Let’s Get OFF Facebook!

facebook logoAOL-logoHere’s a bold Marketing idea: Let’s get off Facebook ! Now, why would we even think of stopping marketing on the site that has over a Billion active users? Because of a system they have put in place that may render them as inconsequential as AOL. Remember America Online? In the Nineties, they were the dominant business on the web, because of a bold marketing strategy, that eventually turned on them:

In the early part of the decade, they spent over $300 million in mailing CDs to everyone’s mailbox. At one point, 50% of the CD’s produced worldwide had an AOL logo on it, and they were logging in new subscribers at the rate of one every six seconds. Within ten years AOL rose to over 25 million users – an unbelievable number at the time – and they were the hottest company in the world. They began opening up new opportunities for brands to reach consumers. Companies raced to build up their AOL brand pages, and you would see “AOL” all over the commercials.

But eventually it fell out of favor (as every social network does), and lost users in droves. Those huge marketing investment dollars that companies made into AOL were wasted — because it was a “closed system”. All the data and user information belonged to AOL, not the companies who worked so hard to build it in the first place, and marketers realised that they were never going to either get control of those prospects, or would grow their sales. Today, Facebook have started doing exactly the same thing.

Companies love talking about their Facebook “Likes” and promoting their pages wherever they can. But here’s the problem, Facebook is starting to charge you to reach your own fans.

Facebook acknowledged it recently: Messages now reach, on average, 15 percent of an account’s fans. However, In a wonderful coincidence, Facebook has rolled out a solution for this problem: You pay them for better access. If you want to speak to the other 80 to 85 percent of people who signed up to hear from you, “sponsoring posts is important.” according to the monolith. They have, in effect, stolen the friends that you have, and are holding them hostage until you pay to get them back – this on top of you spending time, money, and energy acquiring them in the first place. If not enough people pay this outrageous ransom fee (and who would?), those friends will remain as Facebook’s property, hereby creating a closed system that you don’t own or control.

If you’re looking for awareness, then track visits, not “Likes.” If you’re looking for sales from repeat visitors, then use email marketing, not Facebook. You never know how long it will be around. If that sounds heretical, ask anyone who was online in the nineties about AOL.

What is my first step?

businessman-A reply to a recent post online stated a major business problem that we sometimes overlook: “All of these detailed plans are very good, but how do I start out? What is my first step in marketing a small business?”

While we specialize in opening the online world to small businesses, how to actually start one week before opening your doors is an overlooked Marketing exercise that we sometimes overlook.

Firstly, do you know your audience? I am amazed by the amount of store-front businesses opening in my small town every time that I walk along its streets. How come I didn’t know about this opening, or this store? Your opening is a massive event, because you are introducing shoppers to a whole new experience, a completely different array of stuff that they may need. A sign in the front window saying: “We are new!” isn’t enough. How do people find out that you are about to open? The answer here is a choice: You will spend money on marketing, or you will spend a lot of time outside of your businesses’ opening making sure that your future audience knows that you are opening. Don’t rely on them to find you as part of a regular shopping trip…make sure they are there to see you, to spend time, to make a decision to buy. You have to get to them to let them know that you are holding an event for them.

Do you know who your audience is? Is it primarily female, or Boomers? Is it for people of a certain salary group, or for people that belong to a community other than your geographical one? Do you have a business plan in mind that states what lines you have now, how you are going to expand, and what you are going to use to continually create interest in your business within your chosen communities? Are you seasonal, and know how you are going to entice people into your business in 3 months, 6 months, a year? OK, now put those facts together in a list: I am selling this to these people. Now go and find them. Are they online or off? Are they local, or will they have to travel somehow to get to you. Where can you find them? Of course, a website is the perfect way to share what you are trying to say, to tell the story, show prospects where you are, who you are and how to get to you. You can think of possible objections to them visiting you, and deal with those ahead of time. But this is only good if your Ideal Customer is actually online to see them. How about these ideas, while you are adding to, or designing, your website:

Flyers are a good way to get business for a local service and we have all seen others who have had success with this. Leaving them up with your phone number on the bottom and then cut into slices so people can grab one and then placing them around at local coffee shops etc.

Physical networking definitely helps you to get seen by local government, merchant associations, and regular everyday customers. Local print advertising could be expensive, but if your local paper has a reader profile that matches your ideal customer, you can get a deal to advertise over a 6 or 8 month period that satisfies your ongoing advertising needs, and the costs would be more gentle. Of course having your web details on your advertising, allows prospects to see you ‘at a glance’, then investigate you more at their own pace.

Once you have a plan, a customer profile, and an ongoing investment (in money or time.) outline, you will be better placed to succeed than others, whose ego is the only thing they rely on for success.

How ‘clean’ is your data?

Scrub diskHopefully, if your ongoing marketing is having an positive effect on your customers and prospects, you are collecting a lot of data. There comes a time when you should take a closer look at the data you have, and are still collecting. While you have put a lot of time into defining your message for each channel, and ensuring that each of these channels are getting enough attention, there comes a time when you have to find out what this collection of information actually means to your business. How has your businesses’ database evolved, and how can you ensure that the signals you are getting from it are correct, and can further your sales?

Data may be the four-letter word that does irreparable harm to your marketing if it isn’t looked after, so ensure that you make the most of it, before your competitors do. Think about this: Up to 25% of customer data becomes inaccurate within one year. If you are making marketing and sales decisions on this, you stand a 1 in 4 chance of going down the wrong path, and wasting time by treading water in your marketplace. Here are four easy steps to ensure that you maximize your data, and they are easy to put into your monthly working practices.

1.        Maintain Field Completeness.

Either you, or your sales and marketing department need to identify who is doing what in your customer and prospect database. What fields are important to you: Name, address, or business, past purchases, size, or frequency? Of course, you can define all kinds of knowledge, but if your fields are being ignored by others in the company, then everyone may be looking at the same data, but receiving different signals. Ensure that everyone gets the same results by agreeing (or clarifying) the headers that enable you to keep your records straight.

2.        Take Action on Bouncebacks.

Don’t just delete those e-mail bouncebacks – use them. The average time of workers at companies is between two to five years. Even if someone stays at a company longer than this, their job title may change. Think of the amount of mergers and acquisitions that take place everyday, if you are working in a B2B market. These three factors may well be responsible for the returned mail you are getting.

Not only frustrating, this can lose you leads if you simply ignore them. If someone has left a position, find out who took their place, and track down where your contact went to. This doubles the amount of leads that you have! You know that a particular business was interested, along with a person: perhaps that contact’s new business would also be looking at your service? Does the new guy in the chair know of their bosses’ interest in your service? You need to at least save these returned e-mails as a possible new source for sales and marketing to.

3.        Make Sense of Unsubscribes.

While giving a prospect the opportunity to unsubscribe from your marketing gives them a certain amount of power, shouldn’t you get something from this, too? Come up with a system that addresses this, by finding out why. See how these lists grow, try to drill down to get more information, and alter your marketing system, before getting in touch with them again from a different perspective a few months later. Lists like this can feed the life-blood of a business, by teaching you what isn’t working from your prospect point of view.

4. Track Increased Engagement

It’s not all bad news: There is a reason why you are receiving positive feedback. Once again, you can find buried treasure to find out which channels are working and why. Are there certain messages working better than others? Find out why, and mould this message into a shape that will receive a more positive reaction from more prospect sources. You can even change the least popular of your positive marketing to try to bump up those figures.

There is something called Paralysis by Analysis that infects many companies: When you spend way too long studying results of marketing, and this impacts the speed at which your business reacts to changes in your marketplaces. Get accustomed to overhauling your data on an ongoing basis, and this will make your Analysis faster and more successful. These simple four steps will be a good starting point.

Your Facebook profile….Five minutes…more prospects

facebook logoSo, does social marketing really work? Give yourself 5 minutes with your Facebook profile, and find out how your own marketing can grow visitors to your business. Everyone in your office has their own personal Facebook page. Why not take advantage of the time they spend on it during working hours?

Of course, you may be a little more protective of your brand, so if you want to try this out yourself first, then you can decide whether or not to extend this facility to the rest of the office.

OK, here we go: Open up your Facebook page, and go to home. There is a small menu underneath that button on the right hand side of the page including the ubiquitous ‘More’ command. Choose this, and then select ‘Create A Page’. All of the instructions given there show you how to set up an entirely new business page for your business. You get to add the correct script, add the pictures you want, and start your own business profile.  What’s more, you can connect your personal profile to that business one, and your entire circle of ‘friends’ can now access your business for its daily or weekly updates.

When people want to learn more about you, chances are they end up on your “personal” profile rather than your “business page.” This is because you are using Facebook as Your Personal Profile, however, when you change this setting, you get more people directed to your Business Page with one simple click.

What better way to promote your brand (especially as a small business) as the person that runs the business – a real, live person. Prospects enjoy this. We have all shared the frustration of being shepherded through an automated system, when all you want is an answer. Here is a perfect moment to say: “This is us, and we are here to help.”, and to do so in a social setting, rather than ‘your own turf.’ A contact page on a company website still means that the prospect has to cope to you, whereas the social profile you publish allows you to go to the prospect in their ‘living room’, to be less intimidating and more approachable.

To grow your businesses’ marketing, have your entire office ‘like’ your business. When they do – and if you trust them – you can make them Administrators of your business site. This means that whenever anyone in the office has a business post to make: “Hey, looks like Mr. and Mrs. Jones are going to move to the Highlands area, after all”, it can be posted on their personal and your company’s page. Image five people each having twenty friends. Now, over 100 people can see your businesses’ update, and that could spread ever wider, faster, and in a friendlier fashion than you could ever hope for. All with Facebook!

Fresh ways to look at Successful Social Marketing

social mediaWhen do you count your Social Media marketing as ‘paying off’, or ‘successful’? Is there such a point? Is there a future when you imagine that it just ‘runs on remote control’, and becomes its own person, when prospects engage as if by magic, and then turn into customers at an ever-increasing rate? It sounds wonderful, but did you really think that your marketing would become this? If so, then you haven’t yet figured out how it all works. There will never be a threshold point when it takes off on its own, and you don’t have to do anything but monitor it. There won’t be a point when your Marketing efforts have become automatic, and successful. So, why do people think of it as ever complete? As if the number of followers you have, or shares, likes and re-tweets you gave received have reached some point of critical mass that will magically turn into more profit for the company?

Instead of looking for benchmarks, check out what you are doing on an ongoing basis. Here are a few points that will guide you to look at Social Marketing in a different light. Not as individual rain drops that can be measured, but rather as an ongoing rain deluge that you need to see through. By approaching your daily marketing efforts this way, you will be able to be more successful on an ongoing basis.

Don’t rush your efforts: there isn’t a time limit in place for you to achieve something with your marketing. It is an ongoing daily process that requires creativity, energy and time. When you are contributing to a community, it has to be valuable, and place you as an expert on the subject. If it doesn’t, then why are you posting at all? Be productive when posting overall, because if you are just ‘spinning your wheels’, it will be noticed by everyone. Be a real person, care about who you are connected to, don’t waste their time, and post quality, rather than being a daily poster of background noise. Always give your readers a chance to talk back to you, to share, to post, to comment. If you are untouchable, no-one will follow you. Take your time to get to know someone, and invite, then respond to, their conversations. Here are some more points to ensure you are using your time to its fullest.

Be adaptable. What is hot today, isn’t tomorrow, so ensure you are always educating yourself about new trends. Most people don’t, so it’s the Number One way of becoming an expert. If you engage someone, both of you should get something from that relationship. If you don’t, or if your engagements don’t lead to anything, then you are doing something wrong, and you should change it as soon as you can. Always use Graphics, pictures and video if you can. Some old sayings have value, and: “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.”, is a famous paradigm for a reason. Finally, be patient. You can’t achieve everything in one day, but you can add to your efforts, making every day another brick in the wall.

What will move your business branding in 2016?

Crystal BallIt is the time of year, when everyone appears to run their ‘best of’ or highlights of the year just gone. Of course, this allows you to see how things changed over the last 12 months, but how about using the movements we have seen in a particular area (Social Media branding in this case.), and use them to predict what will probably happen in the upcoming 12 months?

Of course, we leave ourselves open to ridicule a year from now when these things don’t appear, but we are sure that, based on recent movements in the small business branding area, you will see at least some of the following changes online. You can do no harm by preparing yourself for what may happen – if you are wrong, you will only overshoot what is happening. In each case, it means a ‘win, win’ situation for your small business.

Content Marketing grows in importance. Salaries, expenses, and profit continue to be aimed at – and derived from – quality, original content to ensure that businesses are heard above the ‘cybernoise’ of the internet. Ensure that your content continues to show you in the best light.

Parsing Data. The more marketing there is online, the more data Search Engines can collect and show you about exactly what kind of engagements your business is getting. Data levels of engagement can be further mined to show exactly what prospects are finding interesting about you, and driving down the cost of customer acquisition. Pay what you need to get hold of more and more data.

More of the same? The amount of low quality, low interest, cookie-cutter information will continue to grow, and the Search Engines will continue to grow their filtering algorithms to ensure that only the best-of-the-best get higher rankings. Stay on that High Road, and create content, don’t be lazy.

Guest posting drops. As soon as Google stated that Guest Blogging is a great way to get links, the market exploded. The obvious reaction to this is the number of sites that will no longer accept them. Wean yourself from Guest posting.

More High-end Videos. Video exploded a couple of years ago. The amount of upgrades now being adopted by marketers to their video presentations, such as graphics, High Definition, animation, etc. mean that the more creative marketers will do whatever they can to imaginatively use video: Be one of these, and graphically show hoe you can help your clientele.

An Acquisition market. Over the last few years, start-ups in the online world have not only continued to be bought by big players, the rate of acquisition continues to grow. Nowadays, it is the way that the marketplace is diversifying. We believe that more acquisitions will take place in 2015, and so if you see a start up with a clever marketing idea, add it to your branding avenues. The chance that it will be swallowed by a big name is very high and, as an early adopter, your rep. will grow after acquisition.

There may be more headlines to share as we move further into the New Year, but we think that these are the base line in continuing internet branding. Be on the front line of marketing, and ensure that you are compliant with these predictions. It will lead to a happy and profitable New Year.

What Time of Day do you Engage?

social-media-networking-time

Of course, everyone involved in online marketing now know that any successful ongoing campaign includes a heavy Social engagement quotient. However, content isn’t the only consideration to keep in mind. Timing is almost equally as important. In cementing your existing circle of friends and ensuring the largest amount of prospects possible also get your message, knowing when to post can be as important as your message.

Imagine leaving the office block where you may work, looking to stand on the street directly outside your front door, and giving away flyers. Not so long ago, this was the major avenue to get new interest in your special offers. Nowadays, we don’t see it too often, because Social media has transplanted the ‘face-to-face’ direct marketing that a flyer giveaway (for instance) achieved.

If you decided to offer a flyer giveaway, when would you do it? At 8.30 a.m. during the rush? How about 4.30 p.m.? No – while there are definitely people around and a busy time of day, no-one would be interested in grabbing a flyer from you when they are thinking of other things: Either the day’s work to come, or what needs to be dine at home that evening. You would choose lunchtime. It’s a very busy time, and people would be more interested in getting new information. The same is true with your online marketing. When is the busiest time of day, and when will people be more open to hearing your offers?

Thanks t the amount of data available, now, from online social sites, you can find these times. They differ from each other, but – when put together – they are a fascinating look at people’s habits, and when you can get to the majority of them.

Facebook

This platform enjoys the most traffic for shares, when the workday requires a break. For clicks and shares locally 1.00 p.m., and 3.00 p.m. Engagement rates are also almost 20 percent higher on Thursdays and Fridays, so afternoons toward th end of the work week will get you the most possible engagement.

Twitter

Obviously, the engagement on this platform is much shorter than others. The time it takes to read, share, reply, or tweet takes a lot less time than other online social activities. With Twitter, think about what you are posting, and if it be accessed and understood quickly. However, weekends are still busier by over 30 percent than weekdays and Mondays to Fridays see more lunchtime traffic (Local times for each time zone, obviously.) than others. The best possible online visibility times here can be almost 20 minutes, so imagine how many people you can reach with the right information.

Google+

Strangely, this platform is busiest on weekday mornings than at any other time. Does your business offer anything to people that engage with others during these hours? In fact, midweek mornings are busier than any other times, so 9.00 a.m. Wednesday is the best time to be on here.

LinkedIn

This Business to Business platform shows a different demographic: Just before and after the regular working day are the best times to unveil new content. Perhaps business owners and marketers are checking for the new trends and offers just before and after the working day? Aim for 7.00 a.m.  and 5.00pm to 6.00pm are the best times to connect, however, make sure your content matches what people are looking for.

Of course, in all cases, you have to give your different audiences what they want. With the same message being delivered with different marketing ideas, you need to be fast, creative, and aware of the time of day that your audience is waiting for you. Perhaps it is time to investigate the value of an online posting and scheduling service – especially if you are aiming at a particular geographic area remote form yours – such as a franchising service looking to open new markets.

Of course, you also need to know if there are better times suited for your specific audience. When do they reply to you, share, and retweet? Your own analytics matter just as much as the general timelines for these social platforms and others. This is meant as a guideline only, but should give you the opportunity to correctly plan your marketing and branding efforts.

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