5 Ways to Reach More Fans on Facebook

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Are your Facebook marketing strategies falling a little flat? Have you noticed that your pictures and quotes don’t seem to be reaching quite as many people as they used to? If so, you might want to re-evaluate your Facebook marketing strategy… and we’re here to give you a few helpful tips that yuo can start implementing right away.

Facebook is notorious for changing its algorithms, and people often don’t understand exactly why or how it’s changed–all they know is they’re seeing less engagement and fewer numbers for people reached. It’s frustrating and it’s time-consuming to try to alter your strategies, especially when you always seem to be a step behind because you’re not a professional marketer–you’re a small business owner, and you’re busy.

But if there’s one thing marketers can tell you, it’s that times change fast. Especially when it comes to social media. So how can you boost your engagement and reach more fans on Facebook right now? We have a few suggestions for you.

Video

Up until fairly recently, the tried-and-true way to reach the most people on Facebook was to post a picture and a link. You may have noticed, however, that this seems to have changed. In fact, photos are now one of the least effective ways to make sure fans see your content.

So what do you do instead? Well, video reaches more people than any other kind of post–but not just any video. The format has to be native, meaning you must actually upload the video to Facebook. Why is this? More than likely, Facebook is trying to keep you sharing videos using Facebook–not some other site. So even if you have a YouTube channel, it’s worth it to upload the videos separately to Facebook to get the most eyes on your content.

Quotes with photos

Although photos don’t have the reach they used to, people love sharing inspiring and motivating quotes. By placing the quote on an eye-catching image, you make it far more likely that someone will press “share”. So while the initial post might not reach as many people as, say, a video, if you get more engagement, you’ll get more shares and a bigger reach in the end.

Another thing about photos is that they have the potential to live on for quite some time. Because of the way the Facebook algorithm works, someone might not see your post right away, but it could pop up in their feed the next day. When they share it then, you’ll notice a spike in shares as their friends share it, and so on.

Don’t forget your CTA button

If you haven’t noticed the call-to-action button on Facebook yet, then you definitely need to take the time to check it out. It’s a new feature, but it’s a powerful one: By going into your settings, you can choose a call to action from a pre-set list (for example, “Shop Now”, “Learn More”, “Sign Up”, etc.) and direct people to the URL of your choice. Do you want to send them to a sales page? A landing page where they can sign up for a newsletter or free ebook? You can do any of that using this button.

The best part is that it appears right on your header image–it’s not hidden in some dark corner of your profile. After you have it set up, you can track clicks and change the CTA whenever you like. That way, if you find that it’s not working quite the way you had expected it to, all you have to do is change things around with a few clicks and you’re done.

Oh, and did we mention this is free? Because it is. There’s no reason NOT to use it.

Get used to reading negative feedback

It hurts us all. No one wants to go through their hard work and read bad things about themselves. Whether it’s your high school paper that your English teacher tore apart or your brand new website that cost you a pretty penny to develop, you’re going to get negative feedback on your projects, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

Now, that isn’t to say that every random complaint needs to be listened to or taken into consideration when you are planning your improvements. Some people just enjoy complaining about things no matter what. But if you notice some common themes–for example, people consistently unliking your Facebook page when you post irrelevant photos, or negative feedback on overly “salesy” posts–then you probably want to take those complaints into legitimate consideration as you plan your social media strategy.

When you listen to your fans like this, you not only give your audience what they really want, but you also grow as a businessperson. Constructive criticism might be hard to take, but if you can thicken your skin, you’re going to go a long way.

Don’t be afraid to change things up

If your marketing efforts are still falling flat, then don’t be afraid to change things up a bit! You can always do split A/B testing to see which campaigns perform better and adjust accordingly. Look at successful people in your industry and see how they garner engagement. There’s no rulebook here and there is no one magic trick that will work for everybody. But you’ll never know what works for you unless you try. So get creative, think outside the box, and change things up a bit until you come up with something that really makes your fans excited to interact with your business.

Are there any other tricks or tips that you use to get your fans more engaged on Facebook? If so, let us know in the comments!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to discover how we can help you be seen online.

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Why You Need to Be Using Social Media for Customer Service

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The way you choose to interact with your customers online can really set the tone for your business. If you’re responsive, engaging, and present a positive image for your company, people are more likely to interact with you and spread the word.

On the other hand, if you’re quick to pick fights with customers who complain or you’re not willing to listen to constructive criticism, you might find yourself in hot water faster than you ever thought possible–social media lets information travel far faster than word of mouth alone, and the effects last a long time. It’s really difficult to clean up a tarnished image in the digital age!

This is why your social media platforms need to be regularly maintained and easily accessible to your customers. Let them feel comfortable reaching out to you via social media. When you do communicate with your customers, be polite and understanding. Providing great customer service should be your #1 priority on social media–just as it should be elsewhere.

Companies that rock customer service via social media: JetBlue and Seamless

If you need a little bit of guidance in getting started, check out the customer service that JetBlue provides over Twitter. They engage with their customers in a timely and positive manner. And the don’t just interact with the customers who are happy–instead, they take the time to find the people who are talking about their company negatively, and they do their best to remedy the situation. That’s going above and beyond for their customers, and it has netted the airline a great reputation for customer service.

Seamless, on the other hand, takes a slightly different approach: They’re available 24 hours a day to help you with any troubles you might have, from a late order to a technical glitch on their website. No matter what problem you’re facing, you can tweet Seamless and they’ll get someone to help you ASAP.

How can you emulate JetBlue’s practice as a small business?

First monitor social media channels for mention of your brand’s name. When you see people talking about you, make sure you engage with them: If they’re saying something positive, retweet them or “like” their post. Leave an encouraging comment thanking them for taking the time to share their thoughts. If they’re saying something negative, put on your best happy face and try to find out why they’re disappointed. If you can remedy the situation, others will see that you care–and they’ll be more likely to remember you positively!

How can you emulate Seamless’s approach as a small business?

Obviously most small businesses can’t have someone there to help customers 24 hours a day. But what you can do is make sure that a dedicated team has access to the social media accounts. Does your webmaster run the technical side of things while you man the helm? Make sure he or she can deliver timely news to you about any website errors or downtime; or, alternatively, allow him or her to have access to the accounts to let customers and fans know for you. Make sure you respond to questions as soon as you have the chance, and your customers will thank you for it. (Customers expect a fairly fast response time–the average Twitter response time is 5.1 hours, with 10% of companies answering within an hour, and 93% of companies answering within 48 hours.)

Run a medium-sized company? Take cues from Nike and Blizzard Entertainment.

If you get fairly high traffic on your company website or on your social media pages, you might want to try creating a separate handle for your customer service. You can see how Nike does it here–look at the number of tweets that have come from that account! However, with a team dedicated to providing customer service managing this account, you can bet that anyone who needs help can get it faster than if they were to call. It’s also a great option for your customers who can’t speak and/or hear–there are TTY phones that Deaf and hard-of-hearing customers can use, but many would prefer to bypass that and use social media.

Blizzard Entertainment also takes this approach. Whenever servers are down, a website glitch pops up, or a game is getting a new patch, @BlizzardCS tweets about it. Players can also tweet at this account to report bugs or to let the team know of server issues. people have even reported in-game harassment here. By providing an account separate from their main game accounts, they’ve created a dedicated space to better assist customers without any game promotions or advertisements between tweets.

How can you make a dedicated customer service account work for you?

If you have the budget and resources to pull this off, go ahead and make a separate account. Hire a dedicated team to manage the account, and make sure they’re trained with customer service and dispute management. Make sure that they understand your company’s voice and your brand image. Finally, put a fail-safe in place: Allow them to direct the customers to a phone or a separate email if the situation is too complicated to deal with via text.

Tips for Excelling at Customer Service via Social Media

  • Have a priority list. Respond to things like technical issues or direct complaints first, and general comments (complaints or praise) last.
  • Set a goal for a response time–and track your success rate.
  • Are there questions you get more often than others? If so, you might want to consider an FAQ page on your website or putting together a guide covering the basics of your products and services.
  • Consider where your customers are. Most of our examples are from Twitter, but if most of your customers are on Facebook, implement your customer service strategy there.
  • Know when to take your issues away from social media. As mentioned above, there always needs to be a fail-safe. Not all customers can be appeased via social media. Make sure there’s a way for them to contact you with the method they prefer.
  • Monitor conversations about your brand and try to reply and remedy any complaints, even if they’re not directly tweeted/messaged to you.
  • Finally, keep your cool under all circumstances. Never, EVER respond when you’re angry. Step away from the computer if you’re about to tweet something angry. Even if this slows down your response time, it’s better to reply when you’re able to do so professionally–in a way that won’t damage your brand.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

Should You Use Twitter Direct Messaging for Marketing?

If you’re looking for a way to connect with a fan who’s just followed you on Twitter, how would you do it? Would you take the time to seek them out personally and send them a welcome tweet? Or would you choose to automate a response–such as sending them a private message thanking them for their interest? Would you consider sending a tweet or message with a link to your products and services?

You might be surprised (or maybe you aren’t!) to learn that a lot of people will send an automated “welcome” direct message (or DM). Many companies also use this opportunity to attach a link to their website, another social media site, or their newsletter, with the idea being that more people will click through and be enticed to buy or sign up.

While it seems like a good idea on the surface, there’s always pros and cons to “cold messaging” campaigns. So let’s dig into the pros and cons of using direct messaging for marketing purposes!

PROS

There are some people who claim that by sending a message with a link to Facebook or a newsletter, they get increased engagements.

Some Twitter users–usually people selling personal services, such as consulting or ebooks–swear up and down that they get increased engagement from sending out auto-DMs. They’ll use a program or app to set it up so that when they get a new follower, they send out a private message with a link to their book, website, Facebook page, or some other place. They claim that their signups, downloads, and sales increase when they do this, and they ignore those who claim that this is intrusive or annoying.

Now, some people have tested this and got miserable results. So it’s not guaranteed, which could mean that perhaps it just needs to be studied more. For example, are certain industries more successful with auto-DMs than others? Is it appealing to a certain demographic, such as people in specific countries or age brackets? Well, we don’t know for sure. But this process is nonetheless still something that some find valuable, so if you’re willing to test it out, let us know. 🙂

Some users think that this is a polite way to reach out and contact someone else.

Remember the days when you sent a personalized thank-you note for every gift you received?

Well, there are still some people who thank visitors to their sites with a message built right into the page. There are some who send thank-you emails to people who have left positive feedback on review sites.

To these people, sending a quick, private thank-you message is the perfect way to show your appreciation for a brand new Twitter follower’s support. Other times, they might choose to send out an automated tweet rather than a DM. They do this because if they do not follow their new follower back, the follower cannot respond to the DM. A lot of people find this frustrating. So by sending out a welcome tweet rather than DM, the person can interact with their follower without feeling obligated to follow them back immediately.

It’s a way to see who is interested in the products you have to offer.

For a while, Twitter actually removed the ability for a person to send a link through DMs. This was because they were trying to fight spam–many people had complained about being spammed through private messaging. But for whatever reason, they decided to bring it back again, and boy, are people really making use of them. Many companies send links to a page where you can directly purchase a product or service.

Some people even take it to the next level and use a tool like JustUnfollow to track who unfollows them (then that way, they can make sure to unfollow the person back if need be).

But JustUnfollow also has an option to send a friendly thank you DM to people along with a link. So this makes it incredibly easy for people who use the app to figure out who is clicking and who is getting fed up and unfollowing them.

If you’re interested, here’s what Twitter has to say about this whole process, now that they’ve changed the rules back: https://support.twitter.com/articles/76915-automation-rules-and-best-practices.

CONS

Some people find this to be irritating at best, or intrusive at worst.

On the flip side, there are a lot of Twitter users who really dislike DMs. They find them to be irritating, claiming they clutter up the inbox, send unnecessary push notifications to devices, and don’t contain any valuable information. Others actually find them to be intrusive. They view them as unsolicited marketing spam, and they don’t want to have anything to do with it. In fact, some will go as far as to unfollow and block a company that tries this tactic. Ouch.

Some users think that it’s disingenuous, and they’d rather you just not do it at all.

There are still others who might find it irritating, but it’s not so much about the inconvenience as it is the motive behind the message. They see it as disingenuous–if you can’t take the time to send out a personalized DM to thank someone for their follow, then why send anything at all? To these users, there’s no point in sending out a pre-written private message to everyone. That takes away from the uniqueness and value of a personalized thank-you.

If you don’t follow the follower that you’re messaging, they can’t message you back. That irritates a lot of people.

As mentioned above, if you do not follow a person who sends you a DM, you cannot message them back. Needless to say, most companies won’t mass-follow their fans. So if the company sends a fan a message, the fan can do nothing about it other than delete it or follow the included link (if there is one). This makes for a miserable, one-sided communication attempt that many people find to be a waste of time.

There are a lot of people who don’t even check their DMs–in fact, they hate them so much, they’ll even put it in their bios.

Yes, it’s true: Some are so incredibly fed up with it that they don’t even bother to check DMs anymore. They’ll actually include that in their bio, just so everyone knows that all DMs WILL go unread. That’s a whole other level of annoyance with the concept of marketing using DMs. If you view them as SUCH a waste of time that you won’t even bother looking at them no matter what, then you’re pretty dead-set against it.

In our experience, it’s better to not bother people needlessly, and many, MANY people tend to be in the “don’t send auto DMs” camp. Obviously, the choice is yours–there are plenty of people who do it, and some claim they get a lot out of it, even if it causes some to unfollow them. Whatever you do, make sure you are polite rather than demanding, and give the person the opportunity to directly tweet you if they prefer. Good customer service goes a long way!

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

7 Signs You’re Doing Social Media Wrong


Not getting the results you want on social media? Feeling frustrated because your time and efforts are going to waste? We’re going to be real with you here–you’re probably doing something that’s making people want to turn away from you.

But not to fret! You can fix it. Read on and see if you fall into any of these 7 categories. If you do… well, read to the end and make sure you know how you’re going to go about finding a solution to your problems. 🙂

1. You can’t seem to find any new friends

Whether you’ve been trying to attract new friends or you’re just letting people come to you as they please, your followers/fans lists are looking pretty sparse. You wonder why. You update, you have pictures of your business. You’re on the web like you’re supposed to be, so why aren’t people coming to you?

The answer is that social media requires you to be–shocker–social. If you’re taking the Field of Dreams approach (“If you build it, they will come!”), you might find that you’re not getting the results you want. If you can’t seem to find any new friends, then that’s because you’re not putting yourself out there. Be the first to introduce yourself. Interact with other businesses and potential clients. When you act social, then you will in turn make friends and grow your following. Who’d have thought?

2. Your fans and followers aren’t interacting with you

Okay, so let’s say you’ve reached out and found friends, fans, followers–the whole gang. But you don’t seem to get any real reactions. You tweet out updates, but nobody retweets them. You post articles on Facebook, but it seems like everyone has found other things to read. What gives?

Sometimes people are following you, but your voice is being drowned out by all the other noise, so they don’t get to see everything you post. Try posting a link more than once (do not confuse this with spamming–if you spam your followers, you can bet you’ll lose friends faster than you ever thought possible) or changing up the hashtags. If you cite certain articles or authors in your posts, why not tag them when you send out your update?

Another reason your followers might not be interacting with you is because they don’t have much to say about what you’ve posted. Think about it–how many times have you read an article and enjoyed it, but didn’t comment? Probably many. So why not try asking a question or finding a way for your followers to really get involved with your content? Ask them which product they prefer and why, or get their feedback on some new, exciting feature you’re about to unveil.

3. The only interest you ever drum up is related to controversy

Tired of talking to yourself all the time, you decided you were going to post on one of the more controversial topics–religion or politics. You said something you probably wouldn’t have said if you weren’t so agitated, and now the only interaction you’re getting is when people start yelling at you.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a big business or a small one–you should stick to professional topics. That doesn’t mean that you have to be stiff and humorless about everything, but no one needs to know your opinion on hot-button topics. It’s not professional and it’s not going to help you make any friends.

4. The last time you logged in was in 2014

If you sparsely update your accounts, you’re never going to get anywhere on social media. It’s a hard pill to swallow for some–between time and money, it doesn’t seem like there’s going to be enough of either to effectively manage social media.

But there are ways around this. We’ve written posts on automating updates, using tools to make your marketing strategy more effective, and improving your social media strategy without spending lots of money.

Listen, the only way you can build a following online is by being online. Whether you update twice a week or twice a day, it’s of the utmost importance that you find a schedule you can stick to and work on building trust with your followers. Then you’ll see that you’re finding new friends and fans on a regular basis!

5. All you do is advertise yourself

Look through your update history. If everything comes off as an aggressive sales pitch, it’s time to dial your advertising back a notch.

When you’re on social media, you are there to learn, relax, browse, shop… well, you could be there for a number of things, really. But chances are that you completely ignore any post that comes across as too aggressive, even under ideal circumstances. If your friends are posting too obnoxiously, you roll your eyes. If a business is trying too hard to get you to click on something, you’re almost repelled by it. So why would you want to do the same to your customers?

Look for ways to support your friends. “Like” their statuses or retweet them. Comment on the updates they share. In return, they’ll do the same to you, and you’ll have a much nicer atmosphere to enjoy. If you want, try to keep in mind the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time you’re sharing interesting, relevant articles or supporting community members; 20% of the time you’re advertising your services and promoting your work.

6. You delete all negative feedback–or freak out about it

If someone leaves a negative comment on your Facebook page, what do you do?

After an initial panic, you might do one of a few things: Respond to it nicely and professionally, flame the person in your response, ignore it, or delete it.

If you delete negative feedback, you’re just saying that you refuse to have a discussion with your customers, no matter how important they think the matter is. Did something go wrong with a product and they’re feeling frustrated about it? You’re saying that you really don’t care if you just delete the comment and never respond. How would you feel if a business did that to you? Probably not great, right?

On the other hand, it’s hard not to take it personally. So you’ll see some business owners get really nasty with customers who are leaving negative feedback on their social media pages. Don’t do this. If you feel upset, read this article. We’ve got some tips to help you respond to negative comments without blowing your top.

7. You don’t or won’t respond to customers

This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the above, but it goes for all situations: Maybe you just don’t respond to customers, whether they leave good or bad comments.

This isn’t going to help you win any friends, either.

Customers are following you because they want to hear what you have to say. And when they ask a question, they’d like an answer. If you don’t give that to them, they’re going to feel as if they’re talking to a wall. If you were in school and listening to a lecture, you might have a question. If the speaker or teacher completely blew you off and kept talking over you as if you weren’t even there, how would you feel? Probably like never coming back to that class again.

When someone reaches out to you, answer their questions. If they have something bad to say, suck it up and respond in a professional way. Doing this will put you ahead of those companies who neglect their customers online or who refuse to deal with any negative feedback at all. And that means a lot to your online friends, fans, followers, customers… whatever you want to call them.

Internet Local Listings is an internet advertising company in Santa Ana, CA, serving clients across the country with the best website marketing services available in the industry. Visit us here for more information, or give us a call at (888) 770-3950 to see how we can help you be seen online.

The Importance of Visual Content

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

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!

Holiday Shopping with Social Media

As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, ads for the upcoming shopping season can be seen everywhere: From the mall to the grocery store, it seems there’s always a reminder that the holidays are sneaking up on you, and your window of opportunity nabbing the best gifts is closing. But whether you’re the type who wants to go out and get all the best products on Black Friday, or you’re more the kind of person who procrastinates until mid-December, you’re still always looking for a great deal! After all, you don’t want to spend more money than you have to, and you definitely want the whole shopping process to be as painless as possible. And that means you’re probably going to do your fair share of shopping online. But in 2014, online shopping can be a lot more than just logging on to your favorite store and filling up your cart.

You can also utilize the power of social media to do your holiday shopping.

By using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, you can easily find what you’re looking for in multiple places. You can quickly compare availability, prices, and more. Even better, you can read reviews and get feedback on any items before you add anything to your cart. Sure beats the old way of doing things, doesn’t it?

Here are a few ways you can use social media for your holiday marketing strategy—and maybe even use some of these tips yourself when you go shopping!


 

Holiday Marketing with Twitter

twitter-for-small-businesses

In a survey conducted among 500 US adults, 36% said they wanted to use Twitter for holiday gift ideas. Another 35% admitted they used the social media platform to find links to the business’s online store.

Now, in case you didn’t know, 284 million people are on Twitter and active every month. That’s a lot of potential business.

Furthermore, 4 in 10 consumers who are active on Twitter plan on beginning their holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. That leaves about a week and half from the publishing of this article to get your store holiday-ready! You can begin by tweeting about special deals, ask your followers to “please retweet” your updates, and direct people to your store for coupons or special checkout codes. Perhaps you could offer a “new followers” coupon for your new fans. Think outside the box on this one–people who use Twitter want to get information and get it fast. If you deliver it in an attention-grabbing way, you’re sure to get a few new eyes on your merchandise.


 

Holiday Marketing with Facebook

facebook-logo

With Facebook, you are provided a more “permanent” platform to advertise to your fans. Permanent is in quotes because, of course, Facebook is actually moving at a rapid pace–updates seem to come and go quickly, and the feed refreshes constantly. But fans can easily find apps or albums that you’ve set up on your business page to promote your holiday specials. You can make your page visually appealing and full of content to entice your audience. Plus, sharing on Facebook works a bit differently than sharing on Twitter does—people get more personally invested. Family members are likely to share with one another over Facebook, whereas Twitter tends to foster more professional connections. When was the last time you tweeted your grandparents? (or grandchildren!)

A good place to start is with two of the biggest shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. According to AllFacebook.com, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are growing into a quarter-long phenomenon. They urge businesses and advertisers to “capitalize on lower reach costs and high consumer engagement before and after peak days.”

Yeah, yeah, that’s nice. But what does it mean for small businesses?

Basically, that you can promote your great deals before and after days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday to get the best returns. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on those days. You should also keep promoting your business’s specials throughout the holiday season, because shoppers will be buying more heavily until Christmas.


 

Holiday Marketing with Pinterest

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If you haven’t gotten into the habit of posting to a Pinterest board, you might want to start: 47.7% of holiday shoppers say that Pinterest has influenced their buying decisions. That’s a lot of people!

But just how can you make the most out of your pins and get people interested in your products? It’ll take a bit of creative thinking, but if you try, we bet you can come up with a variety of effective marketing strategies. For example, you could try making a themed board. You can showcase great gift ideas. You can create a storyboard where a shopper uses your product to bring happiness to friends and family. You can show how other customers choose to use your products to make their lives better. It’s all in how you choose to present yourself!

We hope that these tips have been helpful for you. The holidays are a great time for helping customers get the special gifts they want for friends and family. By putting your best foot forward, you can prove to your community that you are dedicated to their needs, and that you’re ready to help them make this holiday season the best one yet!

Can you think of any other ways to use Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest for holiday marketing? It’s always a learning experience, and everyone gets different results. But with a little bit of practice and creativity, you can learn how to get more sales, happier customers, and better engagement during the holiday season. If you have any tips or tricks, be sure to leave them in the comments below!

Good luck!

How to Use 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

happy-chat

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

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
Coca Cola is a great example of a company with a strong brand image.

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?
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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Your local community must also know and recognize your brand.

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 across different online networks can be tough!

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.

pretty-store
Keeping your storefront neat and clean is one great way to impress customers.

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!

clean-store
Clean stores with nicely-arranged displays entice customers to stay and shop!

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!

welcoming-customers
Welcome your customers and make them feel at home! Maybe don’t dress as Dracula, though.

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.