Monthly Archives: June 2016
Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter have been a part of mainstream Internet use for the better part of a decade, but the ways in which brands use them have changed dramatically. Instead of using social networks solely as marketing platforms to trumpet their products, today’s companies also use them to build and enhance the customer experience.
“Brands and entertainers realize the benefits of connecting and communicating directly with their fans, without an intermediary,” said Sylvia Vaquer, co-founder and creative director of SocioFabrica, a global digital strategy and design firm. “Where once artists and brands had to rely on massive marketing budgets to build their fan base and audience, now they employ social media tools and platforms like Instagram and Periscope to help grow a flourishing community of fans.”
In a recent Business News Daily article, John Swanciger of small business community Manta said that building a community should be a brand’s top priority for its social media use. Here’s how you can create an engaged network of fans and followers around your business.
Your social media followers are not just a homogenous fan base that all behave the same way. They are individuals, each with their own reasoning and behaviors associated with why and how they interact with your brand. Just as traditional advertisers segment and target their audience with different messaging, your brand needs to understand the different groups within its social community and engage accordingly whenever possible.
“A good foundation for creating a strong community of fans on social media is simply by being genuine in your interactions and getting to know your fans,” Grammy-winning reggae dancehall artist Sean Paul told Business News Daily. “For example, my fans in Europe and Japan respond differently and generally have different preferences or knowledge in regards to my music as compared to my fans in the U.S. Similarly, I have a completely different relationship with my fans back home in Jamaica. My engagement with fans differs based on what I know will bring forth a better response.”
Ask — and listen to — what people want
Building a community on social media means producing content your audience wants. The best way to find out what they want, of course, is to ask them — and then really listen to the feedback they give.
“We recommend artists and brands produce lots and lots of content — and not just any content, but the content your community wants to see,” said Vaquer, whose company launched its new social-based visual marketing platform Nicho yesterday (Oct. 14). “Ask fans what they want in a quick Instagram video, or dive deeper with a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything).”
When your community speaks up, follow through by implementing new campaigns, contests and other initiatives based on what fans have requested.
Put fans at the center of your strategy
Part of any successful social media campaign is paying attention to the user-generated content (UGC) in your social feeds.
“Make [fans] the star of your social channels,” Vaquer said. “Don’t just occasionally ‘like’ what they post — regram, retweet and reblog what they are saying and sharing to your entire community. Once fans see an artist or brand is actively listening to their social chatter, they will engage even more, growing brand awareness within their network.”
Paul agreed, noting that he has used the beta version of SocioFabrica’s Nicho to take advantage of the wealth of UGC from his summer tours.
“I used a special hashtag, #fullspeedtour … [and] captured the vibes from my shows by collecting videos and photos posted by my fans,” Paul said. “Having them all on one place was a great way to recreate the excitement. I’ve also done some photo and video contests to get my fans more involved in my career.”
Justin Garrity, president of social engagement platform Postano, said the reason UGC is so successful is because it allows social fans to share photos and posts that have meaning to them, rather than just promoting a product.
“Brands are increasingly becoming more lifestyle focused, promoting ideas that are bigger than their specific products,” Garrity said. “Instead of asking fans to upload photos of the products they purchased, brands are now asking fans to share photos, videos and thoughts … about what the products enable them to do.”
For instance, he said, Cliff Bar printed the hashtag #MeetTheMoment on their products this summer to encourage fans to take photos of places where Cliff Bar enabled them to go. In these photos, the focus isn’t on the product, but on the trips and activities of the brand’s community.
Brands are moving away from the traditional and formal approach to social, and embracing more organic and authentic content, Vaquer said. Overly promotional social media content and posts come across as disruptive and inauthentic, causing a massive drop in ‘likes’ and followers.
“Consumers and fans follow brands and artists because they feel like they are getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the very latest,” Vaquer said. “We are in an era where having millions of followers can open doors to lucrative endorsements or brand collaborations. [Businesses] see those opportunities and understand that they have to ensure their social streams feel genuine to continue growing their community. Promotion is still going on — it’s just disguised a bit to complement this shift.”
Advertising is a whole lot more complicated than just arranging TV spots, creating billboards and launching ads on social media. There’s a lot of thought and strategy that goes into successful advertising campaigns, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for businesses. Every business has different needs to fit and different customers and clients to reach, and every advertising platform has different options and requirements to fill. So how do you make sure your advertising strategy will work for you?
Before you launch your next big advertising campaign, make sure you follow these five important tips for success.
Reach the right audience
Before you put any time, effort or money into your advertising campaign, you need to make sure you know your target audience well. Without this important step, your campaigns will be a waste.
“If you don’t know your target market, it’s impossible to create effective advertising,” said Louisa Levit, co-founder of web development company Reliable PSD. “In fact, the majority of the work in advertising is compiling this target-market research.”
Levit said that to advertise to people, you have to really know them. This means you need to know who they are, where they congregate, what their personalities are like, what their deep wants and desires are, and the emotional reasons they have for seeking your service, Levit said.
“Any purchase a consumer makes is driven by an emotion. Uncovering these emotions and using design and copy to connect with them in a meaningful way is when successful advertising happens,” Levit said.
Make your campaign measurable
Big companies may be able to get away with throwing away money on big advertising campaigns that may or may not be effective, but small businesses have to be much more careful in their ad strategies.
“There are tons of advertising avenues available, but some are about as effective as throwing money in the wind,” said Nikolas Allen, author of “Heavyweight Marketing: Knockout Strategies for Building Champion Brands” (CreateSpace, 2014). “Maybe big business can afford to do that, but [small businesses] need to pick and choose wisely.”
This means small businesses need to focus on creating campaigns that are measureable, so they can track their results and get the most out of their budgets.
Allen said that ad campaigns could include promotion-specific coupon codes, landing pages, toll-free numbers or email addresses correlating to a strong, clear, concise and urgent call to action. And if your business uses Advanced Google Analytics, you can track essential data on the whole purchase cycle if you have e-commerce capabilities, Allen said.
Allen also pointed out that tracking doesn’t need to be high-tech and confusing; it can be as easy as asking your new customers and clients where they heard about you.
“Whatever tactics you use, tracking the results of your ad dollars will tell you whether or not your campaign was a success,” Allen said.
Location, location, location
If your business has one or more physical locations, it’s important to make the most of your company’s geography, said Marc Prosser, co-founder of Internet publishing firm Marc Waring Ventures and publisher at Fit Small Business.
“I recommend setting up separate pages on your site for each of the areas you service,” Prosser said. “That might mean a city and two or three suburbs, or it might mean individual neighborhoods. Use Google Keyword Planner to see what people are searching in your area, and focus on those targets.”
Once you set up these pages, you’ll want to keep them updated to maintain their search rankings, Prosser said.
“One easy way to do this is to post reviews from Yelp and other sources on your site,” he said. “That way, you’ll make sure your local pages are all up to date and high up on Google’s rankings in the areas you cover.”
The holiday shopping rush is just around the corner, and retailers across the country are preparing for their post-Thanksgiving promotions. This is especially true of e-commerce businesses, which need to anticipate an influx of website traffic during what’s likely to be their biggest sales period of the year.
As a small e-tailer, it’s in your best interest to get your website in tip-top shape for the season, to help you keep up with your larger competitors. Frank Yue, director of application delivery solutions at Radware, a provider of application delivery and security solutions, said that if your site slows down, you have a lot to lose — 57 percent of consumers will abandon a site that fails to load after 3 seconds, according to Radware research.
“If the site doesn’t respond … [customers will think] it’s not worth it and go to another website to buy [the item] somewhere else,” Yue told Business News Daily. “It’s not just the [site] outage you have to worry about, but also the degradation of performance and delivery to retain customers.”
Yue and Debbi Lechner, vice president of product marketing and management for Web.com, offered the following tips for optimizing your e-commerce website for increased holiday sales. [Holiday Marketing Trends That Will Drive Sales]
Highlight your special offers and discounts. Make sure that your holiday offers are featured prominently on your home page, and update your website’s images, keywords and search engine optimization to help shoppers find your business in search results, Lechner said. She also advised frequently posting your special offers to your top social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
“Linking your posts back to your website will promote calls and orders, and drive more traffic to your website,” Lechner said. “You will also see increased awareness and followers of your social channels when customers share your offers with their friends.”
Make site speed a priority. Many online retailers focus primarily on the design of their website — how pretty the page looks, how big the graphics are, how easy the Buy buttons are to access, etc. The problem, however, is that all those large photos and interactive elements could slow your site down significantly.
“All that effort spent to make a gorgeous [website] could get wasted because the page doesn’t load in time for the consumer,” said Deborah Szajngarten, director of public relations for Radware.
Although a well-designed home page is important, businesses should also focus on finding Web solutions and hosts that give them the necessary bandwidth and speed to support higher holiday traffic.
“[You need] on-demand resourcing … to scale the capabilities of your online presence and quickly adjust the number of servers and customers you can support simultaneously [to remain] efficient,” Yue said.
Mobile-optimize your site. Lechner reminded businesses that the popularity of mobile commerce is continuing to increase. Be sure to provide your prospects and customers with a good online experience, regardless of whether they are browsing via a smartphone, tablet or PC. If you haven’t done so already, be sure to test out your site on a variety of devices and make any necessary fixes to offer a seamless mobile experience.
Prepare for security concerns. It’s not just shoppers who ramp up their online activity during the holidays — hackers are waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of the increased number of transactions. Yue recommended educating yourself and your team to recognize such cyberattacks, such as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, as well as invest in security solutions to help you handle any potential situations.
“DDoS attacks are a regular occurrence — expect them to step up during the holiday season,” Yue said. “They’re getting complex. You need [to be able] to mitigate the attack appropriately.”
Be ready with your customer support. Holiday shoppers want a positive customer experience, so make your contact details easy to find on all pages of your website in case customers have questions about their orders.
“You may want to consider adding temporary help to answer the additional calls, if you think you will need it,” Lechner said. “A simple answering service can ensure you don’t miss a call and lets customers know you plan to get back to them quickly.”
One of the most critical questions a marketer has to answer is what makes customers take action. What makes someone open a marketing email, click on a website and ultimately make a purchase? Rather than just guess and hope for the best, smart companies will use what’s known as A/B or split testing to find out exactly what drives conversions in their marketing campaigns.
What is A/B testing?
When you run an A/B test, you’re comparing two different versions of a campaign — whether it’s a marketing email, a banner ad or just a website page — to see which one is more effective with your target audience. Mohita Nagpal, a marketing specialist and author of a Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) blog post about A/B testing, compared the process to a scientific experiment that requires rigorous testing of a hypothesis.
“Do some background research by understanding your visitors’ behavior using Google Analytics or any other analytics tools,” Nagpal said. “The next step is to construct a hypothesis. An example could be, ‘Adding more links in the footer will reduce the bounce rate.’ Then, test out the hypothesis [by comparing] the original version against this new version without the footer.”
In an infographic accompanying her VWO blog post, Nagpal outlined a few basic steps to running a split test:
- Make a plan. Determine your goal, such as improving conversion rates or getting more repeat purchases.
- Pick a variable. Based on your research, choose an element of the site or campaign’s A version to alter in the B version.
- Run your test. Roll out the two different versions to your test groups for a period of up to two months and collect data on how many users took action.
- Analyze the results. If you found low conversions on one or both versions, determine which element — copy, calls to action, images, etc. — may have caused friction or prevented users from following through. This is the element you will need to adjust when you run the final campaign. You should also look at your test as a whole to make sure your results are sound. A poorly constructed test or one with too many variables may produce a misleading outcome.
- Implement changes, then repeat the test. Running the test again in a few months will either prove that your changes worked, or show that there was another factor affecting your initial results.
Mistakes to avoid
Split testing can be a very helpful tool, but if you don’t utilize it properly, you may end up with results that are way off base. For instance, some marketers make the mistake of making versions A and B too different from each other. If you really want to drill down on the specific factors that lead to higher conversion rates, you should only test one element at a time, said Anil Kaul, CEO of intelligent analytics company Absolutdata. Yes, it will take longer, but you’ll get a clearer, more useful data set that can better inform future campaigns.
“If you change your subject line and at the same time you change your CTA [call to action], it’s difficult to determine which one of the parameters contributed to the most conversions,” Kaul told Business News Daily. “By testing one parameter, you get a clear picture of the changes you need to make and which one would be the most optimized [version].”
You should also make sure you’re running your test long enough to get useful results. Kaul noted that, to get an accurate reflection of what will happen when you launch the final campaign, a good A/B test should run for at least seven days. Most times, one week is long enough to reach 95 percent statistical significance, but if you haven’t reached that point, continue to run the test until you do.
“One should only be certain whether option A is better than option B when a certain level of statistical significance has been achieved,” Kaul said. “Testing can only prove to be impactful when you stick to the numbers.
“Stopping a test too early will distort the results, and decisions based on incomplete data are almost always bound to fail,” Nagpal added.