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Friday, 28 February 2014

Improve Customer Experience? Increase Sales!

Businesses spend a lot of time and money romancing their prospects, hoping to make a sale.

They build new websites, spend money creating and running ads and hire people to do countless other marketing activities. If successful, their efforts will pay off by attracting new business and closing sales.

But what happens after the sale?

Most of the time, the customer experience is far less romantic: Receipts, shipment tracking numbers, and automated thank you emails. If you’re a service provider, it might be thank you emails, yearly reviews, and referral requests.

Do any of those sound enticing to you as a customer? Would they make you want to do business with a company again?

The Bare Minimum is Not Enough

Your marketing, advertising, and sales process might be impeccable. But it’s just as important to deliver outstanding service once your customers finally decide to buy from you.

I had an experience last week. I purchased a coat and a sweatshirt from a company that I’ve liked for a long time. Their marketing is incredible. They tell a visual story on Instagram like nobody’s business.

But after I made the purchase, I didn’t hear from them aside from an automated purchase confirmation. I had no idea when it was shipping, how long it would take to arrive, or who to contact if I had questions. This was my first red flag.

The second red flag came when they emailed me ten days later, apologizing because my sweatshirt was sold out. They didn’t present me with any kind of solution. They just asked whether I would like to have my jacket shipped to me anyway.

I replied with an email asking for options: Can I choose a different color? Is it possible to get a credit to buy something else? Either way, I’d like the jacket shipped, Thanks.

Two days later, I get a shipping notification, followed by a response: “Sorry, the sweatshirt is completely sold out.” The following day, the jacket arrived, and so did a refund receipt in my email for the sweatshirt I ordered.

What Could They Have Done Better?

I would really like to buy from this company again, but I’m not sure if I will. Here’s why:

They didn’t present me with options: Rather than just telling me that my item was sold out, I would have loved to get a store credit. Not only would I have been happier, they would have turned lemons into lemonade and gotten a sale out of it.

They could have allowed me to choose something else instead, processed my order, and shipped my new item with my jacket.

Instead, if I want to buy something I would have to wait until they process my refund (2-3 days), go back online, shop for something else, and wait another 2 weeks for them to ship it. I just don’t feel confident in the process any more.

Lack of communication: Responding to emails or phone calls promptly is one of the easiest ways to improve customer experience. Even if there’s nothing wrong with an order, a quick personal email can improve your customers’ experience tenfold.

In this case, there was a problem with the order, which makes communication even more important. Had they communicated better throughout the process, I would be eager to jump back on their website and order something else.

New Customers vs. Returning Customers

Customer experience can make all the difference when it comes to getting repeat business and referrals. Here are 5 incredible stats that you need to know:

1. 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience. (Tweet ThisSource: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report

2. Attracting a new customer costs 5 times as much as keeping an existing one. (Tweet ThisSource: Lee Resource Inc.

3. The probability of selling service to a new customer is 1 in 16, while the probability of selling service to a current customer is 1 in 2. (Tweet ThisSource: Earl Sasser of Harvard Business School and Merry Neitlich of Extreme Marketing

4. Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience. (Tweet ThisSource: White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC

5. A customer is 4 times more likely to buy from a competitor if the problem is service related vs. price or product related. (Tweet ThisSource: Bain & Company

As you can see, a positive customer experience is not just about making your customers happy. It’s about the bottom line for your business.

Communicate. Help your customers find a solution when a problem arises. These are 2 simple, but powerful things you can start doing today.

What are some other simple ways your business has promoted a positive customer experience?
For corporation founders like Bob Parsons of GoDaddy, managing social media workflow is paramount to staying in touch with customers and maintaining an existing client base. GoDaddy manages a social media account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and Pinterest (and, likely, some that I’ve missed). However, if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, social workflow is just as important as it is to the big leaguers.
I’m not part of a social media marketing agency or huge corporation, but just handling social marketing for my own individual blog requires me to use tools to improve workflow. Keeping up with the daunting aspects of social marketing makes it almost impossible to do anything else. The right apps, extensions, and software, however, have helped me do the work of many by helping me become organized and efficient.
TwentyFeet
1Like Google Analytics for social media, TwentyFeet uses graphs and charts to show me the impact you have across all your social media channels. This single tool can turn you into your own social media marketing agency.
WhoTweetedMe
2WhoTweetedMe is an excellent tool for anyone who relies heavily on Twitter for marketing. If you’re like me, you have lots of Twitter traffic and very little time. I use this tool to help me decide which people are the most important to interact with simply by cutting and pasting a URL into the tool’s search bar.
Twylah
3I use Twylah to capture and preserve all my best tweets into a single attractive page. To avoid having to either waste precious time going through my feed or resigning myself to the fact that my finest updates are lost forever, I use the tool to centralize my tweets that relate to social marketing.

Twylah can turn your best posts into their own brand.
Buffer
4Of all the auto-posting apps, Buffer may be the best of the bunch – at least of those geared toward social marketing. Not only does it make it easy to share pre-loaded tweets, but scatters them out at the times that are most efficient for your specific account.
Let’s Crate
5Similar to Dropbox, but better and simpler, Let’s Crate uses a technique that could make any social media marketing agency more efficient. I simply drop my files in the crate, and the tool generates a single link for me to share across all my platforms.
Gmail Inbox Checker
6This Chrome extension is a very simple, easy solution for Gmail clutter. Infinitely better than all of Gmail’s built-in priority-classification systems, Gmail Inbox Checker makes sorting, prioritizing, and responding to emails a piece of cake. It also lets me increase workflow by offering customized notification settings.
I don’t know where I – or my social marketing strategy – would be without the help of the litany of awesome tools designed to make my life easier. Everyone’s needs are different, so start with these, look around, and decide which ones are right for you. But remember – you’re not alone and don’t need to do it without help.
- See more at: http://socialmedia.biz/2014/02/27/add-these-6-tools-to-improve-your-social-workflow/#sthash.ABr4Ow12.dpuf
corporation founders like Bob Parsons of GoDaddy, managing social media workflow is paramount to staying in touch with customers and maintaining an existing client base. GoDaddy manages a social media account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and Pinterest (and, likely, some that I’ve missed). However, if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, social workflow is just as important as it is to the big leaguers.
I’m not part of a social media marketing agency or huge corporation, but just handling social marketing for my own individual blog requires me to use tools to improve workflow. Keeping up with the daunting aspects of social marketing makes it almost impossible to do anything else. The right apps, extensions, and software, however, have helped me do the work of many by helping me become organized and efficient.
TwentyFeet
1Like Google Analytics for social media, TwentyFeet uses graphs and charts to show me the impact you have across all your social media channels. This single tool can turn you into your own social media marketing agency.
WhoTweetedMe
2WhoTweetedMe is an excellent tool for anyone who relies heavily on Twitter for marketing. If you’re like me, you have lots of Twitter traffic and very little time. I use this tool to help me decide which people are the most important to interact with simply by cutting and pasting a URL into the tool’s search bar.
Twylah
3I use Twylah to capture and preserve all my best tweets into a single attractive page. To avoid having to either waste precious time going through my feed or resigning myself to the fact that my finest updates are lost forever, I use the tool to centralize my tweets that relate to social marketing.

Twylah can turn your best posts into their own brand.
Buffer
4Of all the auto-posting apps, Buffer may be the best of the bunch – at least of those geared toward social marketing. Not only does it make it easy to share pre-loaded tweets, but scatters them out at the times that are most efficient for your specific account.
Let’s Crate
5Similar to Dropbox, but better and simpler, Let’s Crate uses a technique that could make any social media marketing agency more efficient. I simply drop my files in the crate, and the tool generates a single link for me to share across all my platforms.
Gmail Inbox Checker
6This Chrome extension is a very simple, easy solution for Gmail clutter. Infinitely better than all of Gmail’s built-in priority-classification systems, Gmail Inbox Checker makes sorting, prioritizing, and responding to emails a piece of cake. It also lets me increase workflow by offering customized notification settings.
I don’t know where I – or my social marketing strategy – would be without the help of the litany of awesome tools designed to make my life easier. Everyone’s needs are different, so start with these, look around, and decide which ones are right for you. But remember – you’re not alone and don’t need to do it without help.
- See more at: http://socialmedia.biz/2014/02/27/add-these-6-tools-to-improve-your-social-workflow/#sthash.ABr4Ow12.dpuf
For corporation founders like Bob Parsons of GoDaddy, managing social media workflow is paramount to staying in touch with customers and maintaining an existing client base. GoDaddy manages a social media account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and Pinterest (and, likely, some that I’ve missed). However, if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, social workflow is just as important as it is to the big leaguers.
I’m not part of a social media marketing agency or huge corporation, but just handling social marketing for my own individual blog requires me to use tools to improve workflow. Keeping up with the daunting aspects of social marketing makes it almost impossible to do anything else. The right apps, extensions, and software, however, have helped me do the work of many by helping me become organized and efficient.
TwentyFeet
1Like Google Analytics for social media, TwentyFeet uses graphs and charts to show me the impact you have across all your social media channels. This single tool can turn you into your own social media marketing agency.
WhoTweetedMe
2WhoTweetedMe is an excellent tool for anyone who relies heavily on Twitter for marketing. If you’re like me, you have lots of Twitter traffic and very little time. I use this tool to help me decide which people are the most important to interact with simply by cutting and pasting a URL into the tool’s search bar.
Twylah
3I use Twylah to capture and preserve all my best tweets into a single attractive page. To avoid having to either waste precious time going through my feed or resigning myself to the fact that my finest updates are lost forever, I use the tool to centralize my tweets that relate to social marketing.

Twylah can turn your best posts into their own brand.
Buffer
4Of all the auto-posting apps, Buffer may be the best of the bunch – at least of those geared toward social marketing. Not only does it make it easy to share pre-loaded tweets, but scatters them out at the times that are most efficient for your specific account.
Let’s Crate
5Similar to Dropbox, but better and simpler, Let’s Crate uses a technique that could make any social media marketing agency more efficient. I simply drop my files in the crate, and the tool generates a single link for me to share across all my platforms.
Gmail Inbox Checker
6This Chrome extension is a very simple, easy solution for Gmail clutter. Infinitely better than all of Gmail’s built-in priority-classification systems, Gmail Inbox Checker makes sorting, prioritizing, and responding to emails a piece of cake. It also lets me increase workflow by offering customized notification settings.
I don’t know where I – or my social marketing strategy – would be without the help of the litany of awesome tools designed to make my life easier. Everyone’s needs are different, so start with these, look around, and decide which ones are right for you. But remember – you’re not alone and don’t need to do it without help.
- See more at: http://socialmedia.biz/2014/02/27/add-these-6-tools-to-improve-your-social-workflow/#sthash.ABr4Ow12.dpuf
For corporation founders like Bob Parsons of GoDaddy, managing social media workflow is paramount to staying in touch with customers and maintaining an existing client base. GoDaddy manages a social media account on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, and Pinterest (and, likely, some that I’ve missed). However, if you’re a solopreneur or small business owner, social workflow is just as important as it is to the big leaguers.
I’m not part of a social media marketing agency or huge corporation, but just handling social marketing for my own individual blog requires me to use tools to improve workflow. Keeping up with the daunting aspects of social marketing makes it almost impossible to do anything else. The right apps, extensions, and software, however, have helped me do the work of many by helping me become organized and efficient.
TwentyFeet
1Like Google Analytics for social media, TwentyFeet uses graphs and charts to show me the impact you have across all your social media channels. This single tool can turn you into your own social media marketing agency.
WhoTweetedMe
2WhoTweetedMe is an excellent tool for anyone who relies heavily on Twitter for marketing. If you’re like me, you have lots of Twitter traffic and very little time. I use this tool to help me decide which people are the most important to interact with simply by cutting and pasting a URL into the tool’s search bar.
Twylah
3I use Twylah to capture and preserve all my best tweets into a single attractive page. To avoid having to either waste precious time going through my feed or resigning myself to the fact that my finest updates are lost forever, I use the tool to centralize my tweets that relate to social marketing.

Twylah can turn your best posts into their own brand.
Buffer
4Of all the auto-posting apps, Buffer may be the best of the bunch – at least of those geared toward social marketing. Not only does it make it easy to share pre-loaded tweets, but scatters them out at the times that are most efficient for your specific account.
Let’s Crate
5Similar to Dropbox, but better and simpler, Let’s Crate uses a technique that could make any social media marketing agency more efficient. I simply drop my files in the crate, and the tool generates a single link for me to share across all my platforms.
Gmail Inbox Checker
6This Chrome extension is a very simple, easy solution for Gmail clutter. Infinitely better than all of Gmail’s built-in priority-classification systems, Gmail Inbox Checker makes sorting, prioritizing, and responding to emails a piece of cake. It also lets me increase workflow by offering customized notification settings.
I don’t know where I – or my social marketing strategy – would be without the help of the litany of awesome tools designed to make my life easier. Everyone’s needs are different, so start with these, look around, and decide which ones are right for you. But remember – you’re not alone and don’t need to do it without help.
- See more at: http://socialmedia.biz/2014/02/27/add-these-6-tools-to-improve-your-social-workflow/#sthash.ABr4Ow12.dpuf

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

5 Ways to Make Shareable Images That Drive Traffic

Are you sharing compelling images across social networks?

Do you want more engagement and traffic from your efforts?

If you’re not regularly sharing images that resonate with your audience, you’re missing out on a ton of engagement.

In this article you’ll discover the essential elements of shareable images that increase engagement and drive traffic to your website.

Why Use Images to Drive Social Engagement?

People are drawn to visual content and take action based on its subtle cues faster than any other medium–faster than text, audio or video.

The power of pictures isn’t restricted to image-centric platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. Visuals are attracting attention and driving engagement across all social networks. Even LinkedIn and Twitter are getting in on the action and showcasing images.

All of the major social networks are highlighting visual content. Brands that can leverage the power of original, optimized images are getting noticed.

If you’re worried you need a graphic designer or special skills, don’t be. In this article I’ll introduce you to the tools you need and the five essential elements of shareable, traffic-driving images that you can include in your marketing plan today.

#1: Give Your Audience What They Need

If you want to encourage engagement and shares, your images have to appeal directly to your target audience.

Create images and infographics that either solve a problem or inspire your community to take action. Images that give short, instantly actionable advice are highly shareable. Quick tips, how-to’s, quotes and fun facts are all very popular.

Social media expert Kim Garst matches audience expectations with useful tips by regularly posting images with social media advice and tagging them with #biztip.

Her community shares these problem-solving tips like wildfire, which results in an exceptionally high organic engagement rate on Facebook.

kim garst tip

Creating an image with a useful tip makes for an instantly shareable piece of content.


How-to images have also proven to be a powerful way to encourage sharing and engagement on blogs or social platforms, especially Pinterest. Australian stylist and blogger Nikki Parkinson from Styling You uses this type of image well.

She often posts a clever mix of photos and text overlays to demonstrate a process. She created this highly pinnable image to show how to do makeup in 2 minutes.

nikki parkinson tip

How-to images are highly shareable on Pinterest.

What makes this image so attractive are the original photos, text overlays, numbering and step-by-step instructions. Embedding this type of image in her blog posts makes those articles immediately eye-catching and pinnable.

If you decide to create a how-to image, you can garner even more engagement (and blog traffic) if you upload it to Instagram, and share it across all social media platforms.

Don’t forget quotes! On any social platform, quotes are one of the most shareable types of image. If you decide to go this route, focus on being inspiring or helpful to get the most engagement.

Your first instinct may be to share quotes on Facebook (and that’s not a bad idea), but have you considered Instagram? Mastin Kipp, founder of The Daily Love, posts a mix of behind-the-scenes images and inspirational quotes on Instagram with great success.

mastin kipp tip

Simple, branded quotes create an emotional connection with your audience and are highly shareable.

Finally, funny photos are always a winner on social media, but what about fun facts? Combining a fun fact with a beautiful image is a great way to create shareable content and engage your audience.
Tourism Australia pairs highly engaging images with little-known facts about Australia and shares them on its Google+ profile. Fans love it and respond by sharing the information with their friends!

tourism australia image

Tourism Australia has tailored its image strategy to its Google+ audience with informative, beautiful images!

#2: Be Consistent and Quick

Facebook reach has gotten a lot of attention lately and sharing images continues to boost organic reach and engagement. Do you want to skyrocket shares for your images? Then be timely!
There are two ways to leverage the power of timeliness to make your images more shareable: consistency and fast action.

A consistent approach to sharing images should be a part of every brand’s social media marketing tactics. To get started, simply post an image at the same time every day.

For example, each day food blogger Bianca Slade of Wholefood Simply posts amazing images on her Facebook page. She shares her wheat-free, dairy-free, sugar-free creations and asks a simple question: “Have you tried it?”

The result has sent foodie fans around the world into a frenzy, excitedly sharing Bianca’s creations. They’ll even bypass the news feed and go straight to her Facebook page to check out the recipe she posts at the end of the day (that includes me, guilty as charged!).

wholefood simply image

Tease your fans back to your Facebook page or website with captivating images on Facebook.

But Bianca doesn’t stop there. She leverages her engagement and includes her fans in the decision-making process for the recipe of the day.

wholefood simply choice image

Ask your fans to give their two cents by using an image.

For one of the best examples of timeliness, look no further than Oreo. You’ve probably seen the famous tweet that Oreo sent out during the 2013 Super Bowl. The marketing team acted swiftly during a power outage, posting a well-timed tweet before the power came back on. It was perhaps one of the most quick-witted acts of marketing on social media to date.

oreo image

Oreo scored a touchdown with their famous quick-witted Tweet.

Of course, Oreo has a team of people at the ready to jump on these kinds of opportunities. But that doesn’t mean small businesses can’t do it too. Keep an eye out for new updates to products or services in your niche. Those updates are important news for your customers!

In the example below, Facebook expert Amy Porterfield acted quickly to share news about a new Facebook feature by posting a simple screenshot from a blog post at Duct Tape Marketing.

amy porterfield image

Screenshots provide instantly shareable images—a great way to quickly announce breaking news.

By using a shareable screenshot with a link to the original article, Amy added value to her community, brought engagement to her page and drove traffic to Duct Tape Marketing’s blog.

Of course, you don’t have to wait for breaking news to make a splash. With a little planning, you can be ready for popular upcoming events and release images at the start of a celebration to get early traction.

Keep in mind that events recognized by others in your industry will attract more shares. For example, on International Midwives’ Day, my business created a simple yet compelling image using PicMonkey to celebrate the day.

We posted it early in the morning on the Know Your Midwife Facebook page. The result? Over 1,400 shares by the end of the day! The image swept through pregnancy, birth and parenting pages across Australia, then the US and the UK.

know your midwife image

Creating a timely image that appeals directly to your audience results in big engagement.

One of the keys to creating a shareable image is subtle or no branding. There is a fine line between a timely post and shameless self-promotion. In the image above, we decided not to include any branding at all. That made the image more universal, which encouraged other pages to share it as if it were their own.

#3: Create Original Art

In a world where we’re bombarded with information, anything new stands out from the crowd and catches our attention—on any platform, at any time. Take advantage of that and be part of the 20% of people who create original content for the other 80% to share.

When you create original images, they’re yours to keep. You can use them in any way you want, whenever you want.

You never have to wonder about breaching copyright, reading the fine print on a stock photo or making the big mistake of using an image from Google Images. (A quick reminder: Don’t use images you find on Google; it’s not a stock library.)

You don’t need to hire a graphic designer to create original images. You can do it yourself with the advice and tools listed below.

Tips for Creating Original, Shareable Images
I’m not creative enough!
I don’t have time!
I have no idea where to start!
Yes you are, yes you do and no problem. There are a number of easy-to-use tools that give you instant creativity and design skills, as well as allow you to share images quickly.
If you’re at your desk, you can use image-editing tools like Canva or PicMonkey. Both offer gorgeous (and handy) templates. Use them to create 5-10 images with a similar theme.
Not at your desk? Use your phone! Apps like Instagram, InstaQuote, Overgram (free) or Over (paid) make your on-the-fly pictures into works of art you can share immediately.
There are hundreds of apps and tools available for you to use, and the list above is by no means exhaustive. But remember, you don’t have to try everything all at once. Avoid being overwhelmed by starting with just a few tools.
As you become skilled with one tool, add another tool or app to your design kit. When you find something you love, stick with it for a while until something else strikes your fancy.
Two More Tips for Creating Original Images
  • Create a branded background template you can reuse for tip or quote images. You can simply upload it to Canva or PicMonkey when you want to create a new image with a text overlay. Reusable templates save lots of time!
  • If you have a graphic designer, ask him or her to give you PNG files to work with. They’re easy to overlay on backgrounds or templates, which means you can create images quickly when you need them.

#4: Optimize Size, Branding and Source

When creating images, optimization is key. Think in terms of size, branding and source information so your image not only suits the platform(s) you post it to, but has the best chance of being noticed and shared—and sending traffic back to your website.

The best size for your image will depend on how you want to use it and where you’re posting it.
When you want to use an image on Facebook and Twitter, 1200 x 627 pixels works best. Keep that in mind when setting the featured image for a blog post.

If you’re posting primarily to Instagram, square-ratio images work best and can work well on Facebook too.

When you’re aiming for Pinterest, use an image with a portrait orientation as those are shared most often. They also look good in Facebook’s news feed and in Google+.

To see how important image size can be, take a look at my test below. I uploaded a 1200 x 627 pixel image and used it as my blog post’s featured image.

socially sorted image

Your blog post’s featured image will show up when readers share your post on social networks.

When I shared the link on Facebook, it pulled the featured image into the news feed as a linked post without using any additional Open Graph coding or plugins.

socially sorted post image

Use the right dimensions for your blog post featured images so they play nicely with social networks.

When I used Buffer to share the blog post link to Twitter, the image still looked fabulous and stood out in the Twitter feed.

socially sorted twitter image

Images uploaded to Twitter stand out in the news feed.

Experiment with image sizes so you can optimize your content for each platform. In many cases, one image size may suit more than one platform. Find out what works for you, your preferred platforms and where your audience is hanging out.

Here’s an important tip: As you’re creating your original shareable images, don’t forget to brand them with a simple watermark. Once created, you can save the watermark and add it to future images as well. Your URL or logo make ideal watermarks.

Make the watermark bold enough to remind people that you created and own the image (and where to find more information), but subtle enough that you don’t appear too self-promotional.

In the example below, you can see how Y Travel Blog did a great job of creating a beautiful, pinnable image with subtle branding. Their logo in the bottom right corner isn’t intrusive.

ytravel image

A subtle watermark can help identify an image while protecting its source.

#5: Use an Obvious Call to Action

In any news feed on any social platform, you’re always competing against friends, family, funny photos, small businesses and big brands for the attention of your ideal audience.

Your engaging image may catch their attention, but then what? If you don’t know what you want fans to do when they see your image, they won’t either.

Your goal is to garner likes, comments or better yet, clicks and sharing (the golden tickets of social marketing). To get those, you need an obvious call to action.

Ask yourself two things: Can the image stand alone? Is there a clear call to action?

As humans, we’re drawn to images and we naturally migrate to those in social news feeds. If we can’t immediately discern the meaning of the image, we may look to the description or post to find context, or we may move to the next interesting thing.

To give your fans and followers immediate context and encourage them to take action, add some text to your images. In the example below, which image are you more likely to click on?

social sorted pin image

Titles add context and encourage users to click through for more content.
The bottom picture gives viewers clear context and can stand alone. Your fans know what they’ll find when they click through.

When you’re sharing images, there are two places to put a call to action: on the image itself or in the description (this is usually a clickable link). This is universal, whether you’re using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram or Pinterest.

Mari Smith added a call to action to her Facebook cover photo asking fans to click to sign up for an upcoming webinar. An effective way to convert fans to attendees!

mari smith image

A Click Here button or call to action on an image can be hard to resist!

When fans click on the image, they can find out more about Mari’s webinar by clicking the hyperlink included in the image description.

mari smith link

Include a second call to action in your description to tell your fans what you want them to do.

If you want to try the same thing on Instagram, take a cue from Tabsite co-founder Mike Gingerich. He posts a snapshot of his latest blog post to Instagram. It’s a simple photo of his computer screen coupled with a call to action in the description that leads followers back to his blog.

mike gingerich image

A simple reminder to visit your blog for more content can be a great call to action on Instagram.

Instagram is a bit different from the other social networks. You can include a URL in your description, but it’s not clickable. However, you’re allowed one clickable link on your Instagram profile, so be sure to make this a link to your website.

On Pinterest, the Beauty Department excels at providing images that have a clear call to action to visit its blog for more information.

beauty department image

Want the full story? Click through to the blog!

Some Parting Thoughts

Shareable images are the key to creating engaging social media content. There isn’t a single network that doesn’t rely on compelling images to garner interaction.

An easy way to integrate more visual content into your social marketing plan is to use images that speak to your audience. Try posting an image at the same time every day, and be sure to include a strong call to action.

Take advantage of the many tools available and create a template that reinforces your brand and makes it quick and easy to make new images in batches.

With a little work and planning, you’ll be seeing higher engagement and more website traffic in no time.

What do you think? What kinds of images do you share with your fans? Which social networks have been most responsive? Share your experience or examples in the comments below.

Monday, 24 February 2014

How to Increase Your Social Media Following by Over 700%

Are you looking for creative ways to grow your social media following?

Are you dealing with limited resources?

Then you’ll want to study what Microsoft Dynamics did.

How is a giant like Microsoft the same as everybody else when it comes to social media marketing?

They have the same challenges as any company. They have to figure out:

    Whom they’re talking to
    What their needs are
    Where and how to talk to them

And even though they’re Microsoft, they still have limited resources to do it all. So how does Microsoft do social media? They start by trial and error, and then see what works and what needs changing. Sound familiar?

Over the past two years, Microsoft Dynamics, a business group of Microsoft, pruned their social channels by half, but now reaches more customers.

I spoke with Kelly Rigotti, senior marketing communication manager of social media for Microsoft Dynamics, to learn how they did it.
microsoft vine video

Microsoft Dynamics uses Vine videos as visual elements in their Twitter stream.

Social Media Handles and Stats

    Website
    Blog
    LinkedIn showcase page – 1,488,797 followers
    Twitter primary account – 13,813 followers
    Facebook primary account – 31,013 followers
    YouTube – 6,319 subscribers; 904,542 views

Highlights

    In 2011, had over 40 social accounts and blogs. Now has 23 accounts and blogs
    Up to 75% of followers of their LinkedIn showcase page see their updates
    YouTube views per month increased 700% over the last 15 months
    Facebook fans increased 900% over 15 months with 99% unsponsored posts
    Twitter account started from scratch in 2012 grown to over 13,000 followers

#1: Who’s in Charge of Social?

Before Rigotti was hired two years ago at Microsoft Dynamics, they had over 40 social media accounts and blogs spread over multiple platforms. A lot of people had social media as part of their job. But no single person was responsible for it as a whole.

Rigotti sees the way things evolved at Microsoft Dynamics as similar to what happens at many companies.

“Nobody would dream of going off and doing his or her own website,” she said. “You don’t go off and do your own advertising campaign.” But teams would start their own social channels because it was so easy.

“Somebody would hear about something new, like a blog, and get the okay from their manager to start it,” she said.

But the company realized they needed to start thinking strategically about social media. They created a new position and hired Rigotti, who had consulted for them previously. Her sole responsibility would be to manage social media.
microsoft social acccounts

Microsoft Dynamics started looking at social accounts strategically.
microsoft pared social acccounts

Microsoft Dynamics pared social accounts and groups to 23 from over 40.
#2: Storytelling vs. Talking About Products

Rigotti’s hiring coincided with a shift in marketing strategy for Microsoft as a whole. She characterizes it as a storytelling approach vs. a product-centered approach.

“We wanted to start talking to customers about what their needs are as opposed to what our products are,” she said.

Instead of talking about individual products, they would listen to their customers and then show how they could help them do their jobs better.
microsoft customer service update

Microsoft Dynamics shifted to addressing customer concerns with their social updates.

Many of the existing social accounts had been started by product specialists and had a product-centered approach. The shift meant these accounts would need to be cut, tweaked, repurposed or updated.

This required a diplomatic approach on Rigotti’s part. But first she needed to track down and evaluate what they had.
#3: Selling the Idea Internally

She searched to find all of the Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and other social accounts containing “Microsoft Dynamics” and figure out who owned them.

At the same time, she and her team of two were developing the messaging and talking to the people managing the accounts.

Since they would need to give control over to Rigotti and her team, she made special effort to bring everyone on board with the idea.

“We were not saying, ‘Thanks for your two years of work, but that doesn’t matter anymore,’” Rigotti explained. Instead she touted the benefits of letting her team take over the time-consuming tactical aspects of social media.

“You share your expertise with me and I’ll make sure we grow the audience for that content,” was her message.

It wasn’t always an easy sell. “People are really rational when they see you’re not abandoning something, but instead bringing things together,” she added.

By the end of the first year, Rigotti’s team had pruned their social media accounts to four platforms, focusing on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Rigotti said she is often in the role of traffic cop, tracking down unofficial accounts that still pop up. “It’s a constant effort through education and communication,” she said. But she explains the reason for curbing additional accounts this way:

“We always ask, ‘Can we reach an audience with this account that we can’t reach on our other channels?’”
#4: Content + Connections

The company has a range of audiences, including end users, purchasers and solution partners in each of five priority industries.

“We don’t have specific social media communities for each one of those audiences,” said Rigotti.

So how do they reach more people with fewer social accounts? They think about what ties all these audiences together.

“We asked, ‘What’s the story we can tell that will appeal to as many of these people as possible?‘” Rigotti said.

The message they developed was that the technology you use makes a difference in the way you work. That story is the common thread they use in all their content on all their social media channels.
microsoft linkedin update

Even when talking about products, the focus is on solutions, not features.

For content, Rigotti and her team rely on product and industry specialists, such as manufacturing industry experts who know what that audience cares about. Then they think about how they can socialize that information.

About 30 people contribute content as determined by an editorial calendar. “It’s all about great content and great connections,” Rigotti said.
#5: Evaluating Results

The link between social media and product sales at Microsoft Dynamics is not direct, because end users typically purchase through a solution provider.

To evaluate social media activity, Rigotti said they approach it similarly to PR. The focus is on awareness and engagement.

They use the enterprise social media management program Sprinklr to track metrics such as reach, hashtag use, etc., and NetBreeze, which Microsoft Dynamics acquired in 2013, to track sentiment and mentions.

Though their measurement data is proprietary, Rigotti noted that they are getting great visibility with LinkedIn. Up to 75% of followers are seeing content from their LinkedIn showcase page. That translates to over a million followers getting their updates.

Their main Twitter account was started from scratch in 2012 and has grown to over 13,000 followers to date. Facebook and YouTube followers have grown to 10 times and 8 times their previous numbers, respectively, since mid-2012.
microsoft parature tweet

The Microsoft Dynamics Twitter account, new since 2012, has an engaged follower base.

Rigotti stresses that whatever metrics you evaluate, the most important thing is to be consistent over the long-term. Looking at a snapshot of data or a small sampling of posts won’t tell you much. Pick something to measure and evaluate it over time.

“Even if [the criteria] are not the most accurate, we can measure over time to see progress,” she said.

What do you think? Is your company overextended on social media? Could you benefit by pruning your accounts and focusing on storytelling to your core audience? Include your comments and questions below.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Why businesses should be on social media

The social media world can be a daunting place. It's a world that is growing rapidly, with new features, platforms and apps appearing all the time. Whether for personal or for business use, it's hard to keep track of the newest trends, let alone learn how to use them. With this in mind, it's understandable why some companies want to shy away from social media. Every business, from large corporations to fledgling companies, already has an abundance of tasks to do. Social media ends up being another thing to add to the list.

The fact remains that social media is imperative in the modern business world. It's not just a phase, and it will continue to develop and grow, whether you choose to take part or not. Social media is the future of marketing and promotion, proving itself as an essential tool to boost your company. To put it bluntly, the sooner you get involved, the better off you will be. Don't get left behind.


Should you jump on the social media bandwagon? The answer is a resounding 'yes'. There have been many studies into the beneficial effects of social networking and marketing in recent years. A McKinsey & Co study in 2010 found that companies that embraced social media were “more likely to be market leaders”. The advantages of social media are clear: you can monitor your networks to figure out the return in your investments; you can easily measure the effectiveness of your campaigns; monitor the growth of your accounts and increase your social media reach. So how does it work?

It's all about understanding your brand and your customer base. With the right strategy, social media can make marketing and service a whole lot easier. You can essentially engage in your sales. Social media marketing allows you to monitor brand management whilst creating brand awareness by connecting with customers. At the same time, you can focus on service and monitor troubleshooting problems.

What could you achieve through the right social media strategy?




Exposure

Over 80% of online marketing firms report that social interaction between customers and businesses is the key to social media networking. Through word-of-mouth marketing, you are sure to boost your brand awareness. Exposure is key for growth, and virtual word-of-mouth marketing can help you achieve this. We trust friends over brands or adverts, so giving your customers a trustworthy product is essential. Want proof? A recent study showed that 75% of people are somewhat or highly likely to share content they like online with friends, co-workers or family—49% do this at least weekly (Chadwick Martin BaileyConsumer Pulse 2010).

Reputation Management

Social media allows you to monitor both your online and offline presence. You can see what customers and competitors alike are saying about your business. This is a huge advantage, allowing you to use the insights gained to fix problems. You can show your human side by answering questions on forums and message boards. This lends a personal touch to your business, which is harder to obtain offline. Furthermore, you can demonstrate the expertise you have in your niche, building trust with your consumers.

Branding



Through social media you can generate a recognisable identity. The tools available online can build up hype about your business, in a way that creates a buzz. If marketed in the right way, you can increase your social media reach. The more fans and followers you accrue, the better reach you'll have. UEFA, for example, passed the 37 million mark in 2013 due to their effective social media strategy.

Cost-effective

An online presence can save you lots of money in the long-term. Much cheaper than the traditional advert, cross-platform networking allows you to build your accounts and customer following without breaking the bank. It is time-consuming, but there are lots of options to hire people or distribute tasks. Social media marketing is a huge advantage for smaller companies, allowing them to compete with the larger corporations in some areas.

Measure effectiveness of campaigns

You can use many different platforms, such as Google Analytics, to monitor your online presence. Thus, you can review which online campaigns are successful. It allows you to analyse and track engagement and progress year-over-year, so that you can move forward faster by learning your former faults.

Boost your search engine rankings

The more of an online presence you have, the higher you may be in search engine rankings. If you want a higher ranking for your online networks, you can include follow links. These can be found on many networking platforms or news sites.

Explain yourself

With 24-hour customer interaction, can come 24-hour customer complaints. Well, hopefully not, but should the situation arise, be proactive about it. It is much easier to show an understanding, trustworthy side to your business online. If customers can see that your business is accessible and trustworthy, they are more likely to walk away satisfied. Through negative comments you may end up making huge improvements to your company. You may even end up finding new ideas for your business.

So start simple: establish your presence on a network that is in tune with your brand. Once you've got to grips with this, you can start to cross-promote across other platforms. So take a deep breath, dive in and get social. You won't be disappointed.