Archive | December, 2014

How to Improve Social Media Marketing in 2015

29 Dec

Did you spend 2014 thinking that social media was a poor excuse for a marketing channel? That Twitter is too superficial to help your business grow and profit, or that Instagram is too fluffy of a platform for a serious brand to use well?

Let me level with you: it’s not social media, it’s you.

If you dismiss social media networks as unimportant or ineffective marketing tools, you’re missing out on a huge — and free — form of smart, useful marketing for your brand or business.

I’d love to help you enter the New Year with a new perspective on social, and how to use it to your advantage. Use these tips to better your social media presence and start seeing a better ROI of your time and effort in 2015:

Understand Why Social Media Matters

You can’t hope to improve social media marketing efforts in 2015 until you take a moment to recognize what these platforms can do for you.

Proper content marketing on social media can:

  • Raise awareness of your brand and provide greater exposure to clients, customers, collaborators, and connections
  • Build a loyal group of fans that believe in what you’re doing
  • Lead to new business opportunities
  • Give better insight into your target market
  • Increase conversions and lead generation
  • …and that’s just scratching the surface. But if you miss the main point of social media, you’ll likely not see these excellent benefits. And that main point?

Be Social!

It’s right in the name: social media. Social media marketing won’t work for you if you’re not actively engaging in social behaviors on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Instagram, and whatever other platform you’re on.

That means engaging in conversations, not just tooting your own horn 24/7. Ask questions, or answer other people’s queries. Provide resources and helpful hints. Give people a chance to connect with you in a genuine way.

They can’t do that if you’re constantly shouting about how great you are in the form of every single update you create being about you and pushing people to click back to your main site.

Keep Showing Up

You need to be social, and that means being present for the conversations that happen in real time. Or at least, maintaining a steady, consistent presence.

It’s tough to monitor social media feeds and streams because many of them move fast — and there’s always a lot of content to sort through. But you don’t need to sit on social media all day long to achieve this.

Use tools like Hootsuite and Buffer to help you manage your own updates and keep up with the conversation — without making yourself crazy trying to check in to all your accounts every 15 minutes.

Know Where Your Target Audience Is

Do you use Twitter because someone told you to do so? Are you on Facebook because it’s the only platform you’re familiar and comfortable with?

If so, you’re not likely seeing good results from your efforts (unless your target audience just happens to be there, too).

There is no right social media network on which to invest your time. At least, there’s not a single answer for every brand and business. The right platform for yours will be the one where your target audience is.

Take a bit of time to do some market research and figure out — where do my clients or customers like to be? Then go to them in 2015.

Stop Forcing It

Too many times in 2014, we heard about brands getting themselves into social snafus with inappropriate hashtag use. Whether it’s a hashtag or a comment, tweet, or update that you post in an effort to forcibly inject your brand or business into someone else’s conversation, it’s not good.

If a hashtag isn’t relevant to you and your audience, don’t use it. Just stop. It’s not genuine, it can get you into serious trouble with the general public, and it only tells people how hard you’re trying to force this.

Create a Plan

All the advice in the world can’t better your social media marketing in 2015 if you’re not willing to get organized, take things seriously, and create a plan of action for your strategies and ideas. Try taking the following steps to get you started:

  • Determine what social media platforms you’ll be on, based on where your target audience likes to hang out
  • Plan out how frequently you’ll post (per day, per week, etc)
  • Decide what kind of content you’ll share and lay out a variety — from links, to quotes, to tips, to sharing other brands’ content — but choose a main form of update that you’ll stick with most often to create recognizable consistency.
  • Choose tools to help you implement (and save you time)
  • Give it a shot! Take action and start getting social
  • Reevaluate your plan and more importantly, your results from your actions. Make changes and tweaks based on those results, and keep on working on your strategy as you learn and test.

How will you improve your social media marketing in the new year?

6 Social Media Marketing Trends for 2015

22 Dec

As we look to 2015, what social media marketing trends are likely to develop? Here are six that online retailers should monitor.

  1. Niche Social Networks Will Emerge

Mainstream social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn will face challenges from lesser-known upstarts in 2015. One example is Ello, an ad-free social platform still in beta that has received a great deal of attention among those that follow social media developments.

Whether Ello makes a dent in the social media ecosystem remains to be seen, but its creation points to a greater concern for the major players: niche social networks, such as Snapchat and Path that are exclusively mobile.

Providing further evidence are interest-based social networks, such as Foodie, a niche social network for food lovers, and Fitocracy, a site devoted to fitness. Polyvore and Kaboodle are two such networks that deal strictly with social shopping.

  1. Google+ Will Decline

While it still has a number of advocates, Google+ will not become significant factor in social media marketing; its number of users will likely decline.

The departure of Google+ chief evangelist Vic Gundotra earlier this year, coupled with the failure of Google Authorship, indicates that the social network has lost its moorings and may suffer the same fate as the search giant’s other attempts to leverage social media.

  1. Social Network Advertising Efforts Will Evolve

Practically every social network has thrown its hat into the advertising ring. This is especially true for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And Pinterest, Instagram, and Snapchat are also experimenting with advertising options.

Facebook’s use of retargeting ads, combined with the ability for merchants to upload their customer databases through the use of Custom and Lookalike Audiences, speaks to Facebook’s intent to make advertising a more integral part of the platform.

Twitter’s Tailored Audiences, which promotes relevant content to users who have shown interest, reflects a similar priority for that platform.

  1. Social Commerce Experimentation Will Increase

This past year, both Twitter and Facebook experimented with ways to integrate commerce into their respective platforms. Twitter introduced Product Cards, which are designed to showcase products via an image, a description, and other key details about the product.

 

In addition, both networks tested the use of “Buy” call to action buttons this year, which appear alongside certain tweets and posts, to streamline the purchase process for online shoppers.

  1. Use of Image-based Social Networks Will Progress

In “Add Visuals to 2015 Social Media Marketing,” I said that networks such as Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine have experienced rapid growth, a trend that should continue into 2015.

Thanks to filtering of the Facebook News Feed, which limits the amount of exposure businesses receive, retailers have been forced to find other ways to promote their products. Options could be Instagram and Pinterest, neither of which uses an algorithm to gauge what people see.

Marketers will likely crown Instagram as the default visual network. According to one industry report, marketers who invest 40 or more hours per week in social media are much more focused on Instagram than in the past and plan to increase their use of the platform by as much as 49 percent in 2015.

  1. LinkedIn Will Dominate B2B Marketing

LinkedIn is already the leading business-to-business social network, and that dominance will continue in 2015.

By some accounts, as many as 88 percent of B2B marketers already use the site, and the introduction of a publishing platform that allows users to create long-form content distinguishes it from other social networks, none of which primarily appeal to business users.

Last Minute 7 E-commerce Marketing Tips for the Holiday Season

15 Dec

It’s that time of the year again where every store you pass by on the street is decorated not just with snowflakes, candy canes, and Christmas trees, but also with giant posters and decor that scream holiday sale. This scenario is also familiar in the e-commerce setting, and now that Black Friday is over people have less than twenty days to buy everything in their Christmas shopping lists.

However, entrepreneurs are also aware that this season isn’t busy for the shoppers alone, but for business owners as well. Every player in the competition has their marketing guns loaded, and you should be able to keep pace, especially if you’re in a highly competitive industry. The question is how you can get your e-commerce site ready for the influx of customers in one of the busiest season in the calendar if you haven’t already made the preparations. Listed below are seven marketing tips that will help you prepare your online store for the last mad dash at holiday online shopping.

Pull out data from last year.

It’s all right if ideas have started rolling in your mind but before you decide on a specific strategy, use what you know from last year’s performance. Review the marketing techniques you used from the previous holiday season, and see how each of the channels you used made the biggest impression on customers. Was it email marketing? Was it social media? By looking at the impact created by each channel, you can judge whether you should focus on it again this year to make more sales.

You can also evaluate the marketing channels that delivered the least, and think of ways they can be improved this year. Just because they didn’t do so well last time doesn’t mean the same thing has to happen this year. Plus, you need all the channels you can possibly use to maximize the whole nine yards of your marketing plan.

Greet your loyal customers.

Everybody likes receiving personalized holiday messages, and your loyal customers will surely appreciate it if you send them a Christmas card specifically addressed to them. This is a good way to express your gratitude to your patrons. You see, not all customers expect this gesture from the brands or stores they shop at, and it will be a nice touch if you send them, say, an electronic card, a direct message on Twitter, or a Facebook message. It may only be a simple holiday greeting but it can help you strengthen your customers’s patronage, which can lead you to making more sales.

Hold a countdown on your website.

One of the ways to make your customers hasten their shopping is by reminding them how close the celebration days are. By making them aware how many days are left to them to shop, it will be easier for you to offer them your products or present to them alternatives they can use as gifts. You can pull off this technique by installing in your site a countdown widget on your e-commerce site. Another way you can use the countdown timer is by reminding your customers how many hours are left before a particular sale on your site is over, or how long they have to wait before another one starts.

Be flexible on shipping methods and return policies.

Holiday shopping can be quite stressful, but you can still earn you customers’s favor and loyalty by making it as easy as you possibly can. One way you can make shopping convenient for your customers is by offering several kinds of shipping methods. While some online stores offer free shipping once a customer’s purchases reach a certain amount, consider the possibility of shipping for free anywhere in the country. Another idea would be speeding up the delivery of purchases. You just have to make sure that you commit to shipping schedules to keep your customers’s trust.

Return policies is also an aspect you can be flexible about this holiday season, especially since the competition in this time of year can be tougher. Bear in mind that your competitors are also finding ways to give the market the beast deals possible, and you have to keep pace. Review your return and exchange policy and see what changes you can accommodate this this season. For instance, if you’re only accepting returns three days after the purchase is made, perhaps you can make it five days up until the holidays are over.

Make gift cards available.

A lot of people like to shop but not all of us have the time. This a good opportunity to offer your customers gift cards, which they can use a gift to their family and friends. Apart from it being easy to buy, recipients of the gift cards could also mean new customers for you. Start offering gift cards even before the holiday rush begins so that those who have gift cards can start shopping as well.

Dare to upsell.

Another way you can help your customers in their shopping, and up your chances of making a sale is by upselling. Assuming that your customers are completing a list of things to buy, you can modify your e-commerce site to make suggestions related to the things they have placed in their cart. For instance, if a customer buys an MP3 player from your e-commerce gadget store, you can recommend other items associated with the purchase such as headphones, cases, or even extended warranties.

Give A/B testing a break.

The lot of holiday shoppers will definitely be reflected in your traffic but it doesn’t always mean that it’s a good time for testing. Spikes of traffic during the holiday season can create bias on your data interpretation and steer you away from doing an objective analysis. On the other hand, take note of certain elements such as shipping (which products get ordered the most when you offered free delivery) or prices (which items became the most in demand when put on sale) when looking at analytics. Go back to A/B testing once the season is over and study which part of the data is relatable to your performance made in the rest of the year.

The sooner you can prepare your e-commerce store, the better it will be when you see which changes can be made to serve your customers better. If you have other tips on how to ready your e-commerce site for holiday shopping, share it with us in the comments below.

 

These 5 trends will Change Social Media in 2015

8 Dec

To gauge how much you followed changes in social media this past year, here’s a pop quiz: 1) Which new social media network is known as a “virtual bathroom wall” and is already causing concern among Canadian school officials? 2) Which platform recently drew one million signups in just five weeks — eight times as fast as Facebook — with promises to share its ad revenues with users? 3) Which messaging service now allows users to transfer money using just their debit card information, free of charge?

If you had no idea they are Yik Yak, Tsu and Snapcash, don’t worry. Just a few months ago, almost no one else did either. The pace of social media change has always been brisk and is now accelerating, leaving in the dust entrepreneurs and businesses who are struggling to incorporate new tools.

In the interest of getting ahead of the curve, here’s a look into the crystal ball at the year for social media:

Social media and e-commerce merge Earlier this year, Twitter and Facebook began beta-testing “buy” buttons, which appear alongside certain tweets and posts and allow users to make purchases with just a click or two, without ever leaving the network. Expect e-commerce and social media integrations to deepen in 2015. It’s a little surprising it’s taken so long.

For starters, this eliminates a key dilemma all merchants face: how to get customers in the door (or to your website). On Facebook and Twitter, you’ve already got a receptive audience, happily chatting with friends, browsing the latest trends, sharing photos and videos, etc. Once their payment details are on file, purchases are a tap or two away. Then it’s back to cat GIFs and updates on weekend plans.

There are also major benefits to advertisers. Connecting individual Tweets and Facebook posts with actual purchases has thus far proved a huge analytical challenge. But with the advent of buy buttons, concrete revenue figures can be attached to specific social media messages in a way that hasn’t been possible before.

Social media privacy issues come to the fore  This year, saw a number of anonymous and ephemeral social networks — Snapchat, Secret, Whisper, Yik Yak and Telegram, to name a few — surge in popularity. Not everyone wants every social media conversation broadcast to the world. As well, savvy users are increasingly aware about ways personal data is being collected and later sold to advertisers, manipulated in tests or accessed by government agencies.

The problem is that few of these “private” networks fulfill their mandates. Snapchat has been hacked, repeatedly, with hundreds of thousands of sensitive — supposedly disappearing — user photos posted on the Internet. And in October, it was revealed that the anonymous network Whisper was actually saving users’ posts and locations and compiling this information in a searchable database.

But demand for anonymous social media will only grow in 2015. There are signs even the major players are beginning to acknowledge the issue. In October, Facebook rolled out chat app Rooms, which lets users create chat rooms around shared interests, with no requirement to reveal name or location. In November, Facebook became the first Silicon Valley tech giant to provide official support for Tor, the powerful, open-source anonymizing service — popular among journalists, political dissidents and law enforcement — that allows users to conceal their identity, location and browsing history.

Social media becomes your virtual wallet In November, Snapchat took the plunge into “peer-to-peer” payments with its free Snapcash service. Expect other social networks to follow suit. Hacks released in October, for instance, show a hidden payment feature deep inside Facebook’s popular Messenger app. If activated by the company, it will allow the app’s 200 million users to send money to each other using just debit card information, free of charge.

The endgame at this stage isn’t clear. Facebook and Snapchat may eventually charge for their money transfer services or leverage customer purchasing data to pull in more advertisers. It’s also foreseeable that they’ll allow businesses to begin accepting payments from users, offering an alternative to traditional credit cards (which make billions on fees). What is certain is that some of tech’s biggest players are battling it out in this heated payments space, including Apple with its Apple Pay app, and Square and Stripe and even online payments veteran PayPal.

New networks come and new networks go Niche social networks, many built specifically in response to the perceived failings of the big boys — lack of privacy, the collection of demographic and psychographic data, the increasingly pervasive advertising —  were on the rise in 2014. Newcomers range from Ello, which launched in March with promises to never sell user data, to Yik Yak, which allows users to exchange fully anonymous posts with people who are physically nearby, and Tsu, which has promised to share ad revenue with users based on the popularity of their posts.

New social platforms that try to replicate the Facebook experience while promising, for instance, fewer ads or more privacy, have the odds seriously stacked against their success. The biggest challenge — one even Google+ has struggled with — is attracting a sufficient user base so the network doesn’t feel like a ghost town compared with Facebook’s thriving 1.3-billion-user global community.

On the other hand, new networks that map on to strong existing communities or interests have a much better chance. Thousands of these networks are already thriving below the radar, from dedicated sites for cooks and chefs such as Foodie to sites for fitness junkies like Fitocracy.

Smart devices get smarter, with help from social media Cheap sensors have led to an explosion of smart devices. Everything from home appliances such as thermostats, bathroom scales and refrigerators to wearables including fitness bracelets and smart watches are now collecting data and zapping it off wirelessly to the Internet. Lots of them are also pushing notifications to Facebook, Twitter and other networks, a trend that will continue in 2015. Is that a good thing? The prospect of growing legions of washing machines, smoke alarms and Nike FuelBands spitting out Facebook posts isn’t exactly something to get excited about.

The challenge in 2015 will be how to more intelligently integrate the fast-growing Internet of Things with social media. This might start with tapping users’ social graph — their unique network of friends and followers — in better ways. A very simple example: a smart fridge that tracks your Facebook Events, sees you’re planning a party and how many people have RSVP’d and alerts you to make a beer run. By listening to social media in more sophisticated ways smart devices stand to get even smarter in the year ahead.

4 Festive Tips for Holiday Social-Media Marketing

1 Dec

The holidays are a special time of year, highlighted by the three F’s – family, food, and … fighting? I don’t mean fighting over who gets the last drumstick or whether Home Alone is better than A Christmas Story. I’m talking about retailers and brands fighting for consumer attention during the busiest shopping time of the year.

The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the biggest opportunity brands and retailers have each year, but it’s also incredibly competitive, so it’s crucial to reach and communicate with your customer audience in the correct way.

One way to do so is through social media. The holiday season is filled with social posts about gifts bought, deals found, and complaints of poor customer service. Now like never before, brands and retailers have the ability to connect directly with their customers and create a more personal shopping experience.

Here are four tips for how brands can get savvy with their social media marketing during this year’s holiday madness.

  1. Drive that local cheer.

The holidays experience in New York is different than in San Francisco. Your messaging should reflect that. Leverage geo-targeting tools to know from where your customer is. Then you can create content they can relate to and messaging that resonates with a personalized brand experience.

  1. All I want for Christmas is user-generated content.

How do you connect with audiences when they are already inundated with advertisements? You make them the hero. Businesses that can actively leverage user-generated content are the ones that will drive deeper connections with fans. Most people today are programmed to ignore ads. Showcasing authentic photos of your audience drives your intended message while encouraging a deeper, emotional interest from new and loyal fans alike. Relate to them with real people, in real moments, using your product and services.

Your featured fans get credit and interaction, audiences find trust in real people using your product or service, and your brand will better understand what motivates your audience. Everyone is jolly.

  1. Deck the social walls.

The best way to harness a viral lift is to showcase your interactive experience. Remember, the more observable you make a campaign, the easier it is for your fans to imitate.

Create a social hub with aggregated content from multiple social channels on your website or microsite to capture audiences online. Your consumers can then share with their social community when you feature them, extending your reach. But don’t forget about in the store. Providing social displays, with easy calls to action at physical locations, are a simple, yet effective way to generate engagement.

 

  1. Multiple chimneys equal multiple presents.

Facebook is still expected to be the channel of choice for holiday social spend, as 92 percent of marketers are planning extensive campaign efforts for this one platform. But 73 percent of marketing professionals think Instagram is going to be the breakout platform for this year’s holidays.

Don’t silo yourself to one social-media platform. Instead, create content on the appropriate channels for your audience, each with native content focused exclusively to that channel. Your Facebook posts, Instagrams and Tweets should drive the same idea, but the content should be customized to resonate best with each channel’s unique community.

Think of your various social media channels as your own little elves, and put them to work for you this holiday season. Utilize these tips and you’ll win the holiday retail battle while leaving your customers filled with joy.