Category: Online Marketing
What the #### is a Hashtag? – An introduction to the proper use of hashtags for small businesses
Everyone who has used social media has undoubtedly encountered the pound sign (#) followed by some version of unspaced text. While this may have seemed confusing at the time, this symbol or hashtag has become an important way in which the world communicates. But what is a hashtag? On social media sites, the (#) followed by text is known as a hashtag. Even with the uncanny rise of hashtags, many of us are still confused when it comes to how to use them and even more are confused when it comes to what they mean.
In 2007, a developer, Chris Messina, suggested in a tweet that Twitter start using hashtags to group different topics. Even though Twitter initially rejected the suggestion, journalists began using the hashtag to update tweets about the San Diego forest fires. As a result, the hashtag quickly gained widespread use.
A hashtag can be described as a label for content that helps other people find information on a specific topic. Anyone who is sharing information on a specific topic can add a hashtag to their message to associate their message with other messages of similar relevant content. Although the hashtag gained most of its fame through Twitter, other major social media sites such as Facebook, Vine, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Google+ now incorporate hashtags.
Hashtags have been ideal for following news stories and providing up-to-the-minute information about important events. In the case of natural disasters or huge stories, hashtags have become an information lifeline. Although hashtags were originally used for news stories, there has been a growing use of hashtags for business.
Hashtags for Business
Many major brands have incorporated the use of hashtags for business. If you are considering using hashtags for business, you should keep the following tips in mind.
- Make sure your hashtags are relevant to your field, which will make your brand discoverable by users searching for those keywords.
- Choose one specific account or set up a business account that will represent your brand. By doing so, you can ensure that users can easily find all of your relevant tweets in one location.
- Creating your own unique hashtag is a great way to promote your brand. The hashtag should be short but descriptive. Most importantly, make sure you remind everyone to use the hashtag in all related tweets and in all promotional material.
- Check out which relevant hashtags are trending and make sure you use it.
- Test hashtags to make sure it is being used. Using a hashtag that no one has ever used will not produce results. The best hashtags are those that people are already using and are therefor searching for. One example would be #WereHavingaSale, which only one person has used and is therefor ineffective.
Ways to Use Hashtags for Business
- One great way to use hashtags for business is to hold a contest and require that users use the hashtag to enter the contest. Make sure you understand the rules of each social platform regarding contests.
2. Connect with Other Users at a Conference
- When businesses host conferences or meetings, you can easily find out who is there by checking the stream for the hashtag. This way you can send them a direct message and schedule a time to meet up directly.
3. Hold a Twitter Chat
- Considering that Twitter is one gargantuan open platform, using a hashtag is one way you can designate who participates in the chat. On the other hand, there is no way to know if someone is responding to your topic or simply talking about and entirely different subject.
4. Check out Hashtags.org
- Hashtags.org is an online service that groups hashtags and gives you an idea of what other people are discussing online. By knowing what is trending, you are destined to come up with ideas.
5. Use hashtags to learn more about your industry
- Industry experts often use hashtags for articles and relevant news for your industry. For example, a company like Ready to Run would use #SEO or #SocialMedia.
Hashtags have moved well beyond just a current social media fad – transitioning to an online marketing necessity. In the coming weeks, Ready to Run will be discussing hashtags and a number of other social media marketing strategies. Hopefully, this introduction will provide some clarity on using hashtags for brand exposure online.
For a more indepth guide to #Hashtags, see our article: Facebook’s New Move: #Hashtags
Winning Email Marketing Campaigns for Politics and Business
How to effectively capture your audience
Politics and business may make strange bedfellows, but they do share a lot in common when it comes to marketing — particularly email marketing and growing a large base of support. In today’s evolving high tech world, email marketing has to evolve too. So whether you are running a Fortune 500 company, small mom-and-pop shop or the next presidential campaign, you have to be savvy, modern and content-rich.
In other words, give you constituents or your customers what they want—in relevant, current and understandable language and techniques.
Obama did it best in his last presentational campaign, where he engaged an enormous amount of people and built a huge base of support from one of the savviest and conversational email marketing campaigns ever used by a political campaign. (We will touch on Obama’s winning approaches throughout, but first lets start with a few of the basics of a successful email marketing strategy for both politics and business.) These include:
- Testing intriguing subject lines
- Knowing your audience and how to speak to them
- Optimizing your content (because it’s easy)
- Supplementing your email marketing campaign with additional digital strategies, and more
Let’s look at these email marketing tips a little bit deeper:
It all starts with the subject line
Just like the teaser message on the outer envelope is critical to getting a letter read in direct mail, the subject line is vital to getting an email opened and read. After all, the subject line (along with the “From” line) is the first thing a recipient sees–so make it as engaging as possible. If you are running a political campaign, for example, then it is smart to incorporate the latest political topics or any subject matter that your constituents are interested in. Democrats might build support around voter rights, while Republicans use Obamacare to rally their constituents, etc. Use what works.
Another approach, which the Obama email marketing team used to great success, is to keep the subject line intriguing and conversational. In fact, one of the most successful of all approaches was to have the “From” line be from Barak and the subject line saying simply “Hey”. According to Toby Fallsgraff, the Obama campaign’s email marketing director, the team tested many subject lines and the casual conversational tone always pulled stronger. Fallsgraff oversaw 20 copywriters, who all adapted this conversational and personal tone to both the subject lines and email copy.
Fallgraff also said that one of the most effective subject lines they used (raising over 2.6 million dollars) was the simple subject line “I will be outspent.” This raised fear in Obama’s constituents and drove more action than the other subject lines they were testing at the time. Urgency works, too.
Get inside the head of your audience—and speak directly to their needs
Making your email marketing conversational is mandatory in today’s fast paced world. Recipients need something to connect to, so be sure the content is relevant to the needs of your target market. If you are selling cars, then talk the latest trends and amenities your brand offers. If you are selling Republicanism, then talk the latest policy touch points or political hot issues.
Keep the content crisp and the words to a minimum. Less is more (unless you are writing a blog, which we will discuss in a bit.) It’s a visual world these days and patience is at a minimum.
Some additional tips for writing influential email copy:
- Use repetition. If something is proven to drive response, then use it in several ways. Rhetoric works when it’s used correctly. Use it in your emails, on your landing page, in your direct mail letters and anywhere you can drive response.
- Be consistent in messaging. Be trustworthy and consistent in your tone and messaging. Constituents and customers relate to brand for a reason, so never betray the brand. That means don’t bait and switch.
- Social proof works. People want to belong, so let people know they are not alone in their personal views. Make people believe they are part of something bigger.
- Address your target market’s objections. Remove doubt and you make the path to purchase (or voting) as easy as possible.
Optimize, optimize, optimize
Test your email tone and subject lines and then optimize your email campaign to go forward using the winning approach. It’s much easier and affordable to test in email than in any other type of marketing, so be sure to use it to your benefit.
Consider inbound marketing strategies, too
Inbound marketing is another great tool for building loyalty. With inbound marketing, content is key. That means providing relevant, useful content that will keep customers coming to you. It’s a great way to supplement your outbound email marketing campaign so that you are attracting people in multiple ways. The use of blogs is great, with inbound links that drive people to your website. For blogs, be relevant and crisp, but brevity of copy isn’t as important as it is with email writing.
In short, make email marketing relevant and engaging.
These are just a few tips to improve you email marketing strategies. Email is not going away, even with the progression of social. In fact, Facebook uses email more than any other communication stream. So be sure you are being as effective and relevant with your email marketing as you possibly can be. It’s the most affordable, easy to optimize marketing tool in your arsenal.
SEC Changes Allow Hedge Funds to Advertise
Private Equity Advertising
When I first began my career in online marketing and public relations, one of my first clients was a start-up private equity fund management company focusing investments in NNN leased real estate nationally. The challenge was to attract investors and to network in the industry without ever mentioning the fund or any aspect thereof. My focus was simply to establish presence and legitimacy for the infant fund management company online without any direct or even indirect marketing. While the fund is now thriving, the ban on advertising made it a difficult task to attract new investors in the beginning. However, a recent ruling by the SEC will change the marketing atmosphere of the industry.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to contribute my opinions in an article by Susan Lyon of NerdWallet.com about the recent ruling of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to change Rule 506 now allowing hedge funds and other alternative investments to publicly advertise. This ruling was part of its first actions in implementing the JOBS Act, passed in 2012.
A prohibition against advertising risky alternative-investments, those exempt from the requirement to make public financial statements, had been in place for 80 years, since the Great Depression, in an effort to protect small, potentially naïve investors. This restriction had not only applied to advertising, but also to any discussion or activity that could be interpreted as solicitation to raise money, such as talking about the content of an alternative investment fund, and how it was doing.
With the changes, officially called “Eliminating the Prohibition Against General Solicitation and General Advertising in Rule 506 and Rule 114A Offerings”, companies can now advertise for security offerings by any means – for example, on the internet – as long as the sales are made only to accredited investors.
Companies engaging in advertising will have to ensure that they are taking reasonable steps to make sure that buyers are indeed accredited investors, as they are presumably able to make educated decisions on risk. The SEC provides some guidance on what would be considered reasonable steps:
- Reviewing copies of any IRS form that reports the income of the purchaser and obtaining a written representation that the purchaser will likely continue to earn the necessary income in the current year.
- Receiving a written confirmation from a registered broker-dealer, SEC-registered investment adviser, licensed attorney, or certified public accountant that such entity or person has taken reasonable steps to verify the purchaser’s accredited status.
There are a variety of opinions on how this change will impact both start-ups and investors. Proponents of the change see it as an opportunity for start-ups to expand their network of investors through increasing the visibility of companies looking for capital. It should be easier for investment companies to direct wealthy clients to hedge funds, bringing in new cash. However, some are concerned that the process of taking the reasonable steps to ensure investors are accredited will result in additional burdensome work that new companies may have difficult complying with, and that the steps themselves are guidance only, leaving room for possible misinterpretation and potential enforcement issues with the SEC.
Perhaps the biggest concern is how vulnerable investors will be to solicitation and advertising in general. Will those who don’t qualify as accredited investors be bombarded with ads for funds they can never invest in? Will potential investors take on increasing risk without the protections previously provided? SEC Commissioner Luis Aguilar dissented on the decision to lift the advertising ban, arguing that it would “come at the expense of investors and place investors at greater risk.” With the greater use of online media, reaching a larger group of unsophisticated potential investors could bring problems. Jennifer Openshaw, president of Finect, an online network for the financial industry, said the SEC’s lifting of the advertising restriction should be followed by strong investor protections.
I personally feel the ability to advertise will be a welcomed improvement to the private equity community. Allowing these funds to compete with fewer impediments is in the best interest of our country’s economy. Investors must remain diligent when deciding where to invest, however they may now have exposure to many more options than they ever had before.
Importance of Mobile Marketing Continues to Grow
Not only is the use of mobile real-time bidding by publishers and buyers growing, but according to reports from 2012’s third quarter, mobile marketing is also on the rise. The amount spent on mobile marketing this year is an 80% increase compared to 2011 at $2.6 billion, forecasted by eMarketer, a market research firm. That’s just the U.S. Globally, $8 billion was spent on mobile marketing with that number predicted to jump in 2014 to $14.2 billion according to IDC, a market intelligence firm.
Due to consumers’ smartphone usage around the holidays, many companies will look to capitalize on it by increasing mobile marketing in the fourth quarter, according to Nexage. With this increase in marketing and advertising comes an increase of demand for RTB ads, up from the second to third quarter an incredible 70%.
According to Nexage, RTB is going to be an integral part of mobile marketing, as evidenced by a growing number of companies joining the bandwagon. Wes Biggs and others have said that close to 50% of their inventory came from RTB, and that was tied back to mobile marketing and advertising.
Furthermore, an increase from 8% in the first quarter and 21% in the second quarter of 2012, RTB ads made up 34% of all the impressions from its network in the third quarter, Adfonic reported. All these numbers indicate not only that RTB ads will continue to increase in terms of number of companies that use them, but that they will be used more often by those same companies. As a result, the importance of mobile marketing has grown exponentially since the advent of the smartphone.
Even with the increase in tablet users, 89% impressions still came from mobile phones during Q3 2012, compared to 11% from tablets, according to Adfonic. Even with Millennial Media’s different interpretation of the data, it still showed 74% of impressions coming from mobile phones, much higher than from any other device.
Much of the increase in mobile marketing can be attributed to the sheer number of smartphone users today compared to any other time in its history, with that number increasing all the time. In Q3 2012, according to CNET, more 427 million smartphones were sold worldwide. This doesn’t account for the millions of people who already owned smartphones when these figures were released. Each year, more and more people switch over or upgrade their phones to a smartphone, and that means an increase in data usage. For these reasons, companies have recognized just how important mobile marketing is to their business. Not only do they have to market and advertise online to desktop computers, but according to eMarketer, ad spending on mobile devices by 2017 will all be equal to that spent on desktops.
Therefore, a continued growth in mobile marketing can be expected. According to Digital Media and Entertainment for IDC program vice president Karsten Weide, in 2015 “there will be more users accessing the internet through a mobile device rather than a computer.”
Facebook’s New Move: #Hashtags
Facebook Announces Hashtags
A recent Facebook press release announced it has enabled “public conversations,” aka #hashtags, available starting June 12th. With this update, Facebook is joining other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+ and Tumblr, using hashtags as a way to organize conversation and link topics from one user to the next. Hashtags used through these other social media platforms and shared through Facebook allow engagement with current followers and may reach new potential customers who are not already connected. It will also connect you to the greater conversation on the desired topic.
(For an introduction to hashtags, you may be interested in: What the #### is a Hashtag? – An introduction to the proper use of hashtags for small businesses)
In the press release introducing the new hashtag feature, Facebook explained that users are utilizing the new platform to talk about what’s going on around them. Whether it be a tropical storm, who might take the Stanley Cup, an episode of Game of Thrones, or a TED Talks symposium, events like these are getting millions of mentions.
By making these hashtags clickable and interactive, Facebook allows users a richer experience and engagement into a topic or conversation. Facebook also clarified, on ABC News, that hashtagged posts will still respect the regular privacy settings.
What is a #Hashtag?
A hashtags is a term or idea preceded by the pound symbol ‘#’. The term embeds the category, so that a user can click on it to connect with other posts or images on or about that topic. This is a major step for Facebook toward their goal of becoming more of a search friendly platform, in addition to its social networking base.
You can consider social networking sites as a huge filing cabinet. It is filled with thoughts, statements, questions, and comments about different topics. Hashtags are like the tabs of the folders categorizing these different topics.
So, instead of fumbling through the file cabinet aimlessly, simply search a hashtag (which is searching a specific topic) or click on an existing hashtag to automatically be directed to the search page. By doing this, you will be shown all posts using that same tag, listed in chronological order.
So What Will This Mean for Your Business or Brand?
Facebook’s use of hashtags will not cause an abrupt change to your online marketing campaign strategy only enhance it. Here are some helpful best practices when hashtagging:
- Incorporate hashtags into your posts, but do not only post a hashtag or overuse them. The tag should add to your message but not be the only element of that message.
- Create a hashtag specific to your company that goes with your message and encourage followers and current customers to use it and create conversations around that hashtag.
- Incorporate topic-specific terms that reach a targeted audience which has interests related to your product or services, such as #business or #NewYork.
- Be sure not to over-tag. Limit your hashtags to 1 – 3 per post and be mindful of terms that others are already using and searching organically. This will help to reach a new audience that was not previously connected with or aware of your brand.
- When tagging terms that require multiple words, they must be written without a space between, as one word. To help readers discern each word and understand what is being written, be sure to capitalize each new word, for example #SocialMedia or #PoliticalCommunications.
Hashtags allow for more brand interaction and a greater conversation because they link all similar tags in one easily searchable location.
6 Best Practices for Leveraging Social Media for Political Candidates
Social Media in Political Campaigns
Political campaigns are all about connecting with voters on a personal level. As the traditional media landscape has shifted, new media has taken a larger role and is changing the way we communicate. Candidates who embrace social media are winning elections and connecting with their constituents on a personal level unheard of a decade ago.
The first campaign to prove the value of political social media was President Obama’s in 2008. He showed how a candidate could tap into the power of social media, connect with voters on a major scale and turn the tables on traditional candidates. Used correctly, a political social media campaign can run for a fraction of the cost of a mainstream media campaign while directly connecting you to voters.
Social media provides the opportunity to grow your following and get your message out to the public. However, it’s a different approach than mainstream media practices. Here are five things to consider that can help you leverage social media in your campaign:
1. Share your vision. Let followers see behind the scenes.
Social media is best used to entertain, educate and inform your readers. By opening up your campaign, posting photos, and giving special recognition to loyal followers, voters feel directly connected to your campaign. Your readers are not looking for white papers or press releases. They want to know who you are and what you believe. One hundred words and a picture from a fundraiser about meeting and learning something from a constituent can go farther than a 1000-word article.
2. Remember that your audience is global.
Incorrect use of social media can end your political career. Just ask Anthony Weiner. Make sure your posts are upbeat and informative. Solicit feedback from your followers on policy questions. Avoid going negative. Don’t post when you are upset or angry. Make sure your campaign has a clearly developed social media strategy in place. Double-check your posts before they are sent. Understand that social media is a combination of personal contact and broadcast media.
3. Political Social Media allows immediate feedback. This can be a positive factor in a campaign
Social media can be used to immediately and decisively respond to an opponent’s misleading or incorrect statement. By responding immediately to a negative or misleading statement, any damage can be minimized.
4. Control and personalize your message to connect and engage voters.
New Media Platforms offer a unique ability to convey your message and beliefs to a large audience. Candidates effectively utilizing video and other mediums to connect on a more personal and engaging level will have greater connection with voters.
In the past, candidates and political parties were at the mercy of the main stream media. With new media such as YouTube and Facebook, you can control your image and the way you interact with voters. Candidates and elected officials that are active with video messages and blogs are seeing greatly improved results and, on occasion, even national attention that may have been previously unobtainable. Voters can now get their information from the source, you, instead of what is selected by traditional media outlets to report.
5. Social media is the primary way to connect with younger voters.
Young voters are getting their information from the Internet. By using social media, you can reach this important voting block. Political social media should be used to engage, inform, educate and communicate with voters. For many younger voters, social media is their introduction to politics. Educating and engaging with them can build a base among younger voters.
6. Be selective and be consistent.
There are hundreds of social media platforms on the net. Stick to the ones that are proven and vital. Understand their target audiences. Linkedin is populated by business professionals and may be a better place to fundraiser than Flickr for example. The most important aspect of political social media is to remain active. Disappearing from a site is bad practice. Make sure you respond promptly to questions or feedback from your followers. Remember, you are building an active network that you are asking to support your efforts.
Social media can transform a campaign. Understanding the dynamics, practices and etiquette of social media is a skill that can be learned. Political social media can help you to connect to voters on a personal level and that’s how to win an election.
3 Easy Tips for Businesses & Brands on Pinterest
Pinterest for Business
Pinterest is taking off as the fastest growing social media site and is the fourth largest traffic driver surpassing Yahoo. The site is based on the idea of “pinning”, or including visual content, on “boards” with themes. Pinterest provides its users with endless varieties of information and visually pleasing photos.
Users can browse boards, “like” images, comment on them, and “re-pin” them on to their own boards. The images can link back to websites which might include content such as recipes, do-it-yourself instructional material, blogs, or business websites.
Many businesses have found that the simple yet striking visual content display that Pinterest provides draws viewers and traffic to their websites, increasing interest, improving SEO and building an online community.
Pinterst referrals improve marketing ROI and spend more!
Wayfair, the second largest home goods retailer by revenue, found consumers referred from Pinterest:
- Spend an average of 70% more money than visitors referred from non-social channels
- Are 10% more likely to purchase than any other social media site
- Actually spend about 10% more money on the purchases they make!
While Pinterest strategies for business and brand marketing are vast and include many techniques, we will discuss three simple methods that are useful to new business users to improve your ability to draw new viewers to your boards and ultimately to your website and products.
Our 3 easy tips are:
- Use evergreen topics
- Hold contests
- Create and share community group boards
1) Evergreen Topics
While an initial thought would be to start a board with images of only your product, new potential users might not search specially for this one item or category. Posting images of common or familiar situations where your product is being used can draw viewers to want more information and link to your specific website. Evergreen content such as beauty tips and how-tos consistently rate highly on the Most Repinned count in Pinterest Web Analytics.
One company that is successfully using this technique is ELLE magazine – for example, their “how-to” pin on hair care drove very high page views and repins. The website wikiHow, which focuses on how-to guides, is also a successful Pinterest user. By pinning unique, high-quality items on curated boards, they were able to connect with pinners looking for instructional information on a daily basis.
Holding contests on Pinterest is another way to draw visitors to your boards. Contests can take a variety of forms. For example, Pinterest members could be asked to curate boards on a specific topic, which would be judged by celebrities in a particular field or interest area. The travel site Jetsetter challenged users to develop boards on four travel themes, which were then judged by well-known media personalities. As a result of the contest, over 50,000 images were pinned in less than a month, and the Jetsetter page views were increased by 150%.
Another type of pinboard contest involves members re-pinning images or posts from other social media sites on to their own Pinterest boards, or being rewarded for finding all the pieces of a puzzle or a specific number of images. Other types of contests could involve getting the highest number of re-pins or votes.
Running a successful contest using Pinterest involves setting goals and objectives and knowing your audience. It is also important to review the Pinterest guidelines for contests before you start: http://business.pinterest.com/logos-and-marketing-guidelines/
3) Group Boards
Group boards are an excellent way to engage customers and drive traffic to your business. A group board functions just like a regular Pinterest board but allows other people to also pin to the board in addition to the board creator. Group boards can be shared on a small or large scale depending on the goal.
Group boards go under different names but have the same general purpose.
- Shared Boards
- Contributor Boards
- Community Boards
- Collaborative Boards
The benefits of using group boards for business are vast and diverse. The boards invite engagement and brand awareness. You will expand your network by inviting others to pin on a common theme. Pins can also be catered to specific topics that may be blog subjects, allowing bloggers to share pin each other’s content that is useful.
Group boards are a great way to share contests (tip #2). Having all associated pins in one place allows users to easily navigate all similar content. It will also help your business to judge the contest without having to scour the web and hope that pins were hashtagged.
You can use these boards to share your content, tips, how-tos, training materials and resources with people with similar interests.
Group boards are also excellent for planning events and creating a buzz. Use the boards to share ideas, venues, marketing materials, menus and table decoration ideas, to name a few. This is also a good place to raise money for cause-related events.
Additionally, designers and other creative professionals can use these boards to better connect with their client’s style and preferences. By inviting your client to share, they can pin design or decorating ideas that will ultimately cut time from evaluating an individual style or desired motif. By using pins, translating customer’s expectations becomes much more efficient.
Brands should remember to keep their theme relevant to the interests of their target consumers. Stay engaged and comment on good pins. Today’s consumer loves to feel connected and listened to. Customers that have regular interaction with brands on social media are much more likely to make a purchase.
As you start to use Pinterest for your business, you can read about some of the successful techniques companies have used to boost traffic to their Pinterest boards on Pinterest’s own business blog.
Pinterest provides a new and rapidly growing way for your business to connect with a community of users. Developing boards based on evergreen content, holding contests and sharing group boards are three simple ways to begin to engage your audience and attract new customers.
For ways to improve your business or brand’s online presence and effectiveness, contact Ready to Run Designs for a free evaluation.
Online Marketing Primer
As a business owner, researching the seemingly endless online marketing options may be overwhelming at first. The internet is full of web development companies and online marketing firms that try to convince business owners to invest in all kinds of products and services. If you are uncertain about the best way to start promoting your brand online, the following provides simple ways to start an online brand for a small business.
Social Media Strategy
Social media sites are great tools for businesses to connect to customers, capture new leads and improve its website’s rank on major search engines, such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. However, as important as it is for a business to have social media accounts, it is even more important to use them appropriately.
- Do a few things well: Rather than try to be on every social media site, pick only a few that are most likely to have your target audience and actively participate on them.
- Understand the platform: Different social settings can call for very different behavior, which is also true for social media. Try to look at the ways other users already interact on the social media site to get a better understanding of the ways to participate.
- Monitor social media sites: Customers use social media to communicate with businesses and expect responses to be made promptly. Failing to check social media sites can result in customer dissatisfaction.
Developing a Professional Website
A professional website does not mean complex or expensive per se. In fact, a small business should create a website that is well laid out, easy to navigate and engages the target audience.
Small businesses drive website traffic with the following:
- Demonstrate Value: Keep the language clear and easy to read. Avoid industry jargon and focus on the benefits of your products and services.
- Mobile Design: Allow customers to visit your website from any location with mobile and tablet version.
- Frequent Updates: Websites that are active with frequent updates are heavily favored by search engines. Consider adding a blog to your website and publishing content on a regular basis.
Local Business Search Optimization
Local business search sites are a powerful tool for allowing customers to find your business online. These are websites that provide reviews and other information about businesses, such as Superpages, Yelp, Citysearch etc. In addition to submitting a website to major search engines, find business directories that will help potential customers find you online.
- Provide details: Add as much relevant content in your listing as possible, including contact information, link to your website, photos, videos and the products or services the business offers.
- Update information: Remove any out dated content, such as old contact information.
- Niche directories: Local directories that are relevant to your business can provide better results. These directories also appeal to an audience that is interested in your industry and will likely drive more traffic to a website.
- Build over time: Avoid submitting to as many directories as possible all at once. Search engines look unfavorably on businesses that just spam directories.
Building an Online Presence With SoLoMo
Helping local retailers and service providers to get found
Among the many trends effecting social marketing is SoLoMo (pronounced So-Low-Moe) which is short for Social-Local-Mobile. Retailers and service providers are utilizing this strategy to attract new customers and stay connected with current ones. Today’s patrons want to feel special and to have a more personalized shopping experience. With the popularity of smart phones and tablets, Geo-Location Technology has taken the lead with apps like Yelp, Urbanspoon, Foursquare and even Facebook. More and more, search engines have given increased weight to geo-location and review based mediums.
To break down ”SoLoMo”: Social refers to connectivity and interaction with customers. This also refers to user reviews and ratings. Local is the understanding and data collection of a business’ clientele and location. Mobile refers to portability and the overwhelming use of smartphones and other portable devices to make decisions on the go. Search engines are giving more weight to location based data such as check-ins and customer reviews. Search Engine Optimization, properly utilizing these technologies is vital to SEO.
When searches are made from a computer, the search engine bases the location on the IP Address. However, this does not provide the hyper-local information necessary for most small businesses and mom & pop stores to compete with national chains. According to a recent survey by Pew, around 42% of Americans with cell phones have a smart phone, this translates to approximately 98 million people. A recent survey also found that over 70 million of the smartphone owners use apps on a daily basis. According to CNN TECH, the bulk of the growth has been with the college educated population under 65 years of age. Mashable reports, “… adoption rates are still stronger among certain demographics. College graduates, 18-35 year olds and those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more are 60% more likely to have a smartphone than other groups.” With these numbers, the marketing potential cannot be ignored.
Many of the apps that allow Check-Ins offer the ability for businesses to market promotions and to even act as a customer loyalty reward system. Once a user checks-in using the GPS in the phone, they can receive discounts or receive incentives for repeat patronage. Users can write reviews from their seats, upload photos and brag about where they are at the time. The more activity a location has, the better the search engine optimization (SEO), increasing the likelihood that your business will get found over your local competition.
It is ill-advised not to stay engaged with customers through the various social media accounts. This is much like having a phone number and answering machine but never checking the voice mail or returning calls. Customers like to feel that their opinion matters and offers the business the ability to see their prospective of what your business’ strengths and potential weaknesses that can be changed. Even with negative feedback a business has the opportunity to invite the guest or customer back to hopefully have a more enjoyable experience. Often customers will amend their public negativity to reflect their improved opinion.
Data gathering is another essential that mobility and other social mediums offer. Most programs have breakdowns of users’ gender, age and activity to see what is working/or not to help focus efforts to achieve maximum results. Analytical programs will also show which sites are generating traffic to your website. This also shows who your customer base is to allow your business to cater to the current base or alter efforts to attract a different demographic.
Like it or not, companies that understand and utilize SoLoMo will be at the forefront of marketing. Push marketing tactics are becoming a thing of the past as pull marketing is increasingly appealing to consumers. Stay connected, understand your customer base and improve patronage and sales through Social Local Mobile strategies.