Back to Basics #28: Getting the Most Out of Twitter

getting-the-most-out-of-twitter

How many followers do you have on Twitter? Do you talk with other people on a daily basis? Do you get people clicking through to your website or your blog?

If you're feeling a little lonely in the follower department and haven't really seen any new traffic to your site, you're probably feeling a little frustrated. But don't despair--this doesn't mean that you're doomed to remain this way forever!

That's because in this article, we're going to show you a few simple things you can do to get more out of Twitter. None of these tips require a ton of your time and energy. In fact, many of these are simple little tricks that you can easily implement into your regular social media strategy, and you don't have to spend a dime.

So let's take a look at how you can get the most out of your Twitter account!

Fill out your profile completely.

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Image courtesy of http://instructionaltechtalk.com/how-to-join-twitter/

This might seem obvious, but it's absolutely crucial that you fill out your profile and don't leave anyone guessing at anything. Twitter gives you plenty of space to make your page unique, so take advantage of that! Create unique graphics to place in your profile picture and header, and make sure you've listed all your important information: Website, location, and a description of what services you provide. Finally, make sure your handle is descriptive of your company. For example, if you're a plumber, choosing a name like plumber50432 probably isn't helpful to your followers. But you could choose ChicagoPlumber or ThePlumbingKing or something like that—you get the picture.

For your convenience, here's a checklist of your profile necessities:

  • Profile picture
  • Header image
  • Bio filled out
  • Website listed
  • Location, if possible
  • Descriptive handle

Find people in your industry to follow.

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A lot of new Twitter users don't want to follow people in their industry or field because they think it's pointless to follow their competition. But that's not true at all!

Twitter allows you to peer directly into the marketing plans of other companies that provide the same services you do. If you really think about it, you'll begin to see how wonderful this can be for your own marketing strategy. Back to our plumbing example: If you see other plumbers tweeting about a brand new kind of sump pump, retweet them or compose your own tweet about the topic. If you see a plumber who links to a creative contest on his or her website, you can use that as an opportunity to use that as a model for your own contest. Take a look at those with the most followers and see how they build their profiles and interact with others. Chances are, you'll be able to learn something and you won't even have to pay a cent!

Make lists of influential people.

This is a great way to make use of all those influential accounts mentioned above. An easy way to collate your most influential accounts is to add them to a list. To do this, go to the person's profile, select the gear icon, and then click “Add or remove from lists”. You can then name and describe the list, and select whether you want it to be public or private. If you're watching your competitors, you may want to change it to private. But sometimes adding people to a public list can be beneficial—they might add you back or other people might subscribe to your list so they can also follow your influential accounts! We've included some helpful (hopefully) screen captures to better illustrate this process:

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Select the gear icon, then click "add or remove from lists."

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If you don't have a list created, select the "create a list" option.

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Name your list, fill out a brief description, and choose whether you'd like it to be public or private. Save and you're done!

Follow back relevant accounts.

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It's not always going to be you who finds the best accounts to follow--sometimes people will find you, too. Keep track of your followers by using a tool such as Tweepi or ManageFlitter. If you find people who are relevant to your interests, go ahead and follow them back! If they're not, then there is obviously no obligation to do so. We suggest taking the time to block bots as well. After all, they don't add anything to the conversation, and they aren't real fans.

Oh—and while we're on that topic, never purchase fans. Even if you're desperate to look like you have more than five friends (which, let's be honest, we all would be!), don't pay for followers. Just keep finding relevant accounts and following them, and soon you'll get people following you back.

Use appropriate hashtags.

If you think hashtags are just words used as slang, you're in for a surprise! Truthfully, it's not very effective to use Twitter without them. Hashtags are a way for people to find important topics and conversations in real time. Whether you're looking for information on roofing expos or you simply want to chat about the hottest new shade of nail polish, you can probably find hashtags that will appeal to people looking to follow that topic. You can use tools like BuzzSumo to help you find popular topics and coordinate your posts with current and relevant conversations.

Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of hashtags:

  • Don't use too many in one tweet. Two, maybe three tops.
  • Hashtags tend to do better when included in a sentence or placed at the end of the tweet.
  • Don't use any punctuation or spaces. Hashtags only support letters.
  • If the hashtag is long, try making it easier on the eyes by capitalizing the beginnings of words. I.e., #SocialMediaStrategy.

Use photos every once in a while.

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People will read interesting text tweets, especially ones with links or hashtags. But think about it: Which would you find more appealing—a plain ol' string of text or something with a bright, beautiful photo by it? Of course your eyes will be drawn to the photo. So take the time to include a photo with your tweets on occasion. You could attach an inspirational quote, a picture of a project you just did, or a new product you're offering in your store. Be aware that photos do count against your character quota, so you'll have to plan for a shorter tweet if you want to use a picture!

Retweet others and ask for Retweets.retweeting

Finally, don't exist in a vacuum on Twitter. No one wants to see a stream of self-promotional spam from a single account. Take the time to retweet others, or tweet interesting articles that you find on blogs and websites you enjoy. A general rule of thumb to follow is that you should stick to 80% tweeting about topics relevant to your business but not necessarily self-promotional; and then the other 20% of the time send out tweets promoting your own business.

You can also ask for retweets! Many people respond to a simple request for retweets—just don't overuse this tactic with every tweet you send out. And be sure to retweet those that you follow who ask for shares as well!

Well, there you have it. With these tips, you'll soon see your Twitter follower count growing and your engagement soaring! You can easily start doing these things on your own, without hiring any special assistance.

If you have any other great tips, leave them in the comments below!

The Importance of Visual Content

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As a small business owner, marketer, and website owner, you have to wear a lot of hats. You have to produce your products, deliver great customer service on a daily basis, and ensure you keep up with marketing techniques so you can effectively promote your brand. But unfortunately, in today's intensely competitive online world, it's not enough to simply have a website and promote yourself on social media. You also need to create some kind of a content marketing plan—such as a blog—and you should be integrating visual content into that plan. Now, you might be asking why you should be doing this. Maybe you've been writing a blog and you feel that you get enough shares, traffic, engagement, etc. from it already. Maybe you're more the type who enjoys reading than forcing your way through an infographic. Or maybe you haven't even started a blog and don't really see the point in having one.

Unfortunately, the numbers prove that images and videos—visual content—help sell products better than text alone.

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Image Source: Visually Social

Did you know that posts with videos attract 3 times more inbound links than plain text posts? Or how about that views of a published article go up 94 percent if they contain a relevant image or infographic when compared to articles without an image in the same category? Whether it's just a picture or a video, the studies show that visual content is important to the success of your content marketing strategy!

And it makes sense if you really think about it: Since the caveman days, people have been using pictures to communicate with one another! These pictures communicated needs, depicted family life, and told stories of hunts and conquests. When you think of it this way, it's easy to see that we have always loved to tell stories in creative, unique ways. Donna Moritz, an expert on modern-day visual content (not so much cave paintings). stresses that you can really hook your audience when you use images or video to tell a story or share a message. And she's right—you can use videos and images to create anything from how-to articles to images with bite-sized quotes, to informative infographics, to pictures offering tips and tricks. This makes your content more fun for your readers to share or pin to Pinterest boards. It also grabs attention in a stream of text on highly-utilized social media platforms, such as Facebook!

Images Vs Videos

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Is it better to use images or videos in your posts? Well, that depends on what you're trying to say with your message.

For example, according to a study cited on Hubspot, viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video. You can use a product video to demonstrate how your product is used, how it is assembled, or how you can store it during a season when it's not likely to be used (a lawnmower during the winter, for example). But just because you use video, it doesn't mean that you should ignore static images. If you're writing an informative article, such as an “10 Ways to Keep Your Carpet Cleaner”, visuals would be immensely helpful to demonstrate your point. You can use a collection of images or put together a large infographic--whatever you think would work the best with your message. Need proof? The Hubspot article also notes that publishers who use infographics grow in traffic an average of 12% more than those who don't.

So, long story short: If your article could benefit from an infographic or video, you now know the stats. It's worth it!

Making Content Easier to Read

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Aside from helping to inform your readers and make your posts more interesting, images and videos also break up large blocks of text, making it easier for readers to navigate your article. Most people are pressed for time now, and they often skim articles while on their morning commute or while checking emails before work. Making concise sub-headlines as well as including photos helps keep their attention and explain what's happening more clearly. Choose attractive or funny photos, depending on your content. What do we mean by "attractive"? We mean that you should keep those boring, generic stock photos to a minimum. We do utilize them ourselves sometimes, but take it from us: Over time, we've learned that people respond much better to pretty or goofy photos than they do the generic “people pointing at a chart in a business suit” images. If you can supply photos you've taken yourself, then that's even better!

Whether you're just getting started with a blog or you've been around for a while, it's important to keep up with trends so that you can get the most out of your efforts. By implementing videos, infographics, and images where appropriate, you can bet that your posts will get more engagement—and you'll see more traffic and conversions as a result.

10 Reasons to Engage with Customers Online

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1. You personalize your brand

Engaging with customers allows you to control the flow of the conversation. If they ask for clarification on an upcoming sale, you can give it to them. If you thank them for taking the time to promote your brand, you can choose how you want to engage. It's all a great way to show your brand's personality—and to demonstrate how unique your company is!

2. Customers give feedback for free

Many times, customers will respond to an image or a status that you share on your social media platforms: they'll chime in with their thoughts, answer a question, or let you know how they feel about your most recent promotions. And this is a great way to find out what your customers are thinking without forcing them to take a survey—basically, you get free feedback. And who doesn't love that?

3. You present a positive image

If you're a fan of a company like Coca-Cola, you probably don't expect a lot of interaction with the brand--they're simply too big to get back to every person who tries to engage with them. But if you're a fan of a local hair salon, you more than likely expect that they'll get back to you in a timely manner--they should care about their customers. You feel they should strive to interact with customers because they're local—which is precisely why you, as a local business owner, have to be aware of your customers' needs. They'll communicate their interests and thoughts to you online—whether by email, twitter, or Facebook. When you respond to their concerns, you present a positive image that lasts.

4. Customers will share content for free

A great thing about posting on your social media networks is that your customers will be eager to share your content. Whether you're asking them to share for a chance to win a coupon, or they're simply doing it on their own because you post such great content, you're getting free advertisement. When you engage with your customers, they'll be happy to share your content, and you all benefit from that.

5. Networking is good for everyone

When your customers interact with you, you may be surprised to learn that some among the group are actually quite high-status clients. You can use this to your advantage by making a real connection with them and agreeing to help one another out. Trade blog posts, promote each other's stores or websites, or simply share social media updates. You'll both benefit from this mutual transaction, and your fans get the benefit of seeing that you're willing to network and share with others!

6. You might get free recommendations

When you engage with customers, you'll find that they appreciate you taking the time out of your day to respond to them. This in turn can increase their opinion of your brand. And if they love your brand, they'll recommend you to friends. Think of the last time a restaurant owner responded to your comment or review personally—it felt nice, didn't it? You owe your customers this courtesy. Deliver it, and they'll react accordingly.

7. Positive word of mouth

The beauty of online marketing is that it doesn't have to stay online. By building your brand image and engaging with customers, you'll make a good impression that will follow you offline, too. Whether you're a plumber or the owner of a salon, if you're friendly and active online, your customers will spread great news about you by word of mouth. This in turn can bring more visitors to your store or more phone calls to your office!

8. Brand awareness spreads

A natural consequence of networking, sharing, and recommendations is that your brand awareness spreads. Every time a new person learns about your business, your brand has made a new impression! So remember that even if you're not where you'd like to be in terms of followers/fans or interactions, you are still building platform for yourself. There are some benefits that come from this, too!

9. Consistency will bring in more visitors

If you update every once in a while and never interact with your fans or followers, you'll find that people tend to view you as unreliable. You'll start to lose fans, and people won't care about your updates as much as they would if you were consistent. You can prevent this by regularly updating, engaging with your community, and by presenting a friendly, consistent image. Remember that even if you're not hitting your projected numbers, you're still growing. You can always change up your plan, as long as you don't quit altogether.

10. More traffic to your website and other social media accounts

Finally, your shining example of being a great business owner will help you gather more followers and fans, as well as drive more traffic to your website. Be sure to post your website's address as well as any other contact info across all of your social networks. That way, if someone finds you on Twitter, they can still visit your website or go to “like” your Facebook page. Conversely, if they find your website and want to follow you on social media, they can easily navigate to your profiles directly from your website. Easy and simple!

As you can see, it's important to engage with your customers for so many reasons. Your presence online can truly affect how you're perceived both online and off. By implementing a consistent routine and keeping a positive attitude, you'll find that the benefits of engaging with customers online are only going to better your business.

Can you think of any other benefits of engaging with customers online? Let us know!

Back to Basics #25: Improving Problem-Solving Skills in the Workplace

Back to Basics #25

Part of owning a successful business is being able to make sound decisions--for the good of your employees as well as for the future of your company. Your business thrives in a positive, supportive atmosphere, and if you aren't able to make the decisions necessary to get you to these goals, you're going to suffer financially as well as emotionally. But solving business-related problems is tough. We get it.

What if you're inexperienced with workplace issues? What if the idea of "creative problem solving" sends you running? What if you feel like you just don't understand your employees, your HR department--heck, anyone at all?

In this Back to Basics article, we'll talk about ways that you can improve your problem-solving skills so that you can make business-related decisions with confidence. Let's get started!

The Problem with Problem Solving

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When asked about their problem solving skills, many people worry that they don't measure up. If you're the type of person who views their problem solving skills as sub-par, then you know just how much more difficult this can make owning--and running--a business.

But don't worry, there are easy ways to boost your confidence when making decisions. One of the most helpful things you can do is identify one of three types of commonly-encountered workplace issues: communication problems, attitude problems, and productivity problems. By addressing these issues individually, you'll find that the atmosphere overall will improve dramatically, letting you make more sound decisions with a clearer mind and more positive outlook.

communication

Communication problems:

Is there an issue with your messages being received in the wrong way? Have you sent out a memo, only to have people misinterpret what you've said? Do you feel like you can never get through to a certain department? These sorts of problems can be so severe that they can actually contribute to the downfall of fledgling small businesses and start-ups. Don't let communication problems get in the way of your company's overall happiness.

You might want to try:

Having someone edit your emails, documents, and presentations. If you've had that memo problem we mentioned above, this could be the solution. After having someone look over your written material, you can then make sure everyone has seen and understood the message during your next meeting. Listen to feedback and implement suggestions to make sure everyone continues to understand your messages.

Checking your emotions. If your messages are continually being received in the wrong way, you might want to check your emotions. Are you coming off too aggressively? Are you disregarding others' opinions? Are you simply reacting emotionally to a problem rather than coming up with real solutions? We all experience frustration, confusion, and even anger in the workplace. But as a boss, you must set an example for your employees. By keeping your emotions in check, you'll be able to communicate more clearly and effectively.

Listening to others. If you just can't get through to someone, call them in to your office and speak with them honestly and openly. Maybe they have a reading difficulty, such as dyslexia, and simply can't parse your memos. Maybe they struggle with verbal directions and need written or visual directions. Everyone's learning style is different, and by speaking and listening to your employees, you can gain a better understanding of their needs to do their job to the best of their ability.

For more suggestions, try this article: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/common-communication-mistakes.htm

attitude

Attitude problems:

If you've been dealing with employees who just seem to have a bad attitude, then you have a completely different problem on your hands--and a tough one at that. While you could always terminate the employee if things are really bad, there are other ways to try to address the problem before you go overboard:

Take notes. Keep track of the problems the employee presents. When you have collected and notated a few instances, talk to them about their performance and address how their attitude has been affecting others. Many times, an employee will recognize that they have been acting in a negative way, and will try to correct it without you having to take further action.

Agree on a plan. Most of the time, the employee is acting out because they perceive there to be a significant problem (that may or may not exist). Whether it's being interrupted on their breaks, sitting next to a disruptive colleague, family troubles, or general laziness, distractions and frustrations in the workplace can manifest from many different sources. The good news is that many people will try to change when confronted. Agree on a plan of action and ensure the employee follows through with it.

Dispense discipline where needed. If you never follow through with discipline, the problem will not go away. Never wait for it to simply disappear. It won't. Instead, utilize written warnings in a progressive system—First warning, second warning, suspension, termination. Of course, you must make sure you operate within HR's policies.

For more ideas, try these resources:

monkey-productivity

Productivity Problems:

Everyone must deal with the unproductive employee at some point or another. There's just no way around it. Whether you're a small business owner or you deal with large corporations, there will always be employees who just don't want to meet your productivity standards. To solve this problem, you must address it head on. It will never go away by ignoring it. To start, try:

Remind the employee of their job and their importance to the company. Many employees get fed up, particularly in larger companies, where they feel their jobs don't matter. Reminding them that they are indeed important, and stressing the importance of their duties, should help put them back on track again. Many times, they just need to feel appreciated.

Take a look at the job itself. Jobs change over time. Sometimes people end up having to learn skills they never expected to learn and become unhappy that their jobs have changed so much. Other jobs actually become outdated or become obsolete, even while you're still employing the person who does them! Other times, the job itself is boring. Plain and simple. These employees will need a little bit of extra incentive or some creativity involved to keep them meeting productivity standards, and a little bit of motivation to keep them interested.

Managing your own small business can be tough. And of course, despite your best efforts, you're going to run into some problems with things like productivity, bad attitudes, and poor communication. But with a little bit of effort, you'll be able to improve on every one of these problems, and work your way toward a more positive, productive, and communicative work environment.

Can you think of any other problems that you've tackled in the workplace? What methods work for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #24: How to Find Your Writing Voice

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If you've ever posted an update on a blog (or even thought of starting a blog!), then you've probably thought about how you would like to address your audience. Unless you're writing your own personal diary, it's absolutely necessary to figure out your writing voice—because how you appeal to your readers will have a direct effect on who chooses to come back to your blog, and who decides that it's not for them and navigates elsewhere. Whether you want to inform visitors about how to build and care for pools, or you'd like to provide tips on how to dress professionally for work, a blog can be a great place to start out. In this article, we'll go over some of the basic things you'll need to know to find your writing voice—and be well on your way to blogging success!

 

Define Your Audience

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This is probably another phrase you've heard before. But there's a good reason for it: It's the most important step to take before you begin publishing your posts. When you know who you're writing for, coming up with post ideas and defining your goals becomes much easier.

To define your audience, ask yourself:

  • Am I selling a product or service to someone?
  • If yes, what makes my product unique?
  • If not, what am I offering my visitors instead?

Once you know this, then you should think about:

  • What are my audience's interests?
  • What are their ages?
  • What is their education level?

And finally, you'll want to know some important personal data:

  • Where do most of my customers or visitors come from?
  • Are they male or female?

So, let's say you're selling handmade soaps to your visitors. They tend to be casual shoppers who are looking for an alternative to soaps made with chemicals. They are interested in health, beauty, and natural living. Most are female, from the United States, and tend to be from wealthy metropolitan areas. They are educated, and between the ages of 35-50. So with this audience, you wouldn't want to write in an ultra-casual manner like you would with, say, a vaping or e-cig store. That much should be obvious!

That's a lot of information you've gathered! But now, after all that hard work, you also have an incredibly well-defined audience. Knowing these statistics will help you come up with effective advertisements and well-informed posts that your audience will love to share. Plus, you'll easily be able to find topics popular with your audience and build your posts around those ideas. But first...

What is the Focus of Your Blog?

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Now that you know who you're writing for, you need to know what you want to write about. In our example, you'll be writing about health and beauty topics, particularly those linked to skin care—so you can really let your soaps be the star of the show. But even within this in mind, there are still a number of routes you could take. For example:

  • A how-to blog: How to make your own soaps, how to use natural soaps, etc.
  • A sales blog: Tips for better sales with natural products, or you can purchase a soap starter kit and be a part of the soap-selling team.
  • Better living blog: A guide on how to live frugally or lower your carbon footprint.
  • Beauty blog: A blog covering all kinds of new products, with the focus on your soaps and how they'll fit into a beauty routine.

As you can see, it can be a tough decision to make. But once you've chosen a theme for your blog, you'll want to stick with it. It can be confusing to readers to have a blog offering skincare advice in one post, and then how to make your own soaps in another. Chances are, these are two different audiences. (Although of course there could always be some overlap!)

What Purpose Does Your Blog Serve?

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Now, this might sound obvious, but you'll have to remember why you're writing a blog in the first place.

For many people, they want to start a blog to make an income. Others, however, want to add a blog feed to their existing website for a little extra information. Still others want to have a blog simply for search engine optimization purposes.

We're not here to tell you why you should have a blog—but you should know why before you begin this project! If you're aiming to make sales through your blog, you're going to have a different approach than you would if you were just using it to post occasional how-to articles and company updates.

So before you get posting, be sure to figure out exactly how your blog fits into your business and marketing plan.

How Much Time Do You Have?

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If you don't have a lot of time to update your blog, you're going to want to keep your posts simple and short. On the other hand, if you have a lot of time to devote to crafting articles, then you may want to write in-depth pieces. You may even want to add beautiful photographs that your viewers will want to share! It all depends on your schedule.

The short, to-the-point articles work great for company updates, brief how-to's, or making a “listicle” that is helpful to your visitors (For example, 3 ways to get snow off your roof without falling and hurting yourself!)

The longer articles work well for those who want to get really in-depth—like photos of those handmade soaps accompanying an in-depth article about the different uses of natural cleaners.

You might choose to mix and match, and that's fine, too. But make sure to realistically look at your schedule before you begin posting. You'll want to stick to the schedule you make, so if you think you're pushing yourself too hard, err on the side of safety and cut back on your posts.

So Now What?

So now that we've talked your ear off about how you can get everything ready for your blog, you can finally take a look at everything you have figured out and decide how you want to write. Your writing voice will probably come naturally once you know who your audience is. Most of us already know what our customers like, and if we don't, we can always ask for feedback to make sure we're doing everything right. Your job now is to make sure that you deliver your own, original, fresh content to your readers when you say you will. Stick to your schedule. Don't mix personal rants with your business updates. If you want to focus on how-to videos, don't throw in an article about why one brand of snow-blower is better than another.

If you're writing for mothers, don't use abrasive language. If you're writing for potential college students, appeal to their hopeful attitudes while assuaging fears of failure. If you're writing for people who test the strength of rebar, don't focus on the difficulties of the job—provide solid statistics and ways to interpret test results.

Finding your writing voice doesn't have to be difficult. It just takes a bit of time and research. And you know what? Once you've been blogging for a while, you will find that you naturally fall into that mindset as you write. Plus, you'll hear from your readers through blog comments, social media updates, or even emails, and they'll give you helpful advice to follow.

The Long and Short of It

To summarize:

  • Learn who your audience is and what they like.
  • Decide which topics will be the most important to your readers.
  • Determine whether your blog will be used to drive sales, supplement your marketing strategy, or simply provide regular company updates to readers.
  • Create a realistic schedule for updates—and stick to it!Use language appropriate to your audience.

Do you have any other tips? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Use Social Media for Customer Service

using-social-media-for-customer-service

We've talked in the past about how a company can use social media to improve business: From keeping your existing customers happy through regular updates and promotional offers, to creating and promoting valuable content to draw in new customers, social media can be one of the most powerful tools in a small business owner's toolbox. But that's just one way to use social media. Drawing in customers isn't the only thing you can do efficiently with it—you can also appease existing customers by using your social media accounts to quickly provide excellent customer service.

In this article, we'll give you a few tips on how you can easily start making use of your social media accounts to provide customer service!

 

Social Media is More Efficient

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When you visit a website for technical assistance or support, you expect to easily find the company's contact information. No one wants to click around and dig to find what they came for. Customers also don't want to fill out some contact form and wait hours (or sometimes even days) before someone finally gets back to them. Nor do they feel like waiting on hold! Nowadays, people want immediacy--in fact, they demand it.

Using social media for customer service allows you to achieve that immediacy.

Of course, the downside to this is that you'll have to have someone available to answer all customer support questions quickly. But if you're serious about providing these services for your customers, there is a simple way to do this—interns, social media managers, and/or smart phone apps. Depending on your budget, you may only be able to afford one of these things, but with a little effort, you can find a way that works for you.

 

Catch Negative Feedback Before it Blows Up

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Another way you can use social media for customer service is to monitor your brand name as well as specific keywords: specifically, for complaints about your brand. If you reach out and respond to these complaints quickly, you may be able to smooth over some of the problems that customers are having, and provide a satisfactory solution.

Ideally, you should be doing this on a daily basis. Your customers expect quick feedback to their complaints, and negative posts can spread faster than you expect them to! By making an effort to assuage these issues at the very beginning, you may even be able to get the person to delete their post. It's worth a shot.

However, you should take note that searching for customer complaints to respond to is really the most effective when the complaint has been made publicly.

What do we mean by that?

Well, if the complaint in question is part of a twitter conversation that seems casual, such as between two friends, it's probably not a great idea to butt in. Many times, people feel like brands monitoring them too closely is bordering on creepy!

So, long story short: Use your best judgement and try to intervene in sticky situations when you think it will do the most good.

 

Use Social Media to Respond to Questions and Requests

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If you see your customers asking you the same questions over and over, you will probably have to make some changes around the office. Whether your customers are unclear about your pricing options or have questions about shipping and delivery, you can use their feedback as a way to bolster your business and make it even better. Ensure that your customers can find the answers to their commonly-asked questions efficiently: Then, you can offer a number for them to call or ask them to connect with you on social media if they have any further suggestions for you, or need any extra clarification.

Think of it like a free, non-invasive way of asking your customers to take a survey. You get all the good feedback at no cost to you!

 

Hopefully, with these tips, you can begin to make some improvements to your customer service strategy. But we're sure there are plenty of other ways you can go about it. Can you think of other ways that you can use social media for customer service? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #23: Managing Your Brand

managing-your-brand-image

You've probably heard the phrases “personal brand” or “brand identity” before. But what exactly do they mean? How does someone put forth a brand identity or a personal brand, and how does it affect your business? In this Back to Basics, we'll talk a bit about managing your personal brand. With a few easy-to-understand tips, you'll know exactly what these terms mean, and how you can leverage the concept of branding to increase your presence online.

Brand Identity

Brand identity is something that you probably already know about—you just aren't aware of it. As an example of brand identity, let's take a look at Coca-Cola.

cocacola

When you think of a company like Coca-Cola, what do you think of? You probably imagine the telltale red and white color scheme, the flowing font, and perhaps even their Christmas ads come to mind.

Well, all of these things are a strategic part of their brand identity. Coca-Cola has done a masterful job at creating an instantly recognizable brand image that people are quick to take notice of in any situation. The company wants to keep your attention, whether you're looking for a vending machine between classes or deciding which sodas to purchase from the supermarket. When you see that red and white, you know it's going to be Coca-Cola, and you're instantly drawn to purchase the product (that is, assuming you're not a Pepsi person!).

Now, all of this doesn't necessarily mean that brand identity consists solely of a color scheme and unique fonts. Logos also play a big part in it. Your perceived company image as a whole is a big part of it, too. Your presence on the internet and in your community play enormous roles. Simply put, when people think of your brand, the images and feelings that pop up are how they perceive your brand identity. You want to create something solid, recognizable, simple, and memorable. You also want to be consistent across all your platforms. We'll get to more of that in a minute. First, we'll talk about your “personal brand.”

What does your personal brand say about you?

Personal Brand

The personal brand is something generally associated with an entrepreneur, but it doesn't necessarily have to be so. Your personal brand can apply to how you manage your employees, as well as how you choose to interact with customers. Basically, your personal brand should prominently display your talents and downplay your weaknesses—customers and employees should feel that you're capable and understanding, rather than unsure or defensive.

Managing your personal brand can be tough, however, especially in online spaces. It's easy for people to slip up and say something they didn't mean to while caught in the turmoil so often found on social media. Your employees might do the same. Why? Because your personal brand often takes a backseat to emotion, especially when things get tough—whether you're responding to a poor review or you're getting just a little too personal with hot-button issues, it's important to remember to keep your cool. You don't want to sacrifice all the hard work you've done on your personal brand only to be embarrassed at comment you made in a time of emotional strain! It's important to keep an eye on how you're coming across online, and to monitor how people are perceiving you. Even the most careful business owners can probably find an area that they need to work on.

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Managing Your Brand in the Community

So now that you know about brand identity and your personal brand, what are some good ways to manage them? We've mentioned the many places you need to include your brand—from your local presence in your community to social media online.

A good way to start is to make a list of your personal values. For example, what do you think is important for you as a business owner? Some examples might include:

  • Providing excellent customer service
  • Responding to customer concerns
  • Providing new and exciting products regularly
  • Delivering news and updates in a timely manner
  • Rewarding valued customers
  • Promoting employees and building workplace morale

There are so many things you could list here. It all depends on what you, as a business owner, feel is the most important thing to you.

You can also talk to your employees about their workplace. Many companies focus too much on the customer and don't bother with assessing their internal company health. When the workplace is toxic or not well run, many people get angry about their jobs. Not only does this result in high turnover (and takes time to train and replace the employees), but the customers can easily end up with the short end of the stick: They might have to wait longer for service or get poor service from uninvested employees. You might think of asking:

  • Do you find your workplace to be comfortable?
  • Do you feel your duties are taken seriously?
  • Is the workplace friendly and accommodating?
  • Do you need help with further training?
  • How do you feel you are doing with your customer service skills?

Et cetera.

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Managing Your Brand Online

Managing your image online is a bit more complex than it is to manage in person. Many times, words that you type online can be misinterpreted—whereas in person, it's easier to clarify your intentions. You can also accidentally post to the wrong social media accounts. You might get too invested in a particularly heated conversation or debate and want to defend your views. You might get a poor review and feel inclined to respond to the reviewer angrily. The immediacy of the internet is what makes all of this so easy—but it's so hard to erase. In fact, it's nearly impossible.

Ask yourself:

  • Am I suited for social media management? If not, do I have the budget to hire someone for assistance?
  • Do I understand the implications of putting negative words and ideas into cyberspace?
  • Do I know how to defend myself without resorting to petty words?
  • Do I have a plan in place should there be a PR crisis?

If you think about these important things before you begin posting, you'll be much more likely to manage your brand in a way that will make your customers happy.

Another aspect of managing your brand online is how you choose to present your business's image. Just like the Coca-Cola example, you need to present an image of professionalism and attentiveness to detail. Here are a few questions you will want to consider if you want to have a healthy brand image:

  • Does my website look professional? If not, do I have it in my budget to redesign it?
  • Are customers easily navigating my website and finding the information they need?
  • Do my social media accounts match the name and color scheme my website?
  • Do I have the dedication to update my social media regularly, and to engage with my customers?
  • Am I using a consistent voice (i.e., serious, casual, technical, etc.) for all of my platforms?

Hopefully this clears up some of the mystery surrounding brand image and management. It's an important thing for business owners to understand, whether you're a Fortune 500 company or a local “mom-and-pop” store. We all need to present ourselves as professionally and openly as possible!

If you can think of any other tips for managing your brand, leave them in the comments below!

Back to Basics #22: Small Business Marketing for Local Storefronts

SMALL BUSINESSMARKETINGFOR LOCAL STORES Here at Internet Local Listings, we focus on helping our small business clients with all of their online marketing needs—social media, websites, and managing local listings for a variety of business directories. This is an important part of your small business marketing plan, because being seen online is integral to your success as a business in the modern marketplace. And, as you know, it can be a bit confusing and time-consuming to handle all this on your own. Having help is a great asset in this case.

However, what we aren't able to help with is the management of your storefront. That might sound obvious, but an important aspect of small business marketing that many people overlook is the effect that a storefront's appearance can have on a customer. You already know that first impressions matter when you're on a job interview or first date, and the same can be said of a customer's first visit to your business—a store's appearance can have tremendous influence over whether a person chooses to return or not. In this article, we'll talk a bit about how appearance can affect a customer's decision to purchase or leave, as well as how keeping your store beautiful can help create more online interactions and engagement.

A Storefront's Appearance Matters.

According to a study done at Retail Customer Experience, more than two-thirds of the surveyed group had avoided a store simply because the storefront was unattractive, outdated, or dirty. Although it might be a bit difficult to make a building look newer than it is (particularly if you share the building with other offices and have no control over renovations), it's always possible to keep the inside of your store looking neat and tidy.

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Image from I Loved New York.com

Keep the Place Smelling Fresh.

Aside from keeping your store's appearance tidy and clean, you're going to want to make sure it smells okay. This might seem as obvious as keeping it clean, but if you're, say, a car mechanic and you're used to the smell of oil, you might not realize how off-putting it can be to some people. While you obviously can't control the smell of the vehicles you're working on in your shop, you can control the smells in the lobby. Brew some fresh coffee. Set up snacks. Keep everything wiped down and clean; keep the doors to the shop closed to prevent extra noise and smells sneaking in. Finally, you may want to use this as an opportunity to promote some great-smelling air fresheners!

This goes for any industry, however. Even if you run a bookstore (and many people love the smell of books), make sure that everything is clean without overdoing it on the “chemical” smell.

The “First Ten Feet” Rule.

According to Rick Segel, author of Retail Business Kit for Dummies, you must offer a price-sensitive incentive for customers to continue shopping within the first 10 feet of the door. For example, this could be a special offer you're running, a promotion for your store's top-selling product, or even a poster board offering information on local community events. Whether you're in the business of selling auto parts or you offer home cleaning services, you can always find some related community events or classes that would appeal to your clientele. Don't be afraid to get creative—have some of your customers asked questions about the availability of a specific product? Have they asked where you could learn more about your business? Maybe they just simply get lost on the way to the bathroom! Do whatever you can to help them feel welcome and at home in your store, and they'll be likely to remain long enough to explore. Plus, you may just earn yourself a repeat customer!

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Maintain Your Store's Fixtures.

Sometimes your store is clean, your employees are welcoming, and the place is set up to draw the customers in—but people just aren't staying. You're confused and you're wondering what could be going wrong.

  • Take a step back from your store. Walk into it again as if it were the first time you'd ever set foot in it. Now, you're probably so used to it that this will be difficult for you, but try really hard to place yourself in your customers' shoes. Here are some key things to look for:
  • Are your displays are neatly arranged? Do they look up-to-date? An old, faded poster or a messy stack of “clearance” products might make your store look disorganized.
  • Do the lights seem too dim or too bright? If they're too dim, it might make your store look unwelcoming or shady—which is, naturally, off-putting to customers. If your lights are too bright, it can make customers feel uncomfortable, too, because who wants to feel like they need to wear sunglasses inside of a store?

Finally, make sure your staff is friendly and welcoming.

Make sure there's always a manager or knowledgeable person available to answer your customer's questions. And of course, ensure everyone looks his or her best to keep with the professional appearance you've worked so hard to instill in your store.

The wonderful part of keeping your storefront clean and inviting is that it will cross over into the online realm. People will be happy to leave you positive reviews. They'll want to follow you on Facebook or Twitter to see what your new specials are. They'll refer friends and family. Remember that this is all part of the bigger picture--getting the word out about your fantastic business!

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Small business marketing is complex. It's a mixture of online finesse as well as a little bit of good, old-fashioned business skills. While the marketing experts at Internet Local Listings can help you with the internet marketing part of the equation, we can only offer tips for the local aspect of it! We hope you've found these helpful!

If you have any tips or suggestions, leave them in the comments below! And be sure to subscribe for regular updates from our small business marketing blog.

Coming Up with Blog Post Ideas

Coming-up-with-blog-post-ideas If you've been keeping up with our blog posts, you know that we strongly advocate starting a blog of your own. The fact is, if you want to see your website ranking higher in search engines, then you need to be contributing regular, fresh, high-quality content to your site to stay in Google's good graces. But it doesn't just help with ranking, of course. Blogging can help you stay caught up in your industry's trends, as well as help you network with other professionals in your field.

But the inevitable problem with writing regular blog posts is that you'll eventually feel like you've talked about everything there is to talk about! After you've hit this roadblock, how do you overcome it? Do you take a break? Hire someone else to write for you?

No! Don't give up just yet!

Coming up with blog post ideas doesn't have to be difficult. With practice, you'll get better at finding topics from almost any resource. But if you need some ideas now, we're here to help. And the best part of all of these ideas is that they're completely free! What more could you ask for?

Think of a question you've had lately.

This might sound obvious, but it can be one of the simplest answers to your topic dilemma! Chances are that you've had a question about something in your industry—even if you're an expert—and you did some research to come up with an answer.

Well, the general rule of thumb is that if you have a question, someone else will too. And the best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else. What better way to do that online than come up with an informative blog post?

Let's try an example. If you're a fencing contractor, maybe you're wondering about the best way to deal with an early frost. (I'm not a fence expert, so if this is really obvious, please forgive me—I'm just trying to illustrate a point!) After doing some research, you come up with an answer. Now why don't you write a blog post about your new-found knowledge and tell your customers how they can prepare for frost, deal with frost, or make sure their fences stay safe throughout the winter? There are a lot of topics you can come up with just by thinking about this one question.

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Have your customers asked you for help with anything?

This is somewhat related to the above point, but it's from a customer's point of view. There's something called the “curse of knowledge” when you're writing your own content. It works like this:

You are the expert on the subject you're writing about. This means that you have an advantage over your audience, especially if you're writing how-tos or informational posts about your area of expertise. This can blind you to your audience's level of understanding. You could be skipping over information you deem obvious, when it isn't obvious at all to your readers. Or you could be using terminology they're not familiar with because you don't even think twice about your verbiage, but they are not industry insiders, and therefore don't know the lingo.

So if your customers have come to you with questions that you think are too simple or dull to warrant a blog post, think again. You might have a great opportunity to really go the extra mile for some of your customers by simply writing a short blog post!

Seasonal events are an easy go-to.

Especially for contractors and retail stores. Are you running a seasonal promotion? Write about it. Do you have ideas why your products and services would make great gifts? Sell yourself in a blog post. Are there spcial weather-related or season-related events that could impact your business? Let your customers know.

Our fencing contractor could write about how to protect different kinds of fences from sleet and snowdrifts. A clothing boutique could talk about how their clothes make great holiday gifts. Even a pool contractor—someone who works primarily during the summer months—could post helpful articles about how to care for a pool in cold weather, or pitch spas and hot tubs instead!

Do a search in Google trends.

See what is going on around the web by doing a Google Trends search. Now, you may not have a particularly interesting or newsworthy profession—maybe you do demolition, for example. (Sorry, demolition experts!) Plug some terms into trends and see if people are searching for your topic. If they are, run a Google search yourself and see what recent news articles pop up. For example, let's run demolition through Google Trends:

demolition-google-trends

As you can see, it's a pretty steadily searched topic. Now let's run a Google search:

demolition2

That red arrow is pointing to a pretty interesting article. Maybe you can get some ideas from that topic and incorporate them into your own post! It's easy to do when you have inspiration that's already being provided by other content creators.

Check Quora.

Quora is a place where people go to ask questions, and then other Quora users will answer these questions. Just like with Google Trends, you can find things people are asking about. This doesn't mean you have to answer the questions (unless you'd like to!), but you can use these queries as a way to come up with blog posts. Oftentimes, users will be asking simple questions that you, as an expert, know the answers to. By reading through the existing questions, you'll know what people are wondering about without having to conduct a survey or tally up customer questions.

All of these ideas are completely free and easy to do. Even if you're not super blog-savvy, you can certainly improve your content creation by taking the time to learn a few of these tricks. After all, coming up with blog post ideas shouldn't be a terrible chore!

We hope these tips have been helpful for you and wish you luck with your blogging endeavors! If you have any other ways of coming up with topics, please let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #19: Digital Marketing for the Holidays

digital-marketing-for-the-holidays Ahh, you knew something like this was coming up soon. It's October, which means that autumn decorations have been on the shelves since the 4th of July clearance rack cleared out (for Americans, anyway). Soon, you'll see Thanksgiving decorations, and then come the December holidays—it's all going to be Christmas and Hanukkah themes until it's almost 2015. And let's not forget about Black Friday and Cyber Monday...

During these next few months, you're going to see a lot of expensive marketing campaigns from big name companies. You'll see sales events, promotional deals, and all sorts of bundles and shipping specials and limited-time releases that your head might feel like its spinning.

And, as a small business owner, you might feel pressured to come up with some campaigns of your own.

But you don't have millions in your budget. And you don't have a lot of time to put something together. So how can you go about digital marketing for the holidays if you own a small business?

lady-oven

1. Make a charitable donation. This is probably our favorite suggestion because it really helps everyone! You get to help others and draw attention to a great cause, as well as draw positive attention to your business.

Whether you choose to donate a small sum of cash or you volunteer your time at a local charity, these types of gestures speak volumes. Make sure it's something that you can get everyone involved with—your team can come up with great ways to make sure it's an event that won't soon be forgotten. But you also can't forget to let your clients and customers know that you're taking part in this special occasion. Be sure to send out a card or email and let everyone know that you're participating in a special charity event, and that your clients are welcome to participate, too!

2. Decorate your social media sites. Another cheap way to get everyone into the holiday spirit! Change your banners, headers, and color themes to reflect the holiday of your choice. You can even change your logo by adding a little Jack-O-Lantern for Halloween or a cornucopia for Thanksgiving. The best part is that you can reuse these again next year—a great return on your very small investment. And when you're finished? Simply replace the logo with your usual fare and you're good to go.

holiday-store

3. Send out special holiday offers via email. This is one that you'll have to be careful with—you don't want to appear as if you're spamming, after all—but sending out special coupons or offers to customers who subscribe to your newsletter can be particularly effective. Make an announcement on your site. Say something like “only subscribers will receive a special deal via email, and they can look forward to receiving it just in time for the holidays.” The incentive can be whatever you want it to be—whether it's a coupon, a special one-of-a-kind item, or a free service. Whatever you can come up with!

4. Start thinking of gift suggestions. People choose different times to do their holiday shopping. While some wait until the last minute (right now would be a good time to capitalize on the Halloween costumes or decorations!), others do so months ahead of time (these people are already keeping an eye out for Christmas deals). You will want to keep your social media sites and blog updated with all the latest deals that would appeal to these shoppers.

5. Make yourself stand out from the crowd. We mentioned at the beginning of the article that you don't have the budget or resources to compete with the big companies. But you can make up for what you lack in budget with quality services.

For example, you're probably a small, local store. You can offer personalized attention to each and every client. Can a big-name store do that? No, they can't. You can also remind people that when they support your business, they're supporting local businesses and real people who contribute to the community. There are so many people looking to switch to buying local now (and sometimes exclusively), so this is a great way to let them know that you truly appreciate their business. If you have years of experience, highlight that. If you have a positive track record for customer satisfaction, mention it. And if you have a great story about how you came to build your business in your town, people will love to hear it. It's all about aligning yourself with the “big guys” in ways that highlight your strengths—not your lack of financial resources.

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By thinking a bit on the creative side, you can come up with some great ideas for digital marketing for the holidays—even if you're a small business without much revenue.

Do you have any other suggestions? Leave them in the comments below.

Is It Unethical to Purchase Reviews and Endorsements?

company-reviews If you've ever wondered where to grab dinner, which doctor to choose, or which stores carry the best kind of artisan bookends, you've probably done a Google search. And, depending on which results show up, you'll see that there are at least a few local businesses with stars next to their names—the stars representing ratings and reviews.

In the past, we've talked about encouraging customers to leave reviews and why reviews are so important to your business. But lately, it seems there's been a lot of discussion surrounding this topic—is it wrong to offer an incentive for reviews? Should you ever pay for reviews? Should you be able to filter your reviews so that mostly positive ones show up?

Well, in this post we'd like to clarify a few things and hopefully answer some of these questions once and for all. Of course, this is simply our take on the subject—opinions on the ethicality of these subjects definitely wavers.

The Incentive

Some people think it's unethical to offer an incentive for a review. Just look at what happened to VIP Deals. An Amazon Marketplace seller, VIP Deals had been compensating customers when they submitted positive reviews. The incentive was a full refund for Kindle cases.

Now, a full refund may be a bit over the top. But we don't see anything wrong with offering your customers a little extra something for participating.

Yes, offering an incentive—whether a 10% off coupon for any old review or a full refund for a positive review—can sway reviewers. Even if you don't “have” to leave a positive review, you may feel inclined to do so to get the reward.

So we can see where the line gets a bit fuzzy. But if you want to encourage customers to leave you reviews and do so in an ethical way, simply post a sign in your store or send out emails to your subscribers and ask them politely to help you out with a review. If you really want to offer an incentive, something small like a coupon or your photo on a happy customer collage certainly can't be construed as manipulative or misleading.

The Purchased Review

This is a pretty black-and-white issue for most people: Purchasing reviews is seen as disingenuous. Companies that offer anywhere from $5-200 to leave a positive review seem desperate at best, and completely untrustworthy at worst.

Yelp has cracked down on this, and hard. This article is two years old now, and Yelp has worked hard to improve their algorithm to uncover more problem reviews. And it's worked—many of the reviews that were actually bogus have been hidden away in an inconspicuous spot on the page (behind a link at the very bottom of the page, where you have to click to get the rest of the reviews to even show up—and they're printed in gray, meaning they're not counted toward the overall rating).

But the unfortunate part of this is that sometimes these reviews are genuine, and still get flagged as “not recommended”. This means that, even if you avoid purchasing reviews, sometimes your happy customers will oblige you with a kind review, and their words won't even end up being seen. This isn't incredibly common, but because of the rocky history of review purchasing, it has become an unfortunate problem.

The bottom line? Don't purchase reviews. They will be removed, you will be punished or banned from the site, and it can only result in your own reputation being harmed.

The Retaliatory Review

Some companies go as far as to have their customers leave nasty reviews on competitors' sites, while rating their own products highly so that they appear to be the better choice.

Now, obviously we all think our products are the best. And we strive to provide the best customer experience possible. We don't want to think that someone else out there could be stealing our potential customers.

So for some reason, unscrupulous business owners have paid people to go out and leave these exceedingly negative reviews. And guess what? Places like Amazon and Yelp have figured out how to discover whether you've actually purchased the product you're reviewing or not. For example, on Amazon.com, reviews will say something like “verified purchase”. This way, a customer can easily see who has actually purchased the product and who hasn't.

If you've been thinking of sending out the minions to make your competitors look bad in comparison to your awesomeness, you'd better think again. This will backfire on you.

So what's a company to do?

According to the LA Times, very few customers write reviews. In fact, for one case study, fewer than 2% of customers wrote reviews.

It's all in your judgment—you can offer a small incentive for customers who review you, and you can make sure that your politely-worded request is visible on your website, social media sites, and any advertising that you do—as well as in your store, if you have a storefront. There's nothing wrong with encouraging reviews. It's when you start paying for them, lying about your competitors, or offering incentives worth far too much money (basically, you're paying for the reviews at this point), that you have a problem.

Don't risk your reputation. Keep your reviews honest, and it'll pay off.

Comments or thoughts you'd like to share? Put them in the comments below!

Back to Basics #18: When Should You Automate Updates?

scheduling-updates We've talked before about how you can take a load off your shoulders by scheduling your social media and blog updates. But, as with any automated services, there's a point where you need to draw the line. Your followers and fans don't want to interact with a robot, after all—they're there because they enjoy what YOU have to offer.

So how do you know when to automate your blog posts and social media updates, and when to interact with your fans?

Automate for hours you aren't awake.

Sure, it's not the perfect time to post at 3 am on Twitter—not for everyone, anyway. But many businesses have customers who reside on the other side of the pond—and they're awake during those hours. So it's a good idea to schedule a few tweets to go out when those other eyes will fall on your page. As for platforms like Facebook and Google+, it's best to figure out when you get the most interaction. For many people, the best hours are earlier in the day, local time. If this is the case, you don't necessarily have to automate your updates. However, you might choose to do so if you know you're going to be forgetful about it!

Going to be busy or out of town all weekend? Automate your updates.

Of course it's ideal that you be around to interact with your fans and followers no matter how busy you are. But the reality of life is that we have to unplug every once in a while.

But just because you're gone doesn't mean that you can't still engage your audience. By scheduling a few posts to pop out when you're away, your fans will still be able to see what you're up to, the content you want to share with them, and products that they might want to buy.

Keep a balance of 80/20: 80% promoting other people, 20% marketing your own products.

People don't like to see a constant stream of advertisements coming from the accounts they choose to follow. If the only updates you ever offer are hard sales pitches, you'll find that your social media presence and blog subscriptions are going to go nowhere fast. A good way to keep this balance is to schedule some retweets or shares during the day. This way you can be sure that you're still contributing to discussions without coming off as overly sales-y.

Reuse old posts—schedule them to pop out at some time in the future.

What do you do with old blog posts? Well, as long as the content is “evergreen” (meaning that you could read it three years from now and it'd still be helpful), you can schedule the posts to pop out in the future.

For example, let's say you write an article about cleaning your gutters yourself. This is probably the most useful in the fall, but that's not to say it can't be helpful at other times of the year! Posting it once every few months across your social networks can help drive traffic back to your site. By scheduling them in advance, you won't have to think too much about it, or try to remember a few months down the road. It'll already be ready for you!

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When should you NOT automate your updates?

  • When dealing with customer service--people want responses from humans, not robots.
  • When you have a fan or follower trying to get an answer to a specific question. For example, “How long is your sale going to be on?” shouldn't elicit a response based on the fact that a person contacted you (i.e., “thanks for connecting!”), or worse—radio silence.
  • During a time of national crisis. Too many brands have forgotten to take off their scheduled tweets or updates during an unexpected crisis, and as a result, they came across as insensitive—even callous. Even if your company's services have nothing to do with the crisis at hand, sometimes it's just best to stay silent for a little while.
  • When someone follows you (this is primarily geared toward Twitter users). When you follow someone on Twitter and they send you an automated direct message welcoming you (or asking you to buy something), how does it make you feel? Annoyed? Yeah, it probably doesn't really make you want to interact with the person. So don't do this to your followers. Send a personal greeting if you like, but whatever you do, don't spam them.

What do you think? Do you automate your posts? When should someone avoid scheduling updates? Let us know in the comments below!

Back to Basics #16: 5 Ideas for Your Marketing Strategy

digital-marketing-icons

In our Back to Basics series, we’ve covered a wide range of topics, from the basics of SEO to implementing a few reliable social media strategies. But what if you’re looking for more ideas for your digital marketing strategy? What if you want to go above and beyond social media marketing? In this post, we’ll give you five great ways you can improve your digital marketing strategy without focusing solely on social media and local listings. As always, we try to supply helpful and affordable suggestions while keeping the small business owner in mind.

1. Build an app.

You know the line: “There’s an app for that!” Well, there might not be an app for that. There are plenty of ways small businesses can get in on the app craze. If you run your own restaurant, you can build an app to let customers place an order using their phones or tablets. You can offer periodic deals that only app subscribers can access. There are plenty of ways to get creative. And the best part is that now that apps are so popular, you can get one built on the cheap. Check out freelancing sites such as elance.com or fiverr.com to find prospective contractors!

2. Migrate to mobile-compatible platforms.

We can’t stress it enough: If you’re not mobile compatible, you’re falling behind the times. A lot of people are searching for small, local businesses using their phones. They want access to immediate information about the products and services they seek: Business hours, phone number, website, menu (if you’re a restaurant, obviously), and of course the street address. Many look for Yelp ratings or BBB listings. All of this can be found through a quick local search. Make sure that all of your website’s information is up to date and displays correctly on mobile phone screens as well as tablets. You can hire a designer to make sure that your site looks flawless on all devices, or you can sign up for a free site at squarespace.com or weebly.com and choose layouts that are mobile-friendly. (Or, Internet Local Listings offers a free website with our starter package!)

3. Focus on creating good content.

If you haven’t noticed already, social media visibility is becoming increasingly dependent on paid-for advertising. You want more people to find you on Facebook? Be prepared to spend money advertising. You want more people to retweet you? You’ll have to purchase promoted tweets. According to aforbes.com article, it’s only going to get worse. The monetization of social media is inevitable—with the amount of people using the services, companies are eager to shell out money in hopes of attracting more customers.

Of course, this unfairly discriminates against small business owners. Without the budget to push their ads out there, they get buried under the noise of larger corporations. The way around this? Start and regularly update a blog.

Google is always looking for great content. It helps you rank better and it helps keep visitors interested in your site. You’ll never have to pay to write your own thoughts down in a virtual “journal.” So get started with a free blogging platform such as Wordpress or Blogger and make sure that your voice is still being heard amongst the never-ending calls for you to spend money on advertising.

4. Create a podcast.

You might be raising your eyebrow at this one. You probably don’t know how to make a podcast, and that’s okay—not a lot of people do. But that’s precisely why it can put you ahead of the curve. Small business owners can get in on the podcasting craze and reach an audience that their competitors can’t. Run a yoga studio? Talk about the health benefits of yoga, interview students who have seen great health benefits, and give listeners a weekly yoga challenge. Are you an electrician? Talk to your listeners about seasonal electrical tips, how to save money on electrical bills, and how to use your existing décor to spruce up your interior decorating. There are plenty of things you can talk about in a podcast. Make a list of things you are interested in that relate to your field or industry. Then check out sites like RawVoice or Wizzard to get ideas and find out more about podcasting.

5. Hire Digital Marketing for Small Business.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that search engine optimization still delivers one of the highest returns on your monetary investment. Take a look at Moz’s handy-dandy chart here and see which things small businesses could handle easily on their own vs the amount of time that needs to be invested. You’ll immediately notice that SEO is affordable and the results are worthwhile. However, you’ll also see that it requires a large time investment and an expert to help you navigate the subtleties that come with the SEO process. Digital marketing doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, though—you can check out our plans and pricing to see which works the best with your budget and long-term goals.

 

Is there a digital marketing strategy that you would recommend to a small business owner? Leave it in the comments below!

How to Stay Motivated When You’re Feeling Discouraged

be-awesome-today Photo courtesy of Jessismoreblog.com

We’ve all been there: You’ve been working hard and trying to remain positive. You’ve been diligently maintaining your blog or vigilantly replying to customer reviews and encouraging engagement on social media.

But growth has been slow.

And one day, you wake up, and it hits you: You’re tired. You’re frustrated. You’re completely discouraged and don’t know what to do.

How to stay motivated when you’re feeling sad

Everyone is motivated by different things. Some people like watching happy movies. Some people look up inspirational quotes and pin them on their office walls. Still others turn to family and friends to support them during tough times. These are all great ways to stay motivated—personal connection and fostering positive feelings are some of the most basic human needs. Fulfilling these needs tends to put you back in the frame of mind to concentrate on your goals again.

But it doesn’t necessarily erase or push away those bad thoughts. And it certainly doesn’t make you feel like blogging or marketing again. Here are a few things you can consider to help you get back into the right frame of mind to take steps forward once more.

kitty-reading-a-book

Read.

Perhaps you’ve been in the wrong frame of mind for a while. Maybe your marketing strategy isn’t panning out because there’s an element to the unique formula for your success that’s missing.

Picking up a book relating to your problem can do just the trick. An author might tell a story about when they were discouraged and how they overcame it. They more than likely have some good advice to consider. And while this is all anecdotal evidence, it’s still worth it to read and consider what others have to say. Reading allows you to reframe discouragement into a fresh new view on the problem.

Write.

So you’re not a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. That’s okay. Sitting down and making a list counts as writing, as does writing an entire blog post. Something as simple as starting with “What frustrates me right now” and just free-writing your feelings can help you sort out your thoughts. Many people find writing to be cathartic, even if they don’t bother to publish their writings, or never even show anyone! This is what the point of a diary is, after all. But it can be useful for anyone, not just pre-teen girls.

Re-visit great times in your company’s history.

Did you host a BBQ once that was a great success? Did you hold a promotional event where a lot of customers showed up to your store and left happy? Can you remember how you felt when you first cut the ribbon at your store’s grand opening? Do you still have that first dollar you earned framed on the wall?

All of these things can evoke a positive emotion in you. It helps you remember that your hard work does pay off. You’ve had successes and you’ve had failures. You’ve had ups and downs. That’s okay—everyone does. Celebrate the times you’ve felt truly proud of your business and your successes, and soon you’ll remember why you do this in the first place. It’s a labor of love!

overcoming-failures

Ask yourself what you’ve learned from your failures.

It is painful to think of the times we’ve failed: We released a product that fell flat. No one responded to our call for reviews. Worse, a customer lambasted you in a public forum despite you trying your hardest to please them, and you just can’t get them to change their mind or give you a second chance.

Well, you can’t please everyone. And there is no guaranteed formula for success when it comes to marketing.

But all successful people take their failures and turn them into a positive experience. By looking at them as learning opportunities, they can understand where they went wrong and learn to view it as a way to weed out the ideas and strategies that don’t work. Here’s a great quote from Thomas Jefferson to remember when you’re trying to learn how to value your less-than-successful endeavors:

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”

Now that’s a great way to motivate yourself when you’re feeling down!

Find support forums online.

This one probably goes hand-in-hand with seeking support from family and friends, but it has the extra advantage in that it offers support in an anonymous space with unbiased people and advice.

Finding a small business support group can be immensely helpful for discouraged business owners. You can share stories with others and get advice on how to get through tough times. You won’t feel like they “have to” say these things (like you might when talking to your mother, friends, or spouse) and you’re getting advice from people who truly understand what you’re going through. This can provide a different perspective that you can use to bolster your confidence once again.

We hope you’ve found this at least the tiniest bit helpful! If you have any suggestions for how to deal with discouragement, please leave them in the comments below.

7 Helpful Social Media Management Tools for Small Businesses

busy-business-owner When you own your own business, it is time-consuming enough to try to manage all of your daily tasks—but you know you have to get them done if you want to be successful.

You probably also know that nowadays, you have to be on social media if you want to bring in new business. But what if you simply don’t have the time to keep up with everything? What if you’ve tried and tried, and still, you are spending too much time doing repetitive tasks which take away from your normal schedule?

In this post, we’ll give you 7 tools that you can use to help automate and better organize your social media updates. Most of these are useful for almost any social media site you can think of, but several focus specifically on Twitter. Why? Because Twitter demands more time and attention to be effective than do sites such as Facebook, Google Plus, or LinkedIn. If you’d like to know more about scheduling updates, check out our post on how to improve your social media strategy.

With that being said, let’s dive in and start with one of our absolute favorites: BufferApp.

1. BufferApp

bufferapp

BufferApp is a free app that you can install on your phone or browser. With just the click of a button, you can “queue” tweets, Facebook and G+ posts, and LinkedIn and App.net updates. With the free version of Buffer, you can queue up to 10 updates at a time across each social network, and you can choose to have them appear whenever you like. For example, if you have a promotional event coming up and you want to post an update a week before the event, once two days before, and once the day of, you can schedule the posts to pop out at those specific times. But that doesn’t mean you can only schedule one update a day, of course—if you want to schedule ten tweets in a day, you can! Plus, you can save and rearrange schedules as needed. And if your updates get out of order, you can drag and drop them into position. It’s easy and intuitive, so it’s perfect for the small business owner who doesn’t have much time to dedicate to updates.

Another great feature of BufferApp is the curated content. If you’re running low on ideas, Buffer features 25 shareable updates that you can add to your queue. From quotes and inspirational articles, to posts about improving your business, you can find tons of interesting things here without having to scour the web.

Bonus: With the “Awesome” plan, you get a lot more versatility with your posts. You can have multiple schedules running—for example, run one Twitter schedule for the weekdays and one for the weekend—and you can queue many more posts at once, saving you time for the entire month if you so choose. Analytics is also available to Awesome plan subscribers, so you can easily see what times your customers are responding to posts, how many people are engaging, and who is sharing your updates.

Explore BufferApp’s features here: https://bufferapp.com/

2. HootSuite

hootsuite

Similar to Buffer, HootSuite offers you the ability to schedule updates. You can even auto-schedule messages between chosen times. But there’s a downside—unlike Buffer, which allows you to schedule up to 10 updates at once with the free version, HootSuite’s free account only allows you to schedule one update at a time.

But if you’re willing to pay $9.99 a month for the “Pro” plan, HootSuite gets way more in-depth than BufferApp does.

For starters, if you subscribe to the Pro plan, you can manage 35 social media profiles—far beyond BufferApp’s “big five”. You can also schedule up to 350 updates at a time. Furthermore, you get advanced analytics reports telling you who is sharing your updates and when, and you also get training from “HootSuite University” to help you understand all of the features that HootSuite offers.

But if you’re on a small budget and only want the free version, don’t worry—you still get lots of flexibility. Import up to 2 RSS feeds to capture and publish content from your blog or other blogs. Connect your social media profiles and organize them into tabs to sift through the important information you want in seconds. And of course you’ll be able to see basic statistics such as retweets, mentions, likes, plus ones, etc.

Check out HootSuite's plans here: https://hootsuite.com/

3. RavenTools

raventools

RavenTools is a godsend for companies that want everything from analytics to social media all under one convenient dashboard. Raven is different than the previously mentioned apps, because it works on all site data (not just social media) behind the scenes and presents it to you in graphs, reports, or emails—whatever you'd like. For example, you can set up your campaign to include reports compiled from your Google analytics data, or you can do keyword research to see which keywords you should be using in your advertising campaigns. Raven also helps you send out press releases though PRWire, manage your blog posts, and set up AdWords. When you've decided on all the information you'd like, Raven can run a report and deliver it to you.

And what if all of these features don't really interest you?

No worries. Like all of the other tools mentioned so far, Raven can schedule updates for social media accounts; however, it is presently limited only to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

The downside to Raven is that it costs money from the get-go--$99 a month for the Pro package. So if you're looking for something powerful and all-encompassing, Raven's well worth the money. But if you need something simple, you would probably be better off looking elsewhere.

You can find more information on RavenTools here: http://www.raventools.com/

4. Social Oomph

socialoomph

With Social Oomph, you can manage unlimited Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plurk, and App.net accounts from one dashboard. Social Oomph probably has some of the most in-depth features of any social media management system. For example, if you sign up for a free account, you can tweet up to 12 times in 60 minutes, but if you pay for the “Pro” package, you'll be able to tweet as often as you like. You can also set up your Twitter account to auto-curate people you follow into your lists, find friends based on keywords, and deny spambot follow requests. You can save and reuse drafts of all your social media posts (not just Twitter)—so if you have something you'd like to post about on a regular basis, Social Oomph has you covered.

You can many get bonus features by signing up for the “Professional” package, with a number of billing options to choose from. You can also purchase certain upgrades for only Twitter if you need more tweeting versatility, but are fine with the free options already provided for Facebook, LinkedIn, Plurk, and App.net.

We can't list everything Social Oomph does here, so check out their site and take a look for yourself: https://www.socialoomph.com/

5. Tweepi

tweepi

Tweepi does many of the things Social Oomph does, but it's used purely for Twitter accounts. One of the handiest features that Tweepi offers its subscribers is the follow en-masse option, as well as the “date unfollowed” feature. For example, you can search for people to follow by keyword, and Tweepi will bring up a list of people you might be interested in. If you like, you can select everyone on the page and follow them simultaneously. You can also unfollow them simultaneously if you need to. Tweepi diligently tracks when you've followed and unfollowed Twitter users so that you don't accidentally ditch someone or re-follow someone you've unfollowed in the past. This is particularly handy when you see that you've followed someone a month ago and they're still not following you back. Time to unfollow that user!

Tweepi also allows you to look at other Twitter users' lists and follow the users on that list. Or you can check out who follows one of your idols and grab those accounts. You can also purge people who haven't tweeted in a long time. You can even view a list of people who are following you, but you aren't following back.

All of this is available with the “Pro” account for $14.99 a month, or you can use the basic package for free. You will have limited options with the basic account, though, and to be honest, it's not really worth using for free when you compare it to something like Social Oomph. You also can't schedule updates—Tweepi is solely for finding and purging people from your account. But don't underestimate its power in that regard: it is very helpful if you want to grow your following quickly.

You can find out more about Tweepi's features here: http://tweepi.com/

6. If This, Then That

 

iftt

If This, Then That is far too versatile to cover in such a short section, but we'll do our best to show you how exciting it can be. And once you start using it, you'll wish you had known about it sooner.

The idea behind this app is that you can set up one event to trigger another. For example, every time you post a picture to Instagram, you could have the photo automatically sent to your Dropbox account for a family member to download later. You could set up your phone to send you a weather report once you've entered a specific location. You can even send yourself wake-up calls.

For social media management, you can cross-post to multiple social media platforms at once. Or you could even combine ITTT with BufferApp and feed your RSS through Buffer to make sur that you tweet without spamming. There are so many things you can do... and it's all free.

The downside to ITTT is that it's not meant to queue up multiple social media updates. This is meant to help organize your daily tasks and simplify your life—something a small business owner can surely appreciate.

Find out more about all of the cool recipes you can make here: https://iftt.com/

7. Dlvr.it

dlvrit

Dlvr.it is similar to IFTT in that you can set up “recipes” for one event to trigger another. For example, you can set up your RSS feed to go automatically to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and more. You can also manually schedule posts if you'd prefer to do it from Dlvr.it's dashboard. It's a way to syndicate your content in a number of areas with very little effort.

Dlvr.it is not really meant to schedule updates. Again, it's meant to simplify and organize your life. All you have to do is plug in your RSS feed and your new stories will pop out on a variety of social media platforms. You don't even have to think about it. Plus, you'll get analytics and geographic data to see if your posts are drawing in your audience.

As with all of the other services we've covered in this article, Dlvr.it is more useful when you pay for the “Ultimate” or “Enterprise” plans. Although it's versatile on its own with the “Pro” plan, you'll get faster feed updates with more inputs if you upgrade.

Check out dlvr.it's features here: https://dlvr.it/

There are so many reasons that small business owners should consider automating updates: to save time, to ensure a regular update schedule, and to keep your profiles active. But with this being said, you need to remember that this will never take the place of interacting with your customers. Engagement is an integral part of your social media marketing strategy.

Can you think of any other apps that you like using? Let us know in the comments!

Back to Basics #15: Do it Like a Small Business SEO Company

small business team seo company By now, you’ve probably read a number of articles about how you, as a small business owner, can learn how to do SEO to benefit your own business. You may have read about how important it is to be on Twitter or Facebook; you probably saw studies claiming that a specific keyword density is key to ranking well; you may even have considered buying links to get more traffic.

It can all be confusing. It can be expensive. And honestly? It sometimes doesn’t seem like it’s worth the effort, does it?

Well, we’re here to help you out. In this post, we’ll show you five easy ways you can get involved with your company’s marketing campaign just like a small business SEO company would do. With these tips, you’ll begin to see results that definitely pay off.

plagiarism comic

Image courtesy of: Olive Harvey College Library Guides

1. Make friends with Copyscape. Are you writing your own content? Have you tried optimizing your front page or started a blog? You'll definitely want to look into using Copyscape. For no cost, you can enter your site's address and Copyscape will scan the web looking for plagiarized text. If your blog or site content have indeed been plagiarized, it can hurt your rankings. Furthermore, if you're using references in your writing, you might want to run your text through Copyscape. The last thing you need is to be blamed for plagiarism from your end. Make sure your content is 100% original all across the board, and you'll be better off for it.

2. Make content easily shareable. When people read an article and enjoy it, they immediately look for the “share” button. They want to tell their family and friends about the great thing they've just read. It would follow, then, that if you don't include sharable links at the end of your post, you've just potentially cost yourself thousands of views. Be sure to make it easy for your visitors to share your content to all the most popular social media platforms, and you'll notice that your content will be shared more frequently. If you need help figuring out how to set this up, there are plenty of tutorials around the internet as well as easy-to-install plug-ins for blogging software such as Wordpress.

3. Get your customers involved through reviews. We've written about this in the past, but it's so important that we feel we should reiterate here: your customers need to be involved with your company through reviews. There's a fine line between asking and encouraging your customers to participate willingly, and pushing your wishes in their faces aggressively. You can encourage customers to leave reviews by putting a sign up in your store, offering a coupon as compensation, or even provide a free service with proof of a positive review. Reviews not only help people searching for your services find your store, they also help you stand out in the crowd. Searchers nowadays rely on sites such as Yelp to help them make decisions about which business they want to give their money to. Don't let this opportunity slip through the cracks—you'll be surprised at how much good reviews can help.

pay per click advertising for small businesses

4. Consider PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. If you're just getting your business off the ground, we'll be honest: It can take some time for Google to start picking it up and ranking it. But that doesn't mean that you can't make the most of the time in between. You can purchase ads from Google for only a few dollars a day and they'll appear alongside search results related to your keywords, helping guide visitors to your site. Google ads allow you to get the word out about your site in ways that organic ranking can't; at least not in the beginning. Check out Google's free keyword planner to take a look at keyword suggestions you can use in your ad campaigns.

5. Try your hand at video advertising. A big part of advertising nowadays is visual. Think about it: If you're on Facebook or Twitter, you probably share images and videos all the time! That's why it's important that you get into the habit of creating media content for your company's social media sites. People are much more likely to share media than they are to read through a “wall of text”. Furthermore, video advertising helps a lot with SEO and ranking. Google gets strong ranking signals from videos and the keywords used in them. Even if you don't have a big media budget, you can still put together helpful “how-to” videos or showcase happy customers recommending your products and services.

You can do it like the SEO companies!

With these tips, you can easily dip your toes into the waters of advertising and marketing. It might sound cliché, but if you don't start small, it'll be too much for you to manage all at once and you'll feel as if you're drowning. You can do it like the small business SEO company professionals by trying these few simple tips! And as always, if you need help and advice, Internet Local Listings is here to help. We offer everything from business listings to custom content to personalized websites! Visit us here for more information.

Any other tips you can think of that we missed? Let us know!

Back to Basics #11: 5 Small Business Marketing Ideas Anyone Can Do

small business marketing ideas Small business marketing is a tricky thing to get the hang of: Small business owners often struggle knowing when or how often to post updates on social media; what to post about or how to gather content ideas; or even when to start blogging or how to connect with potential readers. It can be overwhelming, to be sure, especially when you are strapped for time and have a limited budget. So in this article, we’re going to talk a bit about a few small business marketing ideas that anyone can do easily and cheaply—whether you’re completely new to online advertising or you’ve been trying your hand at it for a while and just aren’t seeing the results that you want.

  1. Develop a PR Strategy. As this article from Entrepreneur suggests, it’s important for all companies, particularly small businesses, to make sure that they have a PR strategy in place. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to have a large budget or spend a ton of time on it—in fact, small businesses can implement great PR campaigns into their social media strategies. Take the Kleenex example cited in the article: In 2011, Kleenex searched Facebook to find fifty people who posted about being sick. After getting into contact with friends and family members, they sent care packages to the ailing cold-sufferers. The recipients were so pleased that they posted happy pictures of their care packages. Great PR and usage of social media in one shot—and a very cheap maneuver.
  2. Start a podcast. Have you ever subscribed to a podcast? They’re great to listen to on the commute to work or in the morning while getting ready to head out for the day. And they’re also easy to make! As Inc.com suggests, you might want to try interviewing other business owners for their point of view on marketing or advertising. Or maybe you’d like to put together a podcast series of how-to’s—for example, plumbers or electrical contractors do very well with these types of podcasts. You can teach people how to do things they want to learn more about, while still drawing attention to your company. It’s a win-win situation!
  3. Forget advertising like the big brand names. While it’s perfectly fine to draw inspiration from popular advertising campaigns, you have to remember who the big companies are marketing to. They can reach far more people than you are able to, and they have the budget to pull it off. Don’t waste your time trying to dissect everything a large company does---instead, focus on how you can connect with your local customers in the best way possible. You could try hosting a photo captioning contest on Facebook where the winner gets a coupon. You could try running a “special offer” for a day if one of your tweets gets 50 retweets. Maybe sending out a postcard to your loyal customers is a good idea. Think about these types of marketing techniques and choose one that works for you.
  4. Networking with other small business owners. Nowadays, you can easily network online through sites such as LinkedIn. But nothing will ever replace the face-to-face value of networking in person. To meet other people in your industry, attend local seminars. Offer to speak at colleges or other events. If there are conventions in your area, look into speaking on a panel—or if not speaking, attend and ask questions. You could even try going to a book club or submit a press release to your local newspaper. By connecting with other small business owners, you’ll be able to better navigate the local scene and make yourself a go-to brand name in the town.
  5. Claim your online listings. Believe it or not, your business could already be listed on places like Google and Bing. The problem is that you haven’t claimed the listings yet. By claiming your own listings, you let your customers know that you exist, and you provide consistent information so that no matter which search engine they use to find you, your information will always be correct. Furthermore, claiming listings helps with online rankings, and once you are listed consistently across the internet, you’ll see more traffic being driven to your site!

Want more information on small business marketing ideas? Subscribe to our posts via email, or you can also like us on Facebook, follow Follow @InternetListing on Twitter and Pinterest, and circle us on Google Plus! Let us know how Internet Local Listings can best assist you with your small business marketing needs!

Watch a video about this topic and share with your followers!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsWi7OXDW1Y]

Following Your Website’s Ranking Progress

Following Your Website’s Ranking Progress If you’ve put the time and effort into SEO practices such as blogging, listing your store in directories, and promoting your store on social media, then you know how important it is to keep track of your progress. You need to see if your efforts are paying off, after all—why waste energy and perhaps even money if you don’t see any positive results? There are a lot of reasons to keep track of ranking data, but if for nothing else, you'll want to know to make sure that your marketing campaign is going in the right direction.

So, with this in mind, what is the best way to follow your website’s ranking progress? In this post, we’ll go over a few ways you can do this without knowing a lot about SEO, coding, or even marketing.

  1. Google Analytics. You can sign up for a free account with Google Analytics and have most of the hard work taken care of for you. All you have to do is insert a simple code into the “header” section of your website and Google will begin tracking all the visitors! You can see where they’re coming from, how long they’re spending on your site, which pages they’re looking at, and more. But perhaps the most valuable thing in terms of rank checking is being able see which keywords clients are using to find you. And if you’re paying for ads, Google Analytics will also show you which paid keywords are helping people find you. This is simple, cost-free, and a very powerful way of keeping track of ranking data.
  2. Search and find method. If you’re not as technically inclined, you can definitely do a simple search and see if your site is pulled up. Now, this is inferior to using something like Google Analytics because you will have to type in every keyword that you want to check. Analytics, on the other hand, might find an obscure keyword or phrase that searchers are using to find you—ones you may never have thought of. But if you're still set on searching for terms on your own, then take comfort in the fact that it’s possible to check choice keyword rankings simply by Googling and seeing if your site appears. It’s best to then keep track of your progress by searching once every two weeks or so and logging position in an Excel spreadsheet.
  3. Find a reliable page where you can download or utilize a rank checker. Sites like moz.com and alexa.com allow you to check your rank with their online tools. It’s easy to use them—simply type in your URL and view your results. The only downside to this is that to get the in-depth stats that you’re looking for, you’ll have to pay. With Moz, it’s free for 30 days, and then $99 a month; Alexa also offers a free 30-day trial with tiered plans available after the trial ends, starting at $9.99 a month for the basic package and going up to $799 a month for the most advanced package.
  4. Talk to a web developer. If you want the best results but you don’t know how to use Google Analytics, and don’t want to pay for an extra service such as Moz or Alexa, your best option is to talk to your web developer. A good web developer can set up your Google Analytics account for you and show you how to follow your website’s ranking progress, or they can prepare special reports for you. This is part of a web developer’s job, so if you’re already paying for someone to handle the coding for your site, you can have them handle rank reporting as well.
  5. Call us. At Internet Local Listings, we take care of compiling the ranking progress reports for you. Any time you want to know about your website’s standing, we’ll run a ranking report and email it straight to your inbox for you. Everything is presented in an easy-to-read format, complete with comprehensive details. It’s rewarding to see all that hard work paying off—and you deserve to know where your site stands. And, the best news of all: It’s included with any of our packages!

Finally, if you want the full website experience, you’ll be pleased to know that we also build premium websites for our clients. If you choose the website package, you’ll get to have professional web developers working on your site to ensure it ranks well. Google Analytics can easily be implemented by our team, so you’ll never have to worry about figuring out code. View our pricing and plans here or simply fill out a contact form and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. We’ll happily work with you to make sure you reach your ranking goals!

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