an online store or filling out a request form)
  • More followers/fans
  • More engagement with their followers/fans
  • Better search engine performance
  • More email subscribers
  • More comments (‘I saw you are doing x’ or ‘I loved y’ said by customers or employees), over the internet and in real life

Social media may be free to use but it’s not free in terms of maintaining and growing an online business presence. And that’s why we do what we do!

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