Social media marketing sounds simple enough to many newbie business owners, but they need to recognize the difference between personal social media use and professional use.
Think about it like this: if you make a good pot of coffee to serve your family, then that’s something you can manage on your own. But if you plan on serving 1,000 cups of coffee to peers over the course of a three-day business conference, then that’s an entirely more complex matter!
Everything gets more complicated when you move from personal to professional, and the results matter more, too.
Suddenly, you aren’t just posting on your Facebook when you feel like it. Nor can you just feel good about the occasional reply and like. Instead, you’re actively trying to drive business goals and represent your brand in a likeable way.
The dramatic difference between the two approaches catches many business owners off-guard. To help them out, here are a eight secrets the pros use when it comes to social media marketing — and that many small businesses overlook.
Write Down a Policy and Style Guide
Ask them to tell you what the business’s social media policy is, and you’re just as likely to get dozens of different answers. In fact, most employees may look you back blankly in the face.
A social media policy guides the brand voice as well as the decisions a business makes when posting. So, if you were trying to pick between two image types, the social media policy could help you decide on the one that aligns better with your social goals.
Creating a social media style guide can similarly help make posting easier, especially if more than one employee handles the duties. Align everything in your policy and style guide so that your social media accounts can support both your brand and your marketing goals.
Target Your Content and Conversations Towards Personas
Some small businesses get HUGE social media followings …of people who would rarely buy anything from them.
There is a big gap between mass engagement and targeted engagement.
You want your posts to speak to a highly targeted audience based on the traits of your best customers. For instance, if you pitch your services to existing IT departments, don’t be shy about using jargon. Stay current on any discussion, too, so that your ideas don’t seem dated.
But if you want to offer managed IT services to regular businesses, they may not know a CAT cable from a cat collar. Feel free to post basic how-tos, and try to keep terminology approachable.
Decide upon the segments you want to speak to in order to raise your chances of success. Imagine traits of a single person in this segment, including their typical job role, the things they value most, and broad aspects of their personality. This is your “persona” for an idealized version of a target audience group.
You can even name them! That way, before you decide on a post to share or an image to use, you can ask something like: “Would Sarah the retired optometrist care about this post?”
Strategize, Set Goals, And Ditch Vanity Metrics
Always set goals for your social media usage. It should serve a concrete purpose that ultimately benefits your business.
Common social media marketing goals include:
● Raising website visits
● Generating leads through job quotes
● Helping introduce new products to people
● Getting more participants for events, contests, and things like webinars
● Upselling existing customers
● Reminding prior customers to return again
● Promoting a specific brand value, especially through philanthropy
No matter what your goals are, ensure they actually help your business get more money or improve its brand.
For instance, having a certain number of “likes” or shares from a post promoting your content should not be a goal. These are vanity metrics. Instead, you should monitor the amount of actual visits to the content on your website. Ideally, you will also have targets for the percentage of people converted from social to content to signing up for your related offer.
Carry on Actual Conversations and Engage
Don’t just post into the void or post things you, personally, want to read.
Everything you post should be targeted towards the personas you have created and tied towards business goals.
With this in mind, you want your audiences to feel like your brand is carrying on a conversation rather than just talking at them.
Respond to certain positive comments or interesting ideas. Try to see if you can get the full perspective from people who have something negative to say. Make each response feel personal, not canned.
Give your audience opportunities to take center stage. Post a question for them, like “what are your favorite ways to save money?” Ask them if they would like to see more of certain content types, or less of certain post types.
Also, make your social media use broader than just posting on your own page. Use social listening tools to monitor brand mentions and jump in on messages when you think it’s worthy of a conversation. Find other business pages, and engage with them like you would want others to engage with you.
Many business owners go ahead and queue up an entire month’s worth of content in advance.
This is great! Having a schedule makes the social experience more consistent and professional for your audience.
But you shouldn’t be shackled to this schedule.
New articles and ideas will pop up on your radar all the time. Maybe something interesting happened in your industry this week. Maybe you just snapped a great photo of your team at the office.
Promote Content Posts to Put Them in Front of Targeted Audiences
Promoting content on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be highly affordable. More importantly, it can grow your audience beyond people who already follow and interact with your pages.
Start experimenting with promoting certain posts and using custom audience building features. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook even offer the ability to target specific companies or hyper-local areas.
If you put just a small budget behind a few key posts a month, then you can quickly multiply the number of people who see your messages. You also generate valuable data based on who does and doesn’t interact when they see certain posts.
Give yourself the chance to actually share content during opportunities like these rather than hoarding it all until next month. If you set aside, say, an hour each week to make time for unscheduled postings, then you can flesh out your existing content and make your page feel more organic.
Just remember to stick to your policy, goals, and persona guides. Also, proofread twice!
Don’t Assume Social Media Marketing Is Easy to Do Yourself
There’s a reason “social media manager” is a full-time job at most big companies. Even for small businesses, managing it all and doing it right can be tough.
On top of that, you may not have the time to dig into your data or revisit your strategies and guiding documents.
So seek out help. Share the burden with others who are qualified and whose judgement you trust.
As Social Media Week observes: “Long gone are the days when you could rely on an intern to manage your business’s social media accounts. Either hire an in-house expert, or outsource to a social media management firm.”
Crawl Before You Walk, Walk Before You Run
As with anything in business, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stick to one or two social networks at first. Otherwise your pages could feel like soulless cookie-cutter copies or, worse, ghost towns with nary an update in months.
But if you stay focused on your goals and your principles, then you can start out small to find gradual success. Only once you get the hang of it should you start to scale out and do more.
Email marketing has come back in full force, and brands that know their way around best practices can reap huge returns.
According to a survey of marketers conducted last summer, the average ROI from email campaigns was over 100 percent! This ROI beat out other marketing channels by over four times, including social media, paid search, and direct mail.
One study from 2015 even found that email marketing could generate as much as $38 for every $1 spent, which equals a mind-blowing 3,800% percent ROI.
For anyone trying to squeeze more out of their email marketing or turn around their lackluster campaign success, here are 7 pointers for increasing the effectiveness of your email efforts.
Segment Your List (Or Risk Being Irrelevant)
Talk to people about topics, products and ideas they are interested in.
According to an infographic by Mailigen, using segmented, relevant messaging more than doubles your open rate while driving 18x more revenue for your campaigns.
This approach makes a lot of sense if you have ever been to a party where someone is droning on and on about something you just don’t care to hear about or have any interest in. “Have you seen how expensive jogging strollers are these days?” they ask, not bothering to remember you don’t have kids and haven’t jogged since high school.
While the person talking may feel like they aren’t being terribly rude, to the recipient it can feel a bit more personal. “I don’t care what you are actually interested in” the person communicates. “Everyone is equally interested in what I have to say.”
Not having email segments is the same thing. Ensure your list is segmented by buyer persona so that every message is as relevant as possible.
For people who self-subscribe, you can even give them a chance to customize the content they receive by interest, product category and other choices from a pick-list. Just don’t count on them to do all the work of segmenting for you!
Using an email automation system like Constant Contact or Mailchimp is critical to keeping these segments organized, but you can also potentially do-it-yourself by just separating your mailing lists into separate content buckets.
Once you have segments established, take a moment to strategize the difference between each segment based on consumer traits, progress through sales pipeline and other situations. Then, outline the type of content that would be most relevant to each segment as well as what would be least relevant and should not be sent.
Taking a moment to get to know your audience can dramatically increase your open rates while lowering the amount of frustrated subscribers.
When we hear our names — even if we know it’s someone else with the same name being called — we tend to take notice. Chances are good that your parents were pros at this technique. When they said your name before a sentence, you knew they meant business!
We have the same reaction when we see our names in an email. Personalization with a name and other details increases open rates by 26 percent, and it can even help drive brand affinity.
Note that personalization involves more than just adding a first name to an email. The entire message should be framed as if the recipient is having a 1:1 conversation with the sender. LinkedIn has become a pro at this tactic. They use personalization in a way that makes you sit up and listen.
The above message not only includes a name but signals that an exciting activity has happened. It says people are looking at your profile. Think of ways to mirror this effect so people get excited or intrigued just from looking at a subject line.
Segmenting your user base by the products they have bought (or expressed interest in) is another way to connect more deeply right from the subject line. “New Jeep Anniversary Fog Lights” can be a way for a Jeep Wrangler owner to have immediate interest, for instance.
Data shows that this type of personalization is table stakes for marketers with successful email programs. “88 percent of those that exceeded revenue expectations have personalization measurement systems in place,” says Inc.
Test Subject Lines Rigorously
A lot of marketers mess up promotional emails right from the moment they begin creating the subject line. You should scrutinize your subject line, get in-house feedback from a fresh set of eyes, and A/B test different subject lines before rolling out massive campaigns.
The first step is to make sure you are using some sort of subject line preview tool, like this one. Seeing your subject line visually helps you better-imagine how a recipient would react to it in their inbox.
Take special note of how the email looks on mobile devices since over half of email opens come via mobile. People tend to filter out what emails to read by the subject line alone. 69 percent of email recipients will report a message as spam based solely on the subject line.
Note that not every “common marketing knowledge” pointer like this list may work for you and your audience. Always test to be sure!
Promise to Not Waste Their Time by Always Signaling Value
Thinking like a recipient means coming up with ways to offer something they might actually want. For sales and promotional offers, think of the hottest product they might want or the best offer possible. Don’t just tell them there’s a “sale”; tell them what that means.
Humble Bundle, which offers discount video game bundles, leads with its most popular game in the package.
When offering something non-material, like information, explain clearly how the contents of the email benefit the user. It could be something deep/important like “Want More 5 Star Reviews☆☆☆☆☆?” or even the promise that “You’ll Laugh Way Too Hard at These Marketing Puns”.
Many email marketers find great results by telling their audience how they can get more out of the products or services they already use.
The New York Times has gotten this down to an art. Since there is a million different pieces of content on their site other than what you see on the homepage, they take it upon themselves to inform subscribers about how they can learn and do more on NYTimes.com.
Use Powerful Images and Video to Get a Reaction
HTML-based email templates have transformed inboxes from a boring wall of text to a gorgeous place for showcasing compact content or well-designed advertisements.
Using human-centered images like this stock photo can invoke emotion and draw the eye to certain email sections.
Make sure you have text-only alternatives for image blockers, and try not to get too overboard with the images you use. Using images in a sloppy or unappealing way can sometimes hurt rather than help.
Using video embedded within email or as a link can likewise help you improve open rates and click-throughs. According to one source, just using the word “video” in a subject line can boost clickthroughs by 65 percent and opens by 19 percent.
Tell People What to Do with a Single Call to Action
This one is simple: every email should have a call to action (CTA).
Your CTA can be nearly anything, including:
● Go buy this product
● Take advantage of a limited-time offer
● Try our tips
● Go learn/read more at this page
● Attend our event
● Upgrade your current service package
● Book a free consultation
Ensure that your CTA is crystal clear and compelling. Every recipient should know exactly what you want them to do and how to do it.
Providing a landing page after clicks to direct them more linearly to an offer can help simplify the process further. That way, your real CTA is just “Click Here,” and then you can drive more complex conversions from the landing page.
Avoid conflicting CTAs or multiple messages. No matter what you say, your ultimate conclusion leads the audience down ONE possible path. This practice will help your clickthroughs thrive.
Stick to Best Practices to Drive Success in Email Marketing
Mastering email marketing takes a lot of experimentation, practice, trial-and-error and attention to detail, but by following the best practices mentioned above, you can be well on your way towards greater success.
Just to recap your keys to success:
1. Use segmentation to maximize relevance
2. Personalize emails to get attention
3. Test subject lines, mind your length and think like a recipient
4. Promise true value to the recipient through your word choice and messaging
5. Use emotional images in your layout
6. Direct people to act with a single strong CTA
7. Use analytics data to optimize your approach over time
Pay attention to what your data tells you, and keep up with the latest email marketing trends and advice on our blog to learn best practices that make you an email genius over time!
Today, customers expect service from multiple locations in multiple ways. Providing customer service via social media really is no longer a choice. If you have social media accounts for your business, you have no choice but to also answer questions, deal with issues, and do “customer service” communication on the platforms where you exist. Otherwise your customers will get frustrated with you for not answering their questions.
There are both advantages and disadvantages with offering customer support via social media, of course, and these are detailed below.
There are a number of positives about performing customer service on your social media accounts that you should know about. These pros really do overcome the negatives.
Your Business Will Grow
Today consumers want to talk to you on social media because that’s where they are. They use social media more than the telephone to deal with everything. When you are good at answering and responding on social media, it will make your business grow. As consumers see – in a very public way – how you deal with issues, they’ll be that much more likely to want to purchase from you.
Your Brand Will Expand
One of the reasons you even start a social media channel is to get brand recognition. The better you are at updating and sharing with your audience, the more you can expand your brand. Dealing with customer service on social media causes content to be produced that offers even more information for the consumer before they choose to be part of your client roster.
Social Media Is Inexpensive
This is the very best thing about using social media. In most cases it’s basically free to start, other than perhaps some social media monitoring tools that you might want to use like Buffer or Hootsuite. In any case, the cost is very low compared to traditional customer service means such as a call center.
Of course, nothing is perfect. There are pros and cons for everything you do for your business. Thankfully all of these cons can be controlled by having a process and a system for ensuring that you are able to answer questions in a way that doesn’t look bad for your brand.
Your Actions Live Forever
Online, as you know, your actions really do last forever. Even if you delete something, there are ways to find it. People also take screen shots and use them against people. So, create a system, have standardized responses, and rules of the road for any person dealing with the public.
You May Miss Some Issues
Social media is not very linear. It can be very hard to be sure every last question was answered and every situation was dealt with. Again, if you create systems and standards, you will be a lot better off and be less likely to miss as many issues.
Too Many Channels May Cause Confusion
When you have many social media accounts, someone may ask the same question in multiple places – which can make you feel as if you’re always answering the same questions. You’ll have to work out a process to deal with this and keep track. But, it is something you can control as long as the process is in place.
As you see, with these pros and cons, you can clearly count on the fact that you will need to do some customer service on social media if you have social media accounts. Therefore, you need to set up some sort of process and system to make it work for your business.
Customer service teams are on the forefront of the customer experience. They know probably more than you do (if you’re not serving customers directly) about what the customer needs and what they need to serve the customer. So, in addition to these tips, ask your CSAs to help you make their jobs better by incorporating an open door policy or a suggestion box so they can tell you how they’d do things differently.
A well-trained customer service rep is going to be a lot more efficient than one who is just thrown to the wolves. They will need product knowledge training, computer/software training, processes training and probably even human nature training to deal with customers the best.
Set Customer Service Standards
During training, set some basic standards for the service you want your team to offer. If you’re clear on these standards, your team will understand and follow through for you. Don’t set minimum standards, though. Set a real standard that you’re proud of and they’re proud to meet.
Use the Right CRM Software
One of the most important things you can do for your team is to invest in the right CRM software. There are so many to choose from that it’s beyond the scope of this article to tell you what to look for, but you can find a number of choices here as well as information from customers who actually use the CRM software, Featured Customers.
Set Individual and Team Goals
You can set a lot of goals, such as how many issues your team will clear in a day, as well as how many customers they turn from angry to happy. There are many goals you can implement. You can even let your teams set their own goals.
Give Them Authority
Any CSA will tell you that they need some sort of authority to deal with issues as they arise. Think of how irritated you are at a checkout in a store when the cashier cannot even get in the drawer to give you five ones, much less discount an item or refund an item. Don’t do that to your employees or your customers. Hire smart people who can make tough choices, and set limits but also set them free.
Provide Timely and Complete Feedback
Set a regular schedule for feedback and times when your team can ask you questions. Feedback on a job well done is just as important as feedback when a problem arises, if not more so. You want them to think of you as someone they want to work with – not someone they fear.
Reward and Recognize Your Team
When your team has done well, give them an award. You’d be amazed at how a 50-dollar gift card or a nice T-shirt can help employees and even contractors feel valued.
Understand Your Customer
It’s very important that you and your team all understand exactly who the customer is. They need to know more than their demographics. You might consider making many customer personas or having your CSAs do that for themselves, so that each time they deal with someone they can choose the persona and already feel they know them well.
Know Your Products
It goes without saying that you and your team should know your products inside and out. Most issues that customers have will be how to use something. If your agents know how to do it, and can fix the problem, then all will be well.
With the right training, recognition and goal setting, along with the right software, you can boost your customer support team’s performance in amazing ways. Once in a while, survey those customers who sought help about how they felt your team member did, so that you can always improve based on the consumers’ needs. In addition, survey your team to find out what they believe they need so that you can make their work more enjoyable and satisfying.
When you first start out building a business, everything is so overwhelming that the last thing you want to think about is data, metrics and numbers. In fact it probably scares you to even consider that type of work needing to be done so you can have a successful business. But, it’s really not that terrible if you know what to do. These common mistakes can be avoided so that you don’t waste any more time than you have to.
Not Knowing What Data to Track
Before you even get started looking at the data, you need to know what you want to track. Remember that just because there is data doesn’t mean you need to track it. Some of the data that Google Analytics collects just isn’t going to help you. You have to figure out what will help you and what won't. Focus only on the data that will help you improve.
Not Knowing When to Track Data
When you look at the data is very important, because you have to look at it at the right time in order to know what the data affects. For example, if you have a launch on the 1st of July, you probably want to look at some data you’ve identified before the launch and then after the launch.
Not Understanding Your Objectives and Goals
It’s very important to know how to turn all your business objectives into workable goals. Remember a goal needs to be SMART. That means: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.
Not Realizing What Problems You Want to Solve
Tracking data should be for a reason, such as fixing a problem. For example, let’s say you have a sales page that is getting a lot of traffic but there are no or low conversions. Do you know what data to look at so that you can fix the problem?
Not Understanding the Business You’re Analyzing
If you are looking at data for a business you’re unfamiliar with, you can run into problems. You will need to do some research to understand industry averages so that you know where the business you’re looking at stands.
Not Testing Different Methods
Whenever you are checking data up against the industry standards, it’s important that you test different methods to find out what works best. For example, you might test two or three different sales pages for one product or service at the same time.
Not Setting Up Analytics Correctly
If you’ve never set up Google Analytics, it would be a good idea to get some help with that from an expert. Once it’s set up it’s going to be a lot easier to track your work, because it’s set up right. It’s a waste of time to do it wrong.
Not Choosing the Right Software and Tools
There is a lot of software out there that isn’t worth anything, but that people try to use. Remember that sometimes free is good, and sometimes free is not so good. If you hire an expert, they’ll help you ensure that you start out right.
Don’t let analytics scare you away from doing business. As they say, nothing is done until the paperwork is done, and that includes online business. You need these numbers to make good choices about what to do next in your business. Knowing the numbers will help you avoid other types of mistakes that can be very costly.
If you’ve been in business a while, you may have reached the top of your growth curve unless you find a way to diversify your offerings. If you want to keep growing, you’ll need to find a way to offer more to current customers or offer more to a new audience. There are various ways to diversify your business offers that make sense.
Fill in the Gaps When you organize your products in order from entry level to highest cost products, can you identify any gaps in your offerings? For example, your income stream might look like this: website/blog, affiliate products, your own products, and courses and training. You could then add in coaching and memberships to the mix successfully.
Open Other Locations
If you have a business focused on one location (whether digital or brick and mortar) and it’s profitable, figure out if your business is duplicable. For example if you’ve written one book, why wouldn’t another book do as well? If you have one store in the north side of town, can you open another in the south side?
Teach Others to Do What You Do
If you’ve made a good business for yourself and it’s something other people can do, you can create a course to teach others how to do it. You can then even help them set up the entire business.
Create a Joint Venture
Working with someone who sells complementary products or services can help you get new ideas for more products. Breathing new life into your business with a new person involved can help you become more creative.
Sell Complementary Products/Services
For example, if you sell a course to build WordPress websites, you can offer a done-for-you opportunity to that same audience. They may then decide, even upon learning how to do it, that they’d rather pay someone.
Write a Book
A really great way to offer a new product or service is to write a book. Once your book is published you can use the book as the start of a course, speaking circuit, how to and more.
Join the Speaking Circuit
A great way to diversify is to create a speech or talk and join the speaking circuit. When you start speaking to audiences you’ll find new offerings start coming to your mind, as you try to give the audience what they need and want.
Expand Your Target Market
Another way to diversify is to find another target market. For example, if you have training for moms to learn to work from home, you could rebrand the same training with a few tweaks for almost anyone if you take out the mom part. For example, you could rebrand it as ways for retirees to work from home.
When you think about your offerings today, you should be able to organize them in a way that makes it easy to figure out where you have gaps and where you can expand and do more. You’ll increase your profit and grow your business smart if you give this a lot of thought and research.
Don't: Leave Your Email Signature Blank
A good email signature is about as important as a good business card. After all, many times the first information anyone gets from you is an email. Providing the additional information in your signature will help you solidify connections, build new connections, and help move people to your social media and even get them on your various mailing lists if they’re not already.
It’s important to take time to make a professional-looking email signature instead of leaving it blank or maybe worse, incomplete or unattractive. Today, there is a lot of good software available to help you make attractive email signatures that will be more noticeable to recipients.
A good business signature on your emails should consist of:
Your name – The name you’re known as online.
Your business name – Your main business name.
Your slogan or catch phrase – It’ll help them know what you do.
Social media links – The ones that are relevant to the audience.
Your website link – Your main website link.
Your phone numbers – This is optional and only necessary if people need to be able to call you.
Your address – In email marketing you’re required to include a business address.
A bio link
A great way to extend the signature is to include a link to your online biography.
A map (when relevant)
If you have a local business, a link to a map to show where you’re located can help.
Your email address
A link to your email address; even though the email comes from your email address this is helpful.
A vCard (optional)
This is an electronic file you send along with the email that people can download into their contacts info. There are cases that attachments aren’t a good idea; you be the judge.
This is a little extra optional boost to your business. You could include a link to your calendar to request an appointment instead.
In addition, you want it to look really good. You want your branding to appear in the signature space. Today, this is simple to do using HTML. There are software programs that will help you create a signature. You can use HTML to manually create it, plus you can use online services like Xink.
When you include this information on each email, it will give recipients of that information a chance to connect with you in other places. Plus, the offer is a great way to bring private email recipients into your email list, social media networks and more.
It’s super-important to include an email signature because it’s part of your business identity, and email is one of the most important aspects of your online business marketing endeavors. Unfortunately, so many people think the email signature isn’t necessary and seems to have low value. This is just not true because email is the main way that we communicate today in business, with few exceptions.
Think of it this way – if someone reads your email, the little added extra way that you can stand out is at the bottom, which is your email signature. This is a reminder of who the email is from and gives a little extra information about you and your business that can help your readers trust you even more.
Do: Watch Your Virtual Body Language
You’ve likely heard the jokes about miscommunication via online methods – whether it’s email, social media messages or chatting online. The reason is that text communication is missing the verbal body language cues that in-person communication affords.
Interactive technology can often be deficient in allowing communication to occur without misunderstandings. But, you can end those problems by understanding what your virtual body language is telling your customers, and learn how to fix it when needed.
Proper Use of Emojis
Today, even if it feels silly at first, it’s important to use smiley faces, frowns and so forth to help you get your point across. People tend to read tone into messages without knowing the tone that you really meant. If you’re sure how you’re coming across to your audience, conduct a survey and ask them, or ask trusted friends to read over a few of your messages to see what they think.
Your Profile Image
Does your profile image or other images of you represent the type of personality you want people to see in you? If you’re not showing your face, or have dark pictures, people will see your personality differently than if you have images that show your smiling face and your eyes.
Using the Right Terms
One way to expand your virtual body language is to use the right words. You may need to use more flowery language than you would in person to help draw a picture of your words in the minds of the reader. This can help tell your story in a better way so that there is no room for misinterpretation.
Now that the technology is nearly ubiquitous, it’s time to bring video into your communication with your audience. This is going to help them look into your eyes, see your expresses and learn more about you. However, remember that even with video there still are missing components to the communication puzzle that you would have in person.
Go Live and In Person
The fact is, nothing can change the fact that full communication can really only happen in person. If you really want to take your online persona to the next level, take it offline. Start going to and participating in live in-person events and your fans will start understanding you better than ever before – even when you’re back online.
Accept the Differences
Remember that online communication via technology does suffer from lack of information, whether unconsciously or consciously received. This applies to video, simulated in games with avatars, text such as with chat and email, or even over the phone.
Most of us are very dependent on the myriad of social signals that are communicated mostly unconsciously to each other in person. We try to take that online and often are abject failures at it because we want it to be the same. But, it’s not the same, so we need to go further and try harder to be expressive in a way that gets our point across and lets our clients know who we really are.