4 Reasons Why Businesses Should Be On Social Media

Social media is the #1 most asked about topic when I consult with small business owners and startups. It exceeds any conversation about finance, legal structure, or target market analysis. But the 1st step to knowing how to use social media better is to understand why use it in the first place. Business owners need to understand that social media for your business is critical, but is MUCH different than your personal social media accounts. In this article, I want to share with you a few business purposes for social media accounts.

To Generate Leads

If you are going to spend time learning social media, or going to pay someone to manage your social media accounts, you must have a goal. Using social media for business purposes is all about getting returns. These returns can take many forms, but the most common for businesses are leads. You want people who visit your accounts to send you an email, give you a call, or come into your store because they want to learn more about your business. This is a great purpose for any business who doesn't make online sales, has a store front, or offers a service to clients.

To Generate Sales

If you don't have a shopping cart online, your purpose is to convince people to want to learn more about you (generate leads). But if you business makes online sales, then this is purpose applies to you. Generating sales is a top priority for a business who wants people to put in their credit card and purchase something immediately online.

To Brand Your Business

Branding is a very important purpose, but it works better as a supplement to generating leads and sales. You, as a business, want to be of top-of-mind awareness with anybody who wants the products or services you sell. Consumers may not needs your services today, tomorrow, or in the near future, but they may need you months or years from now.

To Provide Great Customer Service

The best part of social media is the interaction you can have with individuals. Social media is all about having a conversation. If you are not conversing with people, then you are loosing out on one of the biggest advantages of social media. Many great companies use social media to get input from their raving fans, to promote events and ideas from their target market, and to put out fires with public relations issues. It does not replace a good physical customer service presence, but is a great extra that will go a long way with many consumers.

To be successful on social media, you must have a reason for being on social media. Aim with no purpose will not work; you need to have a purpose for all that you do online, whether that be lead generation, sales generation, building brand loyalty, or providing customer service.

Questions You MUST Ask Before You Hire A Web Designer

Questions You MUST Ask Before You Hire A Web Designer

Creating a website can be a daunting task, especially if you are not very tech savvy. But even if you have a technology wired brain, website design can be a very complex and frustrating experience. There are many companies out there that claim to create the best website for any kind of business. They may be right, but you need to properly vet any company or person offering to create your website. Below, you will find many helpful questions to ask yourself and your website designer before you get started creating your new website.

All About Facebook

Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world today. There are over 1.4 billion active users each month! (HubSpot.com) From a business perspective, there are now over 3 million active businesses advertising on Facebook! (SocialMediaToday.com). Because there are so many business Facebook pages, business owners are constantly looking for ways to make their page standout. This article outlines many tips to help improve your brand on Facebook. 


Choose Profile Photos Carefully

Your profile picture should be one that is easily recognizable by your potential fans. It should be simple and not complex, but with enough detail to distinguish you as a brand. You want people to recognize your business from your logo when they search for you on Facebook. Likewise, your background cover photo should be an extension of your brand. Wether it be a photo of your store, samples of your product, or a portrait of your services, it should be a high quality photo. The profile picture should be 180x180 pixels and the background photo should be 851x315 pixels.

Add Links to Photo Descriptions

Each photo you upload to Facebook has the option to add descriptions to it. This is even true of your profile and background pictures. In these photos, add a link to your website or blog. This might help your SEO by adding inbound links, but it provides easy access for people to get to your website if they click on your photos. You can use custom links through your Google analytics to track each inbound link you have to your website. These are called UTM links, and more information can be found HERE. UTM links are important if you want to know which links are working better than others and driving the most traffic to your website.

70-20-10 Rule

This is a rule promoted by Cafe Quill that states how much of your Facebook posts should consist of particular content. 

  • 70% of your posts should come from your brand and add value to your community. For example, you could include business tips, show photos from recent company events, promote local news about your business, or ask survey questions.
  • 20% of your posts should consist of content from others. For example, you could promote other business' events, tag other business in a post, or even share a post from another business page.
  • 10% of your posts should be promotional. For example, you could let your audience know about any sales happening, new product lines you are offering, or any introductions to products/services.

Utilize The Call To Action Button

Facebook introduced a new feature in December of 2014 called the Call To Action button (CTA). This allows you to insert 1 of 7 pre-made call to action buttons to your background cover photo. Your Facebook should have a purpose, and these buttons allow you to set what interaction you want individuals to do on your page. You can choose from: Sign Up, Shop Now, Contact Us, Book Now, Watch Video, Play Game, or Use App. You can put a link on the buttons that sends people to a destination on or off Facebook. These CTA buttons offer insights and can track data on performance, so you can know for certain how many people are clicking on your CTA button.

Post The Perfect Post

The way to interact with people is through posting on Facebook. You can post about virtually anything you want. But to have a successful post, you need to keep a few guidelines in mind. For more information on posting on Facebook, check out Eric Spellman's website. Your Facebook post should have:

  1. A Photo - A picture is worth a thousand words. We have all heard that. But to be honest, some photos I see I cannot think of 10 words to describe it. The point is, people are more attracted to pictures and photos. This is true is social media. You should try and post an appropriate picture with every post, either a picture from your iPhone or a stock photo from a Think Stock account.
  2. Information - A post needs to have relevant information. You cannot just upload a photo with no description. Even if you have text on your photo, you need to write out words in your post.
  3. Call to Action/Invitation to Interact - I hear people say all the time, "No one is liking my Facebook page or post!" There may be many issues going on with your Facebook page, but have you ever tried asking? Your post should elicit a call to action. This could be liking the post, sharing the picture, leaving a review, tell your friends, visit our website, or even something as simple as enjoy your day. You want your audience to do something after seeing the post. Much like the CTA button on your cover photo, you want to give your audience a call to action. 

Like The Comments

Your goal on Facebook should be interaction. So when someone comments or leaves you a review on your business Facebook page, you need to respond positively. You should like every comment that someone leaves you on your post. Someone took the time to type out that comment or review, so acknowledge it! That individual may be more likely to interact again on your page and may be motivated to share your business with his or her friends. In regards to responding to negative comments or reviews, do not retaliate eye for an eye. Your job is now to put water over the Public Relations flame. I am not saying to take the blame for whatever the individuals are complaining about, but rather be empathetic and give a positive response that is not too short or too long.

Like and Review Other Pages

According to Entrepreneur.com, "The more you like someone’s posts the more of their posts you will see -- and they will see more of your posts." Go to some local businesses and start liking their page and posts. Remember to like their page as your business and as your individual profile. To like a business page as your business, click on the 3 dots near the top right of the business Facebook page and click "Like As Your Page." 

 

 

Essential Online Marketing Rules

As a consultant, the #1 request I get is, "How can I get a presence online?" Many business owners are now feeling the pressure from market demands to be online. Having a plan for online marketing is essential for many, if not most, businesses. BUT if you do not first understand the fundamentals of online marketing, you could be setting yourself up for digital failure. With that, here is my ever growing list of essential marketing rules for business going online.


1. Own Your Online Property

It is very common for small businesses to hire a 3rd party company to develop their website or social media pages. There is nothing wrong with that, and I would even encourage it for many businesses out there. But DO NOT let that 3rd party company own your property. For instance, a company can develop your website, but you need to have full rights and ownership to everything (passwords, content, photos, backend coding, etc.). You want to find a company that will waive legal rights to the website, and instead give it to you, the business owner. This also applies for domain names, Facebook accounts, stock photo accounts, email addresses, and any other online platform. You want to make sure have intellectual property rights to everything online that you publish as a business.

 

2. Market With a Purpose

Any business consultant would tell you to physically market with a purpose, wether it be a target area to pass out flyers, what content to put on your business card, or even the color designs of your signage. Having a purpose for your marketing applies not only to just physical, but especially online marketing. Ask yourself this question: Why are you doing this? Why do you want to be online? You cannot manage what you cannot measure, so be sure you have a measurable goal and purpose before you set out to conquer the digital world. 

What should be your purpose of having an online presence? 

  1. To Brand Your Business - The process of getting your name out into the public and get word of mouth to start spreading in the area.
  2. To Produce Sales - The actual sale occurs online through a marketplace or a checkout cart, not by a phone call to the business owner.
  3. To Generate Leads - If someone sees you online, that person will have an incentive to give the business owner a call, and make the sale outside of the website.
  4. To Add Credibility - This is the idea of showing off your resume, successes, and add credentialing to yourself, to better sell yourself to your clients.
 

3. Manage Your Reputation

By having an online presence, you have a lot of flexibility as to how your business is perceived. You have direct access to the photos you post, the text you write, and even the responses to negative online reviews. Because of this power, you NEVER want to give control of your reputation management to someone else. Business owners should know how to manage their business themselves. How do you do that? You can Google yourself and see what pops up (positive reviews, bad BBB rating, negative comments, etc.).

When you Google your business, make sure your browser is in "Private" mode, because Google remembers things you type into their search bars on your computer, and that could skew the results. For example, if you are constantly typing in your business name and clicking on your website, then Google remembers that and your website will appear higher up because of it. In "Private" mode, it is as if this is the first time the computer has done a Google search, the results are not skewed, and it is like a random person searched on Google.

As a business owner, you should stress the importance of leaving reviews for your business. Once your business is registered with Google (GYBO.com), this gives people the ability to leave you a Google review and rating. This is very important as it helps your SEO and gives your business more credibility when someone Googles you. You also want to get customers to review and leaving ratings on your Facebook page. You should always be asking for your clients or customers to leave you reviews. Find creative ways to do that. Maybe put an iPad on a stand at your retail center, give free incentives if people leave you reviews, etc.

 

4. Understand How Online Ranking Works

In regards to SEO and Google ranking, there is a lot of confusion out there. It does not help that there are many companies that offer help getting on Google's first page for a hefty fee. The majority of these companies are scammers, so be weary of solicitors who sound too good to be true. Google ranking is all about content. Content is not photos or videos (because Google cannot read pictures or videos), but rather it is the text on the page. Your text on your website is the most important when it comes to Google search. What makes good content on your webpage?

  1. Content should be understood – All text on your webpage should be conversational. You should not use big words. Google does not want a college paper. The perfect grade level of simplicity should be between a 4th – 6th grade reading level.
  2. Content should be updated – Making changes to your webpage every day doesn’t necessarily improve your SEO. But rather adding new content and pages. That is why Blog sites do well with updated content; it is new text.
  3. Content should be unique – Google will know if you have copied and pasted from another website. Even if the content is the best content ever, if it is copied, Google will penalize you for it. Even things as copying item descriptions from your vendors will hurt your SEO.
 

5. Avoid Scams

Unfortunately, there are many horror stories of business owners falling for online marketing scams. There are "fake" businesses that contact you, attempting to entice you to purchase something in an effort to help your online marketing. These can be very tempting, especially if you are new to online marketing. Here are a few of the most common scams:

  1. The Guaranteed Ranking Scam: This is when someone says they can guarantee your Google listing will be on the first page. DO NOT listen and purchase their services. No one knows the exact Google algorithm for higher ranking, not even the majority of people who work for Google. No one can guarantee you a higher ranking. Higher ranking comes organically with time and effort from the business owner. 
  2. The Domain Purchase Scam: This is when someone tries to guilt trip you into purchasing every single domain out there. The most common domain is .com, but there is .org, .net, .biz, .ch, and a whole bunch more. It is not essential for your website to have every single domain; just the .com. It does not matter if someone tries to scare you into thinking a competitor will purchase the .biz or .org of your website, you should not listen to them.
  3. The Phone Book Scam: This is when someone says if you will be in their directory, they have a special partnership with Google and can get you listed higher with them. It is called a phone book because when ads are sold into the Yellow/White Pages, your ad will be seen by special group of people (geographic area). If someone calls you and asks you to pay to be a part of a special directory, do not listen to them and hang up the phone. If you follow rules of generating good content on your website, you do not need to be a part of these kind of groups online.
  4. The Paid Local Listing Scam: NEVER let anyone register your local listing for you. And NEVER pay someone to do this for you. This is specifically for the Google "Get Your Business Online," which is the process of claiming your business listing on Google. This allows you to create a Google+ page for your business, put you on Google Maps, and gives you website tools like Trends and Analytics. Do this yourself as a business owner. It is free. Do not let anyone else do this for you.
  5. The Pay Per Click Scam: This is similar to the Guarantee Ranking Scam, except that these individuals will actually get you on page 1 of Google....via Pay Per Click Ads. Pay Per Click Ads are those websites you see listed first on Google, with a different color box around them. These websites have paid Google to be an Ad, and they will only be charged money by Google when someone clicks on that Ad. If you want to set up a Pay Per Click Ad, you need to do that yourself or get a trusted Marketing Firm to help you. 

SEO Insights and Tips

It is not easy to know exactly how to rank higher, because Google judges your site based on 150+ criteria. No one but Google knows the formula for ranking higher and the criteria are always changing. So if someone calls or emails you saying they know the exact mathematical formula and can get you higher on Google, they are a scam. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the trial and error businesses go through to increase their Google ranking. Although the criteria for higher SEO changes constantly, there are a few things that we know can help with your Google ranking. We will continue to add more tips and suggestions throughout time, and this will be an ever growing list.


Content

This is the number 1 thing you can do to help increase your SEO. Google is always looking for good content. So what is good content? It has to be original. You cannot copy and paste and hope that Google will like that. They won’t. Because blogs tend to have all original content, websites with blogs tend to do very well on Google. Keywords are still somewhat important, but they are not as critical as they were in the past. Google will actually penalize you if you just spam keywords all over the place. There has to be relevant context. Here are some suggestions for good content:

Content should be understood – All text on your webpage should be conversational. You should not use big words. Google does not want a college paper. The perfect grade level of simplicity should be between a 4th – 6th grade reading level.

Content should be updated – Making changes to your webpage every day doesn’t necessarily improve your SEO. But rather adding new content and pages. That is why Blog sites do well with updated content; it is new text.

Content should be unique – Google will know if you have copied and pasted from another website. Even if the content is the best content ever, if it is copied, Google will penalize you for it. Even things as copying item descriptions from your vendors will hurt your SEO.


Age of Web Address

Depending on when you registered your domain name, you can rank higher than others. This is because Google wants to know if you have withstood the test of time. Theoretically, if there are 2 businesses with the exact same product and website, the one that has had their domain name longer will appear higher on Google. On the flip side, Google wants to know that you plan to stay around for a long time. So a business with a domain name that is purchased for 2-3 years in advance will get a slight bump over those who have just purchased their domain name for one year.


Inbound Links

Inbound links are when other websites put a link back to your website. The more websites that do this for you, the better your SEO will be. There are businesses that claim to get you hundreds of inbound links for a fee, but these “farms” are frowned upon by Google and can actually hurt you. Don’t take the easy way out of this. Organically find legit websites within your network that will provide a link back to your website. And the more valuable and higher quality the website that links to you, the more valuable that inbound link will be. Google loves to see inbound link from local Chamber of Commerce websites, the Yellow Pages, and the Better Business Bureau. Try to get on their website and get an inbound link by joining those organizations.


Update Your Website

Google will actually find out how often you make changes and updates to your website. It is like a social media account...you know if a business hasn’t posted in years. Google knows the same about your website. Update it frequently. How often? It depends, and there isn’t a set in stone answer. News sites typically rank higher because they are updating content every hour, even every minute. These updates need to be made on your static pages (ex: Home page, About page, Services page, etc.). Having a blog will help with this, but you need to make changes to your other pages as well. There is a debate as to whether or not you should make changes to existing pages, or add new pages to your site. I would suggest a combination of both, but either way, these changes should involve content and words.

 

 

What is SEO?

When we talk about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, we are really talking about is being found when people search online. This is something that most people think of in a national setting, but it is a vital importance for a small local business, because your small local community will be doing online searches.

SEO is making sure attributes you put into your webpage and things you do in connection with your web presence is all tied together to make you relevant on the web. As a business you want to be found on the web, and the idea of creating relevance for your business when people search is precisely what SEO is.

Now when we say “get found on the web,” we really mean Google.  Of course, there are other search engines people use: Bing, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves (do people still use that?). The truth is that over 97% of all online searches are being done on Google, so it is a vital importance to know how Google ranks websites.