Running a small-to-medium-sized business (whether it’s on your own or with a few other partners) means facing many uphill challenges on a daily basis, not the least of which is deciding where to spend your money. When it comes to an overall marketing plan, it can sometimes feel like you can’t get anywhere without some major moolah. But don’t forget that a little ingenuity can go a long way, even if you’re strapped for cash. Here's a little holiday gift just for you: some exciting free (or cheap!) tools to help you get organized, boost your social strategy and enhance your marketing approach without breaking the bank.
When it comes to brainstorming, building big picture of tasks that need to get done and breaking down goals into smaller jobs, nothing beats a good old-fashioned to-do list. The creators of WorkFlowy have created an online tool that takes to-do lists to the next logical level by making them "zoomable." You can zoom all the way out to get a comprehensive look of everything that’s on your list, or focus in to get down to nitty gritty details.
Photo editing programs like Photoshop are great, but they’re expensive and require a huge investment in time to master. Creating original visual content for your newsfeed is important though, so being able to quickly throw some text on an image or create a collage can come in handy. Pixlr lets you do that and more from the comfort of your browser window. Looking for an alternative? PicMonkey is another great choice.
If you’re still sending important documents and images through email as attachments, do yourself a favor and start using Dropbox. We’ve all had an instance of digging back from old messages to rescue a misplaced attachment only to find that it’s almost impossible to locate again. Dropbox takes the guesswork out of finding important marketing materials like images. It also allows for quick and easy sharing across hard drives and cloud storage. Looking for other ways to share important information through cloud storage? Get on Google Drive
So you’re carefully keeping track of important analytics on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. That’s great! But what about Instagram, a growing visual and social platform that young people are flocking to? If Instagram is already an important part of your social strategy, make sure that you’re using a program like Statigram to capture relevant analytics about your followership.
Looking to take a pulse of the web? Upworthy is a great site for checking out emerging trends and viral videos. While it’s not a golden goose for producing your own viral content, it can lead the way towards discovering which way conversations on the web are shifting. Check it out regularly for inspiration.What free (or cheap) online tools are up your sleeve? Which tools have you ditched in the last year in favor of new ones? Share your ideas in the comments below.
A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the year in pop music was all wrapped up, ready to be committed to the annals of history forevermore. Then, out of the blue (ivy?), an album everyone was waiting for but no one actually expected mysteriously materialized on iTunes with zero promotion. It was the album drop felt around the world: a self-titled album from Beyonce Knowles featuring fourteen songs and seventeen videos that fans could enjoy all at once.
It’s hard to imagine how anyone, even a superstar like Beyonce, could pull off a move like this in a world without social media. Consider this: all that Beyonce needed to announce the release of the best kept secret in the music industry was a single Instagram post. The rest took care of itself. That single post didn’t just nearly crash iTunes, it almost took down the rest of the web with it as well! Check out this animated map showing how quickly the announcement sent social networks ablaze with chatter.
Ok, so most of us will never reach the heights of a star like Beyonce (try as we might) but that doesn’t mean we can’t glean something from her maverick marketing approach. Here are three takeaways you can use to improve your own social strategy.
Let Your Fans Show They’re Crazy in Love
One of the most brilliant things about Beyonce’s plan (besides the fact that she was able to keep such a massive undertaking completely secret for so long in an era of constant surveillance and information leaks) is the way she leveraged her built-in fan base. Every bee in her “Beyhive” played an important part in getting the message out--and, when called upon by their queen, they did not disappoint.
Who Run the World? Visual Media
Dropping an album with accompanying visual media for every song is a move that really taps into the way consumers experience entertainment today. From mobile screens, to tablets and desktops, visual social media is an unstoppable trend.
Sharknado, Imma Let You Finish
Sharkando, you had a great run, but it looks like Beyonce and her surprise album have taken your title for 2013’s buzziest social media topic. Beyonce’s social takeover is further proof that if you can dominate interactive channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you hold the world’s attention.
Teasing is Good, but a Great Surprise is Irreplaceable
We’ve written about the art of the tease on social media before, but sometimes it pays to keep your secrets as close to your chest for as long as you can. In an era where nearly everything gets spoiled thanks to overzealous fans and prying bloggers, there’s nothing more surprising than an actual surprise. Working on a big project? Rolling it out slowly is one way to go, but dropping it all at once in all its glory might have an even bigger impact.
Are you basking in the halo of Queen Bey yet? How else do you think this clever move has upended traditional expectations about marketing and harnessing the power of social media? Share your reactions in the comments below!
If you think you’ve figured out the social media game for good, we’ve got some news for you--social media can be a fickle friend. Your social strategy may be great today, but shifting trends, changing tastes and the arrival of new social networks can all change that very quickly! Here are a few signs it may be time to rethink your social media strategy.
“Is Anyone Out There?”
Has your number of followers plummeted? This is a sure sign that you need to take a look at your overall strategy. Fans might be jumping ship for any number of reasons (because your content is too repetitive, too impersonal or just plain annoying). Start with some research as to why people unfollow users on platforms like Twitter.
Your Customers Feel Ignored
Do you have angry customers coming into your shop or office wondering why you haven’t answered their tweets and Facebook messages? Customers hate being ignored whether it's online or in person. It’s time to rethink your social media platforms as an extension of the customer service experience you provide!
The Party Is Somewhere Else
If things seem dead, your most active users may have moved on to greener pastures. Are you still clinging to a dead social network? If your target audience is younger than twenty, you may want to invest more time and energy on platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where teens and tweens are flocking to.
Your Website’s Traffic Isn’t What it Could Be
If you’re tracking visits to your business’s website and things are looking either lackluster or downright grim, you may not be leveraging the power of your social media platforms as well as you could.
You Haven’t Published a New Blog Post in Months.
Your Blogger account wants to know where you’ve been for the last couple of months! The readers who follow your regular posts are also hungry for more! If your content has dried up, it’s time to set up a better blogging schedule. A weekly schedule gives you time to come up with ideas, the chance to edit things properly before they hit the web, and enough lead time to keep publishing on time.
You’ve Got Hate Mail.
Yikes--talk about a red flag! If you’re getting e-mails and tweets from customers who are angry about your content, you may not know your audience as well as you think you do. Remember that reaching a broad audience might mean keeping polarizing opinions to yourself.
You’re Not Focused on Visuals.
Visual social media is dominating networks, so if you’re still relying purely on text to carry your message across, it’s time to bust out the camera! Flashy profiles with lots of high definition images are sure to attract more attention, especially fans who follow you through their mobile devices.
Are you in a rut when it comes to your social media strategy? You can never go wrong with increasing your engagement, answering questions promptly, sharing more of yourself and sharing a good variety of high quality content. How have you reinvigorated your social strategy over the past few years? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Last week saw the launch of Instagram Video, an expansion of the popular photo sharing app that lets users tell stories with up to 15 seconds of video instead of just static images. The response was huge. In just 24 hours, users posted more than 5 million videos. As expected, Twitter’s own video application Vine has suffered as a result of Instagram Video’s popularity, so much so that #RIPVine became a trending hashtag on Twitter. Although it’s not clear if Vine will make a successful comeback, its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the social media sun does illustrate some interesting ideas.
Easy Come Easy Go
Today’s hottest social media platform could easily be tomorrow’s social media graveyard. Things move quickly online and it’s important to keep up. Having a dedicated user that is up to speed when it comes to online trends is essential. You don’t want to be the only person still trying to make Friendster happen after everyone has moved on!
Video is Big on Mobile
Both Vine and Instagram Video show that users are craving video on mobile, even if it comes in short snippets. Listen to your customers. What can you share about yourself through video that you haven’t shared before? Even in 15 second intervals, the storytelling possibilities are endless. The best tool for becoming an amazing video producer may already be in your hands! You don’t need fancy equipment or trained professionals to get started, so be your own videographer starting today.
The ebb and flow of popular online platforms is now squarely in the hands of users. Users decide when an application has run its course. When it comes to social media applications, people may be fickle at times, prompting fast changes, but they also have their eye on the next thing that will maximize their participation and take the next innovative step technologically.
Are you an early adopter of Instagram Video? What’s the most creative use you’ve seen for it so far? Share your comments below.
Remember the old adage about children being “seen and not heard?” That saying may have held some weight for previous generations, but today's teens and tweens have become drivers of the way we communicate, building and participating in online cultures in ways that leave some folks in the dust.
Kids are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. Combine that with a formidable collective buying power and you have a demographic whose impact is impossible to ignore.
Young people can drive the success and failure of social media platforms, forcing them to adapt or die. Their recent mass exodus from Facebook to other places like Twitter and Instagram is one example of how shifting demographics have forced some companies to adapt (quickly) to the pace of young people's tastes and desires in an attempt to recapture them.
As a cornerstone of internet culture, teens and tweens build and contribute to massive online ecosystems, develop internet shorthand that spills over into real life and participate in social media in ways that small businesses could stand to learn from.
Getting Ahead of the Game
Teens and tweens are usually early adopters. They're one step ahead of the game when it comes to new technology and the latest social media platforms. Being an early adopter lets you stake out a space before others get there. It also makes you look like a leader who understands new trends and blazes ahead instead of lagging behind.
Connecting Real Life and Digital Networking
Young people are expert networkers. They actively seek out people to follow, stay engaged, ask questions and prioritize extending their influence online. More importantly, they realize that digital life and real life aren't separated by an iron curtain. Networks spill over, making real life connections become digital ones and vice versa.
The upcoming generation of millennials is often accused of being the “Me” generation, but that doesn't mean that their efforts at self promotion aren't worth emulating. Teens and tweens aren't afraid to toot their own horn and you shouldn't be either. Put your accomplishments on display so the world knows just how great you are at what you do.
The internet is a place to let loose! Let your voice shine through by being honest. Writing for the internet doesn't require the formality that other media demands, so take the opportunity to be creative and put your sense of humor on display. People will see your brand as more personable and relatable that way.
A teen's life online may seem like fun and games, but young people are masters at learning new tools of the trade. Take a cue from teens and tweens so you can stay adaptable, curious and open to taking on new challenges. You'll be one step ahead of the competition and spearheading your way to a more creative approach to social media.
Have you fallen into the trap of being purely transactional with your tweets and posts? It's easy to find yourself in a rut where you only announce things like discounts, new products, operational hours or other superficial facts about your business. But followers want a little bit more than that, and you're not likely to keep their attention for very long if you don't indulge them.
People who subscribe to you via social media want information that they can't get from somewhere else. They want to feel connected to the people behind the brand, and feel like they're an active participant in the story of your business. Here are three ways you can put people first to make sure your social media strategy is personal.
Feature Customer Stories
Do you have a regular who has been coming into your store for years? Next time you see them, ask them to answer a few questions about themselves and use social media to feature their story. It's a great way to make customers feel valuable and shows that your business is a vital part of the community. You never know what you'll learn about your customers along the way, and everyone loves to have at least fifteen minutes of fame!
Take pictures (or encourage open submissions) of your customers enjoying the things that make your brand great. For instance, you could create a contest where customers submit pictures of themselves with their favorite pint from your micro-brewery. Generating original content makes your storytelling through social media become more dynamic and unique. Just make sure you always get the permission from the people featured in the photographs!
Provide Backstage Access
Your employees don't have to be anonymous. In the same way you feature customers, you can share stories about the employees that make up the heart of your business. Pulling back the curtain on your operations can be a little scary at first, but remember, you're the publisher. You control what information to share and what should stay internal to your organization. Followers can learn why your employees love working for you, which encourages brand loyalty. Customers also get to learn more about the staff that serves them, helping to build a great rapport that builds lasting relationships.
Think of your social media platforms less as a news ticker with a constant stream of facts and more as a dynamic tool for storytelling. Start with people and build your stories out from there. Use original and found images as well as text to provide eye-catching information and you're sure to have an online presence worthy of the people who are the beating heart of your business.
Consumers have always loved the idea of contests, mostly because they're getting something free, but for a business it's a way to market their services or merchandise. Creating contests can help develop a customer database, and with the introduction of social media, it's a way for consumers to easily engage with their favorite brand. But do contests, especially social media contests, work?
Business owners provide some mixed feedback. While many recognize that contests increase the number of followers or likes for their business, some proprietors simply don't find social media contests useful. This made us question, are they conducting these contest the right way?
Expectations may be too high, and when the owners don't see the results they were hoping for, they simply deem the contest concept a failure. Be realistic and set goals which are reasonable for your business and your consumers. Contests help give your followers a reason to interact with the business and each other. As a business owner, try to focus more on your customer interaction, and less on the amount of Likes or Followers you're obtaining.
Social Media is an investment of your time and money, including the cost of the prize, and if you've paid money for a third party to run the contest, this cost can be overwhelming. Having to invest in both areas can set you up to create unrealistic goals.
I'm sure you're asking, "How can I ensure my contest is successful?" Well that's what we're here to answer.
1. Ask yourself, "Do I really need to run a contest?".
If you're a B2B company, running a contest won't really help you gain new clients. It makes more sense if your business sells directly to a consumer. Look at your goals, and if they can be accomplished in a more efficient or reliable way, take that route.
2. Set Realistic Expectations.
Make sure you set goals for the contest by asking the following: What do you want to achieve? Are you running this contest to bring awareness to your brand? Are you going to highlight a product or service that you provide? Do just want to increase Likes or Followers? Do you want to obtain feedback about your company? Be specific with your questions.
3. Match Your Fan.
Think about your business; if you're a clothing store, will conducting a photo contest work best? Maybe you could ask a question about a product. For example, recently Goorin Bros Hat Company ran a Free Hat Fridays contest. They posted a picture of their merchandise and asked followers "What would you wear with this hat?" They engaged consumers and randomly picked a winner from the 200+ comments.
4. Less Is More.
Remember to keep it simple. If your consumers have to fill out several pages just to win one prize, they'll abandon the idea, and you'll be left with few entries. Only ask for the information you absolutely need.
5. Pick a Perfect Prize.
Remember to ensure your prize shows off what your business provides. And make sure your giveaway reflects what your participants need to make an entry. If you own a camera store, and you're giving away a new state-of-the-art camera, have your participants post a picture they have taken.
6. Shout It from a Mountain Top.
Don't limit your contest to just Facebook or Twitter - let the world know! Include it in your email newsletters, on your webpage, and if you have a physical location, tell your shoppers. Make it a part of your marketing strategy. If you are going to run a print ad, save some room for the contest information.
7. Learn from It.
Once your contest is over, make sure you follow up. You've collected information to help you market to shoppers who showed an interest in your business. Keep them engaged. Let them know you heard their feedback. They'll appreciate knowing their comments made a difference, and they'll understand how important they are to you.
Last but not least...
8. Follow the Rules.
Social Media sites, especially Facebook, have rules and policies for running these contests. They have a list of do's and don'ts. For instance, Facebook regulations require that you notify winners via email, snail mail, phone call, or singing telegram before you congratulate them publicly on Facebook. They also ask that you state Facebook is not sponsoring the contest. We can list these forever, so let's make it easier - check out Facebook's Pages Terms.
Like Pinterest, Instagram is a photo-based social media site. Recently purchased by Facebook for a BILLION dollars, Instagram is one of the top photo-sharing, mobile-only social media apps. Instagram offers filters to make your photos look a little prettier before being shared to sites like Facebook or Twitter.
How can you use Instagram to promote your business? First you must determine if your target customer is on the site.
A recent study found that 12% of online adults use Instagram, which is dominated by young adults. Twenty-seven percent of the Internet users between ages 18-29 use Instagram. Launched in October 2010, the company boasted 80 million users and four billion photos shared by July 2012. Less than two months later, and following the purchase by Facebook, it was reported that Instagram was up to 100 million users.
Although many people share their personal pictures consisting of sunsets, pets, or the dinner they are about to eat, a business could easily promote products on Instagram with a clever marketing campaign. A clothing store can post photos of upcoming fashion trends. A bike shop with a resident puppy can share the day's adventures. A restaurant can post photos of the chef's latest creations.
Here are some tips for businesses who want to incorporate Instagram into their social media regimen:
~ Encourage your customers to follow you on Instagram and follow them back
~ Use hashtags (like Twitter)
~ Hold contests
~ If fans are sharing your photos, share their photos on your profile
~ Instagram photos of customers in your store and some of the day-to-day workings of your company
~ Share a few personal photos as well so that your followers get to know you
There are a lot of words and information floating around on the Internet. To be seen, you must stand out and one way to do that is to share photos.
Have you tried using a program like Instagram for your business? Tell us how it went!
1) Facebook has purchased photo-sharing software company, Instagram, for 1 beeelion dollars. In his official announcement, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg says, “For years, we've focused on building the best experience for sharing photos with your friends and family. Now, we'll be able to work even more closely with the Instagram team to also offer the best experiences for sharing beautiful mobile photos with people based on your interests.” Link to Story.
2) On Saturday, Quebec juice maker Lassonde was forced to settle a lawsuit after intense online backlash. After the details of the Lassonde’s 7-year trademark battle with a tiny beauty company over the use of the name “Oasis” went viral, a social media uprising gave the “juice giant” a big reality check. Link to Story.
3) Google has beaten out Apple, Facebook, and Twitter for the title of Most Popular Tech Brand. According to the poll, conducted by Langer Research Associates, a whopping 82 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Google overall, while 53 percent hold a "strongly" favorable opinion of the expansive Internet company. In regards to favorability, Apple still came in a close second. Link to Story.
4) A New Study has pegged Pinterest as the #3 Social Media Website
Experian Hitwise has collated website visitors for the last month, and ranks Pinterest as the number 3 social media website, behind Facebook and Twitter, and just ahead of LinkedIn. Here are the top 6:
1. Facebook: 7 billion
2. Twitter: 182 million
3. Pinterest: 104 million
4. LinkedIn: 86 million
5. Tagged: 72 million
6. Google+: 61 million
Link to Story.